Efrén O. PérezNov 11, 2021
People of Color and the Politics of Identity
University of Chicago Press 2021
Political Scientist Efrén Pérez’s new book, Diversity's Child: People of Color and the Politics of Identity (U Chicago Press, 2021), explores the term and category “people of color” and how this grouping has been used within politics, but also how it is has been used by those who are classified as people of color. Pérez examines group identity, language and public opinion, and implicit cognition to explain how marginalization of non-white groups can form a collective group identity that is interchangeable for the individual. Diversity’s Child fills in a rather substantial gap in research about racial and ethnic identity in the United States by surveying people of color about how they think and feel about racial disparities that impact them as well as other groups that are often categorized as people of color. Part of what Pérez finds in the multi-method approach is that politics can be seen as a solution to the inequality that many of those within this broad umbrella category experience and understand. Pérez’s training and research in both political science and political psychology allows him to bring together these connected social science threads and frameworks in exploring the understanding of broad group identity as well as intergroup identity.
Diversity’s Child: People of Color and the Politics of identity both conceptualizes and analyzes the identity of people of color by developing meaningful measurements and using Social Identity Theory to examine connections to differing identities. Pérez’s work also thinks through the evolving demographic shifts in the United States, exploring the projection that white Americans will become the minority population by 2050, and what the political ramifications are for the new majority minority. Although the term “people of color” has been used to identify Black, Latino, and other races for some time, Pérez research examines how these groups that are often pulled together under this common identity actually share in this broader category, and whether there are commonalities and concerns across ethnic, racial, and national identities. He does this by gathering data through opinion surveys, experiments, content analysis of newspapers and congressional archives, and in-depth interviews. Pérez’s research indicates that a person’s “color” identity exists and can be measured, and that identifying as a person of color shapes how minorities view themselves and their position within the political system. Diversity’s Child introduces a new perspective into the ongoing conversation about shifting political demographics, and elaborates on how the people of color identity has the capacity to mobilize groups and shape American politics. Pérez’s research also indicates how and where this umbrella category can essentially come undone—how the unifying qualities can be undermined by intergroup antagonisms. As he notes in our discussion, the research that highlights the capacity to bring together African Americans, LatinX Americans, and Asian Americans under the title of “people of color” also has within it the fissures and factions that can disconnect these groups from each other and from shared political pursuits.
Shaina Boldt assisted with this podcast.
Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012), as well as co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015). Email her comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to @gorenlj.