The Role of Knowledge of Racist History and Identity in Perception of Racism
Nelson, Jessica Christy
University of Kansas
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European Americans tend to perceive less racism in America, and see ongoing racism as a less likely source of existing racial disparities, than do African Americans. Most research that investigates group differences in perception of racism has focused primarily on motivational explanations for observed differences: specifically, that African Americans or European Americans experience ego-defensive motivations to perceive or deny racism, respectively (Adams et al, 2006) Without denying identity-relevant motivations as a source of differences in perception of racism, this study considers the additional hypothesis that differences in perception of racism can also reflect a difference in knowledge of racism in U.S. History. In the present study, African American and European American participants (N=309) indicated their knowledge of American history (positive and racist), perception of racism (isolated and systemic), and identity (ethnic and national collective self esteem). I used a signal detection measurement paradigm that included both consensually "true" events and fabricated (but plausible) events to distinguish accuracy from racism-expectant or other schema-driven responding. This study was successful at illustrating that even with a new, more stringent measure, racial differences in perception of racism can be accounted for by racial differences in knowledge of racist history. Results also support my secondary hypotheses that racial differences in perception of racism are particularly strong for perception of racism in systemic manifestations compared to isolated, individual events and that ethnic identity moderates the relationship between race and perception of systemic racism.
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- Psychology Dissertations and Theses 
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