Reasonable benchmarks make for better debate

To the Editor:

I’m writing in response to a letter by Tom Enterline in the Aug. 30-Sept. 5 issue. He cited two examples in his argument that liberals, not President Trump, are the great dividers of the country. He started with the Confederate memorabilia issue, and then jumped to the bathroom gender question.

Regarding the Confederate monument controversy, he makes several claims that are not true, chiefly that “[t]wo months ago, 99.99 percent of all Americans did not give a single thought to statues or plaques honoring Confederate soldiers.” In 2011 the Pew Research Poll (national) showed a 30 percent negative reaction to the Confederate flag’s display and a 9 percent positive reaction; among blacks, the negative reaction was 41 percent.

A Pew follow-up poll in 2015 found these results virtually unchanged. A YouGov poll in 2013 recorded a 38 percent disapproval and 44 percent considered it a symbol of racism. In a national survey in 2015, 57 percent considered the flag a symbol of Southern pride (the same as in a prior poll in 2000); in the South only, 75 percent of whites polled confirmed it as the symbol of Southern pride, whereas 75 percent of blacks polled saw it plainly racist.

Thus it was clearly controversial before 2017. The tipping point that started the present flood of controversy occurred when, in 2015, Dylan Roof murdered the worshippers in South Carolina while espousing the Confederacy’s racist value. The issue has been as hot as his gun barrel ever since as more and more Southern governors and legislatures have moved to remove public symbols of the confederacy. People, both blacks and whites, have been giving thought to Confederate imagery for almost 150 years, though for most whites it might well have been tacitly approved of. Why not? Whites had all the power.

A second claim is also false: that the riots in Charlottesville yielded a large number of now vocal KKK and Nazi followers who had been “mute” until then. Exactly 100 years before Dylann’s rampage, the second Ku Klux Klan had been founded in Stone Mountain, Georgia, famous for its carvings of four Confederate luminaries. The Klan was the chief enforcer of the Jim Crow era. As reported in 2013 by CBS, between 1927 and 2013 the Klan had murdered 3,446 blacks. The Klan was never “mute” or “nearly nonexistant.” Anyone with access to the internet can confirm this with a little effort. David Duke is a classic example of an out-front KKK member

Mr. Enterline also claimed that in North Carolina, “[a]lmost no one cared if someone whose wires are crossed in regards to their gender used the boys bathroom or the girls bathroom.” Leaving aside hundreds of incidents of bullying of transgender children in school bathrooms, I’ll present a few facts. In 2013, in Colorado, the state school board’s Civil Rights Division approved a transgender girl’s right to use the girls bathroom. This was the first official ruling concerning the question. In 2014, the debate had advanced, and the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights research showed that 51 percent approved use according to the user’s gender identity, with 41 percent opposed. In that poll, 67 percent of younger participants approved.

Finally, in the YouGov poll of 2017, 40 percent approved and 40 percent disapproved. The Supreme Court has recently vacated a lower court’s ruling that granted a transgender boy’s right, essentially leaving it up to the president and the Congress to deal with. Trump’s position is the reverse of Obama’s, which granted the right.

I believe it is always better in argumentation to establish some clear benchmarks. True, statistics and polls don’t guarantee “truth,” but they do establish reasonable benchmarks. Without them people can use words in loose ways and transformation a reasoned discussion or debate into an emotion-driven diatribe. Then no one wins and everyone loses. These and other such civil rights issues are way too big for that.

Ricks Carson

Franklin and Atlanta

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