Get access

Perceptions of Racism in Hurricane Katrina: A Liberation Psychology Analysis


  • We thank Hazel Rose Markus and the Culture and Psychology Research group at the University of Kansas for their comments on earlier versions of the chapter.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Glenn Adams, Department of Psychology, University of Kansas, 1415 Jayhawk Boulevard, Lawrence, KS 66045-7556 [e-mail:].


Poll data showed that African Americans perceived more racism in the response to Hurricane Katrina than did White Americans. In this article, we consider claims about racism in Katrina-related events in light of (a) our program of experimental research on group differences in perception of racism and (b) the meta-theoretical perspective of Liberation Psychology (LP). First, this analysis suggests that White Americans may perceive less racism in the Katrina disaster because they are less likely than African Americans to know about historically documented acts of past racism (e.g., following the Mississippi flood of 1927). Second, group differences may arise because African Americans and White Americans face divergent motivations regarding perception of racism. Whereas African Americans may have motivations to be vigilant for the possibility of racism, White Americans may be motivated to deny racism because it constitutes a threat to social identity and to the legitimacy of the status quo.