Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Christian Science Monitor: The surprising relationship between intelligence and racism

The Christian Science Monitor revealed that people with high intelligence (or simply a postsecondary degree) may not support policies that help racial minorities, such as affirmative action and school desegregation:
Are smart people less racist than their less-intelligent peers?

That was the question asked in a new study that examined the relationship between verbal intelligence and attitudes on race and racial policies.

The findings may surprise some: While people who score higher on intelligence tests are less likely to hold racist stereotypes (such as imagining that people of another race are lazy or unintelligent), they're no more likely to support government policies that aim to reduce racial inequality. For example, while 95 percent of study participants who scored higher on the intelligence test said that black and white children should attend the same schools, only 22 percent support school-busing programs.

In a similar racial attitudes study of college students, Baylor University researchers found that white students on average think black and Latino students need to 'work harder' in school than their Asian peers. In my humble opinion, I am not surprised by these research findings. Both reports remind me of the color-blind concept of laissez-faire racism by Lawrence Bobo that explains how intelligent people who believe in the values of equality and inclusiveness can still hold negative attitudes towards racial and ethnic minority groups. Laissez-faire racism is an ideology that blames minorities for their poorer economic situations, viewing it as the result of cultural inferiority. In other words, an educated and intelligent person can say he or she is not racist but may still hold prejudiced views of other groups as culturally inferior. Under this system, racial inequality is manifested in subtle ways that shifts the blame from systemic racism (e.g., redlining and employment discrimination, both of which can have long-term consequences on earnings and wealth) to personal responsibility.

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