Thursday, January 8, 2009

Forecasting and Experiencing Racism

Alas, the election of Barack Obama may not have exterminated racism based on findings of a recent social psychology experiment:

The authors divided 120 non-black participants into the roles of "experiencers" and "forecasters." The "experiencers" were placed in a room with a white person and a black person, who played out pre-arranged scenarios for the experiment. The scenarios began when the black role-player bumped the white role-player's knee when leaving the room.

In the first scenario, the white person did not comment afterwards. In the "moderate" case, the white person said, "Typical, I hate it when black people do that," after the black person left the room. In the "extreme" case, the white person remarked, "Clumsy n****r."

The "forecasters," meanwhile, predicted how they would feel in these situations.

... Immediately afterwards, the participants were asked to choose either the black person or the white person as a partner for an anagram test. More than half of experiencers chose the white partner -- regardless of the severity of the comment that person made earlier. As for the forecasters, less than half chose the white partner when a comment was made, but most chose the white person when no comment was made.
Anagrams test? Well, sure. Everybody knows black people have only the most rudimentary of verbal abilities. The fact that the "experiencers" chose the white racist at a higher rate than the "forecasters" indicates that the black person to which the "experiencers" were exposed seemed like a typical black person -- inarticulate, strange hair, gang insignia, and so on.

Now, if they had asked the subjects to pick either a white racist or a black person as a teammate for 2-on-2 basketball, no doubt everyone, "experiencers" and "forecasters" alike, would have known to go with the black person in all cases.

But seriously, this study provides yet more data to confirm the sad and ugly reality: racism lives on.

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