Previous efforts to understand microaggressions have surveyed stigmatized group members’ experiences of receiving microaggressions. This report presents the first attempt to measure self-reported likelihood of delivering microaggressions rather than receiving microaggressions and to explore the association between the likelihood of delivering microaggressions and racial prejudice. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 33 black and 118 non-Hispanic white undergraduate students at a large public Southern/Midwest university. Black students reported the degree to which a series of statements would be experienced as microaggressive. White students reported their likelihood of delivering those statements and completed measures of racial prejudice. White students’ self-reported likelihood of engaging in microaggressive acts was significantly related to all measures of racial prejudice. The single item “A lot of minorities are too sensitive” was the strongest predictor of negative feelings toward black people. Results offer preliminary support that the delivery of microaggressions by white students is not simply innocuous behavior and may be indicative of broad, complex, and negative racial attitudes and explicit underlying hostility and negative feelings toward black students.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ayalon, L., & Gum, A. M. (2011). The relationships between major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination, and mental health in three racial and ethnic groups of older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 15(5), 587–594. doi:10.1080/13607863.2010.543664.
Balsam, K. F., Molina, Y., Beadnell, B., Simoni, J., & Walters, K. (2011). Measuring multiple minority stress: The LGBT People of Color Microaggressions Scale. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(2), 163–174.
Brown, T. N., Akiyama, M. K., White, I. K., Jayaratne, T. E., & Anderson, E. S. (2009). Differentiating contemporary racial prejudice from old-fashioned racial prejudice. Race and Social Problems, 1(2), 97–110. doi:10.1007/s12552-009-9010-6.
Capodilupo, C. M., Nadal, K. L., Corman, L., Hamit, S. A., & Weinberg, A. (2010). The manifestation of gender microaggressions. In D. W. Sue (Ed.), Microaggressions and marginality: Manifestation, dynamics, and impact (pp. 193–216). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Chae, D. H., Lincoln, K. D., & Jackson, J. S. (2011). Discrimination, attribution, and racial group identification: Implications for psychological distress among black Americans in the National Survey of American Life (2001–2003). The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(4), 498–506. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2011.01122.x.
Clark, T. T., Salas-Wright, C. P., Vaughn, M. G., & Whitfield, K. E. (2015). Everyday discrimination and mood and substance use disorders: A latent profile analysis with African Americans and Caribbean blacks. Addictive Behaviors, 40, 119–125. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.08.006.
Constantine, M. G. (2007). Racial microaggressions against African American clients in cross-racial counseling relationships. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(1), 1–16.
Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24(4), 349–354. doi:10.1037/h0047358.
Debreaux, M., Mier-Chairez, J., Davis, D. M., Heckard, D., Arney, E., Rosen, D., Kanter, J. W., Skinta, M., & Williams, M. T. (2016). “You are smart for a Black guy”: A qualitative analysis of experiences of racial microaggressions in African American college students. Poster presented at the 2016 Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Convention, New York City, NY.
Devine, P. G., & Elliot, A. J. (1995). Are racial stereotypes really fading? The Princeton trilogy revisited. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21(11), 1139–1150. doi:10.1177/01461672952111002.
Dhont, K., & Hodson, G. (2014). Does lower cognitive ability predict greater prejudice? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(6), 454–459. doi:10.1177/0963721414549750.
Donovan, R. A., Galban, D. J., Grace, R. K., Bennett, J. K., & Felicié, S. Z. (2013). Impact of racial macro-and microaggressions in black women’s lives: A preliminary analysis. Journal of Black Psychology, 39(2), 185–196.
Dovidio, J. F., Gaertner, S. E., Kawakami, K., & Hodson, G. (2002). Why can't we just get along? Interpersonal biases and interracial distrust. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8(2), 88–102. doi:10.1037/1099-9809.8.2.88.
Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (1986). Prejudice, discrimination, and racism: Historical trends and contemporary approaches. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination and racism (pp. 1–34). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.
Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (1998). On the nature of contemporary prejudice: The causes, consequences, and challenges of aversive racism. In J. Eberhardt & S. T. Fiske (Eds.), Confronting racism: The problem and the response (pp. 3–32). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Dovidio, J. F., & Gaertner, S. L. (2000). Aversive racism and selective decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11, 315–319.
Essed, P. (1990). Everyday racism: Reports from women of two cultures. Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publishers.
Evans, R. G. (1982). Clinical relevance of the Marlowe-Crowne scale: A review and recommendations. Journal of Personality Assessment, 46(4), 415–425. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa4604_14.
Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: The implicit association test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(6), 1464–1480. doi:10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1244.
Henry, P. J., & Sears, D. O. (2002). The symbolic racism 2000 scale. Political Psychology, 23(2), 253–283. doi:10.1111/0162-895X.00281.
Huynh, V. W. (2012). Ethnic microaggressions and the depressive and somatic symptoms of Latino and Asian American adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(7), 831–846.
Jones, J. M. (1997). Prejudice and Racism (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Kessler, R. C., Mickelson, K. D., & Williams, D. R. (1999). The prevalence, distribution, and mental health correlates of perceived discrimination in the United States. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 40(3), 208–230. doi:10.2307/2676349.
Lewis, A. E., Chesler, M., & Forman, T. A. (2000). The impact of “colorblind” ideologies on students of color: Intergroup relations at a predominantly White university. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2), 74–91.
Liao, K. Y., Weng, C., & West, L. M. (2016). Social connectedness and intolerance of uncertainty as moderators between racial microaggressions and anxiety among black individuals. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(2), 240–246. doi:10.1037/cou0000123.
Lilienfeld, S. O. (2017). Microaggressions: Strong claims, inadequate evidence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(1), 138–169. doi:10.1177/1745691616659391.
Lin, A. I. (2010). Racial microaggressions directed at Asian Americans: Modern forms of prejudice and discrimination. In D. W. Sue (Ed.), Microaggressions and marginality: Manifestation, dynamics, and impact (pp. 85–104). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
McConahay, J. B. (1986). Modern racism, ambivalence, and the Modern Racism Scale. In J. F. Dovidio & S. L. Gaertner (Eds.), Prejudice, discrimination, and racism (pp. 91–125). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
McConnell, A. R., & Leibold, J. M. (2001). Relations among the Implicit Association Test, discriminatory behavior, and explicit measures of racial attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37(5), 435–442. doi:10.1006/jesp.2000.1470.
Mooney, C. (2014, December 8). Across America, whites are biased and they don’t even know it. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/12/08/across-america-whites-are-biased-and-they-dont-even-know-it/
Murphy, M. C., Richeson, J. A., Shelton, J. N., Rheinschmidt, M. L., & Bergsieker, H. B. (2013). Cognitive costs of contemporary prejudice. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 16(5), 560–571. doi:10.1177/1368430212468170.
Nadal, K. L. (2011). The Racial and Ethnic Microaggressions Scale (REMS): Construction, reliability, and validity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58(4), 470–480.
Nadal, K. L. (2013). Introduction. In K. L. Nadal (Ed.), That’s so gay! Microaggressions and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community (pp. 1–6). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Neville, H. A., Lilly, R. L., Duran, G., Lee, R. M., & Browne, L. (2000). Construction and initial validation of the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRAS). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(1), 59–70. doi:10.1037/0022-0126.96.36.199.
O’Keefe, V. M., Wingate, L. R., Cole, A. B., Hollingsworth, D. W., & Tucker, R. P. (2015). Seemingly harmless racial communications are not so harmless: Racial microaggressions lead to suicidal ideation by way of depression symptoms. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 45(5), 567–576.
Ong, A. D., Burrow, A. L., Fuller-Rowell, T. E., Ja, N. M., & Sue, D. W. (2013). Racial microaggressions and daily well-being among Asian Americans. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60(2), 188–199.
Pierce, C. M. (1970). Black psychiatry one year after Miami. Journal of the National Medical Association, 62(6), 471–473.
Pittinsky, T. L., Rosenthal, S. A., & Montoya, R. M. (2011). Measuring positive attitudes toward outgroups: Development and validation of the Allophilia Scale. In L. R. Tropp, & R. K. Mallett (Eds.), Moving beyond prejudice reduction: Pathways to positive intergroup relations (pp. 41–60). Washington DC: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/12319-002
Smith, W. A., Allen, W. R., & Danley, L. L. (2007). “Assume the position…you fit the description”: Psychosocial experiences and racial battle fatigue among African American male college students. American Behavioral Scientist, 51(4), 551–578.
Solórzano, D., Ceja, M., & Yosso, T. (2000). Critical race theory, racial microaggressions, and campus racial climate: The experiences of African American college students. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1–2), 60–73.
Sue, D. W. (Ed.). (2010). Microaggressions and marginality: Manifestation, dynamics and impact. New York, NY: Wiley.
Sue, D. W. (2017). Microaggressions and “evidence”: Empirical or experiential reality? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(1), 170–172. doi:10.1177/1745691616664437.
Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271–286. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.62.4.271.
Sue, D. W., Lin, A. I., Torino, G. C., Capodilupo, C. M., & Rivera, D. P. (2009). Racial microaggressions in the classroom. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 15(2), 183–190. doi:10.1037/a0014191.
Talaska, C. A., Fiske, S. T., & Chaiken, S. (2008). Legitimating racial discrimination: Emotions, not beliefs, best predict discrimination in a meta-analysis. Social Justice Research, 21(3), 263–296. doi:10.1007/s11211-008-0071-2.
This research was supported in part by a grant to Monnica T. Williams from the American Psychological Foundation.
A friend of yours has wanted you to meet a friend, saying they think you will like the person. You meet this person one-on-one. He turns out to be a tall, fit-looking black man who says he is a law student. He seems very smart and he has a very sophisticated vocabulary. You like his personality.
How likely would you be to think or say the following to him in the course of a conversation (or something similar, maybe not the exact words)?
You are having a conversation about work with an acquaintance who is a 20-something-year-old African American female. She is wearing a traditional colorful African-style dress and has long hair with scores of tiny braids and golden beads woven into them. Her hair is rolled into a large twisted wrap. How likely would you be to think or say the following to her (or something similar, maybe not the exact words)?
You are taking a required diversity training workshop. The trainer starts to discuss race and explains that white people have an unfair advantage in most every area of American life due to “White privilege.” A class discussion ensues where one of the white students argues that she never got any special treatment in life due to her race. A black student disagrees and seems visibly upset.
You are asked for your opinion. How likely would you be to think or say any of the following (or something similar, maybe not the exact words)?
You are with a mixed (black and white) group of friends, and you are talking about various current events and political issues, including police brutality, affirmative action, unemployment, and education.
How likely would you be to think and say the following during the discussion (or something similar, maybe not the exact words)?
You are hanging out with a group of your closest friends and are listening to a rap song and you find yourself rapping along. One of your black friends objects to the use of the “N-word” but there is nearly a guaranteed chance that there will be more than occasional use of the “N-word” in the music.
How likely would you be to do each of the following (or something similar)?
About this article
Cite this article
Kanter, J.W., Williams, M.T., Kuczynski, A.M. et al. A Preliminary Report on the Relationship Between Microaggressions Against Black People and Racism Among White College Students. Race Soc Probl 9, 291–299 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12552-017-9214-0