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Unconscious racism

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and Birther Report has an article just up titled, “University of Virginia Psychologist: Birthers Racially Tinged Conspiracy Theories Paint Obama As A Usurper.” They take great umbrage at what they see as an attempt to label all birthers racist. Their incredulity at that outrageous claim can be seen in this comment:

Guest: There is nothing mysterious or racist about BHO identity questions. Why? EVERYWHERE you look you find fraud of one type or another. This isn’t rocket science guys. You have to be brain dead or an obot not to know that he’s operating under a fake name, fake BC, fake SS#, fake Sel. Serv. card. The list is endless.

I tried to make a response to that, but I have no hope that the commenter will grok what I was trying to say:

You don’t get it.

To most people there is no “fake name, fake BC, fake SS#, fake Sel. Serv. card”. They look at that stuff and see nobodies on the Internet pretending to be experts and spinning wildly implausible theories requiring up a conspiracy of massive proportions (including the administration, the Congress, the news media, the courts and the State of Hawaii), a conspiracy orders of magnitude bigger than any real conspiracy in history. If they bother to look into the details (and few do) they find a tissue of suspicions that falls apart under scrutiny. They see theories held almost exclusively by ideological opponents of Obama and his party. They see folks using terms like DemoRat and Libtard. They see nothing credible.

When they see a group maligning the President, and see no justification for it, they wonder why it’s happening. Racism is part of it; hatred of progressives is part of it; general tendencies to see conspiracies in clouds is part of it, smear peddling for monetary gain is part of it.

You think that with all the facts, no one can fault the birthers for their beliefs. Others think that there is something fundamentally wrong with the birthers for misreading the evidence.

But I didn’t write this article to display my ineffectual attempt at creating an “aha” moment in a birther. What I want to do is to call attention to the Mother Jones article that got the birthers so upset. It’s title, “Black Lives Matter” Aspires to Reclaim the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.,” doesn’t give the reader a hint about that I found most interesting in the story. It’s not so much about the police shootings of black men, or Dr. King. What is interesting is unconscious racism.

BR picked out the same quote that I did from the lengthy article, although I will copy here just the last part of it:

There “doesn’t need to be intent, doesn’t need to be desire; there could even be desire in the opposite direction,” explains University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek. […] “But biased results can still occur.”

Birthers don’t realize that it is their biases (conscious or otherwise) that cause them to look at claims of Obama misdeeds with less than adequate scrutiny and to close their eyes to the obvious objections that could be raised against them.

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9 Responses to Unconscious racism

  1. avatar
    Lupin January 19, 2015 at 4:29 am #

    To the extent that Apuzzo’s theories on who is a “real” citizen have already been outlined in the KKK’s funding documents, I feel one is entitled to label them “racist”.

    I have always held the view that to some extent, Obama’s circumstances are a “trojan horse” to undermine and eventually overthrow the “anchor baby” concept that makes a child born of undocumented aliens on US soil a US citizen.

    It is (IMHO) a wildly unrealistic goal, but I think the far-right wings behind Apuzzo & the likes do want to create a second-class of US citizens due to birth circumstances that would not have the same rights & privileges than first-class citizens.

  2. avatar
    The Magic M January 19, 2015 at 5:03 am #

    a conspiracy orders of magnitude bigger than any real conspiracy in history

    I venture a guess that 99% of birthers think “orders of magnitude bigger” means “2-3 times bigger”. 😉

    Lupin: To the extent that Apuzzo’s theories on who is a “real” citizen have already been outlined in the KKK’s funding documents, I feel one is entitled to label them “racist”.

    But one has to be careful not to fall into the “guilt by association” trap (“You like the Autobahn? Well guess who built it: Hitler!”).

    I think Apuzzo was just using his crackpot lawyer skills to conjure up an argument that might convince laymen for political gain.

    Lupin: I think the far-right wings behind Apuzzo & the likes do want to create a second-class of US citizens due to birth circumstances that would not have the same rights & privileges than first-class citizens

    Me, too. And that really links back to when the Nazis invented the distinction of “citizen of the state” vs. “citizen of the Reich” to effectively legalize the discrimination of Jews.
    (Reminds me of when Jedi Pauly came up with his “citizen and Citizen are different things” etc.)

    Lupin: to undermine and eventually overthrow the “anchor baby” concept

    It would be their right to do so in a democratic Constitutional process. However it seems they prefer to simply redefine terms on the fly to avoid all that pesky “amend the Constitution and get 3/4’s of the states to ratify” or even the “pass a new law” hassle. Ties in with the irony of the “rule of law” crowd constantly ignoring laws and the Constitution (e.g. when they claim it’s enough to “declare” the sitting President ineligible to arrest and convict him without impeachment).

  3. avatar
    Pastor Charmley January 19, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    Whilst I am no great fan of postmodernism’s answers, the critique of modernism’s ideal of the unbiased reporter is spot on – namely that there is simply no such thing as an unbiased person, we all have our biases, and the greatest danger is the man who THINKS he is an unbiased reporter, because he is unconscious of his biases.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy January 19, 2015 at 8:19 am #

    I personally see some merit in a system by which the children of transient inhabitants of the country are not automatically made citizens, rather only the children of “residents” or those “domiciled” here would become citizens. In my view that would not exclude the children of undocumented aliens so long as their parents were here with the intent to remain.

    It just seems unnecessary to make the children of tourists citizens.

    Lupin: I have always held the view that to some extent, Obama’s circumstances are a “trojan horse” to undermine and eventually overthrow the “anchor baby” concept that makes a child born of undocumented aliens on US soil a US citizen.

  5. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy January 19, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    I recognize that I have biases, and I struggle against them, but I THINK that I am more unbiased than I probably am.

    Pastor Charmley: we all have our biases, and the greatest danger is the man who THINKS he is an unbiased reporter, because he is unconscious of his biases.

  6. avatar
    alg January 19, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Putting it simply, there is no better explanation for the presence of the utterly irrational and ineptly selective beliefs of birthers than racism – conscious or otherwise.

    Barack Obama answered the silly questions about his place of birth when he produced his short form Certification of Live Birth in 2008. Nothing else is required. Yet for birthers, no amount of official documentation and verification will ever be enough.

    No other President in history has been subjected to such unrelenting demands. That’s because they were all white males.

    It’s racism, pure and simple.

  7. avatar
    Rickey January 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:

    It just seems unnecessary to make the children of tourists citizens.

    I agree, although in the real world I doubt that many children of foreign tourists are born in the United States. Just as Stanley Ann Obama would not have traveled to a foreign country during her last trimester, neither would most other women.

  8. avatar
    Joey January 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    Pastor Charmley:
    Whilst I am no great fan of postmodernism’s answers, the critique of modernism’s ideal of the unbiased reporter is spot on – namely that there is simply no such thing as an unbiased person, we all have our biases, and the greatest danger is the man who THINKS he is an unbiased reporter, because he is unconscious of his biases.

    A professional can realize his/her biases and try hard to not let them interfere with objectivity in their work. The media professional who can’t do that can be an ecitorialist or a pundit where the personal and biased slant is acceptable.

  9. avatar
    Benji Franklin January 19, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy: I recognize that I have biases, and I struggle against them, but I THINK that I am more unbiased than I probably am.

    Well, like the Birthers so consistently do, in the process of perfectly perceiving the biases of people I disagree with, I have become blissfully aware that my own privileged perspective on reality, eliminates ANY possibility that my own opinion about ANYTHING could be tainted with bias.

    In fact, you wouldn’t believe what my investigators in Hawaii are finding out about how perfectly unbiased I am!