Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 279–297 | Cite as

African Americans and Trayvon Martin: Black Racial Identity Profiles and Emotional Responding

  • Sha’Kema M. BlackmonEmail author
  • Anita Jones Thomas


Public opinion polls suggest that many African Americans viewed the death of Trayvon Martin as a race-related event (Gabbidon and Jordan 2013; Pew Research Center 2013). This exploratory online investigation examined African Americans’ general reactions to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin as well as the link between Black racial identity cluster profiles and race-related stress reactions (i.e., anger and sense of safety). Participants had a range of reactions, including questioning whether the shooting was racially motivated as well as self-reporting anger and sadness. Three Black racial identity profile groups were identified. Profile group 1 consisted of individuals with each of the different Black racial identity attitude types being below the mean (i.e., undifferentiated). Group 2 consisted of individuals with lower levels of centrality and nationalist ideologies with all other racial identity types being above the mean (i.e., integrationist). Finally, group 3 consisted of individuals with a positive African American identity as indicated by greater levels of centrality, private regard, and nationalist ideology (i.e., race focused). Only their public regard, assimilationist and humanist ideology attitudes fell below the mean. Further analysis indicated that individuals with a race focused Black racial identity cluster profile specifically self-reported higher levels of anger and were more likely to indicate feeling unsafe after learning about Trayvon Martin’s death.


African Americans Trayvon Martin Racism-related stress Black racial identity Emotional reactions Vicarious racism 



We would like to thank Dr. Helen Neville for providing feedback on previous versions of thismanuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This manuscript was not funded by any organization and has met all the expected ethical guidelines, including institutional review board approval. Informed consent was obtained from all participants.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationIndiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.School of Psychological SciencesUniversity of IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA

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