Combatting inequality requires understanding the systems that uphold it—systems that have disproportionately impacted Black Americans throughout history. In line with this year’s official Black History Month theme, resistance, we’ve compiled a list of work by Black scientists and thought leaders that cut against the grain of power within and beyond the behavioral sciences.
Each week of this year’s observance of Black History Month, we will highlight both scholarly and popular works in a key theme that helps us better understand the many contexts of Black life in America—contexts imperative to our organization’s work (and the work of our peers and partners) to combat inequality using behavioral science. These themes include anti-racism, unconscious bias, Black identity, and the racial wealth gap. We welcome you to join the conversation by tweeting at us, @ideas42, or sending an email to email@example.com if there are additional resources or ideas that the field of behavioral science and our fellow problem-solvers can use to reduce inequality and unconscious bias.
This body of work is focused on present-day research, but could not be possible without the leaders that came before. To learn more about historic Black figures in the behavioral sciences, click here.
“The Black Agenda brings together a group of brilliant thinkers offering bold solutions to combat many of the social problems facing Black people in the United States. This powerful collection is a must-read for anyone interested in turning anti-racist ideas into action.” —Keisha N. Blain, Co-Editor of #1 New York Times bestseller Four Hundred Souls
“Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.”
“More than a year after the murder of George Floyd and the national protests, debate and political promises that ensued, 65% of Black Americans say the increased national attention on racial inequality has not led to changes that improved their lives.1 And 44% say equality for Black people in the United States is not likely to be achieved, according to newly released findings from an October 2021 survey of Black Americans by Pew Research Center.”
“Racism is a system that manifests in norms, institutions, and policies. When economic analyses fail to account for these institutions, they perpetuate racist outcomes. Therefore, we must interrogate the assumptions often made in economic research and pedagogy that prevent economics from promoting anti-racist public agendas.”
“The discipline of psychological science has an opportunity to lead within the broader intellectual community by not only identifying and speaking about anti-racism, but also developing new scientific practices in meaningful ways, with accountability.”
With a perspective that is at once scientific, investigative, and informed by personal experience, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt offers us the language and courage we need to face one of the biggest and most troubling issues of our time. She exposes racial bias at all levels of society—in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and criminal justice system. Yet she also offers us tools to address it.
Claude M. Steele offers a vivid first-person account of the research that supports his groundbreaking conclusions on stereotypes and identity. He sheds new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities.
Racial discrimination is a ubiquitous experience for Black adolescents; it has been linked to poorer psychological outcomes including higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem. However, the mechanisms through which racial discrimination is associated with psychological well-being are still not well understood, particularly among Black early adolescents. The current study investigated two dimensions of racial discrimination: racial discrimination frequency (RDfreq) and racial discrimination stress (RDstress).
Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides.
In these twelve deeply personal, connected essays, Bernard details the experience of growing up black in the south with a family name inherited from a white man, surviving a random stabbing at a New Haven coffee shop, marrying a white man from the North and bringing him home to her family, adopting two children from Ethiopia, and living and teaching in a primarily white New England college town. Each of these essays sets out to discover a new way of talking about race and of telling the truth as the author has lived it.
“When asked how much what happens to blacks, whites, Hispanics and Asians in the United States affects their own lives, U.S. adults say that what happens to their own racial or ethnic group affects them the most. This is most pronounced among black adults: 44% in this group say that what happens to other blacks impacts their own lives a lot.”
“No matter where they are from, who they are, their economic circumstances or educational backgrounds, significant majorities of Black Americans say being Black is extremely or very important to how they think about themselves, with about three-quarters (76%) overall saying so.”
Race for Profit uncovers how exploitative real estate practices continued well after housing discrimination was banned. The same racist structures and individuals remained intact after redlining’s end, and close relationships between regulators and the industry created incentives to ignore improprieties.
“Important reading for those who want to understand how inequality is built into the bedrock of American society, and what a more equitable future might look like.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist
“We need a new compass—one that focuses on building power to change the rules, practices, and norms that are at the root of racial wealth inequality and that also expands wealth to include notions of dignity and freedom—to guide us out of this injustice. I outline a new way forward that calls for us to move beyond the goal of closing the racial wealth gap and concentrate on undoing its root causes.”
● What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap | Report by William Darity Jr., Darrick Hamilton, Anne Price, et al.
“We contend that the cause of the gap must be found in the structural characteristics of the American economy, heavily infused at every point with both an inheritance of racism and the ongoing authority of white supremacy. As a result, blacks cannot close the racial wealth gap by changing their individual behavior –i.e. by assuming more “personal responsibility” or acquiring the portfolio management insights associated with “financially literacy” – if the structural sources of racial inequality remain unchanged.”
“Research and public policy have traditionally focused on education and income as drivers of upward mobility. There is compelling evidence, however, that education alone does little to explain the source of different levels of economic well-being, especially across race.”
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