Scholarly article on topic 'Perceptions of Social Discrimination and Residential Segregation between North African Immigrants in Sicily and Black Citizens in Mississippi'

Perceptions of Social Discrimination and Residential Segregation between North African Immigrants in Sicily and Black Citizens in Mississippi Academic research paper on "Sociology"

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Abstract of research paper on Sociology, author of scientific article — Loretta Eterno, Orazio Licciardello, Arthur G. Cosby, Monica A. Rosas Gutierrez

Abstract Sicily and the State of Mississippi have similarities and differences; both have white and black people, but the latter are immigrants in Sicily and citizens in Mississippi. This paper aims to determine whether the perception of social and residential discrimination on the part of North-African immigrants living in Sicily and African Americans citizens of Mississippi (USA) is affected by: a) the specific contexts differently characterized in historical and socio-cultural terms, b) Self and Ingroup/Outgroup representations. The socio-cultural context in Sicily seems to be more functional to support social representation less characterized by social and residential discrimination.

Academic research paper on topic "Perceptions of Social Discrimination and Residential Segregation between North African Immigrants in Sicily and Black Citizens in Mississippi"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 127 (2014) 225 - 229

PSIWORLD 2013

Perceptions of social discrimination and residential segregation between North African immigrants in Sicily and black citizens in

Mississippi

Loretta Eternoa, Orazio Licciardelloa'*, Arthur G. Cosbyb, Monica A. Rosas Gutierrezb

aUniversity of Catania, Department of Educational Sciences, Via Biblioteca n.4, 95124, Catania _bMississippi State University, Social Science Research Center_

Abstract

Sicily and the State of Mississippi have similarities and differences; both have white and black people, but the latter are immigrants in Sicily and citizens in Mississippi. This paper aims to determine whether the perception of social and residential discrimination on the part of North-African immigrants living in Sicily and African Americans citizens of Mississippi (USA) is affected by: a) the specific contexts differently characterized in historical and socio-cultural terms, b) Self and Ingroup/Outgroup representations. The socio-cultural context in Sicily seems to be more functional to support social representation less characterized by social and residential discrimination.

©2014TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selectionandpeer-review under responsibility of Romanian Society of Applied Experimental Psychology. Keywords: black people, social discrimination; segregation;

1. Introduction

The macro forces of world population growth and globalization have resulted in new and important streams of migration between cultures and countries. This new migration phenomenon is a special interest in Sicily as new waves of North Africans arrive in the country. The North African immigration phenomenon in Sicily is marked by

* Corresponding author: cell. +39 3666630067; Fax +39 095 2508070 E-mail: o.licciardello@unict.it

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Romanian Society of Applied Experimental Psychology. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.245

both its number (35% of total immigrants) (Caritas, 2010) and the geographic proximity with the countries of origin. Significantly, there is a long history of culture and population interchange that spans centuries of interactions between the inhabitants of the island and the countries of the Mediterranean coast of North Africa.

In spite of the history of contact between Sicily and North Africa, this new migration stream, with its new wave of North Africans, creates challenges of reducing prejudice (Allport, 1954) even in a country historically characterized by the coexistence of people from different cultures and the appreciation for "cultural diversity" (Braudel, 1987).

Our study also benefits from the availability of social psychological data from research carried out in the state of Mississippi U.S.A. that are comparable in some ways to our data from Sicily. While both studies used essentially the same social psychological measuring instruments, there were important cultural and historical differences. The introduction of African Americans into Mississippi has had a very different history from contemporary North African immigration to Sicily. African American history in Mississippi has been marked by many transitions, from slavery to state sanctioned segregation, from segregation to equality under the law. Until the last decades of 20th century, African Americans on Mississippi suffered from the society that enforced racial segregation and oppression. However, problems of racial disparities in income, political participation, health, and housing continue as major issues challenging the state of Mississippi (Cosby et al., 2010).

In both realities, the possible phenomenon of social discrimination (Major et al, 2002) may be related to both specific socio-cultural context and ethnic residential segregation (for Italy, see, Interior Ministry, 2007). This, however, can be experienced by both North African immigrants to Sicily and African American citizens of Mississippi, as a possible area of inclusion and equality (Borjas, 1998) or, conversely, as one of exclusion and discrimination, the important conceptual distinction between the discriminated against outgroup and the more prestigious and powerful ingroup (Martiniello, 1997).

Psycho-social research literature, however, often emphasizes the complexity of the relationship between the individual, his environment and his social relationships.

According to Kurt Lewin, the environment, as "living space" of the subject, assumes "almost-physical", "almost-psychological" and "almost-mental" characteristics and his relationship with the environment can be summarized in the formula: C = f (PA) (Lewin, 1965, pp. 86-87, cited in Lewin, 1935). In this model, P covers all subjective experiences that affect the state of the person (past experiences, desires, hopes and concerns), while A (in addition to the physical environment), regards persons, objects and situations, be they arising, past and future, actual, probable or merely hypothetical, that have a positive or negative valence for the individual and which elicit feelings of attraction or repulsion.

The theory of social representations (Moscovici, 1961), however, emphasizes the active role of the same in our relationship with reality, given that they reflect social relationships while helping to build them (p.300), so that the adaptation to the system and the environment by individuals and groups is the counterpart of adaptation to individuals and groups from the system and the environment (Moscovici, 1981, p.14, cited in Moscovici, 1979). In similar fashion, Social Identity Theory (Tajfel, 1981) highlights the complexity of Ingroup /Outgroup relationships, characterized by the intricacies of identity processes and by the considerable range of Ingroup and Outgroup categorizations. The theory of contact, as proposed by Allport (1954), also points to conditions that may help to reduce prejudice when there are appropriate conditions (equal status, cooperative relationships, institutional support), without which the level of injury from prejudice may increase. Social psychological studies utilizing this approach are already been productive in research carried out in Sicily (Licciardello, Damigella & Eterno, 2010; Licciardello & Damigella, 2011), that indicate the complexity of relationships between social and ethnic groups (see: Brown, Licciardello & Capozza, 2007).

2. Methods

2.1. Objectives and hypotheses

The central hypothesis of this work is that North-African immigrants living in Sicily, perceive themselves as experiencing less prejudicial discrimination along both social and residential dimensions than African Americans living in Mississippi. Furthermore, North-African immigrants will be more likely to have a positive social

relationship representation characterized by more Ingroup/Outgroup openness. The rationale for this hypothesis is rooted in the different cultural histories of Sicily and Mississippi.

2.2. Participants

The research was carried out in 2010 with a group of African American students at a university in Mississippi and in 2011with a group of North African immigrants in Sicily. The sample for the Mississippi study included 93 students, (42 Males and 51 Females) and the sample for Sicily included 66 North Africans Immigrants (42 Males and 24 Females). The North African immigrant group was considered to have a medium to high level of education generally comparable to that of the American students.

2.3. Tools

Our interview instrument included a set of classic psycho-social research measurement scales that assess a wide range of dimensions associated with prejudice and its consequences: 1)A questionnaire for background questions; 2)A group of Likert-Scale items to measure: a) Perceptions of social discrimination between groups (Complete equality between North-African immigrants and Sicilians/African American and White People in Mississippi will never be achieved: range 1-5, indifference point= 3); b) Perceptions of social segregation (How would you describe the extent of racial integration in the location where you live in Sicily/Mississippi?: range 1-6, indifference point= 3.5); c) Perceptions of residential segregation (Subjects still undergo residential segregation because there is still a separation of colour in neighbourhoods: range 1-5, indifference point= 3); d) Perception of the need to establish positive Ingroup/Outgroup relationships (It is necessary for different ethnic/racial groups to have positive relationships in order to build a truly democratic society: range 1-5, indifference point=3); e) Perceptions of group segregation limiting group conflict (Ethnic/racial groups should stay to themselves in order to reduce conflicts in society: range 1-5, indifference point=3); 3) Three Semantic Differential scales to Self (As I am), Outgroup (White Sicilians/White Mississippians are...) and Ingroup representations (North-African Immigrants/Black Mississippians are ...), each consisting of 17 pairs of polar adjectives (range 1-7, indifference point= 4).

2.4. Data Analysis

First, we used the Cronbach's Alpha to verify if the three semantic differentials could be considered each as a Likert Scale (Self a= .673; Outgroup a= .696; Ingroup a= .80) (range 1-7, indifference point= 4).

The calculations were performed using SPSS 15 for Windows. The verification of the significance of differences between the two groups was performed by MANOVA, Student's t Test and the One Test.

3. Results

3.1. Differences between the two groups

The date analysis, carried out using Student's t Test, showed the following differences, between the two groups.

Both African Americans in Mississippi and North Africans in Sicily were asked to respond to the Likert statement that elicits their views about the possibility of complete equality between groups. This measure of social discrimination as an unchangeable status is significantly different between groups (t= 11.259, p< .0001). African American students in Mississippi were substantially more likely to believe that complete equality will never be achieved (X = 3.39, SD= 1.225, one-sample test: p= .003). An examination of the frequency distribution reveals that 50.5% either Agreed or Strongly Agreed that complete equality will never be achieved. On the other hand, the response pattern was much more different for the North Africans in Sicily, their responses indicated that relatively few believe that equality will never be achieved (X = 1.59, SD= .784). Referring to this group, an examination of the frequency distribution reveals that only 4.5% Strongly Agreed that equality will never be completely achieved.

A similar pattern of differences was observed for perceptions about current residential segregation. Most of the African American students (67.7%) believed that residential segregation based on colour still exists in Mississippi neighbourhoods. The pattern was very strong, only 11.9% Disagreed that residential segregation existed and 20.4% gave Neutral responses. These responses were sharply different from the responses of the North Africans in Sicily: 36,6% Disagreed or Strongly Disagreed that residential segregation existed and 30.3% gave Neutral responses. The differences between the African Americans in Mississippi and North Africans in Sicily were clearly statistically significant (t= 5.499, p< .0001). Also, mean levels were lower for North African immigrants (X = 2.95, SD= .919), with a score that overlaps the "indifference point" (=3) and substantially felt, on the other hand, by the U.S. sample (X = 3.78, SD= .965), whose score is significantly higher than the indifference point (p< .0001). The North-Africans immigrants living in Sicily, also compared to the African Americans in Mississippi, showed a better representation (Manova, F= 11.954, p< .001) both of Ingroup (Black People) (X = 4.97 vs. 4.32, F= 25.036, p=<.0001), and Outgroup (X = 4.65 vs. 4.40, F= 4.53, p= .035). The better representation showed by the North Africans of the Ingroup and also of the Outroup seems to confirm a better socio-cultural climate characterizing the Sicily context.

3.2. Similarities between the two groups

There were also important similarities between the perceptions of the two groups. Both North African immigrants and Mississippi African American student had similar levels of perceived social (racial) segregation. They also had similar beliefs about the importance of positive relationships between ethnic and racial groups to achieve a democratic society. They were also similar in the rejection of the view that ethnic and racial groups perceptions that should stay separated to avoid social conflicts. The following are the statistical outcomes that reveal these similarities:

• a)in social racial segregation perception, essentially rejected by a score (Sicily: X = 2.58, SD= .842 vs. MS: X = 2.74, SD= 1.277), that for both groups, falls significantly (one-sample test: p< .0001) below the indifference point (= 3.5);

• b)in relation to the idea, widely adopted, that different ethnic/racial groups must have positive relationships to build a truly democratic society "(Sicily: X= 4.45, SD = .587; MS: X = 4.43, SD= .666);

• c)and (consequently) with regard to the idea, absolutely rejected, that ethnic groups should stay separated to avoid social conflicts (Sicily: X = 1.94, SD= .857 vs. MS: X = 1.56, SD= .890).

4. Discussion

The data indicates statistically appreciable differences between the two groups: both social discrimination perception, as an unchangeable status, and residential segregation are more significantly felt by the black citizens of Mississippi than North African people living in Sicily as immigrants. On the contrary, this last group showed a better social representation than the Mississippians, both of Ingroup and Outgroup.

Conversely to the above data, the two groups appreciate the idea that different ethnic/racial groups must have positive relationships in order to build a truly democratic society and rejected the hypothesis that they should stay separated to avoid social conflicts and the perception of social- racial segregation.

5. Conclusions

This research provides insights into the social psychological perceptions of two sub-groups who are experiencing ethnic and racial discrimination in two widely different cultural and historical settings. The experiences of African Americans in Mississippi and North African immigrants in Sicily are very different. Their social psychological responses to discrimination reveal similarities and differences worth investigating. The similarities were remarkable giving the sharp differences and backgrounds, both African Americans in Mississippi and North Africans and in Sicily held similar perspectives on approaches to improving their status.

These similarities in social psychological response to discrimination even when cultural and historical differences are so great, clearly points to the value of the social psychology of discrimination as powerful theoretical orientation for not only understanding discrimination but also its elimination.

The results of this research points to the importance of the relationship between the social psychological and the historical/cultural. The general data showed a positive social representation concerning the existence of social and residential segregation, as well as the social ethnical/racial separation, rejected by the two groups, and the need for positive intergroup relationships to build a truly democratic society.

Comparing the two groups, the research results seem to confirm the hypotheses. Social cultural context characteristics, the specific history that constitutes the background and the humus are relevant to determine both residential and social discrimination perception, as well as the Ingroup ad the Outgroup representations. The positive representation showed by the North Africans of both Ingroup and Outroup, while leading to confirm the positive socio-cultural climate characterizing the Sicily context, seems to support the Dual Identity theory proposed by Gaertner & Dovidio (2000), for which people maintain both the salience of original Identity and the new superordinate common Identity, as a way to reduce the prejudice and to realize a functional convivence.

In this sense, the socio-cultural context in Sicily seems to be more functional to support social representation less characterized by social and residential discrimination.

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