Looking for racism tests
November 17, 2009 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Do you know of any good tests for racism? I've only found two that seem promising.

The first is the race test at Project Implicit, where they found "75-80% of self-identified Whites and Asians show an implicit preference for racial White relative to Black."

The other, described in Color Blind or Just Plain Blind?, isn't as well-documented; it found, "When white participants believed that they were the only witness they helped both white and black victims very frequently (over 85 percent of the time) and equivalently. There was no evidence of blatant racism. In contrast, when they thought there were other witnesses, they helped black victims only half as often as white victims (38 percent versus 75 percent)."

The first suggests 20-25% of whites and Asians are not at all racist or are racist against whites. The second suggests 38% of whites are not at all racist. I'm sure there must've been other attempts to measure racism, but my google fu is weak.
posted by shetterly to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The second example contradicts this, but one problem that concerns me with these studies is the presumably high-degree of self-censorship going on. It's very easy to imagine that the subjects knew what they were being tested for, or figured it out halfway through.

Since it's such a "bad" thing to make racist choices, I imagine there was all sorts of skewing by participants who tried to answer "correctly" rather than honestly.
posted by rokusan at 9:34 AM on November 17, 2009

First of all, the above tests are not measuring "racism." Project Implicit has been very explicit (ahem) about that fact and a large body of research has been conducted (and is being conducted) to figure out what these preferences mean, how stable they are, to what extent they affect substantive behavior, and if it is possible to overcome them with deliberative cognition. You also need to figure out if you are interested in overt racism (which is rare in survey research nowadays) or covert racism and, if the latter, how to measure it. A big problem with covert racism is that you have to attribute intent to the actors in order to measure it, which is a risky proposition.

Social scientists spend their entire careers studying these questions -- you should start checking out the academic literature (or even entry-level college textbooks on race). I sincerely doubt you can distill this question down to "75% of whites are racists."
posted by proj at 9:36 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd argue that there is a semantic difference between prejudice and racism. And the first study demonstrates the former more then the latter.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:38 AM on November 17, 2009 [7 favorites]

Bitdamaged's point is excellent.
posted by rokusan at 9:43 AM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

InsanePenguin, I probably should've said I use a dictionary definition of racism, "Discrimination or prejudice based on race." I don't mean that being racist means someone's a Ku Klux Klanner wannabe.
posted by shetterly at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2009

The second example contradicts this, but one problem that concerns me with these studies is the presumably high-degree of self-censorship going on. It's very easy to imagine that the subjects knew what they were being tested for, or figured it out halfway through.

I don't have a good answer for the OP either, but it sounds like you're not familiar with the implicit racism test, to which your comment doesn't apply at all.

Anyhow, this is social psych 101 stuff -- I say that not to be condescending, but because you might find a good resource in an introductory textbook. I believe this is the one I used when I took social psych in college (now in its 7th edition, although it looks like the older ones can be had a lot cheaper), and it covered this stuff and a lot of related material.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:12 AM on November 17, 2009

There's a study being conducted at Harvard now that will interest you. It has not concluded and I don't know the names involved, but someone may?

The premise is as follows: members of a given race will show a marked ability to recognize emotions in members of their own race better than in members of another race.

Preliminary results indicate that members of one race will often confuse fear/anger, disgust/anger, confusion/anger in members of another race.
posted by jefficator at 10:25 AM on November 17, 2009

[comments removed - go to metatalk if you are not answering the "where can I find tests?" question - this needs to not turn into chatfilter about racism. thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:38 AM on November 17, 2009

Jessamyn, apologies. I'd meant my comment to be in defense of Project Implicit rather than about racism, but there is the slope of slipperiness.
posted by shetterly at 11:22 AM on November 17, 2009

The Police Officer's Dilemma, from researchers at the University of Chicago. The test is here.
posted by fuse theorem at 11:29 AM on November 17, 2009

fuse theorem, that's fpp-worthy, imho. Thanks!
posted by shetterly at 11:57 AM on November 17, 2009

Maybe All Look Same
posted by backwards guitar at 12:17 PM on November 17, 2009

I don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for, but one interesting study on racial bias in job hiring concluded that job applicants with a "white-sounding" name were much more likely to get called in for an interview than similarly qualified applicants with a "black-sounding" name. Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?
posted by purplevelvet at 2:05 PM on November 17, 2009

Racism isn't binary. It's subtle and exists in degrees. A better question would be "How racist is this person, and about what?" Another question is "How aware is this person of their race attitudes, and what does person do about it?"
posted by theora55 at 6:11 PM on November 17, 2009

theora55, I hope Jessamyn won't mind another clarification: I would prefer tests that acknowledge degrees, as Project Implicit and the Dayton test do.
posted by shetterly at 6:24 PM on November 17, 2009

Again, Project Implicit does not test for racism, in degree or otherwise; and many of the researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition are quite tired of saying so. To call the IAT a racism test is a gross mischaracterization.
posted by proj at 6:33 PM on November 17, 2009

proj, agreed. Project Implicit tests for implicit preference. How meaningful those preferences are, they say they do not know, and they advise us to interpret the results with great caution. I'm certainly not going to conclude someone who has an implicit preference for their own race will act in racist ways.

What I like about the Dayton test, if it's valid, is it says most people transcend slight preferences when they think it matters. But it points to something troubling: when people think their action doesn't matter, they give into their preference. Which means, when they're wrong, people of the wrong preference will suffer.
posted by shetterly at 6:43 PM on November 17, 2009

Thanks, everyone! There are several potential best answers here, so I'm not picking one. I'm grateful for all of 'em.
posted by shetterly at 8:07 PM on November 18, 2009

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