There has been a lot of talk about racists lately. That got me to wondering how many racists are really out there? I honestly don’t know the answer, and I doubt anyone else does either. There are no “hard” numbers we can check.
Only a complete idiot would claim that racism no longer exists in this country. There are still some racists running around, and some of them are white. For the purposes of this discussion I want to focus on white racists.
But first we have to define some terms.
A racist is a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another. For the purposes of our discussion that would mean people who believe in the supremacy of the white race.
A bigot is a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.; or one who hates or refuses to accept the members of certain identity groups because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation/ideology, religion and/or national origin.
Many people confuse racists with bigots, even though they are different and there are a lot more of the latter. It is possible to be a racist but not be a bigot, and vice versa.
There is another category that is neither racist nor bigot, but is often labeled as such. This is a person who through ignorance or insensitivity uses racially offensive language, arguments, statements or ideas. Depending on who decides what constitutes “racially offensive” this category can be huge.
Getting back to the original question, determining the number of actual racists is problematic. Racists are social pariahs, so it is doubtful that they would be eager to reveal themselves. The same thing applies to bigots. If you tried polling people how many would truthfully admit to being racists and/or bigots?
If you try looking for objective data such as reported instances of “racial” incidents like cross burnings and racially motivated hate crimes, you’ll find that the data is suspect. First of all there are lots of hoaxes. Secondly, how do you determine a person’s true motives? Some people are convinced that George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin because he was black, but a jury acquitted him. Who was right?
The truth is that there is very little “objective” evidence of racism and/or bigotry by white people anymore. It’s like stranger abductions of children – it happens so rarely that when it does it becomes national news. In a country of 300 million people 3 million people only equals 1% of the population.
I don’t know about you but when I’m alone with other white people we don’t put on our robes and hoods and use the n-word while as plot our next church bombing or Klan rally. As a matter of fact I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard a white person use that hateful word in real life.
The vast majority of the evidence for the continuing existence of racism in our country is ambiguous, like the so-called “micro-aggressions” that are trendy these days. People trying to prove the ubiquity of racism are forced to rely on concepts like “institutional racism” or “subconscious racism.” I submit that if you have to take a test to find out if you are a racist, then you ain’t no damn racist.
100 years ago racism was actually a popular idea with many Progressives. It was considered scientific and there were scholarly treatises and discussions about it. I’m not exactly sure where it started, but by the late Nineteenth Century it was used to explain how white people of European descent literally ruled the world.
That was considered to be empirical evidence of the superiority of the white race. There was also widespread belief that the different races had specific traits, both positive and negative. “Negroes” (as they were then called) were described as child-like, with a lack of morals and prone to criminal behavior, dishonesty and sloth.
One of the things they don’t teach kids in history classes these days is that all those Nazi ideas about eugenics and the master race did not originate in Germany. Eugenics started in the United States. White supremacy seems to have originated in England.
The Nazis had a lot to do with discrediting racism. After World War II those ideas fell out of favor and quickly became unpopular. Modern science had a lot to do with it as well.
The election of Barack Obama should have marked the vanquishing of racism. Instead, the conscious and deliberate use of the “race card strategy” has made the country more racially polarized than any time since the Sixties. But I see no evidence that white racism is resurgent. What is on the rise is racism and bigotry against white people.
For a different take on this topic, check out this post by Jonah Goldberg.