Monday, November 7, 2016

Antiracism campaigns: Twenty years of making racism worse

Studies over twenty years come to the same conclusion: Antiracism fails because it reduces complex problems to race, which strengthens the idea that race matters enormously.

I've quoted this one before. In 1998, a government study in Australia found,
The problem with anti-racism campaigns is that there is no clearly understood or agreed method of changing people's prejudices, values, attitudes or behaviour. What is known is that direct confrontation is likely to be counter-productive.  ... In 1997 the Council of Europe coordinated a year of anti-racism campaigns and activities throughout Europe. A survey at the end of the year, conducted in European Union countries by the polling organisation Eurobarometer, found that rather than a decline in racism, it had been marked by a growing willingness on the part of Europeans to openly declare themselves as racist.
A 2011 study at the University of Toronto found a similar result:
Aggressive anti-racism campaigns might actually increase bias toward other groups...
Today, the situation hasn't changed. From Why Diversity Programs Fail:
Do people who undergo training usually shed their biases? Researchers have been examining that question since before World War II, in nearly a thousand studies. It turns out that while people are easily taught to respond correctly to a questionnaire about bias, they soon forget the right answers. The positive effects of diversity training rarely last beyond a day or two, and a number of studies suggest that it can activate bias or spark a backlash.
That report includes a fact my father told me about when I was a boy:
Evidence that contact between groups can lessen bias first came to light in an unplanned experiment on the European front during World War II. The U.S. army was still segregated, and only whites served in combat roles. High casualties left General Dwight Eisenhower understaffed, and he asked for black volunteers for combat duty. When Harvard sociologist Samuel Stouffer, on leave at the War Department, surveyed troops on their racial attitudes, he found that whites whose companies had been joined by black platoons showed dramatically lower racial animus and greater willingness to work alongside blacks than those whose companies remained segregated. Stouffer concluded that whites fighting alongside blacks came to see them as soldiers like themselves first and foremost. The key, for Stouffer, was that whites and blacks had to be working toward a common goal as equals—hundreds of years of close contact during and after slavery hadn’t dampened bias.
The same effect has been observed time and time again in labor struggles: nothing unites us like the sense we're working together to make a better world for everyone.