boboandsmith-laissez-faire

Boboandsmith-laissez - READING 16 LAISSEZ-FAIRE RACISM 155 16 Laissez-Faire Racism Lawrence D Bobo and Ryan A Smith The Four Questions 1 According

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Unformatted text preview: READING 16 LAISSEZ-FAIRE RACISM 155 16 Laissez-Faire Racism Lawrence D. Bobo and Ryan A. Smith The Four Questions 1. According to Bobo and Smith, what specifically is the problem? 2. In what sense do they consider this a social problem? 3. Do they emphasize individual cause or societal cause? What do they identg’y as the cause? 4. Bobo and Smith criticize society more than they (flier clear ways to deal with the problem they identify. Do they imply any sensible ways to improve this problem? Topics Covered: The American dilemma Racism African Americans Jim Crow racism Laissez—faire racism Racial attitudes Group position in society’s structure The Swedish economist and social reformer Gunnar Myrdal arrived in the United States on September 10, 1938. He had come at the request of the Carnegie Corporation, which had commissioned him to head a comprehensive study of the status of African Americans. Among his first undertakings was a tour of the American South. This journey brought the energetic Swede face— to—face with Jim Crow segregation and discrimination against blacks. It also impressed on him the backwardness of the southern economy and the extreme poverty of most people in the region, especially but not only blacks. The journey convinced Myrdal of the importance of his mission for the nation as a whole.1 With these stark images of a caste society and economic underdevelop— ment foremost in his mind, Myrdal and a distinguished staff and team of research collaborators began the research for An American Dilemma:The Negro Problem and American Democracy.2 From Lawrence D. Bobo and Ryan A. Sniith,"From]im Crow Racism to Laissezi Faire Racism: The Transformation of Racial Attitudes,” in Beyond PluralismIThe Conception omeup: and Group Identities in America. ed.Wendy F. Katkin, Ned Landsman, and Andrea Tyree Copyright 1998 by the Board of Trustees oftbe University oflllinois. Used with permission of the University ofIllinois Press. The book was two impressive volumes.Through— out most of its pages, An American Dilemma provided a detailed account of discrimination against blacks in every domain of America life, debunked claims of in— nate black inferiority, and xamined in detail black insti— tutions (e.g., the church and political organizations). An American Dilemma provided the most comprehensive and shocking portrayal of the status of blacks ever assembled. Yet the legacy of Myrdal was not, in the main, the con— ditions he documented. Myrdal’s legacy is to be found in the interpretive context in which he set “the Negro problem in American democracy." Myrdal’s analysis declared that above all else the race problem was a moral dilemma. He suggested that the United States, more than any other industrial so— ciety, possessed an explicit and popularly understood political culture that extolled the values of freedom, individual rights, democracy, equality, and justice. The status and treatment accorded African Americans by their fellow white citizens, however, stood in sharp contrast to what Myrdal viewed as the national religion or, more fittingly, the “American Creed.” . Most white Americans, in his judgment, faced an “ever—raging conflict” between their general values, as expressed in the American creed, and their specific attitudes and behaviors toward blacks.The “American dilemma” was the inherent moral discomfort white Americans experienced in their relation to blacks. AnAmerican Dilemma decisively reshaped how edu— cated and liberal whites, especially those in the North, understood the race problem in American society. It is difiicult to overestimate the impact of the book in this regard. According to the historian David Southern, “Myrdal’s book played a significant role in changing the thought patterns and feelings of a people. For twenty years the Swede’s authority was such that liberals simply cited him and confidently moved on.”3 Myrdal’s biog— rapher,Walter Jackson, wrote that An American Dilemma “established a liberal orthodoxy on black—white rela— tions and remained the most important study on race issues until the middle 1960s.”4 Indeed, Myrdal’s work was a genuine cultural input to the coalescence of What has been called America’s Second Reconstruction. The Second Reconstruction was a short but critical era from roughly the late 19505 to the mid—1960s, when the US. Supreme Court, the 156 Congress, and the White House appeared to act in uni— son to protect the basic citizenship rights of black Americans.5 The reach of Myrdal’s influence is perhaps most clearly seen in explicit reference to An American Dilemma in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling—the still controversial footnote 11— and the subsequent denunciation of Myrdal by southern defenders of segregation and other extreme right—wing groups.6 His influence had been seen earlier.The report of President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights, To Secure These Rights,7 adopted Myrdal’s theme of the con— tradiction between democratic values and the condi— tions of blacks.Truman’s committee also borrowed one other notion from Myrdal, namely, his faith that Amer— ican social values would win out over the customs, interests, and prejudices that had to that point combined to subjugate blacks in the postslavery American South. FROM OPTIMISM TO PESSIMISM Myrdal had been optimistic about the course future events would take. He anticipated positive change because the nation had much to gain from modernizing the southern economy; because levels of education were rising, particularly for blacks, who were increasingly migrating to urban and northern areas; and because changes had been induced by the wartime mobilization. The core, deeply rooted commitment to the American creed, along with these other inducements and oppor— tunities, prompted him to adopt the optimistic assess— ment that the American dilemma would be resolved in favor of equality and integration. Yet generating optimism about the course of black— white relations is perhaps harder now than at any other point in the post—World War II period. To be sure, a quarter of a century ago the Kerner Commission warned us:“Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal.”8 In the wake of the SimiValley police brutality verdict and the rebellions in Los Angeles in 1992, even these words seem pallid and inadequate to capture the enormous gulf in perception, social standing, and identity that apparently still separates black and white Americans from one another. Myrdal’s optimism now seems too naive. It is perhaps fitting then that Andrew Hacker’s more recent book, Two Nations: Black and I/Vhite, Sep- arate, Hostile, Unequal, updates and provides an even PART IV SOCIAL PROBLEMS: RACIAL AND ETHNIC INEQUALITY bleaker assessment of race relations in the United States than the Kerner Commission did.9 At bottom, Hacker’s point is that white—dominated society and institutions have never intended full inclu- sion for blacks and do not now show any real inclination toward bringing it about.An equally bleak depiction of race relations was offered in Faces at the Bottom of the i ‘ well: The Permanence of Racism, by Derrick Bell, a black legal scholar.10 For Bell, each wave of racial change, reform, and apparent progress, in the en ,merely recon— ,‘stitutes black subordination on a new ‘lane.The under— lying racial hierarchy in the United States has not fundamentally changed.Although the Kerner Commis— sion shared Hacker’s and Bell’s belief that white racism was the central cause of the oppressive conditions in which black Americans lived, it stressed that the rift between black and white could be reduced through “new attitudes, new understanding, and above all, new will” to address the racial divisions in the United States. Much of the recent scholarship and dialogue on race doubts the potential for genuine transformation of the type once envisioned by Myrdal and, to a degree, even the Kerner Commission. The purpose of this [selection] is to assess whether these new attitudes have emerged or show any sign of emerging. Have racial attitudes genuinely improved, and are there grounds for optimism? Or is Hacker’s prophecy that the United States faces “a huge racial chasm . . .and there are few signs that the coming cen- tury will see it c105ed” the more accurate forecast?11Al— though many positive changes in racial attitudes have taken place, we believe that racism is the core problem affecting black—white relations and that it remains a disfiguring scar on the American body politic. . . . FROM JIM CROW RACISM TO LAISSEZ-FAIRE RACISM Along with Howard Schuman and Charlotte Steeh, Lawrence Bobo, the senior author of this [selection], wrote a book assessing broad patterns of change in American racial attitudes.12 Writing in 1985, we con— cluded that whites’ attitudes toward blacks had under— gone a dramatic positive transformation.A key aim of this [selection] is to delimit the scope and meaning of that transformation more precisely. Specifically, we suggest that in the post—World War II period the predominant pattern of racial attitudes among white READING 16 LAISSEZ—FAIRE RACISM 157 Americans has shifted from Jim Crow racism to a modern—day laissez—faire racism.We have witnessed the virtual disappearance of overt bigotry, demands for strict segregation, advocacy of governmentally enforced dis— crimination, and adherence to the belief that blacks are the categorical intellectual inferiors of whites. Yet Jim Crow racism has not been replaced by an embracing and democratic vision of the common humanity, worth, dignity, and equal membership of blacks in the polity. Instead, the tenacious institutionalized disadvantages and inequalities created by the long slavery and Jim Crow eras are now popularly accepted and condoned under a! . . . . l modern free—market or larssez—farre racrst ideology ‘ Laissez—faire racism blames blacks themselves for the black—white gap in socioeconomic standing and actively resists meaningful eEorts to ameliorate America’s racist social conditions and institutionsThese racial attitudes continue to justify and explain the prevailing system of racial domination, even while a core element of racist ' ideology in the United States has changed. Jim Crow , racism was premised on notions of black biological in— feriority; laissez—faire racism is based on notions of black j cultural inferiority. Both serve to encourage whites’ i comfort with and acceptance of persistent racial in— i equality, discrimination, and exploitation. . . . If the nature and causes of this transformation from the once dominant ideology of Jim Crow racism to the currently dominant ideology of laissez—faire racism fit the data we discuss below, then Hacker’s and Bell’s pes— simism may be solidly grounded. Neither the decline of Jim Crow racism nor the emergence of laissez—faire racism can be attributed to the goodwill of the American people or to the gradual ascendancy of the American creed of freedom, equality, justice, and democracy.13 On the contrary, both of these epochal ideologies appear to involve support for specific forms of racial domination. These forms of domination each fit the different eco— nomic and political conditions of their eras.14 {wmyisuul tartar WHY CALL IT RACISM? For those who may doubt that the United States, which is legally committed to an antidiscririiination policy, still is a racially dominative society, we review a few fak—whicts.15 First, the blacte gap .in socioeconomic status remains enormous. Black adults remain two—and— one—half times as likely as whites to be unemployed. Strikingly, this gap exists at virtually every level of the educational distribution.16 If one casts a broader net to ask about “underemponment"—those who have fallen out of the labor force entirely, are unable to find fiill-time work, or are working full—time at below poverty—level wages—then the black—white ratio in major urban areas has over the past two decades risen from the customary 2 to 1 disparity to very nearly 5 to 1.17 Conservative estimates show that young, well—educated blacks who match whites in work experience and other characteris— tics still earn 11 percent less annually.18 Studies continue to document direct labor market discrimination at both low—skill, entry—level positions19 and more highly skilled positions.20 A growing number of studie indicate that even highly skilled and accomplished lack managers encounter “glass ceilings” in corporate America,21 prompting one set of analysts to suggest that blacks will never be fully admitted to the power elite.22 Judged against differences in wealth, however, the huge black—white gaps in labor—force status and earnings seem absolutely paltry.23 The average differences in wealth show black households lagging behind white ones by nearly twelve to one. For every one dollar of wealth in white households, black households have less than ten cents. In 1984 the median level of wealth held by black households was around $3,000; for white households the figure was $39,000. Indeed, white hou5e— holds with incomes of between $7,500 and $15,000 have “higher mean net worth and net financial assets than black households making $45,000 to $560,000.”24 Whites near the bottom of the white income distribution have more wealth than blacks near the top of the black in— come distribution. Wealth is in many ways a better indicator of likely quality of life than earnings are. When we pose a few hypothetical questions, the reasons for this claim become clear. If we envision an “average” black family with about $3,000 in wealth and an average white family with about $39,000 in wealth we might then ask: which of these families is best equipped to send a child to college for four years? Which of these families could best survive a four—month period of unemployment? Which of these families could pay for costly medical treatment? Which of these families can attempt to start a business of its own? Indeed, which of these families might be able to do all of these things, and which one might be unable to do any? The gaping disparity in accumulated wealth is the real inequality in standard of living produced by three hundred plus years of system— atic and pervasive racial discrimination. 158 Second, blacks are far and away the group from which whites maintain the greatest social distance.25 The demographers Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton concluded that it makes sense to describe the black condition as “hypersegregation.” Blacks are the only group, based on 1980 census data for large metro— politan areas, to rank as “hypersegregated” on four or more measures, and this was true for sixteen areas cov— ering nearly a quarter of all blacks.26 Housing audit studies continue to show high levels of direct racial discrimination in the housing market.27 Middle—class blacks have enormous difficulty translating their eco— nomic gains into residential mobility, which has been a critical pathway to assimilation into the economic and social mainstream for other groups. Residential seg— regation has social consequences. As we all know, neighborhoods vary in services, school quality, safety, ‘ and levels of exposure to a variety of unwanted social conditions.28 Third, the value ‘this society places on black life appears to be in steady decline. This is seen in how blacks and black life are treated by the criminal justice system as well as in overall figures in life expectancy.A 1990 study showed that fully 42 percent of black males between the ages of eighteen and twenty—four in the nation’s capital are in jail, on probation, or have war— rants out for their arrest. Blacks are seven times more likely than whites to die as Victims of homicide. Blacks who kill whites are more severely punished than whites who kill blacks.29 When blacks kill whites, pros— ecutors are forty times more likely to request the death penalty than when blacks kill other blacks. Such pro— found differences prompted retiring Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun to publicly repudiate the death penalty. Looking beyond Violent crime and the criminal jus— tice system, black life expectancy at birth declined for four years in a row between 1985 and 1989, although this was a period of modest but continuing increase in life expectancy for whites. Most stunning, the decline in 1988 reached such a level that it brought down the over— all national average.Yet our national leadership conveyed no sense of real emergency about this shocking set of social statistics. We could go on, but the severity of the dispari— ties and the extent to which they cut across class lines in the black community are sufliciently clear to estab— lish a strong prima facie case for maintaining that the United States society still has a system of racial domination. . . . PART IV SOCIAL PROBLEMS: RACIAL AND ETHNIC INEQUALITY PATTERNS OF CHANGE IN RACIAL ATTITUDES The longest trend data from national sample surveys may be found for racial attitude questions that deal with matters of racial principles, the implementation of those principles, and social distance preferences. Principle questions ask whether American society should be inte— grated or segregated and whether individuals should be treated equally, without regard to race. Such questions do not raise issues of the practical steps that might be necessary to accomplish greater integration or to ensure equal treatment. Implementation questions ask what actions, usually by government, especially the federal government, ought to be taken to bring about integra— tion, to prevent discrimination, and to achieve greater equality. Social distance questions ask about the indi— viduals willingness to personally enter hypothetical contact settings in schools or neighborhoods that vary from Virtually all white to heavily black.30 Transformation of Principles Questions on racial principles provide the most consis— tent evidence on how the attitudes of white Americans toward blacks have changed. From crucial baseline sur— :: veys conducted in 1942, trends for most racial prin— i, ciple questions show whites increasingly support the principles of racial integration and equality. Whereas a solid majority, 68 percent, of white Americans in 1942 favored segregated schools, only 7 percent took such a position in 1985 (see Figure 16.1). Similarly, 55 percent of whites surveyed in 1944 thought whites should receive preference over blacks in access to jobs, com— pared with only 3 percent who offered such an opin— ion as long ago as 1972. Indeed, so few people were willing to endorse the discriminatory response to this question on the principle of race—based labor market discrimination that it was dropped from national sur— veys after 1972. On both these issues, then, majority endorsement of the principles of segregation and dis— crimination have given Way to overwhelming majority support for integration and equal treatment. This pattern of movement away from support for Jim Crow toward apparent support for racial egalitari— anism holds with equal force for those questions deal— ing with issues of residential integration, access to public transportation and public accommodations, choice among qualified candidates for political oflice, and even interracial marriage. It is important to note, READING 16 LAISSEZ-FAIRE RACISM Percent 100 80 60 40 VI 20 0 1942 44 46 67 63 64 65 66 68 70 72 76 77 80 82 84 85 Year — Equal jobs — Same schools FIGURE 16.1 Trends in Racial Principle Questions among Whites, 1942—85. (Based on data in Howard Schuman, Charlotte Steeh, and Lawrence Bobo, RaciaIAtt/‘tudes in America: 159 Trends and Interpretations [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985], 74—75.) however, that the high levels of support seen for the principles of school integration and equal access to jobs (both better than 90 percent) do not exist for all questions on racial principles. Despite improvement from extraordinarily low levels of support in the 1950s and 19605, survey data continue to show substantial levels of white discomfort with the prospect of interra— cial dating and marriage, for instance. . . . There has been a sweeping transformation of at— titudes about the rules that should guide black—white interaction in the more public and impersonal spheres of social life. Those living outside the South, the well— educated, and younger people led the way on these changes. However, change has usually taken place in all categories of people. Schuman, Steeh, and Bobo char— acterized this change as a fundamental transformation of social norms regarding race. Robert Blauner’s in— depth interviews with blacks and whites over nearly three decades led him to a very similar conclusion: “The belief in a right to dignity and fair treatment is now so widespread and deeply rooted, so self—evident that people of all colors would vigorously resist any effort to reinstate formalized discrimination. This con— sensus may be the most profound legacy of black mili— tancy, one that has brought a truly radical transformation in relations between the races.”31 In short, a tremen— dous progressive trend has been evident in white racial attitudes where the broad issues of integration, equal— ity, and discrimination are concerned. Those who believe that America is making progress toward resolving the “American dilemma” point to this evidence as proof that Americans have taken a decisive turn against racism. As Richard G. Niemi, John Mueller, and TomW Smith argued, “Without ignoring real signs of enduring racism, it is still fair to conclude that America has been successfiilly struggling to resolve its Dilemma and that equality has been gaining ascen— dancy over racism.”32 If anyone doubts the validity of this transformation, it is noteworthy that even former Klansman David Duke felt compelled to assert that he was no longer a bigot and had shed parts of his past during his failed bid to become governor of Louisiana. ‘ Whether his claim is true is less important than the fact :that Duke had to take such a public position. Some ideas—support for segregation, open discrimination, and claims that blacks are inherently inferior to whites— have fallen into deep public disrepute. Surveys have documented the speed, s0cia1 location, and breadth of this transformation. Resistance to Policy Change If trends in support of progressive racial principles are the optimistic side of the story of the transformation of racial attitudes, the patterns for implementation \1 M“ t ;. f 31-" M a- ' L s all ,g ‘4 |-’, {#9 «If; IV 1" ii 1‘ M” 160 Percent 100 PART IV SOCIAL PROBLEMS: RACIAL AND ETHNIC INEQUALITY 1964 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 Year —— Job Intervention —Schoo| Intervention —Aid to Minorities FIGURE 16.2 Trends in Implementation Questions among Whites, 1964—86. (Based on data in Howard Schuman, Charlotte Steeh, and Lawrence Bobo, RaciaIAttitudes in America: Trends and Interpretations [Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985], 88—89.) questions are the pessimistic side of the story. It should be noted that efforts to assess how Americans feel about government efforts to bring about greater integration and equality or to prevent discrimination really do not arise as sustained matters of inquiry in surveys until the 1960s.To an important degree, issues of the role of gov— ernment in bringing about racial change could not emerge until sufficient change involving the basic prin— ciples had actually occurred. There are sharp differences between support for racial principles and support for policy implementa— tion.This is not surprising insofar as principles, viewed in isolation, need not conflict with other principles, interests, or needs that often arise in more concrete sit— uations. However, the gaps between principle and implementation are large and consistent in race rela— tions. In 1964, for example, surveys showed that 64 per— 1 cent of whites nationwide supported the principle of integrated schooling; however, only 38 percent thought : that the federal government had a role to play in bring- ing about greater integration (see Figure 16.2).The gap had actually grown larger by 1986, when 93 percent supported the principle, but only 26 percent endorsed government efforts to bring about school integration. We return to this point later. Similar patterns emerge in the areas of jobs and housing. Support for the principle of equal access to I jobs stood at 97 percent in 1972. Support for federal ‘ efforts to prevent job discrimination, however, had reached only 39 percent. Likewise in 1976, 88 percent supported the principle that blacks have the right to live wherever they can afford, yet only 35 percent said they would vote in favor of a law requiring homeown— ers to sell without regard to race. There are not only sharp differences in absolute levels of support when moving from principle to imple— mentation but also differences in trends. Most striking, there is a clear divergence of trends in the area of school integration. During the 1972 to 1986 time period, (when support for the principle of integrated schooling ,rose from 84 percent to 93 percent, support for gov— ernment efforts to bring about integration fell from 35 percent to 26 percent. It should be noted that this decline is restricted almost entirely to those living out— side the South. . . .By 1978 there was virtually no dif— ference between college—educated whites outside the South and southern whites who had not completed high school when it came to supporting federal efforts to help bring about school integration. To put it col- loquially, Bubba and William F. Buckley increasingly found themselves in agreement on this issue. Two complexities are worthy of note. First, a cou— ple of implementation issues do show positive trends. The most clear—cut case involves a question on whether () READING16 LAISSEZ—FAIRERACISM (we 161 the government has a role to play in assuring blacks fair access to hotels and pubhc accomInodations.This may\ be the only instance where parallel questions on princi— ple and implementation show parallel positive change. A somewhat similar pattern is found for the principle of residential integration and support for an open or fair housing law. However, even as recently as 1988 barely 50 percent of white Americans endorsed a law that would forbid racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. It should be borne in mind that antiblack animus is not the only source of opposition to government involvement in bringing about progressive racial change. Howard Schuman and Lawrence Bobo have shown that whites are equally likely to oppose open housing laws whether the group in question is black, Japanese American, or another minority.33 There appears to be an important element of objection to govern— ment coercion in this domain that influences attitudes. At the same time, however, Schuman and Bobo also found that whites express a desire for greater distance from blacks than they do from other groups. Second, opposition to implementation is vvide— spread and is not substantially affected by the usual so— cioeconomic characteristics of respondents, including education, region, and age.Weak to nonexistent effects of education and age in particular suggest that we are unlikely to see much change in the future. Unfortunater comparatively few survey trend ques— tions speak directly to affirmative action policies. Many different questions have been asked beginning in the mid—1970s.Aflirmative action is a much maligned and misunderstood concept. Afiirmative actions can range from advertising and special recruitment efforts to pre— ferential treatment requiring quotas. Support for affirmative action varies dramatically, depending on ex— actly which type of policy is proposed.34 Policies that mainly aim to increase the human capital attributes of blacks are comparatively popular.35 Policies that lean in the direction of achieving equal outcomes, as power fully symbolized by the term quotas, elicit overwhelm— ing opposition among whites. . . . BASIC ROOTS OF THE SHIFT . . . [W]hat accounts for the momentous changes that occurred in whites’ racial attitudes? We believe that structural changes in the American economy and polity that reduced the importance of the Crow system V . ‘ 3) “UL!!! '_ 1- f (‘t‘ “f. n“P of exploited black agricultural labor to the overall econ— omy lie at the base of the positive change in racial atti— tudes. In short, the structural need for Jim Crow ideology disappeared. Correspondingly, though slowly and only in response to aggressive and innovative chal— lenge from the black civil rights movement, political and ideological supports for Jim Crow institutions yielded. The defeat of Crow ideology and the pohtical forms of its institutionalization (e.g., segregated schooling and public facilities, voting hindrances) was the principal accomplishment of the civil rights movement. We submit that there are inevitable connections between economic and political structures, on the one hand, and patterns of individual thought and action, on the other hand.As the structural basis of long-standing patterns of social relationships changes, there is a corre— sponding potential for change in the ways of think— ing, feeling, and behaving that had previously been commonplace. Our argument is similar to Myrdal’s. His optimism about the future course of race relations in the United States rested explicitly on a set of ideas about economic interests and needs, demographic trends, and the war— time mobilization, which he thought would all work in the direction of more fully integrating blacks into American societyWe part company with Myrdal, how— ever, when he argued that the American creed was a fundamental impetus to changing conceptions of the place of African Americans. Instead, we are impressed with how long many white Americans have been com— fortable with conditions in the black community and in the daily lives of African Americans that constitute pro— found violations of the high moral purposes articulated in the American creed. . . . Structural Change and Changing Attitudes The declining importance of cotton to the US. econ— omy and as a source of livelihood for blacks opened the door to tremendous economic and political opportunity for blacks.The product of these opportunities, stronger churches, colleges, and political organizations, culmi— nated in a sustained movement of protest for racial jus— tice. The movement and the organizations it created had indigenous leadership, financing, and a genuine mass base of support.Through creative, carefully designed, and sustained social protest, this movement was able to topple a distinct, epochal form of racial oppression that was no longer essential to the interests and needs of a broad range of American political and economic elites. 162 PART IV SOCIAL PROBLEMS: RACIAL AND ETHNIC INEQUALITY Widespread cultural attitudes endorsing elements of the Jim Crow social order, quite naturally then, began to atrophy and wither under a steady assault by blacks and their white allies. Segregationist positions were under steady assault and increasingly lacked strong allies. The end product of these forces, the decline of Jim Crow racism, is the broad pattern of improvement seen in whites’ racial attitudes in the United States. The effectiveness of the NAACP’s legal strategy challenging segregation, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the passage of theVoting Rights Act of 1965 amounted to an authoritative legal and political rebuke of the Jim Crow social order. This rebuke, how— ever, did not directly alter the socioeconomic status of blacks, especially those living in the northern urban areas.This rebuke also did not directly alter entrenched patterns of racial residential segregation that existed nationwide.36 Nor did widespread attitudes of hostility toward blacks suddenly disappear.37 The enormous and far—reaching successes of the civil rights movement did not eliminate stark patterns of racial domination and in— equality that existed above and beyond the specific dic— tates of the distinctly southern Jim Crow system. Instead of witnessing genuine racial comity, we saw the rise of laissez-faire racism. THE SENSE OF GROUP POSITION AND CHANGING RACIAL ATTITUDES Students of prejudice and racial attitudes may have misunderstood the real “object” of racial attitudes.The attitude object, or perceptual focus, is not really the social category “blacks” or“whites,” whether as groups or individuals. It is not neighborhoods or schools of varying degrees of racial mixture. Instead, as Herbert Blumer argued forty years ago,38 the real object of “prejudice,” what we are really tapping with our ques— tions, is attitude toward the proper relation between groups: that is, the real attitude object is relative group “positions. This sense of group position is historically and culturally rooted, socially learned, and modifiable in response to new information, events, or structural conditions so long as these factors contribute to or shape contexts for social interaction among members of different groups. What does this “group position” view of racial atti— tudes mean in the context of all that we have reviewed to this point? First, attitudes toward “integration” or itoward “blacks” are, fundamentally, statements about preferred positional relations among groups.They are not simply or even mainly emotional reactions to groups, group symbols, or situations. Nor are they best under— stood as statements of simple feelings of like or dislike of minOrity groups and their members. Nor are they sim— ply perceptions of group traits and dispositions. Instead, racial attitudes capture preferred group positions and those patterns of belief and feeling that undergird, jus— tify, and make understandable a preference for relatively little group differentiation and inequality under some social conditions or for a great deal of differentiation and inequality under others. In the case of changing white racial attitudes in the United States, increasing openness to the principle of integrated education does not mean a desire for greater contact with blacks or evIen an attachment to inte— grated education. From the vantage point of group position theory, it means declining insistence on forced group inequality in educational institutions. Declining support for segregated public transportation does not signal a desire for more opportunities to interact with blacks on buses, trains, and the like. Instead, it means a declining insistence on compulsory inequity in group access to this domain of social life. Second, the group position view sees change in po— litical and economic structures as decisively shaping the socially constructed and shared sense of group position. The sources of change in attitudes—changes in pre— ferred group positions—are not found principally in changing feelings of like and dislike. Changes in the patterns of mass attitudes reflect changes in the struc— turally based, interactively defined and understood needs and interess of social groups.To put it differently, to have meaning, longevity, and force in people’s every— day lives, the attitudes individuals hold must be linked to the organized modes of living in which people are embedded.39 A demand for segregated transportation, segregated hotels, and blanket labor market discrimina— tion increasingly rings hollow under an economy and polity that have less need for—in fact may be incurring heavy costs because of—the presence of a superex— ploited, black labor pool. When the economic and political needs of significant segments of a dominant racial group no longer hinge on a sharp caste system for effective functioning, the ideology that explained and justified such a caste system should weaken. It becomes vulnerable to change; its costs should become increas— ingly apparent—and be rejected. READING 16 LAISSEZ-FAIRE RACISM 163 Third, a key link between changing structural con— ditions and the attitudes of the public are those promi— nent social actors who articulate, and frequently clash over and debate, the need for new modes of social organization.40 The claims and objectives of leaders pre— sumany spring from their conceptions of the interests, opportunities, resources, and needs of the group at a particular point in time. Readily appreciated examples of the role of leaders include the justices’ 1954 Brown decision, President Kennedy’s speech following the effort to enroll two black students at the University of Mississippi, President Johnson’s invocation of the civil rights slogan “We shall overcome," and perhaps most memorably Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream" speech. Of course, not all leadership statements and actions were supportive of positive change. There were White Citizens’ Councils, Ku Klux Klan rallies, and a wide variety of other forms of resistance to change. Indeed, Kennedy’s speech, which the historian Carl Brauer credits with launching the Second Reconstruction,41 followed on the heels of Alabama governor George Wallace’s “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever" declaration. In addition, there were powerful voices and forces on the Left activated by the civil rights movement that were demanding greater change than either Kennedy or Johnson was ready to accept. Our point is that the direction and tenor of change is shaped in the larger public sphere of clashes, debate, political mobilization, and struggle. CONCLUSION Racism Old and New Can we now share the faith and optimism that Gunnar Myrdal expressed in 1944? Or are the bleak depictions oflered by Andrew Hacker and Derrick Bell more accu- rate analyses? We cannot share Myrdal’s optimism, although we resist pessimism and despair. The long and unabated record of sweeping change in racial attitudes that national surveys document can— not be read as a fundamental breakdown in either ra— cialized thinking or antiblack prejudice. Instead, we have witnessed the disappearance of a racial ideology appropriate to an old social order, that of thejim Crow South. A new and resilient laissez—faire racism ideol- ogy has arisen in its place. As a result, America largely remains “two nations,” with African Americans all too often viewing the world from the “bottom of the well.” . . . The end product of these conditions and pro— cesses is a new racialized social order with a new racial ideology—laissez—faire racism. Under this regime, blacks are blamed as the cultural architects of their own disad— vantaged status.The deeply entrenched cultural pattern of denying societal responsibility for conditions in many black communities continues to foster steadfast opposi— tion to afl‘irmative action and other social policies that might alleviate race—based inequalities. In short, many ,_ Americans have become comfortable with as much racial segregation and inequality as a putatively nondiscrimi— natory polity and free—market economy can produce. Such individuals also tend to oppose social policies that would substantially improve the status of blacks, hasten the pace of integration, or aggressively attack racial dis— crimination. Enormous racial inequalities thus persist and are rendered culturally palatable by the new laissez— faire racism. NOTES 1. Walter A._]ackson, Gunnar Myrdal and America's Conscience (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990). 2. Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma:The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, 2 vols. (NewYork: Random House, 1944). 3. DavidW Southern, Gunnar Myrdal and Black- White Relations: The Use andAhuse if “An American Dilemma,” 1944—1969 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994), xvi. 4. jackson, Gunnar Myrdal and America’s Conscience, 5. Carl M. Brau er,]ohn F. Kennedy and the Second Reconstruction (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1977); C.Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of jim Crow, 3d rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974). 6. See Southern, Gunnar Myrdal and Black— White Relations, 155—86. 7. U.S. President’s Committee on Civil Rights, Tb Secure These Rights (NewYork: Simon and Schuster, 1947). 8. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, Report if the NationalAdi/isory Commission on Civil Disorders (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), 1. 9. Andrew Hacker, Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal (NewYork: Macmillan, 1992). 10. Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom (yr the WelhThe Permanence (yr Racism (NewYork: Basic Books, 1992). 11. Hacker, Two Nations, 219. 164 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19 20. 21. 22. Howard Schuman, Charlotte Steeh, and Lawrence Bobo, RacialAttitudes in AmericarTrends and Interpretations (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1985). Compare Myrdal, American Dilemma. Herbert Blumer,“Race Prejudice as a Sense of Group Position,” Pacy‘ic Sociological Review 1, no. 1 (1958): 3—7. Prominent legal scholars have pointed to the persistence of racism despite the enactment of antidiscrimination laws. See Charles R. Lawrence, “The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection: Reckoning with Unconscious Racism,” Stanford Law Review 39 (January 1987): 317—52; and KimberleW Crenshaw, “Race, Reform, and Retrenchment:Transfor— mation and Legitimation in Antidiscrimination Law,” Harvard Law Review 101 (May 1988): 1331—87. Gerald D. Jaynes, “The Labor Market Status of Black Americans: 1939—1985,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 4, no. 4 (1990): 9—24; Franklin D. Wilson, Marta Tienda, and Lawrence Wu,“Race and Unemployment: Labor Market Experiences ofBlack and\X/hite Men, 1968—1988,” l/Vorle and Occupations 22 (Summer 1995):245—70. Daniel T. Lichter, “Racial Diiferences in Unemployment in American Cities,” American journal of Sociology 93 (January 1988): 771—92; Roderick Harrison and Claudette E. Bennett, “Racial and Ethnic Diversity,” in State of the Union: America in the 1990; vol. 2, ed. R, Farley (NewYork: Russell Sage, 1995), 141—210. Reynolds Farley, Blacks and Whites: Narrowing the Gap? (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), 80. . Joleen Kirschenman and Kathryn M. Neckerman, “We'd Love to Hire Them, But . . .:The Meaning ofRace for Employers,” in The Urban Underclass, ed, C.Jencks and P. E, Peterson (NewYork: Brookings Institution, 1991), 203—31; Margery A. Turner, Michael Fix, and Raymond J, Struyk, Opportunities Denied, Opportunities Diminished: Racial Discrimination in Hiring, Urban Institute Report 91—9 (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press, 1991); Roger Waldinger and Thomas Bailey,“The Continuing Signifi— cance of Race,” Politics and Society 19 (September 1991): 291—329. Joe R. Feagin and Melvin P Sikes, Living with Racism: The Black Middle-Class Experience (Boston: Beacon, 1994). John P. Fernandez, Black Managers in White Corporations (New York: John Wiley, 1975); Edward W Jones, “Black Managers:The Dream Deferred,” Harvard Business Review 64 (May—June 1986): 84—93; Ryan A. Smith,“Race, Income and Authority at Work: A Cross—Temporal Analysis of Black andV/hite Men (1972—1994),” Social Problems 44 (February 1997): 19—37. Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G.Wil]iam Domhoff, Blacles in the White Establishment:A Study of Race and Class in America (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1990), 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29, 30. 31. 32, 33. 34. PART IV SOCIAL PROBLEMS: RACIAL AND ETHNIC INEQUALITY Gerald D. Jaynes and Robin M.Wil]iams, A Common Destiny: Blacks and American Society (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989); Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro, Blacle Wealth/ White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality (NewYork: Routledge, 1995). Paul Starr, “Civil Reconsuuctionthat to Do without Affirmative Action,”American Prospect (Winter 1992): 12. Lawrence Bobo and Camille L. Zubrinsky,“Attitudes on Residential Integration: Perceived Status Differences, Mere In—group Preferences or Racial Prejudice?” Social Forces 74 (March 1996): 883909; Camille L. Zubrinsky and Lawrence Bobo,“Prismatic Metropolis: Race and Residential Segregation in\ the City ofAngels,” Social Science Research 25 (December 1996): 335—74; Martin Sanchez Jankowski, “The Rising Significance of Status in US Race Relations,” in The Bubbling Cauldron: Race, Ethnicity, and the, Urban Crisis, ed. M. P Smith and J. R. Feagin (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 77—98. Douglas S. Massey and Nancy S. Denton, American Apartheid (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1993). Diana M. Pearce,“Gatekeepers and Homeseekers: Insti- tutional Patterns in Racial Steering,” Social Problems 26 (February 1979): 325—42; Margery A.Turner,“Discrimination in Urban Housing Markets: Lessons from Fair Housing Audits," Housing Policy Debates 3, no. 2 (1992): 185—215. D. S. Massey, A. B. Gross, and M. L. Eggers, “Segregation, the Concentration of Poverty, and the Life Chances of Individuals,” Social Science Research 20 (December 1991): 397—420. General Accounting Olfice, Death Penalty Sentencing: Research Indicates Patterns 1y" Race Disparities, Report to the Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary (Washington, DC: Government Printing Oifice, 1990), 5—6. Schuman, Steeh, and Bobo, Racial Attitudes inAmerica, Robert Blauner, Black Lives, White Lives:Three Decades of Race Relations in America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 317. Richard G. Niemi,John Mueller, and TomW Smith, Trends in Public Opinion:A Compendium ofSurvey Data (NewYork: Greenwood, 1989), 167. Howard Schuman and Lawrence Bobo, “Survey Based Experiments onWhites’ Racial Attitudes toward Residential Integration," American Journal of Sociology 94 (September 1988): 273—99. James R. Kluegel and Eliot R. Smith, Beliefs about Inequal- ityzAmericans' View ofVVhat Is and What Ought to Be (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1986); Seymour Martin Lipset and William Schneider, “The Bakke Case: How Would It Be Decided at the Bar ofPublic Opinion?" Public Opinion (March/April 1978): 38—48. ...
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Boboandsmith-laissez - READING 16 LAISSEZ-FAIRE RACISM 155 16 Laissez-Faire Racism Lawrence D Bobo and Ryan A Smith The Four Questions 1 According

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