Summary: A recent study published in the journal Social Forces shows that, over the past forty years, Americans have become more tolerant of minority groups with the exception of one: racists. Drawing upon General Social Survey data from 1972-2012, the study assessed Americans’ tolerance for five controversial “outgroups”: gay people, Communists, anti-religious atheists, militarists, and racists. Findings show that tolerance for gay people increased the most, and tolerance for racists the least, suggesting that, “the one thing Americans are not tolerant of is intolerance.” In addition to highlighting the disapproval that Americans harbor for the racially intolerant, the study can also shed light on the general anxiety that people have for the term “racist” and, specifically, accusations of being called racist. In this video, Jay Smooth coaches viewers on how to tell someone they sound racist, and he stresses the important “difference between the what they did conversation and the what they are conversation.” The former, argues Smooth, focuses on the person’s words and actions; the latter uses these words and actions to draw conclusions about a person’s character. He explains that this is the difference between saying “That thing you said was racist” versus “I think you are racist.” Smooth underscores the importance of keeping the focus on a person’s words and actions (rather than making character accusations). By doing so, the person is held more accountable for their behavior, and the conversation is less likely to get derailed into a sea of defensiveness and posturing. Smooth builds upon this argument in his TEDx Talk. He also has a helpful video that explains the four different types of racism: internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp