“You’re One of Us”: Black Americans’ Use of Hypodescent and Its Association With Egalitarianism

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Abstract

Research on multiracial categorization has focused on majority group social perceivers (i.e., White Americans), demonstrating that they (a) typically categorize Black–White multiracials according to a rule of hypodescent, associating them more with their lower status parent group than their higher status parent group, and (b) do so at least in part to preserve the hierarchical status quo. The current work examines whether members of an ethnic minority group, Black Americans, also associate Black–White multiracials more with their minority versus majority parent group and if so, why. The first 2 studies (1A and 1B) directly compared Black and White Americans, and found that although both Blacks and Whites categorized Black–White multiracials as more Black than White, Whites’ use of hypodescent was associated with intergroup antiegalitarianism, whereas Blacks’ use of hypodescent was associated with intergroup egalitarianism. Studies 2–3 reveal that egalitarian Blacks use hypodescent in part because they perceive that Black–White biracials face discrimination and consequently feel a sense of linked fate with them. This research establishes that the use of hypodescent extends to minority as well as majority perceivers but also shows that the beliefs associated with the use of hypodescent differ as a function of perceiver social status. In doing so, we broaden the social scientific understanding of hypodescent, showing how it can be an inclusionary rather than exclusionary phenomenon.

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