Saturday, December 12, 2009

Are you Racist? Find Out!

We hear a lot about police racism in this country ever since Rodney King Jr., and if you read anything on the subject, it's clear that officers are bigots. Malcolm Gladwell's Blink discusses that fraction of a second cops have to guess whether or not a person is pulling a weapon. Unfortunately, it seems that race is an overriding factor in that determination. Why? Because their job primes them to act this way. Crime happens in lower economic areas, so we send the cops there. They see non-whites committing violent crimes day in and day out and it becomes an unconscious expectation. If a black guy reaches in his pocket to grab his wallet, in that instant, it becomes a gun to a cop.

Canning the policeman is obviously the response, but that's after the mistake already occurred. Is there a way we can pre-empt these situations? One possibility I've always liked is to send officers to areas based on their ethnicity. Black cops have more black role models and thus are less primed to have a negative image of coloreds in general. If you've seen how test results can be skewed by priming people with images of clean, articulate black men like Barack Obama or Bill Cosby, then you know my idea isn't that preposterous! Really, though, I think the best solution is to bury racism and just about any discussion of it until the issue dies out.

Anyway, now for the fun part of the post, finding out if you're racist, again courtesy of Blink (the URL is in the book's Notes section). In this test (direct link), you're asked to determine if a target is holding a gun or something benign like a cell phone or wallet. You'll see blacks and whites, with or without weapons, all in rapid succession. If you're anything like me, you'll be surprised to find that you shoot black innocents more often, that it takes you longer to identify when a white person is holding a weapon, and that it takes you longer to identify when a black person isn't.
Average reaction time:
Black Armed:566.76ms
Black Unarmed:715.28ms
White Armed:690.52ms
White Unarmed:604.2ms
I'm the furthest thing from racist, and even I botched the hell out of this test. Enjoy, and post your results in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Jesus Ed that's terrible. My score was pretty bad, but I took about 50 milliseconds longer to react to the black guys regardless of what was in their hands. You apparently can't process the existence of armed white guys and unarmed black guys.

    Game Over
    Your Score: 470
    Average reaction time:
    Black Armed:586.1ms
    Black Unarmed:611.44ms
    White Armed:507.11ms
    White Unarmed:561.38ms