I’m fairly swamped today, so I want to crowd-source this: Can we get some links to scientific studies of racism?
In my recent post, “Playing the Victim”: Oppression and a Catch-22, I pointed out a conundrum. I said that if people speak out about oppression and marginalization and bigotry, they get accused of “playing the victim card,” and the marginalization becomes invisible. But if people don’t speak out about it… then, obviously, it stays invisible. And I posed this question to people making this “victimhood” accusation: How, exactly, would you like marginalized people to proceed? Is there any possible way we can make oppression and marginalization and bigotry visible, which will meet with your approval?
I thought it was pretty obvious that this was a rhetorical question. Especially given the follow-up: “And why, precisely, do you think your approval matters? Why do you get to be the ones who decide which forms of oppression and marginalization and bigotry are important… and which ones are not? Why do you think that decision should be up to you?”
But I got this reply, from Emil Karlsson, who apparently took the question non-rhetorically:
I wrote about the general problem with the approach Greta Christina and others make in my post The Plural of Anecdote is not Scientific Evidence, although it is much more general.
The simple answer to the question is “more scientific evidence, less anecdotes”. The problem with anecdotes is that (1) there is no independent corroboration and (2) it is not possible to know how representative they are (i.e. the extent and scope of the problem).
Someone who does this incredibly, spectacularly and fantastically well is e. g. zoebrain (comment 14). Zoebrain provides us with a scientific report on the extent of the discrimination of trans people. This is how things are suppose to be done, not providing a few testimonials.
Why can’t Greta Christina and others do this more often? Why can’t you discuss scientific studies looking at racism and transphobia more? Or better yet, contribute to carry them out in e. g. the skeptical or atheist community?
The gold standard for claims is scientific evidence and just as we can reasonably ask for it in cases involving medical treatment and claims about the world at large, so too should be be able to ask for it when it comes to the extent of discrimination without having to get claims like “you are dismissing the experience of group X” or anecdotal testimonials thrown in our face.
In my opinion, this is a ridiculous distinction. We need anecdotes and scientific evidence on racism. We need scientific evidence to demonstrate the hard reality of racism; we need anecdotes to humanize the issue, to make the terrible reality of it clear, and to get people to freaking well care about it.
What’s more, if the question on the table is, “Does racism happen in the atheist community?” — then anecdotes of blatant unquestionable racism are, in fact, a pertinent response to the question. They still leave open questions such as “how often does this happen”… but if the question on the table is, “Does this happen?”, and a whole lot of people say, “Yes, here are examples of it,” then unless you think those people are lying, that settles the question. The existence of one black swan disproves the hypothesis that all swans are white… and the existence of loads of examples of racism in the atheist community definitely disproves the hypothesis that racism never happens in the atheist community.
But it’s also a ridiculous question because the reality of racism is extremely well-established, with study after study after study. Charging into a conversation about racism and saying, “Give me scientific evidence that it exists!” is about as absurd as charging into a conversation about vaccinations and saying, “Give me scientific evidence that vaccinations even work!” It’s one of the reasons that, in the Race and Inclusivity — A To-Do List post I put on my blog, “Get your “Race and Racism 101″ on Google or at the library. Don’t expect people of color who come to your group or event to bring you up to speed” was on the list. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to re-introduce ground-level concepts to people who are jumping into the conversation but haven’t bothered to do their homework. (And since atheists are a subset of our society at large, it would be an extraordinary claim indeed to assume that atheists are somehow miraculously free of this racism.)
However, I’m swamped today, and I really don’t have time to do Google-Fu, and email all my friends and colleagues who have sociology and psychology studies at their fingertips, and otherwise spend the entire day lining up links to the countless studies demonstrating the reality of racism. So I’m going to crowd-source it. People here who do have sociology and psychology studies at your fingertips… can you please provide links to scientific studies on racism? Thank you.