Read time: 2 minutes

'Everyone's A Little Bit Racist'

Seems timely.

I'm not going to hate people for being racist. Everyone's a product of what they're exposed to, and as the "Avenue Q" song says, "everyone's a little bit racist": I'd much rather try to change things than attack ordinary people who have been taught to be that way. As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

As people talk about what the grand jury's decision in Ferguson means, Bonilla-Silva and others say it's time for Americans to update their language on racism to reflect what it has become and not what it used to be.

The conversation can start, they say, by reflecting on three phrases that often crop up when whites and racial minorities talk about race.

'I don't see color'
It's a phrase some white people invoke when a conversation turns to race. Some apply it to Ferguson. They're not particularly troubled by the grand jury's decision to not issue an indictment. The racial identities of Darren Wilson, the white police officer, and Michael Brown, the black man he killed, shouldn't matter, they say. Let the legal system handle the decision without race-baiting. Justice should be colorblind.

Science has bad news, though, for anyone who claims to not see race: They're deluding themselves, say several bias experts. A body of scientific research over the past 50 years shows that people notice not only race but gender, wealth, even weight.

When babies are as young as 3 months old, research shows they start preferring to be around people of their own race, says Howard J. Ross, author of "Everyday Bias," which includes the story of the knife fight experiment.Other studies confirm the power of racial bias, Ross says.

One study conducted by a Brigham Young University economics professor showed that white NBA referees call more fouls on black players, and black referees call more fouls on white players.

Another study that was published in the American Journal of Sociology showed that newly released white felons experience better job hunting success than young black men with no criminal record,


↓ Story continues below ↓

Ross says."Human beings are consistently, routinely and profoundly biased," Ross says.The knife fight experiment reveals that even racial minorities are not immune to racial bias, Ross says.

"The overwhelming number of people will actually experience the black man as having the knife because we're more open to the notion of the black man having a knife than a white man, " Ross says. "This is one of the most insidious things about bias. People may absorb these things without knowing them."

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.