Research

Work in Progress

Colorblind Attitudes and White Shame: Barriers to White Student Engagement in Social Work Critical Race Praxis (with Javier Garcia-Perez, Maggie Gross, and Laura Abrams)

[Article manuscript in progress] What are the cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns of white Masters of Social Work (MSW) students in response to racial issues? We analyzed 121 white respondents from a cross-sectional survey of California MSW students conducted in May 2018.  Statistical techniques, including Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression, were used to analyze the relationships between anti-racist behaviors and racial cognitive and affective responses.  Data indicated that colorblind attitudes and white shame, after controlling for other factors, were significantly correlated with fewer anti-racist behaviors.  Empathy was significantly related to more anti-racist behaviors after accounting for other variables.  These results provide evidence that while cognitive understandings of racism influence anti-racist behaviors, affective responses also impact behaviors.  Even when white students cognitively understand racism as a problem, white shame may serve as a barrier to effective critical race praxis in social work settingsThis study’s results implicate social work education to develop group-differentiated approaches to engaging MSW students about the emotional responses they have to racial issues.  A cognitive-only focus on increasing knowledge about race, racism, and racial equity may be inadequate to prepare white MSW students to engage in social work critical race praxis.

Understanding Liberal Carceral Attitudes: The Roles of Racial Discourse and Emotional Attachments in Constructing Boundaries of Belonging

[Article manuscript in progress] Why do predominantly liberal urban areas – which have lower levels of racial resentment and greater support for racial equity policies than the broader U.S. polity – reproduce support for the carceral state?  This study examines the political and racial attitudes of registered voters in predominantly white Los Angeles County neighborhoods within the context of Reform LA Jails – a March 2020 ballot initiative that seeks to: 1) decrease the number of people incarcerated in the County Jail by investing in community resources, and 2) strengthen accountability for Sheriff’s Department misconduct.  Based on 50 in-depth canvassing interviews from June 2018 to September 2019, this study shows that a combination of political ideology, understandings of racism, and emotional object attachments inform the ways in which voters construct the boundaries of belonging – and thus develop carceral policy opinions.  Spanning across political ideologies are dominant emotions of fear, pity, apathy, or sympathy, alongside varied discourses on racism.  Having a loved one who has been incarcerated was often related to emotions of empathy or pain and predict policy support; given that these relationships were most often absent among white and Asian voters or lacked emotional weight, this study shows that the racialization processes of the carceral state create the attitudes and policy opinions responsible for its reproduction.

Changing Dominant Carceral Attitudes: A Community Organizing Field Experiment (with David Broockman and Joshua Kalla)

[Experimental design in progress] To what extent does a deep canvass intervention change racial and carceral attitudes and increase support for a decarceration policy? Do these attitudinal changes lead to changes in voting behavior? Will changes persist for at least 3 months? To examine these questions, we are planning a randomized, controlled field experiment of a deep canvass organizing intervention to change attitudes in the context of a ballot initiative Los Angeles County voters will be deciding on in March 2020, Reform LA Jails. This initiative asks voters to halt expansion of the jail system and instead work towards a decarceration strategy by investing those funds into community resources. Additionally, the policy gives subpeona power to the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission so the department can be held accountable for allegations of abuse and neglect.

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