Liberal Racism in Action

Yesterday we reported on research showing liberal attempts to measure “implicit” racism may actually make racial bias worse, and today there is research out of Yale confirming that the racism of liberals is more than just “implicit.” See if you can notice the howler in the very first paragraph of this press release from the Yale School of Management:

White Liberals Present Themselves as Less Competent in Interactions with African-Americans

Racial bias can put people of color at a disadvantage when interviewing for a job, buying a house, or interacting with the police. New research suggests that bias may also shape daily interactions between racial minorities and white people, even those whites who tend to be less biased.

Maybe because “those whites who tend to be less biased” aren’t? And by “those whites,” the study means “liberals.” Let’s continue:

According to new research by Cydney Dupree, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale SOM, white liberals tend to downplay their own verbal competence in exchanges with racial minorities, compared to how other white Americans act in such exchanges. . .

Dupree and her co-author, Susan Fiske of Princeton University, began by analyzing the words used in campaign speeches delivered by Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to different audiences over the years. They scanned 74 speeches delivered by white candidates over a 25-year period. Approximately half were addressed to mostly-minority audiences—at a Hispanic small business roundtable discussion or a black church, for example. They then paired each speech delivered to a mostly-minority audience with a comparable speech delivered at a mostly-white audience—at a mostly-white church or university, for example. . .

The team found that Democratic candidates used fewer competence-related words in speeches delivered to mostly minority audiences than they did in speeches delivered to mostly white audiences.

In other words, Democrats talk down to minorities. Shocker! The researchers followed up with some controlled experiments of their own, and the results were even worse than the pandering liberal politicians:

They designed a series of experiments in which white participants were asked to respond to a hypothetical or presumed-real interaction partner. For half of these participants, their partner was given a stereotypically white name (such as “Emily”); for the other half, their partner was given a stereotypically black name (such as “Lakisha”). Participants were asked to select from a list of words for an email to their partner. . .

The researchers found that liberal individuals were less likely to use words that would make them appear highly competent when the person they were addressing was presumed to be black rather than white. . .

Dupree and Fiske suspect that the behavior stems from a liberal person’s desire to connect with other races. One possible reason for the “competence downshift,” as the authors describe it, is that, regardless of race, people tend to downplay their competence when they want to appear likeable and friendly. But it’s also possible that “this is happening because people are using common stereotypes in an effort to get along,” Dupree says.

Have a look at a preprint of the complete study “Self-Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift by White Liberals,” which will be published soon in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (which is an imprint of the American Psychological Association). A remarkably bold title for an academic article, and the beginning and end of the abstract is also surprisingly blunt:

Most Whites, particularly socio-political liberals, now endorse racial equality. Archival and experimental research reveals a subtle but reliable ironic consequence: White liberals self-present less competence to minorities than to other Whites—that is, they patronize minorities stereotyped as lower status and less competent. . .

Internal meta-analyses revealed that liberals—but not conservatives—presented less competence to Black interaction partners than to White ones. The simple effect was small but significant across studies, and most reliable for the self-reported measure of conservatism. This possibly unintentional but ultimately patronizing competence-downshift suggests that well-intentioned liberal Whites may draw on low-status/competence stereotypes to affiliate with minorities.

Translation: Conservatives are more likely than liberals to treat minorities as equals. Time to bring back that phrase George W. Bush liked to use about “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Over to you, Kirsten Powers.

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