Although I’ve occasionally run across Scott Adams’ long-running comic strip, Dilbert, and have found it amusing, I’m not an office worker — his target audience — and so I sometimes fail to get the joke. Nor have I read any of his books. But I do catch his podcast every now and then. Adams, 65, is a political podcaster with a difference: he covers the events of the day, but he’s less a conventional pundit than he is a sharp observer of human character who enjoys bringing his insight to bear on the political scene. (He was, famously, one of the few talking heads to predict Trump’s 2016 victory.)
Though his style is consistently low-key, every now and then he says something that the media choose to deem explosive. Once or twice, in reaction to something he’s said, a few newspapers have stopped running Dilbert. But no previous backlash against Adams compares to what happened last weekend after Adams spoke up about a recent Rasmussen poll.
In the poll, Americans were asked whether “it’s okay to be white.” Of the black people questioned, 53 percent said it was, 26 percent said it wasn’t, and 21 percent weren’t sure.
These aren’t cheering numbers, to say the least. They seem to suggest that nearly half of black Americans are, quite simply, racists.
Or do they? I’ve only just now discovered that the sentence “It’s okay to be white” actually has its own Wikipedia page. The sentence, it explains, “is a slogan which originated as part of an organized alt-right trolling campaign on the website 4chan’s discussion board /pol/ in 2017. A /pol/ user described it as a proof of concept that an otherwise innocuous message could be used maliciously to spark media backlash.” The Wikipedia page further contends that “[t]he slogan has been supported by white supremacists including neo-Nazis” and that Milo Yiannopoulos put it on T-shirts.
Somehow none of this ever made it onto my radar. Am I an outlier? Do most black Americans know of this history? Did some of those black Americans refuse to affirm that “it’s okay to be white” simply because they consider the term — and/or its history — toxic?
I don’t know. But I did happen to be watching Adams last week when he commented on the poll. If Rasmussen’s numbers are to be credited, he said in his laid-back way, “the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from black people.”
He said much more. He was brutally honest about the problems that exist in black neighborhoods. He said he’d henceforth “back off” from trying to help black Americans. Given the scale of anti-white racism, he said, it makes “no sense” to offer such help.
The impact was immediate. Viewers called Adams a racist. Dilbert was dropped by hundreds of newspapers, including the Washington Post. Across the world, the media branded him a bigot. The Guardian: “Dilbert cartoon dropped by US newspapers over creator’s racist comments.” Reuters: “‘Dilbert’ cartoon dropped after racist rant by creator Scott Adams.” Al Jazeera: “US media drops ‘Dilbert’ after comic creator’s racist remarks.” On Monday came the news that Andrews McMeel, the publishing house that syndicates Dilbert, had parted ways with him.
None of Adams’ accusers appeared to notice that what he was doing, in fact, was showing what it meant to react in a rational, dispassionate manner to a set of data that seemed, correctly or not, to indicate that a high percentage of black Americans are racists. Now, if almost half of black Americans do indeed feel that there may be something fundamentally not okay about whites, is it crazy to suggest that whites might want to consider giving these haters a wide berth? If you were black and a poll you trusted told you that most white people think being black isn’t okay, what advice would you give your kids about befriending whites?
As Adams pointed out on his Monday podcast, “I don’t hate anybody. But I was concerned that somebody hated me.” Accused by a viewer of having “espoused racism,” he replied that, on the contrary, he was counseling people to “get away from” racism — “which apparently is racism itself.” Well, yes, it is, because the current orthodoxy, critical race theory, denies that black people can be racist. From which it follows that a white person who, in contravention to that theory, accuses a black person of racism is by definition being racist.
Reasonably enough, Adams noted that, in the current environment, a black person who said exactly what he’d said about the Rasmussen poll would never have been canceled. Absolutely true. Then there’s this: looking at Andrews McMeel’s online catalog, it took me just a few seconds to find a notice of a book of poetry, forthcoming in March, that’s described as “a celebration of … Blackness.” Would Andrews McMeel publish a book that celebrates whiteness?
One problem in all this, of course, is that we’re assuming the Rasmussen poll is reliable. Is it? I have trouble believing that it is. Or am I naive? Have I been away from America too long? All I know is that even back in the 1960s, when I was a little white kid and Jim Crow was a fresh memory, there were black people in my life whom I loved and who I know loved me. Yes, it was a very difficult time for race in America. But even then, in every part of the country, there were many whites and blacks who, refusing to see each other through the narrow prism of race, were cherished parts of one another’s lives.
Over the ensuing decades, moreover, the situation improved dramatically. Race faded steadily as a focus of concern in America. Today, if you look at photos of my extended family across the American South, you’ll see interracial couples and children of mixed race — something that was almost inconceivable a half-century ago. So far, indeed, did Americans progress in terms of attitudes about race that eventually we elected a black president who, during his first campaign for the White House, celebrated our country as an essentially post-racial land of freedom and opportunity — but who, after taking office, proceeded to re-open all the old wounds with a vengeance and to make at least some of them bleed as they’d never bled before.
Soon enough, America was infected by a new spirit of estrangement — and afflicted by a new generation of race hustlers, composed, this time around, not of shifty preachers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton but of slippery professors like Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo. And they peddled a repulsive new race ideology that, for sheer divisiveness, was far more potent than the 1960s Black Power movement at its worst.
This new ideology reduced all of life to race. It taught that there had never been any racial healing in America, that race relations today are worse than ever, that all white people, whatever their individual convictions and personal histories, are racist oppressors, and that all blacks, however objectively privileged, are victims of that racism and oppression. It taught that white racism is incurable — that whites were, are, and always will be racists — but that whites must nonetheless spend their lives acknowledging their racism, apologizing for it, and atoning for it.
All over America, outrageous assertions — that, for example, hundreds of innocent blacks are gunned down every year by white cops — were universally parroted, while uncomfortable truths — about, say, the colossal scale of violent black-on-black crime — were rendered unspeakable. Prominent figures from the speaker of the House on down celebrated George Floyd, a dead thug, as a martyr. Cowed whites chanted Black Lives Matter slogans. Flea-brained schoolteachers hung BLM flags in their classrooms — and informed their innocent charges that the hue of their skin branded them for life either as oppressors or as oppressed.
Meanwhile, throughout some of our most storied institutions, from corporations to churches to the military, Americans were compelled to declare their assent to utterly irrational propositions about race. And our mainstream media, instead of challenging all this insanity, poured gasoline on the fires of racial rage even as they used lies about Trump and transgenderism to fuel discord between Left and Right. To what extent has all this ugliness turned formerly copacetic black Americans against their white neighbors?
But back to Scott Adams. I don’t know him. But I’ve listened to him talk for heaven knows how many hours, and I know he’s no racist. Was his remark about that poll sincerely meant as a call for all whites to steer clear of all blacks? No. It was a cri de coeur — an explosion set off in the town square to try to awaken Americans to the fact that our cultural, educational, political, and media establishment’s fanatic obsession with race, its bilious promotion of critical race theory, and, more broadly, its insidious deployment of inflammatory falsehoods on a range of other topics (from the Covington kids smear to the Russia hoax to the “don’t say gay” lie) may well, if unchecked, lead America to look like Rwanda in 1994 or Kosovo in 1999.
Was Adams’s offbeat cri de coeur well conceived? Hard to say: it’s certainly not my own style. Will it effect significant change? We’ll find out soon enough. But his underlying premise is undeniable: our social media, our round-the-clock news cycle, and our clickbait culture have turned millions of Americans into emotionally driven hysterics or mischief-making, anonymity-cloaked firebrands who are all too eager to deepen the nation’s divisions. And no one embodies the very opposite of all that more than the sober, sensible Scott Adams. His very demeanor testifies to a deep distaste for the high-octane name-calling that defines today’s social and legacy media; his focus is always on understanding how things work — and on figuring out how people of all backgrounds can collaborate to make them work better. His motto might well be “come, let us sit and reason together.”
His only real enemy, as far as I can gather, is a lazy mind: the kind that rejects calm reflection about the truly important (and soluble) issues — such as lousy teachers and single-parent homes — while focusing fruitlessly on hollow labels like “black” and “white.” Far from being a racist who should be canceled, Adams recognizes that America’s race madness must be canceled before it drags us down to perdition.
And now he’s destroyed his career as a cartoonist in what may well turn out to be a quixotic — albeit noble — attempt to shock his countrymen into seriousness.
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