The politics of allyship: Multiethnic coalitions and mass attitudes toward protest

Devorah Manekin, Tamar Mitts, Yael Zeira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent work finds that nonviolent resistance by ethnic minorities is perceived as more violent and requiring more policing than identical resistance by ethnic majorities, reducing its impact and effectiveness. We ask whether allies-advantaged group participants in disadvantaged group movements-can mitigate these barriers. On the one hand, allies can counter negative stereotypes and defuse threat perceptions among advantaged group members, while raising expectations of success and lowering expected risks among disadvantaged group members. On the other hand, allies can entail significant costs, carrying risks of cooptation, replication of power hierarchies, and marginalization of core constituencies. To shed light on this question we draw on the case of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which, in 2020, attracted unprecedented White participation. Employing a national survey experiment, we find that sizeable White presence at racial justice protests increases protest approval, reduces perceptions of violence, and raises the likelihood of participation among White audiences, while not causing significant backlash among Black audiences. Black respondents mostly see White presence as useful for advancing the movement's goals, and predominant White presence reduces expectations that protests will be forcefully repressed. We complement these results with analysis of tens of thousands of images shared on social media during the 2020 BLM protests, finding a significant association between the presence of Whites in the images and user engagement and amplification. The findings suggest that allyship can be a powerful tool for promoting sociopolitical change amid deep structural inequality.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)e2314653121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - 7 May 2024


  • allies
  • collective action
  • ethnic politics
  • image analysis
  • protests


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