Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Walter Buboltz


In recent years, race and racial justice issues have been at the forefront of political and academic discourse. Despite claim ha he Unied Sae ha moed ino a pot-acial era with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, empirical evidence unequivocally demonstrates that racial disparities still exist. While the system of racial oppression clearly has deleterious effects on people of color, some argue that White individuals are also negatively affected, albeit indirectly, by this system. Because the system of racial oppression affects White individuals, it is important that they too make efforts to dismantle the system of racial oppression. As White individuals are often perceived as more legitimate due to their privileged racial status, they can use this perception to intervene in instances that would be more difficult for people of color (e.g., interactions with other Whites). Thus, the present study aims to extend upon previous inquiry into White racial justice activism. Outgroup activism has generally received little attention in the activism literature and even less investigation has been made into White antiracist activism. Previous studies have largely employed qualitative methodology and have found the role of emotional engagement (e.g., empathy) and White privilege attitudes to be important factors motivating White activists to engage in racial justice efforts. It was hypothesized that empathy, ethnocultural empathy, and White privilege attitudes will predict general activist orientation and specific anti-racist activism behaviors. Results from a college student sample and an activist online sample suggested that ethnocultural empathy and White privilege attitudes, but not general empathy, predicted activist orientation and antiracist activism behaviors. These results provide support for previous qualitative studies suggesting a link between empathy, White privilege, and engagement in antiracist activism. Furthermore, the results have important implications for training White antiracist advocates and those within professions that value social justice (e.g., counseling psychologists). Given these findings, it would be prudent to further investigate the role of empathy in activism, the developmental trajectory of activist identity, and the development of White antiracist advocate training interventions.