Study: Blacks in multiracial congregations have racial attitudes resembling whites

Stephon Johnson | 8/27/2015, 6:12 p.m.
A new study from Baylor University concluded that the racial attitudes of Blacks in multiracial church congregations resemble those of ...
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A new study from Baylor University concluded that the racial attitudes of Blacks in multiracial church congregations resemble those of whites.

Titled “United by Faith? Race/Ethnicity, Congregational Diversity, and Explanations of Racial Inequality,” the study, conducted by researchers at Baylor University, the University of Chicago and the University of California, raises questions about multiracial congregations’ potential to address racial inequality. The study was published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

Focusing on the socioeconomic differences between Blacks and whites in the United States, researchers wrote, “We find little evidence that

multiracial congregations promote

progressive racial views among attendees of any race or ethnicity. Views of minorities in multiracial con-gregations contrast to those generally held by religiously affiliated Blacks and Hispanics.”

According to the researchers, previous studies showed that Black and Hispanics believed that discrimination was the cause for Black disadvantages, whereas whites believed that personal motivation was the cause for Blacks’ current societal position. But among multiracial congregations, explanations for why inequality existed among the races started to resemble the perspective of whites across all groups.

Researchers involved with the report analyzed “nationally representative” data from General Social Surveys and National Congregations Studies. Those surveyed included 1,485 respondents from more than 100 denominations from all major religious traditions.

Although more of America’s faith communities are becoming racially and ethnically mixed, the dominant white racial frames may go unchallenged. That dominance potentially influences minority attendees to embrace those attitudes, or multiracial congregations may attract minorities more likely to accept the attitudes in the first place.

“Whose interests are multiracial con-gregations serving?” asked researcher Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences, in a statement. “We want to believe that they promote a shared, integrated identity for all. But the truth may be that many are advancing a form of Anglo-conformity instead.”

“The ongoing racial desegregation taking place in America’s congregations has many costs,” added lead author Ryon Cobbs, Ph.D., a National Institute on Aging postdoctoral fellow at USC Davis School of Gerontology, in a statement. “For Blacks and Hispanics, affiliation with racially diverse congregations costs them a perspective on racial inequality that is distinct from their white counterparts within and outside their racially diverse congregation.”

Researchers are still trying to figure out why the size of a congregation also affects attitudes as well. A previous study found that large congregations don’t tend to attribute social divisions and economic gaps between Blacks and whites to factors other than discrimination or lack of quality education.