Racism–is it over?

I’ve been away: downed by the November election and the deaths of unarmed black men; lifted by Obama’s new mojo. Down and up.

People claim racism must be over because—look—we elected a black president. My father would have agreed—he turned off the television when Ed Sullivan shook hands with Nat King Cole.

Here are a few examples of what skin color can do to you in America.

white face,black face

  1. Identical resumes were sent out for job openings, half with stereotypical black names, half using white names. The white names received 50% more callbacks.
  2. Actual people, with identical resumes and interview training, were sent to apply for low-wage jobs. African-Americans with no criminal record were offered jobs at a rate as low as white applicants with criminal records.
  3. Doctors, shown statistically identical patient records, were asked to make judgments about heart disease. They were much less likely to recommend a helpful procedure to black patients.
  4. Whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car. Blacks were offered prices $700 higher.
  5. Emails using black names sent to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist got fewer responses than white names.
  6. White state legislators (of either party) were less likely to respond to constituents with African-American-sounding names
  7. Emails to faculty at universities asking for research possibilities were more likely to be answered if the names sounded white.
  8. On eBay, a photo of an iPhone being auctioned held by a white hand received 21% more offers than the same phone held by a black hand.
  9. In a video game simulation, players were asked to shoot at people carrying a gun. African-Americans were shot at more, even when they were not holding a gun. Man-Holding-Gun-1

Most of us would claim we are not biased. Our racism is insidious. Psychologiest Daniel Kahneman says we think both fast and slow. In our slow thinking, we try to avoid discrimination, but it creeps into our quick, unconscious decisions.

See the full New York Times essay.  

thinking fast and slow

7 responses »

  1. I always thought I was not prejudice until I went to a new Doctor in Tenn. A young black woman walked out and called my name. I of course thought she was a nurse or assistant. When she introduced herself as the Doctor my first thought was if she were compitent. I had to realize it was because she was black and young. Also if anyone believes they are not prejudice just take the harvard tests on prejudice. Great blog onece again Norma.

    • I would have (and have) flinched on the young part of that scenario, for sure. I hope I would not have done so about race, but do we ever fully know our own hearts?

  2. What I meant to say before hitting the Reply button: I grow disheartened when faced with the facts that our society continues to be so racist despite all the blood, sweat and tears spilled to promote equality. Will we never reach the ideal where all human beings are treated equally?

  3. In Israel, I read, they discriminate against dark-skinned Jews. In Cuba, they discriminate against dark-skinned Cubans. In Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says she never felt “black” until she came to this country. In Jamaica, in Haiti, I got a sense of what it feels like to be a minority, an “other.”

  4. Racism is a social disease; states my favorite bumper sticker. It’s the yin and yang of things – there is a white and a black. When we equally value the opposite sides of the same coin there certainly will be a change. Yes? Until then people will be wanting to pick their favorite side. After all, we have our favorite teams don’t we? Maybe when we stop the focus on these juvenile dualities we’ll rise above it. US vs THEM will be looked upon as an ancient aberration from sanity during a time in our pre-historic development when we looked down upon diversity. We’ll all be zen-like; embracing all the differences amongst us.


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