A number of studies have shown that white people’s attitudes towards affirmative action are largely negative and ambivalent. This ambivalent opposition to affirmative action has been explained in terms of a commitment to equality and sympathy for the plight of many poor black people, on the one hand, but lingering racial prejudice, intergroup competition and ideological conservatism on the other hand. This study sought to address the paucity of research on black attitudes to affirmative action to determine the nature and range of black attitudes. Since the main explanations of white opposition to affirmative action (anti-black prejudice and intergroup competition) do not apply in the case of blacks, a second aim of this study was to identify factors that could account for opposition to affirmative action among black people. Eight openended interviews were conducted with black academics employed at a historically white university in South Africa. Interviewees spoke about affirmative action in general as well as the role that it had played in their own careers. The results revealed high levels of tension and conflict in the talk about affirmative action, which we characterise as ambivalent support. The prime reason for opposition to affirmative action was the stigma associated with being a (potential) beneficiary of the policy.


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pp. 112-139
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