home > archive > 2004 > this article
Promoting racial hatred at Northwestern University
By Bernard Chapin
The other day I ran across a newspaper report of a most remarkable and bizarre study wherein the researchers decided to examine the responses of 24 white college students to determine the hidden racial beliefs of white Americans overall. The students were shown ambiguous facial expressions in pictures of both blacks and whites. As a result of their recorded reactions, the researchers (headed by a Professor Bodenhausen) found that the students were more likely to read hostility in the faces of black Americans than in those of their fellow whites. Another experiment of theirs reached a similar conclusion when the subjects, after being confronted with the faces of mixed race individuals, displayed a greater propensity to regard them as black if their appearances happened to be hostile.
On the basis of these experiments, the Chicago Sun-Times happily reported without qualification that,
Such a conclusion based on these flawed experiments is absurd and fallacious.
The real story behind this story is that there is so little actual societal bias and prejudice displayed by white Americans that university researchers felt the need to manufacture it through the subjective concept of implicit response. To them, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it remains a dragon because of the requirements of political correctness and its great sensitivity machine.
Even if racial bias does exist, yet this bias does not translate into harm or negative impact through the behavior it produces, then what is the purpose of this study? If the academics attempted to tally the way in which whites actually treat minorities then my guess is that the research would never be undertaken or published as it would clearly conclude that white Americans are some of the least prejudiced people on this earth.
Yet my above statements are really too kind as the methodology in Bodenhausen's work is so shoddy that accepting even a fraction of his results is wholly unnecessary. Indeed, it is bewildering as to how they could appear in any professional journal, but, for those of us familiar with contemporary academe, it is not all that surprising as the authors' politically correct inferences were undoubtedly savored by many an editor.
I will number off my objections below for the sake of clarity.
1. The most obvious limitation of this study is that its sample size is not representative of anything other than the grouping from which it is derived. There's no statistical test whereby one can extrapolate significance for a population of over a hundred million from the responses of 24 Caucasian adolescents.
Besides, university students are not reflective of the general citizenry, and this is particularly true of students at Northwestern who are unquestionably more affluent than their peers. When the factor of liberal guilt is weighed in, along with the accompanying racism of those Caucasians who hold such views, it is readily evident that Northwestern students would be the very last people from which to make a statements concerning the greater whole. In fact, it would be humorous to have heard the responses of the study participants after they were told of its conclusions. I'm sure Evanston was awash with screams of anguish for many a night!
2. This next point is that no experiment which purports to judge racial relations can have any validity if it only examines the responses and attitudes of one race. This is the most powerful argument against this study. Is it not suspicious that the authors only used whites for their study? Why did the researchers choose to not to include blacks as an experimental group? I'm certain fear of how they might respond was the reason. Had they used members of both races and compared the outcomes then they might have had something meaningful to say about racial bias, but, as it is, the study illuminates nothing. It well could be that blacks would displayed even more signs of bias then whites. Yet, that would have destroyed Bodenhausen's belief that
Not if black responses reveal more stereotyping that those of whites. We'll never know if that would have occurred because this psychologist doesn't want to consider such realities. To even contemplate that blacks might stereotype more than whites is anathema to Bodenhausen, but it is evident that focusing on whites alone is terrible science. Certainly, there is no defense available for such biased selectivity in his subject grouping.
3. Is it not plausible that if we compared black responses to those of whites that we'd find that they too discern more hostility in the faces of their peers than in others? Afterall, recall the words of Jesse Jackson: "There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see it's somebody white and feel relieved." Other blacks might feel the same way as Jesse. There certainly are more black criminals than white ones. Isn't it feasible that a correlation could exist between criminality and hostility? Perhaps these students are subconsciously translating hostility into an increased likelihood of being mugged or victimized. Such a translation could be sound based on their life experiences. It may be that members of other races would manifest the same reactions as those of the students.
4. Lastly, the alternative hypothesis that blacks may actually express more
hostility than whites is deliberately shunned. This hypothesis rests on the
most anti-PC foundations imaginable and that is all the more reason why a
careful researcher must scrutinize it.
Blacks are taught to be proud of who they are no matter what; whereas, whites are taught that we are responsible for genocide, slavery, every evil known to man, and that white pride equates with racial supremacy. All over the country, Caucasians are vilified by academics and educationists in discussion halls, high school classrooms, radio, and television. One cannot avoid these solicitations of white guilt even if you were inducted into the Marine Corps. Getting around all the anti-Caucasian rhetoric in our society would be a trick worthy of David Copperfield. Therefore, why is it inconceivable that the presentation of such uniform hate would influence the ways in which blacks would view whites? I don't know how it could not. Isn't it natural to resent one's (in this case, make-believe) oppressors? The researchers never consider that blacks might actually be more hostile to whites on an individual basis than we are to them. Not examining such possibilities is another reason why this study is a very malicious joke.
Given that this research has so many methodological flaws and misassumptions, the fact that it was published in an academic journal and then favorably quoted by our mainstream media tells us much about the acceptance of radical ideas in our universities and culture. That a review board would permit such an unimaginative, dogma-enriched study to inspect so little, but conclude so much, is yet another sign of the generalized intellectual rot of academia. Higher education once was a vehicle used to pursue truth. Sadly, it now appears to be a vehicle constructed for the sole purpose of truth avoidance.
Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!
© 1996-2013, Enter Stage Right and/or its creators. All rights reserved.