The Nature of Contemporary Prejudice: Insights from Aversive Racism

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Abstract

Within the United States, declines in the overt expression of racial prejudice over several decades have given way to near universal endorsement of the principles of racial equality as a core cultural value. Yet, evidence of persistent and substantial disparities between Blacks and Whites remain. Here, we review research that demonstrates how the actions of even well-intentioned and ostensibly non-prejudiced individuals can inadvertently contribute to these disparities through subtle biases in decision making and social interactions. We argue that current racial attitudes of Whites toward Blacks in the United States are fundamentally ambivalent, characterized by a widespread contemporary form of racial prejudice, aversive racism, that is manifested in subtle and indirect ways, and illustrate its operation across a wide range of settings, from employment and legal decisions, to group problem-solving and everyday helping behavior. We conclude by describing research aimed at combating these biases and identify new avenues for future research.

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