Racial mindfulness : exploring the influence of mindfulness on racial biases
We disbelieve it; we deny it; we even disguise it; but racial prejudice continues to permeate the United States. As a result, researchers labor to determine variables that can reduce these attitudes and consequently, improve social behavior. Three confirmed conditions that can reduce racial attitudes include: (a) awareness to racial biases, (b) motivation for bias reduction, and (c) cognitive strategies for prejudice regulation. However, racial awareness are usually nonexistent for White Americans, and when introduced, racial awareness can cause negative outcomes, such as guilt or denial, that can decrease motivation to reduce one’s prejudice levels. The construct and practices of mindfulness may provide a solution to these limitations and help reduce racial prejudice levels for White individuals. The present dissertation explored the initial steps of this racial mindfulness program of research by first investigating the influence of White participants' degree of mindfulness on their racial prejudice levels using structural equation modeling. Because mindfulness can increase awareness to stimuli, mindfulness could meet the first prejudice reduction condition (i.e., raise awareness to racial stimuli), and therefore, reduce racial prejudice levels directly. In addition, mindfulness has been found to increase similar variables that influences motivation to reduce racial prejudice levels, such as empathy and interconnectedness. Therefore, White participants’ degree of mindfulness could decrease their racial prejudice levels indirectly as well. Results from this study indicated that mindfulness did not reduce racial prejudice levels directly or indirectly, although there were some methodology limitations that could have obscured the results. The next step investigated if White participants' degree of mindfulness can attenuate the negative affects that can arise when Whites first become aware of racial biases, as mindfulness has been found to mitigate ego defensiveness and negative emotions when one's self-esteem is threatened. Written reactions to a White privilege article from White participants identified as holding a high and low degree of general mindfulness were subject to content analysis. The results indicated that participants with a high degree of mindfulness exhibited greater awareness and acceptance to White privilege and less negative reactions. The findings support the need to create and explore a racial mindfulness intervention.