Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is Anti-White Bias a Problem?

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal report that there is a new study that says whites think discrimination against them is a bigger problem than anti-black bias. A study conducted by Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers suggests that whites believe they are suffering more discrimination as blacks perceive there to be less bias. A zero-sum game. If one group's circumstances improve, another's must necessarily decline. Where is the logic in this argument? See the report of the study at: http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20sommers.pdf

The researchers begin with a quote from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala): "Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another." This quote may accurately reflect the sentiments of an individual who sent AAAA an email recently: "Affirmative Action ha srun its course, its now a matter of reverse discrimination against whites!!, and its going to cause a civil war!!!think i'm joking!!!!!!!!!!"

While our first notion is to dismiss this emailer as another misguided human being, the research suggests that there may be more to this and that a discussion should be had about the reasons for these perceptions and the consequences thereof.

Interestingly, African Americans do not see such a correlation; that less bias against them means more bias against Anglo Americans. The authors conclude:



Although our data do not speak directly to the mechanisms underlying Whites’ view of
racism as a zero-sum game, it is likely that this belief has both practical and symbolic components.On the practical side, affirmative action policies designed to increase minority representation may focus Whites’ attention on the impact of quota-like procedures on their own access to education and employment, in effect threatening their resources (Haley & Sidanius, 2006). On the symbolic side, Whites may fear that minorities’ imposition of their cultural values represent an attack on White cultural value sand norms, as evidenced by Whites’ resentment of norms of political correctness (Norton, Sommers, Apfelbaum, Pura, &Ariely, 2006) and the belief of many Whites in a ‘‘War on Christmas’’ (Gibson, 2005).

What is puzzling is the fact that there is little evidence that majority Americans are being displaced. Where are the hordes of women or minority CEOs casting out white males? Is the Congress being overrun with minorities? How many African-American college presidents or governors are there? The facts simply do not support these perceptions. Nor is there evidence that affirmative action programs on behalf of minority populations have greatly diminished the opportunities of non-minorities. Affirmative action simply makes the selection process fairer by diversifying the hiring pool from which a selection can be made.

This study confirms the irrationality of opposition to affirmative action programs and policies and the importance of education, especially as this nation becomes more diverse. Diversity and equal opportunity should not be viewed as a threat, but as endemic to this nation's core beliefs in equality; that "all men [sic] are created equal."

Wall Street Journal Story: http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/05/11/whites-americans-see-anti-white-bias-on-the-rise/

New York Times Story: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/05/22/is-anti-white-bias-a-problem

See Professor Patricia J. Williams' comments on this study: "When Prejudice Is So Malleable" http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/05/22/is-anti-white-bias-a-problem/when-prejudice-is-so-malleable

1 comment:

antrosio said...

Please be aware that there is a fundamental flaw in the Norton and Sommers argument--they do not actually have the data to support their claims. Their chart looks like it shows historical data, but what Norton and Sommers actually have is a survey from today, asking people “to indicate the extent to which they felt both Blacks and Whites were the target of discrimination in each decade from the 1950s to the 2000s” (Norton and Sommers 2011:216). And, of course, whites today say anti-black bias was a problem in the 1950s but drops steadily, whereas anti-white bias is steadily on the rise. Blacks today say the same thing, although not to the same extent. But that does not actually say anything about what people in each decade actually thought! All it does is support the dominant U.S. mythology: the idea that racism was a problem back in the 1950s but it’s going away or gone now.

For more, see my blog-post “News? A so-called study on racism”:

http://www.livinganthropologically.com/2011/05/23/news-a-so-called-study-on-racism/