Newsweek: Moderate Voice: On “Racism without Racists,” “Unconscious Discrimination,” and “Aversive Racists”

Newsweek: Moderate Voice

On “Racism without Racists,” “Unconscious Discrimination,” and “Aversive Racists”

I generally agree with and commend Nicholas Kristof’s very humanitarian and compassionate efforts, viewpoints and articles. But, this morning, with his New York Times column, “Racism Without Racists,” he has really confused me.

Kristof’s column starts as follows:

One of the fallacies this election season is that if Barack Obama is paying an electoral price for his skin tone, it must be because of racists.

On the contrary, the evidence is that Senator Obama is facing what scholars have dubbed “racism without racists.”

Kristof then presents statistical, scientific, and anecdotal data and “evidence” to prove such an oxymoron.

For example,

Most of the lost votes [by Obama] aren’t those of dyed-in-the-wool racists. Such racists account for perhaps 10 percent of the electorate and, polling suggests, are mostly conservatives who would not vote for any Democratic presidential candidate.

Rather, most of the votes that Mr. Obama actually loses belong to well-meaning whites who believe in racial equality and have no objection to electing a black person as president — yet who discriminate unconsciously.


Still, a huge array of research suggests that 50 percent or more of whites have unconscious biases that sometimes lead to racial discrimination. (Blacks have their own unconscious biases, surprisingly often against blacks as well.)

I am no social psychologist, but when Nicholas Kristof claims that there can be “racism without racists,” that there are “well meaning” white people who “discriminate unconsciously,” who have “unconscious biases” against blacks, who are “particularly likely to discriminate against blacks…in ambiguous circumstances,” and that there are “aversive racists, those who don’t think that they’re racist,” I am truly confused. Perhaps I need to take some of Professor Dovidio’s courses.

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