Racism In The World, Ctd

A reader writes:

I found your post intriguing, but then I saw this takedown of errors in the dataset. I think a correction is definitely due, since at least some of the results appear to be opposite to the truth.

Yep: one stats expert has spotted a “fat finger” in the Bangladesh data:

“Yes” and “No” got swapped in the second round of the survey, which means that 28.3% of Bangladeshis said they wouldn’t want neighbors of a different race – not 71.7%.

That’s a huge difference. But it may be restricted to Bangladesh. Another reader:

I don’t see how that map gives us a grasp of racism around the world. With the exception of France and a couple of other First World countries, this seems to be a much better indicator of each country’s knowledge of First World norms.

A study like this has to be tailored to each country’s level of sophistication. The average person in America or Canada lives in a metropolitan area with easy access to mass media. Regardless of whether or not they are racist, the average American KNOWS that you can’t say “I don’t want to live with people of another race.” However, the average person in India or Bangladesh lives in a rural area and has almost no interaction with people of other races and very little exposure to mass media. When you ask them them a question about neighbors, all they’re really thinking is “I don’t know want my village taken over by foreigners.” Racist? Possibly. Unsophisticated thinking? Definitely.

I am an American of Indian descent and briefly lived in India. I have no trouble believing India is the most racist country out there, but my experience in India also gives me some insight into how the survey questions are perceived by the average person there. You simply can’t ask the same question in the U.S. and India and think that you are measuring the same thing.


Regarding India, I would not discount Islam or religion in general as a big part of the explanation. For starters, India has (depending on the source) between 160 and 180 million Muslims, more than any country other than Indonesia and Pakistan. And most of the rest of the population are Hindu and Hinduism is very much tied into being Indian and therefore of a certain physical appearance if not race. When I spent a semester in India 21 years ago, I certainly at times felt like I was being treated differently (for good and ill) because I was white. Mixed up in the religion issue is the fact that skin color is a big deal in Indian society. Light skin is an ideal physical trait, especially in northern India. Most of the movie stars have light skin (and would not stick out in Rome) and there are skin lighteners for sale in every drug store or grocery. Additionally, you have the legacy of British rule. Indians have certainly not forgotten that they were relatively recently under the thumb of white folks.


You don’t mention it, but France’s racism status has a lot to do with Islam too. Hatred from and for Arab and African muslims is incredible there. As an American married to a French woman, the amount of open and overt racism coming from both sides is incredible to see. (Jews don’t feel too good there either, but that’s another conversation.)