Jul 30, 2009

Racism by reflex

There's plenty of conscious racism out there, but research suggests we're still biased despite our best intentions. From the Boston Globe:
The arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sparked allegations of racism, followed by fierce denials that race played a role in the 911 call or the police response to the report of a possible break-in at his Cambridge home. But social psychology research indicates that regardless of people’s stated attitudes about race, unconscious racial biases can influence their behavior in surprisingly powerful ways.

That means that people who are not racist may unknowingly behave in ways that reflect racial stereotypes, even when they may disagree with such ideas. One study found that doctors with more unconscious bias against blacks were less likely to give African-American heart attack patients clot-busting medication than white patients. Another found that when participants in a computer simulation were told to shoot criminals but not unarmed citizens or police who appeared on the screen, more black than white men were incorrectly shot. Other work found that children perceived ambiguous, but aggressive behavior as more threatening if the perpetrator was black. ...

“I think our data, obtained from millions and millions of people, show a real disparity between who we think we are, who we say we are . . . and what actually goes on in our heads,’’ said Mahzarin R. Banaji, a Harvard psychology professor who is a leader in studying such implicit bias.

Read the full article here.


Anonymous said...

None of this is any surprise to minority individuals.
About the news coverage of the Henry Louis Gates arrest, I recall one news station reporter saying that the woman who called 911 about the "break-in" never mentioned race until prompted by the dispatcher. The news reporter was implying that race didn't factor into her call, but the reporter (who was white) didn't address the great possibility that the fact that the two men she called about were black was a big reason why she called to begin with.

Anonymous said...

The citizen who called in the tip, and the police who responded, are being bullied in the grand PC manner, with the added bonus of being bullied by POTUS. Pay attention, everyone, and get in line. By the way, Justice dropped the case against Blank Panthers (!) intimidating voters. But a cop called to a possible breakin gets lectured by the professor, the president, the vice president (double!) and in full glare of the government friendly media.

Anonymous said...

That racist e-mail by that racist Boston cop Justin Barrett isn't helping out the cops' stance.
He calls Gates a "banana-eating jungle monkey," and then apologizes, saying he's not racist. Sure, I know plenty of people who aren't racist but call black people "banana-eating jungle monkeys." He called Gates "jungle monkey" three times in the e-mail. Yes, such a label isn't racist at all.