Platt MB. Surprisingly Normal: Recognition of Black Issues by Non-Black Members of Congress. 2008.
Abstract:Debates in the race and representation literature have been focused on whether race matters for the substantive representation of black interests. However, this debate has overlooked the basic reality that the vast majority of black issue legislation is sponsored by non-black members of Congress. I introduce a problem-solving framework to analyze sponsorship of black issue legislation from 1948 to 1997. The results show that black issue recognition has changed over time, but ideology, institutional position, and district composition are the core determinants of member decisions to recognize black issues. Rather than relying upon the outsider pressure of protest or the insider influence of descriptive black representation, black Americans can expand the scope of conflict by simply electing white liberal representatives. Contrary to expectations of the exceptional quality of black agenda setting, in post-war America black politics is surprisingly normal.