Pale Narcissus: The Role of Primitive Narcissism in the Relationship between White Privilege Attitudes and Modern Racism
White racial identity and White privilege attitudes and their connection to racism and prejudiced behaviors have been studied extensively in the current literature. However, few empirical studies have explored the psychodynamics underlying Whiteness, specifically those psychodynamics pertaining to narcissistic process, and the one study that has investigated this area used outdated measures. A comparison of the theoretical literature in psychoanalysis and White racial identity development suggests that a narcissistic dynamic characterizes White identity development, White privilege attitudes, and racism. Put simply, a synthesis of the literature postulates that White persons with less developed White identities cannot integrate the perspective of non-White individuals because their own White identities cannot tolerate the difference and associated emotional stress of this interaction, a dynamic that is fundamentally narcissistic in the psychoanalytic sense. This study utilized contemporary measurements of narcissism in a quantitative descriptive design (i.e., an electronic survey) to examine how primitive narcissism, as opposed to mature narcissism, relates to White privilege attitudes and modern racism, as well as the degree to which primitive narcissism explains the relationship between these variables. Although I hypothesized that higher levels of primitive narcissism would be related to and account for less developed White privilege attitudes and greater modern racism, the results of this study did not support this position. Rather, primitive narcissism was positively related to some facets of White privilege attitudes (i.e., willingness to confront White privilege and anticipated costs of confronting White privilege). Also, no relationship was found between primitive narcissism and modern racism. Examination of the results suggested that primitive narcissism may not be fundamental to White privilege attitudes and racism but simply influential, such that increased levels of primitive narcissism may moderate how people relate to their White identity, though not wholly define it. Practical applications of these findings for consultation and psychotherapy are outlined. The most notable limitation of the study was inadequate construction explication, leading to selection of instruments that may be reflective of White identity development but that do not directly measure it.
Table of Contents
Introduction and literature review -- Method -- Data analysis -- Discussion -- Appendix A. Demographic Form -- Appendix B. Pathological Narcissism Inventory -- Appendix C. Narcissistic Personality Inventory – 16 -- Appendix D. White Privilege Attitudes Scale -- Appendix E. Modern Racism Scale -- Appendix F. Marlow-Crowne Social Desirability Scale – Form A -- Appendix G. MTurk Invitation and Posting