Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Linked Fate and Outgroup Perceptions: Blacks, Latinos, and the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Linked Fate and Outgroup Perceptions: Blacks, Latinos, and the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Article excerpt

Given the nation's growing racial and ethnic diversity, intergroup relations in the United States are inherently significant. Although an enormous amount has been written on this topic, most public opinion research has focused on whites and blacks, from studies of whites' prejudicial views of blacks to divisions on political, economic, and criminal justice issues (e.g., Bobo and Kluegel 1993; Kinder and Winter 2001; Kluegel and Smith 1986; Peffley and Hurwitz 2010). Studies clearly show that important drivers of contemporary attitudinal divisions include the continued disadvantaged status of many blacks and ongoing discrimination in employment, housing, and credit markets (Pager and Shepherd 2008).

It is not surprising, given the focus on dominant versus disadvantaged groups, that the predominant intellectual paradigm has emphasized conflict, sharing the view that "individuals identify with their own racial and ethnic groups, [and] that the competing interests of those groups generate intergroup conflict" (Sears et al. 2000, 22). The conflict paradigm would be both sensible and appropriate to the extent that U.S. politics is characterized by a white (and advantaged) majority and a black (and disadvantaged) minority. Yet, its singular focus on the disadvantaged-dominant dyad, by which we mean black-white interactions, today offers only a truncated view of intergroup relations. Today, whites are proportionately less dominant as a majority group than in the past, and blacks are no longer the largest minority group, due to increasing Asian and, especially, Latino populations.1

In this rapidly evolving multiracial/ethnic environment, it is essential to re-examine the utility of the predominant conflict model-a model developed, as noted, to explore relations between dominant and disadvantaged groups. And it is particularly essential to re-examine the conflict model when the focus shifts to relationships between members of disadvantaged groups, for example, between blacks and Latinos. Are such relationships characterized by conflict or, instead, is another paradigm more appropriate? At this point, the answer is uncertain.

This, we argue below, is unfortunate, and not merely because of the increasing prominence of disadvantaged groups in the United States. It is also unfortunate because there is no single theoretical explanation of, or prediction for, how such groups are likely to interrelate. Research in psychology highlights two different perspectives that lead to dramatically different predictions. According to the social identity threat perspective (e.g., Branscombe et al. 1999; Tajfel and Turner 1979), members of outgroups who perceive their group to be a target of discrimination often derogate, and remain unsympathetic toward, members of other outgroups-even when the other outgroup is not responsible for the perceived discrimination. The common ingroup identity model (e.g., Craig and Richeson 2012; Gaertner et al. 1993), however, predicts the opposite-that is, disadvantaged outgroup members respond more sympathetically and favorably toward other disadvantaged groups, largely because they have taken on a dual identity, as members of both their own group and a superordinate "disadvantaged minority" group.

In short, we presently do not know how members of disadvantaged groups are likely to perceive and evaluate one another. Here, we focus on this very question-that is, when two outgroups are disadvantaged relative to the dominant majority group, should we expect to find more in the way of mutual support and empathy between them or more in the way of mutual conflict and derogation? The literature, we will show, is split on this question. Our purpose, therefore, is to frame the question somewhat differently, and ask, "Are there circumstances in which groups recognize common disadvantages rather than competition and conflict?" If so, "What increases the probability that disadvantaged groups will do so?"

Based on theory and empirical findings, we will argue that perceived outgroup discrimination, or the awareness that the other group faces discrimination and unfair treatment, is more likely under two conditions. …

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