Let’s give thanks to the “Dilbert” guy

What came over Scott Adams last week, that he would take to his YouTube channel and pour gasoline on his career as a well-compensated, even well-loved cartoonist, and set it on fire? In a rant that was immediately recognized as racist, the “Dilbert” creator called Black Americans “a hate group” and told white people that they should “just get the hell away” from Black people. In a later YouTube segment, Adams dismissed any societal progress are “racist change,” including alterations in the tax code.

I would call Adams’ rant “me-too racism” if the phrase “me too” didn’t have such a powerful association with sexual harassment and violence. Adams did, however, jump on a reverse racism bandwagon that has been around since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the mid-1960s, when white southerners first started claiming that an end to segregation violated their rights to free association, as they objected to being forced to attend schools and eat at lunch counters with people they held were inferior because they were Black. 

What Adams advocated in his YouTube rant essentially amounted to the same thing. Confronted with the obvious inadvisability of advocating re-segregating the races in schools, public accommodations and neighborhoods, Adams endorsed a kind of mass white flight with his call to “get the hell away from them.”

And that is exactly what happened in the deep South when segregation was finally attacked by the federal courts. Segregation and Jim Crow laws had been working effectively from the point of view of white people, so of course they thought it was wrong when federal courts began to end them. The response across the entire deep South to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and to the Civil Rights laws became known as “massive resistance.” In the state of Virginia, massive resistance was even written into state law, allowing the closing of public schools that were ordered to desegregate by federal judges. In other deep South states, once desegregation started being enforced by the courts in the mid-to-late 60s, white parents pulled their children out of public schools and formed segregated “academies,” private schools that were all white, and began resisting state and local funding of public education that was integrated. All these moves were of course perpetuation of racism, if not by law, then by white people’s personal choice.  

In another YouTube rant after newspapers across the country had stopped carrying his “Dilbert” cartoon, Adams advised his fans that they “should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage.” He didn’t spell out what such an “advantage” would amount to, but separation of the races would appear to be what he was referring to.

Perhaps the most significant part of Adams’ self-immolation is what caused it. 

Adams referred to a poll by the right-leaning Rasmussen Reports in which respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “It’s okay to be white,” followed by the question, do you agree or disagree with the statement “Black people can be racists, too.”  Rasmussen itself admitted that it was attempting to quantify “the ‘Woke’ narrative in America.” The questions Rasmussen used are a known right-wing trolling exercise that originated on the far-right internet forum 4chan as a way to bait progressives in an attempt to “prove” they hated white people, and that Blacks could be, in the words of the poll, “racist too.”

Rasmussen got 1,000 respondents to its poll, of whom it said 13 percent were Black.  Folks, let’s stop right here and point out that a sample of 130 people ended up bringing an end to the career of “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams. When he concluded on his YouTube channel that “nearly half of that team doesn’t think I’m okay to be white,” it was misleading at best and a flat-out lie at worst.  The poll found that only 26 percent of Black respondents disagreed with the statement, and that 21 percent were unsure, leaving 53 percent who agreed that “it’s okay to be white.”  So Adams combined the “disagree” and “unsure” respondents to come up with “nearly half.”  But then he went further, positing, “Suppose it’s a quarter of black Americans, not willing to say being white’s okay. Would that change my point?” 

Answering his own rhetorical question, Adams asserted: “It wouldn’t be any different at all.”

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So what is going on here, really?  We have a right-wing polling outfit making a naked attempt to come up with some scare numbers on the whole woke panic that’s going around among conservatives by asking leading questions in a poll and, at least according to the now-unemployed Dilbert creator, succeeding in “proving” the point that so-called reverse racism is a real thing.

It’s not.  

Here is what racism is:  During Jim Crow, the state of Virginia didn’t even build schools to educate Black children.  Denied public funds, Black people in many counties in southern states were forced to raise the money necessary to build schools and equip them with desks, paper, pencils, and books necessary to provide even a rudimentary education.  The NAACP in the 1930s challenged the refusal of states to fund Black schools with so-called “equalization” lawsuits, attempting to force southern states to use public monies to build Black schools.  In the 1950s, the NAACP’s emphasis changed from challenging the refusal of southern states to provide funding for Black schools to challenging segregation itself on constitutional grounds, resulting in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision which led to the Civil Rights laws of the 60s and the whole white flight thing Adams likes so much – white flight from schools, from neighborhoods, from entire counties in some parts of the south.  Significantly, Brown did not order white people to stop being racist, it simply ordered them, in the form of state and local governments run by white people, to open the doors of their schools and admit Black people.

Later, of course, the white flight advocated by Adams led to all white schools becoming mixed-race schools which eventually turned into majority Black schools and finally, in some cases, into all-Black schools again, when the last of the children of white parents were finally pulled out of inner-city schools – in the north, as well as the south.  Soon other forms of racism took over, like funding inequalities between white and Black school districts, Black schools being supplied with old schoolbooks that had been used by white students and Black schools with inadequate sports facilities and used sports uniforms.

In the history I just recounted, did you see any instance of white students being discriminated against by having their schools underfunded or supplied with used textbooks or sports fields with no lights for night games or all the other examples I gave? If anti-white racism existed, that would have happened. But it never did.

You have to ask yourself, don’t you, what the attraction is for white people who are suddenly running around and claiming that they are the victims of racism, not Black people? Part of it is no doubt the phenomenon Donald Trump depended on to get elected in 2016 and ran on in 2020 – the whole nexus of victimization and grievance he used to fire up the white working class. Somehow they are the forgotten people, and their kids, who are going to perfectly good, well-funded public schools, need stuff like school choice to get away from those schools…huh…and why is that? Why, it’s diversity’s fault, of course! And now Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has picked up the anti-woke flag and is waving it wildly about trying to convince white people they are the victims of reverse racism, and on and on it goes. Tucker Carlson recently claimed that the federal response to the train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, was inadequate because – wait for it – the town is nearly all white.

It is helpful, however, when one of the newly discriminated against “victims” like the Dilbert guy loses it and makes his own racism, and anti-woke racism, impossible to ignore. All of it is just plain old-fashioned racism, and that’s why the likes of Trump and DeSantis will keep using it. Appealing to racism still works.