Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Jane Berry


The political climate and social discourse around social justice has grown increasingly tense and hostile in recent years. The current study investigated potential predictors of the opposition to support for racial equity and social justice reforms. Research illustrates that a biological conceptualization of race (“essentialism”) has powerful implications on information processing and social-psychological outcomes regarding issues of race and racism. In the current study, we conducted a survey of 164 University of Richmond undergraduate students. The survey examined the interplay of essentialism and beliefs about systemic racism and white privilege on social justice support. The results showed that essentialist beliefs negatively predicted social justice support, mediated by denial of systemic racism (DSR) and belief in white privilege (BWP). Cursory qualitative analyses pointed to the potential for historically accurate and equitable teaching (e.g., critical race theory) and STEM curricula to influence essentialist beliefs.

Included in

Psychology Commons