The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘race’

Race and Implicit American-ness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 8, 2010

In case you missed it, here is a worthwhile CNN International interview of Thierry Devos and Debbie Ma about their study, titled “Is Barack Obama American Enough to Be the Next President?: The Role of Ethnicity and National Identity in American Politics” (pdf  here).  The study’s introduction is as follows.

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Recent research has demonstrated a tenacious propensity to more readily ascribe the American identity to Whites than to ethnic minorities . . . . Interest in this American = White effect is timely given that a front runner in the 2008 presidential election is African American. The aim of the present research was to determine the role of ethnicity and national identity in the perception of political candidates, as well as identify correlates (behavioral, attitudinal, individual differences) of the American = White effect.

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Roughly, the study found, among other things, that a black candidate may be implicitly conceived of as less American than a white candidate and that the more American a candidate is construed as being the more support that candidate receives.   Here’s the video.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Racial Attitudes in the Presidential Race,” “The Situation of Being ‘(un)American’,” The Racial Situation of Voting,” “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,”On Being a Mindful Voter,”Your Brain on Politics,” “Implicit Associations in the 2008 Presidential Election,”The Situation of Political Animals,” “Political Psychology in 2008,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,The Psychology of Barack Obama as the Antichrist,” and “The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters.”

Take our Policy IAT here.

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Constructed Situation of Race

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 2, 2010

Christian Sundquist’s interesting article,  “The Meaning of Race in the DNA Era: Science, History and the Law” (27 Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law 231-265 (2008)) is now available on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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The meaning of “race” has changed dramatically over time. Early theories of race assigned social, intellectual, moral and physical values to perceived physical differences among groups of people. The perception that race should be defined in terms of genetic and biologic difference fueled the “race science” of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, during which time geneticists, physiognomists, eugenicists, anthropologists and others purported to find scientific justification for denying equal treatment to non-white persons. Nazi Germany applied these understandings of race in a manner which shocked the world, and following World War II the concept of race increasingly came to be understood as a socio-political construction with no biological meaning. Modern theories thus understand race as a social grouping of persons necessary to preserve unbalanced relationships of power.

The unfortunate historical role that science has played in the creation and maintenance of racial categories is, however, being reprised in the context of the modern genetic study of race. Race is increasingly viewed as being reducible through genetic testing to a biological essence. Private DNA testing companies promise to discover one’s true racial background, biomedical companies have begun to develop and market “racial” drugs, and the courts in the United States routinely admit estimates of race based on DNA analysis. Race, however, remains a purely social construct devoid of any biological or genetic meaning. This Article thus argues that the prevailing socio-political understanding of race is being threatened by an ascendance of modern “race science” which serves to legitimate culturally-learned folk notions of racial difference.

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You can download the article for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Nicole Stephens on ‘Choice, Social Class, and Agency’,” The Blame Frame – Abstract,” ‘Situation’ Trumps ‘Disposition’- Part II” and “Black History is Now.”

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, History, Ideology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Racial Attitudes in the Presidential Race

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 29, 2009

From Project Implicit Blog:

An article by Project Implicit researchers published this month in Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy reports evidence that both implicit and explicit race attitudes were related to intended vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. 1,057 registered voters completed a study conducted at Project Implicit’s research website during the week before the presidential election. The participants completed multiple measures of racial attitudes including self-reported feelings of warmth toward Blacks and Whites, a measure of “symbolic” racism, two implicit measures of racial attitudes – a brief version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the Affective Misattribution Procedure (AMP), and reported their intended vote. Analyses suggested that participants who showed strong implicit and self-reported favoring of Whites compared to Blacks were also more likely to intend to vote for John McCain instead of Barack Obama. Collectively, the four race attitude measures accounted for 21% of the variation in intended vote. Further, after including liberalism-conservatism that is a (strong) predictor of vote and related to race attitudes, the race attitude measures still predicted 2% (p-value = 10e-24) of voting intention variance. Also, implicit and self-reported racial attitude measures each contributed unique predictive validity of intended vote. Of course, like any study of these relations, the data are correlational leaving open the possibility of unseen third-variables that are determinants of both racial attitudes and intended vote. However, in the absence of plausible alternative accounts, these results strongly suggest that race attitudes played a role in determining the 2008 Presidential vote.

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For a sample or related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Pollworkers and Voting Booths – Abstract,” The Racial Situation of Voting,” “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” “The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters,” On Being a Mindful Voter,” “Implicit Associations in the 2008 Presidential Election,” “The Situation of Political Animals,” and “Your Brain on Politics.”

To visit the Project Implicit website and find out more about implicit associations, click here. You can take the Policy IAT here.

Posted in Abstracts, Ideology, Implicit Associations, Politics, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Measuring Implicit Attitudes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 28, 2009

From University of Washington News

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Study supports validity of test that indicates widespread unconscious bias

In the decade since the Implicit Association Test was introduced, its most surprising and controversial finding is its indication that about 70 percent of those who took a version of the test that measures racial attitudes have an unconscious, or implicit, preference for white people compared to blacks. This contrasts with figures generally under 20 percent for self report, or survey, measures of race bias.

A new study (pdf here) validates those findings, showing that the Implicit Association Test, a psychological tool, has validity in predicting behavior and, in particular, that it has significantly greater validity than self-reports in the socially sensitive topics of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age.

The research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is an overview and analysis of 122 published and unpublished reports of 184 different research studies. In this analysis, 85 percent of the studies also included self-reporting measures of the type generally used in surveys. This allowed the researchers, headed by University of Washington psychology Professor Anthony Greenwald, to compare the test’s success in predicting social behavior and judgment with the success of self-reports.

“In socially sensitive areas, especially black-white interracial behavior, the test had significantly greater predictive value than self-reports. This finding establishes the Implicit Association Test’s value in research to understand the roots of race and other discrimination,” said Greenwald. “What was especially surprising was how ineffective standard self-report measurers were in the areas in which the test measures have been of greatest interest – predicting interracial behavior.”

Greenwald created the Implicit Association Test in 1998 and he and [Situationist Contributor] Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard psychology professor, and [Situationist Contributor] Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia associate professor of psychology, further developed it. Since then the test has been used in more than 1,000 research studies around the world. More than 10 million versions of the test have been completed at an Internet site where they are available as a self-administer demonstration.

The research looked at studies covering nine different areas – consumer preference, black-white interracial behavior, personality differences, clinical phenomena, alcohol and drug use, non-racial intergroup behavior, gender and sexual orientation, close relationships and political preferences.

Findings also showed that:

  • Across all nine of these areas, measures of the test were useful in predicting social behavior.
  • Both the test, which is implicit, and self-reports, which are explicit, had predictive validity independent of each other. This suggests the desirability of using both types of measure in surveys and applied research studies.
  • In consumer and political preferences both measures effectively predicted behavior, but self-reports had significantly greater predictive validity.

Studies in the research came from a number of countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Poland and the United States. They looked at such topics as attitudes of undecided voters one-month prior to an Italian election; treatment recommendations by physicians for black and white heart attack victims; and reactions to spiders before and after treatment for arachnophobia, or spider phobia.

“The Implicit Association Test is controversial because many people believe that racial bias is largely a thing of the past. The test’s finding of a widespread, automatic form of race preference violates people’s image of tolerance and is hard for them to accept. When you are unaware of attitudes or stereotypes, they can unintentionally affect your behavior. Awareness can help to overcome this unwanted influence,” said Greenwald.

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To visit the Project Implicit website and find out more about implicit associations, click here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see What Are the Legal Implications of Implicit Biases?,” Confronting the Backlash against Implicit Bias,” “Do You Implicitly Prefer Markets or Regulation?,” Legal Academic Backlash – Abstract,” “Naïve Cynicism in Election 2008: Dispositionism v. Situationism?,”  “Implicit Bias and Strawmen.”and “The Situation of Situation in Employment Discrimination Law – Abstract.”  For a list of Situationist posts discussing the research on implicit bias and the IAT, click here.

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

john powell on the Racial Situation of Opportunity

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 10, 2009

From ForaTV:  The head of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity maps out opportunity to affirm what many people–particularly people of color–already know.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Legal Situation of the Underclass” and “Infant Death Rates in Mississippi.”

Posted in Education, Law, Life, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Legal Situation of the Underclass

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 19, 2009

A StoryDavid Ray Papke, has posted his recent paper, “Law, Legal Institutions, and the Criminalization of the Underclass” on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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The contemporary underclass is defined not by race but rather by its weak or nonexistent ties to the labor market. Members of the underclass are more likely to be labeled as criminals than are any other members of society. The process is not a tightly coordinated conspiracy, but in various ways police, prosecutors, and jailers routinely deem members of the underclass to be nefarious lawbreakers. While in many cases underclass men and women have committed acts that justify this perception, the criminal justice system as a whole is too eager and too hasty to attach the criminal label to members of the underclass. What’s more, law and legal institutions contribute to an even broader process of criminalization, one which assumes the entire underclass is criminal. This criminalization of the underclass dooms members of the underclass to be outsiders in American life and becomes a central and powerful premise in the general framework of sociopolitical thought.

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To download the paper for free, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “A Situationist View of Criminal Prosecutors,” “Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Policing Racial Bias” – Video,”The Situation of Criminality – Abstract,” “Clarence Darrow on the Situation of Crime and Criminals,” “The Racial Situation of Criminal Juries and the Consequences,” “The Situation of “Justice” in Tulia Texas,” Jena 6 – Part I,” and “Jena 6 – Part II.”

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Law, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Situation of Burritos

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 11, 2009

BurritosMajorie Florestal recently posted her intriguing article, “Is a Burrito a Sandwich? Exploring Race, Class and Culture in Contracts” (14 Michigan Journal of Race and Law (2008)) on SSRN.

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A superior court in Worcester, Massachusetts, recently determined that a burrito is not a sandwich. Surprisingly, the decision sparked a firestorm of media attention. Worcester, Massachusetts, is hardly the pinnacle of the culinary arts – so why all the interest in the musings of one lone judge on the nature of burritos and sandwiches? Closer inspection revealed the allure of this otherwise peculiar case: Potentially thousands of dollars turned on the interpretation of a single word in a single clause of a commercial contract. Judge Locke based his decision on ‘common sense’ and a single definition of sandwich – ‘two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them.’ The only barrier to the burrito’s entry into the sacred realm of sandwiches is an additional piece of bread? What about the one-slice, open-face sandwich? Or the club sandwich, typically served as a double-decker with three pieces of bread? What about wraps? The court’s definition lacked subtlety, complexity or nuance; it was rigid, not allowing for the possibility of change and evolution. It was a decision couched in the ‘primitive formalism’ Judge Cardozo derided nearly ninety years ago when he said ‘[t]he law has outgrown its primitive stage of formalism when the precise word was a sovereign talisman, and every slip was fatal. It takes a broader view today.’ Does it? Despite the title of this piece, my goal is not to determine with any legal, scientific or culinary specificity whether a burrito is a sandwich. Rather, I explore what lies beneath the ‘primitive formalism’ or somewhat smug determination of the court that common sense answers the question for us. I suggest Judge Locke’s gut-level understanding that burritos are not sandwiches actually masks an unconscious bias. I explore this bias by examining the determination of this case and the impact of race, class and culture on contract principles.

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To download the article for free, click here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see Alcohol, Hotdogs, Sexism, and Racism,” “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” and The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions.”

Posted in Abstracts, Cultural Cognition, Implicit Associations, Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Birthers’ Belief

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 11, 2009

Obama Uniquely AmericanScientific American has an interesting, “60-Second Podcast” by Steve Mirsky about research by Situationist Contributor  Mahzarin Banaji and San Diego State’s Thierry Devos finding that white Americans inherently regard white Europeans as somehow more “American” than Asian- or African-Americans.  Here are some excerpts from the podcast, which you can link to here.

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The so-called birthers can’t accept that President Obama is really a natural-born American citizen. Part of what’s behind this seemingly irrational belief may lie in what’s called implicit social cognition—the deep-rooted assumptions we all carry around, and may act on without realizing it.

Harvard’s Mahzarin Banaji studies such implicit cognition. Last fall she talked to journalists at the annual conference of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing about research into bias against Asian-Americans. “So we thought, what if we picked Asians who are very well known to be American. What about Connie Chung? Are they going to be seen as less American than, let’s say, Hugh Grant? And so we thought this was a bizarre study to do but we did it anyway.”

Amazingly, white Americans did see a white European like Hugh Grant as being somehow more American than the Asian-American Connie Chung. And similar research in 2008 found that whites thought of ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair as somehow more American than Obama. So the mental framework to believe that Obama is foreign probably was, to use a health care term, a preexisting condition.

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To read a closely related Situationist post, see “The Situation of Being ‘(un)American’.”

For some posts examining the the role of implicit associations in elections, see “Patricia Devine on Resisting Implicit Associations,” The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters,” On Being a Mindful Voter,”Lopez-Torres, Justice Scalia, and the Situation of Elections,” “Your Brain on Politics,” “Implicit Associations in the 2008 Presidential Election,”The Situation of Political Animals,” “Political Psychology in 2008,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,The Psychology of Barack Obama as the Antichrist,” and “The Interior Situation of Undecided Voters.”

To review all of the previous Situationist posts discussing implicit associations click on the “Implicit Associations” category in the right margin, or, for a list of such posts, click here. For other Situationist posts on the 2008 Presidential Election, click here.

Posted in Implicit Associations, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Cultural Situation of Tort Law

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 7, 2009

Cultural TortsDavid Engel and Michael McCann, have posted on SSRN their introduction to their forthcoming edited volume Tort Law as Cultural Practice.  Here’s the abstract.

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Most scholars would agree that tort law is a cultural phenomenon and that its norms, institutions, and procedures both reflect and shape the broader culture of which it is a part. Yet relatively few studies have attempted to analyze tort law as a form of cultural practice or to address basic challenges regarding the methods or subject matter that are appropriate to such analyses. This essay introduces and summarizes a new volume of interdisciplinary, comparative, and historical studies of tort law in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, India, Thailand, and elsewhere (the volume is entitled Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice, Stanford University Press, 2009). The introductory essay contends that culture is not some ‘thing’ outside of tort law that may or may not influence legal behavior and deposit artifacts in the case law reporters. Rather, tort law and culture are inseparable dimensions of social practice in which risk, injury, liability, compensation, deterrence, and normative pronouncements about acceptable behavior are crucial features. Contributors to this volume demonstrate a variety of ways in which tort law’s cultural dimensions can be explored as they write about such topics as causation and duty, gender and race, the jury and the media, products liability and medical malpractice, insurance and the police, and tobacco and asbestos litigation. Their analyses extend far beyond the confines of the tort reform debate, which has until now set the agenda for much of the sociolegal research on tort law.

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To download the introduction for free, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Situationist Torts – Abstract,” “Mark Lanier visits Professor Jon Hanson’s Tort Class (web cast),” and “Why Torts Die – Abstract.”

Posted in Abstracts, Cultural Cognition, Law, Legal Theory | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Leaving the Past

Posted by Adam Benforado on July 25, 2009

Uncle Sam - by morizaSam has been an active racist his entire life.  For decades, he has called blacks demeaning names; he has written about their inferiority; he has threatened them and beaten them; he has attended lynchings.

Under great pressure from various acquaintances and friends, in his seventieth year of life, he stops using the “n” word and ends the explicit prohibition on hiring blacks at his factory.

Ten years later, however, his business still has an almost all white workforce, despite getting lots of black applications, and no managers.

Should we trust Sam that racial bias has nothing to do with the disparity?

If you are like me, despite hoping that Sam has changed, you are deeply skeptical.  A person carries his past with him, and it continues to shape his life—even when he genuinely believes he has left it far behind

The same is true of countries.

Our own dear old Uncle Sam has come a long way from the Montgomery bus boycott and the Greensboro sit-ins: today, fifty years later, there is broad agreement in society that bias and discrimination based on race are abhorrent.

But we must not forget that, in the history of our country, this consensus is a very recent development.  For most of our past, bias and discrimination were the norm—permitted by statutory and constitutional law and supported by public opinion that openly held whites to be superior to blacks.

At a speech last week celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, President Obama made exactly that point, even as he urged black America to do its part to help black children succeed: “Make no mistake, no mistake: the pain of discrimination is still felt in America.”

When asked several days later about the arrest of African-American Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in his own home, Obama emphasized the “long history in this country of African-Americans being stopped disproportionately by the police” and suggested that the incident was “a sign of how race remains a factor in this society.”

There are many out there who strongly disagree with the president, who believe that we have reached the end of our long journey out of night—that we stand at the dawning of post-racial America.  As former Bush administration official John Yoo argued in the Philadelphia Inquirer, protections for minorities written into employment law, election law, and college admissions “might have been justified in the 1960s . . . [but] they are necessary no longer.”  Our nation has fulfilled its promise of creating a nation that ensures “the proposition that all men are created equal.”

While I share Yoo’s desire to embrace progress and to step into the light, I cannot ignore the evidence that suggests that his assessment is wrong.

First, blacks do not enjoy equal outcomes to whites with respect to income, education, health care, and numerous other areas.

Consider just the statistics on criminal law: Forty percent of felony defendants are black and a black male is five times more likely to serve time in prison over his lifetime than a white male.  Blacks also receive significantly higher bail amounts, are given longer sentences, and are more likely to be sentenced to death than their white counterparts.  In fact, the more stereotypically black your features are, the more likely you are to receive the death penalty.

Second, this disparate impact appears to have its roots in implicit biases held by many Americans beyond their conscious awareness or control.

Over the last 10 years, hundreds of thousands of individuals have participated in research studies measuring their racial stereotypical associations using the Implicit Association Test, developed by psychology professors from Harvard, the University of Washington, and the University of Virginia.

Approximately 70 percent of those who have taken the test have demonstrated a preference for whites to blacks.

Just as critically, the test has significant value at predicting social judgment and behavior, as an overview analysis of 122 research reports published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology last month documented.  Physicians with a white preference on the Implicit Association Test, for example, provided less effective treatments to hypothetical black coronary artery disease patients than to white patients.  Likewise, individuals with a white preference on the test were more likely to shoot a black target in a simulation than a white target engaging in identical behavior.

This evidence does not mean that, today, Americans are all hate-filled bigots.  One of the major findings is that many egalitarians—those genuinely committed to racial equality, including the test designers themselves—show automatic race preference.

What it means is that the hundreds of years of explicit racism in our country have left a mark within us.  We may be completely unaware of its existence, but it is influencing our actions.

Uncle Sam is on the right path.  The election of our first minority president and the likely confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court are testaments to how far we have come, but they are welcome signs of progress not an indication that we have reached our destination.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” Black History is Now,”Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Policing Racial Bias” – Video,” A Situationist Considers the Implications of Simpson Sentencing,” “What does an Obama victory mean?,” “The Situation of the Obama Presidency and Race Perceptions,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.”

Posted in History, Ideology, Illusions, Implicit Associations, Situationist Contributors | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Firefighters and the Situation of “Merit”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 16, 2009

Firefighter - by Rossco (Image Focus Australia)The following excerpted op-ed, “Trial by Firefighters,” co-written by Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier and Columbia Law Professor Susan Sturm, was published in the July 11, 2009, edition of The New York Times. They are also the co-authors of “Who’s Qualified: A New Democracy Forum on the Future of Affirmative Action” (Beacon Press, 2001).

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STANDING on the steps of the federal courthouse in New Haven, the lawyer Karen Torre reveled in her clients’ victory in a recent case before the Supreme Court. She anointed her clients — the white firefighters who scored well on a promotion test — “a symbol” for millions of Americans who are “tired of seeing individual achievement and merit take a back seat to race and ethnicity.”

But the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision last month — that New Haven should not have scrapped the test — perpetuates profound misconceptions about the capacity of paper-and-pencil tests to gauge a person’s potential on the job. Exams like the one the New Haven firefighters took are neither designed nor administered to identify the employees most qualified for promotion. And Ms. Torre’s identity-politics sloganeering diverts attention from what we need most: a clear-eyed reassessment of our blind faith in entrenched testing regimes.

New Haven used a multiple-choice test to measure its firefighters’ retention of information from national firefighting textbooks and study guides. Civil service tests like these do not identify people who are best suited for leadership positions. The most important skills of any fire department lieutenant or captain are steady command presence, sound judgment and the ability to make life-or-death decisions under pressure. In a city that is nearly 60 percent black and Latino, the ability to promote cross-racial harmony under stress is also crucial.

These skills are not well measured by tests that reward memorization and ask irrelevant questions like whether it is best to approach a particular emergency from uptown or downtown even when the city isn’t oriented that way. The Civil Service Board in New Haven declined to certify the test not only because of concerns about difference in scores between black and white firefighters but also because it failed to assess qualities essential for firefighting.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her dissent, tests drawn from national textbooks often do not match a city’s local firefighting needs. Most American fire departments have abandoned such tests or limited the multiple-choice format to 30 percent or less of an applicant’s score. In New Haven, the test still accounted for 60 percent of the score. Compounding the problem, insignificant numerical score differences were used to rank the firefighter candidates.

What should a city do when its promotion test puts a majority of its population at a disadvantage and is also unlikely to predict essential job performance? People who excel on such a test may expect to be promoted. But testing should not be about allocating prizes to winners. No one has a proprietary right to a particular open job, even if that person worked hard preparing for a test.

When a city replaces a bad test, as New Haven wanted to do, the employees who did well on it do not lose their right to compete for promotions; they merely need to compete according to procedures that actually identify people who advance the mission of saving lives and property — and enhance the department’s reputation in the community for treating all citizens with respect.

Yet many Americans believe so strongly that tests are fair that they never question the outcomes, especially when those outcomes conform to stereotypes about people of color. Such preconceptions lead to the conclusion that blacks or Latinos who don’t do well must lack individual initiative or ability.

As the plaintiff in the New Haven case, Frank Ricci, declared, “If you work hard, you can succeed in America.” His lawyer went further: White officials who voted for a better assessment system must have been lowering “the professional standard of competence,” she said, “for the sake of identity politics.” Yet, in New Haven, no one was promoted instead of the white firefighters.

In fact, many fire departments with a history of discrimination, like New Haven’s, still stack the deck in favor of candidates who have relationships to people already in the fire department. Those without $500 for the study materials or a relative or friend from whom they might borrow the books were put at a disadvantage.

Moreover, it was the firefighters union — which sided with the white firefighters in the Supreme Court — that negotiated the contractual mandate giving disproportionate weight to the multiple-choice test. Those negotiations occurred two decades ago when the leadership of the department was virtually all white. Taking this into account, after five days of public hearings, Malcolm Webber, one of the white members of the New Haven Civil Service Board, said: “I’ve heard enough testimony here to give me great doubts about the test itself and the testing — some of the procedures. And I believe we can do better.”

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To read the entire op-ed, click here. For a collection of previous Situationist posts discussing how situation influences standardized test scores, click here.  For those discussing Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sotomayor, click here.

Posted in Distribution, Education, Ideology, Politics, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Racial Situation of Voting

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 20, 2009

Nate Silver discusses race in politics: Did Obama’s race hurt his votes in some places?  If so, how?  And what might be done about it?

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situational Effects of a Black President,” “The Situation of Voting for Obama,” Why Race May Influence Us Even When We ‘Know’ It Doesn’t,” What does an Obama victory mean?,” “The Situation of the Obama Presidency and Race Perceptions,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.” For other Situationist posts on President Obama, click here.

Posted in Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Human Trafficking – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 12, 2009

Human TraffickingJonathan Todres has recently posted a fascinating article, titled “Law, Otherness, and Human Trafficking” (49 Santa Clara Law Review 605-672 (2009) on SSRN. Here’s the abstract.

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Despite concerted efforts to combat human trafficking, the trade in persons persists and, in fact, continues to grow. This article suggests that a central reason for the limited success in preventing human trafficking is the dominant conception of the problem, which forms the basis for law developed to combat human trafficking. Specifically, the author argues that “otherness” is a root cause of both inaction and the selective nature of responses to the abusive practice of human trafficking. Othering operates across multiple dimensions, including race, gender, ethnicity, class, caste, culture, and geography, to reinforce a conception of a virtuous “Self” and a devalued “Other.” This article exposes how this Self/Other dichotomy shapes the phenomenon of human trafficking, driving demand for trafficked persons, influencing perceptions of the problem, and constraining legal initiatives to end the abuse. By examining human trafficking through an otherness-aware framework, this article aims to elucidate a deeper understanding of human trafficking and offer a prescription for reducing the adverse effects of otherness on both efforts to combat human trafficking and the individuals that now suffer such abuses.

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You can download the article for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situational Effect of Groups,” The Situational Benefits of Outsiders,” Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism,” ‘Us’ and ‘Them,’” “Team-Interested Decision Making,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” and “March Madness.”

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Ideology, Morality, Public Policy, System Legitimacy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Racism in LA Gangs

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 27, 2009

LA GangsThomas Watkins and Christina Hoag of the Associated Press have an interesting piece on the role of racism in LA gangs.  We excerpt it below.

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In dueling newspaper opinion pieces last year, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca maintained that race fueled gang violence while Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said skin color was seldom a factor.

“If you do a survey within the African-American community . . . you are in constant fear that your young male offspring is going to be killed because of the color of his skin,” Baca said in an interview after his piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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Baca, an elected official, says his opinion comes from running the county jail system where he has to segregate inmates because of gang affiliations that break along racial lines.

Bratton works for a politically appointed commission and the Los Angeles Police Department has traditionally dealt with black gangs more than Latino gangs, though that is rapidly changing.

“Is there racial crime committed by gang members? Yes, of course,” said Deputy Police Chief Charlie Beck, head of detectives under Bratton. “But if you are asking me if race is a primary factor in gang crime, the answer is no.”

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Most gangs are formed along racial or ethnic lines, so turf battles can easily be construed as racist, though they’re usually driven by desire to control lucrative drug territory or other gang business.

“Every time you see one case, it’s easy to blow it up into a hate crime,” said Malcolm Klein, a University of Southern California social psychologist. “I tend to downplay that.”

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To read the rest of the piece, click here.  To read other Situationist posts related to gangs, click here.

Posted in Law, Life | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 25, 2009

Racial Bias TeamFrom Eureaka Alert:

White people don’t show hints of unconscious bias against blacks who belong to the same group as them, a new study suggests.

But this lack of bias only applied to black people in their group, according to the findings. Most white people in the study still showed evidence of some unconscious bias towards blacks who were in an opposing group, or who were unaffiliated with either group.

What impressed the researchers, however, was just how quickly these group bonds could form. The lack of bias toward fellow black group members was uncovered just minutes after whites joined the mixed-race group, and without participants even meeting their fellow members personally.

“The results suggest that when we share some kind of identity with a group of people, we automatically and immediately feel positively toward them, regardless of race,” said Jay Van Bavel, co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow in psychology at Ohio State University.

“You can think in terms of people who go to the playground and play a game of pickup basketball. All it takes is a flip of a coin to make someone your teammate, and at least for that game, you’re going to feel positively toward your teammates, white and black.”

Van Bavel conducted the study with William Cunningham, assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State. Their study appears in the March issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The study involved two separate but related experiments with college students, one done in Canada and one in the United States.

The students took a computer test commonly used by psychologists to reveal unconscious, or automatic racial bias. The test examines people’s first reactions to seeing a black face, before their conscious mind can edit and override biases.

Even though most people disavow any racial bias, this test consistently shows that about three-quarters of white North Americans have some level of unconscious racial bias, Van Bavel said. These unconscious thoughts can lead people to make biased decisions without realizing they are being biased.

For example, a manager may pass over a resume of a person whose name suggests she is an African American, without even recognizing why he is doing it, according to Van Bavel.

The computer test flashes pictures of black and white faces quickly on the screen followed nearly instantaneously by positive words (such as love) or negative words (such as hatred). Participants have to very quickly – within about one-half of a second — categorize the words as positive or negative.

In general, white people find it more difficult to correctly classify positive words when they were first shown a photo of a black person.

“Seeing a black face automatically activates this association with negative things for many white people and if they don’t have time to correct this negative image – which they don’t in this study – they associate negative words with black faces,” Cunningham said.

In the first experiment, 109 students at the University of Toronto were randomly assigned to one of two groups made up for the study – one named the Lions and the other called the Tigers. A control group learned about the two groups, but was not assigned to either one of them.

Members of the Lions and Tigers were shown photos of the members of both groups, and told it was important to learn who belonged to their team, and who belonged to other team.

Later, they were given the computer bias test. Results showed that students in the control group, who were not a member of either mixed-race group, showed a preference for white faces over black faces, as was expected.

But white members of the two teams showed no bias against black members of their own teams. They did, however, show bias towards black members of the opposing team.

“Team members were evaluating people based on whether they were on the same team – not evaluating them based on their race,” Cunningham said.

The second experiment involved 126 students at Ohio State. The setup was essentially the same, except that participants also evaluated white and black faces that were not members of either of the two groups. Results showed that white students showed no bias against blacks who belonged to their team. They showed nearly equivalent levels of bias towards black members of the opposing team, and black members who were not associated with either team.

This suggests that whites were showing increased positive feelings toward black members of their own team, but not increased negative feelings toward blacks who belonged to the opposing team.

“White students felt the same toward blacks on the opposing team and people who didn’t belong to any team,” Van Bavel said. “That means liking people from your team doesn’t mean you have to hate members of the other team.”

Van Bavel said the unconscious biases studied in this research have real-life consequences.

“What’s dangerous about these attitudes is that they can come into play even when we’re not aware of them, and even when we think we are being egalitarian,” he said.

But this study suggests there may be ways to battle this unconscious, automatic racism.

“We want to change how people see someone at the very earliest stages. If you see someone as a member of your own team or group, race may not even come to mind. You are thinking about that person in terms of some kind of shared relationship,” Van Bavel said.

In the real world, this means creating contexts to show how people are connected whenever possible. This may mean emphasizing our shared identities as residents of a city, fans of a sports team or members of a church.

“It’s part of human nature to feel positively about members of our own group,” Cunningham said. “The challenge is to find ways to call attention to our shared identities.”

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For some related Situationist posts, see “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,”Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas,”‘Us’ and ‘Them,’March Madness,” Race Attributions and Georgetown University Basketball,” “Some (Interior) Situational Sources War – Part I,” “The Origins of Sports Team Fandom,” “Attributing Blame — from the Baseball Diamond to the War on Terror,” and “Situationist Theories of Hate – Part II.”

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t

Posted by Jon Hanson on February 19, 2009

ap-nypost-cartoon-0218091The image to the left is a portion of a controversial cartoon that ran in yesterday’s New York Post. The cartoon (the entirety of which is here) includes this punchline: “Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.”

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A common assumption among most Americans is that race is not an issue these days; after all, most of us rarely if ever feel ourselves being “racist.” If we are not thinking about race when we go about our daily lives and if we are not harboring any racial animus when we interact or socialize inter-racially, then, we assume, race is not influencing us.  We may not be blind to color, but we might as well be.  Most Americans, I’m guessing, would therefore not have a problem with this cartoon.

Rev. Al Sharpton, on the other hand, does:

“The cartoon is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that ‘Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.’

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“Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?”

The New York Post’s editor-in-chief, Col Allan, dismissed Sharpton’s  remarks with this retort:  “The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. . . .”

But why couldn’t Mr. Allan and Rev. Sharpton both be right?  Why, in other words, would Mr. Allan conclude that a parody of a violent chimpanzee cannot also reflect and encourage troubling racial associations?

Perhaps it is because neither he nor his cartoonist were consciously thinking about race when creating or publishing the cartoon.  If they did not think about race, then they know race didn’t influence them.  From that perspective, Sharpton’s suggestion that race may have played some role seems preposterous.

But that sort of reasoning is itself preposterous when one takes seriously what social psychology and related mind sciences have discovered about the role of unconscious or implicit associations.   Our brains, it seems, have a mind of their own, and that mind is often operating automatically and powerfully in ways that reflect common cultural stereotypes — including those that we might consciously reject.  What we think we know about what is moving us is only a tiny, and often a misleading, part of what is actually going on in those parts of our brains that elude introspection but that can nonetheless manifest in our perceptions, emotions, and actions.

If one examines the cartoon mindful of racial stereotypes, the image scores a hat-trick and then some.  The association of blacks to guns, to crime, violence, and to hostile interactions with law enforcement officers is so strong and should be so well understood that I won’t take time to review the evidence.

What some people may not be aware of is the disturbingly robust implicit associations of African Americans to monkeys, chimps, and apes.

As social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt recently observed, “one of the oldest race battles that blacks have fought in this country has been the battle to be recognized as fully human. To be regarded not in the in-between status somewhere between ape and human but to be fully human.”  And with a black American now the President of the United States, the tendency to link black Americans to apes might be dismissed as an irrelevant relic of the past.

But is it?  In the video excerpts below (from the Project on Law and Mind Sciences 2007 Conference), Jennifer Eberhardt’s describes some of her research examining whether such a de-humanizing association continues to operate beneath the radar of our consciousness (10 minutes total).

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* * *

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While it is no doubt affirming to believe that we live in a post-racial society as revealed by Barack Obama’s election, it is probably more accurate to say that race is alive and well in the recesses of our brains and that the election of Barack Obama is — particularly when he is connected to policies we disfavor — likely to activate some of those unseen associations.

If  one didn’t think about race while imagining and sketching a cartoon, that doesn’t imply that race didn’t play a role in shaping those processes.  Nor does it justify indifference, much less indignance, toward those who urge us to consider whether race did somehow play a role.

Quite the contrary, given our history and the hierarchies and inequalities that continue to define our country, all of us should be especially attentive and sensitive to the possibilities that what we “know” to be true about what  is moving us is often mistaken and that those mistakes have consequences.

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For a sample of related Situationst posts, see “Jennifer Eberhardt’s “Policing Racial Bias” – Video,” A Situationist Considers the Implications of Simpson Sentencing,” “What does an Obama victory mean?,” “The Situation of the Obama Presidency and Race Perceptions,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.” For other Situationist posts on President-Elect Obama, click here, and for posts discussing the Jennifer Eberhardt’s research, click here.

Posted in History, Implicit Associations, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

A Situationist Considers the Implications of Simpson Sentencing

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 18, 2008

O.J. SimpsonSam Sommers continues to write super situationist posts over on the Psychology Today blog.  Here are excerpts from his recent post, titled “Whither O.J.?,” offering his reflections on reactions to the O.J. Simpson trials.

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Today’s the day that O.J. Simpson finds out his prison sentence for his recent convictions for kidnapping, armed robbery, and assault. In many respects, it will be the final chapter in a sociolegal drama that has been going on for close to 15 years now, dating back to his criminal trial for the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman.

There is many a question this saga might inspire in the curious behavioral scientist: How much of a role did Simpson’s past play in his current treatment by a Nevada jury and sentencing judge? How are those Americans who celebrated Simpson’s acquittal in 1995 reacting to his recent legal problems? . . . And so on.

To me, though, the issue that has always intrigued me the most about the Simpson matter is this: there is no easier way to stir up agitation among White people than to simply utter his name.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to get riled up about when it comes to O.J. I was privy to different and additional information than were the jurors in his trial, but there is little doubt in my mind that he committed the homicides in question. And it’s easy to see how much of the general public would look scornfully upon a man whom they believed to have been the perpetrator of such crimes. Even more so given that he escaped prison time for their commission.

For that matter, even were you to be one who reserves judgment on Simpson’s culpability for the murders (or think that he was flat-out innocent), there’s still ample reason to find him reprehensible. There’s no doubt that he was a perpetrator of domestic assault, and that’s surely sufficient grounds for harboring antipathy towards him.

That said, I’d still argue that the response of much of White America to Simpson has been, and continues to be disproportionate. Yes, I, too, believe that he is a murderer who ultimately got away with his crime. But where’s the comparable outrage at the acquittal of Robert Blake? Or the jury that failed to convict Phil Spector in his first trial?

OK, so the circumstances aren’t identical in any of these cases–they never are when such comparisons are needed (which is why studying issues like legal decision-making using experimental methodology can be so important, but that’s a topic for another entry). But in each case, we’re talking about past-their-prime B-list celebrities who owe a great deal of their continued freedom to the money that allowed them to hire in-their-prime A-list attorneys.

The difference is that Simpson has come to stand for something more. For much of White America, Simpson’s acquittal at the hands of a predominantly-Black jury has come to stand as the prototypical example of “reverse racism” in the modern era. The images of African-Americans celebrating his acquittal serve to epitomize for many Whites all that they believe has gone awry with race relations in this country.

Perceptions of the O.J. trial–or, perhaps more accurately, perceptions of how Black America perceived the trial–even bubbled to the surface as a litmus test for some White voters during the Democratic primaries in Iowa. Just a few months later, Barack Obama went out of his way to assert his own belief in Simpson’s guilt, and his own displeasure with how many Blacks reacted to the acquittal.

The rest of Obama’s discussion of this matter is similarly revealing. He puts forth a hypothesis that I’ve often offered myself in many a conversation–of varieties both watercooler and academic–concerning the trial: many who celebrated Simpson’s acquittal didn’t necessarily believe that he was innocent. Much of their celebration came from the realization that for many years only rich, White guys were able to climb off the hook for crimes they had committed. Now a rich, Black guy was able to do the same.

Because when you think about it, if you put the media circus aside, Simpson’s acquittal owed far more to his wealth than his race. . . .

Yet there he remains, Public Enemy #1, O. J. Simpson. Worthy of our denunciation? Sure. Perpetrator of acts that merit contempt? Absolutely. But how did he ascend so quickly to the top of this mountain of notoriety, climbing over so many miscreants and barbarians to get there? Because he became the symbol of racial discontent for much of White America; he grew to represent something far bigger than the sum of his personality or the specifics of his actions. Ask yourself where the comparable outrage is for the others who have gotten away with murder over the years. Ask yourself why there’s no easier way to get White people seeing red than simply mentioning his name.

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To read his entire post (with links), click here.  For some related Situationist posts, see “The Racial Situation of Criminal Juries and the Consequences,” “The Legal Situation of Race Equality – Abstract,” and “Hoyas, Hos, & Gangstas.”

Posted in Law, Life | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

What Stigma? – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 8, 2008

hls-classroom

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Emily Houh, and Mary Campbell have posted an intriguing article, “Cracking the Egg: Which Came First – Stigma or Affirmative Action?” (forthcoming 96 California Law Review (2008)) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This Article examines the strength of arguments concerning the causal connection between racial stigma and affirmative action. In so doing, this article reports and analyzes the results of a survey on internal stigma (feelings of dependency, inadequacy, or guilt) and external stigma (the burden of others’ resentment or doubt about one’s qualifications) for the Class of 2009 at seven public law schools, four of which employed race-based affirmative action policies when the Class of 2009 was admitted and three of which did not use such policies at that time.

Specifically, this Article examines and presents survey findings of 1) minimal, if any, internal stigma felt by minority law students, regardless of whether their schools practiced race-based affirmative action; 2) no statistically significant difference in internal stigma between minority students at affirmative action law school and non-affirmative action law schools; and 3) no significant impact from external stigma.

Posted in Abstracts, Education | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Legal and Procedural Situation of Segregation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 9, 2008

Bennett Capers, has posted an intriguing article, “Policing, Race, and Place” (forthcoming 44 Harv. CR-CL L. Rev. (2008)) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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Most Americans live in neighborhoods and communities segregated along race lines, and take this segregation for granted. To the extent they view their communities as racially segregated at all, they assume that this segregation is the largely the result of individual choice or socio-economic status, or perhaps a remnant of de jure segregation. The ambition of this Article is to draw attention to a component of segregation that has been largely ignored: the significant role that criminal law and procedure have played, and continue to play, in maintaining racialized spaces.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Law | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Blame Frame – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 13, 2008

Situationist Contributors Jon Hanson and Kathleen Hanson recently posted their article, “The Blame Frame: Justifying (Racial) Injustice in America” (Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, Vol. 41, 2006) on SSRN. Here is the abstract.

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This Article attempts to elucidate how our forebears, who were presumably as devoted to justice and liberty in their times as we are in ours, failed to condemn behaviors that are today widely viewed as patently oppressive, unfair, and even evil.

Our argument unfolds in several Parts. Part II summarizes evidence from social psychology and related fields that helps explain how people who imagine themselves fair and just routinely blame the victims of inequities and excuse the perpetrators or passive observers through blame frames.

Because humans crave justice, salient suffering or inequalities activate an injustice dissonance within us. Too often, we alleviate that dissonance, not by addressing the injustice, but by creating an illusion of justice through assumptions, arguments, or stereotypes about the blameworthiness of the victim. Part II then describes three powerful blame frames that have coexisted, while alternating in dominance, throughout American history: the God frame, the nature frame, and the choice frame.

Part III elucidates through a few prominent examples how blame frames have operated throughout history to relieve our forebears’ injustice dissonances and to perpetuate systems of oppression. The motivated attributions underlying those blame frames acted to legitimate laws, customs, and practices that today – with the benefit of hindsight and the lens of a new frame – are recognized as clearly unjust.

Part IV argues that we suffer an equally great confusion today, but the injustices that haunt our generation are soothed less by the God and nature frames and more by conceptions of choice. Choicism attributes disparities to the preferences and character of individuals and their groups. Although choicism purports to be colorblind and non-discriminatory, it is, unfortunately, just the latest cloak veiling racism and other groupisms while allowing us to blame victims and excuse non-victims. Part IV, by examining public reactions to Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath, then shows how Americans experienced an unusually powerful and intractable injustice dissonance when the winds, water, and desperation exposed inequalities that choicism could not readily justify. For at least a moment, Americans faced what seemed to be strong evidence of racial injustice. Part IV reveals some of the ways that a set of overlapping and largely camouflaged blame frames obscured and confused the public discourse regarding Katrina and the injustice dissonance she wrought.

Finally, this Article argues that only by understanding the sources and effects of blame frames can we ever hope to end oppression and thereby live according to the fundamental values we espouse.

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To download the article for free, click here. For related Situationist posts, see “‘Situation’ Trumps ‘Disposition’- Part II” and “Black History is Now.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, History, Public Policy, Social Psychology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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