Apparently I’m Racist


Thanks to the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) a friend of mine sent me to take I have learned that I’m racist.  Harvard doesn’t directly call me a racist, but say that my results “suggest a moderate automatic preference for European American compared to African American.”    If European American = white and African American = black then I automatically prefer white over black.

How did Harvard come up with this conclusion?  Through the process known as Implicit Association Testing.  What is that?  It’s testing through various association tasks to uncover biases and pre-conditions we aren’t (or wouldn’t admit) to ever having.  Here’s a little more background coming straight from Harvard’s mouth:

Psychologists understand that people may not say what’s on their minds either because they are unwilling or because they are unable to do so. For example, if asked “How much do you smoke?” a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may purposely report smoking only 2 packs a day because they are embarrassed to admit the correct number. Or, the smoker may simply not answer the question, regarding it as a private matter. (These are examples of being unwilling to report a known answer.) But it is also possible that a smoker who smokes 4 packs a day may report smoking only 2 packs because they honestly believe they only smoke about 2 packs a day. (Unknowingly giving an incorrect answer is sometimes called self-deception; this illustrates being unable to give the desired answer).

The unwilling-unable distinction is like the difference between purposely hiding something from others and unconsciously hiding something from yourself. The Implicit Association Test makes it possible to penetrate both of these types of hiding. The IAT measures implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report.

So how do they uncover that you are racist (even though you would never admit it)?  You can find out for yourself by taking the test. On their website you’ll find a  list of different tests you can take.  I chose to take the Race test which looks like this:

black-white-iat-descriptionI like how here they already state that most likely you are racist since “most Americans have an automatic preference for white over black.”  When I saw this I said to myself “Well, I’m not every American, I value everyone equally and lovingly.”  I was out to prove to Harvard that despite all their “scientific research” that I was not like most Americans.

After you select to take this test you fill out some basic demographic information about yourself like your age, race, sex, biases you think you have (ie you like or don’t like black/white people), etc… Then you are taken to the meat and potatoes of the research study, the actual test.  It’s a simple test where they have you associate a picture with a word.  Everything is grouped into two categories and you are supposed to select which category they fall into by selecting either “e” or “i.”


They start you off with identifying pictures of black and white people.  They show you an image of a black or white person and then you are supposed to hit “e” if they are black or “i” if they are white.  Something they tell you to do is to go as fast as possible (this way you are going on instinct rather than careful analysis.  Later on they start adding other terms that invoke feelings like “hatred, love, joy, etc…” and you are supposed to select the correct category they belong to.  It’s probably easier to show you how this work than to spend much more time explaining it.  Here’s a video of me taking the actual test (I added Yanni music to the test cause otherwise it’s kind of boring to watch…Yanni definitely spruces it up):

If you watch the video and pay attention you’ll notice that at times when a picture of a black person comes up I automatically select the key that lumps them into the “bad” category.  This could be an indication of my racist nature, but if you watch the video and take the test for yourself, I feel like they purposely try to condition you to associate bad things with the pictures of African Americans.  The first time they mix the feelings with the races you’ll notice they have the “e” key linked to European American or Good and then “i” key linked to African American or Bad.   I think the mind will naturally associate pictures of black people with bad feelings since they are training you to do so in this first part.  That’s just my non-Harvard educated self guessing at what’s going on.

At the end they give you the result which you saw posted above, but to make you feel better about your racist self they do provide you with a chart that says that most people are racist against African Americans.  A feel good chart that states that over 54 percent of web respondents are either moderately or strongly preferential to European Americans over African Americans.

black-white-respondent-percentilesThe thing I notice now is they state these results are from “Web respondents.”  If these results are done by any of the number of people who comment on Youtube, then I would say these results are quite skewed.  People like to mess around online (though I’m not one hundred percent if this is the case for this test).

After this test a I was feeling a little dejected.  I wasn’t the champion for equality that I thought I was.  Part of me felt that their testing methodology was biased, so to test this I decided to take a different test, one which I was already part of the demographic they were comparing.  This time I took the Asian IAT.


Even though it doesn’t really describe what it’s testing, this test finds out whether you associate Asian Americans as American or not.  Myself being Asian American, I thought that if this test didn’t identify me as someone who DOES associate Asian Americans as American then this Harvard test is whack or I probably have some identity issues.  This one was kind of funny because they use some horrendous looking hand drawn pictures of Asian and European (white) people.  I had a hard time identifying Asians from non-Asians.  You can see the ugliness for  yourself.  If you watch the video you’ll also notice how I get a lot wrong (not on purpose).

I was a little surprised by the result.  I would have though with me being Asian American I would have been strongly associated Asian Americans as American, but instead my result stated…

asian-iat-resultI only have a “slight association” of Asian Americans as Americans according to Harvard.  Maybe they are onto something that I never realized before.  When I look into a mirror the reflection I see is not Ben Tao the American, no, Harvard says, I see Ben Tao, the slightly American.  Am I alone?  Apparently only 9% of the web respondents were just like me.

asian-white-iat-percentilesI’m curious to know the results of non-Asians who take this test and Asians who take this test.  My guess is that Asians Americans who are taking this test are the ones associating Asians as Americans and non-Asians are the one’s making up the rest of the results.  If you want to help me prove this theory take the test (scroll down to the Asian IAT test) and let me know how you do.  Alright, I’m off to go about my business being slightly American…

Comments 1

  1. eric wrote:

    racist bastard!

    Posted 28 May 2009 at 11:16 pm

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