Something about our last conversation in contemporary racism was bothering me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I knew it had something to do with how we had discussed the low prejudice versus high prejudice participants in Hodson, et al (2002). We discussed how “high prejudiced” participants from a sample of college students really represents the “low prejudiced” end of the general American population. We discussed that this is due to college students generally holding more egalitarian beliefs. I think there are several aspects of this conversation that didn’t get teased out, simply because of time constraints, but I’d like to address them a little bit here.
I get the sense that egalitarian values are amplified on many college campuses, to the point where it is normative to be very egalitarian, or at least portray oneself as such. Anything that doesn’t espouse very egalitarian views, or is explicitly racist/classist/sexist etc. is seen as backwards (This may be the black sheep effect?). Students have conversations about topics which they know little about or have only a passing interest in so they can fit into college social norms of liberalism. I think many students on this campus, who are genuinely egalitarian, amplify their own values past what would be normal for them usually to match the perceived norm. Of course this is just a hypothesis, and I’d be curious to see what other people think.
Something else that I felt needed to be mentioned in are that conversation about high/low prejudiced college students was the fact that discrimination does occur on college campuses. Yes, many students hold egalitarian views regarding race, but, like we have talked about in class, that does not mean they aren’t aversively racist (the study itself showed us that!). I just feel like the point needs to be driven home that those same college students who were less prejudiced then the general population are the same ones that showed unconscious preference for White people. These theories and studies are tools that help us understand the real experiences that real people are having, including those of college students.
What do you all think of what I have said? In your experiences, do college students strive to maintain an aura of pro-equality and pro-egalitarianism? How genuine or committed are college students to their beliefs about race?