Assessing interracial attitudes

You can't find out about discreditable motivations by asking questions

This site has a recurrent Leftist visitor who goes by the pseudonym "Toaf", apparently referring to his liking for tofu in his diet. He's welcome to that!

I have had a lot of fun with him over the years but I have decided to stop teasing him over his most recent comment as the question he asked is an interesting one. He asks how do I know that blacks hate Indians because Indians show them up. Indians have dark skin too but do not seem to be held back in any way by it. In fact, under the Apartheid regime in South Africa, Indians there were the most wealthy group of any Indian population worldwide.

Assessing interracial attitudes is an academic specialty of mine and I guess I have had around 100 papers on the subject published in the academic journals. So I should know where the skeletons are buried, as they say. And I do.

Assessing other people's attitudes and motivations is something of a Holy Grail. There is no way of looking into people's heads to see them directly so one has to infer them from other evidence. And I have spent a lot of time gathering such evidence, using all the tricks of the psychologist's trade. And my concludsion is that attitudes on controversial topics are very hard to assess accurately indeed.

Law courts are of course another place where attitudes, motives and intentions are assessed. An accidental offence is treated quite differently from a deliberate one, for instance. And I have come to the view that a strong feature of legal judgments is in controversial cases the best way forward. The legal approach is to look much more at behaviour than the psychologist does. I don't think that even the most subtle forms of psychological questioning get us far in controversial issues. But NO method is foolproof and miscarriages of justice do often occur.

So what do we do? Do we give up the effort to assess other people's attitudes and motivations? None of us do. We all want to do that and much in our life depends on getting it right. So in the end it is always a judgment call. But the more informed the judgment call the better. And seeing it is my field of study, there is a reasonable chance that I may be on to something when I look at interracial behaviour and draw inferences about motivations from it. But in the end there is no certainty, no matter who is making the inferences.

So when I look at the way blacks tend to single out Indians for attack, it is simply my inference that they do so because Indians make them look bad in comparison. I may be wrong. So might we all.


Some commenters have alleged that I mount an argument from authority above. That would appear to be a deliberate misreading of what I said. I said in fact that the prevalence of some discreditable motivation in some population is necessarily conjectural. That is a long way from claiming to be an authority. I have in fact denied that ANY authority exists!

Some conjectures are more plausible than others, however, and I have suggested that my long research involvement in the field may make my conjectures of particular interest


  1. John, you made a statement that Africans hate Indians because "they show there's no bar to success". You could not substantiate this.

    Now you've written this waffle claiming that the fact you've studied this field is evidence enough and we should accept you at your word.

    You've still provided not a skerrick of evidence.

    At what point are you going to admit you are wrong and that your views are based on your racist personal beliefs, and not on facts and evidence?

    But if you have research, for instance a paper entitled "African jealousy towards Indian success (1986)", by all means present it to us and we will review it and the evidence contained within.

  2. "There is no way of looking into people's heads to see them directly so one has to infer them from other evidence."

    Perhaps you could ask them. I'm sure they wouldn't mind being approached by an educated man like yourself. You could ask them, "why are you so stupid, violent, and racist?"

    Perhaps your trusty sidekick, ar, could do the field research. I infer from his/her behaviour that he/her would be a perfectly unbiased and objective researcher, just as you are, John.

  3. I love how Ray hinges his argument on his own presumed authority. In fact, his 'articles', where they were published at all, consisted of crank letter to the editor style musings, not research. These pieces were widely ridiculed in the academic literature, and for conceptual, rather than ideological reasons.

  4. Bukharin: Please give examples of what you assert
    You have obviously not read the many articles concerned

  5. The research question Toaf proposes would not get a useful result, nor would milder versions of it

    Hence it is not worth doing

  6. Anonymous:

    You seem unable to grasp that direct evidence is not possible

    There can only be inferences

  7. Bukharin:

    Here's an example of one of my papers

    Can you tell me what is unscholarly about it?

  8. Ray, anybody can do a search on you in the OVID database. If anybody does such a search, they will find that everything you have ever written is not, in fact, an 'article', but is merely a crank letter to the editor. Moreover, the few letters to which anybody bothered to respond resulted in abject ridicule for you, by your fellow academics.

    Here's the shorter version: don't speak from authority, as you not only have none, you have less than none.

  9. You have obviously read nothing I have published

    The full list is here:


All comments containing Chinese characters will not be published as I do not understand them