One of the strongest biases in America is that college-educated whites are very different than working-class whites.
By Simon Greer
September 27, 2012
Remember Archie Bunker, the bigot everyone could relate to? He created and conformed to our expectations.
And while none of us believe we are one-dimensional, understanding we contain multitudes, as Walt Whitman once said, we often accept one-dimensional caricatures of other people, stereotypes reinforced in the American media.
It is unfortunate but true that it is often easier to deal with the predictability of a black-and-white world than to grapple with contradictions and ambiguities. They make our lives complex and sometimes unpredictable. We like security, and some of us don’t like surprises.
But if we keep our eyes and minds open, surprises are inevitable, even desirable. In my many years working in the social change sector with people of all backgrounds, I am often surprised as my assumptions about an individual or group of people are proven wrong. The reality is almost always far more complicated and interesting than my stereotypes.
Given my experience, I’m suspicious of the clichés about the white working-class — their biases and conservatism; how they don’t vote in their own interests – clichés reinforced in much of the literature popular on the left.
One of the strongest biases is that college-educated whites are very different than working-class whites. A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Council , funded in part by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, shows that on many issues, it is not true. Take one striking example: there is virtually no difference between whites who are working-class and college-educated in identifying with the Tea Party, 10 and 13 percent, respectively. Equal numbers from these two groups identify Fox as a trusted source of news (27% and 28%).
And as Joan Walsh, author of What’s Wrong with White People , wrote on Salon , the survey’s results “confounds those who believe that white working-class people vote against their own interests. For example, those who ‘receive food stamps in the last two years’ preferred Obama to Romney 48%-36%.”