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February 15, 2011

Even Less to Kvetch About

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/even_less_to_kvetch_about_20110215/

Last Sunday Community Advocates had an op/ed in the Daily News entitled “Some Kvetchers Can’t Bring Themselves to See Good News.” The article argues that too many, especially in the civil rights realm; prefer to ignore positive societal trends for a variety of reasons.

Civil rights advocates” seem compelled to convince us that nothing has changed in America since the ‘60s. They want to be sure to protect us from any possible lethargy about the need for social justice - fear and the potential resurgence of hate and bigotry seem to be the antidote; that, despite the plethora of evidence that much has changed and, usually, for the better. 

It is always challenging to counter the pessimists with polling metrics that offer irrefutable evidence of the transformation of American attitudes on race, ethnicity and religion (most dramatically among the millennial generation, but evident in nearly every category polled). We and other like-minded folks are often portrayed as Pollyannas who wish things were better but ignore data that suggest that America has essentially been treading water and that trouble lies ahead. 

It is rare that a pillar of the naysayers’ arsenal is contradicted by data that proves their assertions wrong.

 
Our article proceeded to debunk one of the pillars of conventional wisdom in the civil rights world (most vigorously propounded by Prof. Gary Orfield of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project)—-that America’s schools are more segregated today than they were when Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. It turns out that that “fact” isn’t true.

Furthermore, it’s also become clear that Orfield’s claims are based on a deeply flawed statistical analysis. The main problem is that, in “majority minority” states, such as Texas and California, Orfield’s statistic is measuring the opposite of integration. After all, if there are no majority white schools, then it’s impossible for black students to be in them. 

A far more sensible conclusion, then, is that the appearance of “re-segregation” is being driven by the increase in Hispanics in the public school system, which has dramatically reduced the number of white majority schools.
If all schools in California had exactly the same ethnic make-up, there would be no majority white schools, so 0% of black students would be in them! .... Most of the changes…. are probably caused by the increase in the percent of Hispanics and the decrease in the percent of non-Hispanic whites, not by segregation….. By most mathematically sensible measures, segregation has decreased and integration has increased over the last 20 years.”

The Orfield claims portray the image of a static, or even a declining America in the realm of race. It must be animated by a concern (not unlike many policy kvetchers) that unless we believe that progress on issues of race and diversity have been microscopically incremental or moving in the wrong direction, we will ignore matters important to minorities and to their organizations.

 

Similarly in the realm of the Middle East and support for the State of Israel; many are the pro-Israel organizations that warn of the imminent decline of support for Israel in the American public and the spillover effect of the frequently noted turmoil on American campuses over Israel and the Palestinians.

Well, today there are two studies that reconfirm the American public’s continuing and overwhelming support for our fellow democracy in the Middle East.

A Gallup Poll found that sixty-eight percent of Americans rated Israel favorably in the poll conducted Feb 2-5, statistically the same as the 67 percent Israel scored in 2010. Israel ranked seventh among 21 countries in this year’s poll behind, in order, Canada, Britain, Germany, Japan, India and France (allies with far less controversial baggage attached).

Not surprisingly, but reassuringly, Iran scored last, with 11 percent approval, and the Palestinian Authority scored fifth from last, with 19 percent approval.

Just to be clear that the Gallup findings are not an anomaly, The Israel Project came out with a poll yesterday which found that a majority of Americans believed that the United States should support Israel in “the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in the Middle East.”

Support for Israel was 55 percent compared to 6 percent for the Palestinians. Sixteen percent responded “neither.”

While the polls offer different numbers, they are both trending in the direction of greater support for Israel despite the nightmare-inducing headlines that emanate from the region. In fact the Gallup Poll findings that 63% of Americans say their sympathies lie more with Israel than with the Palestinians is

the highest evidence of support since 1991

.

Positive news that will be hard to kvetch about, or ignore.

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