OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Understandings of Race, Discrimination and Inequality in the Obama Era


With the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States of America, many pundits and social commentators believed America had entered a post-racial society. Such a proclamation assumes that racial discrimination was no longer the source of the inequalities in jobs, income and housing experienced by African Americans. Given that the president was black, many believed that racial discrimination was a thing of the past, and any inequalities between groups should be explained by individual inadequacies or deficiencies. Sociologists have long combated such individual level explanations and instead, promulgate more structural and institutional levels of explanation that highlight systematic and institutional racism and institutionalized practices and policies that disproportionately disadvantage African Americans. My research aims to assess how Americans explained inequalities in jobs, housing and income between African Americans and white Americans and the extent to which they believed in individual level explanations that emphasize individual inadequacies compared to more structural and institutional explanations that emphasize discrimination. Additionally, I address what factors help predict who is more likely to hold individualist explanations about inequality and who is more likely to hold structural and institutional level views on inequality. Using data from the 2012 General Social Survey, which is a nationally representative sample of non-institutionalized adult Americans, I found that non-whites, people with low levels of income, and noncollege graduates are more likely to understand race and discrimination in America.

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