Claims of 'Post-Racial' Society and Other Denials of Racism May Reflect Ignorance of History [View all]
an. 15, 2013 — New research suggests that commonly observed differences in how groups perceive racism may be explained by ignorance about -- and even denial of -- the extent of racism over the course of history.
The research, conducted by psychological scientists at the University of Kansas and Texas A&M University, indicates that African Americans had more accurate knowledge of historically documented racism compared to European Americans. This difference in historical knowledge partially accounted for group differences in perceptions of racism, both at a systemic and an incident-specific level.
"Survey research consistently documents that, relative to White Americans, people from historically oppressed racial and ethnic minority groups tend to report less satisfaction with race relations, see social inequality as a greater problem, and see more racism in incidents, such as legislation targeting undocumented immigrants and 'stand your ground' laws," say the researchers.
The authors note that these perceptions of racism are often treated as exaggerated or delusional. But theory and research from cultural psychology suggest that differences in how people perceive racism may arise because individuals from minority groups are actually attuned to knowledge that individuals from the majority group lack. Individuals from the majority group may deny racism in the context of current events because they are ignorant about documented racism from the past.