African American and European American adolescents' attitudes toward affirmative action and school desegregation
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The purpose of these studies was to examine the predictors of African American and European American adolescents’ attitudes toward affirmative action (Study 1) and school desegregation (Study 2) policies. It was hypothesized that support for both policies would be higher among adolescents who (1) attended more racially diverse classes, (2) held less prejudiced racial attitudes, (3) were more aware of historical and continuing racial inequality and discrimination, (4) described themselves as politically liberal, and (5) had engaged in more racial identity exploration. Participants in both studies included African American and European American adolescents ages 14 to 17 attending a high school in the Midwestern U.S. On the first day of data collection in both studies, adolescents completed assessments of the hypothesized predictor variables in the context of their high school social studies classrooms. On the second day of data collection, adolescents learned about either an affirmative action (Study 1) or a school desegregation (Study 2) policy that had been proposed for their school. Immediately following the policy presentations, adolescents reported their opinions of the policy in open-ended and forced-choice formats. Across studies, results indicated that African American and European American adolescents often held significantly different views of race, racism, and race-related policies. In general, African American adolescents were more aware of racial discrimination, endorsed more positive views about African Americans, and were more supportive of affirmative action and school desegregation policies than European American adolescents. Predictors of individuals’ views of race-related policies also varied by participant race. Among African American adolescents, higher awareness of interracial disparities and discrimination predicted stronger support of affirmative action and school desegregation. Among European American adolescents, in contrast, higher awareness of interracial disparities and discrimination predicted weaker support of affirmative action and school desegregation. More work is needed to examine the origins of differences between African American and European American adolescents’ understanding of, and beliefs about, race in society.