Why Can't We All Be Friends? Do Friendships Influence a Person's Perception of Racial Teasing?



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The purpose of this study was to explore how having Mexican American friends influences a person?s perception to racial/ethnic (Mexican American) specific teasing. This study sought to extend the research on friendships and prejudice by investigating how friendship influences a person rating of ethnic specific teasing. This study is significant because promoting interracial friendships could be an avenue to alleviate some of the negative effects of racial teasing. Moreover, it may help facilitate and create a more comfortable social environment that might help ethnic minorities in school. Participants were asked to rate vignettes, including characters that were identified as Mexican American, which contained racial/ethnic specific teasing. They were asked to rate the vignettes according to adjectives that were either positive or negative, such as: humorous, friendly, mean, and cruel. Additionally, measures of empathy, social desirability, prejudice, and white racial consciousness were administered. Participants were asked to think of a Mexican American friend and complete a questionnaire, the Acquaintance Description Form F-2, as a way of measuring the intensity and closeness of this friendship. The major hypothesis was that participants who indicated a greater and more intense friendship with their Mexican American friend would rate the teasing as less positive and more disapproving. Analysis found that people have a more disapproving attitude toward teasing to the extent that they have, respectively, at least one Mexican American friend or a higher level of exposure to African Americans. Statuses of white racial consciousness were also found to be strong predictors for how participants rated vignettes. Findings somewhat supported both the Extended Contact Theory and the Intergroup Contact Theory, adding to the literature that finds when groups spend not only time together but quality time together benefits can be expected. Some of these benefits may help to reduce the positive perception of racial teasing and presumably less racial teasing. Future research should explore the relationship between white racial consciousness and attitudes and perceptions of racial specific teasing as a strong associate between the two emerged in this study. Additionally future research may explore whether less positive feelings of racial teasing is related to less racial teasing behaviors.