Seniors and racial bias: Is it medical?

Posted by Ria, 29 Sep 08

Ever wondered why suddenly your aging parents don’t want you dating interracially? Well, it may not be their fault. When the conversation turns to ethnic groups to which they don’t belong, the sweet old aunt may not seem so sweet coz of the flights of shocking prejudice. Most of us usually assume that the seniors belong to less-enlightened times and are unlikely to change.

Take the example of this historic presidential campaign between a black candidate and a white one; a convergence of new political and scientific research shows that older white voters heavily preferred Sen. Hillary Clinton over Sen. Barack Obama during the Democratic primary season. And going by the national polls, this group favors Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, by more than 10% points.

Is it racially related? Well, this cannot be determined by political scientists. However, sociologists’ research indicates that racial biases influence the voting decisions of many Americans of all ages. And, for very basic physiological reasons related to the aging of their brains, many older citizens may not be capable of suppressing their prejudicial impulses. This applies not only to voting, but also family issues. So when Grandma blurts out something against you, you have to excuse her. It may not be her fault.

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According to William von Hippel, a psychologist who studies age-related declines in the area of the brain devoted to inhibiting unwanted or socially inappropriate thoughts, "We learn stereotyping at a young age when we can't really appreciate it's not the right thing to do…Once we get older, we can decide that racial stereotypes are wrong, and we can inhibit them with an effortful act. But older adults gradually lose that ability to inhibit."

The brains’ frontal lobe wastes away with age which may lead to seniors exhibiting social inappropriateness and increased stereotyping and prejudice, even when they have good intentions.

Some people have confessed that while growing up, their parents used to preach equality for all races. But the day they brought their interracial love home, things changed. Von Hippel says at some level, we should not hold older adults responsible for their racist attitudes. He calls it: ‘prejudice against your will,’ because he thinks it's not something they can control.

Going by various statistics on interracial dating Sociologists have found that racial bias pervades the subconscious and the elderly are more prejudicial than the young. (For example: 35% of Americans age 60 and older believe it's unacceptable for whites to date blacks in comparison to 16% of baby boomers and 6% of Americans below the age of 30. - Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey).

Some online study, Project Implicit, done on than 4.5 million people worldwide, captured subconscious or implicit, bias by asking participants to associate positive or negative words with a series of photographs of black and white faces. Most people who took the test were repelled by their own results.

"We don't call it prejudice; we talk about it as hidden bias or unconscious bias — a form of bias that most people are unaware they even possess, because our culture has implanted associations in their heads," explains Anthony Greenwald, a psychology professor and one of the founders of Project Implicit.

Much as it may be implicit Greenwald said the bias affects our decisions unless people make an active effort to counteract them. Which is why, someone may say they approve of interracial relationships but cringe when it’s their children involved in one. This is why political scientist discovered long ago that some people tell pollsters they support a certain candidate so as not to appear racist but then vote for someone else once they get inside the voting booth. This could be the same reasons why there is a disparity between attitudes of people towards interracial dating and the number of interracial marriages.

So, do you agree that older people are against interracial dating for medical reasons (fried brain)? Are stats on seniors’ attitude towards interracial dating the way they are because they can’t control their implicit biases and feelings hence voice them out? If this is true, then it means that so many of us, old and young alike, could be against interracial dating.

14 responses to "Seniors and racial bias: Is it medical?"

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  1.   Member says:
    Posted: 01 Sep 09

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

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  2.   homesteader says:
    Posted: 12 Jan 09

    I prefered Mrs. Clinton because she had 8 years experience in the White House .

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  3.   Member says:
    Posted: 16 Oct 08

    I was raised in this era and qualify as "older". I was taught to be wary of all individuals as a survival skill. However, I was also taught to be tolerant and understanding of others in my youth. I was taught to evaluate people based on facts and not frameworks. It has served me well over the years. However, in my later years I find I do not necessarily get the same "benefit of the doubt". Given I am a rather large (6'1", 260 lb) African American, I seem to generate a great deal of initial fear, particularly in white females. It is a point of particular frustration and quite a "thick ice wall" to navigate socially. I know nit what the dating implications might be, but fear they do not favor me.

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  4. Posted: 13 Oct 08

    Its not medically about their age. Its because they lived in a time where racism was expected and it was rampant. They were taught to think this way. White people were taught to dislike Black people and Black people were taught to dislike White people. Thats how it was. Now that times are changing, so have people's minds and attitudes. And aj is totally right. Different cultures are so very different and think differently. But thats why its so important to bridge the gap and help people understand why it is we (as any culture) think in a certain way. Most intelligent individuals will be able to see through different view points.

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  5.   aj12 says:
    Posted: 10 Oct 08

    The article is some bull. If you're racist when you have the ability to think for yourself, then its your choice to be racist. I'm a black male....I have no idea what its like to be a white male so I can't make assumptions or judge what they all think about us. The same goes for white people....if you're not black, you won't understand our churches, culture, way of life. There was no movement in obama's church. Black churches simply preach about how many things are still unfair and how we can better ourselves. You won't understand unless you're black and go through certain struggles blacks go through.....That doesn't make you a bad person. Its just the way it is. I won't know what its like to be any other race...I only know what its like to be black. So if you're not black and you come across an issue you might not understand or misjudge about black people..just drop it because you will never know.

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  6.   dj_jmc says:
    Posted: 07 Oct 08

    Well . racismus dont have to do with medical stuff or what . i am living in Austria that have realy bad records about racism till this century and its very shame for some austrians open minded the blame it but thgey cant change those old men and wome also young people that are manupilate by politicians , i THINK THE RACISM IS MADE BY POLITICIANS THAT FIRST AS COULORS FOR THE POLITICAL symbol and try to divide people with also coulours reason talking abozut medical stuff is realy not true , i date most of time white ladies cos it was arround me and i dont think theres different and when i am with white lady i dont even notice that she white just saw her as person not as white

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  7.   girlsixdiva says:
    Posted: 06 Oct 08

    Hmm that's strange; for some reason my first comment was deleted. Well anyway here it is again: These old folks' racist feelings have nothing to do with medical reasons; it's because they lived and grew up in an era where all colors/cultures/ethnicities were not considered equal. The bitterness is still in their hearts. That's why it's so important to teach kids that racism is wrong.

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  8.   girlsixdiva says:
    Posted: 06 Oct 08

    Screw all this election chat. RALPH NADER FOR PRESIDENT yeah that's right I said it. Bring on the hater comments!

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  9.   Mz.Biznezz says:
    Posted: 03 Oct 08

    Lol its almost 2009. Race should be a dead subject. Im tired of this topic. PEOPLE have a right to think and do as they please.i was raisd to be open to anything by a bi-racial m0ther and a black step father from the south who was taught to hate everyone but never once did he let us slide with any racialy motivated remarks.

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  10.   albanyga says:
    Posted: 02 Oct 08

    Well to be truthful everyone is racist in there on way .Hell I grew up with a white father so I got it from both end of the stick and more from blacks .I dont care what color you are been a racist is wrong.I hear people say black people have a reason to be racist BULLSHIT you can't hold every white person responsiable for what happen in the pass you have a reason not to like a person opinion just like everyone esle but to not like someone because of the color of there skin.jazzlover I dont think you're a racist I think you have an opinion there is no way in hell I would say you're racist because you're not voting for Obama.And I really dont approve of people voting for him because his black just like I dont approve of people not voting for him because he's black you stated someone please tell me why they are voting for Obama can you please state why you're voting for Mccain

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  11.   rae56 says:
    Posted: 02 Oct 08

    jazzlover, how long have you been a member on this site?

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  12.   jazzloverOH says:
    Posted: 02 Oct 08

    Obama has done more to expose racial prejudice than any other person in the history of the USA. Someone please tell me why they are voting for Senator Obama? Please be specific. I don't want to see.......HOPE AND CHANGE. He is a Saul Alinsky protege that was in a church promoting Black Liberation Theology. That is all I needed to know about Senator Obama. It was over for me at that point. Make all the excuses you want to for he and his wife. I don't buy it. Obviously I will be banned from this site. I am just awaiting notification. God Bless all of you. I mean no harm in any way, but I am white so I will be absolutely labeled racist. Its always implied on this site that the whites are always the racists. I beg to differ based on some of the very topics posted by the moderators. You know.......kinda like Gwen Ifill being the "moderator" of the VP debate.

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  13.   rae56 says:
    Posted: 01 Oct 08

    [Quote: And, for very basic physiological reasons related to the aging of their brains, many older citizens may not be capable of suppressing their prejudicial impulses.] In other words, they are showing their 'true' colors, by not being able to hide how they really feel. I don't know about anyone else, but I prefer it that way. I'd like to know when I'm facing a wolf, as opposed to that docile lamb... fewer surprises later.

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  14.   areyouready says:
    Posted: 29 Sep 08

    I hate to give another excuse to people's behaviours. I am a firm believer in that the one thing that seperates us from animals is our ability to choose contrary to our impulses. Whether this research is valid or not, I do not know. I would hope that someone can change regardless of age....if they really wanted to. On another note. Why do people always cite statistics about white people when it comes to racial prejudice. I think a more astounding stat that shows an even higher prejudice (in our presidential race theme used above) is the polls showing african americans supporting Obama by about 90-95% to any white candidate (Hilary or McCain). I would think that 90% difference versus 10% difference would make your point in conjunction with what you said, while not implying only white people have a problem with race by leaving things unspoken.

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