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Perceiving Allies from the Perspective of Non-Dominant Group Members: Comparisons to Friends and Activists

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Abstract

Allies represent an understudied group with whom non-dominant group members may interact in intergroup situations. Allies share qualities with both intergroup friends and activists, but research on similarities and differences between allies and friends, or allies and activists, has not been conducted. The current study investigates how U.S. people of color perceive allies compared to intergroup friends and activists on interpersonal and intergroup behaviors. A sample of 160 people of color attending a small, predominantly White college in the Midwest provided data via an online survey. Participants were randomly assigned to a condition in which they responded to questions about a specific White individual whom they considered an ally, friend, or activist. Analysis of the data indicated that people of color: (1) perceived allies to be more interpersonally supportive than activists; (2) did not report any significant differences between allies and friends for either interpersonal or intergroup support; and (3) saw activists as displaying more formal, confrontational intergroup behaviors designed to effect social change than either allies or friends, but regarded activists and allies as equivalent in informal, non-confrontational intergroup support. The ways in which allies are similar to friends and different from activists are discussed.

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Notes

  1. Two participants self-reported their racial/ethnic background as White. Because the study focused on the perception of White allies by people of color, analyses did not include these individuals.

  2. Because Stimulating Companionship from the MFQ was not an interpersonal support characteristics that might be applicable to allies, friends, and activists, it was not used as a variable in this study.

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The author thanks Joan Ostrove and Hideko Sera for their helpful feedback in the preparation of this article.

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Correspondence to Kendrick T. Brown.

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Brown, K.T. Perceiving Allies from the Perspective of Non-Dominant Group Members: Comparisons to Friends and Activists. Curr Psychol 34, 713–722 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-014-9284-8

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