A Rutgers study asks: Are sexists also racists?

People who have experienced discrimination assume that sexism and racism go together, a new study from Rutgers University has found.  That means that exposure to specific prejudices causes more damage than social scientists have previously believed, said lead author Diana Sanchez, a Rutgers social psychologist.

In the study, white women thought that a white man who expressed racist beliefs would also think less of them in an evaluation.  Meanwhile, black and Latino men believed that a man who was sexist was also more likely to be racist.

Overall, the members of the stigmatized groups —  white women and minority men —  viewed others' prejudice as a sign of an underlying orientation toward "social dominance."  Someone who scores high in social dominance would agree with statements such as, "Some groups of people are simply inferior to others."

Sanchez said she did the study because she thought the impact of racist and sexist behavior is broader than often believed.  "I had a suspicion that prejudice had effects beyond the targeted groups and, in fact, other stigmatized groups share in the consequences of prejudice," she said.

The work of Sanchez's team, which also included researchers from Skidmore College and Tufts University, was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Sanchez said there is plenty of evidence that people who are racist are also often sexist and vice versa. "There is a lot of research on the prejudiced personality," she said.

The new paper combined five studies. In each, participants either worked online or in person.  They were shown information about a 30-year-old white man who would evaluate them.  He was described as either moderately racist or moderately sexist, or neither.

The participants assumed that one prejudice would be accompanied by the other.

Being the object of prejudice has both social and health consequences, Sanchez said. 

The new work has consequences for how we think about hostile work places, she said.  A white woman who overhears racist comments might feel threatened just like her black and Latino coworkers.  Sanchez said a better understanding of how we experience racism and sexism might lead stigmatized groups to work together for political change.