Race, ethnicity, and culture all contribute to the dreams we have and how we interpret those dreams. Research published in Pastoral Psychology found that people who reported having dreams related to public protests on racial injustice were more likely to be Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement supporters, regardless of ethnicity.
“Prompted by protests in the United States and other countries around the world in response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, this study has the goal of contributing to knowledge about dreams in relation to contemporary dynamics of race and ethnicity,” wrote study authors Kelly Bulkeley and Michael Schredl.
Dreaming and race has been researched from historical, cultural, and psychological perspectives and has focused on the complex influence of race, ethnicity, and culture on what people dream and how they make sense of their dreams. For example, dream analyses done in the 1990’s found that Black people were “deeply engaged with transpersonal aspects of dreaming (visitations, prophecies, revelations), aspects that mainstream, mostly White American psychologists tend to ignore or dismiss.” Other research has found that Black people tend to place higher value on dreams and what they mean compared to White people.
The study authors were interested in exploring the relationship between race, ethnicity, and dreaming about protests in today’s political context. Specifically, they were interested in how support for the BLM movement related to protest related dream behaviors.
Researchers used data from an online survey of 4,947 American adults administered by YouGov, a public opinion research company. Respondents reported how often they remember their dreams (dream recall frequency) and how often they share their dreams with others (dream sharing). Respondents also reported whether they had recently had a dream related to the public protests concerning racial injustice. If they had, respondents were told to give a description of the dream. Respondents also gave measures of their political orientation and their level of support for the BLM movement.
About two thirds of respondents (64%) supported the BLM movement, which was also more frequent in liberal respondents. Black and Hispanic respondents were more likely to support BLM than White respondents. White and Black respondents had similar levels of dream recall, with Hispanic respondents having higher levels than both White and Black respondents. Hispanic respondents reported more dream sharing than White and Black respondents, but Black respondents reported more dream sharing than White respondents.
A portion of the sample (204 respondents, 4%) reported having dreams related to the racial injustice protests. Support for BLM was relevant. Those with higher levels of support for BLM were more likely to report a protest related dream. Higher education was also associated with reporting a protest related dream as was overall dream recall.
“Overall, the findings indicate that the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and the events that followed did affect dreaming among Americans, mostly in a negative way,” concluded the study authors.
The authors cite some limitations of this research. They acknowledge that they are both White, male academics and that their perspectives are inherently influenced by these characteristics. Another limitation is that perhaps the environment of the online survey was not conducive to a comfortable environment for dream sharing.
“The racial and ethnic differences on [dream sharing] do not lend themselves to an easy explanation, but the differences should not overshadow the significant similarities: Remembering dreams and talking about them with other people is a common phenomenon among members of all racial and ethnic groups.”
The authors conclude with implications for how these findings are relevant to caregiving. “These findings encourage more attention by both religious and secular caregivers to the cultural dream traditions that actively shape and influence people’s dreaming experiences in response to contemporary challenges.”
The study, “Dreams, Race, and the Black Lives Matter Movement Results of a Survey of American Adults“, was published January 11, 2022.