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The 'Post' Cartoon And The Phenomenon Of Dehumanization

Viewed in an academic context, the controversial New York Post editorial cartoon, which some believe mocks President Obama, belongs to a category of racist — and dangerous — "cognitive associations."

That is the conclusion of Phillip Atiba Goff, an assistant professor at the department of psychology at the University of California.

Read part of his essay written in response to the furor, excerpted here:

For the better part of the past seven years, my colleagues and I have conducted research on the psychological phenomenon of dehumanization. Specifically, we have examined cognitive associations between African Americans and non-human apes. And the association leads to bad things. When we began the research, we were skeptical of whether or not participants even knew that people of African descent were caricatured as ape-like — as less than human — throughout the better part of the past 400 years. And, in fact, many were not. However, even those who were unaware of this historical association demonstrated a cognitive association between blacks and apes. That is, when they thought of apes, they thought of blacks and vice versa — when they thought of blacks, they thought of apes.

But the fact of this cognitive association was not the most disturbing part of the research. Rather, it was the fact that the association between blacks and apes could lead to violence.

Click here to read more of Goff's findings. Hat tip to Baratunde Thurston of Jack & Jill Politics.