Well, OK, so we might not yet be at the point where you can walk up to a doctor and ask him to hook you up with some pills for your grandpa's inexplicable hatred of Scandinavians. But hey, it's not like science isn't trying -- and succeeding. Recently, some researchers at Oxford University found that they could combat racism using an anxiety drug that's already out: propranolol.
In an experiment, the researchers gave either propranolol or a placebo to a bunch of white people, the most stereotypically racist bunch the researchers could think of (which, in a sense, would make the scientists themselves doubly racist). The participants filled out surveys rating their attitudes toward black people using a scale from 0 to 100, 0 meaning that they wanted to personally push a button that would nuke Atlanta, 100 meaning that they'd like to make sweet love to a Nubian deity and populate the world with their ethnically ambiguous love children. They then repeated the surveys with their feelings toward homosexuals, Muslims, Christians, and drug addicts, which are apparently races now.
"I'll have you know that we are a proud, noble, balls-tripping people!"
But wait! you might say. People aren't always honest in these types of surveys -- even to themselves. Some people might sincerely believe that they're colorblind and progressive, but might harbor prejudices buried so deep in their subconscious, they'd need a Ouija board to find them. That's why the scientists then gave them a computerized test that involved sorting faces of different ethnic origins along with words with positive and negative connotations. This test assessed the participants' "implicit racism," the racism that you might harbor but be consciously unaware of.
And guess what? The people who were given the propranolol scored significantly lower on tests of implicit racism. That's right -- the drug actually led to people becoming less racist at a subconscious level. Why did the drug work so well? The Brits believe the reason is that propranolol affects the part of the brain involved in fear and emotional responses. Essentially, the drug calms the symptoms of anxiety, and since racism is thought to be fundamentally founded on fear, calming down one's automatic fear response should also calm down the desire to carpet bomb every country that ends in "stan."
Sadly, for Dale, some aspects of his skinhead life would always remain.
For now, battling racism is strictly an off-label use for propranolol due to the ethical implications of improving people's morals via lozenge. But it's nice to know it's there should you ever need to spike the punch at your local Klan rally.
For more things science is giving us, check out 5 Mind-Blowing Ways That Science Has Done the Impossible and 5 of Life's Most Mundane Problems (Solved With Math).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 4 Insane New Year's Celebrations from Around the World.