While most people believe they would not tolerate a racist act, a new study from Canadian and U.S. researchers found test subjects in an experiment reacted with indifference when exposed to one.
Researchers in Toronto recruited 120 non-black York University students for what they said was a psychology study. Half of the students were each put in a room with two actors — one white and one black — posing as other participants.
The black actor then left the room to retrieve a cellphone, lightly bumping the other actor on the way out. The white actor then responded in one of three ways, saying nothing, saying the phrase “I hate when black people do that” or uttering an offensive racial slur.
When the black actor returned, study participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire rating their emotional mood and then were asked to choose a partner for what they thought was the actual test.
The researchers found that in cases where the white actor made a racist comment, participants did not speak out, did not report any emotional distress and actually chose the white actor as a partner more often than the black actor.
These results stood in stark contrast to a second group of respondents who were asked who they would choose as a partner after having the situation described to them. These respondents overwhelmingly chose not to work with the white actor when a racist statement was uttered.
(Emphasis mine. Note that the second group is a randomly-separated control group, which is why the comparison is valid.)
Canadians are generally more liberal than Americans. Torontonians are generally more left-wing than the average Canadian. University students are generally more left-wing than people who are not university students. However, these university students from Toronto, Canada prefer to partner up with a white person after she/he made a racist remark.
Of course, this particular demographic is not more prone to tolerating racism than other groups. However, Canada is not a anti-racist sanctuary like many Canadians like to believe, and neither is Toronto. Racism is still a problem in Toronto, Canada, and merely stating that you are against racism is not enough.