Some of us have long recognized that racism is a driving force for Republican and Tea Party opposition to, if not outright hatred towards Barack Obama. Now, through a study, psychologists seem to have confirmed this reality by using altered photos of Barack Obama and others - some with lightened skin tones and others with darkened skin tones - to gauge reactions. Not surprisingly, among conservatives in particular, darker skin tones illicited negative responses. The findings show the lie to claims that we are living in a post racist society. The sad fact is that racism, especially on the right, is alive and well and these folks - including many of the fundamentalist Christian "godly folk" cannot see beyond skin color when judging someone. Here are highlights from the Washington Post:
American politics always has surprises, but things have been especially unpredictable since President Obama took office. First, few observers were prepared for the tea party movement, which ousted several veteran GOP lawmakers, replaced them with more radically conservative newcomers, and helped the Republican Party win control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
"That left a lot of analysts slack-jawed, wondering: What was this latent force that drove the emergence of this movement?" said Robb Willer, a sociologist at Stanford University.
Then, of course, there was Donald Trump.
Willer speculates that one thing connecting these two political earthquakes might be white voters' unconscious racial biases. In a series of psychological experiments between 2011 and 2015 he showed how hostility toward people with darker skin and perceived racial threats can influence white support for the tea party. He and his colleagues published a draft of a paper on their findings online last week — some of the most direct evidence of the importance of race to the conservative resurgence during Obama's presidency.
First, the researchers randomly sorted subjects into two groups and showed them a series of pictures of celebrities, including digitally altered images of the commander in chief. One group saw a version in which Obama's skin had been lightened, while in the other version, his skin had been darkened.
Among the 255 white subjects, though, those in the group that had seen the darkened portrait were almost twice as likely to say they supported the movement.
The result suggests that some white Americans are more likely to oppose Obama solely because of the shade of his skin. For them, the reality that someone with a dark complexion occupies the nation's highest office could be a source of unease.
Past polls and experiments have also suggested that the president's race has motivated opposition to his policies.
For example, psychologist David Sears and political scientist Michael Tesler found that many white voters were willing to support white liberal politicians such as President Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry when they were candidates for president, but voted against Obama. Since Clinton, Kerry and Obama all espoused a similar ideology, the pair surmised that Obama must have been less popular because he is black.
Previous research has shown that white Americans tend to see the trend toward racial equity as a kind of competition, in which one group's loss must be another group's gain. In particular, research shows, economic distress can exacerbate racial biases, since they give members of the dominant group the mistaken impression their relative position is endangered. White Americans get "the sense that they have a shrinking piece of a pie that is itself shrinking," Willer explained.
With the second report, Willer and his colleagues showed that their subjects reinforced this unconscious bias and produced greater levels of white support for the tea party . . .
The take away? That calling Trump supporters racist losers may be closer to the truth than we realized. Also, don't forget that 85% of the Tea Party identifies as conservative Christian - hatred of those deemed "other" and hypocrisy are the hallmarks of these folks.