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I research the dynamics between structural-level and individual-level racism. Specifically, I examine 1) how the institution of slavery and subsequent conceptualization of race led to a hierarchical system of devaluation based on skin tone, known as colorism, and how colorism is gendered, and 2) how institutions (i.e., media, higher education) reinforce white-centered individualistic understandings of race and racism. Below are a few projects I am currently working on.

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Colorism & Gender

Colorism is a form of discrimination that targets darker-skinned individuals and privileges light-skinned individuals in a racial group (Hunter, 2007). I consider how the contemporary manifestations of colorism connect to their historical origins, specifically, how the perception and treatment of Black women remains tied to their skin tone. Colorism affects Black people of all genders, but when might it affect Black women more so than Black men? In my experimental work, I argue that Black women and girls are more affected by colorism in domains where gender identity, norms, and stereotypes are salient. I study gendered colorism in multiple domains and use a variety of methods, such as lab studies, large surveys, archival data, and qualitative interviews.


Police Violence in the Media

I examine the impact of viewing police violence against Black victims in the media. Despite the disproportionate number of killings of Black Americans by police, White Americans' opinions remain mixed on police reform. My research considers how bearing witness to the increasing number of police shootings displayed on social media and news stations might affect White Americans’ attitudes on policing-related policy reform and empathy for the victims. We particularly examine circumstances under which White Americans feel empathy after bearing witness to police shootings. In this work, we find that among White Americans who recognize systemic racism as a reality, bearing witness to police violence leads to empathy for the victims and in turn, this empathy is positively associated with support for policing-related policy reform. 

Euphemistic Labeling

I examine the use of euphemisms and/or highly individualized terms in place of racism in media journalism and psychological research, both areas with histories of perpetuating narratives that harm people of color. We find that the frequent use of this terminology minimizes the impact of racism on people of color and removes the responsibility to examine primarily white-controlled institutions that White people benefit from. Specifically, compared to using direct language (i.e. racist comment), using euphemisms for racism (i.e., racially charged comment) minimizes participants’ perceptions of how harmful or serious incidents of racism are and leads to lower perceptions of the pervasiveness of racism and less desire for social action. In ongoing projects, my collaborators and I are continuing to research how specific institutions shape individual understandings of racism in ways that reinforce the status quo.

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