OK, Let’s Talk Race

Sunday’s Post:

Once again, in the midst of the cacophony, calls abound for a national “dialogue” on race. Yet our nation cannot muster the patience or stamina to sustain such a discussion beyond a single news cycle. … At the barest suggestion of race, we line up at opposite corners and start hurling accusations. …

Racial inequality is perpetuated less by individuals than by structural racism and implicit bias. Evidence of structural inequality is everywhere: in the grossly disproportionate numbers of young black men and women in prison; in the color of students shunted into remedial and special education tracks. … It is evident, too, in the history of blatant discrimination against black farmers practiced by the Agricultural Department.

But that does not make doctors, nurses, police officers, judges, teachers, lawyers, city planners, admission officers or others prejudiced. Most are well-intentioned professionals who believe themselves to be free of racial bias. … Implicit bias is a reality we must confront far more openly. A growing mass of compelling research reveals the unconscious racial stereotypes many of us harbor that affect our decisions. … White and black test-takers match black faces more quickly than white ones with words representing violent concepts. … The more stereotypically black the features of a criminal defendant, the harsher the sentence he or she is likely to receive. Implicit bias has been shown to factor into hiring decisions and into the quality of health care that individuals receive. …

The good news is that structures can be dismantled and replaced and unconscious biases can be transformed. … First, though, they must be acknowledged. … Our nation has to stop denying the complexity of our racial attitudes, history and progress. Let’s tone down the rhetoric on all sides.

Many folks reasonably suspect invitations to discuss race are traps – it seems hard to say much on race without being accused of racism, racial insensitivity, etc. But let me cautiously weigh in anyway.

Yes, we have unconscious expectations about others, yes those depend in part on race, and yes those expectations are a mixture of info and error.  Some unconscious race-based expectations are a reasonable summary of actual common differences between races, while others are mistaken, with expectations that are too favorable or unfavorable for particular races.

I see two basic approaches to reducing racial expectation errors:

  1. Rely on, and perhaps improve, local incentives for individual decision makers to identify and correct their own errors, and to select themselves into decision places well matched to their abilities to avoid such errors.
  2. Have a broad conversation on the rough sorts of racial errors we expect to be common, then authorize officials to use discretion to pick regulations to reduce such errors at an acceptable cost, relative to other considerations.

One big problem with the regulation approach is that giving regulators discretion can make things worse, as well as better. Two examples above, of racial errors by sentencing judges and by the Ag Dept, seem examples where regulator discretion went quite wrong. Since medicine is heavily regulated to preserve doctor discretion, racial treatment errors by doctors has a similar cause.

Unfortunately, judges, ag dept officials, and regulated doctors have only weak incentives to overcome their racial biases. Sure they might fear that a broad conversation will arise and create a consensus among voters both that such folks had been racially biased, and that they should be punished strongly for it. But really, how likely is that?

In contrast, employers choosing who to hire can have much stronger incentives. If a labor market isn’t too heavily mis-regulated, any employer could profit substantially by preferring to hire folks that other employers unfairly neglect. If ordinary hiring specialists are too busy or distracted to notice such opportunities, hiring consultants can specialize in charging to identify such opportunities.

Yes, such incentives don’t prevent all employer racial bias, and yes thoughtful hard-working well-meaning regulators (including politicians and civil servants) can and have developed labor regulations that could reduce such bias. The problem is, when you empower regulators to fix such problems, you empower many other kinds of regulators as well, also including lazy stupid racially-biased ones. And you give all these regulators only weak incentives to overcome their biases.

For problems about which many people feel strongly, it is indeed a feels-right forager way to seek a communal conversation to identify new communally-enforced social norms to solve the problem. In large modern societies, however, this urge to solve problems by national conversations and laws seems largely dysfunctional.

Much better, when possible, is to rely on local incentives.  For example, if employer incentives to overcome racial biases seem currently too weak, let’s up the ante by enabling corporate raiders, proxy access, etc.  Forms of futarchy can give participants strong incentives to overcome racial biases regarding policy recommendations.  There is plenty we can do, if people really want to overcome racial biases.

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  • http://cephalicfurrow.wordpress.com PeterW

    Of course all this is assuming that the “corrections” for bias wouldn’t end up being suboptimal, by inducing people to stand up so straight that they lean backwards.

    • Jake

      Great point. More generally speaking, it is not at all clear to me that many or most people are capable of recognizing, acknowledging, and accurately correcting their racial bias, regardless of what the incentives look like. Many people still flat refuse to accept that they could have an implicit racial bias are therefore not going to make any effort to “correct” it; and even for those of us who do accept it, there’s simply no easy way to tell whether and to what extent an individual judgment or decision may have been biased.

      I don’t think that incentivizing unbiased decisions at the individual level is necessarily a bad idea, but I do think it’s going to take more than that to begin to overcome this problem. I like Robin’s second suggestion a lot better, although we should focus on developing standard regulations rather than relying on the individual discretion of officials. This would require that policy makers listen more closely to social/behavioral scientists to avoid the pitfalls that Robin pointed out. There is good data on the role of implicit racial bias in legal and medical situations and we ought to use this data to inform policy.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      Jake, interpreting those studies and translating them into concrete correctional policies will involve a lot of discretion about policy details on the part of politicians and regulators – the public will not be in a position to evaluate the quality of those choices, and so will have to trust that such choices are wise.

  • Stuart Armstrong

    There’s also a coordination problem here – if all employers discriminate somewhat against black applicants, then black applicants will remain underqualified compared with other (especially if incentives are factored in).

    In the end, those discriminating employers are correct; black applicants really aren’t as good as others. If this is to be fixed, it will probably require employers knowingly employing slightly sub-optimal workers for a period.

    Tim Harford touched upon this in one of his books, along with some studies about how steryotypes can reinforce themselves, even in meningless lab situations, until they are true (“rational racism”); I can’t find the reference right now.

    • Chris

      Black applicants won’t be underqualified at the entry level, so my company gets cheaper entry-level employees.

      5 years down the road, my company has a pool of cheaper than average mid-level employees, and nearly 100% employee retention (since no one else will poach my black employees).

      • Tyrrell McAllister

        Black applicants won’t be underqualified at the entry level, so my company gets cheaper entry-level employees.

        If people are prepared for entry-level work by school, and some group gets inferior schooling, members of that group would be disproportionately underqualified even at the entry level.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        I think our schools could be improved, but see little evidence that the people in charge have the incentive to improve them. The D.C voucher program (mostly serving poor & minorities) was apparently successful, but still shut down. And as for whether entry-level preparedness is due to school, I think it varies a lot by industry. We still see divergent outcomes for kids given similar schooling.

      • Stuart Armstrong

        They would be underqualified, because there would be less incentive to study, because they would get turned down more (and it would be rational to turn them down, because they would perform worse, because they have less incentive to study, hence it would be rational to turn them down, etc…)

        Now I don’t know how stable ‘rational racism’ is, but it’s not trivial to undermine, as long as signalling remains noisy.

      • J

        “since no one else will poach my black employees”

        The trouble with this view is that in reality, once your black employees have proven themselves, other companies will go to great lengths to poach them. The “racism” employers engage in is based on fear of hiring an incompetent employee who who will be abnormally costly if not impossible to get rid of.

      • anon

        The trouble with this view is that in reality, once your black employees have proven themselves, other companies will go to great lengths to poach them.

        So then why don’t black applicants pay for internships so that they can prove themselves as reliable and productive? If “proving oneself” is a viable signal, this is the obvious solution.

      • GS

        anon – why doesn’t everyone who wants/needs a job (ie money) spend time working for nothing? (if you’re paying for an internship, I’m assuming you’re not getting paid…) I don’t see how that’s an obvious “solution.”

  • anon

    Stuart, any instance of statistical discrimination creates coordination problems, but the problems are within the stereotyped group. A black worker who improves his productivity by investing in education makes all other black workers better off by lessening the existing stereotypes about black applicants, but he does not internalize this benefit. Conversely, unproductive black applicants make _him_ worse off since they make his group look bad, but again, this damage is not internalized by the unproductive workers.

    • http://danieltarmac.blogspot.com Henry

      Perhaps we should replace racial preferences in college admissions with racial subsidies? Especially as the former can accentuate stereotypes (black job applicants may be seen as worse ceteris paribus due to potentially having benefited from affirmative action).

  • Constant

    Evidence of structural inequality is everywhere: in the grossly disproportionate numbers of young black men and women in prison; in the color of students shunted into remedial and special education tracks. …

    Disproportionate numbers, by themselves, are weak evidence of discrimination. It is easy to find counterexamples which no one disputes. For example, prison numbers are not equal between men and women, and extreme racial disproportions in pro sports sometimes favor nonwhites. Few would argue that since there are far more men than women in jail, then this by itself is strong evidence of anti-male discrimination.

  • Chris T

    There’s an unjustified leap of logic made in this piece that’s fairly common amongst those calling for a ‘conversation about race’:

    inequality, therefore, racism

    There is no a priori reason to assume this and those who do make any real ‘conversation about race’ impossible as they’ve already preordained the outcome.

    • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

      That was more-or-less my reaction on reading the post. Followed rapidly by: what is Robin doing, peddling this sort of thing? The post starts well – by distinguishing between errors and accurate assessments. Part of the problem is that the term “bias” it overloaded. It could be used for any preference – or for mistaken ones. Robin talks as though he is trying to get rid of the errors – but they are only one part of the problem. Regulations typically oppose all race-based discrimination – not just discrimination based on inaccurate stereotypes.

  • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

    What a pile of disgusting hypocritical political correctness. Is the makeup of sports teams proof of widespread anti white bias?

    The reason that blacks have problems is that for the most part they are stupid, truculent, violent, and have short time preference. Just as women fail in science and maths because they lack logic, blacks fail in a complex economy because they lack future orientation.

    Genetically, the similarity between a black’s genes and a chimpanzee’s genes is greater than the similarity between a european’s genes and chimpanzee’s genes (see “The Root of the Phylogenetic Tree
    of Human Populations”), reflecting the fact that the ancestral environment of today’s blacks was pretty similar to that of a chimpanzee – running naked through the jungle looking for food, whereas europeans in their ancestral environment, facing severe winter, had to make clothes and shelter, which required intelligence, cooperation, and future orientation. Thus blacks evolved less than Europeans from the common ancestor of chimp and man.

    • Linda Gottfredson’s Apprentice

      Well, it is clear that you think you have big balls.

      Would you care to back up the assertion that blacks are genetically closer to chimps.

      AFAIK sub-Saharan Africans and Eurasians are pretty much equidistant from chimps, since both Homo and Chimps are likely derived from a common ancestor. However, it seems that recent evidence suggests that sub-Saharan Africans and Eurasians are both derived and have been subjected to different selection pressures, which might account for lower future time preferences of a certain group and the higher level of genes that predispose individuals to violence and so forth.

      • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

        Would you care to back up the assertion that blacks are genetically closer to chimps.

        I gave the citation in the original post. Look it up.

      • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

        The “Alu Insertion Frequency Data” figures from the paper show an astonishing spread:

        Genetic distance from chimpanzee: Nigerian: 18.0, N.European:36.7, Alaskan:47.9, Chinese:50.4, S.Amerindian:61.9.

        http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/13/1/170.pdf

      • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

        Those number spreads are so comically politically incorrect (Nigerian 18.0, N.European 36.7, S.Amerindian, 61.9 (Chimp = 0?)) that I had to show a Nigerian friend with a sense of humor sufficient to appreciate it. Of course almost all people are much better at abstract strategic thought than are chimps, yet there are many Nigerians smarter than 99% of people from any racial group. And I suspect the median N. European is smarter than either the median S.Amerindian or the median Nigerian.

        But the appearance of the numbers (what would be the word for that?) amount to comic caricature of the same effect a lot of people are reaching for when they select, frame and communicate these type numbers.

        One thing I find really interesting is the micro-to-macro bridge for race and other identity-shapers. We have to believe these things for them to have emotional and agency power over us a lot of times, which reminds me of Voodoo.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      It seems to me overwhelmingly obvious that along a huge range of important and visible dimensions all humans are more similar to each other than any large group of them are to chimpanzees. Any statistic you’ve found which says otherwise must therefore be severely flawed as a measure of similarity.

      Added: Ah, I misread the claim. Never mind.

      • Constant

        You don’t seem to have contradicted anything James said. What are you addressing here?

      • Emile

        Constant: he’s saying that either the study is wrong, or James is interpreting it the wrong way (right Robin?).

        I’m tending towards that opinion too, but I’d be interested in an explanation of the paper and it’s research context (how does it fit with the rest of the data?) from an actual biologist.

      • Emile

        The best I could find was this blog post, that contains a summary that doesn’t highlight any of the controversial stuff James mentions.

      • http://timtyler.org Tim Tyler

        This all seems to be a misreading. The paper wasn’t cited as showing some humans are genetically closer to chimps than they are to other humans in the first place.

        The paper does, in fact, list one metric by which that is true – but there are lots of other statistics in the paper that tell a different story overall. Nobody is claiming that the extreme metric is a particularly representative one.

      • Constant

        Emile, no kidding. I’m asking for clarification about Robin’s specific criticism. I understand that Robin was criticizing, rather than agreeing with, James. I mean, come on.

  • Fructose

    I agree that strengthening local incentives for race-neutrality is a good idea. Of course, the problem is political–officials have little reason to pursue this course. More can be gained by engaging in one form of racial demagoguery or other.

    Presently, in the United States, there is large-scale, legally mandated discrimination in favor of the various racial minorities in hiring. Complaining about this status-quo is status reducing for whites (it implies that the complainer can’t manage the same degree of self-handicapping as white supporters of this discrimination).

    So the present situation seems unfair, but also quite stable.

  • Tyrrell McAllister

    Genetically, the similarity between a black’s genes and a chimpanzee’s genes is greater than the similarity between a european’s genes and chimpanzee’s genes (see “The Root of the Phylogenetic Tree
    of Human Populations”)

    Can you quote the part of your cited paper that corroborates your claim? What the abstract says is “These results indicate that Africans are the first group of people that split from the rest of the human populations.”

    In other words, the last common ancestor of all humans came before the last common ancestor of all non-Africans. That is completely different from saying that Africans are genetically more similar to the last common ancestor of all humans.

    Suppose that my grandparents lived in Africa and had two daughters. One daughter moved to Europe and gave birth to my sister and me. The other daughter stayed in Africa and had her own daughter. Then it’s true that the African granddaughter’s branch split from the European branch of our family before my sister’s and my branches split from each other. That is the situation analogous to the result in your cite.

    But all three of the grandchildren in my story are equally related to our grandparents. It would be completely different to claim that the African granddaughter is genetically more similar to our grandparents, which is the analog of the claim that you’re making. That is why your cite provides no evidence for your claim.

    • Constant

      The conclusions about branching are based on genetic distances. These are discussed in the paper.

    • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

      Can you quote the part of your cited paper that corroborates your claim?

      Table 4 and figure 5 of “The Root of the Phylogenetic Tree of Human Populations” by Masatoshi Nei and Naoko Takezaki

      In our present ignorance of how to interpret genes, the genetic differences prove nothing about inequality. But that significant genetic differences exist does mean that explanations for unequal outcomes other than “institutional racism” are plausible and need to be addressed.

      Since we have no idea of the significance of these genes, this likeness does not in itself imply that blacks tend to be stupid, truculent, and have short time preference. It might merely indicate that other groups have been subject to cool weather selection, while blacks and chimps have not, or perhaps merely indicate something about tropical diseases.

      But that genetic differences are real and substantial does mean that we have no reason to ascribe unequal outcomes to “institutional racism”, does mean that the natural explanation for unequal outcomes is innate racial inequality.

    • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

      But all three of the grandchildren in my story are equally related to our grandparents.

      This shows that sub Saharan Africans have been evolving for the same amount of time as other races – but it is unlikely that they have been evolving at the same rate.

      Peoples that moved into an environment that had more severe winters could adapt by developing clothing and improved shelter, which requires intelligence and future orientation, or they could adapt by developing remarkable cold tolerance as the Tierra del Fuegans did. In both cases we would expect those who moved to a different environment to have diverged further from their ancestors than those who remained in the same environment – but to have diverged in different directions. We would expect the natives of Tierra del Feugo to have genes that differ from those of a chimpanzee not only more than negroes, but more than europeans, but to have considerably less intelligence and future orientation than europeans.

      • Tyrrell McAllister

        Table 4 and figure 5 of “The Root of the Phylogenetic Tree of Human Populations” by Masatoshi Nei and Naoko Takezaki

        There are four tables in the paper that show genetic distance based on different data sets. You chose the one where the difference between the African-Chimp distance (18.0) and the European-Chimp distance (36.7) was an order of magnitude larger than in the others. In the three other tables, this difference was much smaller. Furthermore, in one of those three tables, the African-Chimp distance is more than the European-Chimp distance.

        For reference, here are the distances measured in each of the four tables. In each row, I give first the European-Chimp distance and then the African-Chimp distance.

        Table 1: 61.3 (Northern European), 62.1 (Bantu)

        Table 2: 43.9 (European), 41.2 (Pygmy (CAR))

        Table 3: 58.6 (European), 56.8 (African)

        Table 4: 36.7 (N. European), 18.0 (Nigerian)

        Note that, in Table 1, the African population is further from the Chimps on this measure.

        Finally, it’s not clear at all that the distance-measure used by the authors matches actual genetic similarity. The authors say that their distance measure (denoted D_A) is designed to “correct” for things that affect actual genetic similarity, like changing population size.

        The measure D_A is optimized for finding the phylogenetic tree. That is, it is designed to find the history of the lineages, not how much the lineages differ now from their common ancestor in absolute terms. This means that you are “correcting away” some of the distances between populations. Moreover, you are applying different “corrections” to different populations. This means that the order of the pair-wise distances under D_A is likely different from the order of these distances in absolute terms. After all, if the order weren’t different, the authors would probably not have needed to use a distance measure optimized for finding phylogenetic trees. They probably could have looked at absolute distances directly.

      • Tyrrell McAllister

        Sorry for failing to close the italics tag there.

      • Linda Gottfredson’s Apprentice
        But all three of the grandchildren in my story are equally related to our grandparents.

        This shows that sub Saharan Africans have been evolving for the same amount of time as other races – but it is unlikely that they have been evolving at the same rate.

        This displays an interesting view of the results of selection pressure, since it seems to assume that an environment that is regarded as benign by the writer would not create just as much selection pressure as an environment regarded as not so benign.

        While it seems true that sS Africans have evolved in an environment were females can provision their offspring pretty much through their own efforts, you ignore things like the natural pathogen load that was present that was no where near as sever in these so-called not-so-benign environments. You also seem to fail to understand that the selection pressures would be just as severe in each environment, just in different areas.

        Of course, being selected for an environment high in pathogen loads and where there has been little in the way of complex civilization does not help you when you come upon humans who are selected for high future time orientation and thousands of years of exposure to complex civilization.

      • Constant

        This displays an interesting view of the results of selection pressure, since it seems to assume that an environment that is regarded as benign by the writer would not create just as much selection pressure as an environment regarded as not so benign

        Not necessarily and in this case probably not so. Suppose that two environments A and B exert exactly equal amounts of selection pressure, but in different directions. Suppose that species X, which evolved in A over millions of years, divides into two initially identical subpopulations Xa and Xb which live in A and B respectively. It is likely that Xb will evolve more rapidly than Xa.

        For example, let A be the ocean and B be land. After a while, land-dwelling cousins are likely to be much less similar to the common ancestor than sea-dwelling cousins. For a specific example, the sea-dwelling last common ancestor of parakeets and tuna is likely to be much more similar to the tuna. We can reverse sea and land: the land-dwelling last common ancestor of gerbil and dolphin is likely to be more similar to the gerbil. 

    • Matt

      My understanding is that what you are saying is not wrong, but – basically any kind of (functional) random taking of a subset of a set will make it less similar to a common ancestor set relative to another set that hasn’t undergone that process, cetaris paribus (and by extension, less similar to other sets spun off the common ancestor set). And Humans appear to have undergone sch when leaving Africa.

      (Whether there was a bottleneck in the Out-of-Africa populations or stronger population structure in the pre-exodus African populations that gave rise to Eurasians.)

      Now, this is all very true for neutral stuff but much less true (not very true at all) for things selection sees and where subsequent gene flow to a variant being removed/taken to low frequency will be corrected.

    • Matt

      My understanding is that what you are saying is not wrong, but – basically any kind of (functional) random taking of a subset of a set will make it less similar to a common ancestor set relative to another set that hasn’t undergone that process, ceteris paribus (and by extension, less similar to other sets spun off the common ancestor set). And Humans appear to have undergone sch when leaving Africa.

      (Whether there was a bottleneck in the Out-of-Africa populations or stronger population structure in the pre-exodus African populations that gave rise to Eurasians.)

      Now, this is all very true for neutral stuff but much less true (not very true at all) for things selection sees and where subsequent gene flow to a variant being removed/taken to low frequency will be corrected.

  • curmuj

    No dialogue is possible unless those hurling accusations of unconscious bias are willing to consider the real possibility that in a race-neutral world black outcomes would be even more unbalanced (in terms of incarceration, crime, education, professional accomplishment, etc.) relative to whites or asians than they are today. If we start from the presumption that the imbalance represents the fruits of unjust prejudice then no fair dialogue is possible.

    Then it’s not dialogue, it’s just race-baiting and show trials.

    • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

      This seems to me to be a nontransparency pact, its own sort of prisoner’s dilemma.

      Maybe blacks as a population are in a heritably genetic way less intelligent and there is also discriminatory coordination against blacks.

      These are all empirical questions but I don’t think Prof. Hanson sets the tone here to go deep into understanding reality (Razib gets the closest I’ve seen, and even he doesn’t get that close IMO, maybe he does on the genetic side, though -on the social side all observers seem fairly bad faith to me).

      • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

        Maybe blacks as a population are in a heritably genetic way less intelligent and there is also discriminatory coordination against blacks.

        Coordination tends to be visible. Even conspiracies that are piously denied by the participants have to have centralized authority if they are large conspiracies with large effects, and this centralized authority invariably sticks out like dogs balls. Big conspiracies exist, but big competently run secret conspiracies do not exist. The last visible instance of centralized authority sticking it to blacks was baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, whose authority ultimately derived from the federal government – he made himself baseball Commissioner as settlement of federal case against the team owners.

        In the 1950s, laws were passed commanding equal opportunity, not equal outcomes, and big bureaucracy created to find instances of unequal opportunity and punish them. Every single prosecution of this bureaucracy was based on evidence of unequal outcomes, not unequal opportunity. Although many loud claims were made of unequal opportunity, no evidence of unequal opportunity was ever presented in court and subjected to cross examination, except evidence relating to times decades previous when unequal opportunity was enforced by Jim Crow.laws.

        From this absence of evidence, despite vigorous search for evidence, and frequent loud announcements that such evidence had been discovered, we should conclude that in the 1950s, blacks did have equal opportunity, everywhere, all the time.

      • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

        “Big conspiracies exist, but big competently run secret conspiracies do not exist.”

        I feel like you’re being lawyerly here, not scientific. Like you’re representing team whitey, and it’s your job to craft arguments in favor of team whitey, rather than to try to create the best models of our reality.

        Coordination, competition, and signaling between agents and varying scaled levels or organizations and systems, game theoretic solutions, I think this is part of the language of understanding race and other identity populations in the context of social reality.

        If you’re telling me three white guys never disciminated against a black guy post-1950 without an articulated plan -that seems silly. I’m sure that scenario has happened with a variety of trait populations and directions. So how high can these types of coordinations scale up? I have no idea -but I’m interested in what experts and empirical inquiry have to say about this.

        And I find lawyerly approaches annoying

  • http://timtyler.org/ Tim Tyler

    I think techniques that result in racial discrimination in the name of efficiency would be seen as not politically correct. The aim of regulators seems to be not to eliminate errors, but to eliminate discrimination – on the grounds that the victim groups don’t like it.

  • Paul

    why all the fuss over the racial dimension. I try to discriminate along intelligence and beauty. If races somehow correlates then so be it.

  • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ floccina

    Very difficult problem made much more difficult by the fact that even the discriminated against group discriminates against its own. If that were not so minority owned businesses would tend to gain an advantage.

    and black test-takers match black faces more quickly than white ones with words representing violent concepts

    I knew a lawyer who was black and was a good democrat and a civil rights activist but he lamented the end of segregation. He said before integration each black school had a black valedictorian and before integration there was a black Wall Street. Perhaps desegregation was needed for the positive gains that have been made but it may not have been completely without cost.

    • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

      What does that have to do with him? He’s 1 person in a 300 million person country. This is where the micro-macro bridge of social identity gets interesting to me. 1 person caring about thousands of schools across the country and a “identy x wall street”. It’s not unique to race but it’s a part of the general micro-macro bridge, which I think is the most interesting part of all this to study.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      Desegregation is absolutely necessary for racism and bigotry to end. Eventually complete desegregation will completely end racism and bigotry, but it will take generations growing up completely desegregated to do it.

      I have blogged about the physiology behind racism and bigotry.

      http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2010/03/physiology-behind-xenophobia.html

      For two people to communicate, they must exchange mental concepts. To do this, the first person must translate the mental concept into the data-stream of language. The neuroanatomy that is used to do this is what I call a “theory of mind”. The data-stream of language, gestures, facial expressions, body language, tone, eye movement is transmitted, received by the second person and then up-converted back into mental concepts by the second person’s “theory of mind”. Fundamentally the only things that can be communicated are mental concepts, and it requires consilience in the two theories of mind for that communication to happen.

      My hypothesis of what causes xenophobia is that when two people try to communicate, if their two “theories of mind” are not sufficiently consilient, then the error rate goes up. I think that when two people meet, they do in effect a Turing Test, to see if the other person is “close enough” to being “like me” to trust. If the error rate is too high, then no, the person cannot be trusted and xenophobia is triggered via the uncanny valley effect.

      The initial feeling of xenophobia is a feeling and is morally neutral. If two people with non-matching “theories of mind” attempt to communicate, over time they begin to learn more about the other, and they each modify their “theory of mind” unconsciously so that they begin to understand the other. Eventually the feelings of xenophobia go away because the other can be fully understood.

      This is not what bigots and racists do, they avoid the other, and so never learn about the other, never allow their “theory of mind” to recalibrate itself so as to understand the other and so the feelings of xenophobia remain and instead they make up quite nonsensical and false ideas to justify the feelings of antipathy they have for the other. I give a number of examples in my blog. There was a good exampel of that here, pretending that blacks from sub Saharan Africa are more closely related to chimps than Europeans are. That is complete nonsense. There are multiple speciation events between the last common ancestor of chimps and humans.

      Suggesting that sub Saharan Africans are more closely related to chimps than Europeans are is complete nonsense and is a lie made with no information or data that it is correct (because it is factually not correct). Because the justification is incorrect, we know the hatred of blacks cannot be due to the false justification, we know the hatred must have come first and then the lie was made up to justify the hatred.

      This is the problem of racism and bigotry. The bigots feel that the objects of their bigotry are not fully human, and so they must come up with rationalizations to justify their feelings. In the limit, the objects of xenophobia are just that, objects and not humans. As non-human objects they don’t have the properties of “real humans”, “real humans” that are “like me” and so they don’t desserve to be treated like “real humans”.

      The problem of racism is that bigots are unable to perceive the objects of their bigotry as human. The fault lies in the bigot.

  • http://un-thought.blogspot.com/ floccina

    test-takers match black faces more quickly than white ones with words representing violent concepts.

    Anthropologist Peter Frost has documented, that women are 10% lighter on average than their own brothers. Thus, lighter skin registers subconsciously as a slightly feminine trait. Not only that people tend to get darker as they age.

    The people who did the test above should have tested a set of blacks and whites were the whites were darker than the blacks.

    • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

      I like the way you think. Although the lighter=feminine hypothesis makes sense to me, a strong contrasting trend is the masculinization of whites/europeans relative to asians and Spaniards/Europeans relative to Amerindians and mulattos. In other words, it doesn’t map perfectly to how races tend to be masculinized/feminized relative to each other. Creative experiments like the one you suggest would add to our social scientific knowledge.

      My default presumption would be that the smartest subpopulations influence the larger population to find them more attractive, across the gradient of what we’d naturally find more attractive. So to the degree white men are finding darker skinned asian women more attractive than lighter skinned white women, perhaps that’s due to an intelligent attraction game by these asian women at the macrosocial level. All speculative, but I think testable empirically and a helpful lense (coordination game theory) to evaluate social behavior.

  • god

    You know of the racial differences in intelligence. Why not mention that in an article like this?

    Yeah, I know, a good social scientist can accurately predict the future, if he dosent care about losing his job.

  • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

    Yeah, I know, a good social scientist can accurately predict the future, if he dosent care about losing his job.

    Even without coercion, large groups tend towards groupthink. The group tends to be less sane than the individual, tends to lose touch with reality, a problem that tends to set in when the group is seventeen or more. Add coercion to this problem, and the group will be totally bonkers.

  • http://manwhoisthursday.blogspot.com Thursday

    Robin:

    I think you got attacked for this posting because it seems to assume that racial biases do in fact significantly disadvantage certain racial groups, like blacks. That is questionable. It can’t, for example, simply be inferred from unequal results.

    If however you were just throwing out a hypothetical then fair enough.