We’ve been talking quite a bit about teams–how they form, what makes them effective, etc.–and group dynamics in my management class. In my textbook, “Organizational Behavior and Management (Ninth Edition),” some of the research done by behavioral scientists on the effects of intergroup conflict have been summarized. Upon closer examination, it becomes obvious that this research doesn’t just have business relevance but can easily be applied to explain modes of behavior among all groups–in this particular case, the black community is the group under discussion.
So what happens when groups are under stress or placed in direct conflict with other groups?
Changes within Groups
1. Increased group cohesiveness
“When groups are engaged in a conflict, their cohesion tends to increase. Competition, conflict, or perceived external threat usually result in group members putting aside individual differences and closing ranks…This increase in cohesion is necessary to mobilize group resources in dealing with the ‘enemy’ and tends to result in suppression of internal disagreements.”
During the black power movements the needs and contributions of black women were ignored or suppressed–”racism” was what was most important, sexism couldn’t be dealt with; issues that supposedly dealt with all black people–namely racism–had to be handled first. Said another way, once the black man had fought a war of masculinity with the white man, then we could finally start talking about the way that black girls and women were being abused.
2. Emphasis on loyalty
“In reality, it is not unusual for groups to overconform to group norms in conflict situations. This may take the form of blind acceptance of dysfunctional solutions to the conflict and result in groupthink.”
Hmmm, “blind acceptance of dysfunctional solutions”. Where have we seen this before? Perhaps we have seen this in the way that black women who complain about the struggle of being poor and raising children with little emotional or financial help from the father(s) of said children results in their being told to ‘shut up’ and look at their blessings?
This blog is accused time and time again of ‘praising the white man, who can do no wrong’ while bashing black men, who are the quote-unquote scum of the Earth. Beyond Black and White is accused of this because any discussion of the dysfunctions within the black community is seen as putting the dirty laundry of black folks out in public. The fact that we also talk about interracial dating here is just the salt in the wounds of some folks caused by the open discussion of the very real abuse that black women and girls have experienced at the hands of black men.
3. Rise in autocratic leadership
“In extreme conflict situations where threats are perceived, democratic methods of leadership are likely to become less popular. Group members want strong leadership.”
We can see this desire for “strong” leadership in the way that black folks will allow a disgraced pastor to be put up on a throne and allow said pastor to be declared a King while on stage during a service.
4. Focus on activity
“When a group is in conflict, it’s members usually emphasize doing what the group does and doing it very well. The group becomes task oriented. Tolerance for members who goof off is low, and there is less concern for individual member satisfaction.”
What is good for black women as individuals should not be the main topic of conservation as far as some are concerned. Individual black women should be concerned with how they can subjugate their needs to the will and needs of the group. And while there is nothing wrong with a desire to give back, a person with little to give–because they don’t have their own basis needs taken care of–won’t have much to give to others.
Much of the dysfunction–and the refusal to confront it–has already been studied and explained for going on 40 years now. What is wrong and why it is wrong is old hat. We all know what’s up. Protestations to the contrary are just attempts at practicing willful ignorance–or maybe the person just needs to take a management class.
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