Reihan Salam has a post up on the alignment of racism and political orientation. He begins:
Recently, Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s UP with Chris Hayes, made the following observation:
It is undeniably the case that racist Americans are almost entirely in one political coalition and not the other.
Chris is a good friend of mine, and we grew up in the same milieu. I can attest to the fact that the view he expressed is very widely held in the circles in which we both travel….
Salam then links to Alex Tabarrok, who uses party identification data to indicate that actually racism is split between the two groups, while John Sides suggests that there is a definite lean toward Republicans being more racist, using a few indicator variables. Overall I think Sides is about right, all things equal conservatives are more racist than liberals. At least in the modern context of the two ideologies.* I say conservative/liberal rather than Republican/Democrat, because my experience with the GSS data set is that ideology is a more powerful predictor of social views among whites. This holds true with the variables which Tabarrok and Sides query from what I can see; the gap between Democrats and Republicans is smaller than between liberals and conservatives. Why? There are still a non-trivial number of self-identified conservative Democrats in this country, as well as very well off socially moderate Republicans who vote their economic interests.
I would say The Mismeasurement of Man is one of the most commonly cited books on this weblog over the years (in the comments). It comes close to being “proof-text” in many arguments online, because of the authority and eminence of the author in the public mind, Stephen Jay Gould. I am in general not particularly a fan of Gould’s work or thought, with many of my sentiments matching the attitudes of Paul Krugman in this 1996 essay:
….Like most American intellectuals, I first learned about this subject [evolutionary biology] from the writings of Stephen Jay Gould. But I eventually came to realize that working biologists regard Gould much the same way that economists regard Robert Reich: talented writer, too bad he never gets anything right. Serious evolutionary theorists such as John Maynard Smith or William Hamilton, like serious economists, think largely in terms of mathematical models. Indeed, the introduction to Maynard Smith’s classic tract Evolutionary Genetics flatly declares, “If you can’t stand algebra, stay away from evolutionary biology.” There is a core set of crucial ideas in his subject that, because they involve the interaction of several different factors, can only be clearly understood by someone willing to sit still for a bit of math. (Try to give a purely verbal description of the reactions among three mutually catalytic chemicals.)
But many intellectuals who can’t stand algebra are not willing to stay away from the subject. They are thus deeply attracted to a graceful writer like Gould, who frequently misrepresents the field (perhaps because he does not fully understand its essentially mathematical logic), but who wraps his misrepresentations in so many layers of impressive, if irrelevant, historical and literary erudition that they seem profound.
Yes, I am aware that some biologists would disagree with this assessment of Gould’s relevance. But I remain generally skeptical of his arguments, though over the years I have become more accepting of the necessity of openness to a sense of ‘pluralism’ when it comes to the forces which shape evolutionary processes. And certainly there is interesting exposition in a book like The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, but there was no need for ~1500 pages (Brian Switek did fine with a little over ~300 pages in covering similar territory as the first half of the book). Whatever valid positions Gould staked out in opposition to excessive adaptationist thinking on the part of the neo-Darwinian orthodoxy of the mid-20th century, his penchant for self-marketing and repackaging of plausible but not particularly novel concepts was often destructive in my experience to the enterprise of a greater public understanding of science.
When I was in 8th grade my earth science teacher explained to the class proudly that he was not a “Darwinian,” rather, he accepted punctuated equilibrium. One must understand that much of his audience was Creationist in sympathy because of the demographics of the region, but I was frankly appalled by his explicit verbal rejection of “Darwinism,” because I knew how the others would take it (my best friend in the class was a Creationist and he kept chuckling about “monkeys turning into men” throughout the whole period). I remained after to further explore this issue with my teacher. I expressed my bewilderment as best as I could, and it came to pass that my teacher explained that he had arrived to his skepticism of the rejected model of Darwinism via the works of Stephen Jay Gould. With his silver tongue Gould had convinced him that the future of evolutionary science lay with punctuated equilibrium, which had already overthrown the older order. A 13 year old can only go so far, and so I moved on.
The Dothraki are dark, with long hair they wear in dreadlocks or in matted braids. They sport very little clothing, bedeck themselves in blue paint, and, as depicted in the premiere episode, their weddings are riotous affairs full of thumping drums, ululations, orgiastic public sex, passionate throat-slitting, and fly-ridden baskets full of delicious, bloody animal hearts. A man in a turban presents the new khaleesi with an inlaid box full of hissing snakes. After their nuptials, the immense Khal Drogo takes Daenerys to a seaside cliff at twilight and then, against her muted pleas, takes her doggie-style.
They are, in short, barbarians of the most stereotypical, un-PC sort. As I watched, I kept thinking, “Are they still allowed to do that?”
I wasn’t the only viewer who found the depiction of the Dothraki uncomfortable, to say the least. Time’s TV critic James Poniewozik, noting that the Dothraki seem to be made up of a “grabbag of exotic/dark/savage signifiers,” wondered if it was “possible to be racist toward a race that does not actually exist.”
First, the author immediately notes that for every swarthy barbarian there is a depiction of another trope, the Evil Blonde Guy. Nina Shen Ragosti’s read the books. She knows that though initially you encounter a story which is framed in black-white Manichean terms that is the norm in the more juvenile sectors of epic fantasy, the development of the characters, and your perception of the world which they inhabit, quickly slouches toward many shades of gray.
A few weeks ago there were a bunch of stories on how white the audience was at Glenn Beck’s rally. That’s empirically true, and the Tea Party movement as a whole is overwhelmingly white. So is the American conservative movement. This in a nation which is ~65% white in a colloquial sense (i.e., white Hispanics are excluded from the class of “white”). It makes one’s eyebrows go up I suppose when you see a very unrepresentative set of people. But what irritates me about media observation of this statistical reality is that the elite media is also disproportionately white. Much of the elite media and the up & coming pundit class reside in a majority black city, but if you check out their Facebook photos or flickr accounts you would be totally surprised at the fact that they reside in a “Chocolate City.” Why are the social circles of elite media types, liberal or conservative, not representative of the city in which they reside? There are pretty clear reasons of confounds of class and socioeconomic affinity with race. The demographics of one’s social circle don’t necessarily lead one to prima facie accusations of bias, rather, they’re embedded in a set of causal assumptions and conditionals. So, from a liberal perspective the whiteness of the SWPL milieu is situational, while that of the right-wing milieu is essential. The demographics of conservative political movements themselves are interpreted through a particular historical frame of racism for most liberals implicitly. In contrast, the white demographics of elite liberals, including the Netroots, are often “contextualized” as emerging out of a whole range of historical and social processes, which if not just in and of themselves, are structural factors which elite white liberals are not responsible for and are attempting to change.
It seems a pretty robust social science finding that white liberals have less racialist sentiment than white conservatives. My main beef, as a non-white conservative, is that a quantitative difference of degree gets collapsed into a qualitative difference of kind. Transforming a quantitative variable into a dichotomous categorical one totally changes the inferences one makes from facts. The whiteness of conservative movements and classes then entails the casting of particular aspersions, while the whiteness of liberal movements and classes tends to go under the radar as having a sociological cause out of the control of white liberals.
To explore the quantitative, as opposed to qualitative, difference between white non-Hispanics of varied political stripes I decided to look at the GSS data set. There are a variety of questions on racial issues, though I focused on the ones related to white opinions/attitudes/relations with blacks since they are more numerous. For example, in 1974 23% of white liberals and 36% of white conservatives favored a law banning interracial marriage. In 2002 the values were 8% and 13% respectively. In both cases you can see that white conservatives have more racialist feeling, but the difference is not dichotomous, but one of degree. Below is a table of responses to a set of questions by white non-Hispanics in the 2000s. I broke out the data set by liberal and conservative, and Democrat and Republican. Additionally, in addition to the raw frequencies I also calculated absolute and relative differences between liberals and conservatives and Democrats and Republicans.