So here’s something for a bit of Friday fun:
A new study suggests that the words you use may depend on whether the club secretary’s name is Emily (“a stereotypically White name,” as the study says) or Lakisha (“a stereotypically Black name”). If you’re a white liberal writing to Emily, you might use words like “melancholy” or “euphoric” to describe the mood of the book, whereas you might trade these terms out for the simpler “sad” or “happy” if you’re corresponding with Lakisha.
But if you’re a white conservative, your diction won’t depend on the presumed race of your interlocutor.
Interestingly, the article appears to suggest that the conservative approach is ultimately what minorities want: “research shows that racial minorities are more concerned about being respected than about being liked.” One might speculate that, if minorities believe conservatives don’t respect them, it’s not because of the way in which conservatives behave, but because the liberals who control most of our news and information media expend so much energy painting conservatives as racists.
The article and the study on which it’s based provide a small example of how that works:
What she found, by performing online text analysis of 74 campaign speeches over the last 25 years, was that white candidates who were Democrats used significantly fewer words about “agency or power,” and more about “affiliation and communality” when addressing minority voters. There was no significant difference exhibited by Republican candidates.
The irony, as the paper notes, is that “Whites who may be more affiliative toward Blacks alter their verbal responses toward them in a way that matches negative stereotypes. Despite the patronizing behavior that they enact, these liberal candidates may hold more goodwill toward minorities.”
The bias comes with the imperative that liberals must be right and must be the good guys. Looked at objectively, no irony need be involved. Conservatives are less condescending in their language, and they are less interested in addressing minority groups as minority groups. The latter doesn’t explain the former so much as they are the same thing.
We conservatives take people as they come and present ourselves as we are — as individuals, not as identity groups. We don’t hold less “goodwill toward minorities” as people, but we don’t put much stock in treating them as a group of minorities, as opposed to treating them as a group of our fellow human beings.
Featured image: illustration from the first edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.