The Salience of Race Versus Socioeconomic Status Among African American Voters

Kennedy, Theresa

Michael Dawson’s Behind the Mule, published in 1994, examines the group dynamics and identity of African Americans in politics.1 Dawson gives blacks a collective consciousness rooted in a history of slavery and subsequent economic and social subjugation, and further argues that African Americans function as a unit because of their unique shared past.2 Dawson uses data from the 1988 National Black Election Panel Survey to analyze linked fate— the belief that what happens to others in a person’s racial group affects them as individual members of the racial group—and group consciousness among blacks in the political sphere, and then examines the effects of black group identity on voter choice and political leanings.
Dawson’s work is pertinent today in the years of the first African-American president, and even more so as African Americans become wealthier and more integrated into white America.4 Integration has bearings on the black group: group ties may become weaker, specifically in the political realm. As African Americans enter into the middle and upper classes, do they still identify with roots in slavery, segregation, and economic suppression? Are these roots abandoned for newly elevated class ties? Will most presentday African Americans side with the candidate who looks like them, but doesn’t necessarily protect their personal economic interests?


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The Journal of Politics and Society

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Academic Units
Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
Published Here
April 26, 2016