Why and when do racial microaggressions hurt? The role of perceived diversity credentials
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Racial microaggressions are brief, potentially ambiguous everyday exchanges that may send denigrating messages to racial minorities (Sue, Capodilupo, Torino, Bucceri, Holder, Nadal, & Esquilin, 2007). When appraised by racial minority targets as being relevant to their racial group membership, racial microaggressions are related to increased negative emotions (Wang, Leu, & Shoda, 2011). Racial minority targets often face the problem of determining the intention of someone who commits a racial microaggression (i.e., perpetrator), such as whether the behavior is due to racial prejudice or not, and may use the perpetrator's characteristics to determine prejudice. Six studies investigated whether Asian American targets of microaggressions rely on the perpetrator's perceived diversity credentials (PDC), in the form of racial group membership and perceived diversity experiences (PDE), to determine prejudice in these situations. In Study 1, I explored the construct of PDC and identified the types of experiences representative of PDE important in determining prejudice. In Study 2, I found that targets use racial group membership to attribute racial prejudice when they lack information about the perpetrator's PDE in hypothetical interactions involving racial microaggressions. However, when provided information about the perpetrator's PDE, targets based their appraisals on that information as opposed to racial group membership (Studies 3a, 4, 5, and 6). For example, in hypothetical interactions participants reported greater perceived racial prejudice and negative emotions like anger when a perpetrator had low versus high PDE. PDE mattered more for White versus Asian perpetrators, suggesting shifting standards (Biernat & Manis, 1994) for the same PDE. Situational boundary effects of PDC on perceived racial prejudice and emotion were also investigated (Studies 2 and 5). Finally, I examined whether perceived racial prejudice is the causal mechanism by which racial group membership and PDE are associated with emotion (Studies 2, 3a, and 4). Investigating how racial minority targets react to the same event differently based on the perpetrators' racial group membership and PDE is important to understanding the complex processes in perceiving racism, which may ultimately contribute to stress and well-being.
- Psychology