Racial Differences in College Students’ Knowledge of America’s Racial History

ps-cover-for-journalsA new study by researchers at the University of Kansas and Texas A&M University finds that African American college students have significantly more knowledge about the history of racism in this country than their White peers. The gap in knowledge, according to the authors, accounts for a different perspective on the current state of race relations.

Researchers tested students on their knowledge of the history of racism by asking true and false questions about whether certain events actually happened. Included among the questions were actual historical events and fabrications. Survey participants were also assessed as to their racial identification and their perceptions of racism in society today.

African Americans as a group were found to be more accurate than Whites in identifying actual historical events.

Glenn Adams, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas and one of the authors of the study, states, “The remarkable phenomenon is not that people from ethnic and racial minority communities are aware of the history of American racism. Instead, the remarkable phenomenon is the extent to which people in dominant or mainstream American society manage to remain ignorant of this history.”

Dr. Adams added, “We suspect that mainstream understandings of American history are cultural tools that have emerged to promote a positive sense of American identity at the expense of coming to terms with a problematic legacy of racism and oppression in American society.”

The study was published in the journal Psychological Sciences. The article may be accessed here.


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