Racism or Sexism? Attributional Ambiguity and Simultaneous Membership in Multiple Oppressed Groups1


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    This research was supported by a grant from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and grants from the Institute of American Cultures, the Center for African American Studies, and the Graduate Division, all at the University of California at Los Angeles. Special thanks to Hector Myers, Diane Fujino, Nancy Henley, Sandra Graham, and Jim Sidanius for their contributions to the doctoral dissertation research upon which this paper is based.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kimberly R. King, who is now at the Department of Psychology, California State University at Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032. E-mail: kking3@calstatela.edu


This study examines short-term psychological effects of prejudice attributions on African American women. Black female college students (N= 112) imagined themselves in an audiotaped scenario in which White male students made negative evaluations of them. Participants completed self-report measures of psychological stress and state self-esteem after they rated the likely contributions of various causal attributions to the negative evaluations. Attributions included personal characteristics of the participant and classmates, as well as 3 kinds of prejudice: racism, sexism, and ethgender prejudice (the interaction of racism and sexism). Attributions to racism and ethgender prejudice predicted increased stress and decreased state social self-esteem. Results contradict assertions that prejudice attributions are self-protective and imply that prejudice might involve internal and external causal dimensions.