http://www.doubletakemag.net/fs/ How much do white Americans think it “costs” to be black in our society, given the problems associated with racial bias and prejudice? The answer, it appears, is not much. When white Americans were asked to imagine how much they would have to be paid to live the rest of their lives as a black person, most requested relatively low amounts, generally less than $10,000. In contrast, study participants said they would have to be paid about $1 million to give up television for the rest of their lives. The results suggest most white Americans don’t truly comprehend the persisting racial disparities in our country, said Philip Mazzocco, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus. “The costs of being black in our society are very well documented,” Mazzocco said. “Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to whites.” For example, white households average about $150,000 more wealth than the typical black family. Overall, total wealth for white families is about five times greater than that of black families, a gap that has persisted for years. “When whites say they would need $1 million to give up TV, but less than $10,000 to become black, that suggests they don’t really understand the extent to which African Americans, as a group, are disadvantaged,” Mazzocco said. These results also offer insight as to why more than 9 out of 10 white Americans reject proposals to give reparations to the descendants of slaves, said study co-author Mahzarin Banaji, the Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University. “Our data suggest that such resistance is not because white Americans are mean and uncaring, morally bankrupt, or ethically flawed,” Banaji said. “White Americans suffer from a glaring ignorance about what it means to live as a black American.” The study appears in the current issue of Harvard’s Du Bois Review. The researchers did a series of studies in which a total of 958 whites of different ages and from different parts of the country were asked variations of the same question: “How much should you be paid to continue to live the rest of your life as a black person?” In most cases, the participants were told to imagine they were actually black, but had always passed for white. The imagined race change required no physical transformation, just a change in public status. They were also asked how much they should be paid for giving up television, and how much they should be given to change their officially listed state residency (without having to move). These questions were asked, Mazzocco said, to compare what people requested for relatively trivial changes, like a new listed state residency, as compared to a more life-changing request, like giving up television. Results suggest white people considered a race change as relatively trivial, along the lines of a change in official state residency, as opposed to the seemingly big sacrifice of giving up television.