Tag: self-fulfilling prophecy

In Accordance with Prophecy

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about self-loathing progressives. Yeah, I’ve really been letting them have it, to the point that one begins to wonder if I’ve turned on my fellow liberals and become, well, self-loathing about it…

Damn, this is not the kind of irony that I appreciate.

So please allow me to re-aim my cannons at the true villains of American politics: the hardcore right-wingers.

This xenophobic herd of nutjobs has basically taken over the modern Republican Party. And one reason they have been so successful is because of simple human frailty.

I’m talking about self-fulfilling prophecies. As we all know, this is “a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.”

There are various subsets and versions of self-fulfilling prophecies. But the one that interests me is how stereotypes mingle with this psychological condition to create some rather unpleasant behaviors.

You see, “psychologists have theorized that stereotypes can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, that people internalize stereotype messages, living up — or down — to those expectations.”

We see this with ethnic minority teens who are treated like criminals, when they’ve done nothing wrong. Eventually, a few of them think, “If you’re gonna treat me like a thug, I’m gonna be one.”

Along those lines, we are not supposed to point out that some Trump voters have displayed bigoted behavior, because that just backfires and increases the odds that they will fully embrace racism (yeah, it’s a conundrum).

In essence, whether you call someone a racist or a rapist, enough repetition of the accusation ensures that they will become exactly that.

So how does this bizarre human quirk relate to politics?

Well, as I’ve pointed out, way too many liberals are indeed acting like the angsty wimps that conservatives insist they are.

And I have to admit that a few of my liberal friends openly despise the American flag — and not because of some principled stand against the nation’s flaws or its problematic history. They hate the flag because conservatives have called them America haters for so long that they’ve internalized the label.

But now we’re seeing the reverse.

Conservatives have been called, among other things, racist and misogynist sociopaths who delight in stomping on the poor and wrecking the environment, just for kicks.

And how have Republicans responded to these inflammatory charges?

They have given America a president who draws cheers from Nazis, boasts of his sexual assaults of women, and shows complete disdain for anyone who is not a millionaire.

Well, if that is not embracing a self-fulfilling prophecy, I don’t know what is.

Yes, many commentators are asking why “today’s conservatives feel such antipathy, disregard and hostility toward the poor.”

It’s also fair to ask why the GOP is celebrating old men who openly parade their racism. Or we could ask why blatant sexism within the Republican Party is lauded rather than condemned.

What’s next?

Will Republicans attempt to destroy the environment for no discernable reason?

Will they rush to defend any white men accused of vile behavior, just because liberals have said they are a bunch of sexist, xenophobic bullies with authoritarian tendencies?

How could it get worse? Will the GOP double up and exhibit disdain for both the poor and the elderly at the same time?

Or perhaps they could devastate the environment while simultaneously hurting children?

No, all we needed to see was the GOP health plan, which primarily failed because it wasn’t vicious enough to the needy.

If it keeps going this way, we may have to replace the traditional symbol of the Republican Party, the elephant, with something more appropriate, like this:

 

Maybe it’s all just a cry for help.

 


2+2= KKK

As a writer, I am supposed to despise math.

Look at it, looking all smug with its cosines and discontinuous divisors and irrational numerators.

It’s just so absolutely certain about the world. I must hate it.

math2f

But I don’t. Although I’ve always been drawn to words, I’ve never been intimidated by numbers. I did pretty well in math in school, although I never went past pre-calculus.

So I’ve never understood people who freak out about math, or panic at the mere sight of an equation. This fear, I believe, turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and soon people are insisting that they can’t do basic addition and throwing up their hands at polling data or stiffing the waiter because they don’t dare try to figure out the tip.

But maybe these mathphobes are on to something. Because to my great disappointment, it turns out that math is a big old bigot.

Yes, a recent book argues that “math is essentially being used for evil,” in that “algorithms and big data are targeting the poor, reinforcing racism and amplifying inequality.”

Now, inflammatory (and completely misleading) claims about math being “racist” aside, the point is clear. Numbers are only as good as the humans who input them. As such, “any algorithm can — and often does — simply reproduce the biases inherent in its creator, in the data it’s using, or in society at large.”

For example, “nearly half of U.S. employers ask potential hires for their credit report, equating a good credit score with responsibility or trustworthiness.” This is despite the fact that the reliability of these reports “has remained in doubt for more than a quarter century.”

But because of our faith in data — or our fear of numbers — we continue to think an equation is “superior to human judgment — never questioning the assumptions that get baked in.”

This is a flawed assumption, and it not only helps reinforce inequality, it taps directly into that most vile of human drives: racial prejudice.

It turns out that numbers are not as culturally neutral and objective as we would like. Again, this is not because the numeral “3” somehow dislikes Latinos or the figure “864” really hates blacks. It is because “while algorithms might work with data alone, it’s always human beings that decide what factors they weigh.”

So what can be done about this issue? To begin with, simple acknowledgement is necessary, combined with the awareness that one can prove just about anything with the right set of figures.

And then we can get the world’s mathematicians to work on creating a formula that will rid the world of bigotry. That will be one truly great equation, and it will, of course, most likely equal 42.


And the Bucks Will Just Start Rolling In

I’ve written before about the intense, powerful, even bizarre sense of optimism prevalent among Hispanics.

Yes, even when fleeing for our lives from oppressive third-world governments and/or bloodthirsty drug gangs, we think, “Better days are ahead.”

And even when acres of statistics show how Latinos are struggling, compared to the general population, we say, “Keep the faith.”

And even when we become scapegoats for the nation’s ills, open targets for right-wing nutjobs, and the object of scorn in the eyes of millions of Americans, we smile and say, “Happiness is right around the corner.”

Well, if you thought that this pugnacious positivism had faded recently, a new survey shows that it has only gotten stronger, especially regarding financial matters.

For example, a solid majority of Hispanics “feel there is equal opportunity for everyone to achieve their dream of financial success.” But less than half of the general population feels the same way.

And 60 percent of Latinos believe “that those who work hard will be the most financially successful, a significantly higher percentage than the general population.”

Finally, there is the statistic that Latinos are more likely to believe that they are on their way “in their race to financial success” than the general population.

But is all this faith in the future based in reality?

Well, consider that the same survey found that “by their own admission, Hispanics struggle with managing their money and lack self-confidence when doing so.”money

OK, that seems a little contradictory — as does the fact that “a majority of Hispanics give themselves a grade of C or lower when evaluating how well they manage their money.”

And let’s consider that a full 70 percent of Hispanics “have not created a long-term financial plan.”

So once again, we are forced to ask, is all this optimism priming the pump for a self-fulfilling prophecy where Latinos are financially successful?

Or have we Hispanics turned into collective Navin Johnsons, insisting that “Things are going to start happening to me now”?

navin_r_johnson_xlarge

 

Well, maybe the most telling — and most hopeful — data point in the survey is this: Millennial Hispanics (age 18-39) are more likely “to see an undergraduate degree as one of the top influences for financial success.”

Now that makes sense. Getting a degree is a solid, realistic option for achieving financial success. Young people know this.

And what do older Latinos think is key to financial independence? It is, of course, “the advice of elders.”

Yes, better stay in school, kids.

 


Faith or Delusion?

I’ve written before that Latinos tend to be more optimistic about life and have more confidence in their economic futures.

thumbsup

Well, a new survey confirms that Hispanics’ “faith in the American Dream exceeds that of whites and African Americans,” adding that this optimism “contrasts sharply with the current economic status of Hispanics.”

Basically, even though the Great Recession hit Latinos harder than most groups, it is those same Hispanics who have the strongest belief that everything will work out fine. According to the survey’s authors, “the upbeat attitude … is due in part to the fact that Hispanic immigrants often start with little and expect to sacrifice much to move up, while native-born adults may have already seen their expectations lose ground in an ailing economy.”

So whites and blacks, whose roots in America are more likely to go back generations, tend to say, “This sucks worse than ever.” But Latinos often shrug off the same bad news with “I’ve seen worse.”

Still, as great as it is that Latinos are remaining optimistic and staying strong, “the reality for most Hispanics is less rosy” than their faith implies.

So the question becomes, is this determined mindset a self-fulfilling prophecy, where hard work and a never-say-die spirit is rewarded? Or are Latinos just saps for still believing “they are more likely to move up than down in social class over the next few years”?

In any case, the survey points out that “the hopes and struggles of Hispanics are of particular interest now as they are exercising unprecedented political clout.”

Yes, it’s good to have faith. But it’s better to have power.

 


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