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Us vs Them, again, and always.
June 10, 2014 2:45 PM   Subscribe

When money's tight, humans define 'people like me' as more deserving. [LATimes link, user privacy settings in browser]. 'The recession from which the United States is recovering, unemployment among blacks and Latinos has been deeper and more entrenched; incomes in black and Latino communities have fallen more sharply; and recovery has been slower and far less complete. Labor economists cite a host of structural and institutional reasons for these racial and ethnic disparities - that African Americans, for instance, are more likely to be employed in hard-hit public sector or manufacturing jobs than in business or knowledge-based industries. But new findings from a psychology lab suggest another powerful contributor: in circumstances of scarcity, whites see blacks as blacker and are more likely to identify those of ambiguous or mixed race as black. And given the opportunity to divvy up scarce resources, whites are stingier with those of color than they are to those they identify as white.'

'The stark findings were published' 'in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science'. 'They're in line with a growing body of research that suggests that, even in the best of times, humans default to defining "people like me" as more deserving than people who are "other." And that when resources constrict, that tendency is amplified.

But in the wake of a recession that hit African American and minority workers with particular ferocity, the findings highlight a stubborn but very real fact about the distribution of wealth and hardship in an economy with winners and losers: that an economy's "structural" features are upheld by humans, and that when those humans feel threatened, their unconscious prejudices can make existing inequality even more glaring.'
posted by VikingSword (16 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember that this was the nutshell reason given by my Econ professor (in 2004) on why Europe and East Asia have national health care, but not the United States: it's easier to sell the idea when everyone looks like each other. That is, those countries are more racially/ethnically homogenous.
posted by FJT at 2:55 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


Well, it appears to be Let Us Sup on the Thin Gruel of Despair day on metafilter.

To quote Chris O'Dowd in the I.T. Crowd, "People. What a bunch of bastards."
posted by Diablevert at 2:59 PM on June 10 [9 favorites]


But the hand of the market! It's invisible and free!

...And all it's doing is jerking itself off.
posted by Ouverture at 3:05 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


This is good research because it underlines the innate propensity for tribalism in our species; race is a social construct used to reinforce this propensity. Humans who hold racist views - overt, or unconscious - need to be shown how holding such views hurts *them* - socially, economically, physically, etc. It's what we do with research like this, in terms of deploying enlightened policy, that can make a difference.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:35 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I don't think "Humans are still tribal as all hell when the chips are down" is a really shocking finding, but maybe that's just me.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:36 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


So... everyone with white skin is scum, and everything bad is their fault. Is that it?

That's pretty much exactly the wrong conclusion to draw from this.

What I took away was that people in general -- not just white people in America -- are more inclined to view people who look more like them favorably and, consequently, more willing to see those folks be helped than people who don't look like them.

Also, much of what I've read about unconscious prejudices suggests that they are not some unconquerable facet of a person's psychological makeup, but are in fact eminently defeatable once one is made aware of them and is willing to take steps to counteract them.
posted by lord_wolf at 3:38 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


Aren't African-Americans overrepresented in the public sector because those jobs are a bit more protected from racist hiring practices than comparable private sector jobs, in part because they're more likely to be unionised? I don't think it's a random coincidence.
posted by hoyland at 4:03 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


I remember that this was the nutshell reason given by my Econ professor (in 2004) on why Europe and East Asia have national health care, but not the United States: it's easier to sell the idea when everyone looks like each other. That is, those countries are more racially/ethnically homogenous.

Uh, Canada to the north looks pretty similar to the States.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:04 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


It's fascinating how the LA Times article implicitly states that only white people are human despite being an article about racism research.
posted by srboisvert at 4:10 PM on June 10




Aren't African-Americans overrepresented in the public sector because those jobs are a bit more protected from racist hiring practices than comparable private sector jobs, in part because they're more likely to be unionised? I don't think it's a random coincidence.

I don't think that follows logically. Unions, guilds, and the like historically have looked after their own and relatives of their own before anyone else.

Unless you're positing that unionized public sector hires are more likely to hire black than white, which you may be doing, but which undercuts the racist hiring practice claim. Not sure from your sentence if you think public or private sectors are more likely to be unionized.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:02 PM on June 10


Uh, Canada to the north looks pretty similar to the States.

Was 1960s Canada as diverse as 21st century America?
posted by codswallop at 5:08 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Was 1960s Canada as diverse as 21st century America?

Was 1960s Canada as diverse as 1960s USA would be a more appropritate question. It's not like universal health care for Americans was somehow impossible until just now.
posted by rodlymight at 7:13 PM on June 10


lord_wolf: “Also, much of what I've read about unconscious prejudices suggests that they are not some unconquerable facet of a person's psychological makeup, but are in fact eminently defeatable once one is made aware of them and is willing to take steps to counteract them.”
Indeed. I'm reminded of the 60 Minutes story I link my profile. It reveals that infants discriminate. Five year-olds would rather get less rather than split a reward equally. However, as is shown about 10 minutes into the story, people can use their reason to overcome this. By the time they turn eight or nine, they let the other kid take the lion's share as long as they get the same.

It's worth noting that the Black middle-class was nearly destroyed by The Great Recession because of predatory lending and straight-up racist discrimination.
One former Wells Fargo loan officer testifying in a lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore against the bank says fellow employers routinely referred to subprime loans as “ghetto loans” and black people as “mud people.” He says he was reprimanded for not pushing higher priced loans to black borrowers who qualified for prime or cheaper loans. Another loan officer, Beth Jacobson, says the black community was seen “as fertile ground for subprime mortgages, as working-class blacks were hungry to be a part of the nation’s home-owning mania.”
posted by ob1quixote at 8:53 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


In the USA 'race' (as defined in that country) is one of the key vectors for this tribalism. I think it would be a mistake for Americans to assume that countries which are more 'racially' homogeneous are less tribalist. For example in the UK where I live, class is used as a tribal system, in the way race is in the USA. Of course you can't map them exactly onto each other, and we have race discrimination in the UK, and there is class discrimination in the USA.

I suppose my overall point is that all societies can overcome this us/them tendency. The UK established the NHS despite being a fragmented society full of class hatred. So any country can do it.
posted by communicator at 11:11 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Uh, Canada to the north looks pretty similar to the States.

Perhaps in certain parts like Washington state or the Northeast, but I wouldn't say everywhere. Canada doesn't have a Southwest border, so there's much fewer Hispanics. In addition, Canada had slavery, but nowhere near the scope of the American South, so there is also a lower black population. I think those two factors go in some way to explaining the differences.
posted by FJT at 9:49 AM on June 11


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