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  • What passes for racism

       February 24, 2009

    A UW-Madison researcher issued a report today that claims:

    a decrease in racial prejudice during the Fall 2008 period between the Democratic Party's nomination of Barack Obama and the Nov. 4 election. They call it the Obama Effect

    So far, that's buyable, but the devil, as always, is in the details:

    About 300 non-black (white, Asian or Hispanic) college students in Wisconsin and Florida participated in a variety of experiments and surveys designed to measure stereotyping and implicit prejudice that is, the kind of prejudice that is typically described as "automatic" or "knee-jerk" and, although not directly stated, can influence people's behavior. The researchers found that 51 percent of the participants demonstrated automatic preferences for white people. The others had no preference or preferred blacks.

    This is significant because previous research, even Plant's own studies conducted on the same college campuses, typically has found that about 80 percent of white people demonstrate an automatic preference for other whites.

    Well, now I'm not buying anymore. By this definition of "racism", the 96% of blacks who voted for Obama would represent a huge upswing in racism, right? But this isn't about that kind of racism, it's solely about perceived racism against blacks:

    The researchers suspected that the dramatic change could be attributed to exposure to Obama during his presidential campaign and sought to find out if there was indeed, a connection. To do so, they asked participants what comes to mind when they think of African-Americans and what they anticipated would come to mind for others when they think of African-Americans. Participants listed a range of responses, including traits, physical characteristics, food items and people. Almost 22 percent listed Obama on at least one list, and 50 percent named at least one other positive exemplar such as Martin Luther King Jr.

    I'm so curious about the criteria behind this. What traits or food items, etc. are considered "racist" to associate with blacks? If I associate "collard greens" is that racist? Likewise, if I saw the word "Wisconsin" on a screen and said "cheese", does that mean I'm racist against the good people of Wisconsin? I guess what I'm challenging here is the notion that stereotypes are "racist". It seems to me that "bad" stereotypes are racist while "good" stereotypes aren't. If this is the case, can someone send me a list of good and bad stereotypes by sex, religion and race so I know how to not offend anyone?

    Or maybe that's not it - maybe what the key here is is simply all about Obama. Any Obama association is somehow "not racist".

    Although researchers found a decrease in stereotyping of blacks, it is still notable that 51 percent demonstrated a bias against blacks, Plant said.

    "Our findings suggest that these people are less likely to have positive exemplars and words related to Obama's campaign come to mind when they think of black people," Plant said. "However, it is not clear why they responded this way. It is possible they were less exposed to the campaign media blitz. Alternatively, the strength and stability of their racial attitudes may have resulted in a resistance to change."

    Okay, read this sentence again: "Our findings suggest that these people are less likely to have positive exemplars and words related to Obama's campaign come to mind when they think of black people."

    Let me get this straight. Merely associating Obama's campaign with black people is a sign of not being racist? Really? So, in the future if I'm in a similar study and I associate the word "black" with "presidential failure" will that be a sign of my racism or my anti-racism? Just wondering.


    Posted by at February 24, 2009 12:42 PM

        The trackback entry for this page is : http://www.inthehat.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1709

     

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    Comments

    #  February 24th, 2009 2:58 PM      BVBigBro
    They are not saying what you think they are saying, although what they are saying is unclear because there is no link to the actual report.

    They have made some arbitrary determination as to what constitutes positive and negative reponses. They then state that people giving what they consider a positive response mention Obama more than people who give what they consider a negative response.

    The potential flaws and error in any such study are fairly obvious.  
     

     

     


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