Wednesday, October 22

Bias & The Election

I make a point of avoiding politics more or less and I make a stronger point of knowing about our personal biases. Project Implicit is one of the great tools for doing that. It simply measures what feeling, positive or negative, you automatically assign to a person or idea. Possible scores are "slight," "moderate," "strong," or "no preference". What's remarkable is that it completely bypasses what you actually think about the issue. I.e, you might think you're not racist at all but it reveals accurately your subconscious. I recommend this to anyone with ten minutes to spare. It just might change your life.

They recently added a test to score feelings about Obama and McCain combined with race which I took. I scored "no preference" for black and white preference and a slight preference for Obama. I'm surprised by both results. Several years ago I took a test exclusively for race and scored "moderate preference" for whites over blacks so I'm surprised to have changed so far in so little time. I'm sure it was accurate the first time because I took it two or three times trying to get a improve my score and failing and other people have the same experiences. I'm chaulking my improvement up to several things:
  1. Consciously trying to associate blacks with positivity
  2. Searching and realizing that they images I'm surrounded with are anti-black and pro-white without justification
  3. Living in Chicago versus Greenville
  4. Working at a job with more blacks than whites
  5. Supporting a candidate who is black and partly doing so because he's black
Having taken the race test earlier and done a lot of soul searching regarding it, I'm aware that I am racist against blacks. Or perhaps, now, that I was racist, though I'm reluctant to congratulate myself just yet. For every person you know you form an opinion of them with various dimensions always including a general positive-negative dimension. Don't take this too literally; it's not really so bizarre but I can't think of a more realistic way to phrase the idea. I supposed that subconsciously my bias was bringing every black person I knew down a notch on that dimension and this disturbed me intensely. So I started to consciously and manually move people on that scale up a notch; sometimes this was as blatant as saying to myself, "So and so is probably a little better than I'm give credit for." Jesus would might do this for every person, but I'm going one step at a time.

With most people, this is a brief and tiny process if even conscious but for political candidates up for election every moment with them is constantly re-evaluating my opinion of them. For Obama, I might have twenty reasons to like him and race is one. Well, technically two because I think being non-white is a tangible asset to the office in regards to foreign opinion and the hope to every colored citizen that the Oval Office is not a glass ceiling. I do this, in fact, for McCain too because I'm fairly sure, though with no test, that I harbor a bias against Republicans because of the people I'm around. In fact, he gets two points because it's likely a much stronger bias than race.

I was a little surprised to have only a slight preference toward Obama and not a moderate preference. I simply cannot vote for McCain in good conscience and that, to me, says more than a slight preference.

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