The Positive Side Of Discrimination

by Tracy R. Walsh

Amanda Hess takes note of a new meta-analysis indicating that most prejudice is not due to hostility toward others, “but rather simple preferences for people like ourselves”:

In a review of five decades of psychological research, [the study’s authors] found that while most researchers defined prejudice as an expression of hostility, the more pervasive form of bigotry in the United States comes from people who favor, admire, and trust people of their own race, gender, age, religion, or parenting status. Even people who share our birthdays can catch a break. That means that – to take just one example – sexist bias isn’t largely perpetuated by people who hate women. It’s furthered by men who just particularly like other men.

For Hess, the study suggests why discrimination remains such an intractable problem:

We’re not asking the powerful to stop hating; we’re asking them to cede some of their power to others. If the powerful are required to extend their networks to offer jobs to people who aren’t like them, that means that they can’t keep hiring their friends (or people who they feel have the educational pedigree and family background to one day become their friends). … Housing and employment discrimination against minorities isn’t just a case of some people missing out on the opportunities they deserve, but also of white people getting opportunities that they don’t.