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Changing white attitutes towards black leadership by Zoltan L. Hajnal

By Zoltan L. Hajnal

Regardless of the hopes of the civil rights move, researchers have chanced on that the election of African american citizens to place of work has no longer tremendously more desirable the health of the black neighborhood. by way of moving the point of interest to the white neighborhood, this publication indicates that black illustration may have a profound impression. using nationwide public opinion surveys, information on balloting styles in huge American towns, and in-depth reviews of la and Chicago, Zoltan Hajnal demonstrates that below such a lot black mayors there's actual, optimistic swap within the white vote and within the racial attitudes of white citizens. this alteration happens simply because black incumbency offers concrete details that disproves the fears and expectancies of many white citizens. those findings not just spotlight the significance of black illustration; additionally they show the serious position that info can play in racial politics to the purpose the place black illustration can profoundly modify white perspectives and white votes.

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There are, of course, some limitations to the analysis. Although I am able to measure the white vote and white views at key points before, during, and after the transition from white to black leadership, I offer less in the way of direct evidence of the specific information that whites residents have about black leaders. Exactly what is it that white residents do or do not know about local black leadership at different points in time? Strictly speaking, this kind of evidence is not required to test the information model but this kind of data might help to give us a more detailed understanding of the learning process.

As Sidanius and his co-authors note in their outline of social dominance theory, there is “a very general and basic human desire to perceive one’s group as superior to and possessing greater social status than the generalized other” (Sidanius, Pena, and Sawyer 2001: 380). To the extent that this is true, having African Americans in positions of leadership poses a real threat to whites. When blacks attain positions of power over the white community, the pre-existing racial order is turned upside down, regardless of what black leaders do in office.

If the city falls apart, the mayor is likely to be the first one blamed (Holli and Green 1989; Stokes 1993). And as we will see, the typical white-black contest sparks extraordinary attention from the electorate. For white Americans who care about race, then, the election of a black mayor is an important step worth paying attention to. 8 More sophisticated voters may learn specifics about the policies and actions of black leaders and acquire data on the economic and social well-being of the black and white communities at different points in time, but such detailed information is far from necessary for an individual white resident to update his or her 6 7 8 Page and Shapiro remark that “it is undeniable that most Americans are, at best, fuzzy about the details of government structure and policy” (1992: 13).

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