The consequences of discrimination are extensive and well-chronicled: emotional abuse; loss of jobs and opportunities; dreams deferred. A recent study sheds more light on the complexity of how people cope with prejudice on a personal level.
Previous research conducted by Karen Ruggiero, Ph.D., of Harvard University, revealed that the more a group of people faces discrimination, the less likely they are to acknowledge it. So black women, for example, . reported feeling less marginalized than white men, despite the fact the women probably experienced more prejudice. This reluctance to accept their treatment by society, the psychology professor found, is a natural defense mechanism. Facing the daily burden of racial and gender prejudice is simply too depressing a prospect for many black women; it may be easier for them to internalize the way they are treated than to reflect on it constantly and feel increasingly powerless in a bigoted world.
Now, a new study by Ruggiero and Brenda Major, Ph.D., of the University of California-Santa Barbara, reveals the other side of the coin: that high-status group members are more likely to attribute personal failure to discrimination, despite the fact they are the least likely to experience it. For high-status group members, crying discrimination provides a temporary scapegoat for the low blow to their usual sense of entitlement and belonging.