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Wondering if Racism Is Over? Check America's Google Search History

Illustration for article titled Wondering if Racism Is Over? Check Americas Google Search History

Here's the thing about racists. Racists are stupid. It is fundamentally stupid to believe that the color of a person's skin literally dictates their behavior.* Just hella hella dumb. Which is why it's so cute when racists think they're gaming the system with that whole "racism is over" misinformation campaign. Like they're going to trick us. Declaring that "racism is over" is the same as declaring that "mustaches are over" or "bananas are extinct." I would totally believe you that we're living in a mustache-free utopia right now, except for the fact that a mustache is a big bushy hair-log that rides around on dudes' faces all day. Ugh, who got these 47 mustache hairs in my banana pudding? America did. RACISM IS REAL, DUM-DUMS.


So anyway, I love any kind of quantifiable data that proves that racists are dumb liars. And a Seth Stephens-Davidowitz at the New York Times has so satisfyingly discovered, people who say that racism is dead are not only racist, they're also too dumb to understand the internet. Because the internet will sell you out every single time. Nothing reveals our darkest neuroses and obsessions quite so plainly as our Google search histories. Google, what's this rash? Google, what's a "Kellan Lutz"? Google, aren't black people the worst?

Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed Google search terms from around the country between 2004 and 2007 (so, a pre-Obama cultural climate) to identify how much, if at all, racism affected President Obama's polling numbers. Turns out, a lot! Like, a lot a lot. First of all, Stephens-Davidowitz finds, Americans have a craving for racist jokes more often than we have a headache:

I performed the somewhat unpleasant task of ranking states and media markets in the United States based on the proportion of their Google searches that included the word "nigger(s)." This word was included in roughly the same number of Google searches as terms like "Lakers," "Daily Show," "migraine" and "economist."


Gross, you guys. Gross. Secondly, Stephens-Davidowitz's numbers indicate, racist people are racist:

Once I figured out which parts of the country had the highest racially charged search rates, I could test whether Mr. Obama underperformed in these areas. I predicted how many votes Mr. Obama should have received based on how many votes John Kerry received in 2004 plus the average gain achieved by other 2008 Democratic Congressional candidates. The results were striking: The higher the racially charged search rate in an area, the worse Mr. Obama did.

And finally, those numbers quantifiably hurt the president's performance in the 2008 election:

Add up the totals throughout the country, and racial animus cost Mr. Obama three to five percentage points of the popular vote. In other words, racial prejudice gave John McCain the equivalent of a home-state advantage nationally.


You really must read the whole piece for the full analysis, but most disturbingly, Stephens-Davidowitz notes that there's a chance that gap could become a genuine problem for Obama in 2012. He's no longer coasting on the wave of idealism that drowned John McCain in 2008, and if the election came down to a 2- or 3-point gap, those pesky 5 racism points could possibly cost him the election.

For me, though, I'll start worrying about that when Mitt Romney stops being a rageaholic polo pony in an Alan Thicke wig. Good luck with that one, racists.


*Maybe you're thinking right now that calling people "stupid" isn't a very productive way to open a dialogue. And to that I say, KA-CHINGGG!!! Awesome. Because I don't want to "dialogue" with these people about whether or not they should hate black people, any more than I want to "dialogue" with a shark about whether or not it should eat my leg. (Actually I'd way rather talk to the shark, because HOLY SHIT, TALKING SHARK.)

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I love your disclaimer - it reminds me of when one of my Facebook "friends" told me I was being one-sided about marriage equality. To me, it's not even a discussion if one side is founded in prejudice.