I was recently shown a videotape of people reacting to radio talk shows. Organized by a firm that specializes in analyzing radio talk shows, the members of the listening panel were carefully chosen to represent all major listening groups within American society.
But I quickly noticed something odd—I saw no blacks among the selected listeners. I asked why. And the response was stunning.
Blacks had always been included, I was told, but no more. Not because the firm was not interested in black listeners—on the contrary, blacks are an important part of the radio audience. They were not invited to give their opinion about various radio shows because in its previous experience, the company had discovered that almost no whites would publicly differ with the opinions of the blacks on the panel. Therefore, once a black listener spoke, whites stopped saying what they really thought, if what they thought differed from what a black had said.
I believed that this was the reason—not some racist animosity toward blacks—since such companies are paid to give accurate reports on audience reactions to radio programs, and clearly their results would be skewed without input from black listeners. But I still needed to test this thesis. Do most whites really not publicly say what they believe, if what they believe differs from what a black believes—even when the subject has absolutely nothing to do with race (i.e., reactions to a radio talk show discussing other subjects)?
So I posed to this question to my radio audience, and, sure enough, whites from around the country called in to say that they are afraid to differ with blacks lest they be labeled racist.
I could not imagine anything more detrimental toward abolishing racism and to enhancing black progress in America than such an attitude. But apparently it is the norm in American life to so fear being called a racist that individuals as well as institutions react to blacks as they would to children—humoring them rather than taking them seriously.
This also explains why, if one differs with a black, one is not perceived as merely disagreeing with him, but as “dissing” him. That is what started the liberal hatred of former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. After asking Harvard Professor Cornel West to engage in more scholarship and less rap music making and politicking (West was a major figure in the Al Sharpton campaign for president), Professor West announced that President Summers had shown him “disrespect.” Even a Harvard president doesn’t tell a black professor what to do.