2008 October 01 Wednesday
Reminder Of Who You Aren't Drives Identity

If you remind non-whites that they are non-whites they are more likely to identify with other non-whites of other races.

The researchers tested the power of negational identity in two experiments carried out late last year, just before the first party caucuses and primaries. They found it to have a powerful enough effect to overcome the tendency of two ethnic minorities, Asians and Latinos, to prefer Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, a tendency that emerged in polling during the primary season.

In one session, 19 Asian undergraduates at Northwestern University were randomly selected to write how being Asian had affected their life in the United States, while an equal number were asked to write about how being not Caucasian had affected their life here. After completing this 10-minute exercise, participants were asked to respond to the ostensibly unrelated question of whom they preferred between Obama and Clinton.

Among students who were asked to write about being Asian (the "affirmational condition"), 26% expressed a preference for Obama, 68% preferred Clinton, and one was uncommitted; among subjects who were asked to write about being not Caucasian (the "negational condition") the results were totally reversed -- 63% for Obama, 26% for Clinton, and two uncommitted.

When a similar experiment was carried out among 38 Latino students at UCLA, it yielded similar results. Among students who were asked to write about being Latino, 26% preferred Obama, 58% preferred Clinton, and three were uncommitted; among those who wrote about not being Caucasian, 58% preferred Obama and 37% Clinton while one was uncommitted.

"Highlighting one's negational identity as non-White," the authors conclude, "increased Latino and Asian support for a Black Presidential candidate, even without any coordination of interests (given the minor differences between the two frontrunners' policies). Further, we found that activating a negational racial identity made Latinos' attitudes toward other minority groups more positive, and these attitudes partially drove their shift in voting preferences for Obama."

People like an enemy to contrast themselves with. America's balkanized future will have such enemies. Are you going to be one of the enemies?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 October 01 10:38 PM  Politics Identity

JBS said at October 1, 2008 11:01 PM:

"If you remind non-whites that they are non-whites they are more likely to identify with other non-whites of other races."

I would presume that as we learn more about how genetics affects race/IQ/cognition over the next decade, both white and minority racial awareness will increase rapidly as the nature of these genetic differences are clarified by genomics.

You may remember the NYTimes article discussing the Watson controversy. Part of the article was about how white college students actually started to view themselves as white or some other ethnic group, to the exclusion of other groups, when they took genetic tests to trace their ancestry, despite the fact the professors hoped understanding ancestry would make their students view race as less relevant:


"Race, many sociologists and anthropologists have argued for decades, is a social invention historically used to justify prejudice and persecution. But when Samuel M. Richards gave his students at Pennsylvania State University genetic ancestry tests to establish the imprecision of socially constructed racial categories, he found the exercise reinforced them instead.

One white-skinned student, told she was 9 percent West African, went to a Kwanzaa celebration, for instance, but would not dream of going to an Asian cultural event because her DNA did not match, Dr. Richards said. Preconceived notions of race seemed all the more authentic when quantified by DNA.

Before, it was, Im white because I have white skin and grew up in white culture, Dr. Richards said. Now its, I really know Im white, so white is this big neon sign hanging over my head. Its like, oh, no, come on. That wasnt the point.

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