All in
the Family
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Seems like
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on Solvay
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Mixed bag
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The recent flap over remarks made by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, interested me because, in a former life, I was the features editor of the Providence Journal, ostensibly in charge of comics strips. Occasionally, one of the comics — usually Doonesbury — would kick up controversy, and for that reason I was expected to read each panel in advance and alert the executive editor when we might want to pull the strip for one day and insert something else. But I never encountered a situation where the cartoonist himself became the controversy. That's what happened to Adams, and, in so doing, he may have committed career suicide.

The fuss began on his online video program when Adams referred to blacks as members of a hate group, and urged whites to get away from blacks, saying, "It makes no sense to help black Americans if you're white. It's over. Don't even think it's worth trying."

I PAUSE to point out that despite a widespread editorial style change, I do not consider "black" a proper noun when it refers to race. I've noticed not all media sources do the same for "white," which seems strange. In any event, I treat the words equally, and believe the context in which these words are used makes it clear when they refer to race, and no capital letter is needed.

I don't think colors should be used to describe race. Let's take our cue from the past when we mistakenly referred to Asians as "yellow" and Native Americans as "red." I prefer Caucasian to describe my race because I am not white. When I placed my hand on a color chart, it most nearly matched a shade of orange called "cantaloupe." I guess that's what you get from an Irish-American father and a Polish-American mother.

Blacks formerly were African-Americans. Before that, black was accepted for a while, after Negro was discarded. Negroid is still in use by some folks. African would be a convenient label, but not entirely accurate.

If it were up to me, I'd put all people into one group, the human race. That might eliminate, or, at least, diminish racial conflicts, though we'd still have to deal with nationality and religious differences.

BACK TO Scott Adams. His remarks were triggered by results of a poll conducted by a conservative group called Rasmussen Reports. The poll dealt with only two races and included just two questions:

“Do you agree or disagree with this statement, ‘It’s OK to be white’?”

“Do you agree or disagree with this statement, “Black people can be racist, too’?”

According to published results, 53 per cent of blacks who were polled said it’s okay to be white, 26 percent disagreed, and 21 percent said they are “not sure.” As for the other question, 79 percent of all people polled agreed black people can be racist, too.”

THE MORE I got into the backlash, the more interesting things became. For example, columnist Aymann Ismail, of an online magazine called Slate, ridiculed the survey in what was written like some kind of exposé.

"Rasmussen surely knows, the phrase 'It’s OK to be white' is a right-wing troll that originated in the forums of 4chan. As the Washington Post chronicled in 2017, the term was originally intended as a covert way to force an overreaction from progressives, including liberal journalists, if it started to spread, which in turn would show that 'lefties' hate white people ... The Anti-Defamation League did mark the phrase a 'hate slogan'—reasonably, given that it was white supremacists (most notably David Duke) who ran with the 4chan prank in the first place.

"Rasmussen apparently assumed its audience would be too stupid to know any of that, and in the case of Scott Adams, it was clearly right."

Sorry, Mr. Ismail, I believe this is a case of you being too stupid to know Scott Adams was being sarcastic. If the Anti-Defamation League would call something as innocuous as "Its OK to be white" a hate slogan, when probably 95 percent of Americans have never heard of 4chan or any right-wing scheme, then Adams decided, tongue-in-cheek, I'm sure, that if 47 percent of surveyed blacks couldn't bring themselves to say it's OK to be white, than they must be members of a "hate group." Adams may have chosen this bogus poll because he was well aware of the history of the phrases being surveyed.

I DON'T KNOW much about Scott Adams, but I do know he isn't stupid. He is described as a supporter of Donald Trump, but describes himself as "ultraliberal," and his own statements about Trump indicate — to me, anyway — that Adams has an unusual way of looking at the world and a unique sense of humor.

On Trump, for example, Adams noted how, in 2016, the presidential candidate stayed on message about building a wall along the Mexican border. Trump avoided essential details, falsely claiming Mexico would pay for it, and kept saying, "I'm gonna build a wall."

Trump is proof that if you keep repeating a lie and never admit the truth, many people will believe you. That's my thought, not Adams'.

Adams also noted Trump simply said things many frustrated Americans wanted to hear. These things didn't have to make sense or offer even a hint of a solution. Trump's slogan — "Make America great again" — is purposely vague. Adams didn't regard Trump as the best candidate for the job in 2016, simply the one who would win the election, which he did, on a technicality known as the electoral college.

Adams also called Trump a destroyer, and said by the time Trump left office, America would be broken and in need of fixing. "And fixing things is what America does best," said the cartoonist, perhaps rationalizing his support for a lying incompetent.

SO NO DOUBT the Dilbert creator is an odd duck, who provokes odd responses, such as the one from MSNBC columnist Jarvis DeBerry, who was less annoyed by Adams’ comments than by the large number of people in the bogus Rasmussen survey who think blacks can be racist. DeBerry claims this “is another sentiment one hears primarily from white people who don’t want to be reminded of the oppression white Americans have carried out. They are the same people who, contrary to all the evidence, argue that racism in America works both ways.”

There is no evidence to the contrary when it comes to the survey question. Obviously, anyone can be racist, the key word being "can" (as in "it is possible"). Hey, some blacks are Republicans, and some Georgia blacks undoubtedly voted for Marjorie Taylor Greene.

His use of "both ways" implies Mr. DeBerry thinks racism exists only between blacks and white, which excuses any ill-feeling that may exist, say, between blacks and Asians.

But this is 2023, not 1860. Discussions of racism in the United States must include Hispanics (who outnumber blacks), Asians and Native Americans (or indigenous peoples, if you prefer).

Which is one of several reasons the simplistic Rasmussen survey is a joke. I believe Scott Adams decided to amplify that joke, perhaps forgetting race is not a laughing matter, or intentionally seeking the kind of attention he is receiving.

And if he did it to get out of his contract with Andrews McMeel Syndication, well, he certainly succeeded.