I can’t believe I actually have to answer this question

Greta Christina has put up the Bat Signal:

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.

So I’m going to help out, because I like Greta.

I’m a little annoyed that Emil Karlsson, for whom this list is being assembled, hasn’t bothered to put any effort whatsoever into looking into the question before deciding that it’s all a bunch of hooey that needs to be proven to his own satisfaction before he’ll accept that the problem is a problem (and I wonder if he would stand up on that soapbox and demand the same kind of evidence to substantiate discrimination facing atheists). That being said, I just so happen to run a blog that talks specifically about racism. So Mr. Karlsson, and others who are hyper-skeptical about the existence of racism, hopefully some of this will filter through.

Racism in popular culture, law, and science

The Unbearable Whiteness of TVing: looking at the effect of white-dominated media on the self-esteem of black children and girls

Mandatory Minimums, Marijuana, and Measurementlooking at the disproportionate effect of mandatory drug minimums and arrest patterns on black D.C. residents

Here come da judgeracism evident in Canada’s judicial appointment process, and in American jury selection

Double Whammydiscussing a racial discrepancy in the awarding of federal grants in the United States

They took ‘ur jaaaeerrrbs!investigating the myth of minority preference in scholarship awarding

Racism, elections, and how we measure up: using Google trends to estimate the political consequences of racism in the last United States presidential election

Fuckin’ privilege? How does that work?: a summary of a study looking at racially differential treatment of women seeking governmental assistance in Seattle.

Good for the goose, bad for the gander: examining racial differences in punishment rate and severity in classrooms

Economic consequences of racism

Culture of poverty: complete nonsense: exploring the myth of the ‘culture of poverty’ that supposedly explains black economic languishing

Is this racist? You can bank on it: exposing the racism behind the predatory lending practices of large banks in the U.S. housing market collapse

We’ve got a job to dosummarizing a study that found a hiring bias towards white job applicants over Latin@ and black applicants with identical qualifications

Lowering tide sinks some boats more than otherslooking at the disproportionate way in which the economic downturn has affected First Nations Canadians and black and Latin@ Americans

The bankruptcy of racism: examining the effect racism has on bankruptcy filings and recommendations from financial advisers

Black Canadians: outcomes, attitudes, and evidence: some explanations of racial disparities in Canada’s workforce

Psychological explorations of racism

Does stupidity make you racist?: critiquing a study that looks at the association between low-effort cognition and racist ideation

Race, the power of an Illusion: a video summarizing a study of the biological basis (or lack thereof) of race

Why are you hitting yourself? Part 3: this post contains implicit contentexploring the racial dynamics of system justifying behaviour

Colourism: the sweet juice of racismexploring the phenomenon of ‘colourism’

Dressing the part: a study exploring the intersection of classism and racism with respect to dress

Keep in mind, I don’t have a systematic way of collecting fodder for blog posts – this is just stuff that I run into whilst bumming around the internet. The evidence base is much much much deeper than I can adequately reflect on this blog.

Racism. It exists. It has power. We need to deal with it.

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  1. 'Tis Himself says

    The most cited economic paper is Michael Reich’s “The Economics of Racism”. However it’s quite old (1974).

    “The Economic Consequences of Segregation” is short but useful. It’s based on Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton’s American Apartheid (Harvard University Press, 1993) which I haven’t read, so I can’t comment on it.

    The National Association of Social Workers has a paper “Racism” which is a decent overview of the subject.

    Karlsson needs to develop his googlefu. Either that or stop expecting people to do his homework for him.

  2. says

    I’m a little annoyed that Emil Karlsson, for whom this list is being assembled, hasn’t bothered to put any effort whatsoever into looking into the question before deciding that it’s all a bunch of hooey that needs to be proven to his own satisfaction before he’ll accept that the problem is a problem (and I wonder if he would stand up on that soapbox and demand the same kind of evidence to substantiate discrimination facing atheists). That being said, I just so happen to run a blog that talks specifically about racism. So Mr. Karlsson, and others who are hyper-skeptical about the existence of racism, hopefully some of this will filter through.

    I think you need to step back, take a breath, and actually read what I have said.

    Nowhere did I

    (1) deny that racism exists
    (2) deny that racism is morally vile
    (3) deny that the problem of racism is large

    My point is, and has always been, that it is much more productive to talk about the size of the problem than if it merely exists or not and that anecdotes tell you nothing about the size.

    It is purely a methodological conflict about what the proper way to argue against people who do not agree that the problem is large in practice.

    I do not hold any of the views you are attributing to me. In fact, I have on multiple occasions debunked racists on my blog and in literally thousands of forum posts.

  3. says

    I’ve addressed this absurd dodge on Greta’s blog, but I’ll repeat it here.

    You use the word “productive” as though it corresponds to some agreed-upon definition. “Productive” to whom? Do you and I have the same goal? Does Greta? From where do you draw this conclusion that until you can pin down the specific dimensions of a problem that it is not “productive” to discuss how it works and demonstrate that it exists in a cross-section of the population of interest? I would argue that teaching people how to recognize and combat racism is an incredibly productive way of dealing with the problem, regardless of the size. There were no scientific studies of the frequency of racism in the Jim Crow south – were the various civil rights marches therefore not “productive” because they didn’t showcase evidence of the size?

    The whole point is that it doesn’t matter how big the problem is. The problem exists. You recognize that. The problem is bad. You recognize that. And since nobody (to my knowledge) is recommending anything other than increased awareness and an emphasis on prioritizing diversity, this whole “well you need scientific studies” thing is, yes, hyper-skepticism.

    I’m also still waiting on a definition of what would satisfy your criteria for evidence. Racism is not something that lends itself to measurement by census or blood testing, so I’m mystified as how anyone could decide that the only appropriate evidence is the kind that likely will never exist.

  4. Brownian says

    My point is, and has always been, that it is much more productive to talk about the size of the problem than if it merely exists or not and that anecdotes tell you nothing about the size.

    You believe this based on what evidence?

  5. says

    Yeah… I like Morgan Freeman’s acting. He’s unfortunately deeply misguided about race in this clip, which people like to throw at me from time to time as though it was evidence of anything other than “some black folks don’t understand racism either”

    This clip is much better

  6. says

    Emil, while you express your own annoyance (which appears partially justified to me), you don’t seem yet to have (a) expressed clearly what you think the reason for crowd-sourcing examples of racism was (which presumably must be the basis of your critique), (b) acknowledged that the pool of anecdotes of problems with racism in the communities does in fact constitute (sufficient) evidence that racism in the communities is a problem (which people have been claiming), or (c) recognized that the question you purported to answer on GC’s blog was expressly intended for “for people making this “victimhood” accusation”, a group that by your own testimony you don’t appear to be a part of. Have you taken your own step back during this exchange? Or have i missed it?

    Something i’ve only seen participants address indirectly so far is your apparent position that scientific studies is the best way to convince people in the communities that racism is a problem that warrants addressing. This seems to be premised on several assumptions, like that members of our community are so much better able to adjust their thinking in light of new evidence than average that such studies alone will change their minds, or that the well-meaning majority will be better able to incorporate the implications of such studies into their daily lives than to learn from anecdotal examples. In particular, the people making the “victimhood” accusation don’t strike me as particularly likely to respond any better to scientific evidence than the population average. Does it really seem to you that the community as a whole is so Spocklike relative to the population?

  7. says

    I use the term productive here as in would better provide rational refutation. I have argued that the question both is and should be about the size of the problem about racism, and clearly, testimonials have nothing to contribute to the question of size. In that sense, testimonials are not a rationally productive argument. I have also agreed that they may be productive in another sense, namely for emotional impact.

    When I use the term productive, I am referring it as a characteristic of counterarguments (i.e. to what degree do they establish a rational counterargument), not solutions like civil rights movements.

    I am not saying that scientific studies are needed to be carried our per se, as those clearly exists. I am saying that the argument against those racists who do not think the problem is large needs to consists primarily of scientific studies.

    I am not skeptical of the claim that the problem of racism is large. I fully accept it.

    I think the studies listed so far are great and should definitely be used in that regard.

    My main concern was that testimonials were taking the place that arguments from scientific studies should take against racists who trivialize the problem. The best argument against those who doubt that the problem is large is to show that the problem is, in fact, large. Other counterarguments, such as testimonials, are less productive in the sense that they do not do this.

  8. says

    Yeah, sorry. I do not mean productive I do not mean “more effective at convincing racists” but more productive in the sense of being a stronger argument from a rational point of view.

    I do not think that atheists or skeptics are necessarily more rational than the overall population or that studies are more emotionally convincing than testimonials etc.

    I also probably came off wrongly in my first comment since I did not fully understand that replying like that would make it appear as if I supported making victimhood accusations (which I do not).

    You are absolutely right; I am probably partly to blame for the situation.

  9. karmakin says

    I’m going to jump in and kind of take a neutral position on this (and probably lose some hairs, if not the entire head), although I think that Emil’s point is basically meaningless in this particular situation that we’re talking about. So I’m not neutral, but here’s what I get out of it, and why I think it’s wrong IN THIS CASE (but possibly not wrong universally).

    I think it comes down to a positive trigger vs. negative triggers for change. In this case, we’re generally talking about positive triggers. We want to find ways to make the movement more open for minorities. This is a good thing. A positive thing. And as such, it really doesn’t matter how much racism is in society as a whole, or even the rationalist movement, it’s strictly about what steps can be taken to make it more compelling to minorities.

    A negative trigger for change, on the other hand, may very well require study to gauge the extent and the nature of the problem. Is the problem just a few trolls who are causing trouble? Or is there some widespread ideology that’s at fault, and that has to be looked at? The response differs, I think, depending on the scope of the problem. Especially when the potential solutions come with some downside.

    At least that’s my take on it. TL;DR version is that in some situations we need more and better data to make good decisions, and in other situations we don’t need as much.

    Actually, I’ll add on that one of my big pet peeves is the focus on top-down studies over bottom-up analysis. It happens all over the place, and to be honest, I think that bottom-up is more often not more reliable for making policy and idelogical choices.

  10. says

    Emil, i appreciate that. The question about which this discussion seems to pivot, however, is related to (a) from above and appears to remain unaddressed: Given the context and intent of GC’s call for examples of racism in the communities (for which there is plenty of detail in her own comments), what is your criticism of the call, assuming that, given what the discussion has revealed, you still hold it?

  11. TychaBrahe says

    Why is it more productive?

    If one person is being negatively affected by racism, I admit that it isn’t much of a problem. We should work on it, but recognize some problems are more pressing.

    But if it’s 100, does it really matter that it isn’t 1000 or 10000 or 10,000,000? If Black women earn 80% of what White women earn (made up figures), does it matter that at least it’s not 60%?

  12. says

    I do not mean “more effective at convincing racists” but more productive in the sense of being a stronger argument from a rational point of view.

    Then perhaps you should use your vocabulary the same way others do, in order that you not be misunderstood or be thought of as obscure.

    “A stronger argument” is a better way to describe “in the sense of being a stronger argument” than “productive.”

  13. says

    I made a reformulation of my argument (in which I made it less categorical) in light of that Greta said in a comment further down. She seemed to agree with it.

  14. says

    I see that you agree over what constitutes the rationally superior argument and, generally, what’s effective at persuading people. I would object, though, that anecdotes have great rational effect as well; even in mathematics we get almost nowhere without a barrage of examples intended to clarify the swamp of notation and lemmata that make up the main argument and to give it practical context.

    That aside, however, y’all’s agreement on those points is tangential to the pivot i mentioned. You did object, albeit indirectly, to GC’s call for examples. Do you still think that your objection was reasonable, or that any objection to her call is reasonable? I personally don’t think so, and i ask again because it suggests to me an important lesson for anyone largely on the sidelines of this discussion: that it is extremely easy for (even highly intelligent) people outside the conversation to fundamentally misinterpret it, and extremely tempting for us to join it by staking an uninformed position rather than seeking out or asking for the relevant information. I’ve remained largely outside the conversation as well, but i have learned a lot from observing how routinely objections are made (presumably from people not deeply engaged) that miss the point in very similar ways.

  15. w00dview says

    If you want an example of how systemic racism is in society, I think you should look at the example that many tout as the reason that we live in a post racial society: the presidency of Barack Obama.

    I have never seen the sheer amount of vitriol lavished on one politician as I have seen with Obama. The accusations of him being a member of the Black Panthers, the Republican dog whistles such as affirmative action president, he hates white people, he wants to bring in Sharia Law and the biggest clue, the birther nonsense. I’m just amazed no one has attempted to assassinate the man yet.

    Now if it was a white Democrat as president, of course there would be the usual slander and right wing lies but the rhetoric from the right over the last couple of years has been getting more and more disturbed. I think a fairly good guess to this increase in hatred is due to the fact that there is an uppity nigra in the white house and the bigots are out to destroy him anyways they can.

    And according to many who oppose affirmative action it is liberals that are the real racists*. We now know how hollow that claim has become.

  16. says

    Emil, with due respect, every detail in your first comment (at GC’s, i understand you to mean), regardless of whether it has been addressed or resolved in the following comments, appears to have been deemed irrelevant to GC’s call for examples, principally because the post was in response to a demand for examples. One of the very common ways i see people missing the point is by raising very well-reasoned and sometimes cited considerations that don’t particularly bear upon the issue at hand. This earns their comments the shorthand “derailment”. While the other issues you’ve raised are important (and are duly being discussed), you did throw the first punch, and if you think you might have been in error then you owe it to the dialogue to acknowledge that. (Again, sorry if i’ve missed it.)

    My question is whether you now think there was any reason to object to GC’s call.

  17. 'Tis Himself says

    I believe I understand Emil’s complaint. He objects to racism described merely by anecdote. He wants a sociological study to determine something or other he doesn’t really define except as being “more productive” and he wants it NOW!

  18. F says

    And apparently from people who are more likely to be able to give anecdotes than to all initiate each a study on racism. Or is it that both can’t be done at the same time? Never mind that each anecdote is a collection of data points such as are used in studies.

    Having said that, I do understand that there was maybe more miscommunication than “hyperskepticism” underlying this issue, given Emil’s somewhat clarifying responses nested upthread.

  19. Dave says

    Thanks for making this post, even if it pissed you off. I recently made you my home page. You see, as a lily white boy who grew up in central BC, I am deeply ignorant and have only in the last few months come to realize I am privilaged. I a trying to figure it out because I have married a black African woman and have a lovely little girl who is going to face issues of race and gender that I am only now realizing exist.

    I know the US has problems, but what about my beloved Canada, where my daughter will probably move for university? How big is the problem? I don’t know, so I figured I would read your blog for a while. You are the best source I know of for atheist views on race in Canada and I figure you have dealt with much of what my daughter will have to deal with.

    So again, thanks for this post, I need it. And, though Emil pisses you off, the question of “how big is the problem,” is exactly what I was asking. Do I want to send my daughter into a massive social disaster or do I need to arm her for occasional stupid people? Do we look at our other options of where to live or do we look at the Great White North, lumps and all?

    In the spirit of South Park, “There are no stupid questions, just stupid people,” this ignorant person thanks you for dealing with the question.

  20. says

    I’m glad you get something out of it. As far as your daughter goes, there aren’t too many safer places to live, as far as I know. Living in most of the major cities, there’s the occasional annoyance but on a person-by-person basis it’s usually fairly mild (again, as far as I can tell). It’s getting better all the time.

  21. RowanVT says

    I am so grateful for this blog, and this network, in getting me to recognise and thus begin to check my own privilege. It’s amasing to me just how pervasive racism is in this culture, and how much it’s wedged itself in my psyche, despite having been raised that “people are people”. The downside to that way of teaching is that for a long time, and still today, I don’t *see* all of the racism that is happening and any attitudes that I might be expressing.

    A real moment of “holy crap, it really is everywhere” came when I was wording a reply to a topic in my head. I don’t remember exactly what it was about anymore; something about how what society sees as good at that particular time IS good at that particular time. I was about to bring up slavery, and the sentence that popped into my head was “Well, people back then thought it was good…” And I stopped the thought and had a long moment to be in shock of just how monumentally racist that phrasing was. Something that I might not have noticed a couple years ago.

    So thank you. I can’t believe you have to answer the question either.

  22. reneerp says

    I posted this over on Greta’s blog, so I may as well put it here too. There’s very little evidence that facts change people’s minds. This MIT study was done in 2010 and I can’t find anything but the Boston Globe’s story. An important quote:

    Studies by other researchers have observed similar phenomena when addressing education, health care reform, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, and other issues that tend to attract strong partisan opinion. Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.”

    So that someone who believes that racism doesn’t exist or isn’t a huge problem are not going to be much affected by scientific studies. The place where they can change (if they do) is by changing their perspectives and experiences. People could be persuaded to new opinions via facts only if it was through an interactive contact with an expert, not via something read.

  23. says

    You know what’s interesting? I was just at this conference, called “Justice Works NY”, a conference for progressive activists and politicians in NY State, and there were two keynote speakers who really impressed me: Tim Wise, known for being that white guy who talks about racism, and Deepak Bhargava, one of the key players behind the DREAM act.

    Tim Wise made the point that progressives are known for having facts, statistics, and evidence on our side. But facts and statistics do not convince. Putting a human face on the numbers is what changes opinion. He noted that personal stories–aka anecdotes–about the encounters of people of color with racist law enforcement, employment, and academic systems are common, and called on white people to start sharing their personal anecdotes of same.

    Deepak Bhargava was introduced by a young woman who is the Valedictorian of her high school class, and an undocumented immigrant from Colombia whose mother is working three jobs so she can go to college–which is necessary because she’s ineligible for financial aid. He said that the tide really started to change when individual students like the young woman who introduced him started “coming out of the closet”–he used that phrase–and sharing their personal experiences with the country. (I’m sad that I can’t remember the young woman’s name.)

    Compare and contrast this advice to Emil’s pointless hostility to anecdotes.

    Forgive me, Emil, but it appears from over here–on the racial justice activism side–that you are actively working to undermine the cause.

  24. Pen says

    I think there really does seem to be a problem of white people being unable to gauge the size of the racism problem and being unable to do so from their own experiences. Personally, xenophobia has been a huge factor in my life, racism less so, but my experiences with xenophobia allow me to take people’s word for the existence of racism pretty easily. Sometimes though, we need a high standard of proof, for example when planning to apply consequences for racist acts. Here’s one that’s preoccupying me lately:

    Probably you know that hate speech, including race-related, is illegal in the UK. I support this law, because I think hate speech does actual harm. To me it’s like smoking – it harms other people, you make it illegal. Problem is, I can’t prove hate speech does real harm yet, in the scientific way passive smoking was proved to be harmful. And if I can’t prove it where do I get off supporting the criminalisation of other people for their speech? If I can prove it, how much harm does it do? To the victim alone, or to society? Shouldn’t the amount of harm be a factor in deciding the penalty?

    I need a tool here with which to make a decision that’s not just social but political and I would tend to agree that anecdotes on the internet shouldn’t be the basis of it.

    On the other hand, I feel this doesn’t really apply to Greta’s question which was more social and exploratory. The anecdotes give a clue as to what sort of things push people’s buttons. The criticisms of her procedure do as well for that matter.

  25. mynameischeese says

    Thanks for taking the time to post this. Just bookmarked it. Next time I have to google-fu an asshole, this list is going to make it so much easier.

  26. Dianne says

    Might I suggest another category: Health consequences of racism? I could get you some references to play with if you want, though a fair number of them would be US based rather than Canadian based.

  27. smhll says

    I posted this over on Greta’s blog, so I may as well put it here too. There’s very little evidence that facts change people’s minds.

    I vaguely remember reading one of Howard Gardner’s books on multiple intelligences and he talks about research that shows that physics professors find it very hard to overcome people’s ingrained ideas about physics. Their minds are already convinced of something and it sticks. And this is not just a few people with unshakeable misconceptions, it is the preponderance of people being formally educated by highly knowledgeable instructors.

  28. Apxeo says

    Jason Antrosio at Living Anthropologically had a great example from Tim Wise (whom SallyStrange mentioned above) on the sheer obliviousness of white privilege.

    In 1963, roughly two-thirds of whites told Gallup pollsters that blacks were treated equally in white communities. Even more along the lines of delusion, in 1962, nearly 90 percent of whites said black children were treated equally in terms of educational opportunity. All of which is to say that in August 1963, as 200,000 people marched on Washington, and as they stood there in the sweltering heat, listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, most whites seeing the news that evening were, in effect, thinking to themselves, what’s the problem, exactly? Dream? Why dream? Everything is just fine now. Isn’t it? (2009:33)

  29. reneerp says

    I saw a great video with Gardiner where he discusses this. He said (loosely paraphrased) that what you learn about the world before age five is frozen into your worldview, like an engraving in metal, then your formal education is like paint or a dust like covering over that. It’s easy to remove the paint, but hard, hard work to change the etching.

  30. Robert says

    From my perspective, I see a fair degree of the racism endemic in USAian society/media these days. I ascribe this to being married to an African-American man, and the father of two African-American boys. It starts to . . . well, ‘rub off’ isn’t exactly the image I was going for here. But I probably do pay more attention to these issues than the average bear, and the freedom to not pay attention is one of the jewels in the crown of privilege.

  31. says

    Trust me, there’s been plenty of threats and plots. The Secret Service doesn’t release details, but it is known that the Obama presidency is the busiest they’ve ever been.

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