Hiding in plain sight: Dehumanization as a foundation of white racial prejudice
In the media, during sporting events, in online forums, and in interpersonal interactions, whites often portray Black people as animals, especially as apes or monkeys. In this essay we consider what contemporary research on prejudice in American politics has to say about these dehumanizing portrayals of Black people. We argue that contemporary political science work has not done enough to understand both the historical roots and the continuing practices of whites' dehumanization of Black people, to the detriment of an accurate understanding of racial attitudes in the United States. To rectify this omission, we draw on the work of historians to map out a brief overview of race-making and the dehumanizing attitudes that shaped this process. Then, we review political science literature on contemporary white attitudes toward Black people, emphasizing connections between prevailing conceptions of these attitudes and long-standing processes of dehumanization. We conclude by charting directions for future scholarship; we seek to unsettle the mainstream of a subfield dominated by mild conceptions of racial attitudes.
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