Thursday, November 1, 2012

Black Flag

When you're already in a ditch, stop digging.We've touched on this subject before ( here and here), but John Sununu has stirred the pot yet once again with his recent remarks.  "When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that's an endorsement based on issues or he's got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama," he said. "I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him." Sarah Palin recently wrote in a Facebook post, “President Obama’s shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end."

Many people in the United States think of racism as being a relic of the past, or entirely in the province of full-on sheet wearers burning crosses and shouting racial epithets, but it is often much more subtle than that.  A recent racial attitudes survey found that;

 51% of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48% in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56%, up from 49% during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

In case you were wondering about your own level of racial bias, here is a link to the Harvard implicit bias test.  Your scores might surprise you.

Someone is surprised at any rate...

Both Sununu and Palin demonstrate an ongoing psychological projection problem.
Psychological projection is a form of defense mechanism in which someone attributes thoughts, feelings, and ideas which are perceived as undesirable to someone else. For example, someone who harbors racist ideas while believing that racism is socially undesirable might come to believe that a friend is racist, projecting his or her racism onto the other person. Projection may manifest in all kinds of ways, and while it may be a defense mechanism, it can also be very destructive.

Sununu was not the first to suggest that Powell only endorsed Obama because he is black, secure in the knowledge that Sununu would never be called to justify his decision to support Mitt Romney because Romney is white.  Despite the evidence which shows that black people don't vote for candidates simply because of race (otherwise Michael Steele would probably be a Senator now), Sununu felt perfectly comfortable saying such a thing, not behind closed doors in a whisper, but on national tv.    Sununu demonstrates a classic, "why do all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria?" view on race.  Fellow party member Sarah Palin wrote racially problematic language on her Facebook page, and even someone as dim as she is had to know that there was a racial component to what she had written. This is from the same party who in recent years has candidly acknowledged using racial animus to gain voters.

Former Colin Powell aide Lawrence Wilkerson put it very forthrightly when he said:
My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people -- not all of them, but most of them -- who are still basing their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that's despicable.

The Republican party is becoming the refuge of people who are scared, and still looking for someone to protect them from the barbarians at the gate.  The Democratic party has increasingly sniped away what would have been in years past the moderate Republican stance.  This leaves those who still call themselves Republicans forced to take more and more extreme positions to distinguish themselves.  Republicans must also appeal to more fringe-y groups, in what becomes a self-feedback loop. People in years past would have called themselves Republicans now call themselves "independents."  With people like Sununu and Palin as spokesman and standard bearers, it's no wonder that reasonable people are fleeing from the Republican party.


  1. What Palin said is the logical extension of the stupid, condescending line that goes: "it's okay that you voted for Obama. He tried his hardest, bless his soul. But he just isn't up to the job." Infuriating. Like Romney has a clue about making the kinds of choices the President has made. And made well.

  2. So, I took the bias test, and got some really interesting results. I felt most positive about Hispanics. Slight gap, then Asians and Blacks, basically tied. Then a gap, twice as large as the first, followed by Whites. My analysis? This is probably due to my general belief that many whites are crazy racist. I can name 30 people off the top of my head, and that's just people I'm related to.

  3. Hail the last paragraph. I've been wondering about all of that.

    I've edited research proposals with the HIBT, but I had not yet taken it. Interesting.
    Most interestingly, I expected it to show me that I am more racist than I would like to think I am, but it was actually the opposite. All of the groups were pretty tightly clustered, but my own group was the closest to "Less Positive". Really? Wow!

    Then I start wondering about confounds. For instance, I grew up in a school system where there were more Black and Hispanic students than white students. Does that affect my results? Who knows... But I wonder about these things.

  4. I'm sure it does impact the results, Abby. I think a lot of the racial attitudes are based on how separate we are from each other. So groups that you have had more interaction with, you see as more just normal than identified with a specific set of racial stereotypes. That's a fascinating result, Kristen!

  5. My results went, in order of most postive to least positive: Asian, black, Hispanic, white. The Asian result was off by itself, while the others were grouped more closely together. Considering how I just finished writing an article about racism, the results weren't very surprising, I've heard that can skew the results sometimes.