July 18, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 288 — How white allyship impacts Black Americans

In recent years, many Americans have begun to rethink their views on racial justice and the prejudice that exists within the country. But as white Americans confront others who are spewing prejudice, how does that impact Black Americans? New research by IUPUI’s Leslie Ashburn-Nardo and former IUPUI student Charles Chu, who is now an assistant professor at Boston University, explores perceptions of white allyship by Black Americans. Their study was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Allyship describes actions that advantaged group members can take to improve the treatment or circumstances of a marginalized group. During two experiments, the researchers found that Black participants reported higher levels of self-esteem after a white ally confronted a white perpetrator of racial prejudice, compared to no confrontation. However, the white person’s motivations for standing up against prejudice in the first place had an impact on the Black person’s self-esteem. The researchers say popular discourse and research on allyship have grown in recent years. But this study provides the first demonstration of the effect of a white ally confrontation on Black perceivers’ psychological well-being, or self-esteem. Ashburn-Nardo says it’s important for people from advantaged groups to call out prejudice because it will help empower people from marginalized groups. However, their motivations for doing so, and especially whether those motivations are viewed suspiciously or not, play a big role in the well-being of Black perceivers. The researchers observed more of a positive impact on Black participants’ self-esteem when they perceived the ally confrontation as more genuine or intrinsically motivated. A white person saying that an anti-Black remark isn’t okay because it violates their personal beliefs and values was more beneficial to Black perceivers than saying the remark isn’t okay because it can upset other people. The researchers say this study’s findings can offer practical implications for white allies in the workplace and within American society. Ashburn-Nardo says their findings clearly demonstrate that confrontation, particularly when it is motivated by personal values of fairness and equity, is something white allies can do to improve the well-being of Black people targeted by prejudice.