A new study has found that learning about “white privilege” doesn’t make liberals any more sympathetic towards African Americans. But it does make them look down more on working class white people.
Reason’s Robby Soave has a fascinating report on the study, which was published in April in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Participants were given material on the concept of white privilege.
Then they were told a story about a man who experienced hardship. One group was told the man was black, while another was told he was white. A third group was not told anything about white privilege before hearing about the man’s misfortunes. Participants were asked about their political views.
The findings were fascinating. Soave writes:
What they found was that conservatives who had learned about white privilege were no more sympathetic to the poor black man than conservatives who had not learned about white privilege. For liberals, the results were alarming: Liberals who read the educational materials about white privilege were similarly unsympathetic to the poor black man as the liberals in the second experiment, but they were even more unsympathetic to the poor white man.
"What we found startling was that white privilege lessons didn't increase liberals' sympathy for poor Black people," writes Erin Cooley, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor of psychology at Colgate University, in an explanatory post for Vice. "Instead, these lessons decreased liberals' sympathy for poor white people, which led them to blame white people more for their own poverty. They seemed to think that if a person is poor despite all the privileges of being white, there must really be something wrong with them."
In other words, learning about white privilege did not make conservatives more empathetic, and it made some liberals less empathetic, overall.
I’ve blogged before on liberals ascribing white privilege to people who are anything but privileged. For example, when the New York Times profiled a 17-year-old boy whose views skew conservative, was accused of being the beneficiary of white privilege.
Here’s how privileged the young man was:
Ryan Morgan isn't planning to go to college. Ryan gets up at 5:30 every morning to go to work at his apprentice job at a local water works utility before going to school. Ryan hopes the apprenticeship will lead to a job after he graduates from high school.
Maybe the real story is the estrangement of elite liberals from working class Americans, which merely surfaced in this study.