The political legacy of American slavery

Forthcoming, Journal of Politics, from Avidit Acharya, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen:

We show that contemporary differences in political attitudes across counties in the American South in part trace their origins to slavery’s prevalence more than 150 years ago. Whites who currently live in Southern counties that had high shares of slaves in 1860 are more likely to identify as a Republican, oppose affirmative action, and express racial resentment and colder feelings toward blacks. These results cannot be explained by existing theories, including the theory of contemporary racial threat. To explain these results, we offer evidence for a new theory involving the historical persistence of political and racial attitudes. Following the Civil War, Southern whites faced political and economic incentives to reinforce existing racist norms and institutions to maintain control over the newly free African-American population. This amplified local differences in racially conservative political attitudes, which in turn have been passed down locally across generations. Our results challenge the interpretation of a vast literature on racial attitudes in the American South.

The past still matters…


"a new theory involving the historical persistence of political and racial attitudes" — really, that's a new theory?

OMG, racists remain racist?

People there live more than 150 years? How can I get some of that?

There were "colored" drinking fountains into the 1960s. Old folk remember those. They were part of a chain of culture and practices going back to slavery.

That's not "racists remaining racist"

Oh I forgot, racism is invented anew by each generation, from a black slate, and without template.

Non sequiturs abound

The common sense, does it burn?

Genetic racism? Well that concludes the nature-nurture debate once and for all.

no, cultural racism....the elite of colonial society created a segregated racist society in the 1600s in order to divide and conquer--to separate the poor whites from the blacks and thus prevent another mixed race rebellion of the sort that burned jamestown.

The rich created the racist society so they could keep their wealth. The rich put poor whites in a elevated social status above whites.

After the war, working class whites were just trying to maintain their own culture. A culture that was forced on them by the rich.

Of course that got in the way of the rich getting more cheap labor.

I gave up after 20 pages. What I'm seeing is loads of problems with construct validity issues. How are the effects transmitted across time? Through families with histories in these counties and through local churches, schools and institutions. How many families today still live in the same county that their ancestors lived in 150 years ago? What about migrations to big cities? What about differential migration rates which differ between the races? They tried to measure the migration effect and used a Census dataset from 1935-39 and focused on issues like monthly rent paid and wages earned to compare in and out migrants to the different counties but I find this unconvincing as a construct meant to measure " racially hostile whites from other parts of the South (or elsewhere) may have migrated to former slave counties during the last 150 years." Monthly rent paid doesn't reflect racial hostility and migration patterns between 35-39 doesn't reflect migration over 150 years.

If that were true, there would be no political or societal change whatsoever.

Try substituting the "black men" part of your first sentence with "Wotan rides the sky on a six-legged horse", "Fierce Danes are plunderers that love to kill and enslave", "The earth is flat", "The King has a divine right to rule", "Decent men should wear a three-point hat.", "The only way to preserve your honor is a duel with your opponent". You can certainly think about some other examples.

None of those was preserved until today, although once were these memes very common. Ergo: the transmission of opinions and views from generation to generation is far from efficient.

Cultural attitudes do change but they do so at a very slow rate that spans multiple generations. To take the example of dueling -- which was still socially acceptable although on the way out by the 19th century -- see the research on cultures of honor and how they are associated with persistently high levels of violence.

It took roughly 100 years to go from the abolition of black slavery to federal civil rights legislation. Note that if you look at the arguments against the Civil Rights Act that were made at the time, they say that the law is forcing change too quickly on a society that is not prepared for it and that it would be better to let southern states move at their own preferred pace. Nearly identical arguments had been advanced against the abolition of slavery 100 years prior. Why would it shock anyone that after another 50 years, there are still remnants of racist attitudes?

Dad teaches you that white southerners are racists who want to bring back slavery, you believe him, you teach...

Perhaps proximity to large black population is causally related with negative (as interpreted by those conducting the study) feelings toward blacks. Does the study try to deal with this at all?

What about the hostility level of the local black population toward whites? Perhaps negative views reinforce each other? Any attempt to measure that?

It would seem like the frequency of hostile interactions with members of a different race would increase the own-race preference of all races, which would either increase the frequency of hostile interactions or cause us all to "hunker down" a la bowling alone. Is there any attempt to measure this? Would there be any effect left after this was measured?

Of course, this would imply that diversity might not "be our greatest strength" after all.

The character string 'anti-white' does not appear in the paper (the character string 'anti-black' does appear several times). The character string 'crime' appears once, in a discussion of a dubious concept the authors refer to as 'statistical discrimination'. So, no, they're not interested in investigating antagonisms borne of interaction across the color bar. They also posit that white people 'discriminate' against 'others' because those others are 'poor'. The paper is 60 pages long, so there's a great deal to unpack, but it would not surprise me in the least to discover that it's heavily infected by a certain sort of bourgeois prejudice (which academics fail to notice because they live in a bubble and are obtuse anyway).

The social sciences are plagued by mirror-image crises:

The Replication Crisis

The Repetition Crisis

It's not the people who are descendants of slaves that's the problem, it's the attitude of the locals in a certain geographic region.

And this cannot be defended, as the two sentences contradict each other: "These results cannot be explained by existing theories, including the theory of contemporary racial threat. To explain these results, we offer evidence for a new theory involving the historical persistence of political and racial attitudes." Put simply, if white hates black in a geographic region, then black hates white, and black threatens white, hence there is a "contemporary racial threat".

All in all, a paper designed to get attention, and/or speaking the obvious. Move along, nothing to see here, boy.

Yup. Malodorous bigotry masquerading as science. But, hey, if it feeds Tyler's confirmation bias, who are we to complain?

So that's why African-Americans are voting with their feet and moving out of conservative Southern states for liberal cities like San Francisco and New York.

Oh, wait ...

Funny how that works ...

The same effect can be seen in those European countries who were multiculturally enriched in the last generation or so - Sweden, Britain, France, the Netherlands.

Housing in neigbourhoods far from Arabic/Somali/Pakistani/Afghan banlieues is extremely expensive, yet people are willing to take back-breaking mortgages to avoid the physical and ideological (fundamentalist Islam) risk to themselves and their children.

Prices of Swedish homes on "good addresses" have gone through the roof.

Ideological RIsk hahahahahahhahaha :D You are funny.

Your link shows the percentage of American Blacks living in the South increasing since 1970. I think that goes to support Steve's point. Pre-Civil Rights Southern rednecks really did treat their black compatriots like crap. But post-Reagan, Republican policies have generally been more favorable towards blacks than Democratic policies. At least on the state and local level, and at least if you accept migration patterns as indicative of revealed preference.

That goes to another point that Steve frequently makes. Modern-day liberals constantly frame the discussion as if we're still living in 1965, even half a century later.

The migration of blacks from the south to the north and north-east was away from Democrat dominated South toward the (generally) Republican-controlled North. Now that the north-east and rust-belt have become Democrat-dominated, and Blacks have seen their fortunes decline; while the South has turned Republican, they, once again, are moving toward Republican-controlled regions.

Perhaps you could name one of these local Republican policies that is better than in the north? What policy makes living in Georgia better than Illinois for black people?

Regarding Illinois, the demolition of the nearly all-black Cabrini-Green housing project next to Chicago's Gold Coast under Mayors Daley and Emanuel is a pretty spectacular example of changing the demographic facts on the ground, as the current mayor's father might say.

It's worth noting that the current president's first two White House chiefs of staff were Rahm Emanuel and Mayor Daley's brother William.

Permissive land-use regulations that allow for cheaper residential construction make it more affordable for all people--including black persons who are, on average, less able to afford expensive housing.


Right-to-work and low taxes. And a generally meritocractic, genteel culture.

This is simply just not true. Blacks in Massachussets, New York and New Jersey significantly outperform blacks in the south in basic indicators of health, education, and income. They just happen to look worse off compared to the best off white people in America.

Re: But post-Reagan, Republican policies have generally been more favorable towards blacks than Democratic policies

Always nice to hear from an alternate universe far, far away.

"Frey has found, for instance, that from 2005 to 2010, a little more than half of whites who moved from one region to another ended up in the South; meanwhile, more than two-thirds of African Americans moved to the South. For African Americans moving from the Northeast, it was 82%."

Conclusion: economic opportunity is the real change you can believe in.

That and warm weather.

Warm weather doesn't explain the mass migration north earlier in the century.

It really, really sucked to be black in the South in 1950. It's a lot better now because a) federal enforcement of laws, b) striking down of Jim Crow and c) air conditioning.

c) has a much larger impact than you might expect. Whites have been moving to the South in droves too.

I suspect the reason is more that blacks want to live near other larger black communities. And the South has rural black communities the way the NE and the rest of the country do not.
If you're a black person and you don't want to live in an urban ghetto, you either move to the south, or live in majority white communities.

Or, if you can afford it, you find where the black professionals and tradesmen live and move there.

Yes, but outside the south places like that are relatively rare.

Black men moving north to escape slavery before the 40s, and then to escape being killed in the 50s and 60s, with only part of their family joining them, means blacks moving south are moving back to family.

And coming from the north, they are more educated and more skilled than even many whites are in the south.

Remember, Emmet Till was visiting his mother's family in Mississippi after she was taken by her mother joining her father who left Mississippi to escape the slavery by another name, grew up getting the first high school degree in the family and later getting advanced degrees in Chicago. Emmet wanted to visit Mississippi because he wanted to see how great the land was he was hearing so much about from his great uncle. Mamie Till might have returned to Mississippi after she became a teacher, except for hearing her son's murderer complain that Emmett Till had ruined his life, and that he was dead and he should stay dead. Clearly her white peers in Mississippi believed killing blacks was something whites had a right to do.

But blacks moving to the South are moving to a land that they know in myth, the land of milk and honey based on family stories about the land and weather and family, but they are moving to the South as elites, well educated, often professionals, needed by businesses that often expanded from the north.

I wonder if they are moving to these counties where there was high slavery though? Or are they moving to Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Houston, Miami,Tampa, etc that were on the periphery or outside of the "Black Belt". I don't think anyone white or black is moving to the lowland south (other than the coast) or the delta.

True, nobody is moving to those dried up rural counties. But, those counties are often majority black.

Because racism demands you always move, and the cost of living in San Francisco is exactly the same as rural Missisippi.

And having grown up in the South, my experience is that there is more racism there, but it's more obvious. Whereas in the North it's at times more difficult to detect. Not least because Northerners almost never use the N word.

People put up with all kinds of bullshit in their local communities rather than move -- ever had an argument over Thanksgiving dinner? Speaking of Thanksgiving, have you ever taken a bus from Chicago to Mississippi in order to visit your relatives on a holiday? Did your boss give you extra time off because you couldn't afford a plane ride?

"Racially conservative"?

Interesting, but like DRDR, not sure how this overturns much. Conservative beliefs are based on racism, or conservative beliefs are based on historical racist dog-whistles. Impossible to deny there's a connection, but there always seems to be some cheap assumptions in how it works.

Also, they again rely on "racial resentment" which I think is a deeply flawed measure. Here, it was the average of the two levels of agreement (1-5 scale) with: (1) “The Irish, Italian, Jews and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same,” and (2) “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for Blacks to work their way out of the lower class.” I'm sure readers here can see how this may subtly conflate race issues with other beliefs. And, of course, those that test the value of racial resentment find that: "Among liberals, racial resentment conveys the political effects of racial prejudice, by predicting program support for black but not white students, and is better predicted by overt measures of racial prejudice than among conservatives. Among conservatives, racial resentment appears more ideological."

Ooops... I do not advocate for the summary in my second paragraph. I should have written: "The biased headline summaries of these studies all seem to say that either 'conservative beliefs are based on racism,' or 'conservative beliefs are based on historical racist dog-whistles.'"

"Conservative beliefs are based on racism, or conservative beliefs are based on historical racist dog-whistles. Impossible to deny there’s a connection"

Uh, I deny there's a connection. I'm not even sure how to BEGIN to make the connection of limited government to hating other ethnicities. Historically, the Republican party has always been the one to advocate for more civil liberties for blacks and women. (I am aware of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which a Goldwater conservative would rightly see as redundant. That one bit of legislation appears to negate the KKK and other forms of Democratic voter suppression and won over the black voting bloc. I would argue to the great detriment to the black community-if a bloc of people are guaranteed to vote for a party, and the opposition cannot sway them, then both parties have no reason to actually care about their needs. See also the Religious Right, the pandering is largely verbal)

I agree the attitude has shifted; the Republican party isn't a party of racists, but it is #1 with racists. This seems to have changed around ~1980, perhaps, but I think this relatively recent shift in attitudes is due to
1: the cohesiveness and stickiness of the black voting block. As said above, if a party cannot sway a bloc, why both trying?
2: preferential treatment. Affirmative Action is not without costs, and included in that is a marginal loss of respect of whites for blacks.
3: increased tribalization in the political parties. We do not hold our side up to as high standards, and the opposition is evil incarnate.
4: cultural stagnation. This is something I think I can rightly catch some flak for, but it seems to me the black community is deeply stagnating. Black fathers would travel across state lines and rescue their children in days of slavery; now without any obstacles, the black family is disintegrating. The black community shared with the world prodigies like Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole, jazz, blues in the days of Jim Crow, and now, there is quality hip-hop and rap, but the likes of Kanye West are celebrated. At least Neil Degrasse Tyson is also somewhat celebrated, but I feel he's more of a white man's hero than to the blacks. *shrug* It's not like white culture is faring much better.
5: Pushback. I really don't care about race, but I keep hearing about how I'm racist for not being in love with Obama. I keep hearing, from ignorant or trolling hacks like Sean here, that conservatives = racist. Race keeps being dredged up as a conversation when I'd rather talk about something culturally uniting, like how the Royals are doing this year. If you keep calling someone a racist, don't be too terribly surprised if they give up trying to be nice. The left uses that same line of reasoning for why girls are quieter in school, it should work for your line of conservative=racist too.

Rant over. Sorry Sean, but you were way out of line. I'm going to enjoy a nice bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, and enjoy my morning. Please do the same. I no longer bear you ill will, only your dangerous rhetoric.

Check my revision directly above your comment, posted three hours before yours.

Noted. In my defense, this was early in the morning and pre-coffee. My apologies.

Do you have a case to make concerning tax rates, busing, and other issues, or are crappy ad homs all your mind can manage?

But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other.

If you think about what he is saying, you will notice that he is saying that race does not work with White southern Voters. Which is why they are willing to vote for the Republicans - traditionally the anti-racist party. The party of Lincoln, the NAACP, and of Civil Rights.

The "Southern Strategy" is just a myth the Left consoles itself with.

@So Much For Subtlety: "The “Southern Strategy” is just a myth the Left consoles itself with."

That's the most naive thing I've read all week. Well done.

Connection between "limited government" and racism or at least anti-anti-racism:

- Blacks have historically required a strong central government in order to enforce their rights of citizenship. Many of the Republicans who you rightly note were in favor of civil rights were also in favor of non-limited government measures such as a federal anti-lynching law, to choose one obvious example.
- Race and social class are closely correlated in the deep south. That is not to say that every white southerner who opposes a larger safety net is a racist. But almost all white southerners who harbor racist sentiments will tend to gravitate to the limited government, anti-safety net side.

That does make sense... I do actually buy the "States Rights" part of defining marriage, etc. Yes, that would allow some states to ban gay marriage, and while I do not support it, I do feel that legally states should be allowed to do so. Get their bigotry out in the open. Again, the "not racist, but #1 with racists". I'd again like to apologize to Sean for the attack yesterday.

I feel that the protections and special privileges afforded the protected classes are backfiring, and this is something that hindsight can help with. My city requires a certain amount of minority and women-owned company participation on certain construction projects; no matter how pricey or, um, fudged, the work is. Whenever XYZ company is assured of a lucrative contract, standards slip. Even if the workers themselves aren't black (often are white, but then the midwest is fairly white), it reflects poorly on Minority Owned.

Again time to go to work, but I'm coffee-d up this time. A problem with Marginal Revolution is the speed of topic churn. This thread will be dead tomorrow, and with it any progress made in conversation.

Funny how liberals always find that if you disagree with them, it must be because you're a stupid racist.


+1 for the screen name.

Maybe something you said revealed your racism?

I mean, sure there are lynch mobs out there, but they do not represent the average liberal.

If liberals didn't slander, what would they have to say? They've been slandering America with the same old crap for decades. See Ben Wattenberg's "The Good News is the Bad News is Wrong." from the early 80s.

Or simply that racist attitudes, like nearly all other human behavioral traits, is highly genetically loaded. We already know that racist attitudes are highly correlated with high Conscientiousness and low Openness in the FFM. These personality traits are highly heritable, almost solely due to genetic reasons. In other words, racist parents would probably have racist kids regardless of what they tell them.

As a followup the South is racist, because they're the descendants of the people who felt the least scruples about owning human beings. (This stems even further back to Tidewater being originally settled by the Cavaliers. That is to say the people who fought against democracy and in favor of aristocratic privilege and divine right in the English Civil War). This has nothing to do with cultural legacy, and everything due to genetic distribution. Even if we sent every Southern cracker to intense re-education camp, Dixie would remain the racist heart of the US.

Genetics? loool So how can you identify this from the environmental effects ("parental raising", etc)?

To conclude that slavery caused present attitudes, the paper needs you to believe slavery was externally imposed on the otherwise indistinguishable people of certain states. David Hackett Fischer would beg to differ.

Coming from the guy who questions the role of the educational system regarding indoctrination.

....."the past is prologue."

When did Americans start to misuse "contemporary" to mean "current", and why?

Words are tools created by humans. People outside your town may speak and write different. Have you ventured to ride your horse to the valley on the other side of the mountain?

But do you know the answers to my questions?

Because they don't give a rip about British usage.

Nathan W February 18, 2016 at 2:58 am

Crazy idea. Daddy tells me every time I see a black man what filth they are. And daddy’s always right

Yeah? How about - "Daddy tells me every time I see a White man that they used to own my grandparents and they would kill a Black man at the drop of a hat. And daddy's always right". Would you call that racism?

Slavery has left a legacy not only to the White community. It may well be that they are measuring the impact of Black resentment and fear. Not irrational emotions in the circumstances.

Also, where do you get the idea that slave owners thought of their slaves as "filth"? It was more like a bizarre form of paternalism.

The Civil War never really came to an end, a truce maybe, but not an end. And then the Civil Rights movement led by black Southerners and supported by white Northerners ended the truce and the Civil War has raged since, maybe warfare without well-defined battles with thousands of casualties in a span of a few days but warfare nevertheless, with conflict as intense in politics as on the battlefield. I disagree with the authors' conclusion that racist attitudes are local. I have a home in the low country, within shouting distance of an island, an enclave, inhabited by ultra-rich white (mostly) Northerners who fly in and out in their private jets. Is their disregard for the abject poverty of the local black population just a few miles away any less racist than the racist attitudes of the middle class white Southerners who are no more likely to set foot in the enclave than the poor blacks they scorn.

The civil war ended, the south was defeated, and it has never risen again.

Of course racism persisted and class hatred too, because while the Union fought to end the institution of slavery, it sure didn't fight to end racism.

Or do you think that the deep South voting the same as Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming while waving the American flag is a continuation of the war? Do you think the fact that while the South raises armies of military recruits they fight outside the South for the Union, and that the South's contributions to American presidents have been a President of Princeton who aided Wall Street Financiers and California mine owners in breaking the socialist party in America, a grandson of Texas Hill Country farmers whose father ended up a political leader of staunchly unionist German settlers, a peanut farmer who attended Annapolis and served in the US Navy, and the Yankee Son of the scion of a northern Ohio steel manufacturer and his son?

That is like saying the War between England and France has never really ended, and the Jacquerie still lies in wait for the unwary Briton.

The South may not have risen, but lots of monuments and battle flags did.

Monuments are pretty much the same thing as a full scale civil war

"...the Civil War has raged since"

Good lord. Drama queen much?

Certain counties in the old South had high proportions of slaves for a reason, it wasn't random. Outside of South Carolina they were quite distinct from other counties in climate, soil, and topography. And most of the counties are very different in their subsequent development as well, though there are exceptions, particularily in Texas.

Remember by the time slave agriculture reached the Mississippi Territory slaves were already very expensive and plantations were getting both larger and more expensive to develop. Land cost and political corruption in the distribution of land meant that slaves were most heavily introduced into particular areas where they would be most productive and the rise of universal white male suffrage meant that counties with a substantial white population were harder for wealthy landowners to dominate politically. This these areas not only had more valuable and agriculturally productive land they also had initial settlers favored by corruption in initial land distributions determined to keep out white small holders.

Thus in the antebellum south you had areas of high productive potential dominated by large plantations with large numbers of slaves and few whites and others with lower potential with smaller farm sizes and much smaller slave/white ratios. The Black Belt in MS-AL is marked by BOTH large Black populations and Black Soil. Add in altitude effects on mortality which meant that free labor avoided large areas of the south as too deadly to sustain free labor and how this only reinforced the segregation of white small holders, who often had slaves but far less, and large slave plantations and you are creating really different starting conditions.

Then when you progress you have higher levels of soil degradation in large scale plantation agriculture, you have less development of towns and cities with smaller white population and less industrial development.

After the end of slaves and advent of Jim Crow and sharecropping regimes it was dangerous to allow white farmers in because they could vite and threaten larger land owners power this preventing further industrial development and enhancing geographic segregation. This also meant few migrants from outside the south and that most skilled workers left as quickly as they could. My grandmother grew up in the Delta daughter of a skilled machinist and not only was he prevented from voting they left the minute he was no longer making more money there than elsewhere, this is hardly an uncommon story.

Thus most high slave areas remained with much higher Concentrated African populations, minimal in migration of whites both from the rest of the South, other areas of the US, and overseas. They remained politically backward, an interestingly enough had weaker KKK strength than otherareas, and economically undeveloped, because of this they had very poor infrastructure especially with regards to roads. Their lack of white workers and insalubrious climate meant that in the first wave of industrial development they were skipped entirely.

The only real exceptions were in Texas, mostly on the west side of Houston, where the frontier nature of the area and trubcation of slavery meant that many of the most slave rich areas had an explosion of white immigrant settlement in the late 19th century and the african proportion of the population collapsed. This happens though in Texas which has a different three race social system and has such explosive population growth that almost all of the population arrived not just post bellum civil war but post bellum World Wars.

So you have a huge number of confounding effects and your only real controls are terrible. If you check where there was a high slave proportion in the past but a relatively low african american population today it is only in the part of the South that is both least Southern, has the least continuity, and who is sitting on oil.

I only read the first thirty pages, and it is interesting, but the devil is in the details.

If someone wants to learn the stuff you know, what should they read?

I suspect that the dirt on which those counties are built is cursed. Did they check for ancient indian burial grounds?

So . . . places which had a lot of slaves more than a century ago must be full of racists, and therefore those racists vote for the party that ended slavery? This makes no damned sense at all.

How about this counter-hypothesis: places in the South which had a lot of slaves more than a century ago were the best places for commodity farming (cotton and sugar), and today commodity farmers vote for the party which seems to them to be a better supporter of small and medium business owners -- like, say, commodity farmers.


Here's a topic sentence for their next scholarly treatise, "The Legacy of Democratic Politics." From the 1830's through 1980, the South was consistently, solidly Democrat. Bull Conner was a member of the DNC. The South was totally (economically, politically) destroyed by the North after in the CW. The freedman was least capable of thriving in the economic wreckage. Total war (civilian property destruction) and Reconstruction imposed by Republicans (what if Lincoln had lived?) caused lasting resentment.

Southerners have always been social conservatives. The Republican Party became the only socially conservative party in the 1970s. It's taken a while for all the conservatives to leave the Democratic Party and move to the GOP. Now we're at a point where barely 1 in 8 Democrats consider themselves "conservative" on social issues.

There's a strong correlation between states with lots of anti-abortion Christian conservatives (Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Utah) have very high levels of support for the Republican party whereas states with very few of these sorts of people (Massachusetts, Oregon, Hawaii) have very high levels of support for the Democratic party.

Even if there had never been slavery in the United States, the South would still be the conservative region and New England would still be the liberal region. The sorts of people who settled these two places are different and have differing worldviews.

The effect of certain stimuli on their respective worldviews differed. Massachusetts suffers from the collapse of the Catholic Church as an institution shaping the culture. That collapse had scant effect in Mississippi, where the Church was never that influential. As recently as 1976, an opposition to legal abortion would have been the default setting for a Massachusetts Democrat (not Barney Frank or Michael Dukakis, of course).

After emancipation blacks were steadfast Republicans until FDR.

Lyndon Johnson knew that the Civil Rights Act would doom the Democratic Party in the south.

"those racists vote for the party that ended slavery"

The parties sort of switched places somewhere along the way.

No. The GOP has always been against the practice of government using the power of the law to screw some people and favor others on the basis of race. The Democrats have always favored the practice. Democrats just switch what races they screw and what races they favor to fit their political advantage. Right now, asians get screwed and blacks and hispanics get favored. In the past, Democrats favored whites and screwed blacks.

It's been 151 years since the end of slavery in what's now the US but it remains a constant topic among the political class for the same reasons it figured in ante-bellum days, to give moral validity to the descendants of the northeast Puritans over the southern Cavaliers. Best of all, no admission is required that those same post-Puritans successfully swindled the native Americans out of their land, killed most of them and confined the survivors to the least productive parts of a country that was once theirs alone. Perhaps pervasive national hypocrisy isn't all that unusual but it doesn't commonly dominate a country's daily discourse.

I think it is widely accepted around the world that "truth and reconciliation" is what gets you past old evils. Sadly such acknowledgement can come too late. P.J. O Rourke's "Indians have a legal right to live in Ohio, but oops, we killed them all."

"oops, we killed them all.”

Except we did not. Not even close. They were mainly pushed into unwanted territory.

There was no genocide of Indians in the US. There was 200+ years of war and casualties on both sides. The Indians suffered larger proportional loses because they were the losers and the Europeans had better and more weapons.

Read the history of "massacres" of Indians. Observe the small number of dead. Compare to Rwanda or the Nazis.

Interestingly, the organization End Genocide keeps a Native American page:

Did not know Indians did not get dual citizenship until 1924, and did not get the right to a jury trial until 1968.

I believe the most destructive consequence of encounters between Europeans and native Americans was the spread of communicable diseases to which the native American population lacked resistance: smallpox, measles, etc. Mass deaths from epidemics not only killed individuals, but induced societal collapse.

Killing people on the basis of their race/ethnicity is, by definition, genocide. Perhaps the European invaders could make the case that they didn't care about the race of the occupants of the continent, that they would have killed them if they were Japanese or Malays in possession of the land they wanted. Or that since the neo-lithic aboriginals engaged in combat between their own tribes, the apostles of the Enlightenment were morally justified in murdering their women and children and destroying their property: But since the historical construct is that only the South bears the hereditary guilt of slavery, it assuages the self respect of all to ignore the pillage of the natives. The never-ending race obsession in the US is a 100% political phenomenon.

To be fair, whites killed women and children less than the American Indians did. Torture/mutilation of women was routine for many tribes

'The never-ending race obsession in the US is a 100% political phenomenon.'

Yep, that race classification on my Commonwealth of Virginia birth certificate, which at the time of my birth determined whether or not a marriage to a woman would be legal or not based on the race classification on her birth certificate, was a 100% political phenomenon.

Somehow, I don't think that proves the point you seem to think your observation makes.

Or to put it bluntly - the state I was born in had an explicit and enforced policy in place to prevent someone like Obama from ever being legally born, much less ever allowing him to vote, and of course, the thought of such a child becoming president would have seemed like a nightmare vision of an America gone to hell.

Which, oddly enough, seems to be exactly what some people seem to think that now America has a man they consider black to be president (don't forget that Virginian obsession with the one drop rule - the rest of the world thinks Obama is half white, but Americans know that no such meaningful category exists in public discourse in the U.S.).

Monetary rewards for bringing back scalps of Indians is not consistent with the perspective that there was no intention of genocide.

Only by virtue of the fact that the killing did not proceed to completion, could one argue that there were no genocidal goals, even though these goals were not ubiquitously shared among the colonists.

There were monetary rewards for scalps of colonists as well

Michel de Montaigne wrote his travel journal in 1581. The national characters he describes, of the Italians and the Swiss, fit the mold of today.

That tells me that regional character changes slowly.

Individuals might change more quickly, but I don't think the weight of cultural values and institutions do. Heck, we had unintentional Civil War enactments last year as one crowd wanted the Confederate flag down, and one side did not.

From my point of view we had one side pretending that the flag was not about that full weight of history, but it was, and is.

But on a county level? I am skeptical

Growing up in a small town in the south I saw rebel flags everywhere, not just on the courthouse. Some would even wave them at football games.

My high school football team was the Conquistadors. This was in California. At the time I didn't think too much about it, took the simple view that "oh yeah, it isn't really about all that." The team had Hispanic players after all.

I see that today it is the Conquerors, with a mascot that could be Cortes or Don Quixote - a bit less of the unfortunate connection.


And that was totally different from the next county over?

The county thing is a correlation, right? No one expects it to be absolute or uniform.

FWIW though, yes my town had a "Mexican side" that did date to a Mexican village named by the Portolà expedition.

Sounds like bullshit. Voting In racially diverse societies usually splits along racial/ethnic lines. This is not some strange pattern that needs a complicated explination.

Exactly. My name and my religious institution have nothing to do with my views on the Constitution. Ancient history.

Northern liberals write study that calls white Republicans racist.

Try to imagine my lack of surprise.

I think I'm gonna have a heart attack and die from not surprise

Should they self censor?

They should try to use responsible methods in their academic research

Interesting to compare the West`s moral agonising with the Muslim position:

"The state, if it is Islamic, does not have the right to seize my house, my wife or my slave"

I'm always entertained when northerners from wealth backgrounds move to a DC suburb in Virginia and then pretend to be experts on places like Lowndes county Alabama. Unless you have ever been swimming in a water-moccassin infested creek with a baseball team of 8 year old and their sub-median income parents of different colors then I just don't think the data you are running regressions on tells much a very enlightened story.

It feels more like this type of summary is just an effort by the authors to signal they are not racist, while simultanuosly making sure everyone knows you assume white southerners are homogeneously more racist than people in other regions. I am working on my boundaries, so I am still a bit defensive here I admit.

All three are Ivy League products and they apparently met when each had a visiting position at the University of Rochester. The principal author is a Nepalese immigrant. So, the Deep South is another country to them. Hell, the opposite shore of the Genesee from their offices on the River Campus was another country.

To my observation, blacks and whites are more respectful and courteous to each other in the South than in the North. For example, the media seemed palpably disappointed that Charleston didn't erupt in race riots after Dylan Roof slaughtered nine black Christians. Whites and blacks in places like Chicago, greater Detroit and Baltimore don't seem to do well around each other. Blacks have been banished to Oakland from San Francisco. Bloomberg was so good at turning NYC into a white, Jewish playground that all the yuppies proceeded to elect an addled Bolshevik.

I don't feel like laying out my whole thesis, so I'll just say this paper reminds me that liberals love humanity but hate humans, and conservatives love humans and hate humanity.

I had several happy years in Baltimore, which is a handsome town damaged by abiding social problems (common enough) and governance just one step above Detroit's (not as common). Everyday human relations across the color bar are not troublesome. The trouble, as ever, comes from the feral young men. This is a problem that can be readily addressed, but is not.

I'm curious which prescriptions you might offer. I somehow expect to disagree, but usually you've got some good logic and ideas going on, most especially in the more local stuff, in my opinion.

An alternative explanation is that the data doesn't lie

No. It takes academics to make it lie to fit the narrative.

That's a pretty strong claim.

Which part of the methodology do you think is leading them to the wrong conclusions?

Tyler - I'd argue that you could have ended this post more poetically: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

"Whites who currently live in Southern counties that had high shares of slaves in 1860 are more likely to identify as a Republican...To explain these results, we offer evidence for a new theory involving the historical persistence of political and racial attitudes”

I didn't know that slave-owners in the south were Republicans. That is persistent! Lincoln must have been a good leader to go against his base like he did. I wish more politicians were like Lincoln.

Figure 1 in the paper shows the proportion of slaves by county in 1860. In my state, the red regions with the highest number of slaves are along the coast, where there were rice and sugar cane plantations, and along a line running diagonally across the interior of the state up through the bordering state to the north, a line sometimes referred to as the "chalk line", where chalk was mined by slaves and used by the slaves in making bricks that were shipped to England. The plantations in my part of the state, the low country, have long since passed into history, but each area is still known according to the plantation that once occupied the area. One such area is now the location of an annual golf tournament, but the television announcers don't tell their viewers that the tournament is being played on what once was a plantation with hundreds of slaves. I find that amusing since the same announcers suck up to the billionaire investment bankers who play in the celebrity golf tournaments on the West Coast early in the year. I am more appalled by the sight of well-known sports announcers sucking up to the investment bankers than I am that a golf tournament is played on a plantation. Maybe I have different sensibilities.

You'd rather the plantation was back or something?

"...Whites who currently live in Southern counties that had high shares of slaves in 1860 are more likely to identify as a Republican, oppose affirmative action, and express racial resentment and colder feelings toward blacks. These results cannot be explained by existing theories, including the theory of contemporary racial threat...."

So if I'm reading this correctly, the authors believe that opposing affirmative action is in some way related to harboring racial resentment towards African Americans.

By this standard, Kurt Vonnegut must have been an extreme bigot when he wrote Harrison Bergeron.

You might say two kinds of people oppose Affirmative Action, but I don't think you can can say it is just one. Either one.

To understand Southern political attitude towards race you need only to look at the states which George Wallace won in 1968.

Look at the Map:

OK, you have us look at 47 year old election returns. What about the political problems of 1968 would be 'understood' by glancing at the political geography of James Cox performance in 1920?

Oh, excuse me, so much has changed in the South since 1968,

OK dont look at the map and because it will disconfirm your beliefs.

Dad teaches you that black men are scum and inferior. You believe him because dad knows everything.

You do the same.

Your child does the same.

Voila. Racism persists.

But how did it start? For most of human history, we lived in small bands that were hostile to outsiders.

You want to explain this as a purely cultural phenomenon. Pretty amazing how universal it is.

Note- I'm not endorsing racism, just recognizing that there is more to overcoming it than telling dad to shut up.

In warfare, for example, it is necessary to paint others as lesser, evil, somehow.

Also, the fact of having been enslaved ... you look at someone in a lower position and somehow naturally (?) assume that they deserved this position. In a Christian context, this could be the assumption that God disfavours them, for example.

Very good question though.

I'm inclined to think that there might be some sort of "natural racism", explaining perhaps 1% of the existing situation, where one might favour people who look and speak like the group I belong to.

And NO ONE moves in or out of the county for 150 years. Okay. By the way, parental political affiliation is not very correlated with child political affiliation

Anecdote. As a youth, in 1999, we fundraised for and then went on a music trip to Alabama.

The bus driver for the orchestra was black.

Our hosts profusely apologized that they were unable to find another driver.

And some people think that racism doesn't affect labor market opportunities...


Just because some academic idiots put out a study doesn't mean their conclusions are accurate. You might try a bit of skepticism.

Which is deserving of more skepticism? "The past still matters" or "The past has no bearing on the present"?

Racists are so in denial, that evidence of the concept that racism persist over time makes them angry with the researchers.

If you think there is a problem with the research, get into the methods and explain why.

The fact that they are white or liberal does not mean the research is wrong. We are not so stupid as to be unable to evaluate the research on the basis of its own merits.

When I was in high school (in the south), I recall a classmate's mother who commented that they did not have such racial issues where they were from originally in the northeast. Then I asked, "About how many black kids would you estimate were in [my friend's] class when you were up there?"

[pause]... "Oh, maybe 10."


People are reacting because they want their beliefs to be judged on their merits as opposed to their provenance. That's not the issue and trying to pick apart this paper is a diversion. The bias comes from elsewhere-- from the lack of academic researchers using grant money to find links between current progressives and some commonly-accepted awfulness.

Actually, if you review the comments, not a single person has picked apart the paper in the remotest of ways. Some have summarily dismissed the results, others used it as an excuse to broadly insult whichever category of people they don't like. But no one has actually said anything of relevance regarding the actual contents of the paper.

If there's a problem with the method, speak up. The fact that you don't like the ideological persuasion of the grantees is not a guarantee that the research is wrong.

From the article: "Furthermore, as evidence for intergenerational (cultural) transfer of attitudes, we show that there exists a strong correlation between the racial attitudes of parents and their children in the U.S. South."

Correlation of parent attitudes with child attitudes is also evidence of genetic transmission of attitudes, which twin studies and adoption studies provide independent evidence for. The claim that the persistence of racial attitudes is due to non-genetic transmission must first eliminate the alternate explanation of pure genetic transmission of attitudes. The researchers attempt to tackle this concern in Appendix C, but I'm not sure that the available data permit isolating non-genetic transmission from genetic transmission.

The research that I have conducted on racial resentment indicates that racial resentment predicts conservative views of women even in the face of substantial statistical control, which suggests that even substantial statistical control does not isolate the racial component of racial resentment. I have less faith that the analysis in the article's appendix C has isolated the effect of non-genetic transmission of attitudes.

I'm not claiming that the article is incorrect and that the effect of slavery on modern attitudes is exactly zero. But I don't see how the methodology of article has eliminated the alternate explanation of pure genetic transmission of attitudes.

I would be stunned if genetic transmission were more than 1-2% of the total transmission, averaged across the population. Moreover, I would want to know about genes themselves, not just some study where "genetic component" was some residual variable after accounting for other factors.

For there to be a genetic component, evolution theory tells us that the trait must have been advantageous. What possible genetic advantage could there be in racism? By definition of identifiable population groups, we would almost never have interbred with other populations, and therefore there is virtually no way that I would be better able to "protect my genes" or the success of my progeny by sheer virtue of racism. Contrary ideas?

Even if 98% of the variance is due to non-genetic explanations, attributing the non-genetic variance to slavery means eliminating the effect of pre-slavery attitudes. Thus, attributing modern racial attitudes to the legacy of slavery requires at least eliminating [a] the influence of genetic transmission of attitudes and [b] the influence of environmental transmission of attitudes that began before slavery. The evidence in the article is consistent with the legacy of slavery, and I would not be surprised if the legacy of slavery had a meaningful effect. But I'm not convinced that the article has fully eliminated these alternate explanations.

Like E. Harding mentioned, traits that have no clear evolutionary advantage can be inherited. And preference for the ingroup over the outgroup does appear to have an evolutionary advantage. And racism did not keep certain slave owners from reproducing with slaves.

"Not all evolution carries a clear genetic advantage."

Strictly speaking, you are right, for example there are neutral or deleterious mutations. Non-advantageous mutations will not be systematically passed on unless they arise by coincidence alongside a positive one. But then there would be nothing to push that trait further in that direction, virtually assuring that the trait would not develop further in a particular direction. So, it's hard to see how such traits could be more than infinitessimally relevant.

"I’m not convinced that the article has fully eliminated these alternate explanations."

I'm not very persuaded, but I think this is the correct attitude.

"preference for the ingroup over the outgroup does appear to have an evolutionary advantage."

This would only be true if it led them to, say, pre-emptively, or more vigorously, engage in lethal violence with other groups who did not have this trait. Sadly, this seems quite plausible (legitimizing your perspective), with no obvious benefit for modern society. The alternative explanation is that these reflect cultural habits, not genes.

Personally, I believe that evolution has left us with numerous predispositions which have highly undesirable effects in civilized society, and that most conceptions of morality basically reflect, consciously or not, culturally transmitted social knowledge to suppress these tendencies, largely by seeking to make use of our nicer predispositions and to "over"emphasize them for the benefit of broader social harmony. E.g., "Tommy, share your toys", to develop a habit that can improve social relations throughout life, and which take advantage of the pleasure we can get through our natural sympathies for the wellbeing of others - i.e., moral learning involves suppressing greed and promoting sharing/cooperation in such a case.

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