Rose Colored Glasses for Race: Unwarranted Optimism in Whites’ Views of Racial Gaps

By Philip J. Mazzocco, Kirwan Institute Faculty Fellow
Associate Professor of Psychology, Ohio State University Mansfield

Although past and present racial gaps have been well-documented by social scientists and social justice advocates, relatively little is known about the degree of correspondence between the reality of racial gaps and naïve perceptions thereof. The correspondence between perceptions and reality is important because gap assessments have been empirically linked to socially harmful racial ideologies, racial group attitudes, and racial policy attitudes.

Empirical confirmation of divergence between gap perceptions and reality would provide justification and direction to racial justice advocacy campaigns. Commonly used measures of racial gap perceptions, however, are limited in their ability to provide detailed and psychologically meaning characterizations of racial gap beliefs. In the present work, two novel measurement strategies designed to address this important limitation are presented.

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The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established in 2003 as a center for interdisciplinary research at The Ohio State University. The Kirwan Institute works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.