Dilbert is done, but let’s not pretend Scott Adams wasn’t reacting to a disturbing development

The media would rather shoot the messenger, however inartful or incendiary, than acknowledge the troubling reality that race relations in the United States have gotten far worse since Critical Race Theory, intersectionality, and the woke mentality went mainstream ten years ago.

Last week the creator of Dilbert, a popular comic strip skewering life in the modern office, Scott Adams, was branded a racist and had his comic canceled across hundreds of publications for some admittedly controversial comments.  Mr. Adams made these comments during his “Real Coffee with Scott Adams” program on YouTube, declaring black Americans were part of a “hate group.”  “I don’t want to have anything to do with them,” he claimed. “And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to White people is to get the hell away from Black people, just get the f**k away … because there is no fixing this.”  The media seized on these remarks, referring to them as a “racist tirade” that “effectively encouraged segregation” per CNN and “racist, hateful and discriminatory” as summarized by the Associated Press.  Publishers quickly moved to cancel Dilbert, including major organizations such as USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post, effectively ending Mr. Adams career.  “This is a decision based on the principles of this news organization and the community we serve,” explained Cleveland Plain Dealer Editor Chris Quinn, another paper that canceled the comic strip. “We are not a home for those who espouse racism. We certainly do not want to provide them with financial support.”  The company that syndicated Dilbert, Andrews McMeel Universal, also severed ties with Mr. Adams.  “We are proud to promote and share many different voices and perspectives. But we will never support any commentary rooted in discrimination or hate,” read a statement jointly signed by the chair and CEO.

My purpose here is not to defend Mr. Adams comments.  Whatever your opinion on the matter, he appeared to be well aware he was crossing a line and there would be repercussions, nor has he been shy about defending himself.  At the same time, it is worth considering what Mr. Adams was reacting to when he made these incendiary remarks and whether or not the impetus of his statements should be a cause for concern among fair minded people.  Few things are easier to do than brand someone a racist in the year 2023 and insist they be expunged from the public sphere, but what did Mr. Adams mean when he said that black Americans are part of a “hate group?”  He was reacting to a recent poll by the right-leaning Rasmussen Reports which asked people two simple questions.  First, whether “Black people can be racist, too” and, second, whether “It’s okay to be white.”  The poll found that only 72% of Americans believe it’s okay to be white, and among black people specifically the number was barely a majority at 53%, which is especially ironic considering larger majorities claim black people can be racist.  I intentionally chose the word “only” in this context because you have to think about what this means in pure numbers before the implications become clear.  Putting this another way, a whopping 28% of Americans either don’t know or don’t believe it’s okay for a person to be what they are born and an aspect of their humanity for which they have no control over, including an incredible 47% of black people.  This represents tens of millions of people.  If you were to ask this question about any other race or fact of birth, and the results were even remotely similar, some of the very same people attacking Mr. Adams now would be attacking Americans as racist retrogrades, unfit for enlightened society.  Can you imagine if 47% of white people claimed to not know if it was acceptable to be black?  Or if 47% of straight people said it might not be acceptable to be gay?  The reaction would be rightly horrifying, and everyone would say so, not shoot the messenger however inartful or offensive the phrasing.

In another irony, the shoot the messenger mentality applies to the existence of the poll itself, as if it were unfair to ask these questions at all and solicit honest responses from our fellow Americans about how they feel.  The left wing Anti-Defamation League claims the phrase itself is controversial, supposedly originating as a trolling campaign by members of the infamous “4chan,” “an anonymous and notorious message board — and began being used by some white supremacists” as the Associated Press described it.  Nor were they generous in their description of Rasmussen Reports, referring to the organization as a “conservative polling firm [that] has used its Twitter account to endorse false and misleading claims about COVID-19 vaccines, elections and the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”  Between both, it seems clear that major media outlets would rather the poll have never been conducted in the first place, much less publicized.  Instead of engaging with the frightening reality that millions upon millions of people no longer believe, unequivocally, that is acceptable to be descended from European stock, and what that may mean for the future – because obviously, if it is not okay to be white, what precisely would you recommend doing about it – they will malign the impetus for the survey, the group that conducted it, and one man who reacted to it.  This is not a position without consequence, nor are Rasmussen’s results out of line with more generic polling that suggests race relations in the United States have deteriorated rapidly over the past decade.

Gallup regularly asks Americans their opinion on race relations, prompting them with a simple question, “Would you say relations between white and black people are very good, somewhat good, somewhat bad or very bad?”  In 2013, 72% of white people and 66% of black people responded “very good” or “somewhat good,” near the record high of 75% of white people in 2007 and 68% of black people in 2002 and 2004.  By 2021, those numbers had plummeted to 43% of white people and 33% of black people, a startling decline by any measure.  This same period, of course, saw the rise of the Critical Race Theory movement, transforming a little studied legal theory of the 1970s into a mainstream worldview that has birthed an endless variety of new ways to describe and explain the subjugation of minorities at the hands of white people, from white privilege to intersectionality.  Today, students of all ages are regularly taught that there is a fixed and immutable structure of privilege, and some have it, some don’t.  For example, a high school in California recently divided students into either privileged or oppressed categories.  The worksheet that guided this exercise listed the “Type of Oppression,” the “Variable” involved, the “Non-Target Groups,” as in those who had the supposed privilege, and the “Target Groups,” those who were oppressed.  Racism, in their view, has race or color as a variable, whites as the privileged group, and people of color as oppressed.  Sexism has gender as a variable, men as the privileged group, and women as oppressed.  The list goes onto include “genderism,” “classism,” “elitism,” “Religious Oppression” and “Anti-Semitism,” “militarism,” “ageism” or “adultism,” “heterosexism,” “ableism,” “xenophobia,” and even something called ‘“linguistic oppression” by native English speakers.  The school system’s superintendent claimed that organizing people by privileged and oppressor was somehow supposed to bring them together, “The framework was used to stimulate discussion among a group of student leaders interested in developing a campus climate that fosters a sense of belonging for all students considering the many different experiences and perspectives students hold,” explained John Nickerson.  The same district also holds events for staff that intentionally exclude white people.  A recent invite included this helpful tip, “Be reminded that we have avoided inviting people that are not of color as there remains feelings of uneasiness and mistrust and we need this to be a safe space for our people of color.”

Advancing inclusivity by excluding people seems something of an oxymoron, akin to George Orwell’s famous dictums that “war is peace” and “freedom is slavery,” and the little data we have seems to support that conclusion.  Correlation is not causation, of course, but prior to 2013 few people had ever heard of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” nor were techniques based on these principles widely taught in schools or used in the corporate world.  Today, they most certainly are and all of us seem worse for it, significantly so.  This is doubly dangerous when these theories begin informing politics and popular culture.  President Joe Biden, for example, regularly compares the modern day Republican Party to the slave-owning Democrat party of over a century and half ago.  Recently, he said that there are an unspecified number of Americans who would enjoy watching a live lynching, take photographs of it, and send them as postcards. At a screening for the new movie Till that dramatizes the horrors inflicted upon Emmitt Till after he was falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1955 when he was only 14 years old, the President remarked, “Lynched for simply being Black, nothing more.  With white crowds, white families gathered to celebrate the spectacle, taking pictures of the bodies and mailing them as postcards. Hard to believe, but that’s what was done.  And some people still want to do that.”  Clearly, the President has failed to unite the country as promised, but rather than the media shooting the messenger of our racial woes, everyone would do better to consider why that is and how we can work to fix it.


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