Developing an Effective White Bystander Intervention to Reduce Racial Inequality in Higher Education

Does an online intervention increase the willingness of White students to publicly confront online racial discrimination?

Black students attending predominantly White institutions are increasingly encountering online racial discrimination, which can undermine their emotional well-being and sense of belonging at school and contribute to academic underachievement. The team contends that when greater numbers of White students confront online racial discrimination, however, incidents of online racial discrimination will diminish, Black students will feel a greater sense of institutional belonging, and, in the longer term, the Black–White college completion gap may narrow. Using a sample of 270 Black undergraduates and experimental methods, this study will first examine whether White confrontations of racist online behavior improve Black students’ perceptions of racial climate and sense of belonging. Hurd and colleagues will then refine an intervention to encourage White students to confront online discrimination using a full factorial experiment approach with a sample of 300 White undergraduates. The intervention exposes White students to the harm racist posts cause Black peers, asks White students to share a success story about confronting online discrimination, and offers White students guidance and opportunities to practice how to confront online discrimination. Finally, the team will test the intervention with 800 White undergraduates at four predominately White institutions. The study offers a novel approach to reduce inequality for Black students by changing the behavior of White students.

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