PRRI’s Structural Racism Index Attempts to Quantify Racist Beliefs – Baptist News Global

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How to measure racism?

In the contemporary American battleground of politics, culture, and religion, people often accuse others of being racist, and the accused often respond, “I’m not a racist.” Still others proudly wear the “racist” label as a way of confessing their past sins.

But how “racist” do you have to be to be rightly labeled “racist”?

The folks at the Public Religion Research Institute think a lot about this question, because much of their polling work focuses on race. Their founder, Robert P. Jones, has written two bestselling books on race, culture and religion.

One of the ways they have developed to measure racism is the Structural Racism Index, first created for Jones’ book white too long. Its original 15-question index has now been whittled down to a composite of responses to 11 questions on a range of topics, from attitudes toward white supremacy and racial inequality, to the impact of discrimination on economic mobility of African Americans, to the treatment of African Americans. in the criminal justice system, to general perceptions of race and whether racism is still a significant issue today.

By combining the answers to these questions, PRRI discerns scores on a scale of 0 (low) to 1 (high). Therefore, most scores are expressed as a fraction because only a pure racist would get a perfect whole number one, and only a completely non-racist person would get a flawless zero.

How racist are we?

Among all Americans, the median value of the Structural Racism Index is 0.45, near the center of the scale, in the latest 2022 poll.

Of course, there are variations along this scale that correlate with a respondent’s race, age, location, education, political party, and religious beliefs.

Not surprisingly, white Americans are the most likely to score high on the Structural Racism Index, with a median score of 0.52. Hispanic Americans have a median score of 0.42, followed closely by multiracial Americans at 0.30 and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at 0.39. Black Americans have the lowest median score, at 0.24.

“The data confirms the truth that everyone is a little bit racist – but some are a lot more racist.”

The data confirms the truth that everyone is a little racist – but some are much more racist.

Predominantly white religious groups score highest on the structural racism scale. Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants have the highest median score, at 0.64, while Latter-day Saints, white Catholics and white Protestants share a median of 0.55. In contrast, white Americans with no religious affiliation score 0.33.

Political affiliation also makes a difference.

The median score for Republicans is 0.67, compared to 0.45 for independents and 0.27 for Democrats. Political affiliation is a stronger indicator than a person’s race. White Republicans score 0.67 and Republicans of other races score 0.58. Scores for white independents (0.48) and white Democrats (0.24) are much lower.

Is this a fair scale?

Some might wonder if the index was designed to make Democrats look better than Republicans and non-religious people look better than religious. The answer lies in developing a common definition of racism.

And this is the heart of the problem. Many of those who score high on the PRRI’s Racism Index sincerely believe they are not racist – at all. The very questions that PRRI uses to score racist attitudes talk about actions and attitudes that they do not perceive as racist.

The 11 statements with which respondents are asked to agree or disagree are:

  • White Americans today are not responsible for discrimination against blacks in the past.
  • White people in the United States have certain advantages due to the color of their skin.
  • White supremacy is still a major issue in the United States today.
  • If we are truly to repent of the history of racism in the United States, we must be prepared to undo the damage it has done to generations of black Americans.
  • A black person is more likely than a white person to receive the death penalty for the same crime.
  • Racial minorities use racism as an excuse more than they should.
  • Generations of slavery and discrimination against blacks gave whites unfair economic advantages.
  • Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for many black Americans to rise out of the lower class.
  • Today, discrimination against white Americans has become as big an issue as discrimination against black Americans and other minorities.
  • It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if black Americans only tried harder, they might be as well off as white Americans.
  • Racial issues in the United States are rare and isolated situations.

Many of these statements represent documented and historical facts, such as the economic advantage white people have over black people or the greater likelihood of a black person being sentenced to death than a white person. To deny these realities is to deny tons of validated research.

The importance of personal experience

But some of these statements represent softer ideas that are, in fact, matters of perspective. For example, “racial minorities use racism as an excuse more than they should”. This statement is a common topic of discussion among white conservatives, who often think minorities are exaggerating their case.

But that’s a perspective based on his own life experience. One person’s moans are another’s desperate cry for help.

“One person’s groan is another’s desperate cry for help.”

Another part of PRRI’s research illustrates how a person’s own life experiences can influence their understanding of racism.

The researchers also asked respondents a series of questions about whether they had personally experienced various types of hostility or discrimination over the past few years. A total of 62% said they had not experienced discrimination in any of the categories shown. And white Americans were the least likely to report experiencing discrimination in most categories, compared to substantial portions of black (43%), AAPI (38%), multiracial (34%) and d Hispanic Americans (29%) reporting experiences with race-based discrimination. discrimination.

One of the popular stories among white evangelicals is that they are persecuted for their religious beliefs. In an increasingly secular culture, they argue, their more exclusivist views on morality, in particular, make them objects of contempt.

But PRRI data does not show this to be a widespread belief among white evangelicals, with just 19% saying they have experienced discrimination because of their religious beliefs. This is more than double the share of mainline white Protestants (7%) who believe they have experienced religious persecution.

Latter-day Saints (43%) and Jews (33%) are much more likely than white evangelicals to report experiencing religious discrimination.

Comparison of 2018 to 2022

The latest PRRI data on the Structural Racism Index differs from the original 2018 survey because the number of questions in the mix has been reduced. Therefore, year-to-year trends are not directly comparable.

However, the general trends are the same, and there remains a huge chasm between white Americans — especially white evangelicals — and everyone else.

Robert P. Jones

In a 2020 column for NBC News, Jones explained what he sees behind the numbers: “A careful reading of history reveals that we white Christians have not only been complacent or complicit; rather, as the nation’s dominant cultural power, we have built and sustained a blueprint for the perpetuation of white supremacy that has framed all of American history. The legacy of that unholy union still lives on in the DNA of white Christianity today – and not just among white evangelical Protestants in the South, but also among white Protestants in the Midwest and white Catholics in the Northeast.

Year after year, he wrote, “a clear pattern has emerged: white Christians are consistently more likely than nonreligious whites to deny the existence of structural racism.”

And one of the biggest obstacles to talking about it is a difference in perception of what is racist.

“The results point to a stark conclusion: while most white Christians see themselves as people who hold warm feelings toward African Americans, holding racist views is nonetheless positively and independently associated with white Christian identity,” wrote Jones in 2020. “Again, this troubling relationship applies not only to white evangelical Protestants, but also to white mainline Protestants and white Catholics.

A possible cure for racism?

Jones, however, projected a cure for the sin of racism: telling the truth about America’s racial history and its lasting legacy.

“When we allow ourselves to look beyond the rosy stories we tell about ourselves as champions and representatives of all that is good in America, a terribly troubled alternative history emerges,” he said. writing. “While it may seem obvious to mainstream white Christians today that slavery, segregation, and overt claims of white supremacy are contrary to the teachings of Jesus, such a belief is, in fact, a recent development. for most white American Christians and churches, both Protestant and Catholic.

“The disturbing truth is that for most of American history, the light-skinned Jesus most white congregations evoke was not simply indifferent to the status quo of racial inequality; he demanded its defense and preservation within the framework of the natural, divinely ordained order of things.

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