We’ve all been there. You’re having a conversation about social issues that quickly pivots to an argument about race in America, with one person making increasingly uncomfortable statements.
You try to avoid making a scene, but then you realize that you don’t owe this person anything – least of all a platform from which to project their racist overtones – so you interrupt them and say “Dude, that is massively racist and completely inappropriate.”
Cue the hailstorm of response bullets!
One by one, from the “I’m not racist, I don’t see color” to “We’re so busy wrapped up in PC culture these days that everything has become racist” to finally “I can’t be racist, I have a black friend!” And that’s when you snap back again, because you know that it’s usually the person who is very much outwardly racist that uses the one person of color in their life as evidence of their universal tolerance.
It doesn’t work on you, of course, because you’re enlightened, fantastic, and fully woke, but does it work in general?
New research suggests this phrase actually DOES make people appear less racist – at least when it involves Asian Americans. A study published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science found that people viewed a white man who disparaged minorities as less racist if he mentioned having minority friends.
“This article is the first to examine whether minority friendships actually protect majority group actors from observers’ attributions of prejudice,” states one one of the study’s researchers, Michael Thai. “We demonstrated that they do, albeit not fully.”
In their study, 203 white American and 254 Asian American participants viewed a fake Facebook profile belonging to a made-up white male named Jake Miller, whose cover photo showed him being surrounded by no, few, or many Asian friends.
Half of the participants viewed a statement posted on Miller’s Facebook page in which he said either “so sick of Asians right now,” “Asians are annoying,” “can’t stand Asians,” or “way too many Asians around.” The other participants, used as a control group, viewed a statement in which he made similar complaints about squirrels.
As expected, the participants rated Miller as more racist when he complained about Asians than when he complained about squirrels. The participants who saw Miller posting anti-Asian comments rated him as less racist when his Facebook profile showed him surrounded by Asian friends. There was no significant difference between white and Asian participants. Although the participants rated Miller less negatively if he was depicted with minority friends, he was “still perceived more negatively than those who had not made an anti-Asian statement,” the researchers noted.