clinton, Mind-reading and attributions of racism

There’s a kind of mind-reading that seems to me to be very prevalent in the US.  It often goes so far as to assume that someone other than X is better able to tell what X thinks than X is.  This not a harmless assumption, and it is built on a false assumption about our access to other minds.  In fact, our mind-reading is prone to a lot of mistakes once we get beyond the very simple tests used on 4 year olds in psychology.

Most recently Hilary Clinton is being victimized by mind-reading.  She said:

Race remains a deep fault line in America. Millions of people of color still experience racism in their everyday lives.

Here are some facts.

Let’s be honest: For a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young Black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports about poverty and crime and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege.


Apparently, a lot of people looked at this and said she wouldn’t have said this unless she felt that fear. So she is a racist.

But in fact the comment about fear was one of a long list of bad facts about racism in the States. And she said we must admit these features exist and get rid of them.

So the racism is most certainly not in her words. It is an injustice to report that it is in her head.

Many thanks to Rachek McKinnon for bringing this up on facebook. Of course, as Rachel said, on the left this might all just be misogyny. If so, hang on because it’s probably going to be a horrible election season.

3 thoughts on “clinton, Mind-reading and attributions of racism

  1. Indeed a horrible election season. Watch the Hillary nutcrackers come out of storage and go on sale again. And the elephant in the room is that Hillary gets trashed because she is not good-looking–unforgivable in a woman. And now old too–also unforgivable in a woman. So watch those all those right-thinking lefties get on the bandwagon for Bernie, the candidate of Cool, successor of Barak the Cool. Old doesn’t disqualify you for Cool if you’re male. So it’s not misogyny in the sense of women as such, but the worse, more insidious kind–hatred of women who aren’t young and pretty. And this means that Hillary-haters can believe that they’re perfectly good feminists because they love Elizabeth Warren (good-looking) and that they aren’t age-predjudiced because they adore Bernie (male–old is ok for me). So how’s that admittedly cynical analysis?

  2. Harriet, I don’t think there’s that much overlap between Obama fans and Sanders fans. Those of us who are excited about Sanders mostly found Obama way too centrist, hawkish, and business-friendly from the start, and we find Clinton the same. I don’t see one as the successor of the other at all. Clinton seems to me the obvious successor to Obama, politically, and I am hoping for no more of that.

    Also I was doing work and donating money to support Sanders back in the early 90s when I taught in at Middlebury College Vermont. He has been the real deal for decades. For me at least there is definitely no bandwagon-jumping.

    Anyhow I am just one person but there are real, deep ideological and institutional differences between Sanders and Clinton so I would rather not let some discourse that it’s a fashion choice go unchallenged.

    Also as for the OP there is plenty of evidence that people are pretty piss-poor at knowing the contents of their own minds on exactly topics such as these.

  3. But you, Rebecca, are more politically sophisticated and reflective than the average Obama supporter—at least more than the Obama groupies I knew. Back when they were all gaga about how wonderfully leftist he was, and how clean and pure. This was more or less along the lines of their views about the classification of food as liberal and conservative: meat vs. kale.

    And then…and then…he got in and the groupies were appalled that he didn’t usher in the millennium. That, if he could have gotten away with it he’d of appointed Larry Sommers as chairman of the Fed. They were almost as shocked as when they discovered that the CEO of Whole Foods was a big contributor to Republican politics.

    Moi, my leftism is one-dimensional: purely in terms of big-government welfare state socialism and massive government interference, including aggressive affirmative action with hard quotas and economic redistribution. I suppose I’m a Stalinist. I’m a hawk. I’m ok with guns. And, as an act utilitarian, have no problem at all with corruption. My hero was Lyndon Johnson—I made a pilgrimage to Johnson City. As far as alternative history, just imagine how much better the world would be if Hubert Humphrey had been elected!

    So, just saying, let’s just hope Bernie isn’t the spoiler. I have faith, or at least hope, that The Donald will cancel out any spoiling effect. So…Hillary for Prez, and O’Mally for VP.

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