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The Harm in Meaning Well: How Well-Meaning White People Contribute to Bolstering Systemic Racism
  • Esthelle Ewusi Boisvert,
  • Matthew Kirkpatrick
Esthelle Ewusi Boisvert
University of Southern California

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Matthew Kirkpatrick
University of Southern California
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Abstract

The notion of racism as a dichotomy in white people in the United States is being challenged; racism exists along a spectrum with covert manifestations. Understanding how well-meaning white people (WMWP) can harbor unexamined racial biases and contribute to systemic racism is crucial. Using survey data from a nationally representative sample of white people (n=239), we explored differences between participants on cognitive, affective, and behavioral racial attitudes, as well as support for punitive drug policies, which have historically harmed Black communities. We found cognitive and affective differences among white people subgroups, including that WMWP report high racial resentment and low support for antiracism, despite their expressed motivation to be nonprejudiced toward Black people. We also found that WMWP are likely to support punitive drug policies, indicating a misalignment between their intentions to treat Black people in egalitarian ways, and the negative impact their actions can have on Black communities. This might be due to their resistance to changing the societal status quo. Addressing systemic racism requires both bottom-up changes in individual attitudes and top-down changes in public policies. By shedding light on these associations, this study provides valuable insights for efforts towards reducing racism and promoting racial equality.