Inverting the Lens: White Privilege Denial in Evaluations of Politicians and Policy

Inverting the Lens: White Privilege Denial in Evaluations of Politicians and Policy

By Reagan Dobbs and Stephen P. Nicholson, University of California, Merced

Public understandings of race in the United States have evolved, at least among some, to acknowledge that whiteness confers privilege. In contrast to the negative racial stereotypes that animate racial resentment, white privilege inverts the lens by focusing on whites and the notion that whiteness confers unearned advantages. Given the centrality of race in American politics, we investigate white privilege denial and whether it matters politically. Our inquiry shows white privilege denial is a distinct racial construct and that nearly half of whites are at least somewhat in denial with nearly one-third rejecting all the white privilege items. We found that white privilege denial is politically consequential, helping explain white attitudes across a range of political attitudes including support for political leaders, parties, and public policy. To capture the range and complexity of racial attitudes among whites, we recommend that studies of racial attitudes in politics include white privilege denial.