Brown, T. N. & Lesane-Brown, C. L. (2006). Race socialization messages across historical time. Social Psychology Quarterly, 69, 201 – 213.
The study proposes that what children are told is a function of their parents’ appraisals of the racial climate during which their children are coming of age; are certain messages about being Black more likely to be transmitted from parents to children during particular historical periods? The study is based on the life course perspective because it describes how individual lives are shaped by social change.
Racial socialization responses were coded into 5 categories. Individual pride messages emphasized hard work, individual achievement, and personal character development in spite of racism. Racial group pride messages emphasized black unity, positive feelings about one’s racial group, and teachings about blackness. Messages emphasizing self-subordination made up the category of deference to and fear of whites. Color-blind messages emphasized equality among all racial groups. “Whites are prejudiced” messages emphasized recognition of racial inequalities and ways to deal with whites.
Three historical periods were focused on. Pre-Brown v. Board of Education (roughly before 1957): blatant segregation of the races, racial terrorism, economic exclusion, and “Whites Only” signs. Protest period (shortly after Brown v. Board of Education): civil rights movement. Post-protest age: increasing economic opportunities for large segments of the black community, integration of predominantly white spaces and thus more interracial contact, the emergence and isolation of an urban black underclass, and the institutionalization of covert racial discrimination. Racial attitudes were also examined.
Racial socialization messages differed by birth cohort. People born during the pre-Brown v. Board of Education period were less likely to receive individual pride messages and more likely to receive deference to and fear of whites messages and color blind messages. Individuals born during the post-protest period were more likely to receive individual pride messages, racial group pride messages, or no messages and less likely to receive messages emphasizing deference to and fear of whites and color-blind messages. Attitudes about voting for Black candidates and explanations for why Blacks do not get a good education or good jobs were linked to messages received.