I joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins in 1994 as I was completing my doctoral study at the University of California, Davis. I began my academic career by examining maternal activism among middle-class black women, a long tradition steeped in what I call “normative empathy,” motivation derived from a conjunction of empathy for other black women and of African-American norms of solidarity, responsibility, and accountability. I partnered with Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. (University of Pennsylvania) in expanding his longitudinal study of predominantly black Baltimore mothers. This research focused on potential barriers to women-centered kin support for present-day urban black teen mothers in light of kin support mandates specified in the 1996 federal welfare reforms.
I have also partnered with my colleague, Thomas A. LaVeist (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Center for Health Disparities Solutions), to examine differences in life outcome among black and white children in the inner city and to determine the extent to which urban disadvantage differentiates young adult educational outcomes by race and gender under such conditions.
In addition to serving on the Sociology faculty, I served as the Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs from 2008-2010, and am an associate of the Hopkins Population Center and the Center for Africana Studies.
My most recent research is reported in Embracing Sisterhood: Class, Identity, and Contemporary Black Women (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). In this book I analyze how contemporary black women’s ideas of black womanhood and sisterhood merge with social class status to shape certain attachments and detachments among them. Similarities as well as variations in how black women of different social backgrounds perceive and live black womanhood are interpreted via my primary metaphor “embracing Oprah.” I find that the potential for a pervasive and polarizing “black stepsisterhood” is considerably undermined by the passion with which black women cling to the promises of cross-class, gender-ethnic “community” and of group determination. Embracing Sisterhood draws its analysis from in-depth interviews with 88 contemporary black women aged 18 to 89, covering issues associated with dimensions of gender-ethnic identity and consciousness.
I am currently conducting, with Dr. Caitlin Cross-Barnet, research examining the nature of marriage among native blacks, black Africans, and black Caribbeans comparatively. Here I contemplate how contemporary young black couples (roughly in their 30s) negotiate marital relationships, navigate marital conflict, and reconcile the recent political pressure for “traditional” marriage with the strong socioeconomic status many black women hold. One of my research objectives is to better understand the nature of black marital egalitarianism, given numerous claims of egalitarianism’s greater prevalence among blacks as compared to other racial and ethnic groups. I am also interested in the role religion plays in promoting or not promoting certain models of marriage.
230.205 Introduction to Social Statistics (undergraduate)
230.600 Introduction to Social Statistics (graduate)
230.208 Contemporary Perspectives in Race Relations
230.316 The African-American Family
230.323 Qualitative Research Practicum
230.332 Race, Racism, and Racial Privilege
230.616 Researching Race, Class, and Gender
230.649 Qualitative Research Methods in the Social Sciences
2012, Forthcoming. Bennett, Pamela R. and Katrina Bell McDonald. “Assessing Military Service as a Pathway to Early Socioeconomic Achievement for Disadvantaged Groups.” In Life Course Perspectives on Military Service, edited by Janet M. Wilmoth and Andrew S. London. New York: Routledge.
2009. Book Review: Blue-Chip Black: Race, Class, and Status in the New Black Middle Class, with Caitlin Cross-Barnet. Journal of Marriage and Family 71 (2): 209–436.
2009. “(In)Visibility Blues: The Paradox of Institutional Racism,” with Adia Harvey Wingfield. Sociological Spectrum 29(1). 9(1): 28-50.
2008. “Downward Residential Mobility in Structural-Cultural Context: The Case of Disadvantaged Black Mothers,” with Bedelia N. Richards. Black Women, Gender, and Families, 2(1), 25-53.
2007. Embracing Sisterhood: Class, Identity, and Contemporary Black Women. Rowman & Littlefield.