Posted on May 30, 2019

Liberals Who Learned About White Privilege Became Less Sympathetic to Poor Whites

Robby Soave, Reason, May 29, 2019

{snip} A fascinating new study suggests that the kind of racism awareness training taught in many university classrooms is not only useless but may actually be detrimental.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General in April. Researchers provided participants with some academic literature explaining the concept of white privilege and then asked them to gauge their reactions to hearing a story about an unfortunate man. For some participants, the man was described as black, for others, he was described as white. Researchers also ran a separate experiment in which the participants were not told about white privilege before reacting to the story. They also queried both sets of participants about their political beliefs.

What they found was that conservatives who had learned about white privilege were no more sympathetic to the poor black man than conservatives who had not learned about white privilege. For liberals, the results were alarming: Liberals who read the educational materials about white privilege were similarly unsympathetic to the poor black man as the liberals in the second experiment, but they were even more unsympathetic to the poor white man.

“What we found startling was that white privilege lessons didn’t increase liberals’ sympathy for poor Black people,” writes Erin Cooley, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of psychology at Colgate University, in an explanatory post for Vice. “Instead, these lessons decreased liberals’ sympathy for poor white people, which led them to blame white people more for their own poverty. They seemed to think that if a person is poor despite all the privileges of being white, there must really be something wrong with them.”


{snip} In researching my book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump, I found numerous similar examples of academic exercises that blurred the line between anti-racism and anti-whiteness, and between scholarship and activism. {snip}


[Editor’s Note: The study “Complex intersections of race and class: Among social liberals, learning about White privilege reduces sympathy, increases blame, and decreases external attributions for White people struggling with poverty” is available here. There is a charge.]