A Bad Rap

Thanks to songs like "Cop Killer," rap music may have developed asinister reputation among white Americans. When white college students were shown song lyrics describing a man who kills a police officer--but not told the performer's name or the genre of music--84 percent assumed that the words were from a rap song, and most deemed the work more offensive than "Cop Killer" itself. In fact, the lyrics came from I "Bad Man's Blunder," a 1950s folk song by the all white Kingston Trio.

Next, one group of students was told that these were raP lyrics and a second was informed that they came from a folk song. The "rap" group, it fumed out, reported the lyrics to be much more offensive and threatening than did the "folk" group.

The results not only indicate resistance to rap but may also signal a deeper cultural bias, according to Indiana University psychologist Carrie B. Fried, Ph.D., who conducted the study. In a second experiment, subjects were given a picture of the artist in addition to the lyrics. Those shown a young black man found the words offensive as often as the group told the lyrics came from a rap song. According to Fried, this finding backs research showing that actions are seen as more violent and aggressive if the perpetrator is black rather than white.

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