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Beyond Black: Exploring Racial Label Preferences of African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans in the United States

  • Author(s): Brock, Breanna Danielle
  • Advisor(s): Pirtle, Whitney
  • et al.

People of African descent living in the United States subscribe to a variety of racial self-identification labels. Given their historical and political meaning, ‘Black’ or ‘African American’ have been the two most common self-identification terms used by this population yet increasing immigration rates among people of African descent from the Caribbean have diversified the racial label preferences. Past research suggests age, gender, education, and region are factors that influence racial identification preferences for Black people in the United States. This study contributes by examining how experiences of discrimination and ethnicity/nativity impact racial self-labeling among people of African descent living in the United States. Analyzing the National Survey of American Life, I find that experiences with major forms of discrimination and nativity condition racial labeling preferences, and differently for those born in the US and those with ties to the Caribbean. Additionally, these findings indicate that age, household income, educational attainment and region significantly predict racial identification labels. This study encourages scholars to think critically about the racial labels they use to speak about African descendants living in the United States in order to more accurately disentangle intra-racial group differences relating to social mobility, racism, and racial inequality.

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