ONTD Political

Five myths about white people

12:55 am - 02/14/2012
For decades, trends in American life have usually been analyzed through the prism of race, with white Americans serving as the reference point - comparing black unemployment with white unemployment, for instance, or the percentage of Latino high school students who go on to college compared with white students. Those comparisons are illuminating, but they neglect how that reference point itself is changing. Our understanding of white America is subject to a number of outdated assumptions that need rethinking.


1. Working-class whites are more religious than upper-class whites.

This is a pervasive misconception encouraged by liberals who conflate the religious right with the working class, and by conservative evangelicals who inveigh against the godless ruling class.

Certainly, white intellectual elites have become extremely secular. However, as a whole, the white upper middle class has long displayed higher attendance at worship services and stronger allegiance to their religious faith than the white working class - going all the way back to the first data collected in the 1920s and continuing today.

Since the early 1970s, white America has become more secular overall, but the drop has been much greater in the working classes.  As of the 2000s, the General Social Survey indicates, nearly 32 percent of upper-middle-class whites ages 30 to 49 attended church regularly, compared with 17 percent of the white working class in the same age group.

2. Elite colleges are bastions of white upper-middle-class privilege.

It's common to assume that upper-middle-class white kids win more slots in top universities than middle-class or working-class students not because they're smarter, but because their parents can afford to send them to the best grade schools and high schools, pay for SAT prep courses, or make hefty donations to colleges.

There are two problems with this logic. First, ever since the landmark Coleman Report on educational equality back in 1966, scholars have had a hard time demonstrating that attending fancy elementary and secondary schools raises students' academic performance. And on average, those highly touted test-preparation courses boost students' SAT scores by only a few dozen points - a finding consistent across rigorous studies of test-prep programs.

Second, educational attainment is correlated with intelligence. (The mean IQ of white Americans with just a high school diploma is about 99; the mean IQ of whites with a professional degree is about 125.) And children's IQ is tied to that of their parents. How genes and environment conspire to produce these relationships is irrelevant; the relationships have been stable for decades. As a result, white parents with advanced educations - who are also generally affluent - inevitably account for a disproportionate number of the white kids with the highest SAT scores, best grades and other evidence of academic excellence.

If college admission were purely meritocratic - eliminating favoritism for the children of alumni, celebrities and big donors - upper-middle-class children would still be overrepresented. That's because the applicants who would be accepted instead would also hail overwhelmingly from the upper middle class.

3. Marriage is breaking down throughout white America.

Overall marriage rates are indeed declining in the United States: Just over half of American adults are married, compared with 72 percent in 1960. However, among white Americans, there is a sharp class divide on marriage.

The share of upper-middle-class whites ages 30 to 49 who are married has been steady since 1984, hovering around 84 percent. During that same period, marriage for working-class whites in the same age group has fallen from 70 percent to 48 percent. This is not a statistical artifact that can be explained by class differences in the age of marriage or the frequency of remarriage, nor by hard economic times for the working class. Marriage now constitutes a cultural fault line dividing the socioeconomic classes among white Americans.

4. White working-class men have a strong work ethic.

They used to, but not so much anymore. In 1968, 97 percent of white males ages 30 to 49 who had at most a high school diploma were in the labor force - meaning they either had a job or were actively seeking work. By March 2008 (before the Great Recession), that number had dropped to 88 percent. That means almost one out of eight white working-class men in the prime of life is not even looking for a job. This is not just an issue of "discouraged workers"; this rate of labor force dropouts rose in the boom years of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as rapidly as it did in years of recession.

Among white males ages 30 to 49 who do have blue-collar or low-level service jobs, fewer work full time. The percentage of them who worked less than than 40 hours a week increased from 10 percent in 1960 to 20 percent in 2008, rising in good and bad economic times alike.

Time-use surveys have further documented shifting behavior among unemployed men. In the early 2000s, compared with 1985, such men spent less time on job searches, education and training, household work, or civic and religious activities - and more time watching TV and sleeping.

5. White Americans are yesterday's news.

You don't need to see a young black family in the White House to understand that American demographics are changing. In the 2010 census, non-Latino whites made up 64 percent of the population, down from 69 percent in 2000, 76 percent in 1990 and 80 percent in 1980. In 2011, non-Latino whites for the first time constituted a minority of children under age 2 - the harbinger of a nation in which whites will be a minority. That's no myth.

Yet, 45 of 50 governors and 96 of 100 U.S. senators were still non-Latino whites in 2010. Whites also were 92 percent of the directors nominated for Academy Awards between 2000 and 2011. They were 96 percent of Fortune 500 chief executives in 2011. The numbers are similar for other influential positions in U.S. society. At least for now, the rhetoric about the fading role of whites in American life outruns reality.

***

source: Charles Murray @ The Washington Post

Just take a look at all that pseudo-science and hand-picked statistics...

(And yes, this was written by that Charles Murray, the guy who has made a living out of suggesting that there is a genetic connection between race and intelligence...)
fishphile 14th-Feb-2012 02:07 am (UTC)
For decades, trends in American life have usually been analyzed through the prism of race, with white Americans serving as the reference point - comparing black unemployment with white unemployment, for instance, or the percentage of Latino high school students who go on to college compared with white students. Those comparisons are illuminating, but they neglect how that reference point itself is changing. Our understanding of white America is subject to a number of outdated assumptions that need rethinking.

This is a fantastic premise. Unfortunately, the article didn't deliver, but there needs to be more studies on white people, especially when it comes to culture. Often, white people are seen as the norm and when we get studies on PoC, while certainly helpful, they can sometimes veer into "look at the ways of these strange peoplez with their strange cultures and not quite American ways" territory.

I often get the feeling that not only do white people not know about PoC, but they have no clue about other white people. This fits into the narrative that white people are only individuals and that the actions of other people who look like them do not reflect on them.
roseofjuly 14th-Feb-2012 03:33 am (UTC)
There really don't need to be more studies on white people. Whenever there is a general study done on "culture" or demographics, the majority of the participants are white people - usually overrepresented in the sample, honestly. POC don't get to be the majority in a study unless it's explicitly a study of PoC. For instance, most of what we know about human psychology has been tested out on white affluent college students between the ages of 18 and 22. And before the 1970-1980s, they were men. White male psychologists did experiments with their students and then concluded that that is how everyone must be.

What needs to be done is that researchers need to be more transparent about the fact that their studies are mostly done on white people.
fishphile 14th-Feb-2012 03:52 am (UTC)
I strongly disagree. I'm talking specifically about studies on white people, not a general study that's supposed to be about everyone. I mean singling out white people and not making it about culture in general. There has to be PoC studies because researchers interview a bunch of white people and apply it to everyone. What I rarely see is a study on culture with the focus on white people as white people. We might get something about white people if it's a counterpoint to a PoC study, but that's it. The closest I've seen is maybe something on Southern whites and, again, that's usually through the lens of a counterpoint of another race.

What I mean is sit down and talk to 10 black people (I think I've seen it done with all PoC communities, but will use black here) and ask them what it means to be black. They have an answer. They may not agree on what it means, but they have some idea and it will usually have some underlying view of culture. Sit down 10 white people and ask them the same thing and almost always there will be a blank-like a cultural void has happened. Now, you'll get an ethnic and/or nationality answer if someone identifies as Jewish or Latin@ or Irish or Italian. But ask a PoC this and you'll get an answer about ethnicity and race that usually has cultural ties.
krinchan 14th-Feb-2012 02:53 pm (UTC)
Sit down 10 white people and ask them the same thing and almost always there will be a blank-like a cultural void has happened.

I'd point back to a previous post that consisted of a book excerpt on Feminism and the Pill. The 1950's destroyed cultural identity for Caucasians/Whites/Etc. POC's still have a very deep well of traditions and family history. All we get is Apple Pie, Suburbia, a rapidly dying American Dream, and Grandma in a nursing home clear across the country. There is a cultural void and all the disturbing shit you see wandering out of suburbia is an extension of that.

Edited at 2012-02-14 02:54 pm (UTC)
fishphile 15th-Feb-2012 12:58 am (UTC)
I'll have to go back and see that excerpt.

Part of it imo is trying to establish a collective norm for what it means to be white. There has to be something somewhat cohesive as a culture as groups have found ways to assimilate into it. Some people and I have been talking about how light skinned Latin@s, who may or may not be assumed to be white no matter if they code as white or not, may be the next group allowed in like Italians, Irish and Jewish (I realize PoC can fall into all these groups too) and what that will mean.

Anyway, thanks for the book rec.
aiffe 15th-Feb-2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
If you asked me what it means to be white (I am white) I would say that being white is having white privilege--often without even knowing it. Being white means "not seeing race."

White culture is difficult to describe not because it's a "void," but because it's so normalized as to become invisible. It's the mainstream, it isn't "how we are" but "how people are...unless they're weird or something, I guess." (I am reminded of my eight-year-old cousin, asked in a homework assignment to write about Native Americans, who wrote "I'm glad I'm not an Indian because they're weird.") Every movie, TV show and magazine reinforces this culture, but we don't see it, because we've never looked at anything else.
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