A history of white delusion

Exploring the backdrop of today’s racial tensions, Nicholas Kristof finds that white Americans’ attitudes toward race have long been characterized by complacency and self-deception. He quotes Ford Foundation president Darren Walker on finding optimism in the face of systemic racism: “If America is to be America," Walker says, "we have to engage in a larger conversation than just the criminal justice system."

Published in the New York Times | July 14, 2016
A History of White Delusion
By Nicholas Kristof

In 1962, 85 percent of white Americans told Gallup that black children had as good a chance as white kids of getting a good education. The next year, in another Gallup survey, almost half of whites said that blacks had just as good a chance as whites of getting a job.

In retrospect, we can see that these white beliefs were delusional, and in other survey questions whites blithely acknowledged racist attitudes. In 1963, 45 percent said that they would object if a family member invited a black person home to dinner.

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