Proletarians are twice as likely as property owners to be heroic!

Sounds like a newspaper story from the old USSR, right? Actually, it’s from USA Today, our very own version of Pravda, and it’s not about proletarians versus property owners, it’s about blacks and Hispanics versus whites. According to “new research,” released by pure coincidence on Martin Luther King’s holiday, blacks and Hispanics are twice as likely as whites to perform heroic deeds:

In the study, both blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely as whites to have performed heroic deeds. Zimbardo says they want to do follow-up research on the reasons for the racial/ethnic differences, which he speculates could be attributed to “greater opportunities to respond” or “being discriminated against makes them have more compassion to others in need.”

Here’s the article (via Stuff Black People Don’t Like, which has further commentary):

Study: 20% of Americans have done heroic deeds

New research would seem to support President Obama’s observation Wednesday night in Tucson that “heroism is here, all around us.”

Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford University professor emeritus and colleagues used a nationally-representative sample of 4,000 adults and found that 20% qualified as heroes—they had helped during a dangerous emergency, taken a stand against injustice, or sacrificed for a stranger.

Obama cited Congressional intern Daniel Hernandez, who helped Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was critically wounded, along with doctors and bystanders after an assassination attempt that killed six others and left 13 wounded.

“Heroes are ordinary people,” says Zimbardo, of San Francisco. “You become a hero by doing an extraordinary deed.”

In the study, both blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely as whites to have performed heroic deeds. Zimbardo says they want to do follow-up research on the reasons for the racial/ethnic differences, which he speculates could be attributed to “greater opportunities to respond” or “being discriminated against makes them have more compassion to others in need.”

The study, supported by the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford, asked participants “Have you ever done something that other people—not necessarily you yourself—considered a heroic act or deed?” Those who answered “yes” selected from a list the actions most similar to their own: helping another person in a dangerous emergency; “blowing the whistle” on an injustice with awareness of the personal risk or threat to yourself; sacrifice on behalf of a non-relative or stranger, such as an organ donation; defying unjust authority; or other.

Among the 20% who met the survey definition, 55% had helped someone during an emergency, 8% confronted an injustice, 14% had defied unjust authority and 5% had sacrificed for a stranger.

“These are people who did very dramatic things,” Zimbardo says. “They’re everyday quiet heroes.”

The survey also found someone is more likely to be a hero if the individual has experienced a personal trauma or disaster; or the individual has previously volunteered in non-threatening settings, such as at a soup kitchen.

Social psychologist Scott Allison of Richmond, Va., says Hernandez’ reaction is common among those cited for heroic deeds.

“It is part modesty, but what they’re also acknowledging is that it’s the situation that gives rise to heroism more than anything else. We call it a ‘heroic moment.’ The terrible tragedy produced heroic opportunities for everyday people to do something extraordinary,” he says.

For the book Heroes: What They Do & Why We Need Them, which Allison co-authored, face-to-face interviews with 450 adults asked them to name their heroes and explain why. The survey produced a pattern of traits common to heroes, including intelligence, courage, charisma and selflessness, he says.

“We have a need for heroes because we have a need to be challenged,” Allison says. “We love heroes because of what they offer us—hope for better world.

The future is just why Zimbardo says he created the nonprofit Heroic Imagination Project, which has begun with pilot programs for adolescents in the Bay area.

“At a very deep psychological level, we all need and want heroes to be special people to inspire us,” he says. “Heroes are really the soul of a nation. They represent what is best in human nature.”

[end of article]

- end of initial entry -

Bill W. writes:

I hope I’m not being tiresome in pointing out the absurd, tragic and fatal flaw of the study. The survey asked people whether they had reason to consider THEMSELVES as heroes. What this tell us is not whether blacks and hispanics are objectively more heroic than whites, but rather that a larger percentage of them regard themselves as heroes. The “scientists” who conducted the study (as well as the media person who covered it) ignore entirely the question of objective metrics, and these are pointed out exhaustively by the people at SBPDL. My primary experience is with the combat arms branches of the Army. In the infantry, field artillery, combat engineers, special forces, and tank-drivers, whites are approximately 90 percent of the force. Blacks seem to flock to the lower-stress, lower-danger jobs, such a supply specialist, mechanic, and logistician.

But of course all of this is common knowledge. I’m at a loss to say much more, and find myself chagrined (though not surprised) by the fact that the primary weakness of the study—the fact that all the data are self-reported—went ignored by the media and the folks who conducted the study. This is truly the height of absurdity.

LA replies:

And there was a further problem I was going to point out, but felt it was too obvious to bother. Blacks are known to have substantially higher self-esteem than whites. So naturally blacks self-describe as “heroic” more than whites do.

Karl D. writes:

This study is laughable. It sounds more like someone trying to put a positive spin on life in a high crime area. After all, heroic deeds are generally only performed in highly unstable/volatile situations or emergencies. What does that say about the black and Hispanic community? I will take the peaceful calm of a white suburb where the only heroic deed is someone pulling a child out of the ice who tried to save his drowning dog.

Mrs. K. writes:

Two features of this study set off alarms in my head. One was the self-reported data; Bill W beat me to the punch with his comment. The other was, do we know how the study defines injustice, unjust authority, sacrifice, etc.? I wonder if the people defining themselves as heroes were also the self-styled victims of racism in Youtube’s short film “Racism” or “Race” (I’m not sure of the title). They complained of other people looking at them. This, to them, was racism.

LA replies:

Not only that, but since blacks see our society as racist, therefore they are encountering racism every day of their lives, and therefore, according to the terms and definitions set forth in the “study,” they are heroic every day of their lives.

Mike writes:

By sheer coincidence, I happened to have looked up professor Zimbardo today. He is not only the man responsible for the famously sadistic Stanford Prison experiment, he also apparently gave credence in his book The Lucifer Effect to Jane Elliott’s notorious Blue-Eye/Brown-Eye “demonstrations.” In short, it seems that he is a “change agent” who is completely on board with the demonization of whites and civilized Western society in general.

LA replies:

You need to tell us more, or give links, about his experiments and demonstrations.

Mike replies:

Well, I think the Stanford Prison experiment is pretty well known, at least enough that we can trust Wikipedia on it.

You can see here on the official site for his book how he uses Jane Elliott’s Blue-Eye/Brown-Eye demonstrations, which were essentially about “turning the tables” on whites and creating an environment where whites would experience the virulent discrimination that minorities supposedly face. If you’re not aware of Jane Elliott’s work, you should look up her name on YouTube because her well-documented work is really the epitome of “anti-racism” as it has manifested since the 1960s.

I thought this was fairly common knowledge, but that may only be because both of these studies were discussed at length in my high school psychology textbook, and again several times over in my university psychology courses. But I realize now that people who never formally studied the subject may not have heard of any of this.

Feel free to edit my letters in any way if you choose to post them on your site. I think this information is important to give context to the new study.

LA replies:

I see one reference to Jane Elliott at VFR.

Stephen T. writes:

Interesting that the Stanford data was acquired simply by asking participants, “Have you ever done something that other people—not necessarily you yourself—considered a heroic act or deed?” So, it’s left up to the respondent to define what others consider “heroic” and bashfully confirm that, “Yes, I am viewed as a hero.”

Funny, the way I might have conducted that survey is by making use of extensive online news-searching tools to gather legitimate incidents of heroism (you could easily find thousands), and then see if there’s a racial/ethnic pattern to those who verifiably performed these acts. All we know for sure from this is that—surprise!—blacks and Hispanics are more inclined than whites to depict themselves as heroes in their own minds, and in other’s, too. And, less inhibited about divulging such to a pollster who calls them up out of the blue and asks. By this method, Scandinavians, Asians, and others from backgrounds more modest and taciturn than African American and Mestizo Mexican (are there any two cultures more inclined to braggadocio and self-aggrandizement?) must necessarily come across as cowards and shirkers.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 17, 2011 12:09 PM | Send

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