We don’t want our kids to be racist. Most parents would be horrified to discover that their children discriminate against others based on their ethnicities. And yet, it’s inevitable that some of the parents reading this very article have kids who express prejudice. It’s not the sort of thing you’d notice — especially if your child mainly spends time with members of his or her own race.
Fortunately, a prejudice scale that can measure levels of blatant and even subtle prejudice has existed since 1995, when psychologists Pettigrew and Meertens published a study describing it. The original scale asked Dutch people how they felt about Turks; subsequent versions asked Italians how they felt about Moroccans. One of the tragedies of the scale is how easy it is to modify — follow-up studies have shown that the scale works with virtually any two cultures.
So we modified it further, to measure how Americans feel about Latinos. We chose Latinos (as opposed to any other minority) because they are often victims of both racial discrimination and anti-immigration sentiment, two factors that feature heavily in the prejudice scale. We chose the term “Americans” as opposed to “Caucasians” because the scale requires the control variable to be a nationality. Fatherly understands and appreciates that many ethnic Latinos are American citizens (as Pettigrew and Meertens understood that many ethnic Turks are Dutch citizens).
Meet The Prejudice Scale
The scale consists of 20 items, 10 regarding blatant prejudice and 10 on subtle prejudice. Answer each with: strongly agree (5), agree (4), neutral (3), disagree (2), or strongly disagree (1), and score questions with an asterisk in the reverse (“strongly agree” is worth 1 point). Higher scores indicate more prejudice. You can administer this test to your child, or fill it out yourself.
Blatant Prejudice Scale
- Politicians in the U.S. care too much about Latinos and not enough about the
average American person
- Most Latinos living here who received support from welfare could get along without it if they tried
- I would not mind if a Latino person who had a similar economic background as mine joined my close family by marriage*
- I would not mind if a suitably qualified Latino person was appointed as my boss*
- Latinos have jobs that Americans should have
- Suppose that a child of yours had children with a person of very different colour and physical characteristics than your own. Do you think you would be very bothered, bothered, bothered a little, or not bothered at all, if your grandchildren did not physically resemble the people on your side of the family?
- I would be willing to have sexual relationships with a Latino*
- Latinos come from less able races and this explains why they are not as well off as most Americans
- Americans people and Latinos can never be really comfortable with each other, even if they are close friends
- How different or similar do you think Latinos living here are to other American people like yourself, in how honest they are?
Subtle Prejudice Scale
- Many other groups have come to America and overcome prejudice and worked their way
up. Latinos should do the same without special favor
- Latinos living here teach their children values and skills different from those required to be successful in America
- It is just a matter of some people not trying hard enough. If Latinos would only try harder they could be as well off as Americans
- How often have you felt sympathy for Latinos living here?*
- How often have you felt admiration for Latinos living here?
- Latinos living here should not push themselves where they are not wanted
- How different or similar do you think Latinos living here are to other Americans like yourself, in the values that they teach their children?
- How different or similar do you think Latinos living here are to other American people like yourself, in their religious beliefs and practices?
- How different or similar do you think Latinos living here are to other American people like yourself, in their sexual values or sexual practices?
- How different or similar do you think Latinos living here are to other American people like yourself, in the language that they speak?
Well, My Kid Is Racist
First of all, tell your kid to stop it.
Second of all, there are different kinds of scores on the prejudice scale. If you scored high on both scales, you’re a bigot (we’re not just saying that, either—it’s actually the scientific term for someone who gets a high score on both blatant and subtle prejudice scales). If you scored low on both scales, you’re an “equalitarian” (which is probably a good place to be). The tricky category is those who score low on the blatant prejudice scale, but high on subtle prejudice. They’re called “subtles”, because despite the fact that they don’t openly discriminate, they are, as one 2008 study put it, “ready to discriminate if there is a socially acceptable way of doing so.”
And of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that the test is not 100 percent accurate, and that you’re either self-administering it or administering it to your child outside of laboratory settings.
How Did This Happen? And How Do I Fix It?
Studies suggest it’s probably your fault if your kids are racist. Parents who score high on the subtle prejudice scale tend to have children who score high on both scales, and moms and dads who adopt the strict authoritarian parenting style are significantly more likely to have bigoted kids.
But that doesn’t mean your children are beyond help. If you stop subtly hinting at your biases now, your children have a high probability of growing out of their prejudice. Try to avoid using “us vs. them” expressions, or try introducing your kids to other cultures by watching TV shows and movies from foreign countries and eating immigrant foods. Talk to your kids about the harms of prejudice and the virtues of treating all people with respect. And then, have them take the test again.