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When Wayne State University political science doctoral student Jim O’Donnell considers how political and social opinion among white Americans has changed radically in the past few years, he doesn’t need to consult reams of research or sociological study pores.

Sometimes, O’Donnell said, it’s as simple as a trip to a local arms store.

“I was at a gun shop in Macomb County on Saturday after the presidential election in 2020, and it was alarming,” recalls O’Donnell, Ph.D. The candidate has also taught at Wayne State. “It’s one of the best places to listen to such apologies that a lot of white people. There are also African American people in the rifle shop, but they aren’t arguing about all this Second Amendment stuff. White people in this room think that they will only be protect themselves and protect themselves from some threats, but many are afraid, afraid of anyone who is not like them, immigrants, people who do not speak the language. ”

Over the past few years, O’Donnell, 55, has become familiar with that apology, with bizarre and dishonest reasons, and the potential that racial fears should undermine American democracy. As part of his graduate study work, in fact, O’Donnell has devoted himself to examining the relationship between white identity and improving efforts, such as draconian voter ban laws in Georgia and other states, making it harder for non-whites to vote. .

Earlier this year, O’Donnell gave an outstanding presentation of his work, titled “Support for Voter Restrictions: White Identity as a Factor,” as part of a Graduate School symposium and is now looking at ways to see how his research and findings. can be utilized before the upcoming elections this November to aid voting rights.

“I wanted to see how white identity issues could be worked around,” she explains. “How do activist groups – groups such as Fair Fight that work to mobilize voters – deal with this ban?”

Citing scholars such as University of Chicago political science professor Michael Dawson and Duke University political science professor Ashley Jardina, O’Donnell said that studies that support his work alone show that the idea of ​​racial identification among certain voice blocks is unusual – but the level of hostility generated by a variety of groups are.

“There is some solidarity among people who do not identify as African Americans but see themselves as Black, such as Caribbean people, people in the African diaspora and so on. “Suggests O’Donnell, who also credits WSU political science professor Ronald Brown, an expert researcher on race and religion, to help build him. Work. which is more ‘out of the group’.

“And this is not such an extreme version of white supremacy, white nationalism. This is garden stuff, and you see in policy. Like, why are some policies, like welfare, racialized while other policies, such as social security, are not racialized? “It’s a perception of what whites think. White people are the ones who pursue policy.”

O’Donnell says that curiosity about the issue was triggered by the surprising results in the 2016 presidential election, which was won by Donald Trump after a campaign that often racialized – and, for many, directly racist – appeals to white conservatives.

“He accompanies this group of white voters who really haven’t been activated by the Republican Party for the most part,” O’Donnell said. “I want to know what’s going on behind some of that. I want to study the issue of activation of white racial anger.

When he entered the political science program at WSU in 2019, O’Donnell saw an opportunity to study. Then Trump’s further losses to Joe Biden in 2020, the former president and supporters wrongly blamed on claims that there was essentially voter fraud, led to a raft of voter repression bills from conservative state legislatures throughout.

“We are seeing an increase in efforts to resist vote expansion on the part of many Republicans who hold elected office,” O’Donnell said. “Further also attempts to restrict votes, to attack people from the registry list, to change where they are located. All this stuff makes it more difficult to access. And I think that would be appropriate because existing research shows ethnocentrism and apathy or distrust of groups’ out. ‘, especially among whites on certain policy issues. So why isn’t it played out here? And how does white identity play out? “

O’Donnell says that racist voter repression efforts increase the burden of groups that work to serve voters in communities of color, forcing them to divert valuable resources to fight bans and restore civil rights: “I see that as essentially a polling tax. this, that labor and money were to be assigned to make people choose rather than use others.

O’Donnell said political leaders in many urban and suburban areas face similar challenges in deciding how to allocate resources that have been limited to fight voter oppression: “How will election officials deal with that? Because election officials generally in African American jurisdictions must exist. the game because of the investigation that these members of Congress and people of this Trump type have installed.

A former school board official in Ferndale nearly a decade ago, O’Donnell said that he first found the racist apology that inspired his work.

“Ferndale is the first northern school district where the Department of Justice sued because of the separation,” he said. “Ferndale has established separate schools since the ’20s. Now they don’t speak the language explicitly, as they do in the south, but they do something else. One of the things that I think has happened in Ferndale is sustained efforts, since the’ 70s, when the new school board [whose slate included his uncle, Frank O’Donnell] came in to promote racial justice.

“I was elected to the Ferndale school board in 2012. And from the beginning, we explicitly set out a racial equity policy and broke down the systemic part of the school district. We had magnetic schools that were 80 percent white in school districts that were overall 60 percent black. One of the first things was we need to implement as part of our plan is to change that.There is a big fight.The lost people are called friends over it.We are not losing the registry because of that.Some people left, yes, but fewer people than before, in the old system.Now, people -People wonder about what’s bothered – but that’s when the issues of race and compassion become most real to me.

And that experience, he thinks, is part of what drives him to examine the existing issues of white identity and voter rights and, more importantly, what drives his desire for justice and fairness at the ballot box.

“That’s not a component of my research, but I wonder how you reduce (voter oppression)? What are activists doing to take action against this fence that is being tried by people metaphorically around the ballot box?” He asked. “If we were going to have it. Classical liberal democracy – where you have the right and you exercise voting to express your views and elect your representatives, permission to your government to pass your vote – then everyone should have access to that. And understanding why some people want to limit voice is an important part of that.

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