How To Inspire Action on Racial Injustice: Talk About Power DifferencesMarch 18, 20212 min read
What may lead members of advantaged racial groups to take concrete actions to promote equality and change society? It's a timely question that social scientists like Linda Tropp have been studying for years.
In new research, Tropp, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, tested and supported her proposition that having open communication about group differences is a crucial pathway.
Previous research suggested that advantaged racial groups prefer to focus on commonalities between groups, which may not lead to action to change the status quo.
Tropp, who for more than two decades has studied how members of different groups experience contact with each other, theorized that communicating openly about power differences across racial lines might be the game-changing catalyst for white Americans to be moved to do something to address racial inequality.
“The prevailing assumption is that members of advantaged groups don’t want to talk about group differences in power. It’s not a pleasant or comfortable thing for us to do; but it’s a valuable and worthwhile thing, and we need to grow accustomed to doing it,” Tropp says. “And the more we talk about group differences in power, the more we can become motivated to take action and support policies that would benefit groups other than our own.”
An expert in the legacies of inequality and conflict that form a group’s perspectives and motivations, Tropp aims in her research to identify mechanisms that could be used to strengthen positive relations and social justice.
Tropp's next step is to examine how members of advantaged racial groups communicate about group differences in power, and how members of disadvantaged racial groups respond to these discussions with the racial majority.
“Our views of the world are a function of our lived experience,” Tropp says. “The mere act of being willing to listen and accept the validity of the experiences of people who are different from you is a profound step toward bridging difference and building unity.”
Linda Tropp Professor of Social Psychology
Linda Tropp's research looks at how people’s group membership effects how we see and experience our relationships with other people.