Archive for Friday, January 9, 2009

Study shows gap in what we say versus what we do about racism

January 9, 2009


— Think you wouldn’t tolerate a racist act? Think again, says a surprising experiment that exposed some college students to one and found indifference at best.

Here’s the scene: Researchers in Toronto recruited 120 non-black York University students for what purported to be a psychology study.

A participant was directed to a room where two actors posing as fellow participants — one black, one white — waited. The black person said he needed to retrieve a cell phone and left, gently bumping the white person’s leg on the way out. The white actor then did one of three things: Nothing. Said, “I hate when black people do that.” Or used the N-word.

Then a researcher entered and said the “psychology study” was starting and that the student should pick one of the two others as a partner for the testing.

Half the participants just read about that scene, and half actually experienced it.

Those asked to predict their reaction to either comment said they’d be highly upset and wouldn’t choose the white actor as their partner.

Yet students who actually experienced the event didn’t seem bothered by it — and nearly two-thirds chose the white actor as a partner, the researchers report Friday in the journal Science.

“It’s like these nasty racist comments aren’t having an effect,” said York University psychology professor Kerry Kawakami, the lead author.

“It’s important to remind people that just because a black man has been elected as president doesn’t mean racism is no longer a problem or issue in the States,” she added.

The study can’t say why people reacted that way, although the researchers speculate that unconscious bias is at work. They have new experiments under way to see if maybe these witnesses suppress that they’re upset to avoid confrontation.

“The failure of people to confront or do anything about racist comments is pretty widespread in the real world,” said Indiana University psychologist Eliot R. Smith, who co-wrote a review of the experiment. “People may feel uncomfortable if someone makes a remark like this, but it’s rare they will actually confront them.”


SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 2 months ago

Thanks to articles like this, readers will perceive the prevelance of racism in our society as high. On the flip side, what does still affect modern attitudes are differences in culture and class.

Emily Hampton 9 years, 2 months ago

YES-Speak Out! we are actually holding a Martin Luther King Speak Out! forum at the public library Jan 18th 3-5 and invite everyone in the community to come out and express these ideas and experiences. We want individuals and groups of all ages and backgrounds to come and read a speech, poem, or story that is inspired by MLK and the ideas/messages that he represents. These issues obviously still need to be addressed, so let us hear your VOICE!

Mary Darst 9 years, 2 months ago

Funny this comes up today. At my middle school this morning we are taking the kids one class at a time to watch a film on Tolerance and Hate crimes. Apparently there has been a lot of writing on our bathroom walls of racist remarks. There are several kids at this school whom are terribly racist by parental encouragement. Last year we had a student who would throw "white power"signs at a black girl while at lunch. He would also harass her at lunch. He is still doing the same thing this year. It makes my blood boil. I know we will be seeing him on MSNBC Look-up in a few years. Ignorance is rampant in small towns and they are still very racial. And yes, The boy was disciplined as acord to our school handbook. I think he should be somewhere else. We is a leader type to some and we all know how pier pressure is. Just makes me crazy. Also, people that told jokes during the election and chose to use the N word while telling them. They are people I will probably not ever talk to agian.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 2 months ago

We do have words for people who are stupid, idiots, or just plain gits.Yesterday on the bus someone across the aisle from me was giving forth on Catholicism. I set her straight on the facts. Then she, and the other two young ladies with her, retreated into, "well it's not worth discussing."My father fought and died for my rights, and those of my daughter, and my grandchildren, to be able to speak our minds. So, in that regard not to speak up when you hear someone denigrate another because of race, religion, social class, education, is saying that he died in vain.It is not that everyone is going to come around to my way of thinking or believing. I do not want or need that. All I need is the right to be me, and to say what I feel the need to say.

jaywalker 9 years, 2 months ago

As to the study, I would contend that some of the reactions are based on the guts, nuts, chutzpah, courage, extrovertedness, even temerity of the person. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate those that are willing to speak their mind. But there are many sheep among us, the meek and shy, or merely those not strong on confrontation.Have had experiences similar to Pywacket, people believing since I look like them it's ok to say this or that. Down here in the ATL, the larger the group of white men the more likely you'll hear a slur. But I do think it's gettin' better and will improve by generation. Racism will never completely go away though 'cuz you can't completely wipe out ignorance. But it's gettin' better.

Confrontation 9 years, 2 months ago

I'm betting that Tommy Boy, Invictus, and Mademike would pick the white guy. Hey, at least they're open about their racism. No hiding it for them.

ksarmychick 9 years, 2 months ago

This study is so one sided...why don't they fiip the situation around and make it with two black people one non-black person? I guarantee they would get the same results I guarantee the black would choose the black to be his/her partner at least 2/3 of the time. This study is crap until they can post real results with different races and not just report what they want to say to make white people look bad and say they are racists.

fuel_for_the_fire 9 years, 2 months ago

ksarmychick - You absolutely cannot "guarantee" your prediction. How incredibly ignorant of you to even think this way. Your comment demonstrates your complete lack of scientific knowledge as well as your implicit racism. Anyone who claims to know how a person will act based on their skin color is engaging in a form of racism.And to logicsound04 - I also come from the north and for me, as well as everyone who has visited me from my home, Kansas City, MO is the south. Attitudes on a plethora of topics are very different down here.

appleaday 9 years, 2 months ago

As long as people continue to see others in terms of differences and use terms like "those types of people" or refer to people according to what "side" they're on we'll continue to have racism coming from all directions. Any chance that folks can start looking for common interests instead of the things that divide us?

Mixolydian 9 years, 2 months ago

I think Abraham Lincoln (via Michael Scott) summed it up best:If you are racist, we will attack you from the north.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 2 months ago

Did the white actor look like Jessica Alba? That would make a difference.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 2 months ago

Did the black actor have his pants pulled half-way down to his knees? That would make a difference.

ksarmychick 9 years, 2 months ago

I would also like this study done with 2nd graders....but with gender being the "difference", then we can have some ignorant person write an article about how all of america's children are sexist. Because most likely the girls will pair up with the girls and the boys will pick the boys.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 2 months ago

Was the researcher holding a carp? That would make a difference.

fuel_for_the_fire 9 years, 2 months ago

logicsound04 - I will agree that Kansas is firmly in the Midwest. When I said Kansas City, MO is the south I meant Missouri, hence the MO. Perhaps I should have also capitalized South to indicate the cultural difference as opposed to mere geography. I have lived in both KS and MO; I find people in KS much more tolerant of individual differences.

jaywalker 9 years, 2 months ago

I hate people that bring carp to a psych study!

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 2 months ago

Can someone answer this question? Or will they? Is everyone posting here a white?I am asking because I have a child that is half-black and I have to deal with racism every day of my life. There are people who will not or can not understand that she is my child and that I love her with all my heart and soul. I have had a women try her best to assure my child that she was adopted and litterly go into hysterics rather than accept an interracial relationship. I am blue eyed and have been asked if my brown eyed child gets her eyes from me. When she was younger people thew things at us from cars as we were walking down Mass street.The people that see racism as theory and a fun discussion are not the ones who have to live with it and deal with it. If you did you would take it far more seriously.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 2 months ago

Did either of the actors pretend to be an architect with asperger's syndrome? That would make a huge difference.

Leslie Swearingen 9 years, 2 months ago

It's not funny, none of it is funny, people are being hurt, families are grieving for their own who are being slapped down because of their color, and all people can do is get on the Journal World and laugh.Well, if you feel good laughing while the rest of the world is crying see where it gets you. See where it get the US.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 2 months ago

Personally, I've decided extreme racism is the way to go, in the 21st Century. I'm discriminating against anyone who doesn't look exactly like me... height, skin tone, hair color, eye color... So, for the time being, it's just me and my twin brother... that is, until my garage cloning endeavor bears fruit.( Hmm... he does have that mole where I don't.... )

Flap Doodle 9 years, 2 months ago

How are black and non-black defined these days? If 50% African heritage = black, does 49% African heritage = non-black? Where do they draw the line?

Corey Williams 9 years, 2 months ago

invictus (Anonymous) says…"The only government sanction racism is affirmative action and it is white people who are “slapped down”. "Really invictus? I'm white, but yet I've never been turned down for anything I've applied for. When have you been "slapped down"?

fuel_for_the_fire 9 years, 2 months ago

None2 - I have only been to St. Louis once so I have no basis to form an opinion but my perception of Kansas City, MO is that it is VERY different from nothern US cities. This is the whole crux of my comment.Thank you for the brief history lesson; I appreciate the information. I did not know that Kentucky, Missouri, and what is now known as West Virginia did not join the confederacy. I am not a US citizen and therefore feel no shame in admitting my ignorance about this part of this country's history.

beatrice 9 years, 2 months ago

Considering the number of racist comments that are made around here without others saying something about it, the results of this study do not surprise me.

Jennifer Forth 9 years, 2 months ago

My point exactly. Meanwhile, we are witnessing genocide in Gaza and people here worry about the riff between Kansas and Missouri. Such troubles we have!

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