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Lisa Platt


Racism is discriminatory behavior rooted in history and fostered by institutional power. Current theory and research posits that different types of racism have developed over time, such as overt, implicit, symbolic, and aversive racism. The concept of racial microagressions has developed from these theories. Microaggressions are defined by Sue (2010) as subtle and commonplace environmental, verbal, and behavioral indignities that convey negative, hostile, or derogative slights toward people of color. This study examines the ability to recognize racism, as well as relationships between the ability to recognize racism and factors of White privilege awareness, attitudes toward diversity, and ability to empathize. A sample of 208 participants were assigned to one of three conditions with varying levels of implicit or overt racism portrayed via a video scenario, and were then asked to complete surveys designed to determine if participants labeled the events as offensive and/or as racist. Participants also completed surveys relating to White privilege awareness, attitudes toward diversity, and empathy. Contrary to the first hypothesis, results indicated participants better recognized the offensiveness of the racial microaggression than the offensiveness of the overt racist aggression. The second hypothesis was supported in that participants better recognized the overt racist event was offensive in comparison to those in the control condition. Furthermore, White privilege awareness and attitudes toward diversity were not related to the ability to recognize racism. However, ability to empathize was partially related to racism recognition in that it was related to the ability to label an event as racist. Limitations and future directions are discussed.


Readers: Pam Bacon, Steve Stelzner, Rodger Narloch

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