“I’m not a racist, but…” This instinct to make judgments about “deservingness” in politics often animates those who believe they are “not racist,” but tend to oppose policies and ideas that advance racial justice, and blame racial-ethnic minorities for their social, political, and economic positions.
That is one of the many arguments UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy Dean David Wilson and his colleague, Notre Dame Professor of Political Science Darren Davis, explore in their new book “Racial Resentment in the Political Mind.”
Dean Wilson and Professor Davis challenge the commonly held notion that all racial negativity, disagreements, and objections to policies that seek to help racial minorities stem from racial prejudice. They argue that while prejudice and racism are fundamentally rooted in American politics, so are non-racial motivations, such as a belief in a “just” world, where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get.
In their book, Davis and Wilson reveal that many white people have become racially resentful due to their perceptions that African Americans skirt the “rules of the game” and violate traditional values by taking advantage of unearned resources. It is the belief that undeserving people of color, are perceived to benefit unfairly from, and take advantage of, resources that come at the expense of white people. In this worldview, any attempt at modest change is seen as a challenge to the status quo and privilege. Resulting attempts at racial progress lead white people to respond in ways that retain their social advantage — opposing ameliorative policies, minority candidates, and other advancement on racial progress.
Because racial resentment is rooted in beliefs about justice, fairness, and deservingness, ordinary citizens, who may not harbor racist motivations, may wind up in the same political position as racists, but for different reasons.
Join Dean Wilson and Professor Davis in conversation with UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof about their research findings and why a nuanced conversation about race is critical to democracy.
Watch Exploring Racial Resentment and Politics.