Racism Eye Experiment

Canada: Are We Racist?

On CBC The National they aired an interesting piece on the issue of Race in Canada. Duncan McCue asks Canadians some hard-hitting questions. Simply put, are we racist in Canada?

Racism still an uncomfortable truth in Canada

It is really a fascinating piece. From the video below

Kerry Kawakami, an expert in the psychology of prejudice, says “Racism is still quite prevalent in Canada,”

Kawakami backs up that assertion with some hard evidence, collected from a battery of studies in which she examines prejudice. She demonstrated one test for me.

Subjects are shown a series of black faces and white faces on a computer screen. Researchers track the subject’s eye movements, to measure what the subject looks at, and for how long.
Not seeing the person

More than a thousand subjects were tested. White subjects tended to look deeply into the eyes of white faces, and were less likely to look into the eyes of black faces. Instead, they were almost three times as likely to focus on the lips or noses of black faces.

“It suggests they’re processing them not as individuals, but as members of a group,” said Kawakami.

This split-second eye bias can have some important consequences, according to Kawakami. When we don’t make eye contact with someone, we’re less likely to be able to decode their emotions, and less willing to trust or remember that person.

Kawakami’s study, “Preferential attention to the eyes of in-group members,” found white subjects less likely to look into the eyes of black faces, focusing on lips or noses instead. (Social Cognition Laboratory/York University)

“Even though it might happen within the first 100th of a second, we know that downstream that can tell us whether you might hire a person, whether you have positive or negative associations with that person and whether you’re willing to interact with that person,” Kawakami explained.

Kawakami’s latest work is consistent with what some psychologists call “aversive racism.”

Unlike overt racism — blatant expressions of hatred and discrimination against racial minorities — aversive racism is characterized by more complex and subtle expressions of ambivalence toward members of a minority group.

“People are very careful about what they say about people from other categories. They’re really egalitarian, they try to be fair, but when we measure them in more subtle ways, when they’re not conscious of their responses and they’re not able to control them, then we find that racism is still quite prevalent in North America,” said Kawakami.
Public censure

There’s little doubt incidents of overt racism are becoming rarer in Canada, acknowledged Kawakami.

Watch the video below to see the rest of this fascinating report.

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