Is it racist to measure racism?

From time to time I work with the folks who run the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (see @nzavs on Twitter). This is a 20-year longitudinal study of social attitudes, personality and health outcomes. It is unique to New Zealand.

We have released this open letter about the scientific measurement of racism and prejudice.

The key points are:

  1. The only way we can know if racism is a problem in New Zealand is to measure it scientifically, and to see if it is getting better or worse over time.
  2. The measurement of racism is complex. It is typically done by asking people if they agree or disagree with a series of scientifically selected attitude statements. There is a deep logic behind how we select these statements.
  3. Sometimes these attitude statements can seem offensive, but it’s important to include them because some parts of our society endorse them. If we exclude these statements, we can’t measure prejudice.
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