But a new study of 212 black college students made available to Secrets found little open-mindedness: Blacks don’t like it when other blacks associate with whites, to the point of refusing help to an African-American experiencing “a run of bad luck” — just because they have white friends.The study in the April edition of the authoritative journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found the so-called “black code” alive and kicking, prompting blacks far more than whites to frown on one of their own if they associate with the other race.“Having cross-race friends made black [examples] seem ‘less black,’” wrote two psychology scholars in their study of students at an unnamed historically black college. “However, having cross-race friends did not necessarily make white [examples] seem ‘more black.’”Authors Leslie Ashburn-Nardo of Indiana University-Purdue University Indiana and James D. Johnson of the University of the South Pacific said the findings could undermine efforts by blacks to push into the corporate world if they are concerned about how their African American friends perceive them. The reason: “Their success will inevitably involve close associations with whites.”They wrote: “Blacks sometimes strategically imply that they have connections to whites in an effort to increase their probability of success in the corporate world. Doing so may be a means of distancing themselves from negative group stereotypes or perhaps a ‘disarming mechanism’ to enhance their acceptability in the eyes of white employers or colleagues. Regardless of motive, such strategic out-group alignment may put blacks at risk for identity denial from fellow in-group members.”The study tested the “black code,” in which “relationships with whites must be kept at arm’s length maintaining a silent us against them mindset. Blacks who appear too friendly and comfortable around whites are viewed with suspicion; their blackness in question.”It looked at how the 1,200 black college students perceived racial identity of blacks with white friends, and also their empathy for blacks facing hardship who have white friends.
The present experiment examined identity denial and reduced empathy for in-group (vs. out-group) targets as a function of the racial composition of their social networks. Black participants rated in-group (Black) targets as more weakly racially identified and expressed less empathy for in-group targets with cross-race close friends versus same-race close friends or no friends. Furthermore, the effect of social network composition on empathy was mediated by perceived racial identity. These findings were limited to the in-group target. Although the out-group (White) target was rated as more weakly identified when shown with cross-race close friends versus same-race close friends or no friends, neither social network composition nor perceived racial identity predicted empathy for the out-group target. These findings extend previous research on identity denial and suggest that, for Blacks, closely associating with Whites undermines the usually robust pattern of in-group empathy.