Is news of the US's changing racial mix increasing racism?

时间:2019-03-01 10:13:04166网络整理admin

Photographed for New Scientist by Matthew Bowie By Lisa Grossman What is the “majority-minority” concept? There’s this increasingly prevalent media narrative in the US that because of rapidly changing racial demographics, the country will become a so-called majority-minority country. If you combine all members of self-identified racial ethnic groups – Asian Americans, black Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, multi-ethnic individuals and so on – somewhere around 2045 those groups will add up to 50.1 per cent of the population, with white people in the “minority”. I wanted to know how people are responding to this information. What made you interested in this question? When I saw reports of the impending demographic shift plastered all over, I thought, what’s the obsession with this? I couldn’t imagine that this type of information was being responded to merely with, “Oh, isn’t that interesting!” The way it’s framed – you white Americans who are used to being the majority, you’ll be the new minority – is something that could spark a backlash. So I began testing for it. How did you study this? We asked white Americans to read about the changing demographics that point to the so-called majority-minority. Meanwhile, control groups read information about other aspects of demography. Afterwards, the first group tended to express more negative attitudes towards a variety of racial groups: blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans. We found this explicitly – by asking questions like “How much do you like members of these groups?” – and we found it on measures of unconscious racial attitudes too. It’s a robust effect. How might this manifest beyond the lab? When, for instance, a US neighbourhood becomes more racially diverse, there’s evidence of increasing negative attitudes following that shift. And also the opposite: when a neighbourhood becomes less diverse, the white people who remain actually become more racially tolerant. But we think this effect is not unique to white Americans: people, when they anticipate or are concerned about a loss of status – in this case, the status of the racial majority – that’s threatening and it triggers racial animus. Does hearing about the majority-minority change more than racial attitudes? It does. What really got our attention was that when white Americans read about these racial shifts, they were also more likely to endorse politically conservative policies. That was on race-related issues such as affirmative action (aka positive discrimination) and immigration but also on issues that were not race-related, such as drilling for fossil fuel in the Alaska wildlife refuge. Did you test groups besides whites? Yes, and we find the same effect among blacks and Asian Americans. For example, if you give the same type of majority-minority shift information to black Americans – tailored to highlight growth in the Latino population – black Americans also show a shift towards conservatism. We are saying that these effects are not only seen in whites and certainly not because people are racist – it’s something about the threat of losing status. That is psychologically threatening, and a way to cope with that is by becoming more conservative. What does it mean for politics in the future and how is it being used in politics now? We keep hearing in the media that these changing demographics are going to make the Republican party obsolete. Democrat president Barack Obama won really big with blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans. If the proportions of these people in the nation are increasing, the logic goes, then the Democrats are basically going to win all the time and Republicans, you’re screwed. Republicans really bought into this too: many high-ranking Republicans say things like, “We’re becoming a party of old, white men, and that’s a problem.” I think that’s premature. Yes, the Democrats can gain lots of new minority voters, but they could lose white voters. It could get even worse: we may end up with Republicans as the party of white people and Democrats as the party of non-white people. All of this could be due in part to this sense of threat to the status of white Americans. Is Donald Trump using this sense of threat? A poll of Trump supporters in South Carolina had shockingly high numbers supporting religiously and racially intolerant positions, such as banning gay people from the US, in addition to the things that Trump has said himself, such as banning Muslims and building a huge wall across the US-Mexico border and deporting undocumented immigrants. Some of this upwelling of feeling is probably connected to concerns about shifting demographics, perhaps in conjunction with feelings of economic loss. How far does this go? Believe it or not, many white Americans already feel like they’re actually discriminated against more than racial minorities. And when the changing demographics in the US is framed in this majority-minority way, white Americans say: “We’re going to be the minority and that means facing discrimination.” It’s not unreasonable to have that anxiety when the information is framed that way; it’s just not justified, given what is happening in reality. White Americans will still be the biggest group compared to any other, and we know there are still the same racial disparities that there were 50 years ago – in wealth distribution, education, health… in any number of important outcomes. So changing racial demographics belie the stability in the actual advantages and disadvantages across groups. There’s no evidence any of that is going to change. What happens when you tell people that? In several studies we reminded participants that white Americans generally have greater wealth, better jobs and better education and so are still going to be doing really well in the status hierarchy, regardless of changes in the US racial distribution. This reduces white people’s perceived threat about what’s going to happen to them, and then they show no difference in their expression of racial bias or conservatism than participants in the control condition. So what is the best way to proceed? Firstly, we should stop talking about this so-called majority-minority shift in this us-and-them framework. I think a lot of this is unwitting. The people working on census data and talking about shifting demographics, mostly they just find it interesting; they’re data nerds, like me. I don’t necessarily think they were expecting it to activate a sense of white identity in white Americans. As for the media, I can’t comment on the motives of editors and the like. But I think we do need to recognise that fluctuations in the demographics of the US are creating perceived threats. And that’s dangerous in a democracy when the whole point is to have equal opportunities and protections for minorities. If we still want this type of society, then we are going to have to proactively ensure it. It’s not going to be fair just because we say it is. Jennifer Richeson is a professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she researches prejudice, stereotyping and intergroup relations This article appeared in print under the headline “Anxiety in the guise of racism” Leader: “Why we all need to fight the irrational fear of outsiders” More on these topics: