Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours - Pacific Standard

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.
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(Photo: 719production/Shutterstock)

(Photo: 719production/Shutterstock)

A common-cause coalition of oppressed minority groups was one of those 1960s fantasies that failed to materialize. A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests one reason why.

In two large surveys and a lab experiment, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos were less likely to express support for gay equality if they believed their ethnic group suffered from discrimination.

Individually hurtful experiences, as opposed to a general sense that one’s entire race has been wronged, "may better promote sympathy and/or perceived commonality with other disadvantaged groups."

Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson of Northwestern University attribute this to the psychological phenomenon known as social identity threat, in which the self-esteem of a devalued group is bolstered by derogating other groups.

While that’s a disheartening dynamic, the researchers, to their surprise, found members of one racial minority—Asian Americans—who had personally experienced discrimination expressed more positive attitudes toward homosexuality.

Individually hurtful experiences, as opposed to a general sense that one’s entire race has been wronged, “may better promote sympathy and/or perceived commonality with other disadvantaged groups.” But absent direct experience with intolerance, group solidarity trumps empathy for outsiders.

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