STUDY: Having Friends of Color Can Make You Seem Less Racist

By Kenrya Rankin Feb 16, 2016

A new study suggests that having friends of color can impact how observers view White people who make comments that could be construed as racist.

Friends With Moral Credentials,” which appears in a recent issue of Social Psychological & Personality Science, recruited 254 Asian-American and 203 White participants to judge how racist a White man is based on a fabricated Facebook profile page. The researchers are from The University of Queensland and Griffith University in Australia, but The Washington Post reports that all the participants were based in the United States. 

The study was divided into two experiments. For the first, the profile’s cover photo showed a White man with either all White friends, mostly White friends and one Asian friend, or mostly Asian friends. The page also either displayed a post where the man typed a negative phrase such as “Asians are annoying” or left out any mention of Asians. For the second experiment, the cover photo was removed, and instead the page included posts like, “One of my best friends is Asian, but….”

While having any number of Asian friends did not erase the man’s perceived racism, both Asian and White participants tended to feel he was less racist across the board than if he had none. And when asked to rate just how upsetting his individual posts were, White and Asian participants were less bothered by his comments if they thought he had Asian friends.