By Greg Jones
It’s called “proof by example,” and it happens all the time. We take one event and point to it as evidence of a trend or, even worse, a universal fact—a dog attacked my child, therefore all dogs are vicious and should be put down. Despite its popularity, particularly in political debate, proof by example is a logical fallacy. But logic is officially an endangered species in today’s hyperpartisan political environment.
Recent events nationwide, particularly the cold-blooded murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, at the hands of a revoltingly racist white supremacist, have propelled this faulty reasoning to new heights. Dangerous ones, in fact: the conversation surrounding race in America has rapidly evolved into a hyperbolic echo chamber into which today’s pundits, politicians, and professors repeatedly shout their false narrative.
OMGs, Guys, We’re So Racist!
The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson declared, “America will only end racism when it stops being racist.” If anyone is guilty of proof by example, it’s Robinson: “The gunman who so coldly killed those innocent worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church did not exist in a vacuum. He inhaled deeply of the race hatred that constantly bubbles up like foul gas from a sewer.”
Things are so bad that The New York Times’s Timothy Egan proposed that Barack Obama apologize on behalf of his country for slavery. You read that correctly. The president didn’t do that, but he did remind us that “racism remains a blight that we have to combat together.”
The most serious accusation, however, was lobbed from what has become the most ridiculously reactionary arena in all of American cultural and political life: academia. In response to the Charleston slayings, Occidental College Professor Caroline Heldman labeled America a “white supremacist society.” You hear that? Constant racism; America is a sewer; we are all white supremacists. Apparently the America of 2015 is identical to the America of 1860.
The Data Contradicts These Spurious Claims of Mass Racism
News to me, and if I had to guess to 99 percent of the other 300-plus million Americans that peacefully coexist with members of all races day in and day out. Unless, of course, I am so lucky as to “exist in a vacuum” of peace and tranquility light years beyond what most Americans experience. Judging from my neighborhood, and a few commonly ignored statistics, I highly doubt it.
Ku Klux Klan membership has shrunk drastically from millions a century ago to fewer than 5,000 today. The Black Panthers are essentially extinct. While plenty of other hate groups have attempted to fill the void, they have always operated on the margins of society. Black politicians are now common—President Obama’s percentage of the white vote was almost perfectly in line with that received by other recent Democrats, all of whom were white.