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Pride and Prejudice: How Discrimination Affects Sociopolitical Ideologies
Prior research suggests that members of minority groups are less likely to hold social dominant and color-blind racial ideologies, and tend to experience higher levels of discrimination than members of majority groups (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994; Ho et al., 2015; Williams, Yu, Jackson, & Anderson, 1997). The current study explores the relationship between everyday discrimination and attitudes about inequality among social groups (whether an aggressive form of oppression, a passive preference for hierarchy-enhancing ideologies, or denial that inequality is an issue). The participants were recruited from the psychology participant pool at a private, Catholic Hispanic-serving institution and encouraged to share the survey link with others aged 18 and over. Members of minority groups were expected to report experiencing higher levels of discrimination. More frequent experiences of perceived discrimination, measured using the Everyday Discrimination Scale, were expected to be inversely related to social dominance orientation, measured using the updated Social Dominance Orientation- short scale, and color-blind racial ideologies, measured using the Color-blind Racial Attitudes Scale. The study found that the Everyday Discrimination Scale was significantly related to Social Dominance Orientation, and that Social Dominance Orientation could be predicted by the Everyday Discrimination Scale and Color-blind Racial Attitude Scale. The study also found that Social Dominance Orientation could predict predilection to Color-blind Racial Attitudes.
Pride and Prejudice: How Discrimination Affects Sociopolitical Ideologies
The last recorded lynching took place in Mobile, Alabama in 1981, where a 19-year-old black man was killed by two members of the Klu Klux Klan (Koppel, 2008). Although discrimination seems to have decreased since then, discrimination is still alive and thriving, just not in the same manifestation as before. Discrimination can be distinguished into discrimination measured by major events and everyday discrimination (Williams, Yu, Jackson, & Anderson, 1997). Major discrimination events tend to be more salient than minor events of discrimination, but consideration must be given to discrimination that occurs more covertly and more often. The Everyday Discrimination Scale measures minor, but frequent experiences of discrimination in everyday life (Williams et al., 1997). Discrimination is typically aimed toward minority groups, and experiencing discrimination can adversely affect individuals of said groups; Black and Latino teenagers who are discriminated against exhibit depressive symptoms (Priest et al., 2013) and marginalization can impede minority individuals attempting to climb in socioeconomic status (Corcoran & Nichols-Casebolt, 2004).
Attitudes toward other groups, whether negative or positive, drive behaviors and preferences for certain policies and institutional forces. Individuals that come from denigrated groups (i.e. women, ethnic/racial minorities) tend to disagree with ideologies that perpetuate inequality among social groups, because having these ideologies would be a form of self-oppression (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994). Seeing as minorities already encounter sundry adversities in the fields of education, physical and psychological health, and socioeconomic status (APA, n.d.), agreeing with ideologies that perpetuate inequality means that minority groups would have to continue to encounter said adversities. Social Dominance Orientation measures individual differences in proclivity for group-based inequality, with higher scores signifying a preference for hierarchy-enhancing ideologies, and lower scores signifying a preference for hierarchy-attenuating ideologies. Hierarchy-enhancing ideologies aim to elevate amount of social inequality, while hierarchy-attenuating ideologies work to increase social equality. Hierarchy-enhancing ideologies can include racism and sexism, while hierarchy-attenuating ideologies typically includes egalitarianist ideas like feminism. White men have a tendency toward higher Social Dominance Orientation scores, suggesting a negative relationship between experiencing discrimination, which happens with less frequency as a member of the majority group, and agreeing with hierarchy-enhancing ideologies.
Two subdimensions of hierarchy-enhancing ideologies have been identified: intergroup dominance, known as SDO-D, and intergroup antiegalitarianism, known as SDO-E (Ho et al., 2015). Individuals with higher SDO-D scores support oppression and tend to engage in more aggressive behaviors designed to actively maintain power over other groups. An individual with a high SDO-D score may be more inclined to agree with police brutality than an individual with a low SDO-D score. SDO-E is subtler and more passive in nature, and typically involves negative attitudes toward migrants and denigrated groups (Ho et al., 2015). An individual with a high SDO-E score is more likely to support the “great wall” President Donald Trump plans to build in the next few years than an individual with a low SDO-E score. Social Dominance Orientation is associated with various ideologies, which include conservativism, just world belief, nationalism, patriotism, militarism, cultural elitism, anti-Black racism, chauvinism, sexism, and rape culture, among others (Pratto et al., 1994). A member of the Westboro Baptist Church would most likely have a high SDO score, as members of the hateful group tend to support conservative ideologies, which have been associated with high Social Dominance Orientation scores.
Social dominance orientation is a significant predictor of social and political attitudes, and has been associated with various scales measuring both individual and societal attitudes (Fisher, Hanke, & Sibley, 2012; Ho et al., 2015; Oldmeadow & Fiske, 2007; Poteat & Spanierman, 2012; Pratto et al.,1994). High SDO-D scores are related to aggressive behaviors, including support for the death penalty, punitiveness, and torture. High SDO-E scores are associated with opposition to Affirmative Action, welfare support, and policies for racial equality. Both the desire to aggressively and actively seek dominance over other groups (SDO-D) and the passive support for policies that support inequality between groups (SDO-E) are negatively correlated to empathic concern. Previous research suggests that Social Dominance Orientation predicts lack of empathy, which has been associated with generalized prejudice, because empathy grants an individual the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (Bäckström & Björklund, 2007; Sidanius et al., 2013). Individuals with a high SDO score, particularly a high SDO-D score, tend to score lower on Davis’ (1983) empathic concern scale (Ho et al., 2015). High SDO scores were also negatively related to altruism, communality, inclusivism, egalitarianism, and tolerance (Pratto et al., 1994). Because individuals with high SDO scores are less concerned for others and less empathic than low SDO scoring individuals, altruistic and collectivist ideas and actions are rare in said individuals.
SDO could be related to several ideologies, and in previous studies, Social Dominance Orientation has been associated with Color-blind Racial Attitudes (Liao, Hong, & Rounds, 2016; Poteat & Spanierman, 2012), which can be measured using CoBRAS, the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale. The CoBRAS indicates a predilection toward racial prejudice and just world belief, and assesses awareness of privilege, as well as institutional discrimination and racial issues (Neville, Lilly, Duran, Lee, & Browne, 2000). Individuals with higher scores on the CoBRAS tend to believe in meritocracy, which is the belief that all resources are already equally distributed and bestowed depending on how worthy individuals are, and are under the false impression that racial color-blindness is a positive attitude to have, disregarding that said attitudes may have negative implications for ethnic minority groups (Poteat & Spanierman, 2012). People of color have historically been afforded less resources and opportunities than Caucasian individuals, and discrimination is often a barrier that individuals of color must overcome in order to advance (Woodson, 1990; Corcoran & Nichols-Casebolt, 2004; APA, n.d.).
Individuals with color-blind racial attitudes (CBRA) are more inclined to racist ideologies and increased approval of prejudice, although CBRA are not related to belief in superiority, solely to unawareness of racism (Neville et al., 2000). An individual who says, “I don’t see color,” is willingly ignoring the fact that minority individuals in the United States have been oppressed and have faced adversity in the past, and continue to face adversity, even today. Women and ethnic minorities like Black and Latino individuals, on average, have lower scores than majority individuals, like white men, in the CoBRAS, much like with SDO (Neville et al., 2000).
The current study explores the relationship between perceived discrimination and attitudes about inequality among social groups, whether an aggressive form of oppression like the SDO-D, a passive preference for hierarchy-enhancing ideologies like SDO-E, or the complete denial that racial and ethnic inequality is an issue at all, measured by the CoBRAS. Because white men are less likely to be discriminated against, and likely to have score higher on both the SDO scale (Pratto et al., 1994) and the CoBRAS (Poteat & Spanierman, 2012), perceived discrimination is expected to be negatively related to SDO and CoBRAS scores. The more often a person is discriminated against for being part of a minority group, the lower expected score on SDO and CoBRAS. In addition, although the relationship between Social Dominance Orientation and Color-blind Racial Attitudes has been explored using the original SDO scale (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994), no research was found regarding the relationship between CoBRAS and the updated SDO7 scale. The current study explores the relationship between CoBRAS and SDO7, ensuring that the scales are still related.
Seventy-one participants, (46 women, 23 men, 1 non-binary) between the ages of 18 and 25 (m= 19.72, SD=1.48) were recruited from a private, Catholic Hispanic-serving institution. Out of the sample, 27 (38%) were freshmen, 21 (29.6%) were sophomores, 15 (21.1%) were juniors, 6 (8.4%) were seniors, and 2 (2.8%) classified as other. The majority (n=47, 66.2%) self-identified as Hispanic/Latino/a, 19.7% (n=14) self-identified as Caucasian, 7% (n=5) self-identified as more than one ethnicity, 4.2% (n=3) self-identified as African-American, 1.4% (n=1) self-identified as American Indian/Native American, and 1.4% (n=1) did not wish to respond.
Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale. The 20-item Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale (CoBRAS; Neville, Lilly, Duran, Lee, & Browne, 2000) measures the denial of racial issues with items like “Everyone who works hard, no matter what race they are, has an equal chance to become rich”, “Racism may have been a problem in the past, but it is not an important problem today”, and “White people in the U.S. are discriminated against because of the color of their skin.”. CoBRAS utilizes a 6-point Likert-type scale where 1=strongly disagree and 6=strongly agree; half the items are reverse scored and scores are summed up, with higher scores being associated with more denial of racial issues. Summed scores of the CoBRAS are associated with racial prejudice, just-world belief and social dominance orientation (Neville et al., 2000; Poteat & Spanierman, 2012). Cronbach’s alpha for the CoBRAS was .87 across 3 samples (Neville et al., 2000)
Social Dominance Orientation7(S). The 8-item short Social Dominance Orientation scale (SDO7(S);Ho et al., 2015) is a revised version of the original 16-item SDO scale (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994), that measures intergroup dominance (SDO-D) and antiegalitarian (SDO-E) beliefs. Items include: “No one group should dominate in society”, “Its unjust to try to make groups equal”, and “We should work to give all groups an equal chance to succeed.” Participants respond to each item on a 7-point Likert scale, where 1=strongly oppose and 7=strongly favor; half the items are reverse scored and scores are summed up, with higher scores indicating higher dominance or antiegalitarianism. Scores for SDO-D and SDO-E, are independent. SDO-D is associated with support for the death penalty, nationalism, punitiveness, militarism, support for war and torture, and SDO-E is associated with redistribution of wealth, as well as opposition to affirmative action, welfare policies and policies for racial equality. Both are related to low empathic concern (Ho et al., 2015). The short scale used in the current study, had a Cronbach’s alpha of .85 across 6 samples (Ho et al, 2015).
Everyday Discrimination Scale. The 9-item Everyday Discrimination Scale (EDS; Williams, Yu, Jackson, & Anderson, 1997) measures the frequency of minor, chronic experiences of discrimination, rather than major instances of discrimination. The items include: “You are treated with less courtesy than other people are”, “You are treated with less respect than other people are”, and “You are called names or insulted.” For each item, participants respond with almost every day, at least once a week, a few times a month, a few times a year, less than once a year, or never. If an item is answered a few times a year or more frequently, a follow-up question asks what the individual believes is the main reason for said experiences. Item scores were summed up, with higher scores indicating higher frequency of discrimination. Data from the follow-up question was also used to find frequency of different forms of discrimination. Cronbach’s alpha for the EDS was .87 (Clark, Coleman, & Novak, 2004).
Upon enrollment into a psychology course, students were granted access to the Psychology Participant Pool on Blackboard. The study was listed in the Psychology Participant Pool under Online Opportunities as The Attitude Study. A sharable link to the survey was provided. If consent was given, the participant was directed to the survey, where the CoBRAS, SDO7(S) and EDS scale were answered. Demographic information was also gathered. Participants were given the option to exit the survey at any time, and to decline participation altogether. Students earned extra or required credit (for General Psychology), by participating or recruiting someone to participate.
Experiences of discrimination were measured using the Everyday Discrimination Scale (Neville et al., 2000). The most common type of reported discrimination was discrimination due race or ethnicity (n=51, 71.8%), followed by gender (n=36, 50.7%), age (n=29, 40.8%), and social class (n=27, 38%). Only 7 individuals (9.9%) reported to not have experienced any form of discrimination (see Figure 1).
Based on modified population marginal means, individuals self-identifying as African-Americans had the highest average amount of reported discrimination (m=39), followed by individuals self-identifying as more than one ethnicity (m=30.88), individuals who did not wish to respond (m=29), individuals self-identifying as Caucasian (m=23.63), individuals self-identifying as Hispanic/Latino/a (m=22.35), and individuals self-identifying as American Indian/Native American (m=16) (see Figure 2). There was a significant pairwise difference between African-Americans and Caucasians (MD=16.97, p=.003), African-Americans and Hispanic/Latino/as (MD=17.28, p=.002), African-Americans and American Indian/Native Americans (MD=23, p=.02), and Hispanic/Latino/as and individuals identifying as more than one ethnicity (MD=5.724, p=.03).
Individuals self-identifying as male had the highest average amount of reported discrimination (m=25.77), although there was not a significant pairwise mean difference (MD=3.56, p=.118) from self-identifying females (m=22.21), based on modified population marginal means. Individuals identifying as non-binary (m=24) also did not have a significant pairwise mean difference from males (MD=-1.77, p=.829) and females (MD=1.79, p=.826) (see Figure 3).
Based on modified population marginal means, individuals self-identifying as lower-middle class had the highest average amount of reported discrimination (m=30.64), followed by individuals self-identifying as middle class (m=22.53), upper-middle class (m=21.28), working class (m=21.06), and upper class (m=16) (see Figure 4). There was a significant pairwise mean difference between lower-middle class and middle class (MD=8.103, p=.01), lower-middle class and upper-middle class (MD=9.355, p=.005), and lower-middle class and working class (MD=9.581, p=.017).
Discrimination and SDO
A linear regression was conducted to determine if experiencing discrimination affected social dominance orientation. Results suggest individuals scoring higher on the Everyday Discrimination Scale also had higher scores on the Social Dominance Orientation scale, b=.289, t(70)=2.510, p=.014. EDS scores also explained a significant amount of variance in SDO scores, R2=.084, F(1,70)=6.298, p=.014 (Table 1). Individuals who are discriminated against tend to have more hierarchy-enhancing ideologies than individuals who experience less discrimination.
Discrimination and CoBRAS
A linear regression was conducted to determine if experiencing discrimination affected color-blind racial ideologies. No significant relation was found between scores on the Everyday Discrimination Scale and scores on the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale, b=-.065, t(70)=.539, p=.591. EDS scores had no effect on variance in CoBRAS scores, R2=.004, F(1,70)=.291, p=.591 (Table 1). Experiencing discrimination does not necessarily affect color-blind racial ideologies.
SDO and CoBRAS
A linear regression was conducted to determine if social dominance orientation and color-blind racial ideologies are related. Results suggest individuals scoring higher on the SDO scale also had higher scores on the CoBRAS, b=.493, t(70)=4.712, p<.05. SDO scores also explained a significant amount of variance in CoBRAS scores, R2=.243, F(1,70)=9.076, p<.05 (Table 1). Individuals with hierarchy-enhancing ideologies tend to have more color-blind racial ideologies thank individuals without hierarchy-enhancing ideologies.
CoBRAS & Discrimination as Predictors of SDO
A multiple regression was conducted to determine if discrimination and color-blind racial ideologies were predictors of social dominance orientation. Results suggest individuals scoring higher on the Everyday Discrimination Scale also had higher scores on the Social Dominance Orientation scale, b=.258, t(70)=2.559, p=.013. Individuals scoring higher on the CoBRAS also had higher scores on the SDO scale, b=.477, t(70)=4.722, p<.05 (Table 1). Individuals who are discriminated against tend to have more hierarchy-enhancing ideologies than individuals who experience less discrimination, and individuals with color-blind racial ideologies also tend to have more hierarchy-enhancing ideologies.
The current study examined the relationship between perceived discrimination and sociopolitical ideologies. Social Dominance Orientation scores were relatively low compared to previous studies (Ho et al., 2000; Poteat & Spanierman, 2012). Color-Blind Racial Attitude Scale scores were more moderate than SDO scores. Everyday Discrimination Scale scores were also low, especially considering the sample was made up almost entirely of minority individuals, who tend to score higher on the Everyday Discrimination Scale (Kim, Sellborn, & Ford, 2014).
Sample homogeneity may have influenced the pattern of scores observed on the Social Dominance Orientation scale, Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale and Everyday Discrimination Scale. Participants were recruited from a Hispanic-serving institution, and most participants self-identified as Hispanic or Latino (n=47, 66.2%). Previous research has examined the differences between individuals of Caucasian decent and individuals classified as minorities (Pratto et al., 1994; Neville et al., 2000; Ho et al., 2015), finding that minority groups score lower on both the SDO and CoBRAS scales. Because the sample is mainly Hispanic, and drawn from a population that is largely Hispanic, the individuals in the sample may not experience discrimination to the extent as a more diverse sample. In other words, Hispanics living around a largely Hispanic population have less interaction with other groups, leading to lower levels of discrimination. Additionally, the sample size acquired was small, leaving a large standard error and low effect size. Future research should have an increased sample size that is not as homogenous as the sample analyzed in the current study.
The current study suggests individuals that experience discrimination have a higher tendency to agree with hierarchy-enhancing ideologies, implying that members of denigrated groups not only want to lessen discrimination, but may want to oppress the previously oppressing group, potentially creating a cycle of oppression between groups. If people of color acquire power, it is likely that individuals of Caucasian descent will be oppressed. The sample was homogenous, however, and does not reflect the general population. Future research should examine different regions of the United States, as well as more diverse population samples more similar to the general population of the United States. Being that the current political climate is shifting and ethnic minorities are now beginning to outnumber the Caucasian population, the implications of the current study should be taken into consideration, particularly in areas that already have large minority populations and large influxes of immigrants and minority groups that will continue to flourish and grow.
The current study also suggests that hierarchy-enhancing ideologies are related to color-blind racial ideologies. Individuals may be supportive of policies that contribute to the continued oppression of groups (particularly minority groups), even if the individual is part of the minority group. A cycle of oppression could be created within groups because of denial that oppression is taking place. This could be related to just-world belief, which would be something interesting to look at in future research. An individual from a minority group, like a heterosexual Latino man, may not believe that there is any difference between the opportunities the individual is receiving, and the opportunities afforded to a heterosexual Caucasian man. Individuals that identify with multiple minority groups may be more predisposed to not have color-blind racial attitudes than individuals that only identify with one minority group. Nonetheless, future research should examine the relationship between awareness of oppression and identification with denigrated groups.
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Figure 2. Average reported discrimination scores for different ethnicities based on modified population means.
Figure 3. Reported discrimination scores for different genders based on modified population means.
Figure 4. Reported discrimination scores for self-identified social classes based on modified population marginal means.
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