Guilt plus real agency can lead to change

/ 9 December 2010

So this is an interesting, albeit small, study. It suggests that white people who feel guilty about racism AND who feel that they can do something to make a difference, are more active against racism. While white people who do not feel guilty do little or nothing, and white people who do feel some sense of guilt but have no sense of their own agency, also do nothing.

The most interesting finding to me is that the researchers also found that white participants’ guilt about how their own racial privilege from inequality wasn’t bad; rather, it inspired them to take action. However, participants only felt guilty if they believed that they could be efficacious in fighting institutional racism. Participants who felt low efficacy to make a difference rejected feelings of guilt and, consequently, exhibited less positive racial attitudes and less engagement in anti-discrimination action. The next step, Stewart says, is to incorporate this sense of efficacy into diversity training programs, to get people out there and acting.

(Hat tip to RacismReview)