A new meta-analysis of over 25,000 people has found that individuals that deny the existence of structural racism in society are more like to exhibit anti-Black prejudice. These people are also less like to show openness to diversity or show racial empathy.
The findings are published by the American Psychological Association in the Journal of Counseling Psychology. Data from 83 previous studies was investigated to understand the impact of so-called colorblind racial ideologies, such as denying structural racism and ignoring race.
Structural racism is defined as the political, social, and economical disadvantages that people of color – and in particular Black people – face. This type of prejudice is ingrained in the very make-up of society and leads to worse well-being and life chances for people of color. Examples of these are incredibly numerous and often egregious, such as the fact that Black and Hispanic people in the US are less likely to receive life-saving CPR.
“The denial of structural racism appears to be a big barrier to racial equity because it allows for more victim-blaming explanations of systemic inequality,” lead author Jacqueline Yi, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a statement. “The more that BIPOC [Black, indigenous and people of color] individuals are blamed for racial disparities, the less likely it is for white people and institutions to take responsibility for the continued effects of systemic racism.”
The team found that the denial of the existence of structural racism is more closely linked to anti-Black prejudice compared to prejudice against other people of color. Those people also tended to think inequalities in societies are acceptable and they are less likely to engage in behavior to promote social justice.
Ignoring race, often exemplified by the phrase “I don’t see color”, didn’t appear to be linked to these negative behaviors but the research highlights how this approach still acts as an “insidious form of racism.”
“On its surface, ignoring racial group differences and emphasizing sameness as humans seems beneficial,” added co-author Dr Helen Neville, professor of educational psychology and African American studies at UIUC. “However, this approach can be a way for white people to avoid discomfort associated with appearing prejudiced and become less willing to engage in anti-racist actions.”
The team suggests that psychologists need to work on themselves and others to challenge these ideologies effectively. They also suggest that organizations and institutions need to move away from racially colorblind approaches and actually focus on racially conscious methods.