That kick-butt guy in the black wig is me, kung fu-ing the stuffing out of asinine research. Listen to the klaxon clang as evildoers discover we are among them!
Don’t know about you guys, but I grow weary of studies like “Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions” by Kerry O’Brien and others. The product of lazy scientists relying on re-re-reanalyzing a set of data.
The set of data arose from a bunch of questions they thought sounded cool—this is how most sociology is conducted—while our crew asked what would happen if they dumped a select few of those questions into a statistical chopper. Wee p-values were ejected. Theories were generated. It’s all so tiring.
In 2008-2009, over four thousand folks were asked if they owned a firearm. 565 said yes, 615 said no; which means three thousand people weren’t asked, or refused to answer, or whatever. Would you tell some white-coated stranger if you had a gun? Depending on the googleyness of his eyes, I might say anything from no to “You better believe it and it’s pointed at you.”
How did our lazy research team account for this kind of measurement answer?
As I like to say, you just wait here for an answer.
Racism dreadfully concerns O’Brien (and most academics): “Blacks are disproportionately represented in US firearm homicides (14.6 per 100,000), and would benefit most from improved gun controls.” A racist statement if there ever was one, and an admission of outright bias.
O’Brien sought to categorize “racism” in two ways. The first was “implicitly”, measured by showing pictures of blacks to whites and asking how the whites felt about it. Since this measure of (almost) real racism didn’t play in their results, we don’t hear much about it their paper.
The second measure was “The Symbolic Racism 2000 Scale” by P. J. Henry and David O. Sears (Political Psychology, 2002, Vol. 23, pp. 253-283). “Symbolic racism (racial resentment) [is] an explicit but subtle form and measure of racism.” They stress this is not “old-fashioned or overt/blatant racism which had seen blacks as amoral and inferior”.
Symbolic “racism”, if it isn’t already obvious, thus means “not racism”. It instead probably means, as you will see, “knowledge of the racial politics.” A screwy thing about the scale is that it is only eight questions, any of which may be used as “the” scale: “the scale could be shortened or lengthened as needed”.
From Henry and Sears, here are four (the final eight were winnowed from many, hence the strange numbering):
2. Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same. (1, strongly agree; 2, somewhat agree; 3, somewhat disagree; 4, strongly disagree)…
9. How much of the racial tension that exists in the United States today do you think blacks are responsible for creating? (1, all of it; 2, most; 3, some; 4, not much at all)
11. How much discrimination against blacks do you feel there is in the United States today, limiting their chances to get ahead? (1, a lot; 2, some; 3, just a little; 4, none at all)…
16. Over the past few years, blacks have gotten more economically than they deserve. (1, strongly agree; 2, somewhat agree; 3, somewhat disagree; 4, strongly disagree)
O’Brien said their team used four of the eight questions, but I couldn’t discover which four. That’s science for you. I did double check, though: “Al Sharpton” was not a legitimate response to number 9. Neither was “Affirmative Action” listed for 16.
Anyway, you get the idea in which direction biased, coddled, gun-shy researchers would think answers are “racist”. There is only one politically correct view; everything else is “racist.”
Those who scored ever-so-slightly higher on the politics/”racism” scale were a tiny bit more likely to admit to strangers to owning a gun. This is not the same as saying those who scored higher on the politics/”racism” scale were a tiny bit more likely to own a gun, because gun ownership was never measured. Recall only a fraction of the respondents had anything to say on the subject of gun ownership.
Racism (“implicitly”) was not statistically important. So how do we explain newspaper headlines like this?
And conclusions like this (from the authors)?
Opposition to gun control in US whites is somewhat paradoxical given the statistics on gun-related deaths, and such opposition may be undermining the public health of all US citizens.
Racism has to be the answer.