So, in news that will likely come as no surprise to
anyone many, a new study has found that when it comes to racism and racial bias felt by whites toward blacks, it’s more a matter of nurture than nature, with whites from the South—the U.S. region that was most dependent on slavery—more likely to feel biased toward blacks.
The Pacific Standard reports that research led by the University of North Carolina found that whites living in states and counties most dependent on chattel slavery before the Civil War “display higher levels of pro-white implicit bias today.”
The research appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, with lead researcher psychologist B. Keith Payne and his team suggesting, according to Pacific Standard:
... that this subtle but pernicious brand of bias “may be better understood as a cognitive manifestation of historical and structural inequalities” than as something that is “solely a feature of individual minds.”
Hmmm. Sounds like really big words that can be summed up to mean that racism is “systemic,” “institutional,” “ingrained” in the very fabric of this nation.
But. OK. Moving on: The researchers also theorized that the worse-off that blacks were due to the ravages of “structural inequalities,” the worse they were viewed by whites, who found blacks to be somehow “less intelligent, skilled, or hard-working than more-advantaged groups.”
Yup. Sounds about how institutionalized racism works: “I know I have my boot on your neck, but why are you having such a hard time rising?”
In any case, the researchers concluded that perhaps policymakers needed to spend more time on “modifying social environments, as opposed to changing the attitudes of individuals.”
A solution the Pacific Standard found to be too lengthy, suggesting that at least short-term, racism could be solved by better education:
Perhaps more doable on the short-term is developing a curriculum in which youngsters of all races learn about the structural, historical, and institutional bases of racial inequality. Taught early enough, and emphasized often enough, such knowledge could serve as a counterweight to our deep, destructive tendency to categorize and judge.
But, again, hmmm. That all sounds nice. But
if since racism is embedded and systemic, why would those who benefit the most from such a construct instill an education system whose intent would be to disrupt it?
The state of Texas, for instance, is still debating whether or how to teach (the reality) that slavery was the root cause of the Civil War.
Across the South, debate still rages on about why those odes to traitors—yes, to those who fought to overthrow their country—known as Confederate monuments still stand or how or whether to remove them.
I’m not sure how to “end” racism and bias, but it’s certainly ingrained in the very foundation of this nation.
The answer may lie not in “ending” racism so much as legislating out racist acts and outcomes and moving toward reparative actions to redress centuries of racial injustice.