How Members of Majority and Victimized Groups Respond to Government Redress for Historical Harms
Blatz, Craig Wayne
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Scholars speculate that government apologies and compensation for historical injustices promote forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as psychologically benefit members of the victimized group. However, they have not offered theory or compelling evidence in support of these assumptions, nor do they discuss how redress affects the majority group. Across four studies, I examined how Chinese and non-Chinese Canadians psychologically responded to offers of apologies and compensation for the Chinese Head Tax. Overall, it was better to give than receive the redress. When participants thought redress had not been offered, non-Chinese Canadians evaluated it less favorably than Chinese Canadians. But, when participants thought redress had been offered, non-Chinese Canadians evaluated it more favorably than Chinese Canadians did, confirming the predictions of balance and system justification theory. An offer of apology and compensation for the Chinese Head Tax did not influence Chinese Canadian participants’ forgiveness or reconciliation feelings. The redress offer also did not lead Chinese Canadians to feel more identified with Canadians or Chinese Canadians, nor did it lead Chinese Canadians to evaluate Chinese Canadians more positively. On the other hand, the majority group, non-Chinese Canadians, evaluated their group more positively and considered the system of government less responsible for the harm when both an apology and compensation were offered, as justice motivation and social identity theories predict. The current results inform interdisciplinary discussions of the potential effects of apologies and compensation by suggesting additional psychological effects of redress. They also demonstrate that, despite concerns that the majority will backlash against their government giving apologies and compensation, majority group members increased their favor of redress measures once they were offered.