Jimmy Carter and Maureen Dowd's recent assertions that the rabid opposition to President Obama and his policies are based on racism have some conservatives tied up in knots. How can we criticize the president, they say, without being accused of racism? You may remember that a few years ago a southern, white president had an equally difficult time trying to pass a similar health care bill. By that logic, perhaps Republicans simply really really do not like Democratic health-care reform proposals.And it's true, cries of racism against the president's detractors are, for the most part, totally unprovable and utterly stifling to any sort of meaningful debate. It's also true that the President is black and recently the Republican party has had some issues with racially charged rhetoric, and that racism should be called out when it's noted. How do we solve this seemingly intractable problem?Conservative commentator John Derbyshire has an idea. Before passing judgment on Obama's policies, for or against, everyone should have to take Harvard's Implicit Association Test and post their results along with the commentary. The IAT is a commonly used and well-respected test to determine people's associations about things like race, age, religion, and gender. But Derbyshire's results "suggest a strong automatic preference for European American compared to African American," which puts him with 27 percent of respondents, the largest grouping of test respondents. Does that make Derbyshire a racist or mean that his dislike of Obama's policies is based entirely on the fact that Obama is black? It does not. But it does let you know, when reading his critiques, where he is coming from. And, in reading a full-throated defense of the president by someone who posted a strong preference for black people as compared to white people, you could just as easily ask yourself the opposite questions about the roots of that author's opinions.You can take the IAT about preferences for white versus black for yourself here and then click on the Race IAT button.I was found, along with 17 percent of respondents, to have "little to no automatic preference between African American and European American." I am thus free to criticize the president as I see fit. How did you do?
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