Research Shows How We Can Fight Aversive Racism and Improve Society | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

August 12, 2020by Natalie Davis

Summary of:

Murrell, A. (2020). Aversive racism: Foundations, impact, and future directions. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190224851.013.194

Background & Theory

This article evaluates aversive racism, specifically what we know about it, what impacts this has on others, and how this should direct us as a society to fight against it. Aversive racism is the act of unconsciously avoiding and/or discriminating against members of an outgroup.

Research Questions

The author addresses the following questions:

  1. What is aversive racism, and what effects does it have on society?
  2. How do we prevent or resolve aversive racism?


The author delves deep into the pre-existing research on aversive racism and its links to other issues, which leads to logical conclusions that we can use to better understand and resolve it. Murrell discusses what aversive racism is, the aversive racism paradigm, its ties to microaggressions and unconscious bias, and how we might approach addressing it both within society and within organizations. 


The results show that many people have aversive racism, and due to its nature, have no idea. This, in turn, impacts those on the receiving end of actions rooted in aversive racism quite a bit, while doing no harm to those performing the actions. While aversive racism may be an individual bias, it is also related to intergroup contact and the natural instinct to favor our own ingroup. While it is very difficult to correct aversive racism, there are ways that we can practically reduce it, such as redefining intergroup identities to share a common ground. Further studies should aim to include other items aside from just race when discussing implicit bias by approaching this subject with intersectionality and further evaluation of intergroup contact and its role.

What This Means

  • All of us reading this post likely have some form of unconscious bias. If we truly want to show equality to all, we need to be willing to address this part of ourselves honestly.
  • Aversive racism is shown to have a great negative impact on those on the receiving end in virtually every way possible in society (economically, mentally, physically, and financially). It is something that must be addressed.
  • To combat aversive racism, we need to promote honest conversations about these biases and delve deeper into ways we can feasibly reduce it (which include having inclusive leaders and adjusting diversity and other trainings based on current research).

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Aversive racism, or really any unconscious bias, can be the root of a conflict. Having trainings that encourage inclusivity from a conflict resolution perspective can be helpful to find and resolve these issues, or prevent them from occurring.

For everyone: Unconscious bias is just that — not conscious. However, this does not change the fact that it exists. Be willing to listen to others around you, and openly address your bias. This not only saves others from hurt, but also yourself.

Natalie Davis

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