Academics discover tans

I would just like to highlight the absolute insanity of this abstract from Shades of Privilege: The Relationship Between Skin Color and Political Attitudes Among White Americans, by Yadon and Ostfield:

Shifting racial dynamics in the U.S. have heightened the salience of White racial identity, and a sense that Whites’ social status and resources are no longer secure. At the same time, the growing size of non-White populations has also renewed attention to skin color-based stratification and the potential blurring of racial boundaries. We theorize that Whites with darker skin will be motivated to protect the boundaries of Whiteness due to the loss of status they would face from blurring racial boundaries. Consistent with growing evidence of skin color’s importance for Whites, we demonstrate that darker-skinned Whites—measured via a light-reflectance spectrophotometer—identify more strongly with their White racial identity and are more likely to hold conservative political views on racialized issues than lighter-skinned Whites. Together, these findings offer new insights into the evolving meaning of race and color in American politics.

Bold mine.

This paranoid insanity is from an actual paper published in an academic journal, “Political Behavior“, which you can subscribe to for the totally not a scam price of a hundred dollars a year.

Let’s work through this barely literate dumpster fire:

“Shifting racial dynamics in the U.S. have heightened the salience of White racial identity, and a sense that Whites’ social status and resources are no longer secure.”

How do you heighten the salience of something? To be salient is to stick out (like a cliff). It is already high. A better word would be “importance,” which does not carry the connotation of already being tall.

The comma in this sentence is incorrect; as we learned back in second grade, commas should be used when listing three or more items. Commas should not be used when only listing two items. A comma error buried somewhere deep in a paper is an understandable mistake; a comma error in the very first sentence of the abstract shows that the authors did not master second grade (and neither did, apparently, any of the reviewers from “Political Behavior” who came in contact with this paper).

Even without the mistake, it would remain a mushy sentence. What shifting racial dynamics? What white racial identity? What social status and resources?

“At the same time, the growing size of non-White populations has also renewed attention to skin color-based stratification and the potential blurring of racial boundaries.”

What time? No time frame has been established.

The words “at the same time,” and “also,” are doing the same jobs in the sentence; one or the other should be deleted.

The grammar of this sentence is subtly off: how does a “growing size” (the subject) “renew attention”? A “size,” growing or shrinking, is not an entity that can pay attention to anything. People are paying attention.

I am quite skeptical that Americans are more concerned today about the possibility of blurred racial boundaries than they were back when miscegenation was illegal.

Then we reach this whopper: “We theorize that Whites with darker skin will be motivated to protect the boundaries of Whiteness due to the loss of status they would face from blurring racial boundaries.”

Right-o.

This is the paper that people have been talking about recently because they found that “white” Trump voters have slightly darker skin than “white” non-Trump voters. This is unscientific bullshit because their study design does not test their hypothesis in any way, shape, or form. Merely discovering that Trump voters are darker than non-Trump voters doesn’t tell you why they are Trump voters. Maybe whites with darker skins vote for Trump because they are manual laborers with tans who believe that Trump wants to help manual laborers. In order to test their hypothesis, they’d have to actually set up an experiment that varies some condition, like skin color or rigidity of racial boundaries, and then see how people react. For example, they could take two groups of volunteers and give one group tans while the control subjects stayed pale. The two groups’ attitudes toward other racial groups and racial identities would be tested before and after tanning to see if skin darkening triggered a shift in political attitudes. Of course, this shift could have been triggered by the chemical effects of increased Vitamin D, the warmth of the sun, or similar factors, so you’d want a third group of volunteers whose skin was darkened via makeup.

Alternatively, you could test the blurriness of the racial environment by assigning volunteers to do some tasks with two different groups: a control group in which all of the other members are distinctly white or black, and a group in which most members are varying shades of brown/mixed-race. Subjects’ political attitudes would be tested before and after treatment, to see if those subject to the blurred racial boundary group became more motivated to protect the boundaries of whiteness than those who participated in the distinct racial boundaries group.

Or you the authors could admit that they’re talking out of their asses.

“Consistent with growing evidence of skin color’s importance for Whites, we demonstrate that darker-skinned Whites—measured via a light-reflectance spectrophotometer—identify more strongly with their White racial identity and are more likely to hold conservative political views on racialized issues than lighter-skinned Whites.” 

Growing evidence? Was the Civil War not enough evidence for you?

If skin color is so important for whites, then darker-skinned whites are the losers on the white totem pole. Darker-skinned whites would want skin color to be less important for getting some of that White Privilege, not more. They have found no evidence that “skin color” is motivating these people at all. More likely, whites who call themselves “white” do so because they do not have any concrete tie to an ancestral European country. They are not Irish or English or French or German or Italian because none of their grandparents and few of their great-grandparents hailed from these countries. Their ancestors have lived in the US, by and large, for hundreds of years (my ancestors have been here for 400 years, perhaps more); at this point, their ethnic group is simply “White.” Whites are an ethnic group just as much as any other.

“Together, these findings offer new insights into the evolving meaning of race and color in American politics.”

No, you found out that Trump voters are slightly darker than Hillary voters (which any idiot who has ever seen a Southerner could tell you) and then retconned an insane justification for why slightly brown people are the real racists.

Meanwhile, light skinned, high-status whites like Elizabeth Warren and Shaun King have actively embraced trace (if any) non-white ancestry to claim to be Indian and black. The Kardashians have built a billion dollar cosmetics and media empire; part of their success is due to carefully cultivating via makeup (and probably plastic surgery) their mixed-race appearances. If I were a noticing sort of person, I might notice that the darkish-skinned whites who vote for Trump don’t seem to get much out it, while the Kardashians make serious money appearing racially ambiguous on TV. I might notice Bank of America’s blandly named, billion dollar Commitment to Support Economic Opportunity Initiatives:

Bank of America announced today that it is making a $1 billion, four-year commitment of additional support to help local communities address economic and racial inequality accelerated by a global pandemic. The programs will be focused on assisting people and communities of color that have experienced a greater impact from the health crisis.

I might notice that people these days seem to increase their status by being perceived as not-white, rather than white.

But what does it matter that there’s an insane line in a poorly written abstract from two authors who probably just discovered that Southerners have tans?

  1. It suggests that (at least some) liberals have absolutely no idea what motivates conservatives. It is possible that they have never met a conservative and have only heard of them in scary stories their parents told them at bedtime. They essentially lack “theory of mind” and cannot model conservatives’ inner states.
  2. The people who wrote this are so bad at science that they did not even realize that their experimental design is not an experiment and does not at all test their hypothesis.
  3. Some of the people involved in the publication of this paper may well have realized that the line was insane, but let is pass either because they wanted to smear conservatives or because they thought they themselves might face retribution if they objected to the insanity.
  4. The “journal” which published this paper did not notice that the experiment did not actually test the hypothesis.
  5. Now that it is an “actually published paper” in an “actual academic journal,” it has the appearance of authority. This is the sort of thing that reporters pick up and summarize as “scientists have proven that whites police the boundaries of whiteness to protect their privilege,” and then gets repeated over and over ad nauseam until it becomes common wisdom like the IAT.

One thought on “Academics discover tans

  1. I don’t know, maybe they are on to something. Aren’t most leftists pasty white soyboys? Not too many tan chads among them i’d wager.

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