For the last year and a half, a team of psychology professors has been conducting remarkable experiments on how Americans view Barack Obama through the prism of race.
That’s the first line of an article in the New York Times that links to online tests that you can take to assess your attitudes about race and skin color, particularly in relation to the presidential race between McCain and Obama.
The article goes on to say:
A flood of recent research has shown that most Americans, including Latinos and Asian-Americans, associate the idea of “American” with white skin. One study found that although people realize that Lucy Liu is American and that Kate Winslet is British, their minds automatically process an Asian face as foreign and a white face as American — hence this title in an academic journal: “Is Kate Winslet More American Than Lucy Liu?”
After you read the article, you might want to test yourself here or here.
I took one of the tests on the first link above. The results said that I prefer black people to white people and that I prefer McCain over Obama. I am positive that neither statement about me is true. And the two results are conflicting anyway. So, I’m skeptical about that series of tests, but I plan to try out the rest of them anyway.
The second test is a whole other approach, and I think I’m just not quick enough to connect what I’m seeing with the right key.
Nevertheless, I’m going to go back to both sites and try more of the tests. As the Times article states:
….with race an undercurrent in the national debate, that also makes this a teachable moment. Partly that’s because of new findings both in neurology, using brain scans to understand how we respond to people of different races, and social psychology, examining the gulf between our conscious ideals of equality and our unconscious proclivity to discriminate.
Incidentally, such discrimination is not only racial. We also have unconscious biases against the elderly and against women seeking powerful positions — biases that affect the Republican ticket.
As the article goes on to explain, our attitudes and biases probably are formed by some combination of “nature” and “nurture.” Understanding that can, indeed, make this a very “teachable moment” for a great many Americans.
While I don’t have a bias against McCain’s age or against Obama’s race, I admit that I do have a bias. And it’s in favor of a liberal policy agenda. Whoever has that has my vote.