The Effect of Racial Group Consciousness on the Political Participation of African Americans and Black Ethnics in Miami-Dade County, Florida

Article excerpt

Abstract

This research examines group consciousness among people of African descent in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and its possible impact on their political participation. Using an original survey of over one thousand respondents, the authors question whether African Americans and black ethnics (Africans, Afro-Caribbean Americans, Afro-Cuban Americans, and Haitians) possess a shared group consciousness and, if so, why. Second, does group consciousness or socioeconomic status most influence the political participation of our respondents? The authors find that these groups have a common consciousness because of their skin color, experiences with discrimination, common interests, similar ideological views, and leadership preferences. They also find that while group consciousness has more of an impact on African American political participation, socioeconomic status more heavily influences black ethnics. Last, factors such as age, gender, partisanship, religion, and second-generation citizenship also affect African American and/or black ethnic political participation.

Keywords

group consciousness, black political participation, race and ethnicity

Our research examines the group consciousness of people of black African descent in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and its possible impact on their political participation. We define group consciousness according to three elements: (1) a common group identification as blacks, (2) a belief that their group is disadvantaged, and (3) an abiding commitment to African American and black ethnic coalitions. This consciousness influences them to engage in political activities that are beneficial to the group as a whole and to them as individuals (Dawson 1994). A small body of black group consciousness research has examined its impact through the usage of a few in-depth interviews (Watters 1999; Rogers 2006; Woldemikael 1989a; Zephir 2004). Using an original survey of over one thousand respondents, we question whether a common group consciousness exists among African Americans and groups that we hereinafter refer to as black ethnics.1 We then analyze its possible impact on their political participation. Our research adds to the few studies of black group consciousness in the United States by assessing its existence among African Americans and other groups of black African descent.

Our inquiry is twofold. First, do African Americans and black ethnics possess a shared racial group consciousness and, if so, why? Second, does group consciousness or socioeconomic status most influence the political participation of our respondents? We wish to examine these questions without falling prey to "overextrapolation"- erroneously concluding that the group consciousness characteristics of African Americans also apply to black ethnics (McClain et al. 2009, 471). We begin with an overview of the literature assessing the group consciousness levels among blacks, then provide an explanation of the relationship between racial group consciousness and political participation. We end with a summary of our findings and explanation of our research's significance.

Racial Group Consciousness among People of African Descent

We base our assumption that our black respondents possess a shared racial group consciousness on the minority group thesis, which argues that certain commonalities result in a shared racial group identification and consciousness among people of African descent.2 The model also assumes that the similar experiences of immigrant, native-born, and naturalized persons of African descent with discrimination will result in a common racial consciousness and eventually the development of political coalitions (Henry and Munoz 1991; Jennings 1997). According to the model, race is such a powerful force that it unites culturally diverse black groups.

Critics of the minority group model argue that it erroneously assumes racial solidarity among people of African descent without acknowledging their differences. …