"Then came Attorney General Eric Holder's scathing comments about America being "a nation of cowards" because we don't have "frank" conversations about race. That got a lot of attention. I take exception to Holder's language, but not his line of reasoning. Calling people cowards is counterproductive. It turns the conversation into a confrontation - moving it beyond the breach of true dialogue and the pale of real understanding. That said, frank conversations are always welcomed. But, before we start, it might be helpful to have a better understanding of the breadth and nature of racial bias.
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released last month, twice as many blacks as whites thought racism was a big problem in this country, while twice as many whites as blacks thought that blacks had achieved racial equality...
What explains this wide discrepancy? One factor could be that most whites harbor a hidden racial bias that many are unaware of and don't consciously agree with. Project Implicit, a virtual laboratory maintained by Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia, has administered hundreds of thousands of online tests designed to detect hidden racial biases. In tests taken from 2000 to 2006, they found that three-quarters of whites have an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias. (Blacks showed racial biases, too, but unlike whites, they split about evenly between pro-black and pro-white. And, blacks were the most likely of all races to exhibit no bias at all.) In addition, a 2006 study by Harvard researchers published in the journal Psychological Science used these tests to show how this implicit bias is present in white children as young as 6 years old, and how it stays constant into adulthood.
So why do so many people have this anti-black bias? I called Brian Nosek, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Virginia and the director of Project Implicit, to find out. According to him, our brains automatically make associations based on our experiences and the information we receive, whether we consciously agree with those associations or not. He said that many egalitarian test-takers were shown to have an implicit anti-black bias, much to their chagrin. Professor Nosek took the test himself, and even he showed a pro-white/anti-black bias. Basically, our brains have a mind of their own.
Now that we know this, are we ready to talk? Maybe not yet. Talking frankly about race is still hard because it's confusing and uncomfortable. First, white people don't want to be labeled as prejudiced, so they work hard around blacks not to appear so. A study conducted by researchers at Tufts University and Harvard Business School and published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that many whites - including those as young as 10 years old - are so worried about appearing prejudiced that they act colorblind around blacks, avoiding "talking about race, or even acknowledging racial difference," even when race is germane. Interestingly, blacks thought that whites who did this were more prejudiced than those who didn't. Second, that work is exhausting. A 2007 study by researchers at Northwestern and Princeton that was published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science found that interracial interactions leave whites both "cognitively and emotionally" drained because they are trying not to be perceived as prejudiced.
The major omission above is an assumption that perceived racism is due to actual racism. He omits to consider that blacks perceive prejudice against them because the Left, for their own political ends, are constantly TELLING blacks that whites are prejudiced against them and discriminate against them. Given the way whites work hard to avoid the appearance of racism, I would be inclined to say that the prejudice that blacks perceive is almost entirely a product, not of real experience but of believing what they are told.
Nonetheless the writer is certainly correct to say that negative thoughts and feelings about race ("hidden racial bias") do exist among both blacks and whites and he is also correct to say that such thoughts and feelings are the fruits of experience ("associations based on our experiences"). They are postjudice rather than prejudice. Even Jesse Jackson famously recognized that when he said: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here