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African American Studies: Political Socialization


Political socialization is a lifetime process whereby people develop political beliefs and opinions that ultimately shape their behavior and approach towards all issues of politics. Essentially, Gordon and Gordon (2015) refer to political socialization as a dual process because a person first forms his or her political ideas and later on develops political values through the influence of socialization agents such as family, school, peers, and the mainstream media. Thus, the dual process of political socialization can be defined as the acquisition of political views from a combined overview of self and others (Gordon & Gordon, 2015)

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The family is the primary transmitter or agent of political socialization because it is the first point of interaction with the outside world for children. Although a child may develop his or her own political views when he/she grows up, the political views of the family may alter or strengthen the child’s stand on politics (Gordon & Gordon, 2015). Despite this, Gordon and Gordon (2015) argue that insights obtained from the school, opinions of peers, and reports made by mainstream media all have a critical role to play in political socialization. Indeed, the agents of socialization function in various ways in the African American setting.

First, the family and peer groups work by influencing an individual from a personal point of view. Institutional agents such as schools and mass media function by giving individual data, facts, and evidence that can be validated to make them subscribe to a certain ideology. It is important to note that these institutional agents are at times do not influence the individual directly but rather give options for the individual to consider based on certain institutional biases.

Experts admit that it is impossible to distinguish between socialization and culture as the two concepts are related. Culture refers to the values, beliefs, and activities that exist within a group of people (Ogbar, 2019). On the other hand, socialization is defined as the process through which people acquire the characteristic behavior and beliefs of their social settings (Ogbar, 2019).

Therefore, while considering how social agents function in the African American community, Ogbar (2019) contends that it is imperative to link the culture and socialization processes of the group under study. Extant research outcomes show that African Americans get socialized through two different processes. The first process is deliberate socialization where the family (mainly parents) purposely inculcate their beliefs and values in the training of their children. The second way is through enculturation, where people naturally acquire the values and beliefs of their cultural origin without any kind of training (Ogbar, 2019).

There is no doubt that racism and racial discrimination are emotive issues in the United States. Many scholars argue that of all the minority groups in the country African Americans are often the main victims of racial prejudices that can be traced back to the time of the Civil War (Lipset, 2017). Many African Americans today are aligned with the left-wing of the political divide since many activists against racial discrimination such as Martin Luther King Jr. were Democrats. Sociologists and political pundits contend that this political alignment is influenced by the belief that the party cares about the welfare of the group.

Liberalism, conservatism, and nationalism are common terms in American politics. Americans associate themselves with any of the three terms depending on their individual and group beliefs and values (Lipset, 2017). Liberalism is a social and political philosophy that purports that all people should be treated equally. African American liberals have always felt that people of African descent, most of who are low-income earners, are not treated fairly in the US. As such, they advocate for the equal implementation of the Bill of Rights irrespective of skin color or ethnicity.

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Black conservatives, on the other hand, believe that members of the black race are more disadvantaged than the privileged Caucasians who seem to be the most successful Americans. The group has been described as agents of racism compared to their Liberal counterparts (Ogbar, 2019). As the name suggests, conservatives are hesitant to legalize values that conflict with both nature and known tradition as compared to the liberals (Ogbar, 2019).

It is important to note that the two terms also differ from the term nationalism in respect to African American studies. Nationalism refers to the protection of the “black culture” as a way of avoiding being integrated into the “white culture” (Ogbar, 2019). Whereas liberals agree that one culture would unite all races, nationalists depict that the loss of the African American culture is more detrimental than racism (Ogbar, 2019). Those in this school of thought believe that any integration with other cultures would be racist.

Liberalism is arguably the dominant ideology among members of the African American community. Again, studies link this distinction of ideas to political socialism (Gordon & Gordon, 2015). The fight for equality under the law gave rise to liberalism in the United States. Such rights were appreciated by civil rights movements that were opposed to racial discrimination. Today, the Democratic Party is considered to be the party of liberals because it supports both economic and social liberalism (Gordon & Gordon, 2015). This explains why most African Americans subscribe to the ideologies of the Democratic Party.


As highlighted earlier, the media plays an important role in propagating political socialism. The black media has been a powerful socialization agent. Through various strategies such as providing a platform for ideologists to discuss some of the things that affect the black community, the black media has fostered group consciousness and solidarity. Additionally, it has been used as a vehicle of protest in the black community. One can argue that the black media is responsible for ensuring all African Americans incorporate their political ideologies with those held by the majority of the members. In doing so, the media tends to remind the group members that the tough journey of racial discrimination they have had to travel since the inception of the country (Gordon & Gordon, 2015).


Gordon, L. R., & Gordon, J. A. (2015). Not only the master’s tools: African American studies in theory and practice. London: Routledge.

Lipset, S. (2017). Revolution and counterrevolution: Change and persistence in social structures. London: Routledge.

Ogbar, J. O. (2019). Black power: Radical politics and African American identity. Baltimore, ML: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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