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Component Racialism and Race-Based Perceptions: The Roles of Racial and Biogeographical Ancestries

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posted on 28.11.2018, 00:00 authored by Drexler James
This research investigates a novel concept, component racialism: the belief that racial groups possess unique genetic configurations that determine within-racial group similarities and between-racial group differences in behavioral, biological, and physical characteristics and outcomes. In particular, this research uses biogeographical ancestry (i.e., the idea of that after migration populations developed geographic-specific biomarkers), through its misrepresentation as “race genes”, to examine how component racialist ideologies exacerbate biased perceptions of racial groups and targets. In four studies, this research investigated the questions: (1) How does biogeographical ancestry information influence racial categorization, racial stereotyping, and perceived racial differences in illness/disease susceptibility? (2) To what extent do people misrepresent biogeographical ancestry as “race genes”, and how does this misrepresentation explain perceptions of racial boundaries, racial differences, and illness/disease susceptibility? (3) To what extent is component racialism different from (or similar to) other forms of biological racial essentialism? Results showed that people use racial ancestry information to make judgments about a target’s biogeographical ancestry (Pilot Study). In addition, results show that people use biogeographical information to make race-based judgments about targets (Study 1 -2); relationships that are sometimes moderated by racial ancestry (Study 2). Furthermore, results show that people misrepresent biogeographical information as “genes genes”, which they then use to make target judgments (Study 2). For example, increasing sub-Saharan Black biogeographical ancestry was related to increasing Black (decreasing White) racial categorization (Study 1 -2); increased beliefs that a target engaged in Black-associated cultural activities (Study 1 -2), increased beliefs that a target possessed Black-associated stereotypical traits (e.g., decreased academic orientation; Study 1), and increased beliefs that a target was biologically different from White people (Study 2). Results also showed that increasing sub-Saharan Black racial ancestry was associated with increased beliefs that a target shared genetic material with Black people and that this increased belief was then associated with increased beliefs that a target (1) had a darker skin tone, (2) engaged in Black associated cultural practices, (3) was susceptible to physical illnesses, and (4) was susceptible to mental illnesses (Study 2). Last, results show that shifting people in component racialist views of race (vs. racialist and biological essentialist) more greatly influences the extent to which people believe that Black and White people are genetically different, which in turn lead them to increasingly believe that Black-White differences in illness/disease rates (e.g., STD/I), and Black-White biological, genetic, and socio-behavioral differences (e.g., education) are due to “natural” causes. Examining these more nuanced beliefs about the genetic basis of race hold the potential to further understand theories of psychological essentialism and factors that reinforce already exaggerated views about innate racial differences that contribute to prejudice and stereotyping. Addressing such limitations are also practically and socially relevant given the increased use of and familiarity with personal genetic testing services that use patterns of racial/ethnic genetic variation to provide clues about biogeographical ancestry (e.g., 23&Me) and issues surrounding the use of biogeographical ancestry in understanding disease risk, progression, treatment, and susceptibility, especially among racial groups.



Bonam, Courtney


Bonam, Courtney



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Committee Member

Cervone, Daniel Morelli, Sylvia Foreman, Tyrone Hill, Brandon

Submitted date

August 2018

Issue date