There is a bitter debate over racism these days -- specifically, whether or not it still exists in a way that actually matters. The argument against goes something like, "Sure, there are neo-Nazis and KKK and YouTube comment sections out there, but we've got a black president, for Christ's sake! Racism has been banished to the craziest fringes of society."
But science says that's just not true -- the prejudice persists, we're just less aware of it, and there's tons of proof that we'll get into starting ... now:
In a Simulation, We're Much Quicker to Shoot Black Men
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In case you have spent your adult life avoiding all forms of news media, the shooting of unarmed black citizens is a huge, urgent issue in modern-day America. To put it in numbers: black teenagers are 21 times more likely to be killed by a cop than white ones. And while there are no doubt lots of reasons why this happens -- arrest procedures, training issues, etc. -- science says that at heart we're all just more afraid of black people. Mostly on a subconscious level -- which, in fact, is where most prejudice happens.
We've covered a bunch of these experiments before -- one study found employers were hesitant to pick applicants with black-sounding names. Another found people get visibly nervous during interracial conversations, even friendly ones. Another bizarre study found racist impulses come bubbling out as soon as you lower a person's inhibitions even a tiny bit (in that case, just at the suggestion of drinking alcohol). They even found that you can change how someone reacts to a photo just by digitally darkening or lightening the subject's skin tone. But, just to drive the point home, somebody decided to see how subjects react with a (pretend) gun in their hand.
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Call in the SWAT Team.
Joshua Correll, a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder, developed a web-based game that puts the player in the role of a police officer who randomly encounters a series of black and white men -- some armed and some holding objects like wallets, cellphones, and Slurpees (but holding them aggressively). The player is then given a short amount of time to decide whether or not to shoot (which must be strange, because shooting in most games is a foregone conclusion -- it's just a question of where to aim).
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"He threatened to freeze my brain and you expected me to not shoot?"