A new study published by researchers at Cornell University finds that the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States in 2008 had a profound impact of African American college students’ perceptions of racial identity.
The researchers interviewed more than 300 African American undergraduates before and after the 2008 election. The authors examined the importance of race to a person’s self-concept, whether or not the subjects felt good about being part of their racial group, and on how they perceived their racial group is regarded by the society at large. The results showed that African American students expressed an increased sense of racial identity in all three subject areas after the election.
“Obama’s election triggered deep explorations or ‘encounter experiences’ in which these African-Americans were challenged to think through the importance and positive value that can be associated with being black,” said Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and co-author of the study. “One main message here is that important race-relevant social or political events can shift the way individuals think about their race as well as their perception of how others view their race.”
The paper was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.