Assuming Whiteness in Social Media

It seems like we share more and more of our personal information online. Advertisers want access to this information so that they can target their marketing to particular groups, or “market segments.”   Should social media sites collect racial or ethnic data on subscribers?  This was the topic of an interesting discussion curated by Jessica Faye Carter (video) at her blog Technicultr recently.

Facebook Wants a New Face

(Creative Commons License photo credit: smlions12 )

GIven that social media companies, like Facebook, are collecting all kinds of other data on us, it doesn’t seem all that surprising that social networks are now interested in either explicitly asking for racial/ethnic identification or figuring it out through data mining.    Is racial or ethnic identity “private” information that we should be concerned about sharing? In my view, racial and ethnic identity in social networks is less an issue of privacy and more about the assumptions in place that make that kind of identification necessary.

The fact is that social networks, like the culture more broadly, discourage racial or ethnic identification. Instead, in the current era of “color blindness” people are told that it’s “not polite” to mention race.

What polite colorblindness covers up, though, is the assumption that everyone’s white until they say otherwise. At a recent blogging conference I attended, an African American woman told the story of being online for years before anyone knew she was black. Why? Because her name is “Heather” and people just assumed she was white.

Does this assumption of whiteness matter? It does if your experience puts you outside white identity and you’re looking for your own likeness in popular culture.

As just one, small example, I’m a big women’s basketball fan of both the college and professional teams. And, I especially love watching a sport where black women excel. But, when it’s “March Madness” (college ball) or the summer during the WNBA season, it’s almost impossible to find mainstream news coverage of my favorite teams because ESPN and my local news outlets are filled with wall-to-wall coverage of the mens’ teams. When I do manage to find a WNBA game on television, it’s always a little startling to see the ads because they’re geared toward a black female audience. When I see those ads, I’m reminded once more how white and male-centric the rest of the culture is.

One of the great things about social networks is that people create their own images and can adjust that skewed, mainstream lens. It’s part of what I enjoy about social networks like Twitter. In these spaces, I can connect with people from racial and ethnic backgrounds that are different than my own who have a different take on the dominant culture. But what I’ve learned online is a lesson that many of us learned offline, too – that racial identity doesn’t necessarily map onto political views or marketing preferences.

Hurricane Katrina & Race: Scholarship at Five Year Anniversary

On Sunday, President Obama gave a speech at Xavier University in New Orleans, marking the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.    I’ll be teaching about Hurricane Katrina to undergraduates this semester, so I’ve been reading and thinking about the scholarship on Hurricane Katrina and race at this milestone.

(Image from BoingBoing)

Although there’s been some good journalism and good blogging about the Katrina anniversary, I haven’t seen much in the way of a review of the research on the subject.    So, here’s my offering.  This is just some of what I’ve run across, organized very broadly by discipline:

Sociology – The sociology on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath highlights the intersection of race, gender and class.  Sociologists contend that the inequality that existed before prior to the disaster, became intensified and deepened in the aftermath of the storm.   Further, sociologists point out the way that this rupture in the usual “colorblind” ethos that prevails in the U.S. served to strengthen whites’ racial apathy toward blacks, especially those who are economically impoverished.

Environmental / Urban Studies – Urban and environmental studies examine the ways that the built environment shaped the disaster and the ways that environmental hazards are concentrated in minority communities.  In addition, those who look at the disaster through an urban studies lens explore the process whereby local economic elites are seeking to make an opportunity of the destruction by monopolizing the planning process and rebuilding the cityscape in a fashion more amenable to the accumulation of capital.

Public Health -Psychology-Mental Health – Psychologists along with public health and mental health professionals examine the impact the disaster had on individual mental health.  One study (Galea, et al., 2008) found that women, and those who had suffered significant financial loss following the disaster, were more likely than men or those who didn’t suffer significant financial loss, to experience PTSD after the storm.

Media / Communications – Communications and media scholars focus attention on the ways that the mainstream media framed the disaster for television audiences and newspaper readers.   Study after study demonstrates that, as Tierney et al. demonstrate, “metaphors matter.”   As the image above illustrates, race played an important role in the ways that the stories from the disaster were told.

Public Policy – Scholars and analysts that examine the racial impact of the disaster from a policy perspective tend to focus on the failure of governmental, corporate and private agencies to respond to the plight of New Orleans’ black community. Stivers makes a compelling case that racism – “The belief that members of a certain race are inherently inferior – less intelligent, less ambitious – has rationalized discriminatory treatment as fitting, proper, and without evil intent,” – significantly shaped the public policy response following Hurricane Katrina.  Five of the six areas classified as most heavily damaged were neighborhoods with 60-80% poverty, and the population was predominantly black.  Stivers notes how these two facts – racism and the disproportionate impact of the storm on black people – shaped public policy response to the storm, when she writes: “On the one hand, the bureaucrat’s job is to lighten the burden imposed by a capitalist economy that inevitably leaves some people at the bottom; on the other hand, American ideology relies on the belief that people who are at the bottom are there because of some character flaw or inherent inability.”

I’m sure there’s good research I’ve overlooked in this brief list.  If I’ve left out some of your research, or some that you know of and use, please add a comment and I’ll update the original post.

Racism & Antiracism: New Research

For the annual ASA conference in Atlanta, the session on racism and antiracism (organized by Eileen O’Brien) was divided into two, held back-to-back in the same room. With my presentation in the second of the two, I had a chance to catch the discussion portion of the first session, with Charles Gallagher present. As expected, the room was packed (and unfortunately most left after their session had ended). I was (at least somewhat) taken aback at how optimistic Gallagher was with the alleged absence of racism among young white people today. I wish more had been in attendance for my session that followed (including Gallagher), or that I had presented my material for that session, because my research paints a very different picture of young whites than what Gallagher sees.

Granted, I’m not saying that young whites today are tripping over themselves to join the Klan or anything. But a complete absence of racism? In my presentation titled “‘It’s not on the news, so…’: Ambivalence towards White Supremacy Among White College Students,” I presented evidence about how white college students go out of their way to not see white supremacist activities, while defending their right to exist and even flourish. They seem to feel it necessary to say that white supremacists and their organizations are a serious problem in our society, yet contradict themselves when they call them impotent, ridiculous, limited to the south, etc. This contradiction creates an ambivalence towards these groups, and whether intended or not, this ambivalence towards white supremacy assists in efforts to protect white supremacist speech.

I mentioned a couple of examples from the interviews that I found to be most intriguing. The first was Odella, who told me of an incident involving “good ole southern boys” burning “a black doll” in effigy on the grounds of her high school. She immediately minimized the incident, saying it had been resolved and called it “an isolated event.” Incredibly, later on when discussing the significance of white supremacists and their organizations today, she said:

“I don’t think white supremacy is a serious problem in our society, I know it exists, but um (.) maybe I just don’t see it (.) like maybe in other places it’s more prominent, but…”

After asking her if that incident at her high school constituted white supremacy, she answered “yeah, probably” but said it was “spur of the moment” and that these good ole boys had simply made a bad decision.

The other example came from Troy, who rationalized discriminatory behavior in the pursuit of profit. When he recalled his “training” as a club bouncer he provided extensive details on who he was supposed to keep out of the establishment: baggy jeans, Fubu clothes, and Timbaland boots, and most of all, black skin. Although he seemed to struggle with the racist thinking of his boss at one time, he said “it sounds terrible but it’s kind of like the line from The Godfather ‘It’s business, not personal,’” and saying it’s alright if “they’ve got bills to pay.” He admitted that the whole point of the dress codes those establishments enforce are a way to keep blacks out (“because they can’t just come out and say ‘all right black people [don’t] come in’ so they have to make a dress code and basically they find stuff that applied to [the] black crowd and say ‘you can’t come in wearing that’”).

Although these are just a couple of examples from the research, there were many others that showed young white people are generally ambivalent towards white supremacists and their organizations. I believe that this attitude makes it virtually impossible to get the needed public policies and societal resources to fight these groups and to protect the rights of those they seek to harm. I wish I were as optimistic as Gallagher is about our young white children today, but for now I say wait 10 or 20 years and see where they will be and how they behave.

NYC Cabbie Attacked: Hate Speech into Action

Ahmed Sharif, a New York City cab driver stabbed by a passenger, says he was definitely attacked because of his religion.  Sharif was stabbed repeatedly while driving his taxi on the East Side Tuesday.  The suspect, a white man named Michael Enright, attacked him after first asking whether he was Muslim.   Many are saying that this attack is part of a growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S.

(Image from CSM)

The apparent hate crime attack on Mr. Sharif and the alarming wave of hate crimes against Latinos that Joe wrote about yesterday are connected in a number of ways.   One of the major links is the way that these acts of violence are part of a larger social context that includes rising tide of hate speech targeting Muslims and Latinos.

The research connecting hate speech to hate crimes is mixed.   When it comes to individuals explaining their motivation for hate crimes, there’s actually relatively little research that investigates motivations for hate crimes.  One study that does this finds a range of motivations:  thrill, defensive, mission, and retaliatory motivation (J. McDevitt, J. Levin, and S. Bennett, “Hate Crime Offenders: An Expanded Typology,” Journal of Social Issues, 58 (2):303-318).   In the case of Enright’s attack on Sharif, this appears to be a “mission” hate crime, in which Enright was on a “mission” to attack anyone who was Muslim.   Other research, such as Alexander Tsesis’ book Destructive Messages (NYU Press, 2002), demonstrate how hate speech gives rise to dangerous social movements.

The question really is where did Enright, a film student who was working on a project to promote cross-cultural understanding, get the idea that he should attack someone who was Muslim?  No one knows for sure.   The fact is that after traveling to Afghanistan to work on a film project, Enright returned to New York where there is an ugly display of hate speech downtown about the so-called mosque controversy. Could this have played even a small role in Enright’s violent actions last Tuesday?  It seems more than plausible.

The fact is that the U.S., and even the country’s most diverse city, New York, are becoming more treacherous for people of color.   And yet, this violence gets repaid with loyalty.  Despite the brutal attack on him, the cab driver Mr. Sharif told supporters outside City Hall that he still loves New York.

“This is a city of all colors, races, all religion, everyone. We live here, side by side, peacefully.”

New Hate Crimes against Latinos

The Southern Poverty Law Center just published a comment on the increase in racially motivated crimes by non-Latinos against Latinos

Here is a sampling of these racist attacks:

Early last Saturday in Baltimore, Martin Rayez, 51, was beaten to death with a piece of wood. The man arrested for the crime, Jermaine Holley, 19, allegedly confessed and told police that he “hated Hispanics.” He has been treated in the past for schizophrenia. The killing occurred in East Baltimore, the scene of other recent attacks on Latinos. . . . In June, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix said that the murder of a Mexican-American man a month earlier was a hate crime. Gary Thomas Kelley is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Juan Varela. He also is charged with menacing Varela’s brother with a gun. “Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die,” Kelley shouted at Varela before shooting him in the neck, police said. The dead man was a third-generation, native-born American.

There have also been 11 attacks on Latinos on Staten Island just since April.

The SPLC attributes some of these violent attacks to the hostile climate created by U.S. political officials:

Two of the most outrageous recent examples: Texas Republican Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Debbie Riddle both claimed that pregnant terrorists plan to sneak into America to give birth to future terrorists who will automatically become U.S. citizens and eventually “help destroy our way of life,” as Gohmert put it. Both representatives claimed that former FBI officials divulged the terrorist baby threat to them.

Given that undocumented immigration has declined in recent months, this upsurge in the hostile racial climate, fed by actions such as those of leading Republican officials in Arizona, seems to be intentional. Anti-brown-immigrants seem part of an old right-wing framing of U.S. racial matters.

The human rights report to the United Nations that I mentioned yesterday does not even discuss the thousands of these racially and ethnically motivated crimes that the U.S. has seen in the last decade, including these against Latinos–although it does mention the new hate crimes law and has a brief sentence on anti-gay crimes. The human rights report also has rather general and skewed language on official attacks such as racial profiling:

The United States recognizes that racial or ethnic profiling is not effective law enforcement and is not consistent with our commitment to fairness in our justice system. For many years, concerns about racial profiling arose mainly in the context of motor vehicle or street stops related to enforcement of drug or immigration laws. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the debate has also included an examination of law enforcement conduct in the context of the country’s effort to combat terrorism. Citizens and civil society have advocated forcefully that efforts by law enforcement to prevent future terrorist attacks must be consistent with the government’s goal to end racial and ethnic profiling.

Even racial profiling is not discussed in its problematic details, with data, but is tied to outside terrorist attacks. There is also no mention in the report of the internal terrorism against thousands of Americans of color.

US Government Reports on US Human Rights to United Nations

Another difference that the Obama administration makes can be seen in this press release from yesterday. The U.S. has decided to submit this human rights report under the United Nation Human Rights review process:

On August 20, the United States submitted to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a report on the U.S. human rights record, in accordance with the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

The report’s submission is one step in the UPR process. The next step will be a formal presentation by the U.S. government to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in November. The report stands as just one element of the U.S. effort to engage broadly and constructively with the UN and other international organizations.

The review, which has featured an unprecedented level of consultation and engagement with civil society across the country, provides an opportunity to reflect on our human rights record and we hope will serve as an example for other countries on how to conduct a thorough, transparent, and credible UPR presentation. It involved support and assistance from the Department of Justice as well as over ten other federal departments and other offices, and the White House.

The United States is proud of its record on human rights and the role our country has played in advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world.

I will analyze the report as soon as I finish reading it.

Yes We Can, But Who Cares? Implications of the Schott Report on Black Males in Public Education

The Schott Foundation for Public Education is an organization whose mission is “To develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative movement to achieve fully resourced, quality pre-K-12 public education,” recently published some heart-rending findings on the state of Black males in public education. The report, Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010 reveals states, districts, and public schools that are statistically making academic gains toward closing the achievement gap (i.e., graduation rates and scores on state standardized examinations) between Black males and their counterparts. For example, the report affirms that the top ten best performing states in regard to decreasing the graduation gap between Black and White males are Maine, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, Montana, Utah, South Dakota, New Jersey, and Iowa respectively. The ten best performing districts in this regard are Newark (NJ), Fort Bend (IN), Baltimore County (MD), Montgomery County (MD), Gwinnett County (GA), Prince George’s County (MD), Cumberland County (NC), East Baton Rouge Parish (LA), and Guilford County (NC). In my opinion, the report would make a stronger argument and cause readers to give a heavy pause when looking at the data when it was combined with an explanation as to why these states and districts are showing an improvement in the graduation rates.

On the other hand, the report announces that the ten worst performing states for Black males in regard to decreasing the graduation gap between them and White males are respectively Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, District of Columbia, Ohio, Nebraska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, and New York. Moreover, the ten worst performing districts are Jefferson Parish (LA), New York (NY), Dade County (FL), Cleveland (OH), Detroit (MI), Buffalo (NY), Charleston County (SC), Duval County (FL), Palm Beach County (FL), and Pinellas County (FL). Within the document, it was noted that out of the 48 states that reported Black males are likely to graduate reasonably from only 15 of the states. In addition, Black males were seen to be more prone to severe punishment for school infractions than their White peers and have less opportunity to gain access to higher-level academic classes. Finally, by the time these students reach 8th grade in middle school, many were seen not be proficient readers and thus lose academic grounding as they proceed to high school.

In terms of these districts, what the report does not state is that for example, places like Jefferson Parish have recently been found to have to have high unemployment rates and a “drug incarceration rate of 186 per 100,000 people in 2002, ranking it seventh out of 198 counties or parishes with populations greater than 250,000.” Poverty in the United States, published by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2002, stated that Cleveland, Ohio has the highest poverty rate. Specifically, in 2004, children were indicated to be half of those living in poverty in Cleveland. Poverty has been shown in numerous studies to affect the academic and social outcomes of children. I have always said that if economic or social plights are affecting Whites heavily, these same concerns are being felt threefold by people of color. So, it is no surprise to me that the ten worst states and districts have high numbers of Black males not graduating or excelling on standardized examinations.

What the report does not state is the psychological trauma this failure has on the students. Many of them become disenchanted with their apparent lack of skills and at times begin to act out in disruptive manners. Teachers begin to label them “special education, emotionally disturbed, difficult,” etc. All of these labels and perceptions of the students’ potential fuel the need to isolate them within alternative educational facilities that are many times encased with frustrated White teachers who do not have the experience or knowledge of Black culture–or have their own racial biases toward people of color. In my own experiences within public schools, the curricula within these settings are sub-par and filled with worksheet after worksheet that presents nothing academically substantial to the students. In fact, their designated work is simply a tactic to occupy a population many have given up on or refuse to hear due to their inability to voice the futility of their situation. Many of these Black males end up dropping out and having some association with the criminal justice system.

The schools that do seem to work outside of the traditional paradigm and attempt to meet the academic and social needs of Black males are few and in between. Sometimes these programs are taken to task and/or dismantled due to outside pressures and perception that specific programs tailored for boys is not necessary or warranted. For example, in Prince George County (MD), a system that serves mostly Blacks, an initiative was started to help in regards to meeting the academic and social needs of Black males within the area. A year after showing promise, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights felt it discriminated against females and was dismantled. In 1996, the city of New York proclaimed the success of the establishment of the East Harlem Young Women’s Leadership School that catered to mostly Black females. When the New York Times urged school administrators to start a school similar for boys, the School Chancellor said in response, “This is a case where the existence of the all-girls school makes an important statement about the viable education of girls…Presumably the statement would lose its force and point if an all-boys school were allowed to exist alongside (page. 39.” These are just a few of the anti-boy climates that exist within public education.

Who shall carry the cross and burden of the plight of Black males? The current plight could only be directed at Blacks, right? We have a Black president for God sake. Cosby was correct when he pointed that Jell-O pudding-pop-encrusted finger at the Black community, right?

In contrast to the historic racial barriers that are evident within the history of the United States in regards to economic and social growth of people of color, specifically Black males, President Barrack Obama is a beacon; a symbol that the Black male have the potential to break through the proverbal glass ceiling to the highest position afforded to an U.S. citizen. A large number of people here and aboard have joined in the celebration of his election as an end to the historic caste system that has hindered the progress of Blacks since the beginning of the nation.

In fact this celebration is nothing but a distraction that serves as a curtain to hide the underlying racial realities that affect Blacks, particularity Black males within the lower SES brackets. The gains that many discuss are in fact by primarily middle and upper class Blacks. The racial caste system that has been rooted since the founding of the country is still in full operation and witnessed within the workings of public schools. Since Blacks were first forced into slavery, regardless of the efforts of many in within the civil rights and equal rights legislation struggles, they have never moved from a caste system that deems them as inferior and treated as such within all facets of the country. In fact, being a part of the minority caste comes with it a negative ideology that dictates a set of behavior, actions, procedures, and policies directed by non-Blacks to Blacks within the major institutions; such as public and higher education setting. The modes of oppression and control that are imprinted within the foundation of education are incited into the psyche of Black American children in public schools in overt and covert fashions. The attempts to oppress and control are nothing but a continuation of the targeting seen within the early U.S. colonies with the institutionalization of the White racial frame. Therefore, I would argue that public schools are an equal partner in the plight of Black males. Therefore, the effects of systemic institutional racism and the existence of a caste system that are witnessed in the treatment of these children increase the likelihood of their internalizing the oppressive conditions and controlling the state of their environment through socialization, which in turn leads them to view themselves as unworthy in comparisons to their counterparts. The system within public education is not totally equal for females of color. But, simply, Black males have it worse. Many may be upset with this statement, but I am aligned with scholars such as bell hooks who states, that, “[d]espite all the advances in civil rights in our nation, feminist movement, sexual liberation, when the spotlight is on black males the message is usually that they have managed to stay stuck, that as a group they have not evolved with the times” (ix). Many scholars like hooks (2004), and often Black men themselves, believe that society is “fearful to acknowledge the truth – America has no compassion for black males” (p. Ix).

It will be virtually impossible for this country to meet the President’s mission to place the U.S. as a global leader in “post-credential attainment” if this trend continues. Schools are currently not moving beyond the paradigm of seeing the problem existing within the child–and are at the same time discounting other contributing factors within the school setting, such as the teacher to student relationship, and assumptions teachers have in terms of race and cultural differences. In my current position, I have many interactions with schools that implement the latest and greatest academic programs, instruments, and curriculum to combat graduation and standardized examination gaps. They also have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars by introducing new social and behavioral modification techniques that have warm, but empowering titles that claim to decrease behavioral issues among “difficult” students (code for Black and Latino) while enabling the entire school to simultaneously sing “Kum Bah Yah” as they march toward academic excellence. I have seen administrators shell out ten thousands of dollars for a motivational speaker (usually they are Black and have come from some difficult situations to preach to teachers that if they can do it, so can the students) to come for one-shot deals that leave fleeting positive words and emotions. Schools need to stop creating or looking for the holy grail that will help them elevate Black scores and graduation rates and learn that what is needed for females is not necessarily the same thing needed for males. Due to the fact that Black females are graduating at a higher rate and entering into college and graduate school more than Black males, schools are in need of analyzing the plight of Black males while separating from all others. What schools refuse to acknowledge is that you can dress up a pig, but it’ll still be a pig. No amount of money will transform a system that is meant to oppress a group while propelling another until the system is revamped, thus a revolution is needed. Until we realize the depths of the White racial frame and the existence of an operating caste system, I may one day look to up from the struggle for justice and see that I am alone.

David Brion Davis on Slavery and Abolition: Impact on US Wealth

Here is a very good 2009 video lecture (at Emory U.) by a leading scholar of slavery and its economic impact, as well as the resistance to it–Dr. David Brion Davis, of Yale University.

This one is called “American and British Slave Trade Abolition in Perspective.” This would be very good for use in a course on U.S. history, and/or racism/slavery. It is in six parts, and here are the summaries:

The historical contexts of African slavery in the Americas and the relationship with free market forces and the “New World” global economy.

The connections between enslaved African labor, trans-Atlantic trade, and the increasing availability of luxury goods for mass market consumption. How did anti-slavery movements arise in this growing market context?

Three major factors led to the U.S. and British decisions to abolish the trade of enslaved Africans: revolutionary changes in moral perceptions of slavery, Anglo American antipathy towards a growing African American population, and the population growth rate of enslaved African Americans in North America.

The North American “moral luxury” of condemning the trade of enslaved Africans while supporting domestic slavery; the increasing political enthusiasm for white immigration over black enslaved labor; the impacts of the French and Haitian Revolutions on trade abolition developments.

The political and moral debates between delegates from northern states and southern slaveholding states after the Revolutionary War that led to U.S. abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1808.

A comparison of the impacts of the U.S. and British decisions to abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the debates over what to do with the “contraband” of enslaved Africans intercepted in the newly illegal trade.

Highly recommended.

Which Voters Had the Most Impact?: The Election of President Obama

I ran across an interesting, if now old, account on MSNBC about the 2008 exit polling that makes a point I have not seen elsewhere. Since the 2008 election numerous analytical (media and otherwise) accounts have argued that Barack Obama won mainly or only because of younger voters, or because of new Latino voters, or because of certain other “XYZ” voters.

However, Ana-Maria Arumi, head of polling analysis for NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo did some study of the 2008 election exit-poll data:

On a state-by-state level, when she re-ran the numbers as if there were no voters under 30, the only states that would switch to Republican presidential candidate John McCain are Indiana and North Carolina.

Thus, Obama would still have won the 270+ electoral votes necessary without these young voters and these two states. She also analyzed the Latino voters’ impact:

In a counter-factual world in which there were no Latino voters, both New Mexico and Indiana would have switched into the McCain column.

Again, he would have had enough electoral votes to win if there had been no Latino voters. Then she calculated the biggest factor of all:

… in the make-believe world where no African-Americans voted, while Obama still would have won most of the states that he won, McCain would have been able to take the hotly contested states of Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Without these African American voters, and their presence in key states with 107 electoral votes, Obama would have lost the election to John McCain.

I may have missed it, but I do not remember anyone inside or outside the Democratic Party assertively giving the most central credit to African American voters for President Obama’s election. Or any discussion of this critical reality today in regard to the election of Democratic Party members of Congress in 2010 or 2012, or the reelection of President Obama in 2012.

Indeed, without African American voters no Democratic Party candidate would have won the presidency (Carter, Clinton, Obama) since the passage of the critical Voting Rights Act in 1965.

This, of course, does not mean that these other voters were not important in the election coalition that brought Carter, Clinton, or Obama to office.

It does mean that African American voters, and activists, often need to be credited with great expansions of American freedoms, past and present.

Indeed, African Americans and their activism, votes, and/or issues and goals relating to them, have been central—if sometimes invisible–in most U.S. elections since they got the vote in the 15th Amendment. This amendment was brought to the United States, ironically enough, by “Radical Republicans” in 1870. For a brief time, less than a decade, those white Radical Republicans fought to expand the rights and freedoms of African Americans. They soon lost out to a resurgent white Democratic party, substantially in the South, and to fearful, more conservative white Republicans in the North and the South. One has to wonder what the United States would be like today if this freedom-expansion agenda had been allowed to continue in the 1870s-1880s period.