I don’t trust white people, even the liberals, and science backs me up.



I’d say that I’m quite vocal about my distrust of White people. It feels ignorant to immediately brand an entire group of people as untrustworthy, but now I have science to back me up. It turns out that I’m rational after all.

The Problem: Academically Speaking

John Dovidio and Samuel Gaertner, social psychologists, have studied White racial attitudes for the past several decades and coined the phrase:

Aversion racism.

Aversive racism is the conflict that Whites experience between their denial of personal prejudice and their underlying unconscious negative feelings towards and about Blacks. What that means is that even the most liberal and progressive Whites, who explicitly denounce racism, still hold and act upon negative stereotypes and biases against Blacks.

Dovidio and Gaertner argue that it is the existence of both almost unavoidable racial biases and conscious adherence to nondiscriminatory principles that forms the basis of the ambivalence that aversive racists experience.


Their research shows that even though a White person may explicitly declare that she is not racist and believe in equality, she ends up acting upon her unconscious racist stereotypes and behaving in ways that disadvantage Blacks — thereby having the same impact on Blacks as overt racists.

Several studies have shown that Whites are more likely to discriminate against Blacks when the norms for appropriate and non-racist behavior are weak or ambiguous and the interaction with Blacks threatens the superiority of Whites.

These unconscious biases not only explain the inconsistency between how Whites perceive themselves and how they actually behave, but also how Blacks perceive their interactions with Whites. One study’s findings showed that when Whites explicitly stated they were non-prejudice, if they held high anti-Black unconscious biases (as measured by the Harvard’s Implicit Association Task), the Blacks who interacted with them found the interaction to be unfriendly and unsatisfying, even if Whites felt it was a friendly interaction. In other words, Whites may feel they are interacting satisfactorily with Blacks, but their racial ambivalence may impact their non-verbal behaviors in a way that leads Blacks to experience the interaction as negative and racist.

So, while White people may assume that they are engaging with Blacks fairly and behaving in ways that are consistent with their explicit beliefs that racism is bad, Whites may be subconsciously behaving in ways that support Blacks’ distrust of them and what’s more, Blacks may perceive these interactions as racist.

The Solution


Now you have a bit of research to help you understand why Blacks are often consumed with distrust of Whites. It ain’t comin’ from outta nowhere.

Whites, like all Americans, have been conditioned to be pro-White and anti-Black. This conditioning is the product of human efficiency and White supremacy.

Stereotyping, social categorization, and in-group biases are all part of an early human evolutionary process that helped us make decisions quickly and automatically so that we didn’t die. The problem is that our ability to stereotype, socially categorize and create in-group biases does not effectively discriminate between information based in truth and information we just happen to have learned that is incorrect.

Just as we have learned the erroneous pro-White, anti-Black messages stored in our subconscious, we can unlearn them with practice.

Researchers have found that by activating one’s implicit racial biases and then deliberately responding in ways that negate those biases or stereotypes, over time individuals can decrease their unconscious stereotyping.

Others have found that when Whites are made aware of the discrepancy between their non-prejudice beliefs and their prejudice behaviors, the sense of guilt that is often experienced drives some White people to behave differently in the future. Most Whites don’t want to be racist and this is a great thing, however, most Whites have trouble accepting that they do racist things, which prevents them from doing anything about them.

Sounds simple enough, right? In theory it is extremely simple. However, making these changes in our America, where the fabric of our existence as a world power is woven by the hands of oppressed people and the illusion of a post-racist America is maintained by our unwillingness to acknowledge our own contributions to the state of racial America, adds annoying complexity.

The only thing I can do is temper my cautiousness with Whites and remind myself of all the great White allies in my life. The struggle is real.

Still hopeful?

Some of my references might help:

Dovidio, J.F. & Gaertner, S.L. (2004). Aversive racism. Advances in experimental social psychology, 36, 1–52.

Dovidio, J.F., Gaertner, S.L., & Kawakami, K. (2002). Implicit and explicit prejudice and interracial interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(1), 62–68.

Dovidio, Gaertner, Kawakami & Hodson (2002). Why can’t we just get along? Interpersonal biases and interracial distrust. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8(2), 88–102.

Kawakami, Dovidio, Moll, Hermsen, & Russin (2000). Just say no (to stereotyping): Effects of training in the negation of stereotypic associations on stereotyping activation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(5), 871–888.


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