While overt hostile comments and behavior by White college students directed at African American students may have become more infrequent in recent years, a new study led by researchers at the University of Washington found that many White college students continue to harbor racists beliefs. These beliefs lead many White students to communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults in the form of microaggressions.
Monnica Williams, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut and a co-author of the study, stated that “there has been some question in the academic community as to whether microaggressions are indicators of racism or simply benign cultural errors. These might appear to be harmless, but are in fact forms of everyday racism or discrimination – they are not benign.”
Researchers surveyed a large group of students at a southern university on their likelihood of engaging in microaggressive behavior and the context in which such behavior might be used. They offered survey participants five scenarios dealing with racial issues and asked them how they would act and what they might say under the circumstances.
The authors conclude that “the delivery of microaggressions by White students is not simply innocuous behavior and may be indicative of broad, complex, and negative racial attitudes and explicit underlying hostility and negative feelings toward Black students.”