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"Some of My Best Friends Are Black...": Interracial Friendship and Whites' Racial Attitudes

Mary R. Jackman and Marie Crane
The Public Opinion Quarterly
Vol. 50, No. 4 (Winter, 1986), pp. 459-486
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2748753
Page Count: 28
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"Some of My Best Friends Are Black...": Interracial Friendship and Whites' Racial Attitudes
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Abstract

We examine the major tenets and assumptions of the well-known contact theory of prejudice, and we compare them with the more cynical reasoning implied by the infamous "Some of my best friends are black, but..." expression. After assessing the extant evidence for the contact theory, we use a unique set of national survey data to address the central postulates of that theory. We examine the racial beliefs, feelings, social dispositions, and policy views of whites who have contact with blacks as friends, acquaintances, or neighbors. Our results suggest that personal interracial contact is selective in its effects on whites'racial attitudes, that intimacy is less important than variety of contacts, and that any effects are contingent on the relative socioeconomic status of black contacts. On the basis of our analysis, we reassess the contact theory and propose a more political conception of the attitudes of dominant groups toward subordinates. We argue that the message contained in the relationship between personal contact with subordinates and intergroup attitudes is less benign than is suggested by the contact theory.

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