The convergence of sports and celebrity can have a powerful influence on everyday politics, especially for groups underrepresented in mainstream American society. This article examines the relationship between race, celebrity, and social movements, specifically Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police violence and whether his activism mobilizes black Americans to political action. Using the 2017 Black Voter Project (BVP) Pilot Study, we explore African American political engagement in the 2016 election, a time devoid of President Obama as a mobilizing figure. We find African Americans who strongly approve of Kaepernick’s protest engage in politics at elevated rates, even after accounting for alternative explanations. Moreover, approval for Kaepernick also moderates other forces rooted in group identity, such as identification with the Black Lives Matter movement. In the end, Kaepernick and the protest movement he leads offers a powerful mobilizing force for African Americans.
Of Suspicious Minds: Race, Scandal, and the DC Mayoralty
Local government in America has had a long and storied tradition of corruption, and Black mayors have often been prosecutorial targets in the federal dragnets. Yet, the scholarly attention to public corruption has had very limited examinations of the racial politics of political scandals in local government. The extent and persistence of corruption and other ethical transgressions in American cities raise several important questions. For example, are there racial differences in how voters hold mayors accountable for alleged misconduct when the voter and accused elected official is of their same race? This article examines whether Black voters adjust their practice of making moral judgments about elected officials or political ethics when the officials accused of impropriety are also Black. Using survey data collected by the Washington Post, which followed two mayoral scandals in Washington, DC, I demonstrate important racial differences in how residents responded to scandals surrounding the drug arrest of Marion Barry and the corruption case against Vincent Gray.