Saturday, June 1, 2019


"Social liberals were not less sympathetic to the poor white person than social conservatives," the researchers add. "Rather, social liberals expressed comparable levels of sympathy toward the white person as social conservatives, and significantly more sympathy for the poor black person."

The second study, featuring 650 people, was similarly structured, except that this time roughly half of the participants were placed in a "control" condition, in which they did not read about white privilege. The results replicated those of the first study, but added an important piece of information: The white-privilege lesson "did not seem to affect attitudes by increasing sensitivity to the challenges of poor black people; instead, it reduced sympathy for poor white people."
Talking About White Privilege Can Reduce Liberals' Sympathy for Poor White People
So... if I'm reading this correctly, the conclusion is that social liberals start from a position of having greater sympathy for poor people, White or Black, than social conservatives. Having social liberals read about White Privilege then brings social liberals' sympathy for poor Whites down to the level that social conservatives exhibit.


Now, not wanting to cough up 12 bucks (or go to a sketchy Russian site) to do so, I haven't actually read the studies themselves (and I've learned that studies are never as cut-and-dried as media accounts make them out to be), but this hints at the idea that a perception of agency lessens sympathy. So I would expect to find that people who believe that others are poor because they failed to take advantage of tools available to them, whether that be racial privilege or simple free-range opportunities, tend to be less sympathetic. This would obviate the need for any group to play the 'oppression Olympics' (or, as we used to call it, "misery poker") the researchers speculate about.

Perhaps liberals "implicitly play the 'oppression Olympics,'" the researchers write. "That is, they draw upon default hierarchies of groups in order to mentally rank who is worst off." If whites as a group are ranked on top, the struggles of an individual white person "may be more likely to be interpreted as stemming from internal rather than external factors"—i.e., personal laziness as opposed to a lack of opportunities.
But the implication that American social liberals have some sort of bias against Whites, as noted in the headline, is a surefire form of click-bait. It would likely be a safe wager to bet that aggrieved conservatives are linking to the article as confirmation of their understanding that liberal America is out to punish people for crimes of the distant past.

And, of course, the fact that the researchers themselves make the speculation simply adds fuel to the fire. But it also points to how perceptions of privilege are bound up in questions of identity, to the point that outsiders may see them as inseparable.

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