Greater Boston Today with George Knight: Prof. Copeland Discusses Motivations Behind Racism Denial

Phillipe Copeland
Clinical Assistant Professor Phillipe Copeland, Boston University School of Social Work

Prof. Phillipe Copeland at BU School of Social Work recently shared his expertise on why people deny the realities of racism. In an interview with host George Knight, he explains that people use racism denial to preserve and avoid confrontation with familiar existing power structures that benefit them.

Excerpt from an interview on “Greater Boston Today with George Knight,” originally aired on Feb 16, 2023:

quotation markFor some people, particularly folks living in what we understand to be western democracies, they live in societies that preach equality but often practice the opposite. In order to function in a society like that, to some degree, you have to deny the reality that you see everyday. You have to deny the contradictions, because to face them honestly and courageously, for some people causes a lot of distress, a lot of unease, a certain degree of disorientation, to ask hard and difficult questions that many people don’t know how to deal with, including about themselves.

For some people, the pain of those contradictions is so great, that it’s easier to simply deny reality. They use racism denial as a kind of coping mechanism, or coping strategy. So you have a political strategy and you have a coping strategy [for why people practice racism denial].

You don’t have to be white to use that coping strategy. Many people who are directly affected by racism also to some degree try to find ways to cope with it and one way is to try and deny the extent of it, the depth of it, the power of it.”

Listen to the full interview.

Learn More About Prof. Copeland’s Research