Black Women Are Less Attractive?

Black Women Are Less Attractive?

The writer of “The Scientific Fundamentalist” blog for Psychology Today apparently thinks African American women are less physically attractive than women of other races, and he cited unscientific “attractiveness ratings” from a recent study to justify his bias.

In “Why Are African-American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?,” published on May 15, evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa used scientific language and multiple graphs to back absurd statements, claiming that he can “compute the latent ‘physical attractiveness factor’” from his data. Psychology Today eventually removed the post and issued an apology, but not before it drew plenty of fire from around the Web. A copy of the article was reposted on Quora.

The brief apology statement posted about two weeks later, just this past Friday, said Psychology Today “does not tolerate racism or prejudice of any sort” and that it had not approved the post. Editor-in-Chief Kaja Perina wrote, “We deeply apologize for the pain and offense that this post caused. Psychology Today’s mission is to inform the public, not to provide a platform for inflammatory and offensive material. … We have taken measures to ensure that such an incident does not occur again.”

However, the apology stopped short of detailing what measures would be taken to prevent future racist articles from being published. It also failed to point out the post’s scientific flaws, let alone denounce them. Merely recognizing the post as offensive is not enough; Psychology Today also needs to call out Kanazawa’s faulty science.

As many have pointed out, Kanazawa’s statistics are deeply flawed. A Scientific American journalist and other writers for Psychology Today recently conducted independent statistical analyses of the Add Health data and debunked Kanazawa’s claims. Just the beginning of how his claims didn’t make sense: Kanazawa used data from an Add Health study about how adolescent behaviors affect their health—not a study about race and beauty. It’s common knowledge that the population of any study needs to be an unbiased sample, and the people doing the beauty judging were Add Health researchers. Since when are the researchers themselves an unbiased sample?

Having presented these flawed statistics in his post, Kanazawa mused about the cause of this supposed attractiveness difference, passing up the “race difference in intelligence” as a potential cause (he claimed beautiful people are more intelligent)—as if such a racial difference exists. He just as confidently concluded that the only possible explanation he could think of must be that African American women have higher levels of testosterone—with no data to back up that outrageous claim.

Now, the London School of Economics is conducting an internal investigation of Kanazawa’s comments and students are calling for his firing, The Guardian reported.

Perhaps the most disturbing part is that Kanazawa has gotten away with other absurd claims until now (past posts include titles like “Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes?”), under the façade of fighting political correctness in the name of science. Which makes you think: How easily fooled is our society? Are racist or sexist beliefs suddenly okay if some statistics are thrown out there to justify them? It’s all too easy to take statistics out of context to back up ridiculous claims and hide the truth. Take race and the academic achievement gap—does such a gap prove some racial minorities are inherently less intelligent? Or does it prove that our society has systematically oppressed those same minorities for generations?

If pseudoscience can be so recklessly used to justify racism, then what can we do as Christians to combat these social messages? Perhaps we need to remind others of the truths behind Scripture such as Galatians 3:26-29 and the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that all humans are inherently equal and our society can only heal after we acknowledge the damage of racial prejudice and injustice. In doing so, we must reject Eurocentric definitions of beauty and instead define ourselves each as Christ does: children of God worthy of love regardless of how our society might attempt to rank our value.

Chicago’s Rebel Priest

Chicago’s Rebel Priest

TRUTH TO POWER: Father Michael Pfleger is equal parts activist and priest.

Father Michael Pfleger is not your typical priest. He has drawn media attention for his activism (protesting drug paraphernalia stores and alcohol advertising), evangelism (paying prostitutes to talk with them about how they can escape), criticism of the Catholic Church (he’d like to see women ordained), political rhetoric (once mocking then-Sen. Hillary Clinton at President Obama’s then-church—although he later apologized), and personal life (adopting three children). He’s the white priest of a predominantly African American congregation. He’s also a beloved leader in Auburn Gresham, a neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside that’s broken by poverty and gang violence.

Recently, Cardinal Francis George asked Father Pfleger to consider leaving St. Sabina Catholic Church to become the president at nearby Leo High School—a request that caused a dispute but eventually ended in a decision to prepare a transition plan for St. Sabina. In the Catholic Church, priests are normally reassigned after at most 12 years at a parish, but Father Pfleger has been allowed to stay at St. Sabina for the past 30 years.

In an interview on the Smiley & West radio show in April, Father Pfleger made it clear he didn’t want to leave St. Sabina and said he would “look outside the church” if forced to leave. Cardinal George suspended Father Pfleger from his duties a month ago, writing in a letter to Father Pfleger, “If that is truly your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish.”

After conversations between the two, the cardinal reinstated Father Pfleger on May 20th, with Father Pfleger reaffirming his commitment to the Catholic Church in a statement and taking his place at the pulpit again that weekend. Both issued statements (found on the St. Sabina website) about their conversation and agreement. Although it’s not clear what will happen next, Father Pfleger said in his statement that he is working on a transition plan for St. Sabina to finish by Dec. 1.

Chicago Theological Seminary associate professor Julia M. Speller is a scholar of African American religious history who has led workshops on leadership at St. Sabina. She said the tension surrounding the Father Pfleger controversy comes from the “personality and methodology” he uses to serve his parish.

“He’s a very outspoken, unapologetic, passionate man,” Speller said. “Perhaps the way he lives out his calling makes people uncomfortable. It’s not the way the average Catholic priest might do it, but that’s the way he lives out his calling on behalf of his community.”

Speller said that Father Pfleger’s style meets the needs of his particular neighborhood. She said Father Pfleger preaches like many African American pastors, using stories and an emotional appeal to drive people to socially conscious actions. While many white Protestant churches tend to preach only to the head, Father Pfleger speaks to both the head and the heart, she said.

“In black churches and other churches that are socially conscious, oftentimes the sermon is an opportunity,” Speller said. “Get their mind and emotion and energy all combined, so when they leave the service they’re ready to do something.” (See a video clip of Father Pfleger preaching upon his return below, or watch the entire sermon.) Indeed, in many ways St. Sabina feels more like a traditional black Baptist congregation than a Catholic parish, which may also be at the root of the conflict between Father Pfleger and Cardinal George.

 

Speller said she sees St. Sabina as an example of parishes that have adopted the cultural expressions of an ethnic group, as Catholic churches have done throughout American history. She said the parish’s music and worship style are similar to that found in many African-American churches, only the ritual and theology is uniquely Catholic. “The same spirit is there, but it’s placed around the traditional experience of the mass and the Catholic Church,” Speller said.

Speller compared St. Sabina’s ministry to the spirit behind the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, since St. Sabina has encouraged lay involvement and collaboration between denominations. Ultimately, she said the cardinal’s decision to reinstate Father Pfleger reflected the Catholic Church’s support of his work.

“I trust that this decision was made in an effort to continue the dynamic work that was done in this community,” Speller said. “I trust that (Cardinal George) understands (Father Pfleger’s) compassion and recognizes the value Father Pfleger brings to that specific parish.”

Find out more about Father Pfleger at the St. Sabina website.