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New favorite word: “kakistocracy.” July 8, 2009

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fake News, Fandom, News Roundup.
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The Obamas are the first First Couple young enough that they grew up with Sesame Street. Our President geeks out over Elmo, you guys.

(Also, he is never gonna give you up.)

BriWi has a music series. It’s called BriTunes. His message on the intro page, rather wisely, says “I didn’t name this thing.”

Iran protests, then and now: a three-decade gap, two photos, one bridge.

A few examples of how racial bias is a factor even in situations like “colorblind” application processes.

An artist turns a skin disorder (her skin immediately puffs up whenever it gets scratched) into really cool photographs.

Somebody needs to get Jon Stewart this tie.

Thoughts on creating a fandom will. It’s a good idea. (I will probably never get around to it, but it’s still a good idea.)

And, to end on a shiny note: Jai always makes the most gorgeous icons.

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1. Lesath - July 11, 2009

something i wonder about aversive racism is whether it’s made worse by political correctness and the social taboo of racism. i know i have race biases, and i know why — because i live in an area where only 30% of people are white, and most of those are the people with more money, who are more socialized to the dominant canadian culture. the other 70% (except the east asians and some of the south asians) tend to be poor and display a “ghetto culture” or an “immigrant culture”. that manifests itself pretty strongly in my subconscious mind. however, the fact that i admitted that here is a pretty shocking breach of taboo, even though awareness of my own biases is what allows me to mitigate them.

it makes me think that hostility and ostracism to people with bias is the wrong approach, no matter how much biases and racism offend and anger us. creating a salient group for people of prejudice to identify themselves with so that they can then oppose themselves to hostile “political correctness police” just deepens overt racism and causes people who don’t wish to be racist to be more afraid of being one of “them”, and therefore more afraid of admitting and correcting their biases, to themselves and others.

and no, i’m not saying that “black people should be more nice to racists!” or something. i’m saying that EVERYONE should take a less hostile, more educational approach to people who express race biases, to show that those people won’t be socially ostracized for their views but can be taught otherwise. another bonus of this is that people are always wary of groups that express hostility to people with differing opinions, because it’s often a sign that the dominant opinion of the group is weak, and needs social ostracism as a weapon to defend it. in this case, the hostility arises because race is a very sensitive issue, but it puts people with subconscious biases in a bind where they can’t ask questions to educate themselves (or risk being placed in the “them”, racist, ostracized group).

actually, it almost seems like a self-perpetuating cycle, where the hostility actually does come from aversive racists in the “ostensibly egalitarian” group, who are defensive about protecting their status as egalitarians, and therefore shut down any suggestion of possible open racism, and yet in doing so prevent an open discussion of race issues where people can acknowledge their biases and seek re-education — so as to become true egalitarians, not aversive racists.

ignorance is still an issue, even today. i’m sure that many average americans still wonder in the back of their minds, “isn’t it true that black people do more poorly educationally than white people?” “isn’t it true that black people are more aggressive than white people?”, because they see examples of that statistically, and aren’t sure how it can be true without black people being inherently less intelligent or more aggressive. but actually, in both cases, the research shows that people from poor neighbourhoods show poor educational results and higher aggression, regardless of their race — it’s just that more black people tend to live in those neighbourhoods. black people who grow up in rich or middle-class neighbourhoods show the same aggression levels and educational results as white people. but that’s not something your average american knows! he is afraid to openly ask these questions, so he just internalizes the bias.

one thing i wonder is how many people there are with explicit racism but without subconscious bias. my own family provides a pretty striking illustration of this. my younger brother is the most loudmouthed racist i’ve ever met in my life, but his two best friends are an african-canadian and a black somali muslim. my maternal grandmother strongly opposes immigration and gay marriage — and yet worked for jews and even a gay man her entire life, and shows no particular aversion to voting for people of other races. my mother, who also opposes immigration (although less strongly) and gay marriage, is good friends with an iranian illegal immigrant, several tamil families and a gay couple. and yet my paternal grandmother, a Scottish immigrant who professes the general, average, center-leftist political views of my country, once admitted to me that she doesn’t believe in voting for black people! something is going on here.

i also wonder whether aversive racists tend to be more or less exposed to people of other races in their own neighbourhoods. i would guess that the middle-class ones would tend not to be, but the lower-class ones would tend to be. the middle-class ones who had people of other ethnicities in their own neighbourhoods would be more likely to see them as “like me”, but the lower-class ones would be more likely to see them as “those immigrants” since they form racial ghettos and such in poor neighbourhoods. just a guess. it reflects my own experience.

anyway i’m done!

Erin Ptah - July 11, 2009

I think you’re right about people needing to be more aware of their own biases – that everyone has this stuff embedded in their psyches, not just Those Evil Horrible Open Racists.

That said, I’m not sure what you’re talking about in your family is evidence of a lack of subconscious bias. Someone can always say to their black/immigrant/gay friend, “Well, you’re not like those ~other~ black/immigrant/gay people”.

I wish there were some kind of hard data on what does more damage: subconscious biases like the ones that operate in these hiring practices, or overtly expressed ones. But I don’t know that any experiment could separate them. They feed into each other so much.

(Also, WTF @ your paternal grandmother. At least being anti-immigration and anti-same-sex marriage are political positions that *try* to have non-bigoted rationales.)


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