The conclusion of last night’s American Idol Results Show found two African-Americans and one Hispanic in the bottom three. To put salt in the wound, shaky performers like Kristy Lee Cook and Ramiele Malubay escaped the dreaded trio. Almost as a knee-jerk reaction, cries went up across the internet of racism, discrimination, and manipulation by white producers.

Of course, these cries manifest the interracial tension that still simmers under the surface of our national culture. These same cries arise when we see a white person chosen over a black person for a position at work or service in a restaurant. They arise when we see statistics of black opportunities falling and white opportunities rising. Unfortunately, these cries have become auto-pilot responses, too often representing a thoughtless burst of frustration. The truth is, many times, it isn’t racism or discrimination that is responsible for the way things happen. In these circumstances, hurling accusations of racism only breeds resentment and neglects the real issues at hand, leaving them unresolved.
Take the American Idol competition, for example. Statistically speaking, the show is no more discriminatory against African-Americans than it is against Anglo-Americans:
– 33 percent of the show’s contestants have been black; 53 percent white.
– 40 percent of contestants to make the top five every season have been black; 50 percent have been white.
– Idol winners are split fifty-fifty between whites and blacks.
Is Idol biased against African-Americans? If it is, the numbers don’t show it.
It is, however, a different story for Hispanics, Indian-Americans, and Asian-Pacific-Americans. In seven seasons, only five Hispanics have ever made it to the final twelve; none have made it to the top five. Five Asian-Americans have made it to the final twelve; only one has penetrated the top five. Only one Indian American, Sanjaya, has made the final twelve, and he fell short of the top five. If there is racial bias on Idol, it is most likely against these ethnic groups, not African-Americans.
This attitude permeates every sector of our society- school, the workplace, sports, entertainment. Rather than succumb to the thoughtless urge to shout “RACISM!” every time something looks wrong, we need to learn to examine things more objectively with the goal of finding truth instead of blame.

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