Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fox Series Lie to Me on The New Face of Racism: You Too Can Take a Bias Test

lie to me
People always think anger is the most dangerous emotion, but disgust is the language of the hatred. ... quote from the Fox show Lie to Me, which airs Wednesday nights.
Last Wednesday night's episode of Lie to Me was good. I suspect the episode's lower number of stars on fan ratings at Fox has to do with the it addressing lies that reveal unconscious racism. People don't want to face that demon.

In my previous Lie to Me post that featured Obama's emblematic slip, I covered how much I like the show, its consultant, etc. Today I'm talking more about the recent episode, #5, "Unchained."

Lie to Me Episode 5, Season 1, focused on micro-expressions that reveal prejudice and disgust. In one storyline on the episode, a Latina, the regular character Ria Torres, played by actress Monica Raymund, has trouble overcoming her bias against a Latino in prison because she believes once a thug always a thug.

The episode storyline that got most of my attention involved a black fireman's murder where it becomes clear unconscious racism was one factor in his death. In one scene, two regular characters who help detect liars watch video of a hazing incident in which the dead fireman, Eric Mitchell, was the target. They notice that another black fireman, Wallace who is older than Mitchell and who's been with the firehouse nine years, looks on in disgust, but his disgust is aimed at Mitchell, not the white firemen who are actively hazing him.

The investigators, both young and white, call Wallace in for questioning and Dr. Gillian Foster (actress Kelli Williams) says, "People always think anger is the most dangerous emotion, but disgust is the language of the hatred." Disgust is an intense loathing associated with a sense of nausea, abhorrence, aversion.

Next they flash pictures of Hilter talking about Jews, Bin Laden talking about Americans, and last black firefighter Wallace's face showing disgust for Mitchell, the murdered black firefighter.

Wallace explains that he's disgusted because the murdered black firefighter had made hazing about race, but Wallace felt it wasn't about race. Firemen get hazed, end of story, he explained.

"We're not black, we're not white, we're firemen," says Wallace. He was pissed off because Mithcell went to the black firemen association, complained about the house, and asked for a transfer. Wallace explained that before Mitchell came everything had been hunky-dory. He said he personally may have faced some racial ribbing, an occasional watermelon in his locker, but they were all still firemen brothers.

He also said that he'd tried to protect Mitchell but Mitchell was "young and proud and wouldn't learn. And the more he pushed, the worse it got. ... I may have hated the kid, but I didn't want him dead."

Dr. Foster asked him directly who had racial problems with Mitchell. Wallace answered, "Lot of guys."

Now that was human behavior based on fact, or what a certain blogger might call house negro behavior. Wallace acknowledged lots of guys showed racist behavior toward Mitchell but Wallace believed it was Mitchell's fault for putting the racist behavior on blast.

The investigators, Foster along with Eli Loker, played by Brendan Hines, then reported to one of the fire chiefs that the firehouse had racism issues. The fire official was surprised that a black man, Wallace, would cover for racists. Dr. Foster explained that it wasn't odd because sometimes people, like Wallace, place organizational acceptance above race. She said the firefighter association was a more important association to Wallace than his race association.

I think we see this with a certain type of black Republican. They want to be Republican more than they want to be associated with black people and so they let obvious examples of racist behavior from the GOP slide or sometimes deny its existence. It's like being Republican is the magic bullet against actually being black. I'm not talking about accepting some principles of conservative ideology fiscal conservatism. I'm speaking of specifically being a black Republican while knowing the party's history.

Foster also said that Wallace believed race wasn't an issue until Eric Mitchell brought it up. Here's some dialogue for you from Episode 5, Season 1:
"You're saying this is Eric's fault" asked white fire official. (speaking of Wallace's belief that Eric made race an issue at the firehouse)

"No, no. This is the new face of racism. Instead of overt prejudice you see unconscious discrimination. Nobody's joining the Klan but a lot of people still hire the white guy over the black guy with the same resume," said Loker

"And when unconscious racism surfaces it can be lethal. What starts out as reasonable hazing can turn deadly," Foster said.
Then they decide to run the firefighters through a test for racial biases. "People with unconscious bias associate positive adjectives with Caucasian faces," said Foster.

Foster said typical bias test results show that 80 percent of people are biased. Dr. Paul Ekman, the famous expressions expert on whom the show Lie to Me is based, doesn't have a blog up this week about the science behind the show, but you can take a bias test through the Project Implicit.

In 1998 thousands of people took bias tests online: "33,000 Web Tests Show Unconscious Roots Of Racism, Ageism." The results are the same as those mentioned in the show, that 80 percent of people are biased. You can take the test, but if you want the valid results, answer honestly at the test site.

As I said earlier, Wednesday night's episode 5 so far is getting lower star ratings than the show that featured Obama's emblematic slip, and I think it's because the show addressed unconscious racism, something people don't want to admit they have. Remember Eric Holder's comment about a "nation of cowards." People were up in arms--"How dare he bring up race after we voted in the first black president. We're done with race, post-racial America." Ahhh, we're delusional maybe.

Americans are still uncomfortable discussing racial issues in a meaningful, civil way within the context of tribalism and historical fact. Most people don't want to talk about race or racism because discussions of race between people of different ethnic groups often become confrontational with accusations and a sense of guilt. Most people don't like confrontation or going on a guilt trip.

African-Americans may avoid race discussions because we know we've got some hard problems to solve in our community and that other ethnic groups, especially white people, feel superior and spout inquisitorial streams like these:
"Your problems are all your own fault. Why do you have so much crime? Why don't black daddies support their children? Why can't black women get along with black men? Why so many black folks with AIDS? Why are angry when this country's given you so much?"
Frequently they have other insults while refusing to acknowledge how slavery and discrimination still impact the black community. So, the tendency on our side is to dig our heels in and stop discussions on any problems in our community until the whites making the accusations indicate they want to do more than play blame the victim as though blacks exist in vacuum and whites may absolve themselves of every sin.

Many white people avoid discussions of race because they don't want to face their benefits of privilege or to feel any guilt about how the deck's been stacked in their favor. They want to believe every ounce of success they have came via individual brilliance, and don't want to feel any responsibility or examine any other solutions other than screaming "lock 'em up." Or they want to say, "Look, we freed your black behinds, let you vote, and allowed you in our restaurants and schools, isn't that enough? What do we get for that? More whining."

I've been saying that racist attitudes are very similar to domestic abuser attitudes. In order for the the abuser to feel good about himself, he must find fault with the person he abuses. (See "You Know Why He Beat You" poem, rated "R" for strong language.)

Closing, contemplating the quote that "disgust is the language of hatred," when was the last time you paid attention to Rush Limbaugh rhetoric? There's nothing subconscious about his hatred for people who aren't like him, especially people of color. Does he get any points for showing his true colors? Guess he'll never be used as example on Lie To Me. Yes, I've been talking about Limbaugh more lately because he's been plastered everywhere.

Notice I did not reveal Episode 5's murderer or the actual motivation of the murderer. You can watch the show online.

Interested in celebrity liars, try Lie To Me's "In the News" section. Also, Dr. Paul Ekman's site is cool.


Citizen Ojo said...

I'm going to have to check the episode out on Hulu. I think you are right about black Republicans wanting to be more Republican than black. The part that puzzles me is why? Is it for acceptance into something that they think can transcend race? Self Hatred or Ambition? I don't know...

Vérité Parlant said...

I think it's a combination of self-hatred, ambition, and ignorance of self.

Thank you for your visit. I'll drop by your blog this week.

Lady-Cracker said...

The article you wrote about Lie to Me and 80% of people being racist really rings a chime with me. If you are not in any overtly contentious situations the racism just settles, but does not go away.

I would like to cure my unconscious racism, but everyone just laughs at my efforts. Any suggestions?

I found you via Field.

Vérité Parlant said...

The only thing I can think of, LC, is to get to know people of other cultures by meeting them face to face, but also reading their literature and information about their culture that was written by members of the culture themselves and not outside observers.

When we learn first hand about people different from us, we learn we have more in common with them than we realized.

Thank you for your visit.

Vérité Parlant said...

Forgot to say, LC, Field is phenomenal.

Grace said...

i really appreciated seeing your discussion here, especially after just watching the episode. mind if i share?

Vérité Parlant said...

If you mean quote, credit and link, Grace, then sure. Thank you.