Blindness to reality obstructs color blindness

Tuesday, July 17, 2001 at 1:00am

A new poll shows most white people believe that blacks have it as good in this country as they do.

I accept the accuracy of the survey released this week by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation and Harvard University.

It's the white people I don't believe.

Seventy-one percent of whites say, "African-Americans have more than or about the same opportunities in life as whites have."

Just 20 percent agree "there is a lot of discrimination against African Americans in our society today."

More than four-in-10 whites believe that the typical black makes as much or more as the typical white.

These answers remind me of surveys showing that black Americans believe O.J. Simpson was innocent of his wife's murder.

In both cases, we are getting exhibitions of attitude masked as statements of fact.

Whites do not want to admit racial discrimination for fear it will be used to justify affirmative action.

Blacks did not want to admit O.J.'s guilt in a media circus artfully choreographed by attorney Johnny Cochran, which pitted an African-American defendant against a white Los Angeles detective who used the "N-word."

In both cases, the pollsters asked for a thoughtful assessment of the facts. What they got and reported are hundreds of gut reactions to a highly charged, racially tinged question.

In both cases, you can forget the dainty wording. What the person being polled heard was, "What side are you on?"

I often wonder how blacks would respond to the O.J. question if the poll were administered along with some sodium pentothal. I now wonder the same about whites when they are asked about race.

Can a white American

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