Results of a racism survey at the University of Tulsa showing American Indians more likely to be regarded with prejudice than other minorities by White students surprised researchers.
A written survey of 55 White, middle-class college students in their 20s who had been in college for more than a year found that American Indians were consistently regarded less favorably on social factor indicator scales than Black people.
Researchers said the mix of the state’s many tribes increased the likelihood of students coming into contact with an Indian person.
“The findings support the idea that although overtly racist ideas toward African-Americans appear to be less prevalent in contemporary America, overt racism towards American Indians is present,” UT researchers reported in the study.
According to 2006 U.S. Census estimates, 43,364 self-identified American Indians live in Tulsa County. Statewide, the number is 397,041.
Findings from the study indicate that although the respondents knew that Indians are different in culture, they were viewed less positively than Black people. One aspect was perceived privileges, such as free health care, researchers noted.
Dr. Dennis Combs, a former UT associate psychology professor who now works at the University of Texas at Tyler, participated in the research. Combs says the findings are surprising because college students are perceived as liberal regarding race issues.
“Also, American Indians may also be subject to a newer form of racism called subtle racism, which is centered on them as being different, having poor work ethic and unfavorable,” says Combs, who conducted the study along with student Melissa Tibbits.
Indians also are more likely to be regarded with “blatant prejudice” than Black people, the survey showed.
Officials with the Tulsa Indian Coalition on Racism, who viewed the study’s results, say that when generalities about Indians abound, negative viewpoints are nurtured and sustained.
“People think we have privilege and all get gaming checks. … That’s not true,” TICAR President Louis Gray says. “People don’t think of us as human; we’re just symbols, but we have hopes and dreams like everyone else.”
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