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Are whites the least racist race or is the horn effect at play?

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Are whites the least racist race or is the horn effect at play

A not-racist person is less likely to care about someone’s race rather than the contents of their character right? I would think so. Wouldn’t you agree with the paraphrased words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? In judging people by the content of their character and not their color, one is less likely to care about a person’s race. If a person is less likely to care about another person’s race, they are subsequently less likely to care about their own race. These things are foundational to being a not racist human being.

Yet a study by the Pew Research Center shows that white people disproportionately do not see being white as central to their identity. Under the premises listed above, this could either be because of the horn effect or whites actually being the least racist race. Consider the results below:

There are more Asians that view their race as extremely important than whites seeing significant importance at all. Conversely, majority of blacks see their own race as extremely important. By this logic, they would be the most racist race, which surveys in the past have shown that more people believe this than whites being the most racist race, in America. This is not to say that everyone who finds extreme importance in racial identity is a racist, rather it it is a foundational premise from which racism spawns. It is to suggest that people who don’t care about their own racial identity are less likely to be racist.

Is the issue really that big?

If we look at global studies, the United States is doing really well when it comes to not being racist, despite having a racially diverse nation. According to World Values Survey, a 2013 study, found India to be the most racist country, and the United States was on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Racism: This map shows the nations of the world where people have the most and least tolerant attitudes

Horn Effect

It’s hard to believe that white people are significantly less likely to be racist? As previously stated, I highly doubt over 74% of black people are racist, but every black individual who is racist is within that 74%. With that said, the subset of white people who find racial identity important would theoretically be higher without the horn effect. The horn effect is the opposite of the halo effect, in that a person won’t answer a survey question a certain way because of negative biases. A white person in America is taught that they are responsible for racism, that they need to pay reparations and celebrating their heritage is racist.

It’s perhaps why polling was wrong in 2016. People didn’t want to admit that they like Trump to the spam callers. So the survey results were skewed. If you ask a person if they are racist, almost every person will say no. So “are you racist?” is not a good survey question. This question of identity is sneaky, but white people may be less inclined to celebrate their own racial identity because celebrating white excellence is seen as racist.

Americans vs White

Now that is a more European take. White Americans generally identify American as their identity, not their race. So perhaps the question to have asked would have also been “do you see other races equally as Americans?” or “do you believe other races can be equally as American as you?” White people may not have fallen for the perceived trap in order to avoid being called racist. Or maybe white people are less likely to be racist.

The thing about statistics is that their are endless possibilities. But in interpreting these results, it’s important to be transparent about the foundational premises from which the conclusions are being drawn.


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