Steve Mirsky digs into the science:
A part of the answer may lie in what’s called implicit social cognition, which involves the deep-rooted assumptions we all carry around and even act on without realizing it. Harvard University psychologist Mahzarin Banaji is a leader in implicit social cognition research. She excavates the hidden beliefs people hold by measuring how fast they make value judgments when shown a rapid-fire succession of stimuli, such as photographs of faces.
At a talk she gave in October 2008 to a group of science journalists, Banaji discussed research she did with Thierry Devos, now at San Diego State University, that examined bias against Asians. They found that volunteers linked white Americans more strongly than Asian-Americans with, well, America. Banaji and Devos then decided to do what even they thought was a “bizarre” study: they had people gauge the “American-ness” of famous Asian-Americans, such as Connie Chung and tennis player Michael Chang, versus European whites, such as Hugh Grant.The study found that white Europeans are more “American” than are nonwhite Americans in most minds.