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Unconscious discrimination is still racism

I am outraged at a recent column by Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times entitled “Racism without Racists.”

To sum it up, Kristof believes that Barack Obama is “paying an electoral price for his skin tone,” not because of racists, but because of racism without racists. He describes this “racism without racists,” or “unconscious discrimination,” as prejudiced individuals who are not aware of their possible acts of discrimination.

His argument, however, was unstructured and ambiguous.

In his column, Kristof writes, “most of the votes that Mr. Obama actually loses belong to well-meaning whites who believe in racial equality and have no objection to electing a black person as president — yet who discriminate unconsciously,” because they choose the white candidate over the black one when they’re not sure who they should vote for.

Kristof never explains where this unconscious discrimination springs from if these voters believe in pursuing equality. If a person is averse to racism and discriminates unconsciously, it does not change the fact that they have discriminated. It appears as if Kristof builds his entire argument around standing up for those voters who may not vote for Obama due to his skin color but are somehow well-meaning individuals.

“Research suggests that whites are particularly likely to discriminate against blacks when choices are not clear-cut and competing arguments are flying about,” the column reads.

I don’t understand how any unclear choices or opposing arguments could lead someone to discriminate. Kristof avoids explaining further but said that the research could be applied to an electoral campaign.

John Dovidio, a professor at Yale University, said that “aversive racists feel doubts about a black person that they don’t feel about an identical white. These doubts tend to be attributed not to the person’s race — because that would be racism — but deflected to other areas that can be talked about, such as lack of experience.'”

So, essentially, Dovidio is stating that these aversive racists wouldn’t consider lack of experience in a white presidential candidate, but would in a black candidate. I don’t comprehend how this mode of thinking is unrelated to race.

Also, Dovidio said that doubts pertaining to a black person’s ability are deflected to areas not involving race, which seems to mean that these “doubts” give someone a politically correct way of voicing thoughts against another person without admitting that race is the underlying issue. These people are just trying to hide their prejudiced feelings, which could lead to discriminatory acts.

It certainly is a prejudiced thought to conjure up an idea of someone’s experience — or lack thereof — based on his race, and to use this to decide whether to vote for that person. In this case, the decision to vote eventually boils down to that candidate’s skin color.

Kristof also equated not voting for Obama based on his race to not voting for McCain based on his age. I refuse to believe these two acts of discrimination are parallel to each other. I believe it is justifiable to not vote for someone because he may die before his presidential term is complete or be unable to handle strenuous decision-making. I do not condone ageism, but I feel these are valid concerns.

I do not think it is justifiable, however, to not vote for someone based on race. Age can inhibit a person from completing certain tasks — race cannot.

I feel as if Kristof succeeded in simply prevaricating with an issue that he portrays as inconsequential.

There is no feasible way to determine whether people are going to vote with race in mind, mainly because people do not want to wholly accept or admit their prejudiced views. When a voter bases his or her decision on the candidate’s race instead of his or her stance on issues or past track record, it is a discriminatory act.

I encourage you to head to the polls with an open mind and an objective interest. Vote smart.

Rebekah Rosado is a junior double majoring in sociology and mass communications.