Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Tony Blair more American than President Obama?

NY Times Op-Ed Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof reported on a study that claims people think Tony Blair is more American than Barack Obama due to the color of their skin.

A study conducted with college students at San Diego State University measured whether race had anything to do with seeming "American." The columnist reported that most college students, when focused on race, found Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, more American than President Obama. 

Many people would automatically object to this study claiming they are not racist, and this may be true. This study, however, tested the unconscious mind. This research shows that most Americans associate being "American" with white skin.

The actual study asked participants in one group to focus on the personal identity (Barack Obama vs. Tony Blair) and another group to focus on race (Black vs. White). The group that focused on personal identity found Obama to be more American. But the group that focused on race found Tony Blair to be more American. Hillary Clinton was also brought into the mix to bring in gender identity. Still, Barack Obama was only seen as less American when the participants focused on race.

The popular press article got the study pretty dead on. They even brought up oppositions that people may have and shot them down. For example, they brought up the question of whether Obama is seen as less American because he has foreign relatives. Kristof noted that there have been other studies with famous Black sports stars that had the same result as this one. He even brings up talk about the amyglada and how it flashes a threat warning when it perceives people that look different and notes that this may have some evolutionary background.

This article brought an interesting perspective to me. I always claim to have no racial bias but would my unconscious mind prove the same if I underwent this test? As the author mentions, once "people become aware of their unconscious biases, they can overcome them."



1 comment: