Posted September 01, 2018 07:24:23 When it comes to race, some people may want to be more careful.
When discussing race with people of different ethnicities, they can find themselves being judged differently than those who are more familiar with the subject.
That can mean being judged less sensitive and less sensitively about topics such as the word “nigger.”
A new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and The Ohio State University has found that people are more likely to be accused of racial slurs in conversations about race when discussing race and ethnicity.
“The results showed that people who were racially sensitive were less likely to feel the need to avoid using the word ‘nigger’ when discussing the word in conversations with racial groups,” lead author Jessica Schaffer, a UC Berkeley doctoral student in sociology, told ABC News.
“But they were more likely than others to use the word when discussing racial identity.”
The study, “Race, Ethnicity, and Racial Nouns: The Impact of Racial Sensitivity on Rhetoric,” examined the racial slur usage of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults in a sample of social media posts on a variety of topics.
Schaffer and her colleagues focused on how “niggers” were used in the context of racial identity, rather than race as a whole.
“This is a really good question,” Schaffer said.
“I think this shows that people feel more comfortable saying ‘nigger’ when they are talking about racial identity and not race as an entire group.”
The researchers used a web-based data analysis tool called the Implicit Association Test, a measure of how people associate words with other people’s race, ethnicity, and/or class.
“There is a lot of research on implicit associations, which are people’s associations with racial characteristics,” Schaser said.
“What we found is that people can use racial slurs, they are less likely when they think about their own race, or they are more apt to use racial stereotypes, such as ‘n-gger’ when talking to people who are of a different race than themselves.”
When people think about a word like “n-gag,” they tend to think about how it could be used as a racial slur, and they think it is not appropriate for their own racial group, according to the study.
“So, we looked at how people could identify racial slurs that are offensive, or offensive when people think of them as racial slurs,” Schafer said.
People who said they were racially insensitive in social media comments were also more likely not to be sensitive to other race groups when discussing their own group, such that they tended to use offensive racial stereotypes.
“These findings suggest that people may be more likely when talking with racial group members that they would use offensive language, or be more sensitive to the word as an example,” Schacher said.
The researchers said the findings are consistent with research showing that racial prejudice is more likely in racialized communities and that racial sensitivity is a more powerful predictor of prejudice than is race itself.
“It’s very clear that we can’t separate what people say about race from their own attitudes toward other racial groups, and that is where these findings are significant,” Schaff said.
In the study, participants who were highly racially sensitive and who were more sensitive about racial stereotypes were more prone to use racist language.
For example, when they were talking about the term “niggaz,” the participants who thought of themselves as racially sensitive reported saying “nigs” more often than those in the “race non-socially sensitive” group, the researchers said.
When participants were talking to someone who was racially insensitive, “racial sensitivity was more strongly related to using offensive language and to making more racially insensitive comments,” the researchers found.
“When people are sensitive about race and are willing to talk about it, they tend not to make racist remarks,” Scharer said.
But when people are racially sensitive, they also tend to use a more racist language than racial stereotypes suggest.
“In our studies, we found that racial sensitization was linked to more negative racial stereotypes than was race,” Schareff said.
As the researchers noted, the findings don’t necessarily mean that people should avoid discussing race when talking race, and the authors suggest that they are a warning to others not to use racially insensitive language.
“Our results suggest that we are dealing with something deeper and that people with high levels of sensitivity may be sensitive about other racial identities and can be very sensitive to racism,” Schuff said.