Obama or no Obama, racism is here to stay: Study

January 10th, 2009 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaToronto, Jan 10 (IANS) The election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president doesn’t mean that racism will end any time soon, says a revealing Canadian study.People may hate to be labelled as racist today, but they exhibit remarkable indifference to racist behaviour in daily life, says the study by Toronto’s York University.

Called Mispredicting Affective and Behavioral Responses to Racism, the study looks at why blacks continue to face blatant racism despite the fact no one likes to be called a racist in modern society.

“People do not think of themselves as prejudiced, and they predict that they would be very upset by a racist act and would take action,” a York University release Friday quoted lead author and psychiatry professor Kerry Kawakami as saying.

“However, we found that their responses are much more muted than they expect when they are actually faced with an overtly racist comment,” added Kawakami who co-authored the study with graduate student Francine Karmali, University of British Columbia professor Elizabeth Dunn, and Yale University professor John Dovidio.

In the study, students were exposed to one blatant act of racism by a white participant who made a derogatory comment about a black when he briefly left the room. When he returned, he was asked to choose a partner to work with on a subsequent exercise.

To the dismay of the researchers, this white student was preferred as a partner by 63 percent participants despite the fact that he had just made racist remarks about the black student.

“And the racist comments ranged from moderate to one of the most powerful anti-black slurs in the English language,” said Kawakami.

He said their findings would surprise many when America is about to inaugurate its first black president Jan 20. The study clearly shows that the election of one black man does not mean that racism is dead or that people will no longer tolerate acts of racism, he said.

Co-author Elizabeth Dunn, who is an expert on people’s ability to predict their future emotional responses, said there has been little research done on how people respond to prejudice toward others.

“People often make inaccurate forecasts about how they would respond emotionally to negative events. They vastly overestimate how upset they would feel in bad situations such as hearing a racial slur,” she said.

“One of the ways that people may stem the tide of negative emotions related to witnessing a racial slur is to re-construe the comment as a joke or as a harmless remark,” she was quoted as saying.

The study has been published in Friday’s issue of Science.

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