Prejudice and Racism, Year 2008-Still Going Strong: Research on Reducing Prejudice with Recommended Methodological Advances

Article excerpt

Racism continues to be a pervasive problem throughout world society (Jones, 1997; Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pedersen, 2006). Manifestations of racism are direct and indirect, blatant and subtle in contemporary society (Ridley, 2005). An example of direct and blatant racism is reflected in the derogatory remarks by radio "shockjock" Don Imus about a group of young female Black student athletes in the spring of 2007. These comments stimulated a national dialogue about racism, sexism, and popular culture that took place for a limited time (Kosova, 2007).

Additional forms of racism and prejudice were stimulated by the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Research indicates that the incidence of various forms of implicit anti-Islam prejudice and discrimination increased by 83%, and overt acts of discrimination against Muslim persons rose by 76% since 9/11 (Sheridan, 2006). Hurricane Katrina, the natural disaster that disproportionately affected the Black residents of New Orleans, led to pointed criticism of institutional racism reflected in the government's response to the disaster (Gheytanchi et al., 2006; Henkel, Dovidio, & Gaertner, 2006).

These examples underscore the fact that racism, prejudice, and discrimination are widespread in U.S. society and manifest themselves readily and in a wide variety of contexts. It is therefore essential that social scientists devote increasing energy to researching the dynamics of racial attitudes along with their underlying emotional, cognitive, and developmental influences. Counseling professionals, particularly, given their strong research and applied skills, as well as their commitment to social justice, need to play a critical role in the study of racism and prejudice (Toporek, Gerstein, Fouad, Roysircar, & Israel, 2006). Awareness of racial attitudes is essential in working with clients of diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the nature of racism, review research on the leading model of prejudice reduction, and advocate for enhanced technological sophistication in measuring racism. Given the position of some leading counseling researchers (e.g., D'Andrea & Daniels, 2001; Ponterotto et al., 2006; Sue, 2003) on the importance of White individuals acknowledging and confronting their own racism, the focus of this article is specifically directed to the complex problem of White racism and the sort of racial prejudice that underlies this problem.

Prejudice and Racism: A Primer

Prejudice has been defined as negative bias toward a particular group of people (Allport, 1954). Racism, on the other hand, is "based on beliefs and reflected in behaviors that accept race as a biological entity and maintain that racial groups, other than one's own, are intellectually, psychologically, and/or physically inferior" (Casas, 2005, p. 502). The pioneering racism scholar James Jones (1997) described racism as "resulting from the transformation of race prejudice and/or ethnocentrism through the exercise of power against a racial group defined as inferior, by individuals and institutions with the intentional or unintentional support of the entire culture" (p. 280). It seems, then, that the core of racism essentially includes a prejudiced sense of superiority in an in-group with a concomitant exercise of power to subjugate an out-group. Thus, whereas prejudice is mainly attitudinal in nature, racism extends the negative attitude into behavior that discriminates against a particular group.

Jones (1997) identified three forms of racism: (a) individual, (b) institutional, and (c) cultural. Individual racism occurs when individuals discriminate against members of another racial group because they believe that their own group is superior. Overt racial slurs and hate crimes are examples of individual racism.

Institutional racism occurs when social systems and organizations create and implement policies that lead to inequalities and disparities among racial groups. …