Exploring prejudice toward Aboriginal people: Interviews with White Canadian university students
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Although Aboriginal people in Canada are subject to marginalization and racism, researchers have devoted limited attention to studying White Canadians’ prejudice toward this group. In addition, little qualitative research has been conducted with individuals known to possess prejudiced attitudes. This study addressed these gaps in the literature. A two-part mixed-methods approach was employed. In Phase 1, a questionnaire was administered to 192 non-Aboriginal undergraduate students. Endorsement of old-fashioned prejudice was somewhat low, though a sizeable minority of participants (29%) scored above the midpoint on this measure. The mean score on the modern prejudice measure was above the scale midpoint, and the majority of the sample (61%) scored above the midpoint, suggesting that modern prejudice toward Aboriginal people was fairly prevalent in this sample. Phase 1 participants who scored above the midpoint on one or both prejudice measures and reported a White ethnicity were invited to participate in an interview. Interviews with 13 of these individuals (nine women and four men) were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. The themes that emerged have provided insight into the ways in which old-fashioned and modern prejudiced attitudes toward Aboriginal people are created and maintained. The socialization process emerged as a key contributor to participants’ attitudes toward Aboriginal people (e.g., internalization of stereotypes about Aboriginal people). Modern prejudiced sentiments mainly revolved around the perceived unfairness of the presumed special treatment of Aboriginal people in Canada. Ambivalence toward Aboriginal people, a core feature of modern prejudice, was also observed. Consistent with the conceptualization of old-fashioned prejudice, some participants implied that Aboriginal people possess inherent inferiorities (e.g., poor work ethic) that are responsible for the social problems they encounter. This was often linked to a perception that Aboriginal people have the choice to advance themselves, but many are content with being financially dependent on the government. It is posited that participants’ apparent surface-level evaluations and understandings of Aboriginal people and social issues demonstrate that increased awareness and education may be needed among the Canadian public (e.g., regarding societal factors that serve to maintain inequality). Limitations of this study along with avenues for future research are also discussed.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
SupervisorMorrison, Todd G.
CommitteeMorrison, Melanie; Alexitch, Louise
Copyright DateAugust 2013