African-American Optimism

Building on the writings of Ellis Cose, Smartypants highlights evidence that most African-Americans are happy with their lives and optimistic about the future.

Smartypants comments:

This kind of information creates great cognitive dissonance for many people. Folks on the right want to use it to claim that racism is over and so there’s no need for policies like affirmative action. But it also butts right up against the efforts of those who embrace their liberal guilt and suggest that African Americans are victims in need of rescue.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

5 thoughts on “African-American Optimism”

  1. Folks on the right want to use it to claim that racism is over and so there’s no need for policies like affirmative action. But it also butts right up against the efforts of those who embrace their liberal guilt and suggest that African Americans are victims in need of rescue.

    It’s a shame that people feel the need to embrace spurious equivalence to the point of rendering their argument into gibberish. The conservative in this formulation articulates well-established conservative doctrine. The liberal is saying nothing that liberals actually say – or, if you want to interpret the author more generously, the liberal is saying exactly what the survey says, that African Americans are victims of ongoing discrimination.

  2. And I’m not clear how this creates cognitive dissonance for both sides: For one side it’s confirming, for the other it “butts up against” the views held. Far from being equivalent, the relationship is opposite for the two sides.

  3. As always, it seems to help to go to the source to get some additional perspective:

    Many African Americans report significant concerns about future uncertainties. Nearly half (44%) of employed African Americans say they are very or somewhat concerned they or someone in their household might be out of work and looking for a job in the next twelve months. A similar proportion of unemployed African Americans living in a household with someone else are concerned that a household member will lose their job (41%). In addition, almost half (45%) are not confident that they would have sufficient money or health insurance to pay for a major illness.

    Three in ten African Americans (30%) report that in the past twelve months, they or a family member has had a serious problem having enough money to pay doctor and hospital bills. About one in four (24%) say they had a serious problem with paying for prescription medicines. About one in six (16%) report a serious problem getting health care that was needed, and one in ten (10%) report a serious problem getting mental health care.

    The overall tenor of the survey seems to be: “We’re facing some potentially serious problems, but we’re willing to deal with them and are optimistic about our ability to do so.” The (relative) optimism seems to be more an expression of personal pride and independence rather than an “everything’s peachy” statement.

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