Winning Proposal to the Garth Taylor Fellowship Fund: 2017 Competition

Project Title: Black, but Not Like Me: When Political Solidarity Breaks Down Among Black Americans

Faculty Sponsor: Vince Hutchings

Graduate Student: Hakeem Jefferson

Project Description

My dissertation explores the conditions under which individuals are likely to abandon pro-group tendencies. More precisely, it attempts to provide a greater understanding of why significant segments of the Black community readily support punitive crime policies that disparately impact people of color and why others oppose redistributive policies perceived to benefit the most economically disadvantaged among them. Bridging literatures from political science and social psychology, I argue that solidarity among marginalized group members is threatened when those who are perceived to benefit or are targeted by a policy or a political action pose a threat to the social image of the group. These more stigmatized group members, I argue, are punished by some within the group for violating social norms and confirming negative stereotypes that threaten the image of the group and, by extension, the self-concept of individual group members. The claim I make in the dissertation is a provocative one. It expects that—in at least some cases—those most in need of group solidarity will be the least likely to receive it. Moreover, under some conditions, the most vulnerable members of these stigmatized groups can expect to face the harsh judgment of both outgroup members and in-group members who desire only that others recognize that not all group members are created equally. Given the group-centric nature of our politics and the important role of solidarity in the face of de jure and de facto inequality, the implications of this theory are numerous and wide-ranging.