White liberals more militant than average blacks

Americans are becoming more anti-racist, which is a good thing.  But this change is being driven by just one segment of the population—white liberal Democrats.

Public opinion polls show white liberals are more militantly anti-racist than black voters and also Hispanic voters on a whole range of topics.

The difference of opinion between white liberals and white conservatives is greater than the average difference of opinion between whites and blacks.

I gave additional examples in a previous post.  Here’s another.

Self-described liberals with positive feelings about Donald Trump

Matthew Yglesias called what’s going on a Great Awokening—comparable to the abolitionist fervor in the Great Awakening prior to the Civil War.  He didn’t have a good explanation as to why it’s happening now, except that use of social media makes the whole world aware of incidents such as the Trayvon Martin killing, which might have been ignored in an earlier era.

The New England Yankee abolitionists fought bravely against the evil of slavery, but many of them had a blind spot, and some of today’s white  liberals have the same blind spot.  The campaign for justice for the black slave in the distant South often went along with contempt for the Irish immigrants and other white working people in their midst.  They—not every single one of them, of course—had a strong sense of social superiority based not on race, but on education and social class.

I encounter similar attitudes when I was growing up in the 1940s in rural Maryland. Many educated white people back then would say things like, the Negroes were all right, it was the white trash you had to look out for.  Well-brought-up boys were taught that using the now-taboo words for black people was the same as swearing, cursing, using bad grammar, smoking cigarettes in the school lavatory or telling dirty joke.  It was something that marked you as a lower-class roughneck.

Don’t get me wrong.  The abolition of slavery was more important than getting rid of “No Irish Need Apply” signs.  My elders were right to teach me that the N-word is taboo.  Today’s white liberals are right to combat racist ideology and racial prejudice.  But they should think about how much they want to redefine racism upward.

The American National Election Survey and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study indicate that, in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won the most white voters with incomes above $175,000 or $200,000, and Donald Trump won the most with incomes below.

This gives well-to-do white liberal Democrats an excuse to write off what they call the “white working class” as inherently racist.  But is that really so?  It depends on how you define racism.

Zachary Goldberg, a political scientist at Georgia State University, wrote in Quillette that many Trump voters are motivated more by “PC fatigue” rather than actual racial prejudice.

All told, the evidence suggests that Trump’s election had more to do with economic disquiet, the fear that America is trending towards a culturally balkanized identitarian society (i.e. political multiculturalism), and a climate of PC that discourages voicing of concerns about either.

We can debate whether these concerns are reasonable. But the hypothesis that they’re simply a guise for white bigotry and the continuance of white supremacy finds no support in the present data.

It is, of course, possible to claim that being opposed to identity politics is racist in itself.  But is that a good idea?  Goldberg wrote—

Genuine racial hostility undoubtedly motivated a minority subset of Trump voters. But as a liberal alienated by the toxic identitarian political direction of our country, I worry that these broad-brush ‘whitelash’ interpretations allow the Left to demonize millions of Americans and dismiss their concerns. Should this continue, the appeal of the Democratic Party will forever be confined to cosmopolitan bubble-land.

Well, let’s not demonize white liberals, either.  They deserve a lot of credit for influencing American public opinion against racism.  There are worse things than going overboard in defense of justice.

But I do think there’s a danger of deciding that the “white working class” is inherently racist, and that therefore liberals need not bother about the concerns of working people, even though, as it happens, the working class is disproportionately black, Hispanic, immigrant and female.


The Great Awokening: Reparations, systematic racism and white Democrats’ new racial liberalism by Matt Yglesias for Vox.  Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

The Great Awokening Preceded the Trumpening by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative.

Americans Are Divided by Their Views on Race—Not Race Itself by Eric Kaufmann for The New York Times.

The Nationalist Delusion by Adam Serwer for The Atlantic (2017).  An argument that Trump supporters are all racists, whether they know it or admit it or not.

Serwer Error: Misunderstanding Trump Voters by Zachary Goldberg for Quillette.


Note: Reasonable people can differ on the definitions of racism and anti-racism.  Not everyone would see the statement in the initial chart as racist, for example.  For the purpose of this article, I define anti-racist as being pro-black, pro-diversity and pro-immigrant.  If you have a different definition, feel free to say so in a comment.


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3 Responses to “White liberals more militant than average blacks”

  1. Fred Says:

    I’m not sure how answers to a questionnaire are any measure of racism. It is possible in all honesty to have different definitions of racism and therefor different results.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    Fred expressed sentiments similar to my own. Polls often speak to how people think they should respond or how the framing of a question leads them to respond. There are numerous examples where people give very different answers depending on the wording of the question or the psychological priming that came before it.

    In this case, it has much to do with how race is perceived as a symbolic issue and hence what it symbolizes to different demographics. There is also how expressed views and values represent how people perceive themselves and/or how they want to be perceived by others, as indicative of the ideals and norms of their social identity.

    It may not indicate actual views on race itself.

    “I encounter similar attitudes when I was growing up in the 1940s in rural Maryland. Many educated white people back then would say things like, the Negroes were all right, it was the white trash you had to look out for.”

    There was much going on there. Even among the Northern working class, there was racial and ethnic divisions. It wasn’t entirely class, as sometimes ethnicities such as the Irish had long had a taint of almost being a separate race, which goes back to Ireland being the first colony of England. The large percentage of Celtic ethnicity among poor Southerners exacerbated this ethnic difference with regional difference.

    Also, there were concrete reasons for the conflict. With mass urbanization, mass industrialization, and mass immigration, there was immense competition for good work or sometimes any work at all. The capitalist class quickly learned how to turn poor whites against each other.

    Blacks were simply excluded from most jobs and so simply were not seen as a real threat by even poor whites. Instead, ethnic immigrants and ethnic Southerners were seen as those coming to take away the jobs of already established white populations. It was also easier for whites to politically organize and unionize than it was for blacks. This made poor whites more of a threat to wealthier whites as well.

    This is standard class war used as social control within the capitalist order. It maintains everyone in their proper place.

    “The American National Election Survey and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study indicate that, in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won the most white voters with incomes above $175,000 or $200,000, and Donald Trump won the most with incomes below.”

    This should be put in context of other data. During the campaign season, Trump like most Republicans before him disproportionately got support from the middle class whites, in particular the lower middle class, not from the working class, much less the poor. Lower class whites preferred Sanders.

    Democrats tend to pull the largest support from both the wealthier and the poorer, whereas Republicans get the middle range. The same pattern is seen with IQ, as Democrats get most of the high IQ and most of the low IQ with Republicans once again showing their strength in the middle range. It is a specific kind of white that has the strongest allegiance to the GOP. And it is not whites down the economic ladder. There have been many poor white parts of the country that have remained loyal to the Democratic Party for generations.

    Still, credit must be given to Hillary Clinton, for having lost a eastern Kentucky county in coal country that had consistently gone to every Democratic presidential candidate since the Civil War. Yet many old labor strongholds remained in the Democratic camp. It wasn’t working class whites that gave Trump the election. I could add that many minorities in key places helped Trump, such as rural Hispanics in the Southwest along with Cubans and Haitians in Florida.

    On the other side, we must remember that it was white women who turned against Clinton and chose Trump instead. These weren’t primarily poor white women either. As for Sanders, his popularity has remained strongest among women and minorities, especially in the younger generations. White men are a minority of Sanders’ base.

    Most of reality doesn’t fit the propagandistic narrative of mainstream politics and corporate media.

    “the working class is disproportionately black, Hispanic, immigrant and female.”

    That is what they want to distract us from. From MLK to the Black Panthers, there has long been a movement to unite the working class across racial and other divides. The purpose of COINTELPRO involved the destruction of such coalitions. That is why they tried to blackmail MLK into suicide. And that is why they assassinated Fred Hampton, a charismatic leader who was widely popular far beyond black radicals.


    “The Young Patriots’ own chairman, William Fesperman, even let some heartfelt gratitude show in between jibes about the “pig power structure” when he explained how the Patriots came to be at the conference: “Our struggle is beyond comprehension to me sometimes and I felt for a long time [that poor whites] was forgotten … that nobody saw us. Until we met the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and they met us and we said let’s put that theory into practice.” Summing up why they had all come to Oakland, he added, “We want to stand by our brothers, our brothers, dig?””


    • Fred Says:

      As long as they can keep the narrative as blacks v whites, they win. It doesn’t matter how they frame it. A bunch of rich white guys trying to” help” blacks has a powerful connotation that blacks are incapable of helping themselves. You create a dependent class relative to the saviour class. It is in direct opposition to the messages of MLK and Malcom X.

      Liked by 2 people

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