I am shocked – shocked – to learn that black people aren’t all that jazzed on America

Even if Rasmussen’s poll is accurate and only 14 percent of African-Americans say that American society “is generally fair and decent” (down from 55 percent from February), this – from Powerline’s John Hinderaker – is still pretty stupid:

It’s interesting that Latinos and Asians evidently have a higher opinion of the decency of American society than whites. But the main point here, obviously, is the dramatic shift among African-Americans. What could have caused it?

The only possible answer is that many Americans have opposed President Obama’s policies. But why would that cause African-Americans to think that our society is “discriminatory” rather than “decent”? No mystery there: in a well-coordinated campaign, the Democratic Party has relentlessly portrayed all disagreement with the Obama administration’s policies as “racist.” That contemptible and divisive tactic had seemed to produce no results, but we now see that it had one consequence: alienating African-Americans from their country.

I wonder what would cause African-Americans to think that our society is discriminatory rather than decent?  The institutional racism and massive economic inequalities notwithstanding, I’m inclined to think that it has something to do with the indiscriminate killing of black people by police, or the thinly-veiled racist outrage surrounding Sonia Sotomayor, or the GOP’s race-baiting spokesmen, or the fact that Republican congressmen refer to the president as “boy” and ask him to “show some humility.”  And then there’s the whole “tea party” thing.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that has something to do with it.

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13 thoughts on “I am shocked – shocked – to learn that black people aren’t all that jazzed on America

  1. Jamelle,

    Good post. The only thing is that reading it the first time I thought the analysis ‘graf you quoted was from Scott Ras. himself. I should have followed the link immediately but I didn’t, then noticed it was John from Powerline. You might want to mention that in the post–lest the other not as smart readers like me (of which there are so few here :) make the same mistake. While I’m not a huge fan of Rasmussen all the time, he’s light years ahead of John Hinderaker.

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  2. “I wonder what would cause African-Americans to think that our society is discriminatory rather than decent? ”

    That’s an obvious question that has an obvious question. However, that wasn’t the question. teh question addressed with that stupid opinion was why the figures have changed so sharply. The suggested answer was stupid, and it begs the question why the number ever got so high in the first place.

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  3. Jamelle,

    Is Hindraker’s speculation “stupid”? It might be wrong, or an incomplete explanation, but I don’t think you come anywhere close to showing that it is stupid. I think you would agree that the list of reasons you cited are not unique to the past 7 months. For example, I’m sure you could have pointed to instances of behavior you believe was racist 12 months ago too.

    55% of African-Americans thought American society was “fair and decent” just 7 months earlier, but now only 14% agree. That’s a pretty incredible drop. How many other polls have you ever seen that behave like that? Hindraker’s point is that there must be something special that has happened in the past 7 months to account for this drop. I think you would have to point to an alternative explanation that shows why the past 7 months have been uniquely discriminatory before your statement that Hindraker’s comments are “stupid” appears to be anything other than a defensive snarl.

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  4. Alright, here’s an alternative scenario:

    The original result, with 55 percent of African-Americans expressing a favorable view of American society, was an outlier and might have had more to do with post-inauguration euphoria than anything else. Since then, African-American public opinion has come down to earth, with more blacks willing to express a more negative view of American society. In fact, I’d be curious to see what the results were in October 2008 (or any time before the election), since I think the results would bear out my hypothesis.

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    • Funny you should ask that, since I was just in the process of looking it up to make exactly your point. The answer is that in October 2008, the number was 24%; in November 2008, it jumped to 42%.

      The obvious answer is that Obama’s election represented hope that things had changed, and things that have happened since his election have demonstrated that things have not, in fact, changed.

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    • I agree with that. I briefly tried to find pre-election numbers on the Rasmussen site, without success. But if we can find the numbers, they will go a long way in assessing the plausibility of your explanation, or alternatively, Hindraker’s. I would agree with you that Hindraker’s analysis is utterly without merit if we find that the poll numbers for African-Americans on this question were consistently below, say, 15-20% before the election. On the other hand, if they were significantly higher than that, I would have a hard time accepting your argument. Fair?

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  5. Thank you, Mark Thompson. So, looking at these numbers, it appears they have fluctuated wildly — the numbers have not been at a consistent level ever since Obama has been on the scene:

    Just a month earlier, only 24% of black voters viewed American society as fair and decent.
    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that nearly half of black voters (46%) still believe society is unfair and discriminatory, but that’s down from 64% in early October. The latest results represent the most positive outlook found among black voters since August, when 53% said they view American society as fair and decent. That month Obama became the first African-American presidential candidate of a major U.S. politial party.

    Don’t these facts support Hindraker’s thesis — if not his assumptions? Basically, it appears that attacks on Obama are perceived as reflective of discrimination in American Society. Thus, African-Americans are happier about America when Obama is nominated (53%), elected, and inaugurated (55%), but they see it as more discriminatory when he is attacked (which would explain the drop between nomination and elections). So, you can believe that Hindraker’s assumption — namely that attacks on Obama are not driven by racism — is wrong, but his thesis — that attacks on Obama and his policies are being portrayed (and rightly or wrongly perceived) as racist — seems to be supported here.

    There may be other ways of looking at these numbers. But I think this argument boils down to the same debate that we’ve had for years: are the Republicans a bunch of racists? African-Americans seem to think so. And it is certainly within the Democratic parties’ best interest to portray opposition to Obama as stemming from that racism. I don’t see why you think Hindraker is so stupid, other perhaps to take issue with his assumption that the portrayal is unfair.

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    • What the data suggests is that black voters got very excited about Obama’s nomination and election, raising their satisfaction level significantly. Since then, as the world returns to business as usual, the numbers have dropped back to normal levels (or perhaps a bit below, as a result of their disillusionment.) Is this human nature in action? No, says Hindraker, it’s an evil-commie-liberal plot! That’s just plain stupid. Hindraker isn’t himself (necessarily) stupid, but he is the sort of relentless partisan who blames Democrats and liberals for all the world’s ills, real or imagined, and is quite willing to say stupid things to accomplish that.

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  6. Given that America is a systemically racist society where black people have been enslaved and continue to be stereotyped and overrepresented among the poor, I see it as a positive step that blacks in America are alienated from their country. They need to become aware of their position in society before being able to change it, as we all know the ideological purpose of the idea that free choice determines a person’s social status. As long as the poor and other oppressed groups are told that their poverty is their own fault, the injustices will continue.

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    • A systematically racist society? Really? Is there residual racial resentment in America? Absolutely. Does the legacy of historically racist policies and institutions continue to hold back minority achievement? Undoubtedly. But a systematically racist society? I think that’s an absurd overstatement.

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