Study: When It Comes to Racism, Ignorance Is Bliss

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File this under "Obvious stuff that's now backed up by science." According to research published last month in Psychological Science, ignorance about the extent of racism in history might explain why some people perceive less racism today than others.

In a survey of college students, historical knowledge predicted perception of racism for black and white students alike. In other words, this may be one area in which ignorance is bliss. Surprised? We're not. From Live Science:

To examine possible reasons why different groups see the reality of racism differently, the researchers recruited college students — 199 of European descent and 74 of African descent — to complete a true or false black history test. Some statements in the test covered well-documented, factual incidents, while other items discussed made-up but plausible events. The student participants also completed assessments their self-esteem regarding their racial identity as well as surveys to measure their view of systemic racism and isolated incidents of racism.

Historical knowledge predicted racism perception for both African Americans and European Americans, the researchers found, and overall, the African-American students were better at identifying historically true events. African-American students who reported greater relevance of racial identity also perceived more racism, while European-American students who placed greater importance on their racial identity saw less racism, especially on a systemic level, the researchers said.

The results suggest that knowledge of historically documented racism partially may help explain the relationship between someone's race and their perceptions of racism…

"Although popular and scientific understandings tend to portray ignorance as a lack of knowledge, this work emphasizes that ignorance itself is a form of knowledge that makes it possible to ignore or remain unaware of things that might otherwise be obvious," the researchers added.


Read more at Live Science.  

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