Perceptions of People Referred to as “Black” Compared to “African American”

Hall_ErikaA new study led by Erika V. Hall, an assistant professor at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, finds that people identified as “Black” are viewed more negatively than individuals referred to as “African American.”

Participants in the study were given a profile of a man from Chicago. All attributes were the same except that in some cases the man was referred to as “Black” and in others the man was called an “African American.” Survey subjects were asked to estimate the man’s salary, educational background, and professional standing.

The man who was identified as Black was estimated to have a salary that averaged $29,000. The man called African American was estimated to have a salary that averaged $37,000. The man identified as Black was estimated to have lower educational credentials and professional status than the man identified as African American.

Dr. Hall is a graduate of the University of Maryland. She joined the Emory University faculty in 2014 after completing her Ph.D. in management and organizations at Northwestern University.

The study, “A Rose by Any Other Name? The Consequences of Subtyping ‘African American’ and ‘Black,'” was published on the website of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. It may be accessed here.

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  1. Dr. Hall, with all due respect, you can not possibly consider your disjointed and borderline recapitulation type study as pure scholarship and research. This study has numerous flaws because you failed incorporate the role that individual, institutional and systemic White racism plays in this fiscal conundrum. I disagree with your basic premise because I know lots of degree holding Blacks(Ph.D., MD, JD, MBA, etc.) who proudly identify themselves as ‘Black” due to the level of “Black consciousness”. Further, for those who self-identify as ‘African-American”, maybe more palatable to their White, Latino, and Asian peers, until a particular issue occurs at the workplace or school. Then, such persons as immediately disparately treated as if they identified themselves as “Black”.

    If you really wanted to examine an issue within higher education, I would suggest that you conduct a comparative analysis study amongst Black men/women and the type of position they compared to: 1) Political affiliation, 2) Group affiliation(so-called Black fraternity, sorority, boule, PHFAM, etc.), 3) Visually detected melanin composition, 4) Their ideological framework (Black centered, apolitical/ahistorical, or ‘post-racial’), and 5) If they conduct themselves in a manner that outside of the scope of their specific gender(i.e., Black men acting effeminate or Black women acting masculine).

    In the final analysis, your study does not pass the intellectual “smell test” because it places the onus on the victim(native born Blacks) and not the criminal (the White established order).

    • Well said. I agree as one who self-identifies as Black and lays claim to the particular socioreligious experiences of black women in America.

    • “DITTO!” Whatever, “I LOVE BEING BLACK!!!!!!!!!!!” James Brown said it best ‘Say it LOUD, I’m BLACK and I’m PROUD!” – Tracey Jones, MS, BS, ATA, AAS…PROUD BLACK FEMALE with 4 college degrees, a 13-year business, and I’m also married to a PROUD BLACK MAN/MALE. BLACK lives MATTER, just like Black Entertainment TV! I’m so tired of the words African-American I don’t know what to do! My family history was traced back to Trinidad, okay???

  2. Dr. Hall
    I find this a weak argument because not enough research was done into the different connotations of black that have sprung up in history. The way that the term was used in terms of identity represented a multitude of people. A diverse people ranging from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. In order to create a divisive system from this multitude several terms were created (colored, Negro, and finally African-American). Another study was performed in which white people were told that by 2050 they would become a minority. The responses were very negative. Also in order to maintain the false illusion of supremacy the term African–American denotes a people that is only centered in America, not relating to our ancestors all over the world (see the middle passage).

  3. Dr. Hall,
    I find this interesting. Thank you for doing this study. Like Michael mentioned, I would love to see a comparative analysis study about Black men ideological framework (Black centered, apolitical/ahistorical, or ‘post-racial’).

    That would be interesting.

  4. while i tend to agree with the posts prior to mine, i feel that JBHE may have done dr. hall a disservice in their ‘synopsis’ of the study. i have not read the study, but based on this article alone, it does seem specious. i’m hoping that ‘black intelligentsia’ in the united states is not advocating a pathological form of racial categorization/identification such as what currently exists throughout brazil.

  5. This is a psychological study that tests specific hypothesis; it’s more than well-done. The criticisms by Michael and Ashley above are superfluous–and have a more humanist and qualitative approach, which is fine–to the research itself. This paper is important because it speaks to the simple ways in which discrimination occurs (e.g., when no image is available and when bios are being read). Congrats to Asst. Prof. Hall.

    • Re: David;

      It appears that you totally misinterpreted my comments. I was not challenging validity of Dr. Hall’s research study because it solidifies the notion that racism still is alive and well in America. Further, my comments were not “criticisms” as you gallantly described. ere questions. It’s amazing how if one does not follow the group think mindset or politically correct crowd, people (particularly in academia and politicians) are so inclined to become irritated. If my memory serves correct, scholarship can endure any type of intellectual interrogation.

      Native born Black scholars must have the Chutzpah to examine and publicly discuss the impact of “racism and White supremacy” (not “discrimination”). Yes, it will make others feel uncomfortable because of their complicity in this system. Keep in mind, this will also include numerous because of their neoliberal, liberal, conservative, and ultraconservative ideology framework in which such persons feel they’re “exceptional”.

  6. Hmm: “I disagree with your basic premise because I know lots of degree holding Blacks(Ph.D., MD, JD, MBA, etc.) who proudly identify themselves as ‘Black” due to the level of “Black consciousness”.

    Conversely, others might not know “those degree holding Blacks.”

    Thanks, Dr. Hall, for the conversation; you got folks talking–and that is the intent.

  7. Ms. Hall,
    Could another “study” be premised as the opposite of your study’s question… or a study question with the labels “White” and “European-American” substituted for “Black” and “African-American?”
    (Participants in YOUR study were given a profile of a man from Chicago. All attributes were the same except that in some cases the man was referred to as “Black” and in others the man was called an “African American.” Survey subjects were asked to estimate the man’s salary, educational background, and professional standing.)
    Ms. Hall, as a living American who had the pleasure of marching on the right-hand side Martin Luther King (Jesse Jackson & Stokely Carmichael) for about 30 minutes during the first day of the resumed “March Against Fear” in June 1966 on US Hwy 51 about 20 miles south of Memphis, I interchangeably refer to myself as both “African-American and Black. Here is a fact that you may find very interesting: referencing an American Negro or Colored Person as “Black” prior to 1968 was considered to be extremely offensive in the South. Prior to 1968, the only sub-groups using the term Black were the Black Muslims and the Black Panthers and both were regarded as “activist sub groups” that were “more radical” than the “radical Martin Luther King.”
    The sub-group classification of “Black” was a revolutionary reaction of the then legal racially discriminated American Negroes’ identity search that wanted to replace all of the existing sub-group denigrating names derived from “white people” or the “slave master.” The American Negroes (or Americans of African descent whose ancestry included slavery) were searching for a “name” that would allow them to “proudly” appreciate their racial traits and history in America as “Americans of African descent.” Then, in early 1968, the American soul singing sensation, James Brown produced a hit labeled “Say It Loud, I Am Black and I Am Proud!” This was the origins of the sub-group label “Black.” Then, as the outward expressions of the sub-group’s identity emerged and numerous economic titles and opportunities begin surface… 1st Black to do this or that, others sought a more pro-active self-name that was associated with geography, culture and achievement or “African-American,” and conversely, WE referred to WHITES as “European-Americans.”
    Please recall, the origins of racial labels “Colored (Black) and White” started with the racial slavery of the Northern and Western African continent inhabitants during the late middle ages or modern history with the European “explorers” who were most often from Portugal or Spain.
    I will depart my comments with a conundrum for you… America’s most powerful American is President Barack Obama, an American of African descent who is an “honorary Black”… his mother was European-American and his father was African-American (Eastern Africa and no slavery ancestry). BTW… a man from Chicago!
    So why do you suppose America’s Whites mostly resent being referred to as European-Americans…?

    • White folks was singing “Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud” too! When did we go from being Black to African-American??? Why do White folks copy Black folks w/bootie pops, tanning, lip injections, dating/marrying the brothas/sistahs, etc.?

  8. Fascinating. It is different when a THIRD PARTY or a FORMAL MEDIA – refers to a person as “Black”. It sounds slightly disrespectful. And the perseption regarding salary may be accurate because it indicates an “old-school”, or older individual whose expenses and salary were and are more modest.

    • I LOVE BEING BLACK AND BEING CALLED BLACK!! I feel disrespected when I get called African-American! Why? Because no one ever got MY PERMISSION to call me African-American. When someone is African-American doesn’t that mean BLACK?? BLACK folks in the United States should investigate their history. We are not all from Africa. So investigate your history before you claim a tired title that White folks gave to you, just like all the other lies? I thought BLACK foks were smarter than that? (Well, I guess most of us have turned African-American)

      -Tracey Jones, MS, BS, ATA, AAS

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