04 February 2015

Republicans are Big, Dumb Racists! Or are they?

Hello, PC.  It's been a while since I took the time to post a blog entry, but as some of my closer friends know I have an addiction to Internet comment sections.  I really enjoy reading people's posts, and I enjoy the opportunity to research positions and have discussions with different people from different backgrounds.

On this particular occasion, I skimmed through an article at Western Free Press, and scrolled down to the comment section to see what people were saying.  I came across an old accusation, which I'm certain everyone who has ever argued with a Liberal has encountered:

"Research shows that low intelligence adults gravitate towards racism, prejudice, and conservative ideologies."

I see this thrown around a lot—often enough to recognize it, but not often enough to have ever taken the time to evaluate it.  I had a few minutes, and decided to scour the Internet for this so-called research and see for myself.  After all, this wouldn't be the first time some lousy study was whipped together and passed off as science.  Well, six hours later, and I'm just barely finishing up why I think this point is complete, and utter garbage.
Alfonzo Rachel: Conservative
& Big, Dumb Racist

Bottom Line: At its most benign, the statement "conservatism is linked to racism and a low-IQ" is just an on-demand excuse for some self-congratulatory narcissistic (albeit unearned) back-patting.  Just a quick celebration for managing to type some letters on the Internet.  At its worst, however, it's a weapon to be wielded with wild abandon, so that you can generalize and demonize anyone who disagrees with you.  As a bonus, you get to lob a cheap ad hominem their way, while hiding behind a bulwark of science—"I didn't call you a racist.  Science did."  You even get to claim the moral high-ground, and avoid the pesky task of actually addressing the other person your enemy as an individual.  It's even a convenient and effortless way to deflect any criticism; and if that fails, just remind them that "there's always exceptions to the rule."

Are Republicans Really More Racist Than Democrats?

FiveThirtyEight took the time to analyze the results of the General Social Survey over the past decade, and compiled the results in a nice and easy format.  Specifically, they set out to ask the question, "how do attitudes toward race correlate to political ideology?" The short answer is "they don't."  At least, not in any significant way.  FiveThirtyEight admits to specifically looking for White-on-Black prejudice, and this does bear relevance on the results.  However, when all is said and done, less than 30% of respondents indicated attitudes that FiveThirtyEight considered to be racially prejudiced.  This gets even lower if I ignore questions that do not inherently imply racial inferiority.  Questions like "how close do you feel to blacks?"

As it turns out, Republicans aren't actually more likely to deny someone a vote specifically because of their race.  In fact, voters on both sides of the aisle have been pretty indistinguishable when it comes to how they feel about the president's skin color.  The only significant difference in the charts were extrapolations to cover missing data from 1996 to 2008... which, ironically, flies in the face of the allegations that Republicans just hate the idea of a black president, since they had the lead.

From 1990 to 2008, white Republicans were slightly more likely to say that blacks were generally "unintelligent"; a correlation that was erased in 2010, with Republicans actually overtaking Democrats in 2012 by a small margin.

The other two questions of note were whether or not whites would oppose living in half-black neighborhoods, and whether they would oppose a close relative marrying a black person.  Both questions are closely matched by Republicans and Democrats, and both sets of results indicate a downward trend in prejudice.  Again, the results are pretty indistinguishable; and what gaps do exist are negligible.

But What About That Study?

The original study, Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes, is actually full of assumptions, premature conclusions, and terrible science.  Seriously.  This section was a bear to wade through... but I'm determined to not let this go to waste!

First of all, this farce of a study is actually strongly based on a cross-section of the British population.  Take a group of kids, give them some tests, then come back and test them again when they get older.  It's pretty standard stuff, involving lots of boring math, and is actually a method generally accepted in the scientific community.  It's also not the part of the study that people are referencing when they talk about how conservatives are racist and stupid.  At least, not directly.

Hodson and Busseri, authors of Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes, dug up some old survey questions so they could Frankenstein together some mega-poll that would answer the age-old question: "are conservatives big, dumb racists?"  They accomplished this by polling a grand total of 254 undergraduate students from a single, undisclosed American university; though this is only mentioned in passing, of course.  These college freshmen and sophomores then answer questions designed to look for "prejudice against homosexuals".  Those results are indexed against questions looking for "right-wing authoritarianism" and another set for "abstract reasoning skills."  Finally, they performed some mental gymnastics to declare that "homophobia" is now "racism", and declare that conservatives are racist.

Yes, you read that right.  Conservatives are racist because of homosexuality.  Or something.  They don't go into a lot of detail on this point.  But let's get back to this deconstruction!

There's several issues I take with their study.
  1. The American sample was absurdly small.  Each person in this study represents over 1 million American citizens.  You know... because you can generalize the entire US population by filling an auditorium with students from the same university and asking them some questions.  Science!
  2. They ignored the demographic differences between Americans and Britons.  In particular, Britain has a significantly smaller black population; laws that make racially prejudiced speech a crime; and our friends across the pond tend to be prejudice based on social class in lieu of race.
  3. They never actually tested Americans for racism... but they still reported results.
  4. The study specifically looked for prejudice in conservatives, and implicitly discounted the possibility of prejudice among social liberals.  This study may as well have used a notepad with two check boxes: "racist" or "liberal".
With this many obvious errors, I don't understand how this study has not come under more scrutiny.  But don't worry, it gets better.  And by "better", I mean "terrible".

That quiz they used to characterize anti-homosexual attitudes?  The assumption that conservatives are homophobic is visible the way the questions were worded.  Valid indicators, such as "I would not mind having a homosexual friend" or "I won't associate with known homosexuals if I can help it" are quickly outweighed by the rest.
  1. Do you believe homosexuality is a mental illness?  When this poll was first designed, homosexuality was actually in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R).  Either the people who wrote this poll didn't know that, in which case "why are they writing this poll?"  Or they did know, in which case "why did they ask a question where the official answer is homophobic?"
Some generally poorly worded questions included...
  1. Do gays dislike members of the opposite sex?  Is this supposed to measure how much I know about homosexuality, or whether or not I hate gays?  Compare to "Do gays avoid..."
  2. Do you find the thought of homosexual acts disgusting?  As it turns out, I find mayo disgusting... but I don't think people who eat it are disgusting or socially inferior.
  3. Would you vote for a homosexual in an election for public office?  Are you asking if I would vote for them because they are gay, or despite them being gay?
Some of the more pointed gems included...
  1. Homosexuality, as far as I'm concerned, is not sinful.  I wonder who the target audience, here, is.  Hmmmm.  If only people were able to accept someone without liking everything they do...
  2. The increasing acceptance of homosexuality ... is aiding in the deterioration of morals.  I especially liked this one, and I'll tell you why.  While this "study" was being conducted, the pro-pedophile organization B4U-Act had already been using the homosexual civil rights movement as a road map to promote and normalize pedophilia... *ahem* "Minor-Attracted Persons"... in American society.  Suddenly, it becomes a lot harder to answer "no"... not because of a hatred of homosexuals, but because a group of pedophiles have publicly stated an intent to piggy-back on the "the increasing acceptance of homosexuality" in order to further their own agenda.
And I didn't even mention the fact that a full 50% of the IQ test was based on vocabulary.  Yes: the test that is often regarded as biased and a poor metric for intelligence... was heavily weighted by the part of the test that measures how many words you have been exposed to in your life... as an indicator of abstract reasoning skills.

Oh, did I mention that all of these issues exist in a single paragraph?  That's when I got tired of reading this study.  I only have so many brain cells.

But Who Cares About Some Quiz? 

"White Supremacist Hair"
The notion that racial prejudice exists independently of political affiliation is pretty in-line with my life experiences.  As a male of mixed black/white descent, I have received a lot of racially charged remarks from liberals commenting on how I don't "talk like I'm black" or "act like a black guy."  This stereotype that blacks have to act a specific way has been drilled into our collective psyche for decades.  Who do you think of when I say "the whitest black guy you know"?  That one black guy you hang out with on Thursdays?  Carlton?  Me?  This is pretty benign, but it can also get pretty nasty pretty quickly.

A strong example is how the political left reacted to Mia Love: a republican who happened to be both black and a female.  Talk about challenging the narrative.  Aside from the (R) after her name, she should be a liberal wet-dream, right?  Well...

"[Mia Love] might look black, but she ain't like 'us'," Darron Smith writes.  According to Darron, in order to be African American, your ancestors must have been enslaved in Africa and transported to the Eastern Coast of the Continental United States.  Haitians don't count, because they were African Slaves under the French instead of the British... and on an island, instead of on the mainland.  Apparently, which slaves you were related to is serious business... because American slaves overcame tribalism to form a unified identity.  Or that's what Darron says, at least.  I'm not really black, so what do I know?  But then Darron gets down to business and explains why Mrs. Love really doesn't count as black:

"Mia's hair style, diction, cultural orientation, friendships, mannerisms, and habits ... are an extension of her degree of acceptance of white supremacist norms and values."

Well, Mia, looks like it's time to dress up in a white sheet and start burning crosses.  According to Darron Smith, you have the hair of a white supremacist.  Plus you're way too articulate, and you have way too many white friends.  You don't fit neatly into the "black person box", so you may as well shave your head and organize a lynch mob.  There is no gray area, and no room for compromise... because Conservatives are Racist (obviously).  For more of this sort of nonsense, head on over to YouTube and read the comments under any video by Colion Noire or Alfonzo Rachel.

All in all, this is pretty tame.  At least people don't throw around needless racial references, like "sell-out" or "Uncle Tom".

Crap.  Well, at least they kept it on twitter, right?  Nobody really cares about Twitter.  Not like they do about Wikipedia.

Crap.  Looks like it bled over onto her Wikipedia entry.  Obviously the GOP and "right-wing hate machine" is just so angry that a black woman dared get all uppity and make her own decisions, so they took to the Internet to call her an Uncle Tom, Sell-Out, and House Nigger.  Then again, the level of cognitive dissonance it must take to call someone else a racist while dropping the "N-bomb" is really mind-blowing... especially when you follow it up by saying that conservatives are racist and have low IQ's.

I have never seen as much overt, vitriolic racism directed at blacks for the crime of making our own decisions.  Apparently, if you have all black friends, wear a hoodie, and speak like you've never picked up a book... you're true to the cause.  Otherwise, you're worthless.  The Internet can be faked, though... so, let's look at something a little harder to smear: social policy.

What Do Democrats and Republicans Really Think of Minorities?

I have not seen a lot of evidence to suggest that the conservative ideology really puts a lot of effort into talking about race.  This is part of the reason I'm more drawn to conservatism than liberalism.  I have seen a lot of allegations from the political left—often with some convoluted, offensive argument like "voter ID laws discriminate against blacks because blacks aren't as capable of getting IDs as whites".  Apparently, it's a miracle that I managed to find a DMV, let alone get inside and apply for an ID without getting shot.  I must have accidentally stumbled inside thinking I could reload my EBT card inside.  Won't make that mistake again!

Frankly, the assertion that the Conservative and Republican ideologies are inherently racist while Liberal and Democratic ideologies are inherently accepting and supportive laughable.  Are there racists on the political right?  Definitely yes.  But at least they don't make race central to their philosophy, and use stereotypes and overt racism to systematically objectify and dehumanize any blacks who don't drink their particular brand of Kool-Aid (see what I did there?)... which is exactly what I've seen from every level of leadership within the political left.

Does this mean that Liberals are the racist ones?  That's not what I'm saying.  The world isn't black-and-white ha!.  I'm saying that Conservatives aren't inherently racist.  Sorry, guys... looks like you're going to have to evaluate arguments by their merit.  Turns out that honest, open conversation is more sophisticated and nuanced than just verbally assaulting people, so you look cool on the Internet.  But, on the bright side: now you know that, just because you aren't a liberal, doesn't mean you're a big, dumb racist.