Abstract: The Intergroup Dynamics between Resettled Refugees and African Americans in Two Urban Neighborhoods: Qualitative Insights for Solidarity (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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The Intergroup Dynamics between Resettled Refugees and African Americans in Two Urban Neighborhoods: Qualitative Insights for Solidarity

Friday, January 13, 2023
Ahwatukee B, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Wonhyung Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Lindsey Disney, PhD, LCSW, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Background and Purpose: Recently arrived refugees in the United States often resettle in the low-income neighborhoods that are predominantly American-born Black communities. While the two communities often share similar neighborhood boundaries and environments, the intergroup relationship has been understudied. In response to the Black Lives Matter and anti-racist movements, the research team aimed to understand how refugees and non-refugee black locals perceive race in these neighborhoods, what their shared and distinct experiences are, when they get together, and whether they have any suggestions for strengthening the solidarity across diverse racial and cultural groups.

Methods: This study used mixed methods of census data analysis and in-depth interviews in two sites, Albany, New York and Clarkston, Georgia. Census data were analyzed at a census tract level to understand how the racial composition has changed in the neighborhoods in which refugees have actively resettled. In-depth interviews were conducted with community leaders and members who could speak to the intergroup dynamics in the neighborhoods. Study participants were recruited using horizontal sampling. A total of 30 interviewees participated between January and June, 2021, comprising approximately 57% immigrant and/or refugees and 37% self-identified as Black or ethnic minorities. The interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using a thematic approach.

Results: The census analysis confirmed that refugees are exposed to racial and cultural diversity and share neighborhood boundaries with American-born Blacks when resettled. In terms of shared experiences, both the refugee and African American communities pointed out that they suffer from disadvantaged neighborhood environments that are characterized by low-quality housing and schools as well as crime issues. Both groups also viewed systemic oppression and discrimination as a common denominator. On the other hand, each group shared some differing experiences with the police and the type of poverty that they deal with. It is very rare to see that these two communities come together although the participants shared several concrete suggestions to promote solidarity between the two communities.

Implications: In the effort to continue to build solidarity toward the anti-racist movement, it will be critical to understand the intergroup dynamics among socioeconomically marginalized communities. Particularly, recently resettled refugees and African Americans can form allies in advocating for the better quality of life in the neighborhoods they reside. The challenges they face demand further research and advocacy in social work for building trust and distributing resources more inclusively and collaboratively across the two groups.