Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Black Psychology 2016, Vol. 42(2) 103–113 DOI: 10.1177/0095798414557276


Copyright © 2016 Ellie Shockley, Ashley Wynn, and Leslie Ashburn-Nardo. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


What explains variability in African Americans’ sociopolitical attitudes? System justification theory implicates both high- and low-status groups in the maintenance of the socioeconomic and political system, postulating that individuals are motivated to justify the system. Self-interest offers a simple explanation for system justification among high-status groups. However, system justification among African Americans is less well-understood. Using a socioeconomically diverse sample of 275 Black undergraduates, including traditional as well as older students, the current survey and quantitative analyses further understanding of attitudes toward the system and institutions by linking attitudes with Black identity. Findings revealed that highly identifying as Black negatively predicted system justification but not if one rejects a Black nationalist ideology. Endorsing an assimilation ideology positively predicted system justification. An oppressed minority ideology did not predict system justification but positively predicted trust across institutions (police and local and national government). Finally, the Black nationalist ideology negatively predicted trust in police. These findings reveal the utility of a multidimensional model of Black identity in shedding light on attitudes toward the system and institutions.