A new study led by Tony Brown, a professor of sociology at Rice University in Houston, Texas, finds a rise in racial apathy — in other words, not caring about racial inequality — among young White adults.
“In the time of Jim Crow, there was blatant hatred and blatant acts of discrimination,” Professor Brown said. “Now today, racial apathy says basically, ‘I don’t care about racism, it’s not my issue.’ It is subtler and more socially acceptable.”
The researchers used data from the National Study of Youth and Religion survey of young White adults over a five-year period to assess changes in racial apathy by analyzing variables such as social background, social values, academic orientation, and interracial contact. They found that young Whites increasingly believe that Black people no longer experience prejudice in today’s world.
The authors theorized that social media has created superficial or performative interracial relationships that make young White people feel like they’ve done enough to abate racism. Also the rise in interracial dating has resulted in the belief that racism is a thing of the past. Consequently, young Whites care less about racial inequality.
Professor Brown joined the faculty at Rice University in 2016 after teaching at Vanderbilt Univerity in Nashville. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan.
The full study, “Changes in Racial Apathy Among White Young Adults: A Five-Year National Panel Study,” was published on the website of the journal Sociological Inquiry. It may be accessed here.