Is America 10% or 50% of the way towards eliminating racism? (video)

The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee and Jessica Williams convened two panels, one white and one black, to talk about race.

I didn’t like the segment, but that’s not why I’m posting it. What I found interesting was the first question they asked the panel: “How far are we towards eliminating racism.”

Assuming the answers weren’t faked – and it’s hard to know with the Daily Show – several of the people on the white panel said we’ve already eliminated 50% or even 75% of racism in this country, while the black panelists were decidedly negative, with answers like 7%, 15%, and -20%.

It would be interesting to know if the answers were sincere.  I can understand the white panel thinking that racism has been 50% eliminated. I don’t think that’s an unfair assessment, but I also can understand why the black panelists disagree, though it would have been interesting to have them expand on why they disagree to such a strong extent.  There are still racial problems in America, but how can you argue that we haven’t made incredibly progress since the 50s and 60s, let alone since the founding of the country?  If someone really believes that, I think it would be interesting to vet that further.

The election of President Barack Obama is one prime example of the progress made.  But I also see it in daily life.  When I was a kid, at least in the Chicago area, it was rare to see an inter-racial couple, and people were unsure how to react when they did see one – they were unsure if it was “right.”  Not today.  Though, granted, in parts of the country they still object – I wrote about how in Mississippi two years back a poll of Republicans showed a plurality still wanted to ban inter-racial marriage.  But that Mississippi, that’s not America at large – it was America at large, it’s not now.

To suggest that we’ve made huge strides is not to suggest that we don’t have far more to do.  So it really would have been interested to see both panels, black and white, discuss together why exactly one thinks we’ve made great progress and one thinks we haven’t.  That would have made for an interesting, and worthwhile, discussion.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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37 Responses to “Is America 10% or 50% of the way towards eliminating racism? (video)”

  1. discus_sucks_ass says:

    there is when the reality is completely opposite

  2. discus_sucks_ass says:

    then you should avoid talking about a subject you know nothing about. you will not appear as stupid as you do now.

  3. karmanot says:

    “the practices of racial discrimination remain solidly built into our culture, our economy, and our governmental institutions.” Institutional and cultural racism are so deeply embedded into the fabric of American history that it will never be eliminated. The only possible release will be through upward mobility ( ie. Tim Davis above ) and a class definition that ‘might’ supersede race. It interests me and that which I find historically ironic is that the Tea and Republican Parties, who were once the advocates of abolition are now proto-racists in fact and are re-establishing racism as a legitimate meme by destroying access to economic rise as policy.

  4. sane37 says:

    When I have my hair short, cops speak to me in Spanish when they pull me over. When my hair is longer, they speak english.

    I don’t get tickets though – they’re just checking to make sure the car is mine in either case.

    So I had to stop driving Volvos.

    Since I’ve started driving beaten up Hondas the problem has mostly gone away.

    I have brown skin.

    This happens in LA, or in the Midwest. Haven’t been out to the East coast yet so I can’t speak for there.

  5. emjayay says:

    Provoking discussion: good. And here it is. The Daily Show piece: not very good.

  6. Tim Davis says:

    Hi John. Long-time lurker here. I’m all for ending white-on-white mocking if that’s a huge problem; that’s really an intra-left-middle discussion that I wouldn’t want to chime in on other than to say that yes, it’s not productive. Mockery is generally unproductive (see “Democratic plantation”).

    With respect to progress, from a black perspective (whatever that is) I suppose it may depend on your age and position. My grandmother, born in 1917 in the Jim Crow south, thinks we’ve made huge progress (looking back on it) .My parents, born in the late 1940’s in the south, enjoyed formal Jim Crow through their teens, and then faced a good amount of real institution racism through the 70s and early 80s. They think we’ve made huge progress as well (again, looking back on it). Both parents and grandparents lived in segregated communities, were college educated,and considered middle-class for black folks born at that time. I was born in the mid-70s in the south, lived in an integrated community and attended noncompetitive integrated public schools. I happened to attend a
    historically black college, so I don’t have any scars that many of my peers do
    (segregation/self-segregation, affirmative action driven (or not) racial
    resentment, etc.) and then graduated into a growing economy with no legal/structural barriers.

    Objectively, there’s been a tremendous amount of progress since 1865; the history of America is progress. However, I don’t know that the black poor (a minority of blacks), specifically, has seen much progress since the 1960s, as they’re arguably worse off since segregation ended.

  7. tata says:

    John, you’re whitesplaining to an old white lady. My argument is not racist. Yours is, though. It didn’t start out that way, but it is now. Please stop.

  8. Indigo says:

    What elegant phrasing graces your minimalist postings.

  9. I only post their videos here like every day. And just because they’re a comedy show doesn’t mean I’ll find everything they do funny.

  10. I don’t agree. There’s nothing wrong with thinking the country has come halfway in resolving its racist past. I think a lot of people think we’ve made amazing progress. I think mocking them for saying that is, well, sad.

  11. samizdat says:

    Well, N. VA is essentially a suburb of DC, so that would explain some of it.

  12. samizdat says:

    Um, it’s his site. He posted the article and the vid.

  13. perljammer says:

    Racism can’t be “eliminated”. It can only wither and die for lack of nourishment.

  14. perljammer says:

    Lack of familiarity with an obscure, rarely-used acronym is not stupidity, but calling someone stupid for that lack of familiarity is just plain rude.

  15. discus_sucks_ass says:

    the white folks on that panel made sure they looked bad all by themselves. oh, and BTW for full disclosure I am also a white guy (mostly)

  16. discus_sucks_ass says:

    a comedy show. are you really that stupid?

  17. discus_sucks_ass says:

    I guess you didn’t watch the clip…or read the article

  18. The neat thing about being a white person is that my genetics don’t determine my opinions or my judgments. Does it work that way with black people? Your comment is racist. It assumes that I per se don’t find something funny, not because it might actually not be funny or well done, but because of the color of my skin. Or if we want to be more nuanced, my “white privilege” refuses to let me be enlightened about any topic which you just happen to disagree with me on. And that’s the kind of argument that is used far too often on the left to shut conversations down, and it’s the reason no one wants to talk about this issue other than among parts of the left and the far right. Anybody in the middle does better just shutting up, ignoring the issue, and letting it fester because if they do talk about it, they receive comments like yours in reply. So no the segment didn’t work, it just added more fuel to the argument that you’re safer talking about, and working on, other issues instead of this one. And if it were gay issues, I’d say that’s a very dangerous approach to take, convincing people – especially allies – not to even touch our issues, because we’ll call them names and berate them for being straight. And people ask me why gay rights are doing so well while other issues aren’t. EXhibit A.

    PS Another danger of the “privilege” argument is that if you want to start accusing white people of having all sorts of bad tendencies because of their white cultural upbringing, then you open the door to people arguing the same in return about other races. And usually when that happens, everyone on our side gets very upset. So I’m intrigued by this dichotomy, and the pandora’s box some of you are opening.

  19. tata says:

    John, TDS has four minutes and fifteen seconds to get you to talk about race and it has. As a white person, you’re probably not going to like the conversation and no matter what happens, you won’t think it’s funny. The bit succeeded.

  20. Indigo says:

    Pray enlighten us.

  21. Almost all white people are oblivious? That’s not a great way to being a conversation about anything. I dont’ think most straight people fully can comprehend what it is to be gay, but I wouldn’t say they’re almost all oblivious about it. I think the segment was too negative, as is this assessment, imho

  22. I agreed, I thought it was a horrible segment, awkward, and tried to make white people generally look bad, which only furthers to make the topic not worth discussing in the future. It also simply wasn’t funny.

  23. discus_sucks_ass says:

    which was pretty much the point of the bit. Which is all it was a bit to make that very point and how oblivious almost all white people are about it. TDS is not 60 minutes after all.

  24. discus_sucks_ass says:

    do either of you know what TDS is?

  25. Indigo says:

    Awkward. It’s a valid question but the TV piece was . . . poorly planned and badly implemented.

  26. Moderator3 says:

    He’s gone.

  27. emjayay says:

    I think the panels were real, but it was edited like a James O’Keefe video for humor purposes, which just made it kind of pointless. It just made me want to hear a bunch of serious unedited comments from the people on the black panel.

  28. guest1 says:

    If black people are created equal then why do you want to single them out with their own history month

  29. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Ignore the troll.. nothing to see here

  30. guest1 says:

    ending black history month is Morgan Freeman’s idea not mine lol

  31. JozefAL says:

    You really are an @$$, aren’t you? Now, if you REALLY meant that we should have history textbooks that pay more attention to the achievements of Blacks in this country, and discuss more Black people than just Harriet Tubman, Booker T Washington and Martin Luther King, then you might have a point. Unfortunately, most history textbooks in this country are held hostage by right-wing “textbook committees” in Texas and ensuring that the “right” history is taught (which, in this case, means “white” history).

  32. quax says:

    Totally with ARP on this. After all it worked so well for gays too. Just don’t talk about it! Yep, that’s the ticket. Why hasn’t anybody else thought of this before? And while we’re at it, somebody tell the Jews to stop whining about the Holocaust.

    Brilliant, all problems solved and finally world peace.

  33. BeccaM says:

    I thought the piece was rather awkwardly done, too, but there was one especially telling part: When Jessica and Sam each asked their respective panels if they’d ever been stopped and frisked.

    The African American panel? All but one said they had been, but this young woman admitted she’d only just recently moved to NYC.

    The Caucasian panel? None but an older woman who, when pressed, said her ‘stop and frisk’ was at the airport. (Obviously she didn’t quite understand the point of the question.)

    What this said to me was that no matter what people’s subjective opinions might be, including clearly lots of modern and decent white folks who think we shouldn’t be discriminating based on a person’s race, nevertheless the practices of racial discrimination remain solidly built into our culture, our economy, and our governmental institutions.

  34. ARP says:

    That’s a great idea. For example, if we just stop talking about how NY’s stop and frisk program overwhelmingly targets minorities, it will magically make it better. If we stop calling people racist, they’ll stop being racist…because we stopped calling them racist?

  35. guest1 says:

    Best way to fight racism is to stop talking about it, ending black history month is a good start

  36. ARP says:

    It’s funny, I’ve seen more inter-racial couples in my few years in Northern Virginia, then I ever saw in in Chicago (I lived Wicker Park, Noble Square, Logan Square, Lincoln Square, and Bucktown over a span of 20+ years, so I wasn’t in the conservative parts of town).

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