Racist? Me? Do the test…

With the 1backlash against Muslims following terrorism attacks, the anti-immigration feelings behind Brexit and Donald Trump’s proposed travel 2ban for 6 Muslim countries, many people are expressing resistance to an increasingly global reality. But how many of us are prepared to call ourselves racist?


Many psychologists believe that all of us are racist to some degree. The British, the Germans, the Americans, the Indians, the Chinese ­– every nationality under the sun, even the Spanish.

The Spanish are no different from any other nationality in this respect, but because there were few foreigners in Spain until recently, they have found it harder than others to understand what constitutes racial prejudice.

A phrase I used to hear a lot in Spain during the 1990s was, “I’m not racist, but I don’t like gypsies.” Gypsies were the only significant minority group around – 750,000 – at that time and it seemed to be okay to hate them. After all, they were frequently depicted as delinquents by the government and the police. In fact, there have even been reports of schools 3discouraging male gypsy 4pupils from 5raising their hands in class to avoid violent incidents.

The terms ‘Moros’ and ‘Negritos’ –Moors and poor/little black people – are common parlance in Spain. In 2004, Spanish football fans were in the news for 6chanting monkey noises at the black players during an England-Spain match in the Bernabeu stadium.

In 2008, at a Formula One rally, a number of spectators painted their faces black because driver Lewis Hamilton was black. But this behavior was not considered racist by Juan Díez-Nicolás, an advisor to government agencies investigating racism.

“What happened in Barcelona was a sign of stupidity, but to call it racism is simplifying things. If [Hamilton] had happened to be a fat person, they would have insulted him for that,” he told the Guardian newspaper at the time. “In Spain, when they make fun about the color of your skin, it is not necessarily racism. If he had been a woman, they would have made a joke about that, and we would be talking about sexism.”

These kinds of 7denials would never be accepted in Britain where a culture of political correctness means everyone is 8watching what they say. Unfortunately, the policing of speech and attitudes does not appear to have achieved the desired results – just look at Brexit.

To get beneath the denials and pretences, Harvard’s Project Implicit designed an IAT test that measures feelings and attitudes people are 9unwilling to admit to. The test is now used across the world 10to tackle intolerance and promote diversity in the work place. It has been taken by more than 18 million people on their site alone.


There are a number of tests, one consisting of white faces and black faces with positive words and negative words; another consisting of Muslim names and European names with positive and negative words.

It’s all about speed and how fast you associate the good and bad concepts to the faces or names. My results showed a moderate preference for white over black people but no preference for white over Muslim. Is this right? I’m not sure.

The fact is, whether I am racist or not, the best thing I can do is to recognize my true feelings and adjust my behavior accordingly. For example, a US policeman who knows he assumes young black men carry guns might control his impulse to shoot an unarmed black man. Unfortunately, this is something that happens with disproportionate frequency in America.

In Spain, police might control their impulse to arbitrarily stop and 11search young Muslim and black men in the street and teachers might not 12freak out in class when young gypsy boys raise their hands to 13clap or answer a question.



1backlash: reacción violenta

2ban: restricción

3discouraging: desanimar

4pupils: alumnos

5to raise: levantar

6to chant: corear

7denial: negación

8to watch what they say: ser cuidadoso en lo que dice

9unwilling: poco dispuesto

10to tackle: abordar

11to search: registrar

12to freak out: asustarse

13to clap: aplaudir