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White Americans said to view racism as a zero-sum game

USA, 26.5.2011 17:57, (ROMEA)

According to a new study by two US researchers, American whites believe they are now more discriminated against because of their race than their Afro-American fellow citizens. The new study, entitled "Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game that They Are Now Losing", reveals surprising results.

Samuel Sommers, a professor of psychology at Tufts University in Massachusetts, and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School performed the research on two groups of Americans. They asked a sample of 209 white people and 208 black people to rate how much each group was discriminated against on a scale of one to 10, starting from 1950 and ending at the start of the new millenium.

Both groups agreed that anti-black racism has significantly decreased during the past 60 years. Afro-Americans evaluated their discrimination at 9.7 in the 1950s and 6.1 after the year 2000. White people also recognized that racism against black people in the 1950s exceeded 9 points (precisely, 9.1) and ranked it currently at 3.6.

However, the experts noticed an enormous difference between black and white perceptions of discrimination of white people. According to the Afro-American group, such discrimination has risen only by four-tenths of a point during the past 60 years (from a ranking of 1.4 to 1.8). On the other hand, white people believe it has risen from 1.8 to 4.7.

"This is a completely surprising finding when you reflect that there are still great disparities in society due to which Afro-Americans are still much worse off," Professor Sommers told the UK paper The Independent, "including employment rates, health care access, real estate ownership, and wage levels." Sommers went on to say the findings indicate that white Americans simply view racism as a game in which one side will always win and the other will always lose - therefore, if racism against black people has been ameliorated, white Americans believe it must have increased against them.

These ideas about greater discrimination against white people have been prompted, for example, by affirmative action campaigns. Some companies hire new employees according to ethnic quotas, which could be influencing this general opinion. "If you are white person, a member of the middle class, who does not have much contact with the black population, your views may only be influenced by what you hear," Professor Michael Norton said.

Statistics show that roughly half of young black people in the USA are unemployed, twice as many as white Americans. According to Norton and Summers, the new study is one of the first to reveal such results and may serve as an appropriate background material and inspiration for further research.

Gwendolyn Albert, Jitka Votavová, voj, iDNES.cz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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