Research on African Americans covers many important areas, only a few of which will be discussed here: theories of white-black relations; the enslavement of African Americans; the development of an antiblack ideology; the creation of white wealth with black labor; the idea of whiteness; racial discrimination today; and possibilities for social change.


Explanatory theories of U.S. racial relations can be roughly classified into order-deficit theories and power-conflict theories. Order-deficit theories accent the gradual inclusion and assimilation of an outgroup such as African Americans into the dominant society and emphasize the barriers to progress that lie within the outgroup. Power-conflict theories, in contrast, emphasize past and present structural barriers preventing the full integration of African Americans into the society’s institutions, such as the huge power and resource imbalance between white and black Americans.

They also raise larger questions about the society’s historically racist foundations. Milton Gordon (1964) is an order-deficit scholar who distinguishes several types of initial encounters between racial and ethnic groups and an array of subsequent assimilation outcomes ranging from acculturation to intermarriage. In his view the trend of immigrant adaptation in the United States has been in the direction of substantial conformity—of immigrants giving up much of their heritage for the Anglo-Protestant core culture.

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