Monday, December 31, 2018

Data: Has racism declined over the past few decades?

Despite decades of militant effort to root out racism in America, blacks continue to be concentrated at the bottom rungs of society.  Now we all walk on egg shells when it comes to race, so where is the supposed hatred that is keeping blacks down?  To save the argument, liberals have shifted and now claim that racism isn't cross-burnings and lynchings; it's sneaky.  It's so sneaky, you can't even find it. It's like the Devil: invisible but powerful.  It's either hidden in institutional arrangements, or whites are simply faking their goodwill. 

There is clear General Social Survey (GSS) evidence that contradicts the view that whites don't talk or act so racist, but the same hatred still lurks in their hearts.  I've long argued that one of the few survey measures of racism that has some validity asks participants how warmly they feel toward blacks.  At least it's better than BS measures like whether you support racial preferences or not.

GSS participants were asked the warmth question in 2002.  Look how mean "coolness" increases with age for southerners (blue) and northerners (red):


People in their 20s would have been born in the 1970s, those in their 30s in the 1960s, etc.  People aged 70 and above are noticeably colder than those in their 20s.  It's about one-half of a standard deviation difference. And even the elderly group averages a "warm" response.  A five would be neutral, but a four is positive.  Even whites born in the South in the 1920s like blacks.  The US is a racist country?  BS.  Just the opposite.

Notice how young southerners are a little colder than northerners, but the two regions converge and even flip among the oldest group. In other words, elderly northerners like blacks less than elderly southerners do.

Anyway, I think even most liberals would admit that whites act better now than they did in the 1950s, which is all anyone should worry about anyway.  Who cares what's in someone's heart as long as they treat you well?  But if we are worried about private sentiments, there is a significant difference between younger and older Americans.  (Of course, I'm assuming people develop their feelings when young and then tend to hold on to them throughout adulthood. It is possible that people are warmer when young and get colder as they age.)

By the way, I'm trying to figure out why my cohort, those born in the 60s, appear to be colder than those who are both younger and older.  I was in college during the Rodney King riots in 1992, and it did make an impression on me.  But I was a liberal, so I found myself making excuses for all the destructive behavior.  Perhaps all the violent crime of the late 80s and early 90s left its mark. 

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