Thursday, October 1, 2009

Science, Racism, Religion, and Obama?

So I've so far covered two big topics that I could go on for ages just teasing them out. They are the very taboo religion and racism. Just to make things even, let's get a little political. So judging by the title this a mixed blog. What do science, racism, religion, and Obama have to do with each other?

Well, my husband keeps a stack of Scientific American magazines lying about. Sometimes I flip through them. I'm not a scientist, but sometimes they have topics that are interesting. This evening I flipped to the back page and read an article by Steve Mirsky titled "Birth of a Notion." It's actually quite good. I'll give you a link to the article. In it Mirsky discusses who people perceive as being American. He touches on racism from the past and mentions several recent studies. I wish to discuss some of the findings that he makes.

Mirsky brings up a psychologist's study on faces. The researcher, Mahzarin Banaji, showed people several faces to determine bias against Asians. The participants "linked white Americans more strongly than Asian-American's with, well, America." Banaji and her associate, Thierry Devos, then did a follow up study with famous Asian-Americans and famous white Europeans. That study also showed that the white Europeans were perceived as being more American. Now your thinking, really? Yes, really. Apparently where your born isn't noticed as much as your race. But don't worry, it gets better.

The kicker is with Obama. He's our first black president (well he's bi-racial but we're splitting hairs). In case you didn't know, Obama was born in Hawaii and Hawaii is a state in the United States. Mirsky says that a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll found that 58 percent of Republicans either aren't sure or don't believe that Obama is American. Most of these people are concentrated in the South. Well, duh. It figures that most white Southern people want to delude themselves into believing that Obama is not a citizen. They don't want him to be president because he is black.

According to Mirsky, Devos found in a study that people perceive Tony Blair as being more American than Obama. Really? Come on now people. Say it ain't so. Say it ain't so. If Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, is American than what is Obama? African? I really don't understand. I get that people don't want him to be president because he is black. They're racist; I understand. What I don't get is how he can't be more American than Tony Blair? Would the racist people like Tony Blair to suddenly start running our country? As far as I know, he's had nothing to do with America outside of politics. Obama was born in the US, went to school in the US, and lived in Chicago for a long time before he became president.

Now here is the other wrench. Last Sunday, I over heard a conversation in the booth behind me at a resteraunt. Well it's Sunday so they probably went to the same church. They were discussing Obama and his religion. They were talking about whether Obama was saved or not. Oddly enough, they brought up the Muslim thing again.

Okay misinformed people, Obama isn't exactly an "American" or "Christian" name to you. Got it. So names like Smith and Brown are totally American names. But names like Chung, Kwan, Rodriguez, Garcia, Patel, Modi, and Obama aren't American names? Just because these last names imply people with brown skin doesn't mean they aren't American. Even Smith and Brown aren't truly American last names because they came from England.

So let's take the American equation out of it, and let's look at the religious one. Obama is a Muslim name right? So he must be Muslim. Obama has stated many times that he is Christian. His family wasn't big into religion so he came to Christianity on his own. But if race is still playing in your misguided head, Obama's mama is white. His dad may have given him a Muslim last name, but his dad wasn't really in his life. Okay, she did give him his first and middle names Barak and Hussein. So he must be Muslim, right? Yeah, so having a first name like Mary automatically means you're Catholic or name like David means you're Jewish. Please!

It's all ignorance. When will people move beyond skin color and names?

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