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African-American Political Psychology

New volume sheds light on how race impacts political behavior

Posted: December 8, 2010

Aided by an upsurge in experimental methodologies, political scientists are increasingly able to explain how psychology impacts the political world. However, this field of study has developed under largely untested presumptions that political psychology is race-blind. For example, in articles published in the journal “Political Psychology” from 1979-2006, only nine percent touched on some aspect of race.

“African-American Political Psychology: Identity, Opinion, and Action in the Post-Civil Rights Era,” a new volume edited by Tasha Philpot, associate professor of Government, and Ismail White, assistant professor of Political Science at The Ohio State University, begins correcting this oversight. Defining African-American political psychology as the study of how the distinctive experiences of African Americans in the United States have shaped the way Blacks think about politics and how that, in turn, impacts their political behavior, the editors argue that a central feature of how Black’s view and respond to the political world is based on experiences and perceptions of racism that have their origins in slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and more subtle forms of racism and segregation in contemporary America.

The book therefore explores how political context – and specifically U.S. race relations – interacts with universal theories of political psychology. The editors’ explain that the political, social, and economic factors which have limited the life chances of African Americans in the United States have led to Blacks developing group-centered identities and ideologies which are used as resources for navigating the political world, and that resulting from the tenuous position of most Blacks in American society, racial considerations figure heavily in how a majority of African Americans see the world.

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