Wednesday, May 02, 2007

How Racism Works

The New York Times has an extremely important article today about racism, summarizing the findings of a recent study on officiating in the NBA. It turns out that white refs call fouls at a higher rate on black players than on white players, and that black refs call fouls on white players at a higher rate as well, though with less bias. It's also worth noting that while blacks notch 5/6ths of all minutes played, 2/3rds of the refs are white. Here's the gloss on the findings, by Ian Ayres of Yale Law School, the author of “Pervasive Prejudice?” and an expert in testing for how subtle racial bias, also known as implicit association, appears in interactions ranging from the setting of bail amounts to the tipping of taxi drivers:
“There’s a growing consensus that a large proportion of racialized decisions is not driven by any conscious race discrimination, but that it is often just driven by unconscious, or subconscious, attitudes. When you force people to make snap decisions, they often can’t keep themselves from subconsciously treating blacks different than whites, men different from women.”
At this point in the tortured hisory of race and racism in the United States, racism is not so much about conscious haters, but rather about subtle biases that manifest themselves in the smallest but most significant ways that people choose who to befriend, where to play, and who to collaborate with. This represents massive progress from the 1950s. but still indicates how far we have to go before overcoming the sorry history of slavery.


Anonymous said...

money quote: Given that your league is mostly African-American, maybe you should have more African-American referees — for the same reason that you don’t want mostly white police forces in primarily black neighborhoods.”

same is true in all aspects of the justice system, but I would argue that attitude of an individual also plays a roll, ie Dennis Rodman vs. David Robinson.

Anonymous said...

The fact percentage of black refs (and coaches and owners) says far more about racism than the refereeing stats.