American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Ismail White, “Selling Out?: The Politics of Navigating Conflicts Between Racial Group Interest and Self-Interest”
“Selling Out?: The Politics of Navigating Conflicts Between Racial Group Interest and Self-Interest”
Guest speaker: Ismail White, Associate Professor of Political Science, George Washington University
Abstract: Departing from accounts of minority group politics that focus on group identity’s role in forwarding group members’ common interests, we investigate political decisions involving tradeoffs between group interests and simple self-interest. Using the case of black Americans, we investigate the political tools of crystallized group norms about politics, internalized beliefs about group solidarity, and mechanisms for enforcing both through social pressure. Through a series of novel behavioral experiments that offer black subjects individual incentives to defect from the position most favored by black Americans as a group, we test the effects of social pressure to conform. We find that racialized social pressure and internalized beliefs in group solidarity are constraining, and depress self-interested behavior. Our results speak to a common conflict – choosing between maximizing group interests and self-interest – and yet also offer specific insight into how blacks remain so homogeneous in partisan politics despite their growing ideological and economic variation.
Ismail White studies American politics with a focus on African American politics, public opinion, and political participation. Professor White’s research agenda focuses on two distinct, but inter-related areas. The first centers on understanding the role that groups play in citizens’ political attitudes and behaviors. Within this area he leverages the exceptionality of the case of black Americans to redefine how we think group-based politics work. His second area of study engages the tools of causal inference, endeavoring to improve the measurement, design, and analytic strategies used to study central questions of mass political behavior. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Black Studies and Race and Social Problems.