Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ph.D. Doctor of Philosophy

Academic Discipline

Community Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Bradley Olson

Second Advisor

Dr. Tiffeny Jimenez

Third Advisor

Dr. Raymond Legler



A set of two mixed method studies were conducted to examine attitudes toward institutional authority and to understand how the presence of societal authority and oppression can impact individual and community capacity for hope and full freedom. Researchers have discussed concepts such as attitudes to authority, suggesting that some individuals are naturally more resistant to authority (Rigby, 1985). However, in the United States, racial disparities are great, particularly when the “authority” is a police officer in an urban community and the individual is African American. In African American communities in the U.S., interactions with authority figures begin in childhood. African Americans have a significantly greater negative attitude toward institutional authority as it relates to the police. In Study 2, African American participants share stories of perceived racial oppression as it pertains to the economic, educational, and social aspects of our society. The themes that arise focused on ones related to a sense of hopelessness in the African American community around police violence and mass incarceration.