In her latest Salon column, Joan Walsh takes on the recent study that reportedly shows white Americans believe that anti-white bias is on the rise and that it surpasses anti-black bias. (Attention study participants: loss of privilege does not equal racism.) Walsh, along with the New York Times, went to Victoria Plaut for one potential explanation for the stunning results.
Plaut's research "'What About Me?' Perceptions of Exclusion and Whites' Reactions to Multiculturalism," with co-authors Flannery G. Garnett and Laura E. Buffardi, looked at five different studies designed to measure white and non-white attitudes toward multiculturalism and diversity programs. Plaut and her co-authors found, maybe not surprisingly, that whites tended to feel excluded by multiculturalism, where people of color felt included. But this reaction could be lessened, or intensified, by a couple of variables. In one of the five studies, one group read a description of multiculturalism and diversity activities that made clear that the experiences of white Americans were part of the mix; a control group read an identical description, with no mention of white Americans. The whites who were told diversity approaches included the experience of whites felt more "included" than those who were not. In another study, researchers looked at subjects' "need to belong" -- it has an acronym, NTB, who knew? -- and found that whites with a strong need to belong felt particularly excluded by activities and approaches around multiculturalism and diversity.
In an experiment known as "Me/Not Me," respondents were asked to quickly rate whether a series of terms having to do with race, ethnicity and diversity had anything to do with them personally. It found that the white students related more favorably to the terms associated with "colorblindness" -- equality, unity, sameness, similarity, color blind, and color blindness – than to words associated with "multiculturalism": diversity, variety, culture, multicultural, multiracial, difference and multiculturalism.Interesting.