October 8, 2008

The Price of Words Unspoken

By Rachel Zelkowitz
ScienceNOW Daily News
7 October 2008

Picture of a black and a white person

Colorblind? Researchers found white subjects shrink from using relevant racial descriptors when looking at cards like these.

After Barack Obama's landmark speech on race on 18 March, it was hard to tell what got more media attention: What the Democratic presidential candidate said or that he had said it at all. Regardless, many pundits agreed that as an African-American, Obama could discuss race in ways few white people would dare. That's because most white Americans today have learned not to talk about race for fear of seeming racist, says Samuel Sommers, a social psychologist at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Two new studies back up this idea, and the research shows that deliberately avoiding race when it's clearly relevant may impair decision-making skills.

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