How Obama could be bad for racial equality (BPS Research Digest):
Daniel Effron and colleagues presented dozens of predominantly White undergrad students with one of two scenarios that would reveal their favouritism towards White people: one was a hiring decision, the other related to the allocation of funds to communities. Crucially, the students were asked to make their choices about the hiring or funding either before or after they had declared whether they planned to vote for Barack Obama, in what was then the upcoming Presidential election.
Students who declared their intention to vote for Obama before making the hiring/funding decisions subsequently showed more favouritism towards White people than did students who made their decisions first. A third study showed this effect was particularly apparent among more racially prejudiced students.
“Our findings raise the possibility that the opportunity to vote for an African-American for President could have reduced some voters’ concerns about appearing prejudiced, thereby ironically increasing the likelihood that they would favour Whites in subsequent decisions,” the researchers said.
This has interesting implications for white antiracists. Not only do white antiracists’ behaviour often contradict their words, but their self-identity as an antiracist may allow them to engage in more racist acts than they would have if they did not have an antiracist identity. They may think that their antiracist contributions eliminate the possibility that they could perform racist acts, for example.
Ryan Sager frames the study with respect to the idea of moral self-regulation:
This is a concept where people who are satisfied that they are “good,” will act bad. People primed to think positive thoughts about themselves will give less to charity; perhaps those pleased with their “green” Earth Day activities won’t feel bad about polluting a couple days later.
As I said before, basically, we’re constantly calculating the trade-off between being able to see ourselves as good people and the cost of engaging in all that non-advantageous goodness.
And, so, here’s a new permutation of this idea: A couple new studies suggests that white people who voted for Barack Obama may be so satisfied with their anti-racist credentials that they… act more racist.
It may sound a little odd, but with the idea of moral self-regulation in mind it makes perfect sense. If you think you’re essentially doing a black person a favor by not discriminating against them, then a white Obama voter may think he or she has done quite enough for black people already in the last year.
Of course, I’m not saying this is admirable. But it certainly fits the theory. And the people making this calculation are almost certainly unaware that they’re doing so.
Props to Chris Diaz.