New Study Shows Black Women Confront Racists, While Asian Women Just Feed Them Nasty Jellybeans

April 16th, 2012 | 7 comments | Posted by Jen

New research is out showing African American and Asian American women react differently to racists. Basically, black women are more likely to confront racists directly, while Asian women are more likely to poison them with disgusting-flavored jellybeans. Or something like that. Here’s a summary of the research, as described in The Atlantic:

PROBLEM: Previous studies have demonstrated variations in the way people of distinct cultures communicate and manage conflict. Do their reactions to racial slurs differ as well?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers Elizabeth Lee and José Soto asked Asian and black American women to talk to another person online using an instant messenger. The conversation partner was a research assistant trained to make either a racist comment, such as “Dating [blacks/Asians] is for tools who let [blacks/Asians] control them” or a rude comment unrelated to race. The subjects then took part in a supposedly unrelated taste test, for which they chose a jellybean for their conversation partner. The jellybean flavors available ranged from delicious (e.g. cherry, lemon) to “bad-tasting” (e.g. earwax, dirt).

RESULTS: The African-American participants were more likely to directly respond to their racist partners than the Asian-American women, who preferred to retaliate in secret by not giving the good jellybeans.

The results of that study (full PDF here) sound pretty stereotype-y to me, and one contributing factor could be that of the 34 Asian American female participants–all undergraduates at a “large public university”–almost half of them (47%) were born outside of the U.S. Contrast that with the African American participants, of whom only 13.9% were born outside of the U.S. These researchers also conducted a second study published in the same research paper that found “Asian women were more likely than Black women to say they would not respond directly to a racist comment.” In this study, 65.2% of the Asian participants, also undergraduates at a large public university, were born outside of the U.S. as opposed to only 6.3% of the black participants. Can you lump 2nd generation and 1.5 generation Asian American women together in a study like that?

I dunno. Kind of hung up on the variables that presents. And the fact that there are people who actually eat “earwax” and “vomit” jellybeans voluntarily out there in the world.

[UPDATE: In the notes at the end of the study, the researchers state that they found no difference between the results of the American-born Asian women and the foreign-born: "Given the large percentage of Asian participants born outside of the United States, we conducted our principal analyses separately for U.S. born and foreign born participants and found no differences in the results. Therefore, we present the findings for the combined group throughout." There goes my theory. Still, there's something about this study that's the wackness. Discuss.]

[PSP Bulletin: Bitter Reproach or Sweet Revenge: Cultural Differences in Response to Racism]
[The Atlantic: Study of the Day: Blacks Confront Racists, Asians Prefer Quiet Revenge]

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7 Responses to “New Study Shows Black Women Confront Racists, While Asian Women Just Feed Them Nasty Jellybeans”

  1. loudasian says:

    This study confirms what I have suspected for a long time – that when confronted with a racist slur, a lot of Asians (and Asian Americans) feel embarrassed and say nothing. NEWSFLASH: ignoring it will NOT make it go away.

    In the olden days, rape victims were embarrassed to speak up – embarrassed that they were victims, embarrassed that they “let” it happen to them. We understand now that rape is unacceptable, no matter the circumstances, no matter what color underwear the victim was wearing. This public education and awareness happened because PEOPLE SPOKE UP. If they had kept quiet, nothing would have changed.

    Isn’t it time for Asians – and Asian Americans – to speak up and stop feeling embarrassed? Yes, there are racists in this country. Yes, they single us out because of the way we look. Yes, they laugh at our eyes. Yes, they call us names that “don’t sound so bad”. BUT NO, it is NOT OK because it is still racism. Isn’t it time to be OUTRAGED?

  2. kimchi says:

    This was an interesting post regarding some of the differences between Asian and African American women. I would love to read more about this issue also from a male view point. Do you think that this is the case with Asian and African American males compared to females?

  3. CanelaNYC says:

    I wonder how many of the American-born Asian American women were first or second generation, etc. I dunno. I still feel like it’s skewed and maybe too flawed to be substantive.

  4. donmai says:

    You are someone who blogs about Asian American issues for a living. Do you seriously not realize how susceptible you are to self-selection bias?

  5. Jen says:

    @donmai 1) I don’t blog about Asian American issues “for a living.” Unless you call “a living” working for negative dollars. 2) I seriously realize how susceptible I am to self-selection bias. This entire blog is an exercise in self-selection bias. That’s why I’m a blogger and not a researcher. Seriously.

  6. Want Chyi says:

    @kimchi I too, am interested in what a study involving black and Asian/Asian-American males would show, seeing as the Angry Black Male stereotype is one that black men are very cognizant of. Though the full PDF of the study is no longer available for free, I am curious as to what the subjects’ proficiency, comfort level, and approach to online communication are, seeing as the study was conducted using instant messenger. I believe all of us behave differently online than we do in person– there is a certain degree of anonymity that comes with electronic communication, making a person more– or less– careful when expressing her- or himself. It also matters if there are auditory or visual cues as to the race, etc. of the person we are talking to. Admittedly, the results of the study (based on the summary) do not strike me as stereotypical. Rather, they fit my understanding of how black or Asian/Asian-American women might behave, based on cultural norms and upbringing. The sample size and paramaters of the study, however, are what determine its legitimacy, along with whether the subjects even knew they were participating in a study.

  7. bluelilacs says:

    I’m Asian American, and have a background in psychology. I appreciate this article, and would like to clarify how communication styles simply differ among Asian (collectivist) cultures. Being indirect is normal. Appraising giving the unfavorable flavored jellybeans as a sign of embarrassment is viewing the behavior as correct or incorrect through a lens of an individualist culture. No communication style is wrong, it’s just misunderstood by a dominant model. The same goes for any minority behavior that is being judged by the established norms by a dominant group. And if the argument for Asian Americans or any minority is to “learn how to adapt to American communication because we’re in America” is a person’s response, I’m sorry, but that is a very ignorant, dominant group mentality to have. Culture is multigenerational. It takes generations for behavior and language to change. You can’t just tell someone to blend in because you misunderstand them. We so need multicultural courses and communication skills taught from an early age, and even at the work place. If we decided to take a step back and figure out what the message really is, instead of what we think is wrong about the communication style, we wouldn’t have so much conflict with people of different cultures.

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