2012 Ralph Bunche Award

The Ralph J. Bunche Award is given for the best book published in the U.S. during the previous calendar year that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism.

Award Committee: Matt Berreto, University of Washington; Pei-te Lien, University of California, Santa Barbara; and Melissa J. Marschall, Rice University

Recipient: Charlton D. McIlwain, New York University and Stephen M. Caliendo, North Central College

Title: Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns (Temple University Press)

Citation: In Race Appeal McIlwain and Caliendo examine the use and influence of race-based appeals by black and white candidates in American elections. The authors employ an impressive array of data and methods, including the Kanter Political Commercial Archives, content analysis, experiments, newspaper ads and case studies to analyze not only how candidates use language and visual imagery to construct race-based appeals, but also how these appeals affect both black and white voters. In addition to finding that whites and blacks continue to respond very differently to race-based messages and the candidates who use them, the authors present evidence throughout the book demonstrating persistent racial animosity and resentment throughout the American political system. Despite these pessimistic findings, the authors offer a way forward. Referencing research on latent racial attitudes (e.g., implicit associations), which finds subconscious predispositions about people of color to be widespread, the authors argue that meaningful progress on race relations and racial equality can be made if Americans eschew their defensiveness about their own racial biases and prejudices and focus on addressing the systemic roots of racial injustice.  Race Appeal is not only a groundbreaking work that represents the most extensive and thorough treatment of race-based appeals in American political campaigns to date, but also an outstanding example of multi-disciplinary work that integrates research and theory across the fields of communication and political science.

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