A New Perspective on Racism and Health: How White Men are Hurt By Their Own Racial Attitudes
Smith, Brian Austin
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has massive potential to help reduce gender and SES disparities in health, yet low-SES white men overwhelmingly oppose the policy. This paper argued white men are hurt by their negative racial attitudes towards blacks, as analysis of language used by low-SES white men in debate surrounding the ACA would reveal that their opposition is rooted in symbolic racism, rather than biological or economic self-interest. To test this hypothesis, I constructed a code consisting of four lexical indicators of symbolic racism in opposition to the ACA, namely: (1) the profound impact of “The O-Word”-Obama- on whites’ attitudes towards the ACA, (2) the use of racial stereotypes as a proxy for race, (3) “Us vs. Them”: assertion of unfairness and perceived racial difference in values as a proxy for race, and (4) comparing the ACA to other social welfare policies. This paper then analyzed symbolic racism in a rhetorical context by applying the code to two different sources of ACA debate. First, analysis of public opinion poll comments suggested symbolic racist rhetoric was highly prevalent in the ACA debate. Second, applying the code to focus groups yielded evidence that low SES white men utilized symbolic racist language heavily in their opposition to the ACA. These findings are consistent with my hypothesis, suggesting that low-SES white men are hurt by their own racial prejudices towards blacks- as negative racial attitudes trump their biological and economic self-interest.