College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-12-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Nathan R. Todd, PhD

Second Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD


Diversity courses and activities are a part of the multicultural mission of many institutions of higher education. However, universities, colleges, and diversity educators continue to grapple with how to increase participation and student engagement in these courses. The lens of privilege studies provides an important perspective for thinking about how to achieve this goal for White students learning about systems of racial inequity. In the current study, we conducted four studies to better understand how to decrease resistance to reflecting on White privilege (e.g., defensive affect or withdrawal) and to promote racial justice engagement (e.g., willingness to take diversity courses and educate friends about White privilege) among White students. Specifically, Study 1 examined the relationships between White guilt, White shame, and racial justice engagement (i.e., behavioral intentions, racial attitudes, and affective responses) when participants were not first presented with information about White privilege. Study 2 examined the relationship between White privilege awareness, White guilt and White shame, and racial justice engagement (i.e., behavioral intentions, racial attitudes, and affective responses). Study 3 examined the relationship between an ingroup advantage (i.e., White privilege) and an outgroup disadvantage (i.e., Black disadvantage) framework in eliciting White guilt and White shame responses and corresponding levels of racial justice engagement. Study 4 examined the utility of a mindfulness-based self-compassion framing of White privilege to reduce White shame responses, thus increasing racial justice engagement. Across the four studies, participants (n = 549) were undergraduates enrolled in an introductory psychology course at either a public university or a private, Midwestern Catholic university who self-identified as White. Findings have potential utility for educators working with White students to help them better understand and manage White students’ responses to White privilege.

SLP Collection