Willingness to Engage in Collective Action After the Police Killing of an Unarmed Black Man: Differential Pathways for Black and White Individuals

Am J Community Psychol. 2022 Sep;70(1-2):153-165. doi: 10.1002/ajcp.12587. Epub 2022 Feb 15.


This cross-sectional survey study examined the underlying psychosocial constructs of Black (n = 163) and White (n = 246) university students' willingness to endorse racially motivated collective action. Consistent with the defensive motivation system model, we expected the police shooting of an unarmed Black American to activate concerns about personal safety, thereby eliciting negative affect, lack of forgiveness of the perpetrator, and motivation to engage in collective action. This path model was expected for both Black and White participants, with stronger associations among Black participants. In the full model, Black participants identified more with the victim and indicated greater personal threat, which led to (1) more negative affect and greater endorsement of collective action and (2) greater avoidance of the shooter and greater endorsement of collective action. In the Black participants model, collective action was explained by identifying with the victim and feeling personally threatened. In the White participants model, collective action was explained by three pathways stemming from identifying with the victim and personal threat, including negative affect, seeking avoidance, and seeking revenge. The results indicate different mechanisms to explain Black and White individuals' motivation to endorse collective action to prevent police-involved shootings of unarmed Black Americans.

Keywords: collective action; defensive motivational system (DMS); multigroup invariance testing; path analysis; police violence; race.

MeSH terms

  • Black People*
  • Black or African American
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Police* / psychology