Hello everyone. This is a video about group bias.
That is, the tendency of humans to form in-groups
with people we assume to be like ourselves in some way,
and out-groups of people we assume are different.
It’s also a video examining another video,
one by YouTuber Black Pigeon Speaks,
titled “Harvard: Diversity plus Proximity
equals Republican Voters”.
That’s novel, eh, a video responding to another video.
I predict that this response video, which I’ve just
invented right now, will be the hot new trend of 2019.
Right, then. Black Pigeon’s video.
As always, I’d suggest that you go and watch that video
first and I’ll include a link below for anyone inclined.
However for anyone who would not like to hear Black
Pigeon speak, which is fair enough to be honest,
I’ll here summarize his argument.
So, Black Pigeon Speaks starts out by recounting the
so-called conventional wisdom
that says demographic changes will make it harder,
if not impossible for Republicans to
win elections in the United States,
leading to Democratic control of government.
However, do not fret, all you Republicans out there.
Black Pigeon then introduces a study.
Well, actually before he gets to the study he waffles
about Bernie Sanders and AOC for a while,
even though they have nothing to do
with anything he’s talking about,
but whatever, we will be charitable
and not dwell on that.
So okay, he then introduces the study, which is “Causal
effect of intergroup contact on exclusionary attitudes”
by Ryan D. Enos. Black pigeon calls
this a new study but it isn’t, really –
it was released more than four years
before Black Pigeon’s video talking about it,
but again, that’s a nitpick.
Now Black Pigeon claims that
the study shows that, quote,
“the liberal resolve of affluent Democrats
can be completely and utterly dissolved
when racially or ethnically charged issues
like neighborhood integration are at stake”.
He also introduces a book by the author of the study,
that being “The Space Between Us”, published in 2017.
As Black Pigeon is introducing this book,
he shows a graphic of a hammer and
sickle with an American flag pattern.
And…why does he do this? I have
no idea; go and watch it.
It’s got nothing to do with anything
he’s talking about. It’s great!
Answers on a postcard, please.
Black Pigeon is getting his information from both the
study and the book from a New York Times article,
entitled “How Much Can Democrats Count on
Suburban Liberals?” by Thomas B. Edsel.
Now reading out this article forms the
basis of Black Pigeon’s video script;
he just changes the phrasing slightly here and there
to make it slightly less obvious he’s copying.
So let’s quote this article directly now
and find out about the study in question.
And I quote, “Six years ago, Enos looked
at nine townships southwest of Boston
that were overwhelmingly racially and politically liberal.
As such, these communities were a test
of the power of demographic change,
because these were people who we might think
would be unlikely to change their attitudes
in the face of immigration.” And I disagree here.
I’d say you can only trust a liberal as far
as you can throw them, but that’s just me.
“Enos and his colleagues conducted an experiment,
which is described in detail in a 2014 paper,
“‘Causal effect of intergroup contact
on exclusionary attitudes’,
“published by the National Academy of Sciences.
“The results are thought-provoking.
Enos described the experiment as
“‘a randomized controlled trial testing the causal
effects of repeated intergroup contact,
“in which Spanish-speaking confederates were randomly
assigned to be inserted for a period of days
“into the daily routines of unknowing Anglo-whites living
in homogeneous communities in the United States,
“thus simulating the conditions of demographic change.’
“Under the assumption that people with similar
characteristics tend to ride the train at the same time,
“I selected pairs of trains that were close
together in time, so that the treatment units
“(train platforms onto which Spanish-
speaking confederates have been inserted)
“within each station would have similar passengers.
“Within a matched pair of train times at each station, one
was randomly assigned to treatment and one to control,
“resulting in 18 matched pairs of train times.
“This design means that we should expect subjects
in the treatment and control conditions
“to be, in expectation, identical.
“Subjects were exposed to the same Spanish-speaking
persons in a location near their homes
“for an extended period as would be the situation if
immigrants had moved into their neighborhood,
“and used the public transportation.”
And what were the results?
Well, “Members of the treatment groups and control
groups were surveyed before and after
“the two-week-long experiments in an effort to identify
the effect of exposure to Spanish-speaking people.
“In both surveys, respondents were asked
three questions about immigration,
“along with other, more general questions.
“Treated subjects were far more likely to advocate
a reduction in immigration from Mexico
“and were far less likely to indicate that illegal
immigrants should be allowed to remain in the country.”
So that seems fairly open-and-shut there.
White liberals who were exposed to contact with
Spanish-speaking people on their morning train rides
were more likely to support a reduction
in immigration than those who weren’t.
Or, “diversity plus proximity equals Republican voters”,
as Black Pigeon Speaks puts it in his video title.
So what do we think about his video? Why was it
made, and what points was it trying to make?
Well, my impression was that the primary reason it
was made was to allay the fears of right-wingers
about their exclusionary politics leading to future
electoral losses as demographics change over time.
As we know, white voters in the States
lean Republican, but why is that?
Well, I won’t go into it too much right now,
but a part of the story is that for decades
the electoral strategy of the Republicans
has been to exploit and deepen racial
polarization and use racism,
particularly racism against African-Americans
and more recently, racism against immigrants
coming across the southern border,
to get white voters to the polls.
And this isn’t some conspiracy theory of mine –
if you didn’t already know that for whatever reason, I’d
advise that you go and read about the Southern Strategy.
All this stuff is quite out in the open.
Now the problem with relying on the white vote,
however, is that the white vote is shrinking.
Not, I should say, because the number
of white people is shrinking,
if you’re the sort of person who cares
about that sort of thing,
because it isn’t.
The number of white people is increasing, but the white
vote as a percentage of the whole is shrinking,
and those people who are being
demonized by the Republican Party
aren’t too likely to be keen on voting
for them, in the near future, anyway.
The Republican strategists basically
traded short-term electoral victories
for long-term demographic catastrophe, is
the worry among a lot of racists out there.
Anyway, so here to address this
worry is Black Pigeon Speaks,
who has found a study that apparently shows
white liberals will become Republicans
as they’re exposed to the effects of immigration,
thus avoiding the coming democratic communist
supermajority, or whatever it’s supposed to be.
Now, I should add here that I don’t believe in the coming
democratic communist supermajority,
as nice as that sounds.
Under capitalism, there’s a lot of pressure and
incentive for things to happen a certain way,
and if I had to guess, I’d say if the Republicans did
prove completely unable to get elected,
those same things would still happen,
but via the Democrats instead.
Wealth will find a conduit to power as
long as one exists, so they say.
But that’s all besides the point, I suppose.
Now, there’s a couple of problems with the narrative
presented by Black Pigeon, aren’t there?
Firstly, if coming into contact with diversity is supposed
to make white people into Republicans,
then we’d expect that white people
inhabiting large, diverse cities
would be more likely to vote Republican than
rural white people in white communities,
who rarely come into contact with diversity,
and that’s not the case.
You know, from that perspective, we
could argue that living in diverse areas
means one is more likely to be a
Democrat, not a Republican.
So oh no, a contradiction –
How are we going to resolve these apparently
conflicting results of exposure to diversity?
Well, I was curious about this, so I went
and read the study mentioned in the article,
and also ordered and read the book by the author
of the study, “The Space Between Us”,
which was very interesting.
Here’s a picture of my copy of the book with
my very helpful research assistant there.
Now folks, would you believe it if I told you that
Black Pigeon speaks wasn’t completely honest
about the results of the train study?
That’s a brief pause for gasps there.
A crucial part of the story has been left out, and it’s this.
The train study actually had two different time controls.
and I’ll quote here from a section of the book entitled
“What is the effect of repeat contact?”
“I had randomized the subjects in the treatment group
into being surveyed at two different points in time:
“either three or ten working days (two
weeks) after the treatment began.
“This second RCT allowed for different
doses of repeat contact.
“After three days, attitudes towards people
from Mexico became more exclusionary
“than they had been before the treatment.
“Those surveyed after ten days still
favored more exclusionary policies,
“but less so than the group that had
been surveyed after three days.
“This shows that the initial urge to keep out a group
of people after seeing them may have softened.
“In the waning days of the experiments,
our confederates themselves
“reported things that made it sound as if
people were coming around to them.
“For example, ‘people have started to
recognize us and smile to us’.
“They mentioned that a passenger
who spoke to them said,
“‘The longer you see the same person every day, the
more confident you feel to greet and say hi to them.’
“These interactions suggest something
about the effects of contact
“on the group-based bias caused by social geography.
“Namely, that the initial exclusionary
reaction has diminished with contact.
“It’s possible that given enough time,
say a month or a year,
“the aversion will wear off and my confederates
will be welcomed into the community.
“As I address in Chapter Nine, perhaps this ameliorating
effect of contact is what we have seen
“in some areas of the United States,
such as California, where the vir-“
virulent, I always struggle with that…
“where the virulent anti-immigrant politics of the
1990s gave way to an embrace of immigrants.
“Perhaps Arizona or Boston, when the time comes, will
move along this arc of inter-group interactions
“from clash to indifference.”
So there we go, folks – an initial exclusionary reaction
that diminishes with repeat contact.
That is what the author of the study says
that the results of the study suggest.
Now, Black Pigeon Speaks completely avoids
mentioning the diminished reaction among the group
being surveyed over the longer time period, and as
such misrepresents the findings of the study.
It’s classic cherry-picking there. Now then,
it would be very easy to just leave off here,
you know, giving the impression that this
initial shock leading to integration outcome
is the natural and inevitable result of
two different groups meeting.
And while that is often the
case, sometimes it is not,
and the integration can happen at varying
rates depending on various factors.
So as tempting as it would be to simply point out
the lie in Black Pigeon’s video and then
swish my cape and vanish into the night, I
think there’s a fair bit more to say here.
Although I’m no expert here, by the way.
I’ve read one book about it (this one),
but this is YouTube, so, you know, land
of the blind and all that.
So then, when I was reading The Space Between Us,
I was surprised to encounter an idea
that I’d never heard before, but that
seems relatively obvious after I’d read it.
An area can be very racially diverse,
but also still heavily segregated.
Now, the book includes this map
of Chicago as an example,
and also includes this other map, which is a random
reordering of the population of Chicago,
as a comparison there.
So even if someone lives in a city
that is very diverse on paper,
they might inhabit a section of the city, a neighborhood
or suburb for example, that is not diverse at all.
People don’t experience the entirety of
whatever city they live in, do they.
They live and work in only a small part of it
usually. So what’s the significance of that?
Well, understanding all that, it’s not really as
much of a shock as Black Pigeon makes it out to be
that white liberals living in a mostly white area would
react with shock when exposed to an out-group.
You know, frankly, I consider it more of a shock
that they started to get over it in only two weeks,
but that’s just me.
And I’d like to consider the impulse to
point to this study as if to say “Aha, see,
group bias does exist.” This is a line of argument
I see racists try to take occasionally –
“racism is just another term for a natural
and logical in-group preference”, they say.
Now, to that I would argue that the human tendency to
form in-groups and prefer them to out-groups
does not justify racial bias; it actually undermines it.
And you’re gonna have to stick with me here. First,
consider the Spanish-speaking people
that were part of the train study.
Some of the white people who used the
same stations and trains as those people
showed an increased bias against immigrants.
However – and I think this is rather important –
those Spanish-speaking people
weren’t doing anything wrong.
They were just riding the trains around, the
same as the other passengers, you know?
Could we argue that the heightened
group bias of the white passengers
was therefore illogical because it was being triggered
by completely innocuous behavior?
Now the obvious response to that line of thinking is that
even though those particular Spanish-speaking people
on the trains weren’t doing anything wrong,
their presence could have conjured in
the minds of the white passengers
various negative things associated with immigrants,
say, crime, gangs, drugs and whatever else.
For an example of the sorts of negative
things one might hear about immigrants
into the United States, let’s hear
from Black Pigeon Speaks.
And this is from his video titled “The Ameri-
Mex Future of the United States”:
[Black Pigeon] “The browning of America and the
reduction of whites to a minority status,
“as we are told by elected officials, academia and, most
importantly, the media, is a cause to celebrate.
“When the U.S. demographically resembles
Mexico, Brazil or Colombia,
“It can finally enjoy a utopian future that is promised
by those that preach social justice.
“America assimilated the Irish and the Italians,
“so becoming a majority brown nation will
be just the same and nothing will change.
“The only problem is, according to many
including Samuel P. Huntington,
“Mexicans and other Latinos are not assimilating.
“They are in fact forming their own cultural, political,
and linguistic enclaves across the country.
“From Los Angeles to Miami, Latinos are rejecting
the Anglo-Protestant values that built America.
“Entire swaths of the population now have divided
loyalties, dual nationalities and transnational identities,
“and this is cause for concern for the future cultural and
even territorial integrity of the United States.
“The greatest risk and largest challenge for the US
and its traditional identity is from the massive,
“neverending tidal wave of people
“washing into the country from Latin
America and specifically, Mexico.”
So that’s the same old shit, really. They’re coming over
here, they’re not integrating, not learning the language,
out-breeding us and so on.
I particularly like the discarded doll’s head
with the worm in the eye socket there.
That’s, er.. *laughs* very subtle imagery.
So anyway,
someone might argue that there’s enough
negative press about immigrants out there
that we can’t fairly dismiss the bias being shown
in the train experiments as entirely illogical.
So what we really need here is another experiment,
one that tests whether this group bias
exists for groups about which people
cannot possibly have any prior preconceptions.
And would you believe it, such a study was described
in detail in The Space Between Us.
And I’ll quote here from the section,
“Creating a Neighborhood”.
“We brought groups of up to 20 subjects
together in a lecture hall,
“and our research assistants showed them
a PowerPoint presentation of images
“and asked them to choose adjectives
describing those images from a list,
“which they recorded on a sheet of paper.
We deceived the subjects–“
aha, “claiming that their reactions to these
images revealed a perceptual type.
“But this perceptual type had actually
already been randomly assigned by us
“prior to the beginning of the experiment.
“We called these perceptual types “type H” and “type Y”,
and those were our minimal groups.
“Our intention was that the subjects would see the
perceptual type to which they were assigned
“as their in-group and the other as the out-group.
“Of course, we never told them these
distinctions were important.
“Rather, we just let the power of
categorization take over to affect behavior.
“We then manipulated spatial geography so that the
distorting power of groups was amplified.
“After we had administered the test of perceptual type,
“the research assistants brought all the
subjects into a waiting room,
“telling them that the lecture hall had to
be prepared for the next experiment.
“It was in this waiting room that we
created our neighborhood,
“segregated or integrated, and thus the experimental
treatment of segregation was administered.
“In one condition, randomly assigned,
the subjects would be segregated,
“with members of each perceptual type
on different sides of the room.
“In the other condition, they would be
integrated randomly with respect
“to perceptual type across the room.
“The room had rows of chairs, so it really did look like a
waiting room you might see at the dentist’s office,
“or at the Department of Motor Vehicles.
“On the desks, we placed folders
with further instructions.
“Each folder was assigned to
one of the participants,
“which allowed us to unobtrusively arrange
them to sit in certain locations.
“The folders came in two colors, representing the two
perceptual types, so that the participants could see
“whether all the type H’s sat on one side of
the room and all the type Y’s on the other
“or whether they were integrated.
“The subjects were asked to wait there for five
minutes without speaking or using their phones.
“After five minutes, we sent each subject
to a separate room for data collection.
“The separate rooms were important because
we wanted to ensure that the subjects
“answered our questions in private, so as
not to be biased by social desirability.
“In the rooms, they answered two sets of
questions on the laptop we provided:
“their perceptions of directly observable
physical attributes of the two groups,
“and their perceptions of social
attributes of the two groups.
“They were asked to give their best guesses
about the levels of these attributes.
“The physical attributes were height, weight and age.
“The social attributes were income and politics:
“how liberal or conservative was the
average member of each group.
“After the participants reported their
answers, the experiment was over.
“We repeated this entire process until we
had tested over 200 subjects in total.
“The results of this unusual experiment?
“After only five minutes of sitting in a
certain spatial arrangement
“with groups that were completely fabricated,
“our subjects thought that the heights, weights and ages of people in their in-group were more similar to their own
“than the heights, weights and ages of people
in their out-group were to their own.
“They also thought that the people in their
in-group were more socially similar to them
“in terms of politics and income
than people in the out group were.
“As other researchers have found, the simple act of
categorizing had collapsed the difference within groups
“and increased the difference across groups.
“But here’s the key:
“this perceived difference between the outgroup
and ingroup was even larger when the groups were
“than it was when they were integrated.
“Think of it – five minutes of segregation was enough
to change people’s perceptions about other human
So we see from that experiment
that group-based biases exist,
even for completely fabricated and randomly assigned
categories that people just heard about.
Now, other prior studies have shown this before, but
the twist that The Space Between Us introduces
is the extra test for the effect of segregation
upon the extent of these group biases.
If you’re segregated from the out group,
you’re more likely to exhibit this bias.
For example, if you’re a white person living
in a white suburb, well, you get the picture.
What this book makes clear over and over again is
that these biases are not exclusively racial –
you know, they can be geographical, religious –
think about the changing importance of which Christian
denomination people say they follow, for instance.
And in one interesting chapter in the book, group
experiments are carried out in Jerusalem.
Now I was expecting, as you might, that those group
experiments will be testing relations
between Israel and Palestine. But no,
the book instead concerns itself with
the divisions between non-religious
or moderately religious Jews,
and what are described as ultra-orthodox Jews.
And of course, those same group divisions were found.
This is why I believe the human tendency to form in-
groups actually undermines the legitimacy of racial
Because we do the exact same thing even if we’re
randomly sorted into meaningless groups
like H and Y, for example.
The Space Between Us is concerned with
how we can create harmonious societies,
while acknowledging that people form
illogical groups and have illogical biases.
You can call those biases natural, but
what does natural mean there?
You know, living naked in the woods is natural in
one regard, and most of us don’t do that.
Is that unnatural? Are hospitals natural? I don’t know.
You know, if the human tendency to
form Illogical biases is natural,
then I propose that the human ability to recognize
and overcome those biases is also natural.
You know, we needn’t submit to irrationality
just because we imagine it to be closer
to a natural state of being.
Now it’s about time for me to wrap up here, but I’d like
to return to Black Pigeon Speaks for a moment.
I’ve avoided talking about the end of his video so far,
but I think I should address it before I go.
I showed a clip of Black Pigeon a little
while ago from a different video
bemoaning how Mexican immigrants into
the United States aren’t integrating,
aren’t learning the language and so on.
And to quote him there, “the greatest risk and largest
challenge for the US and its traditional identity
“is from the massive, never-ending tidal wave of people
washing into the country from Latin America”.
Now with that quote in mind,
let’s watch a clip from the end of his “diversity plus
proximity equals Republican voters” video.
[Black Pigeon Speaks] “Something else to consider when
thinking of those that prognosticate a blue America
“is that Latino Americans are increasingly
identifying themselves as white.
“Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses,
“about 7% of Hispanics changed their self
description from some other race to white.
“At the same time, according to the Census Bureau,
“three-fourths of white population growth in 21st century
America has been driven by individuals
“who declared themselves white and of Hispanic origin.
“If increasing numbers of Hispanics
identify as white and their descendants
“are defined as white in government statistics,
“there may be a white majority in
the US throughout the 21st century.
“It is also possible that as Latinos
assimilate and intermarry,
“they will move from the Democratic
Party to the Republican Party,
“following a trail blazed in the past by many
white ethnic voters of European descent
“including Irish Americans and Italian Americans.”
[Shaun] Now then, you might be wondering:
What the fuck?
You know, what are immigrants to
Black Pigeon Speaks?
One minute, they’re a vast horde of barbarians
flowing across the border and taking over,
and the next minute they’re all
assimilating and intermarrying
and voting Republican and identifying as white.
How can they be both? You know, are
they gonna integrate or not?
It seems like Black Pigeon Speaks’ answer
is dependent upon the particular argument
he’s having at the time. It seems like
as long as you’re owning the libs,
you can basically swap out any of your beliefs on the fly.
Thanks a lot for watching, everyone.
Some news, we’re coming up on
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I never could think of a good name.
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Do that, in fact, please.
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Okay folks, that’s it from me. I’ll see you next time.