A new study of over 20,000 White people found that while education sometimes lessens the number of self-identified racists, attitudes toward racial inclusion, particularly when it comes to instituting specific policies to ensure equality, does not change with increased education level.
Geoffrey Wodtke, the study’s author, told Science Daily: “High-ability whites are less likely to report prejudiced attitudes and more likely to say they support racial integration in principle. But they are no more likely than lower-ability whites to support open housing laws and are less likely to support school busing and affirmative action programs.”
Wodtke analyzed data on over 20,000 White participants who had an average of 12.9 years of education and scored higher than 6 out of 10 on cognitive tests. He then explored how their education level influenced their opinion on African Americans and other policies that promote equality. Predictably, those Whites in the “high intelligence” group were more likely to be welcoming of racial equality, but they were just as unsupportive of policies that aimed to increase equality as their less educated counterparts.
“Intelligent whites give more enlightened responses than less intelligent whites to questions about their attitudes, but their responses to questions about actual policies aimed at redressing racial discrimination are far less enlightened. For example, although nearly all whites with advanced cognitive abilities say that ‘whites have no right to segregate their neighborhoods,’ nearly half of this group remains content to allow prejudicial real estate practices to continue unencumbered by open housing laws.”
According to Wodtke, his findings illustrate the need of the dominant group to legitimize and solidify their privilege within society.
More intelligent members of the dominant group are just better at legitimizing and protecting their privileged position than less intelligent members. In modern America, where blacks are mobilized to challenge racial inequality, this means that intelligent whites say — and may in fact truly believe — all the right things about racial equality in principle, but they just don’t actually do anything that would eliminate the privileges to which they have become accustomed.
He surmised: “In many cases, they have become so accustomed to these privileges that they become ‘invisible,’ and any effort to point these privileges out or to eliminate them strikes intelligent whites as a grave injustice.”