Racism: Attitudes on Ambiguous Statements
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
KIMSEY, C. R. (1999). Racism: Attitudes on Ambiguous Statements. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 2. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved October 22, 2017 .

Racism: Attitudes on Ambiguous Statements
CHRIS R. KIMSEY
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
Some might argue that racism in the United States is starting to subside. The growing amount of hate crimes tends to argue that racism is still a major problem in society. One problem with hate groups in today`s society is that these groups are not specifically targeting one group as done in the past. These groups are using words like "we", "they", "them", and "us", thus allowing the listener to interpret the statements their own way. This research looked at ambiguous statements and how individuals would react to them based on the color of the individual (or lack of) making the statements. A paper and pencil survey was conducted having three possible scenarios (African-American, Caucasian, or no picture). A one way ANOVA was conducted comparing that the likelihood of agreeing with the statements was influenced by the picture (F(2,70)=.573,p=.566). A second one way ANOVA was conducted comparing the likelihood of agreeing that the statements were racist was influenced by the picture (F(2,70)=.123,p=.885). Therefore, no statistical difference was found between agreeing with the statements and viewing the statements as racist, regardless of the race(picture) on the survey and the race of the participant.

INTRODUCTION
Some might argue that racism is targeted toward minorities and should not be considered racism if the victim is from the majority. Thus most of the research has been focused on the white perpetrator (majority) and the black victim (minority). Times are changing. Not only are whites slowly becoming a minority in the United States but also different groups of people are being discriminated against. Research should still look at white-black problems but also needs to be expanded to black-white problems. Racism is a problem that is slowly changing and some say that we are better off today than in years past.Even though society as a whole might be bridging the gap of racism there are still racist groups out there. The racist groups and racist individuals are getting more sophisticated about the way they attack other groups. Racist groups are becoming more charismatic and choosing their words more carefully. Instead of targeting one group these individuals are using words like them, they, we and us. By doing this the listeners can draw their own conclusions about the message. Depending on the persons social identity and how strongly they identify with their own "in-group" will determine how strongly the individuals will react in prejudicial ways.Stereotypes, especially negative stereotypes, are the bass of racism. In fact, one study looked at racial prejudice at an implicit by using positive and negative stereotypes (Wittenbrink, Judd, and Park, 1997). The main purpose of this study was to look at whites and their racial stereotypes. They found that by priming the individuals (that is showing words associated with black individuals and white individuals) the participant`s stereotype came out and showed their racial attitudes whether positive or negative. Another area that plays a role in racism is the person`s social identity. Depending on how strong a person identifies with their own group will determine the amount of prejudice the people will experience. Blascovich, Wyer, Swart and Kibler (1997), looked at the social identity theory and how fast prejudiced individuals would make racial categorizations of other people versus the speed of non-prejudiced individuals. The results of this study showed that prejudiced individuals take longer to categorize the targets than did no-prejudiced individuals. This is important because, the prejudiced individuals do not want to make a mistake and wrongly categorize an individual not associated with their in-group. People that are not prejudiced tend not to worry about the group associated with.Research done by Lambert, and Wedell (1991) looked at how individuals make social judgements on unambiguous and ambiguous information based on their self. Basically, the participants would make judgements about people in social situations. The information would be unambiguous or ambiguous. What the research found was that the participants would use their self as the basis for social judgements that were ambiguous. This is important because if statements made are ambiguous racist statements the individual will use their self as the basis as to how racist or prejudiced the person is.Another study done by Inman and Baron (1996) wanted to look at how the participants gender and race would affect the attitudes of perceptions of prejudices. In this research they used a picture and vignettes to measure prejudice. Either the pictures were of a white or black (the victim) male and the perpetrator were either white or black. What they found was that prejudiced labels were more easily attached to the white male perpetrator and the black victim than any other combination investigated (white-white, black-black, and black-white). Most research has been done on perpetrator and victim in private settings. Lambert, Cronen, Chasteen, and Lickel (1996) looked at private versus public judgement on racism. They found that people`s judgements in a public setting are more consistent with their actual belief than judgements done in private. People that are to give a public judgement of a person of a different race tend to judge the person more accurately. People who feel that their judgement will be attacked in public will tend to give more accurate information than people do in a private setting. So, based on past research this present research wants to look at subjects attitudes and their judgements based on ambiguous and unambiguous statements made people of the same or opposite race of the subject. The main theory behind this and other research is based on the social identity theory (Abrams, 1994). The theory states that individuals will evaluate themselves and others according to the group they are affiliated with. By using ambiguous statements, that includes words such as "we", "us", "they", and "them" the participants should answer the questions according to their own social identity. So, Will people use there self to fill in ambiguous statements? Will the participant`s stereotypes of the individuals pictured play a role in their judgement of the statements? Does the gender and race of the participant change their position of the person pictured?


METHOD

PARTICIPANTS
The participants for this research came from two sources. One group of participants came from a mid-sized public college located in northwest Missouri currently enrolled in intermediate psychology. The second group of participants came from a local mall located in a mid-sized town in northwest Missouri.

There were 73 participants for this study. Forty participants were from the intermediate statistics class and 33 participants came from the mall. Of the 73 participants, 21 were male ( 2 African-Americans and 19 Caucasians) and 52 were female (4 African-Americans and 48 Caucasians). The mean age was 27, while the range was from 18 to 55.

MATERIALS
Two pictures were used. One, was a white male and the second was a black male (see Figure 1). The pictures used were from a yearbook (at least 10 years old) from a different college. In addition, the individuals pictured were dressed as similar as possible (shirt and tie). The possibility of someone knowing the individuals will be kept to a minimum.

Along with the pictures, 10 statements were used. Statements were deliberately designed that had some ambiguity to them. These statements included words such as "we", "they", "them", and "us", so that no one particular race can be targeted.

PROCEDURE
The participants were asked to fill out a paper and pencil survey. Participants were asked some basic information about themselves (age, gender, and race). Aside from the basic information the participants received one of three scenarios. One scenario had a black man pictured and the other had a white man pictured (see Appendix A). The last scenario did not have a picture at the top (see Appendix B). After reading each statement, the participants decided if the statements were racist and, if they agreed with the statement. The surveys were randomly assigned. Students in the intermediate psychology classes had an equal chance of receiving one of the three scenarios.

Participants at the mall were selected differently. Four different times and locations were selected to collect data at the mall. The times selected were a Wednesday afternoon, Wednesday night, Saturday morning, and a Saturday night. There are three main entrances to the mall. Each location was used once. The location that had the most traffic was selected to be used twice (on different days). The procedure used to select participants was every other person that entered the door was asked to participate in a survey. Those that agreed were randomly given one of the three surveys.


RESULTS
A one way ANOVA was conducted to see if the likelihood of agreeing with the statement was influenced by whether or not the picture was of the same race or different race from the participant. There was no significant difference found (F(2,70)=.573, p=.566). The race of the participant and the race of person pictured had no influence on the way the questions were answered. The mean number of statements that the participants agreed with are seen in Figure 2. A second one way ANOVA was conducted to see if the likelihood of agreeing that statements were racist was influenced by whether or not the picture was of the same race or a different race from the participant. There was no statistical significance found between the groups (F,(2,70)=.123,p=.885). The race of the participant and the race of the person pictured had no influence on the determination of the racist statement.The mean number of statements that the participants agreed the statements were racist are seen in Figure 2.


DISCUSSION
The original hypothesis was that people of the same race as the person pictured in the survey would not see the statements as racist and would agree with the statements. At the same time people of the opposite race as the person pictured would see the statements as racist and tend not to agree with the statements. Unlike past research that has shown that individual opinions are different between races the current research has not shown any statistical difference between the groups (whites and blacks).

Several variables could have been involved that contributed to the lack of significance. One possibility is that the participants did not read the statements as if the person pictured was actually saying them, or the participants just answered the questions without regard to who was actually pictured. Perhaps if the instructions had been a little clearer the answers may have changed. Another possibility was that the statements were too ambiguous. The participants may not have fully understood each statement. By not fully understanding each statement, the participant may have not been able to answer as honestly as they could.

The lack of significance could also be attributed to the fact that the sample was not very diverse. There are two areas of diversity that could be improved on. First, there was not enough African-Americans as participants. Second, the type of the community used to gather data. The town the data were collected in tends to be more conservative and not mainstream. The views of the community are not as diverse as bigger cities. The lack of African-American participants could be attributed to the size of the college as well as the type of classes surveyed.

Future studies may want to make a few adjustments to this present one. One adjustment would be to use audio and visual. There are two ways audio and visual could be used. First, would be to have an African-American or Caucasian pictured on an overhead and have a pre-recorded message play so the participants could hear how the words were said. Another possibility would be to videotape the speakers as if actually speaking in front of an audience. Maybe by making the statements more life like the outcome may change.

Despite the lack of significance one positive thing can be seen in this research. The fact that there was no statistical significance between the two groups point towards agreement between the two. One possibility for this could be that people are not as swayed by ambiguous statements as first thought.


REFERENCES
Abrams, D. (1994). Social self-regulation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20, 473-483.Blascovich, J.& Wyer, N.A. & Swart, L.A. & Kibler, J.L. (1997). Racism and racial categorization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1364-1372. Inman, M.L. & Baron, R.S. (1996). Influence of prototypes on perceptions of prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 727-739.Lambert, A.J. & Cronen, S. & Chasteen, A.L. & Lickel, B. (1996). Private vs public expressions of racial prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 32, 437-459. Lambert, A.J. & Wedell, D.H. (1991). The self and social judgement: Effects of affective reaction and "own position" on judgements of unambiguous and ambiguous information about others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 884-897. Wittenbrink, B. & Judd, C.M. & Park, B.(1997). Evidence for racial prejudice at the implicit level and its relationship with questionnaire measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 262-274.


APPENDIX A
Questionnaire With Picture

Assume the person in the upper right hand corner made each of the statements below. Answer the questions below each statement based on your own perceptions.1. Everybody wants to try to tell us this is just a skin thing.Do you agree with this statement YES__ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___2. We want full employment for our people.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO___3. We as a people need to unite and stand together. Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___4. They are taking our jobs.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO____ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___5. You need to get off drugs, get an education, and get a job.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___6. We just want equal treatment, and equal laws. Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___7. We don`t want to be pushed around anymore.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___8. None of the different laws for different races. Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO __-_9. They`re always making excuses.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___ 10. If they lived next door, I`d be neighborly. But I wouldn`t let my kids date one of them.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___

Age: ____Race: --Caucasian_____ African-American_____ Other ____ please specify _______________Gender: Male _____ Female______


APPENDIX B
Questionnaire Without PictureAnswer the questions below each statement based on your own perceptions.1. Everybody wants to try to tell us this is just a skin thing.Do you agree with this statement YES__ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___2. We want full employment for our people.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO___3. We as a people need to unite and stand together. Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___4. They are taking our jobs.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO____ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___5. You need to get off drugs, get an education, and get a job.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___6. We just want equal treatment, and equal laws. Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___7. We don`t want to be pushed around anymore.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___8. None of the different laws for different races.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO __-_9. They`re always making excuses.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___

10. If they lived next door, I`d be neighborly. But I wouldn`t let my kids date one of them.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___

Age: ____Race: --Caucasian_____ African-American_____ Other ____ please specify _______________Gender: Male _____ Female______


APPENDIX C
Agreement Percentages for Questions1. Everybody wants to try to tell us this is just a skin thing.Do you agree with this statement YES__ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 24% Different Race 48% Same Race 35% Same Race 75%No Picture 21% No Picture 63%2. We want full employment for our people.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO___Different Race 69% Different Race 38%Same Race 60% Same Race 50%No Picture 71% No Picture 58%3. We as a people need to unite and stand together.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 79% Different Race 38%Same Race 75% Same Race 30%No Picture 92% No Picture 17%4. They are taking our jobs.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO____ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 6% Different Race 72%Same Race 5% Same Race 70%No Picture 8% No Picture 79%5. You need to get off drugs, get an education, and get a job.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 90% Different Race 21%Same Race 75% Same Race 20%No Picture 92% No Picture 8%6. We just want equal treatment, and equal laws.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 93% Different Race 10%Same Race 85% Same Race 25%No Picture 92% No Picture 17%7. We don`t want to be pushed around anymore.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 69% Different Race 37%Same Race 50% Same Race 35% No Picture 88% No Picture 29%8. None of the different laws for different races.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO __-_Different Race 76% Different Race 34%Same Race 80% Same Race 25%No Picture 88% No Picture 46%9. They`re always making excuses.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO___ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 38% Different Race 55%Same Race 35% Same Race 45%No Picture 33% No Picture 50%10. If they lived next door, I`d be neighborly. But I wouldn`t let my kids date one of them.Do you agree with this statement YES___ NO__ Is this a racist statement YES___ NO ___Different Race 45% Different Race 72%Same Race 65% Same Race 85%No Picture 38% No Picture 79%


Figure 1


Figure 2

Submitted 4/28/99 1:22:27 PM
Last Edited 5/3/99 2:22:29 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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