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Study Challenges ‘Whites Theory’ Assumption

Study Challenges ‘Whites Theory’ Assumption

The long-held assumption in academia that Whites overlook their own race and its privileges may have to be thrown out, says a new study.
Surprisingly, 74 percent of Whites say their own racial identity is important to them and a similar majority of Whites recognize that prejudice and discrimination are important in explaining White advantage, according to the study, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.

Study co-author Dr. Doug Hartmann says the prevailing assumption that Whites overlook their race is wrong. “It’s sort of like having an accent. For some White Americans, racial identity is so fixed, so taken for granted, that ‘race’ becomes something other people have.”

Researchers were surprised to find that 37 percent of Whites said that their racial identity was “very important.” That percentage is “a lot more than you might expect,” says study co-author Dr. Joe Gerteis. “If you read Whiteness literature, then you will see a lot of titles on the invisibility of Whiteness.”

The study, titled “Putting Whiteness Theory to the Test: An Empirical Assessment of Core Theoretical Propositions,” will begin to fill the gap in the literature on Whiteness and White identity. Most scholars are either producing works on White theory or are doing empirical studies on discrimination and their effects, Gerteis says. 

Still though, White theory, which suggests that Whites are less likely than other groups to see the institutional practices that give them advantages, did pass the empirical test. Minorities were twice as likely as Whites to say institutions favor Whites.

The survey also found that age and income have little impact on Whites’ awareness of their racial identity. Republican and male respondents most strongly resist claims that discrimination in legal and financial systems can explain White advantage.

The study, which has a  margin of error of +/-2.5 percent, is based on a telephone survey of more than 2,000 households nationwide.

— By Ibram Rogers


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