Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Entry archive:

(Thinkstock)
(Thinkstock)

Are smart people really less racist or just better at hiding it? Add to ...

Does a high level of intellect make a person post-racial?

A new study conducted by the University of Michigan would likely beg to differ.

The investigation, which was conducted by researcher Geoffrey Wodtke, analyzed the racial position and prejudice of more than 20,000 white Americans that participated in the General Social Survey. Wodtke’s conclusion was that a high-level of intelligence is not necessarily a marker of a post-racial attitude toward society.

More Related to this Story

Rather, educated individuals are just as likely to be as racist as their simple-minded counterparts; they just happen to be better at masking their feelings of superiority with a veil of calculated words that at first glance boasts an enlightened attitude, but has no real resonance in reality.

“High-ability whites are less likely to report prejudiced attitudes and more likely to say they support racial integration in principle,” said Wodtke, who is a doctoral candidate in sociology. “But they are no more likely than lower-ability whites to support open housing laws and are less likely to support school busing and affirmative action programs.”

The study’s most interesting conclusion is this principle-practice paradox that appeared ever-present among the intelligent white respondents. Wodtke says that while many of the intelligent respondents would say that they are in support of creating an environment of inclusivity, they just wouldn’t do anything to level the playing field.

So what does all of this mean for society?

Well for one thing, racism and prejudicial feelings are not simply an indicator of ignorance or a personality flaw that stems from the absence of socialization. Rather, Wodtke says, these inequalities persist as a protective guard rail for the more privileged members society to stay on top.

“In modern America, where blacks are mobilized to challenge racial inequality, this means that intelligent whites say – and may in fact truly believe – all the right things about racial equality in principle, but they just don’t actually do anything that would eliminate the privileges to which they have become accustomed.”

One thing this study confirms is that racism is still one of the most unrelenting social issues in North America, creating a divide that has spanned centuries.

 

In the know

Most popular videos »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most popular