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My dissertation is concerned with socialization in American Politics and the role of group threat in Black Americans’ political behavior. In it, I analyze both quantitative and qualitative data to examine the forms of threat that instigate political action among young Black Americans between the ages of 18 and 35. Through survey experiments and questionnaires, I find that young Black Americans are more likely to express concerns about threat than non-Black groups. Additionally, when considering the role of gender, Black women are most like to express concerns regarding sexual and state-based threat when compared to other groups. Through my in-depth interviews, I show that young Black people find themselves situated in dual position of threat, where they are simultaneously threatened by outsiders and also seen as threatening by outsiders. This ubiquitousness of threat results in innovative forms of coping strategies which include repression and respectability. For some young Black people, these intersecting forms of threat also induce anxiety about political participation and efficacy. Existing threat literature has been primarily concerned with threat insofar as it impacts political attitudes among white Americans. Comparatively, my dissertation fills the gap in the existing threat literature while also analyzing the after effects of group threat for non-white groups. I ask: how do young Black Americans respond to group threat? This question and project are significant because a) gentrification in major cities across the country puts racially-segregated groups in close proximity to one another, b) policing in the United States remains a critical concern facing Black Americans, and c) mass migrations of Black Americans westward and, recently, southward suggest that racial threats may influence residency choices in the aggregate. The opening chapter of the project is dedicated to grounding the dissertation in the core approach and guiding the reader through the chapters that will follow. The first empirical chapter, “Seeing Risk: Measuring Disparities in Young People’s Beliefs about Economic, Proximity-based, and Stereotype Threat,” relies on national survey questionnaires with approximately 1,850 respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 that are disseminated virtually and via telephone. This chapter investigates respondent attitudes regarding economic, proximity-based, and stereotype threat. I also performed a survey-based experiment which tested responses to threats against differing racial groups. From these analyses, I find that Black Americans are more likely to perceive threats than other groups. Moreover, Black women are more likely, even when compared to Black men, to exhibit responses to group threat. In the second empirical chapter, “Speaking Truth to Power: Navigating Group Threat, Socialization, and Activating Black Communities,” I performed 50 in-depth interviews to draw deeper conclusions about the direct responses young Black Americans have to threat. Through these interviews, I found that young Black women were primarily concerned with sexual and police (state-based) threat while men were primarily concerned with economic and stereotype threat. In terms of response and political engagement, Black women were more likely to report engagement in direct protest or other forms of resistance against the status quo. Conversely, men were less likely to directly engage in open rebuke of the state. In final empirical chapter, “Gendering Threat: Young People’s Perceptions of the Seriousness of Police Killings of Black Americans,” I examine both survey and interview data to understand how race and gender influence opinions regarding the seriousness of police killings of Black Americans. Using two-sample t tests and ordered logistic regressions, I find that women respondents across all racial groups are more likely than their male counterparts to see police killings of Black Americans as a serious issue. My interview analyses show that young Black Americans express anxiety and fear regarding potential police interactions. These concerns about potential state-based threats vary across gender and act as a form of socialization thus affecting how young Black Americans navigate their daily lives. This project is significant because it seeks to show that threat may be experienced in different and significant ways across race, gender, and sexuality. It also shows that Black Americans’ political actions and behaviors can be explained by a number of factors including intergenerational socialization practices and efforts to avert threats they experience in their everyday lives.


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