Reinvigorating the Contact Hypothesis
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This work is inspired by Lipsitz (1998) and Allport (1954) because both authors connect micro level processes to social macro level patterns. Allport’s Nature of Prejudice sought to understand patterns of anti-Semitism as connected to a larger social context. From this work, Allport developed the contact hypothesis which is premised on the idea that diversity helps alleviate racial tensions. Lipsitz’ Possessive Investment in Whiteness connects White racial privilege to a history of racial social inequality. In conintuum, I develop the nuances on prejudice formation as it leads to the denial of racial privilege or to the conflation of privileges as oppression. While I focus on White racial privilege, the theoretical contribution of my research develops the framework for individual privilege formation. I then draw upon Bonilla-Silva’s (2013) racial colorblind theory to emphasize the connection between privilege and larger patterns of racial attitudes. The macro level contribution of this dissertation focuses on patterns of overt and colorblind attitudes as affected by racial segregation, social inequality, and respondent characteristics. Data was gathered from the 2000 General Social Survey, 2010 GSS, and U.S. Census county data and applied to a hierarchical linear model. Due to sample selection, this research focuses on racial Whites’ attitudes about the racial Black population. I use measures of racial segregation as proxies for racial contact. I find patterns of racial tolerance through a ‘separate but equal’ storyline among White-Black segregation. When using, social demographics with all minorities included, I find that Whites’ attitudes about racial Blacks are attenuated. This finding supports the literature that non-Black racial minorities act as buffers for White-Black racial relations. Racial diversity is one element in helping alleviate negative racial sentiments, but patterns of segregation and social inequality impact the benefits of this racial diversity.