Two Professors Study Effect College Has on Personal Bias

S. I. Cantwell, Star-News (Wilmington, NC), Oct. 23

Students who attend predominantly black colleges are more likely than other black people to perceive racism in white people. And they’re more likely to have negative views about black-white relationships.

That’s the word from two UNCW professors exploring the attitudes of black people toward white people. Their latest study, looking at belief systems in predominantly black colleges, has been accepted for publication in the psychology journal Personality and Individual Differences.

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In 2003, the two developed the Johnson-Lecci Scale to predict how quickly black people would perceive racism in ambiguous situations. They asked participants how much they agreed with statements such as “I believe that most whites really do support the ideas and thoughts of racist political groups” or “I believe most whites would harm blacks if they could get away with it.”

Black people who strongly agree are called “high-bias” blacks. High-bias blacks are more likely to perceive racism in situations where it may or may not be a factor.

And they are more likely to accept anti-white racism, Dr. Johnson said. Take a white junior executive seeking a senior management job in a black-owned company. The black business owner says, “There’s no way I would let a white person enter senior management.”

High-bias blacks are more likely to endorse this blatant discrimination.

Interestingly, Dr. Johnson said black friends of his who are high-level executives tend to agree with the hypothetical business owner.

If the white worker is promoted, they think he’ll try to take over the company.

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The two researchers can’t explain the tendency toward high bias at predominantly black schools. Maybe it’s because students come into contact with fewer white people there, or because lecturers there are more outspoken. Or maybe high-bias people select such schools.

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