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Messages that Minimize the Existence of Racism Have Different Consequences for Racial Minority and Majority Group Members

  • Author(s): Heldreth, Courtney
  • Advisor(s): Shapiro, Jenessa R
  • et al.
Abstract

Despite a common post-racial rhetoric that has surfaced in recent years underscoring that discrimination against minority group members no longer exists, empirical research reveals that many individuals continue to experience discrimination and that racial prejudice continues to shape racial disparities in many domains. My dissertation examined this mismatch—when people’s experiences and beliefs are inconsistent with messages that imply that racial discrimination no longer exists. The present work explores how racial group membership influences this mismatch and leads people to experience a variety outcomes. Across three experiments, results revealed that messages that imply that racism is no longer an issue led minority group members to report less belonging (Experiments 1-3), more negative affect (Experiments 1 & 2), greater vigilance to discrimination (Experiments 1 & 2), greater support for immigration policies (Experiment 1), and greater outgroup hostility (Experiment 2) compared to

racial minorities who were not exposed to messages that minimized or denied the existence of racism. Furthermore, results revealed that the perception that Whites do not understand the experiences of minority group members mediated the relationship between the message and a lower sense of belonging for racial minorities. Conversely, messages that minimized or denied the existence of racism had the opposite effect on Whites. After being exposed to a message that minimized the existence of racial discrimination against minority groups, Whites reported lower prejudice concerns and more positive emotions compared to Whites who were not exposed to a message that minimized the existence of racial discrimination. Given that messages that minimize racism are often subtle and not intended to harm members from disadvantaged groups, this research adds to an existing understanding of the same message can create disparate outcomes among racial minorities and Whites in the United States, which may ultimately have implications for intergroup relations.

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