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The Functions of Symbolic Racism

Abstract

Symbolic racism (SR) has attracted critique and controversy. One controversy that has remained unresolved is the function of SR. SR theorists suggest that SR originates from Black individualism and represents a new form of racism. Others suggest that SR originates in opposition to equality and serves to legitimize these socially inappropriate attitudes. The current paper argues that SR can arise from both Black individualism and anti-equality attitudes, thus serving both as a new expression of racism but also as a legitimizing ideology. A preliminary test of this hybrid model was examined with survey data from a community and university sample. Results suggest that a hybrid model of the underpinnings of SR explains more variance in SR than either the Black individualism or legitimizing ideology models. Furthermore, SR mediated the relationships between both anti-equality attitudes and Black individualism on opposition to affirmative action policy and diversity in work and education settings.

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Notes

  1. For more information about the Chicago Social Survey see Reyna et al. (2006), Reyna, Tucker, Korfmacher, & Henry (2005), or Henry (2008).

  2. An additional item, “It's really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if African-American/Blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as Whites,” was not included in the SR scale because of obvious overlap with the Black individualism items.

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Correspondence to Mark J. Brandt.

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Brandt, M.J., Reyna, C. The Functions of Symbolic Racism. Soc Just Res 25, 41–60 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-012-0146-y

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Keywords

  • Symbolic racism
  • Prejudice
  • Legitimizing ideology
  • Political psychology