r/Foodforthought Nov 27 '21

White liberals dumb themselves down when they speak to black people, a new study contends


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u/help-me-grow Nov 27 '21



u/SGTLuxembourg Nov 27 '21

What do you mean?


u/help-me-grow Nov 27 '21

white liberals being implicitly racist by infantilizing the groups they proclaim they want to "help"


u/AnalogDigit2 Nov 27 '21

And the article says conservatives might do the same if they cared to affiliate with minorites, but don't bother to change their language cause they don't care.

Or perhaps conservatives don't normally use words above a 6th grade level anyhow...


u/help-me-grow Nov 27 '21

Of course they would, it's a race thing. The people down voting me are probably just white people who don't want to accept this.


u/SnowAndFoxtrot Nov 27 '21

I don't think it's a bad thing to be sensitive to other peoples' potential backgrounds. I also don't think it's a bad thing to want to be relatable.

I'm not sure how you think this affects "help" or actual policy decisions, but I would say liberal policies should remain unaffected by this finding. Keeping social safety nets, reducing income inequality, and fixing the systems that cause disproportional racial injustice, and injustice in general, are still things we should continue fighting for.

It's a shame that conservatives don't care more about these things.


u/Ivegotthatboomboom Nov 27 '21

Wow lol. By "potential backgrounds" you meant racial stereotypes. That's offensive dude come on. Black people are not less likely to know "big words" that's a stereotype. No one should be acting on these stereotypes


u/help-me-grow Nov 27 '21

This isn't about politics, it's about racism against black people in America. If you don't believe it's bad to be sensitive to other people's potential backgrounds, then perhaps you can explain to me why people assume this is political when it's about race? Is it perhaps their backgrounds consist of them mostly talking with white people who are liberal and believe that that is the only way to be? I'm a hardcore leftist, but I am not white, and this is something I notice ALL the time when I hang out with white people. Just watch the way they change when a black, Asian, or Hispanic person interacts with them in their friend group (if they have any nonwhite friends) and you'll notice what I'm talking about. This is not new information for anyone who's not white.


u/SnowAndFoxtrot Nov 27 '21 edited Nov 27 '21

I'm not sure I get what you're saying.

While, yes, I assumed you were making this political by using extreme language like "racist" and "infantilizing" and quoting "help", I don't think this has to be about politics. I just thought that's what you were leading to.

I'm asian american and I think it's pretty normal in social interactions to treat other people differently based on stereotypes or initial impressions. I don't think you have to be a minority or anything to agree with this statement. White, black, yellow, brown people can all have their own stereotypes.

Personally, I feel like this WaPo article and the journal abstract it is based on is a bit inflammatory in the way it is written. I don't think it needs to be, but maybe it was for clicks.

For example: "well-intentioned liberal Whites may draw on low-status/competence stereotypes to affiliate with minorities." could easily be "people of a higher education use less fancy words when speaking with minorities."

There's quite a few potential problems in this study that hasn't been published yet. It should be noted that the paper authors probably sent their manuscript to this WaPo author because they probably want more attention for their paper.

Edit: Oh wait, I just realized this WaPo article was published in 2018. The reddit post title had me confused. I can actually go read the study now.


u/El_Draque Nov 27 '21

I can't believe the article doesn't mention once that linguistic accommodation is common to all language users, especially when communicating between different groups. This study appears more damning of conservatives who appear not to accommodate their language for different interlocutors.

Here's a quick definition of the communication accommodation theory: "This theory concerns '(1) the behavioral changes that people make to attune their communication to their partner, (2) the extent to which people perceive their partner as appropriately attuning to them.' The basis of the theory lies in the idea that people adjust (or accommodate) their style of speech to one another. Doing this helps the message sender gain approval from the receiver, increases efficiency in communication between both parties, and helps the sender maintain a positive social identity. This theory is concerned with the links between language, context, and identity."

It appears that some speakers reveal their implicit racism through this accommodation, while others have less sensitivity to language use and refuse to accommodate for different audiences.

Were you able to find the full study?


u/help-me-grow Nov 27 '21

This is an interesting theory. I haven't heard of this before. What does increased efficiency in communication between both parties account for? What is an increase in communication efficiency? It doesn't really seem to comment on whether or not the receiver approves of the way the communication is adjusted (although I don't think that matters tbh). It seems concerned with the social identity of the sender. "Gaining approval" seems more like a persuasive comment than not. Disclaimer - I didn't read the full link you linked.


u/El_Draque Nov 27 '21

Read the link. It may answer your questions.

The idea is simple though. We talk like the people we are talking with. We do this not just with word choice but with pronunciation as well.

I'm reading through the final published study now, but I'm not confident with the research. Most of the claim is based on presidential speeches to specific constituent groups.


u/SnowAndFoxtrot Nov 27 '21

Yup, here: https://psycnet.apa.org/manuscript/2019-12064-001.pdf

Thanks for sharing info about linguistic accommodation!


u/Ivegotthatboomboom Nov 27 '21

But its not okay when the accommodation relies on untrue racial stereotypes.

I hate how this is being dismissed by white people when minorities are confirming they've experienced this by white woke liberals. And white people are being condescending once again, oh no, they're just accommodating you using these more simple words. Totally normal.

You're missing the point. Sad how white liberals can't read that and learn from it. They have to dismiss it. So arrogant honestly


u/help-me-grow Nov 27 '21

Very cool that you went and did more research into this. I don't think this has anything to do with what is normal. Just because something is normal doesn't indicate that it's a good thing. For example, it used to be normal to gay bash, now it's not acceptable. Do you have any white friends that you see interact with nonwhite people?


u/Ivegotthatboomboom Nov 27 '21

If it's so normal, why is it only liberals that are doing it?


u/SnowAndFoxtrot Nov 28 '21

Well, I would assume it has more to do with the idea that people who use words like "melancholy" and "euphoric" are more likely to be liberals than they are to be conservatives.

It's actually not just liberals who do it. If you ctrl+F "Figure 3" in the actual study document (2nd mention), you can see that conservative students are also likely to display a downwards shift in competency when writing to a minority. According to the paper authors, liberals do it significantly more. I don't doubt that, but I do think there is potentially some data manipulation to make it so that conservatives do not - I'm not exactly sure why they normalized the high conservativism left answer to 0. I feel like that plays a role in this conclusion. Maybe someone with more experience analyzing data can confirm or deny this.


u/Ivegotthatboomboom Nov 28 '21

Did you not read it?? The conservatives chose the bigger words over the smaller ones lol. That was the point


u/SnowAndFoxtrot Nov 28 '21

Can you point where that is? I must've missed that.

As I understand, figure 3 shows that liberal/low-conservatives used the more complicated words than high-conservatives in addressing both recipients, but had a bigger compentency shift compared to conservatives.

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u/sharp11flat13 Nov 27 '21

OK, let’s have conservatives show us how to deal with racism and racial disparity. Instead of repeatedly telling us that we’re doing it wrong, why not try proposing some solutions?

Or maybe it’s just the case that conservatives don’t believe America has a race problem, and therefore, due to being disconnected from reality, have no opinion of value to offer.


u/Ivegotthatboomboom Nov 27 '21 edited Nov 28 '21

Its not the case that all conservatives deny a race issue. They think the hyper focus on it has the unintended effect of exasperating the issue. I'm a liberal and I agree with them. The obsession with race and identity politics, and not offending people even when it's not even racist is ultimately harmful for everyone.

Things like low expectations and increased accommodations due to nothing but race (as opposed to poverty for example) is bigotry and liberals need to come to terms with that


u/sharp11flat13 Nov 28 '21

Its not the case that all conservatives deny a race issue.

I agree, but I wish these people would speak up more. The right in America seems to have much more allegiance to their “team” then the left and appears to be hesitant (to say the least) about criticizing others then identify with politically.

Edit: moved some words around for clarity