Thursday, February 17, 2011

UNRECOGNIZED BIGOTRY

"There's an awful lot of gross stereotyping: there are no conservatives because creationists can't be professors; because conservatives are hostile to new ideas; because reflective thinking inevitably turns you into a liberal."

Bart vs Leftists
Generally speaking, as a conservative, I disagree with what the left wants to achieve. When I do agree with their goals, such as to reduce poverty, I tend to disagree with their methods. Like Benjamin Franklin said, "I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it."

However, the left is not always, universally wrong and they've done some very fine things in the past. One major effort the left has been particularly successful in is with racism. Racism has been so successfully shamed and crushed by society that people treat racial slurs worse than they do four letter cursing and even blasphemy. You can say "god dammit" on television but you can't say "chink." They've been so successful that a new version of Tom Sawyer is being written without the racial slurs in it, even though they're shown in a mocking light and were historically accurate.

Megan McArdle wrote recently in Atlantic's online site. In that post she wrote about racism and how bigotry can manifest its self:
One of the things the legacy of racism has taught us is just how good dominant groups are at constructing narratives that justify their dominance. Somehow, the problem is never them. It's always the out group. Maybe the out group has some special characteristic that makes them not want to be admitted to the circle -- blacks are happy-go-lucky and don't want the responsibility of management, women wouldn't deign to sully themselves in commerce, Jews are too interested in money to want to attend Harvard or go into public service. These explanations always oddly ignore the fact that many members of the out-group are complaining about being excluded.

More troubling is that these volitional arguments are almost always combined with denigration: the out group is stupid, greedy, mean, violent, overemotional, corrupt... whatever.
And that tends to be the pattern. The group in power treats its rivals or others outside that group as inferior or unfit for inclusion. Whites treated blacks as childlike creatures with inferior minds. An infamous study out of Harvard in the early 20th century went to great lengths using evolution and phrenology to explain why blacks were genetically inferior, almost childlike creatures. Human, surely, but lesser humans. Margaret Sanger's ideas were popular with academics back then.


What the left has taught us about racism has broader applications than mere ethnic background. For example, the treatment of women in the past has been pretty poor, treating them as childlike and unable to handle many aspects of life. But its where Ms McArdle goes with these thoughts which is more intriguing. She had written a post about how academia tends to be biased against conservatism in response to a study which showed that most academics and particularly scientists voted for Obama in the last election. She noted that people gave their ideas why this was true:
  • Smart people are almost always liberal
  • Curiousity and interest in ideas is a liberal trait
  • Conservatives are too rigid and authoritarian to maintain the open mind required of a professor
  • Education erases false conservative ideas and turns people into liberals
  • Conservatives don't want to be professors because they're more interested in something else (money, the military)
  • Conservatives don't want to be professors because they're anti-intellectual
  • Conservatives hold false beliefs that make them ineligible to be professors
Which, she points out, fits the pattern of racism with the dominant power group presuming the worst of the non power group. It neatly fits within the well-known, often-repeated, and historically established descriptions and studies of bigotry when applied to ethnic backgrounds or gender differences.

It isn't that some of them can't be true some times; there are going to be conservatives who just aren't interested in some of these professions, or have too close minded an approach to life to be a professor. Its that the presumption about all conservatives and no leftists is held with a disregard to individuals, logic, and human nature.

And Ms McArdle is right; academic bias is unavoidable. Anyone who has attended a college or university has felt the full power of presumption, when the profs there assume everyone agrees with their worldview and sometimes even showers contempt on those who disagree with the blind assurance of the zealot. We're all in on this, so I can be open with you all, they seem to say.

A recent study by sociologists supports this position. John Tierney wrote in the New York Times about how a gathering of sociologists contained what one described as a "statistically impossible" number of conservatives compared to leftists and moderates. Out of 1000 people, 3 described themselves as conservatives. Even if the other conservatives felt pressured to stay silent, that supports the bigotry and bias charge.
Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals.

“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”
It is the left's own methods and ideas that condemn them now. They clearly taught us and established how to perceive bias and bigotry, especially in organizations. Now its turning around to bite them.

*This was originally posted on the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

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