In a complex and dangerous world, the allure of the simple is addictive. But the habits of typecasting can offer us little wisdom. We must educate ourselves to understand these habits, and to demand public discussion that is based on knowledge, understanding, and a belief in the possibility of egalitarian community. Without this, democracy cannot exist.
Join Typecasting authors, Stuart and Elizabeth Ewen, in an ongoing discussion of the influence of stereotypes, past and present, and strategies for combating divisive ways of seeing.
The polls have just opened and no results are in. Given the luxury of not knowing for sure, S&S proposes that we may be talking about the "Obama Effect" for years to come.
This would be a break from the so-called "Bradley Effect," a concept dating back to Tom Bradley's bid for California governor in 1982. At that time white voters told pollsters that they were voting for Bradley, an African-American, and privately voted for his white opponent. Sometimes called the "social desirability bias" it hearkens to a time when the notion of what was socially desirable was inextricably linked to entrenched racial divisions.
This year another trend may play out.
Stereotypical Big Lug: A Right-Wing Staple
We propose that in many areas of the country where voting for a black candidate might not be acceptable if vocalized to some voters' peers, a number of them may outwardly claim to be supporting McCain, or to be undecided, but in the privacy of the voting booth they will vote for the candidate who they see as having their social and economic best interests in mind: Barack Obama.
If this plays out, public race politics will have given way to the unspoken assumption that race doesn't outweigh more tangible issues of interest. Today's definition of what is socially desirable may be linked to the economic chasm that has opened up between the very rich and everyone else.
Democracy rests on social and economic justice, and the urgency of this issue in the current milieu may have beneficialy altered the shape of the mental universe in a society too long divided, and manipulated by, the smokescreen of racial and ethnic identity.