Now that an Ivy-League study has quantified the patronizing racial attitudes of white liberals, I can rest comfortably, knowing that I’m not alone in my belief that well-intentioned whites sometimes speak down to black people.
In a study called Self Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift By White Liberals, two professors from Princeton and Yale found that white liberals “patronize minorities stereotyped as lower status and less competent.” The study found that white conservatives don’t tend to do that.
The dichotomy brings to mind the adage I’ve often heard from older blacks. It goes something like this: I’d rather deal with white folks from down South. At least with them you know where you stand.
In other words, white liberals are sometimes just as racist as white conservatives. They just hide it better, and, for black folks, that’s harder to navigate.
And therein lies the issue. In a quest to relate to black folks, some white liberals speak in ways that are not natural for them. And they do so because their biases tell them that blacks are incapable of understanding anything beyond rudimentary language. This results in unnatural and phony exchanges that feel forced and inauthentic.
The study, conducted by Cydney Dupree, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale, and Susan Fiske, a psychology professor at Princeton, cites research indicating that most whites — especially socio-political liberals — endorse racial equality. However, the study also cites recent research suggesting that while “blacks are perceived as relatively American [in contrast to other racial minority groups lsuch as Asian-Americans and Latin-Americans], they are still perceived as inferior to whites.”
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