Whites Confronting Racism: What Confrontations Are Most Appreciated by Blacks?

Bak, Hyeonjin, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Trawalter, Sophie, BA-Frank Batten School, University of Virginia

Previous work in social psychology has defined effective confrontations as ones that reduce prejudice. While prejudice reduction is an important outcome, this approach has resulted in a large body of research focusing mostly on the perspectives of the majority group members, ironically ignoring the targets’ perspectives. To understand how target group members perceive confrontations, we conducted studies in two phases. In Phase 1, we documented when and how Whites confront racial bias; specifically, what they would say in response to a prejudiced remark. We found that low-prejudiced Whites who felt anger and moral outrage (vs. sympathy, empathy, or guilt) in response to a racist comment were more likely to confront. In Phase 2, we explored Blacks’ reactions to those confrontations; specifically, we asked them to evaluate a sample of confrontations from Phase 1. We found that Black participants appreciated almost all confrontations, especially those that were direct, targeted the action (but not the person), and connected instances of interpersonal prejudice to systemic racism. This work has important implications for promoting White allies and reducing prejudiced behavior.

MA (Master of Arts)
confronting prejudice
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