Victimology and the Phony ‘Digital Divide’

John Bennett, American Thinker, January 3, 2012

Black people don’t have opportunities to benefit from technology, and it’s racist to suggest otherwise.  That is the only lesson to be drawn from the racially charged tempest unleashed by the infamous Forbes article “If I Were a Poor Black Kid.”

The author, Gene Marks, made the point that if he were a poor black kid, he’d be using the internet to learn more and find job opportunities.  For suggesting that poor black youth have the power to improve their own lives, Marks was treated like a villain by many liberals for lacking “empathy,” and worse.  Such is the wretched state of racial politics today.

The criticisms of Marks’s piece had two common themes: black kids are too poor to have computers or internet access, and Marks does not know what it’s like to be black.  These criticisms are misguided for two reasons.  First, 78% of black youths (8-18 years old) have internet access in their home, according to a recent Northwestern University report.  Second, it is absurd to say that you must share racial membership with a group in order to criticize that group’s behavior.

To begin with, there is no “digital divide.”  The notion that black youths generally do not have internet access is a myth.  In fact, if liberals really cared about the experience of young blacks, they would know that 89% of black youths have a computer in their home and that 78% have internet access.  That is only 10% less than white youth’s internet access, which is 88%.  Before you infer discrimination or disadvantage from that 10% disparity, consider something astonishing: 90% of black youths have cable/satellite TV in their homes, compared with 83% of whites.  Sixty-three percent of blacks have premium channels versus 43% of whites.  Thus, there is a 10% white advantage in internet access, but 20% more blacks have access to cable/premium channels.  Before we bemoan a lack of resources, we should consider how people are able to prioritize cable TV, even premium access, over internet access.

Following are other findings from the Northwestern study, which is probably the best factual basis for talking about what sort of technological access various racial groups have.  Consider these “advantages” that black youth have: blacks, on average, have more TVs, DVDs, VCRs, and videogame consoles in their homes than whites.  Whites have more computers, CD players, and radios.

The greatest refutation of the digital divide is found in young people’s bedrooms.  As stated in the study, black youths are more likely than any other racial group to have TVs in their bedrooms (84%), compared to whites and Asians (64%).  Incredibly, minority youths are more likely to have “cable and premium channels” in their bedroom (42% of blacks, 28% of Hispanics, 17% of whites, 14% of Asians).

In their bedrooms, black youths are also more likely to have DVD/VCR players, and more likely to have a videogame system than their white peers.  Black youths are twice as likely to have TiVo/DVR access as are whites (20% to 8%).  Black youths are more likely to have internet access in their bedroom than whites (33% versus 29%).  A slightly higher percentage of black children have a computer in their room compared to white children (34% of blacks, and 32% of whites).

When it comes to ownership, a higher percentage of black children (33%) have their own laptop than do white children (24%).  Seventy-two of black youth own a cell phone, versus 63% of whites.  Blacks have almost the exact same ownership rate of handheld game-players and iPods as do whites. {snip}


The second criticism of Marks’ article is even more irrational than the first.  A typical perspective offered by black liberals is that Marks has “never known the experience of a kid” in the ghetto.  In other words, you have to share racial membership with a group in order to criticize that group.  But if you have to share racial membership with a group in order to criticize that group, then blacks should never be allowed to criticize whites.  Liberals don’t really mean that you have to have “known the experience” of the group that you criticize.  What liberals mean is that some groups are officially designated victim groups, to be excused for every failing, no matter how inexcusable their behavior—and inexcusable is the only way to describe the failure to graduate from high school in modern America.

Liberals want designated victim groups to be on a moral pedestal, immune from any criticism, while they blame “society” for their problems in life.  Black people are allowed to describe white people’s motives, attitudes, behavior, and institutions, but non-blacks are not allowed to return the favor. {snip}


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