Despite its advocacy for justice and accountability in the American political system, the Movement for Black Lives is still considered controversial among groups of Americans. The in-your-face and unapologetic tone of today’s movement stands in contrast to romanticized narratives of the peaceful, nonviolent activism of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The movement’s titular organization, Black Lives Matter, openly rejects respectability politics—the notion that individuals and groups must conform to the expectations of white mainstream norms to protect themselves from the harms of white racism and discrimination. In this article, we examine whether generational politics affect Black attitudes toward protest movements, focusing especially on the Black Lives Matter organization. We expect that protest politics are affected by generations of Black Americans who have been socialized in different eras of social and political advocacy with differing views about the actions that are acceptable for Black politics. Consistent with prior literature, we anticipate that generational differences in attitudes toward contestation, varying awareness about the political and social goals of new movements, differences in access to political information, and overall generational socialization toward respectability politics will all affect the degree to which Black Americans support the Movement for Black Lives. Using national-level data from the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey (CMPS), we find that prior theories of generational politics do not fully explain support for Black Lives Matter. Unexpectedly, we find that older generations of Black Americans are more supportive of the movement than younger generations of Black Americans. We do not find strong evidence of generational effects interacting with awareness of the movement, political opportunity structures, or respectability politics, which suggests the diminishing effects of generational differences along with traditional factors that influence support. Our results underscore the need for research on generational effects to consider the context of political socialization, which varies across generations.
Black Generational Politics and the Black Lives Matter Movement: How Political Opportunity Structures and Respectability Politics Affect Movement Support
This paper was made possible by a grant from the American Political Science Association (APSA) Edward Artinian Fund for Publishing and from insights gained at the 2018 Collaborative Writing and Publishing Workshop in Black Politics, using the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey.
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Marcus Board, Amber Spry, Shayla C. Nunnally, Valeria Sinclair-Chapman; Black Generational Politics and the Black Lives Matter Movement: How Political Opportunity Structures and Respectability Politics Affect Movement Support. National Review of Black Politics 20 November 2020; 1 (4): 452–473. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nrbp.2020.1.4.452
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