Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2014

Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


In the spring of 2013, a racially controversial incident occurred on the Washington University Campus. The incident raised questions about the racial tolerance of the university community as well as exactly who should be held responsible for the injustice. Most importantly, the community’s response to the incident exemplified how a community with the potential for substantial collective action can fail to mobilize and improve when they are called upon to do so. This paper examines recent psychological research that studies the existence of subconscious racial prejudices in order to examine its implications in community responses to racial injustices. Results show that the majority of people hold unconscious prejudiced attitudes and are unaware of it, and that these attitudes can lead to discriminatory behavior. This suggests that when a racial injustice occurs in a community, the perpetrators may have been influenced by implicit prejudices held by the communities to which they belong. While literature on structural injustice considers how communities are responsible for the actions of those within them, they are insufficient to deal with issues of race, as they do not account for human reactions to such a sensitive subject. The Community System of Responsibility is introduced as a system that assigns responsibility to community members in a way that is practical in its expectations of individuals and that motivates community progress. Rather than searching for others to accuse, individuals following the community system look inward at consequences of their own behavior and the behavior of the communities to which they belong.


English (en)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Clarissa Hayward

Advisor/Committee Chair's Department

Political Science