The Obama Era Assessed: A Bibliographical Note on a New Qualitative Sociology Issue

Interest in the Obama reelection efforts seems really to be heating up, with a majority of opinion polls showing a small lead for Obama, especially in key swing states. Yet several national polls are now showing a small Romney lead. We will be blogging on these issues, especially in regard to racial matters, often over coming months.

For now, Adia and I have a just released article in the latest issue of Springer’s Qualitative Sociology journal, a very interesting issue on Obama, race, and politics edited by the excellent qualitative sociologists Simone Browne and Ben Carrington. Here is the summary of our paper’s argument:

This paper introduces the concept of the “racial dialectic” to describe the ways racial dialogues and policies have transformed in the wake of Barack Obama’s historic election to the presidency of the United States of America. Using public statements and behaviors from elected officials, pundits, and Obama himself as case study data, we examine the tension between what we term the hard racial frame, the soft racial frame, and the racial counterframe in the public discourses. We conclude that these competing frames produce a dialectic that has transformed the way racial issues are discussed and interpreted in the wake of Obama’s election. [Adia Harvey Wingfield and Joe Feagin, “The Racial Dialectic: President Barack Obama and the White Racial Frame,” Qualitative Sociology 35 (2012): 143-162.]

In this nice edited issue there are several other very good articles on Obama’s presidency and the elections that viewers here might find of interest. For now, the whole issue is available and appears not to be behind a paywall. Each article has a good summary for quick access by readers. I highly recommend this interesting set of discussions.

Adia and I are also doing a second edition of the Yes We Can? book, with results from the November election put in the last chapter just before it goes to press!

Deconstructing Racism: Call for Documentary Filmmakers

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is doing some innovative grant-making in the area of racial equity. They recently awarded the Calhoun School here in New York City a $275,000 grant to make a documentary film called WHAT KIDS OF COLOR KNOW & WHITE KIDS DON’T – DECONSTRUCTING RACISM.

As I’ve written about elsewhere, I think visual media and documentaries specifically are central to how we learn now.  While I keep a list here of race-themed documentaries, there simply aren’t enough of these kinds of titles. So, I’m delighted to see the Kellogg Foundation supporting this important work, and am happy to share the following call for documentary filmmakers.


Mov(i)e it
(Creative Commons License photo credit: zeligfilm )

A documentary filmmakers’ competition is underway to identify a team of 2-3 young professional filmmakers interested in writing, directing, shooting and editing a film currently titled:  What Kids of Color Know & White Kids Don’t – Deconstructing Racism (working title).

The documentary film component of this project is slated to have a total production budget in the vicinity of $275,000. This includes stipends for the filmmaker/director, writer and editor; equipment, camera crew and sound personnel, soundtrack, voice-over, transcripts, graphics & animation, outside footage, stock, etc.  It is anticipated that the film will have a year-long production timetable.  Once completed, it is the producer’s objective to submit this documentary to US and international film festivals and for possible consideration by the Academy as a documentary feature.

The cast of the film will be upper middle- and high-school kids from NYC independent and public schools talking about white privilege and institutionalized racism; select adult talking-heads may be included.  The filmmakers(s) will participate actively in and help to design the casting process.  Filming will take place mainly in New York City during the 2012-2013 academic year.  This is not an exposé of the challenges faced in public schools or an indictment of the public or private school system.  It is an incisive and targeted look at how white kids and kids of color confront – and how they are confronted by — race and racism in the context of contemporary American society.

Requirements for consideration:

*   Draft a detailed treatment and summary story-line reflecting how you, as a filmmaker, envision approaching this project — capturing and conveying how white kids and kids of color confront and are confronted by issues of white privilege and institutionalized racism in contemporary American society in a documentary film format.
*   The length of the film will be between 1-2 hours.
*   The film will be live-action with some animation to illustrate certain elements.
*   The primary audience will be upper-middle and high school students and by extension, their teachers and parents.

If interested, applicants should submit a treatment outline and summary story-line, a sample production schedule, production personnel bios and contact information to:

Doc Film Committee
ATTN:  David Alpert, Producer
The Calhoun School
433 West End Avenue
New York, NY  10024

Proposal Submission deadline:  July 15, 2012


You are welcome to include links to your work or to send a DVD compilation as a part of your submission materials.


Many analyses of racism focus on its negative effects on people of color and ignore the notion of “whiteness” that is embedded in racial hierarchies.  However, assumptions about racial inferiority could not exist without the concept of superiority.  Ideological racism includes strongly positive images of the white self as well as strongly negative images of the racial “others” Feagin, J. (2000) Racist America Roots, current realities, and future reparations, New York, Routledge (p. 33)

The late Dr. Derrick Bell said, “What Kids of Color Know & White Kids Don’t – Deconstructing Racism, is a worthy effort in a very long and still far from successful struggle.  What I hope will be carried out in your project is that learning about race is mostly getting white kids to understand the array of privileges that whiteness provides them whether or not earned or deserved.  Blacks as the minority in numbers, power, and legitimacy, have to have and exercise on a daily basis their knowledge and understanding of how whites exercise their property right in whiteness without really thinking about it.  Recognition of these “rights” is more important than either reforming or rejecting them.   I hope your project will also focus on students of color, preferably the African Americans, who learned about whites the hard way.  In today’s world, these lessons are more subtle than blatant….

What Kids of Color Know and White Kids Don’t: Deconstructing Racism will have a direct and lasting impact by changing, early on, how students learn about white privilege and institutionalized racism.  This includes a particular focus on racial inequity as a historical and foundational component of U.S. culture, and a commitment to the critical analysis and dismantling of racist attitudes, beliefs and policies inherent in our school and society.  The documentary film will support the national visibility, legitimacy and credibility of each program component.  In addition, the film will be presented at national and international film festivals, again assuring it marketing and distribution opportunities, critical acclaim and the education endorsements necessary to secure its active use in classrooms.

What Kids of Color Know & White Kids Don’t – Deconstructing Racism unfolds with the personal stories of students confronting how white privilege and racism affects their sense of self.   The students’ family backgrounds provide a starting point; schools provide a diverse stage for the action.

The students who make up the cast of characters will be chosen not only because their experience mirrors an aspect of our society, but also because they have the ability to tell that story in a way that makes us care.

The piece will draw the audience into the student’s struggle; the threads of their narrative come together as we see all our characters looking at their differences side by side.  The convictions, the frustration, and the emotion each student brings into a larger context of history and group struggle surface to engage the viewer into this struggle.   Just as our characters came into the process with passion about their particular point of view, none of them will walk away from the experience untouched.  Nor will the audience.

Race is so sensitive and so difficult to encompass because often our words don’t match our actions.  Racism is built into every aspect of our culture, and deconstructing that social arrangement is like defusing a bomb.

No documentary has attempted so deep an emotional journey into Race exclusively from the lives and experience of middle school and high school students.  It’s a way for young people all over the country to gain key insights, just as it’s also an angle which makes an adult audience already tired of the subject pay attention once again.

Current program advisors include:

*   David Addams, Executive Director, Oliver Scholars Program
*   John Allman, Head, Trinity School, Manhattan, NY
*   Pat Bassett, President, National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)
*   Lisa Barbaris, Artistic Director, True Colors Foundation
*   Harold Eugene Batiste III, Leadership Education and Diversity Team, NAIS
*   Joel Coen, Academy Award Winning Filmmaker
*   Kate Davis, documentary filmmaker
*   Matt Damon, actor, screenwriter, activist
*   Bruce L. Dennis, Head, Packer Collegiate Institute, Brooklyn, NY
*   Rhonda Durham, Executive Director, Independent Schools Association of the Southwest
*   Troy Duster, Silver Professor of Sociology, New York University
*   Kathy Egmont, The Children’s Storefront School, Manhattan, NY
*   Mary Gaines, Head, Metropolitan Montessori School
*   David Heilbroner, documentary filmmaker
*   Cyndi Lauper, singer, songwriter, actress
*   Chris Marblo, Head, The Town School, Manhattan, NY
*   Francis McDormand, Academy Award Winning actress
*   Stephen Robinson, President, Southern Association of Independent Schools
*   Patricia Williams, Author, Professor, Columbia University School of Law, MacArthur Fellow, July 2000

In addition to this feature length documentary film, the project is also producing a nationally distributed kindergarten – 12th grade companion curriculum and social-networking interactive website.

The press release announcing the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s grant in support of this project is attached for reference.

All rights will be owned by and be the property of
The Calhoun School, 433 West End Avenue, New York, NY  10024.

Racial Underrepresentation and Discrimination in Jury Decisions

A Duke University press release recently described a major research study of racial disparity and likely racial bias/discrimination in jury decisions involving black and white defendants in two Florida counties:

Juries formed from all-white jury pools in Florida convicted black defendants 16 percent more often than white defendants, a gap that was nearly eliminated when at least one member of the jury pool was black, according to a Duke University-led study. The researchers examined more than 700 non-capital felony criminal cases in Sarasota and Lake counties from 2000-2010 and looked at the effects of the age, race and gender of jury pools on conviction rates.

There is a nice graphic of the Duke research results here.

The lead researcher, Patrick Bayer, the chair of Duke’s Economics Department (You can view a youtube interview with Bayer here.), has pointed out the U.S. Constitution’s 6th amendment officially imbeds the idea of a “right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury of our peers,” which is “a bedrock of the criminal justice system in the U.S.”

At least in constitutional words and theory that is. In fact, as this study suggests, the “justice” system’s practices periodically follow the path of individual and institutionalized racism rather than the path of a trial by a fair and impartial jury of one’s peers. In these Florida counties 40 percent of the jury pools had no black members, and most of the other pools had only one or two. And there is much other recent evidence of systemic racism in our criminal “justice” system as well, as we have previously discussed here.

For centuries, a great many African Americans have not gotten the benefit of this 6th amendment’s grand and egalitarian language. It is also interesting which amendments in the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution get the most praise, publicity and attention these days in the United States. This is not one of them.

Mia Love and The Triad of Oppression–Part 2:

In the zany world of Utah politics where Republicans naturally remain right of center, but Democrats venture toward the middle, Mia Love’s recent rise to national prominence came about after defeating former state legislator Carl Wimmer for the right to run against the well-funded Democrat incumbent, Jim Matheson, thus positioning herself as the first Afro-Haitian American Mormon GOP House candidate. If she wins, Mia could make history as the first black female politician ever elected to the House of Representatives from the state of Utah, an amazing feat when considering the odds of her of actually winning in a predominately white, conservative, Mormon state.

If Mia Love is victorious in her bid for the House seat, it will do wonders for the image of the state of Utah, and especially the LDS Church whose recent spate of high profile race-based debacles captured national attention. There have been insensitive racial statements made from former church authorities in past time (see pdf here). However, BYU religion professor Randy Bott’s recent remarks of justifiable racism found within the LDS cannon triggered one the strongest public statements against racism to date uttered by LDS Church headquarters, but not before the church’s own racial beliefs were once again questioned.

Additionally, comedian David Ackerman’s interviews with predominately white students while dressed in “blackface” on the campus of BYU in February 2012 went viral on YouTube, as it highlighted the ignorance of race awareness in Utah (by both Ackerman and the students alike). Highly publicized in the national media, it proved embarrassing, yet again, for the flagship school of the LDS Church. Against this backdrop, emerged Mia Love.

How does a black female who is a conservative and a Latter-day Saint manage to negotiate so many foreboding white spaces and, yet, publicly appear oblivious to the racial tensions found within each space? This is a complicated question that, in all fairness, only Mia can truly answer for herself; however, research has been beneficial at elucidating the complexities of racial identity development as we observe groups. We begin by understanding what the eminent scholar W.E.B. Du Bois meant when he coined the phrase “double consciousness” over one hundred years ago to explain the sociological conditions and democratic contradictions of living with everyday racism(s) that black Americans endure. That black and white folk live in two existentially dissimilar worlds with opposing codes of power and rules of conduct, Du Bois argued those rules and codes preferentially benefited whites at the expense of African Americans. The respective codes of power form a fairly predictable and sanitized environment where the dominant ideology of whiteness is proffered and diversity of bodies and experiences is generally discouraged, particularly in predominately white-controlled organizations. Though the language of these organizations will profess diversity, their actions insinuate otherwise, chiefly when viewing the structure of these institutions.

In order for someone like Mia Love or myself, for that matter, to gain some rewards and advantages in white America, we along with scores of other typically middle-class and well-educated people of color have to be proficient in these preferred racial codes of power which are often hidden from plain sight, but have enormous consequences for social mobility. For example, religious persuasion is highly valued along with particular hairstyles, musical tastes, and clothing. Additionally, white sounding names (as compared to black sounding names), educational status, and English language proficiency are but a few codes of power found in U.S. society, particularly with respect to hiring. For African Americans, the need and ability to tread between two separate and opposing codes is identified as “code switching.” Though this is often unconscious, it affords black Americans the ability to traverse white norms and values in order to “succeed” in the illusion of the American Dream, while still maintaining a connection with and understanding of the black community and its struggles as they move up the social ladder and try to preserve their status as middle class. The constant shifting of context that African Americans must tolerate, however, carries the burden of disease. The consequences for their health and well-being take the form of higher cortisol levels, which produces higher rate of chronic ailments that lead to increased morbidity and mortality.

To many African Americans and other individuals interested in politics who are following Mia Love’s Utah candidacy, she is a paradox. As a black, female Mormon, her conservative ideals are deemed peculiar as she runs for office in the Republican Party while balancing a triad of oppressive social constructs that are leveled against her. Not only have Blacks historically and continually had to battle for their right to coexist as equals in U.S. society, but women have similarly pushed against a glass ceiling. Even today, women still struggle for equal pay, equal rights and equal protection under the law in the workplace as well as in the armed forces.

Mia represents one of the most racially discriminated groups in the country as a black female. The same can be said for her Mormon identity as the LDS faithful endured bitter hatred and state-sanctioned terrorism in Missouri and Illinois in the 1800s. Mormonism remains grossly misunderstood and often unfairly judged with respects to their religious views while mainline evangelical traditions continue to wield Christian privilege at the expense of ‘fringe” religions like Mormonism. (Many republican supporters outside of Utah politely ignore Mia’s membership in the LDS Church, lionizing her as a fresh face in the party while secretly lambasting her for belonging to a “religious cult.”) Yet, Love’s political convictions show a strong support for values that do not necessarily represent her interests as a member in any of these oppressed groups.

In fact, Mia along with other conservative Blacks such as Allen West, Michael Steele, Amy Holmes, Alan Keyes, and Herman Cain ascribe to a party that rejects any notion of group inequality within its basic tenets of individualism. What many conservatives fail to recognize is that individuals are connected to larger groups, and those groups display patterns and behaviors that assess their levels well being in relation to society. When a group lags as a whole in the American scheme of profitability, it is because they typically display conduct in variance to the all around code that the white, male norm subscribes to. For example, Blacks aren’t doing well with respects to education, economics, and health outcomes while women still lag behind in salary and positions of power. These actualities of Mia’s reality seem to be in concert with her values that are based in a white male Christian context.

But the biggest quandary with respect to Mia lies with her inability to grasp Du Bois’ double consciousness. Whether this is due to her Mormon faith and the apparent Stockholm syndrome of black Mormons (whose membership in the LDS church differs widely from those of The Black Church which helped to sustain the African American community through some of the most difficult and turbulent times in American history rather than perpetuate racist folklore to justify black marginality) or due to her racial consciousness, by lacking the ability or refusing to code switch with the black community, Mia and others like her are seemingly out of touch with the political realities of African Americans and what remains at stake for them. It would be a mistake to assume that all black people are cut from the same cloth and share the same political inclinations. The Pew institute estimates some 3 million self-identified Black Americans are registered republicans; however, there has yet to be a ground swell of support for the right-wing ideology amongst the vast majority of African American voters. Thus, for most African Americans, it appears absolutely preposterous that someone black, Mormon, and female could possibly support the GOP so strongly given its history of anti-black, anti-feminist, and anti-Mormon sentiment. But this isn’t so preposterous when we recognize that American politics is a broken system in the business of servicing big corporations wherein Americans are duped into voting their values even when they contradict their political interests and success as a social group. African Americans are the only racial group that votes in blocks and, I would argue, the only group to vote their interests. But Mia Love does not align herself with African American interests, which is why a figure like her is so fascinating.

As potentially the first Mormon, black female from the state of Utah in the House, she has captured national attention. And her recent ascendency onto the political scene could not have come at a more convenient time when there has been a surge of interest in Mormonism due to definitive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. With the race beliefs and ideology that Mormons have been subjected to defending, Mia Love, as a seemingly bright and well-spoken GOP candidate, will prove to be a counter-answer to those raised eyebrows.

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I Might Look Black, But I Ain’t Like “Y’all”: Utah Politician Mia Love

Don’t be fooled by what you see. Mia Love, the conservative Republican political candidate for Utah’s new fourth congressional district, might look black, but she ain’t like “us.” Despite the well-known racist notion that “all blacks look alike,” there is more to being black than looks alone. Black people generally share in common African ancestry and specific alleles that control for variations in skin color and other physical features; besides that, black folk are as rich and diverse a group as they come with many distinct cultures, languages, and dialects. To most Americans, however, what the casual observer typically categorizes as a “black person” is not always someone who identifies as “African American.” By African American, in this sense, I mean those individuals whose African ancestors where enslaved and then transported to the Eastern shores of what is now the United States, and through natural increase, became the sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters of former slaves. With that history comes a bloody and violent past replete with pain and suffering at the hands of white power and privilege. Africans enslaved in America centuries ago were forced to shape new relationships with former rival tribesman out of sheer necessity, thus developing into a culture that we know currently as African American. With that rich tapestry of African culture forged through a record of struggle and long-suffering, African Americans survived the onslaught of white supremacy by producing rich and vibrant Black communities, tight knit in personal connections, where knowledge was gathered and disseminated about how to survive and agitate for social justice that had long been denied.

This is not to say that Mia Love and others of more recent immigrant lineage are not American, but the category of “African American” illuminates a particular heritage, enticing a certain frame in our minds. Haitian Americans, on the other hand, as well as other black Americans of different emigrant origin and history have their own unique chronicle. Mia’s parents, for example, emigrated from Haiti to the United States in the 1970’s, some 170 years after their homeland gained its independence. With them, then, they brought received wisdoms unique to Haiti from its history of French colonial oppression. But also with them, they brought wisdoms, sensibilities, and frames associated with a history of black rule and sovereignty.

After arming themselves under the direction of military leader Toussaint L’Ouverture and, subsequently, Jean Jacques Dessalines , Haitian slaves fought for their freedoms in the revolution of 1791 and finally gained their independence in 1804 after trouncing Napoleon’s forces for the second time. Mia’s Afro-Haitian ancestry is very similar to that of North American Blacks with equally violent and complicated interactions with Europeans. It differs from U.S. slavery and emancipation in that Napolean and his white army were forced out of Haiti, leaving a predominately black country to govern itself as the second democracy in the Americas. Haitian citizens were now in control of there own destiny, but not before they inherited many of the same European racisms that plague the U.S. mainland such as colorism, which is discrimination on the basis of skin tone. Since then, Haiti has been a predominantly black nation with unprecedented high levels of illiteracy, poverty, government instability, and other challenges. However, Haiti is the only black nation in the Western hemisphere, which means that despite its problems, they are free from white supremacy (within their country at least). Mia’s parents come from a culture that was literally created by a black majority who has experienced two hundred years of freedom and black command.

In contrast, African Americans have only been “free” since the passage of civil rights laws some forty-five years ago and continue to experience discrimination in housing, education, health care, and other forms of civic life in a white dominated culture. In fact, black Americans have merely lived an illusion of freedom. The richness of the African American culture is deeply rooted in social justice and a tradition of fighting against the absurdity of white supremacy that persists even today. From 1619 when 20 Africans landed in Jamestown, Virginia on a Dutch frigate to 1968 when the last civil rights law was passed, African Americans endured 350 years of slavery and near slavery-like conditions. In this country where white privilege and power is the norm, racial and ethnic immigrant groups of lighter, white appearing complexion (mainly from Southern and Eastern Europe) have consistently and inevitably been able to assimilate into the American culture and come to be considered “white” in American context. Immigrant groups of darker skin have not had that opportunity. Instead of being granted government succor in both the guarantee and upholding of justice at every corner of life as our constitution promises each American regardless of their station, African Americans have continually been denied or had limited access to decent and affordable housing, a world-class education, and low cost, high quality health care. And as society’s income and wealth gap widens, systemic racism continues to pervade every facet of American life.

Although weak legal strides have been made to redress some our most pressing racial vexations as a nation, serious deprivations remain for too many Americans of color. These deprivations are centuries-old and fly in the face of our universal appeal toward “go it alone” and “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” attitudes, questioning the validity of these metaphors. The image of successful people who rose from the ashes to make something of themselves is an enduring theme in U.S. society and enough to reinforce the idea in popular culture. Because white America is the architect of these improbable white frames of success, scores of immigrants came to the Americas in hopes of better days ahead. Yet, African Americans whose ancestors were involuntarily brought to this country do not follow a similar life trajectory and, thus, feel differently about race than one whose family voluntarily immigrated here for opportunity sake. Where Mia’s experience is one of hopes and dreams, albeit largely reinforced by popular stories, images, and myth-making of the American propaganda machine, the mass media, African Americans’ experience as a group is one of despair.

Mia’s history and challenges are not so different from other African Americans. What is different, however, are the philosophical tools by which Mia interprets her experiences; put differently, the way in which she buys into the notion of the American dream and individualism as well as how she views herself as a black woman through the prism of a U.S. white lens. As all “races” in North America view themselves through a white lens, Mia’s hair style, diction, cultural orientation, friendships, mannerisms and habits, nevertheless, are an extension of her degree of acceptance of white supremacist norms and values which induce her unconscious hatred for all things African American. This behavior should not be seen as strange, but instead an effect of living in a white world that has historically devalued black people and their accomplishments. All black Americans do this to some extent. The difference with Mia Love is that her upbringing, stemming from a more recent immigrant state of knowing and being, causes her to continue to believe these “norms” of whiteness without questioning their basis and origin. African Americans, on the other hand, have developed counter frames to protect themselves against white supremacist notions, creating an alternative way of “viewing” their position and circumstance. As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett detail in their book, The Spirit Level, only once we correct the widening income gap will we see improvement in every major social indicator from health and crime to education and jobs. Such opportunity comes from community as well as a greater sense of fairness and justice.

This tradition of fighting and struggling against systemic racism is distinct for African Americans, something that recent immigrants of African descent cannot completely comprehend. Because Mia Love and others like her have not come from an institution of perpetual battle for their freedom, voice, and right to exist in a supposedly egalitarian society, they have the luxury to be unconscious of the white-black paradigm in this country. However, this much is true about U.S. racial understandings about blackness, it doesn’t much matter if you where born in America or immigrated here, the one-drop rule is still alive and well in contemporary America. No one person of color is free from discrimination in this country. With even the slightest hint of “black” (African) features, white America still sees that person as black. And with that comes the white centered frames of what it means to be black despite the cultural variations of blackness. Mia Love has the unique opportunity to learn two distinct histories and cultures. It would behoove her to understand and embrace the African American social-cultural history because the reality is she looks like “us.” We are all the sons and daughters of former slaves; we share this fight together.

Cross-posted from

Racial Profiling and Mass Deportation of Black and Latino Men

A recent report by the New York Civil Liberties Union revealed that the New York Police Department stopped and frisked nearly 700,000 people last year. Black and Latino youth were the primary targets of these policing efforts. Black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 21 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011, yet they make up less than five percent of the city’s population. Ninety percent of Black and Latino young men who were stopped were innocent. The disproportionate targeting of black and Latino young men in New York City can help us to understand another phenomenon: why 98 percent of deportees are sent to Latin America and the Caribbean and why over three quarters are male. In my research with Dominican and Jamaican deportees, I found that the vast majority of them were first picked up by police officers and then handed over to immigration authorities.

(Image from here)


If you walk into an immigration detention center today – where an average of about 34,000 non-citizens are held as they wait on immigration hearings and for their deportation to happen – you will find that nearly all detainees are black and brown men. This is remarkable, because not all immigrants are men, and not all immigrants are from Latin America and the Caribbean. About 25% of undocumented immigrants are from Europe and Asia. And about half of all immigrants are women. So, how is this happening? Why are most detainees and deportees Latin American and Caribbean men? The answer to this question lies in racial profiling. As immigration law enforcement increasingly is being carried out by criminal law enforcement agents, the effects of racial profiling in criminal law enforcement have spillover effects into immigration law enforcement.


(Image from here)

Deportations are carried out by immigration law enforcement officers who work in two branches of the Department of Homeland Security: Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  In Fiscal Year 2010, immigration law enforcement agents apprehended over half a million non-citizens. The vast majority – 463,382 – were apprehended by the Border Patrol. The remaining 53,610 were encountered by ICE, usually within the interior of the United States, in cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, and San Francisco.

Border Patrol arrests happen much as they have since the creation of the Border Patrol in 1924, except that there have been enormous technological advances. Border Patrol agents have checkpoints and helicopters and motion sensors and all sorts of ways to find people along the US/Mexico border. They also have racial profiling, a central technique in immigration law enforcement along the border for the past 90 years. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Mexicans account for the vast majority of arrests along the Mexican border. In addition, the presumption of illegality has also spread to nationals of Mexico’s southern neighbors in Central America. Thus, the second largest group to face deportation is Central Americans. However, there is a third group that also faces deportation in large numbers: Caribbean immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Notably, Dominicans and Jamaicans, unlike Central Americans, are not likely to be stopped along the border for “Mexican appearance.” So, how are they getting caught up in the deportation dragnet?

When I spoke with Dominican and Jamaican deportees, very few of them reported having been arrested by immigration agents along the border. Nearly all of the Jamaicans and Dominicans I interviewed had arrived in New York City via airplane. Immigration law enforcement agents generally do not have license to walk up and down the streets of U.S. cities and demand proof of U.S. citizenship from pedestrians. The Border Patrol is only authorized to work in U.S. border areas. And, ICE, only has 20,000 employees overall, only a fraction of whom are officers engaged in raiding homes and worksites arresting illegally present immigrants. ICE does not have the staff or resources to patrol the county. Instead, ICE works closely with criminal law enforcement agencies to apprehend immigrants.


(Image from here.)

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is the division of ICE that carries out arrests. On an average day, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers arrest 108 immigrants, and deport 1,057 people. ERO officers arrest many of these 108 immigrants per day after they have been processed through the criminal justice system.

There are at least three ways that Police/ICE cooperation works:

  1. A police officer pulls over a person for an alleged traffic violation. If that police officer is deputized to work for ICE, they can run the driver’s fingerprints right there on the road. If the driver turns out to be illegally present in the United States or has an immigration hold, the police officer can arrest the driver and hand them over to ICE.
  2. A police officer arrests a person and charges them with a crime. They take them to the police station, fingerprint them, and then run their fingerprints through the ICE database. Even if the police decide to drop the charges, if the person turns out to have an immigration hold, they will detain them until ICE comes to pick them up.
  3. A police officer arrests a person, charges them with a crime, and the person serves time in jail or prison. Before being released from jail or prison, the police can call ICE to come and check their eligibility to remain in the United States.

All three of these scenarios begin with a police arrest. We know well from criminal justice scholarship that black and Latino men are much more likely to be arrested than other people. The cooperation of police with ICE, then, leads to an expansion of this racially stratified system of punishment into the realm of immigration law enforcement.

“Implicit Racial Bias” and Preference for Republican Candidates over Obama

At UW Today, a University of Washington publication, Molly McElroy recently published a summary of research by Anthony Greenwald at the University of Washington with some other psychological researchers. The title of her article is “Unconscious racial attitudes playing large role in 2012 presidential vote.”

McElroy summarizes their current and earlier research:

In a study done just prior to the 2008 presidential election, Greenwald and colleagues found that race attitudes played a role in predicting votes for the Republican candidate John McCain.

They used the implicit association test (IAT), which we have discussed a bit previously here. One version of the IAT has respondents match white and black faces to desirable and undesirable words, and the speed/difficulty in matching in used to judge “implicit” or “unconscious racial bias.”

Most recently, during the 2012 Republican primaries they collected online data from nearly 15,000 voters, and have found that the intensity of white preference on a version of the IAT (and other measures) links to conservative political preferences:

Greenwald asked survey-takers about their political beliefs, how “warmly” they felt toward black and white people, and which presidential contender they preferred. Because the survey was conducted in the first four months of 2012, it included the five main Republican hopefuls – Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum – as well as Obama.

. . . . Greenwald found that favoritism for Republican candidates was predicted by respondents’ racial attitudes, both their self-reported views and their implicit biases measured by the IAT. Greenwald emphasized that the study’s finding that some candidates are more attractive to voters with pro-white racial attitudes does not mean that those candidates are racist.

An odd comment that last one. Such preferences for whiteness over blackness are of course “racist” if one means by that term thinking and operating out of a conventional white-racist framing of U.S. society. And the Republican candidates themselves certainly did a good bit of that white racial framing over the primaries.

The journalist McElroy, and apparently some of the researchers, seem a bit surprised that President Barack Obama’s election did not reduce this white racial preference for whites. But such negative results will not be surprising to the social scientists who write for this blog, or for most of our social science and other readers, as much social science and other data beyond the IAT research articles would lead one to expect such findings.

Greenwald is cited as explaining the continuing “racial bias” among white voters in regard to President Obama with this interesting explanation:

[Greenwald] suspects that Obama’s power as president in 2012, compared with his lesser status as candidate in 2008, may have “brought out race-based antagonism that had less reason to be activated in 2008.”

That is, whites with strong racial biases directed at black Americans may be even more disturbed now that a black man has great power as president. I suspect he is right about that, as our extensive data on the racist attacks on Obama inside and outside the Republican Party in our book, Yes We Can?: White Racial Framing and the 2008 Presidential Election demonstrate. (I also develop a broad argument about a centuries-old link of U.S. politics to white racism in its many forms in a new Routledge (2012) book, White Party, White Government: Race Class and U.S. Politics.)

One major limitation of the typical psychological interpretations of the IAT research findings is that these otherwise creative social psychologists are handicapped by old and very limiting concepts like “bias” and “racial prejudice.” Such white racial views and attitudes are only a small part of the broad white racial frame that has been drilled into almost all American heads, of whites and others, now for centuries. That dominant white racial frame includes these racial biases but also racial stereotyping, racial narratives, racialized emotions, racial images, and inclinations to discriminate. The problem is the hoary and dominant white framing, the dominant white worldview, not just some racial bias.

In addition, IAT results showing that even relatively “egalitarian” whites still exhibit “unconscious racial bias” is much better explained as these whites revealing significant elements of a deep white racial framing—-a framing that allows more liberal whites to truly believe they are colorblind even as they still see the world very much through elements of a white racial framing of society generated in their minds from cradle to grave. Without major deframing, reframing, and counter-framing — especially in a true liberty and justice direction — the old white racial frame still dominates the landscape of white minds and the minds of many others.

Net Migration from Mexico: Now Zero or Less!

The Pew Hispanic Center has an eye-catching headline on a May 3 press release, which I have not seen much coverage of in the mass media: “Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less.” The research account headed by a former student of mine (talented demographer Jeffrey Passel) at University of Texas begins with this:

The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—most of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed, according to a new analysis of government data from both countries by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico.

Lots of interesting and revealing data in this report (pdf for researchers here), some of it countering much political conventional wisdom.

Do these data pose a problem for our many nativistic politicians and anti-Mexican-immigrant pundits, and their often racist arguments?

The Chronicle of Higher Ed’s Naomi Schaefer Riley: Tyranny of White Privilege

Last week, we were reminded again of the false construct of a post-racial society when Naomi Schaefer Riley posted a vitriolic and careless article in The Chronicle of Higher Education maligning three Black studies graduate students at Northwestern University, their professors, and the entire area of study. In her piece, she openly sneered at each woman’s dissertation (none of which she had read) and basically characterized their work as useless, “irrelevant,” outdated, and predicated upon victimization.

Already, responses have been generated by the NU students as well as the faculty. A Chronicle editor has also responded with a rather weak defense of Riley’s blog, claiming that, “It is a blog for opinion . . . not news reporting by the staff.” Besides the feelings of intense rage and sadness I felt over Riley publicly defaming these scholars at the beginning of their careers, I had another overwhelming feeling.


It is simply exhausting to fight those who have no awareness of the presence and manifestation of their own White privilege. It is the additional energy that Blacks must expend particularly when they dare to trespass through areas perceived as “White terrain” (Feagin 1991) which academia most certainly is.

Riley’s piece exposed the White privilege that Peggy McIntosh spoke of long ago in her 1988 landmark essay. In it, McIntosh includes a laundry list of nearly 50 invisible privileges conferred to her at birth simply by virtue of being born White. Based on Riley’s piece and her equally as sarcastic and misguided non-apology, we could adapt and add to some of McIntosh’s original items, because through Riley’s pieces, we’ve learned White privilege also includes:

1) The ability to make pronouncements and declarations on which dissertation topics constitute “legitimate debate” and who is a “legitimate scholar” based on precious few sentences about the work in question.
2) The privilege to substitute snark for responsible research and have it published in the leading publication on higher education without the editors challenging its integrity and in fact defending its inclusion as merely “an opportunity– to debate.”
3) The privilege to stunt the spirit of academic inquiry and intellectual curiosity simply because a research topic pertains to Blackness.
4) The privilege to pretend all is well where race relations are concerned and that if there are racial disparities or tensions, it’s because people of color caused them. [FYI: Ms. Riley, any of Tim Wise’s books, or Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism without Racists (2009), or Joe Feagin’s recent White Racial Frame (2010) can help you with this one.]
5) The ability to attack any Black person at any time and particularly those who have achieved scholar status because they threaten White hegemony.

And so, because Ms. Riley decided to wield these elements of her privilege like a weapon, we are stuck defending ourselves and expending the energy to respond.

Essentially, what she told the NU students is: You do not belong. It’s a message sent to Blacks whether they are doctoral students at a leading research university, student-athletes on the Rutgers women’s basketball team, or a child walking around a White neighborhood armed only with an iced tea and Skittles. And yes, Ms. Riley, even President Obama is regularly told he doesn’t belong when he’s the only president who’s been called a “liar” in a televised address before a joint session of Congress or who has to prove citizenship over and over again like a freed slave showing manumission papers.

Fortunately, as Black folks, we have learned to multi-task—to resist our oppression and defend ourselves and our labor even as we go about our research, teaching, and daily lives. Yet, the fact that we must do both speaks to the very nature of the racial inequality Naomi Schaefer Riley claims has all but disappeared.

Resurrection of Deep Racial Icons: The “Dangerous Other” – Part II

Many want to see the Florida case as an individual going about his “duties” requiring him to challenge possible criminals, refusing to see that the victim had as much claim to the neighborhood as the killer, irrespective of the race differences that resemble historic laws and practices of the Jim-Crow South.

Herein citizens not only protest proposed “unfair” depictions of Zimmerman as “racist” but equate his critics with what they consider de-legitimated resistance groups showing signs reading “Black Panthers = Racism” referring to what scholars see as the new racism wherein dominant whites increasingly see “minorities” as causing racism by claiming racism. Defenders point to Zimmerman’s African-American friend as indicative of why he is not racist, thereby denying the historic link to white militias attacking Black males as threatening. Similarly, status quo defenders point to the U.S. African-American president as indicative of how this country cannot engage in racist social practices, thereby denying this historic link to the institutions that formed the larger system of racial domination.

Both of these icons – threatening Black male that must be challenged as a danger to law-abiding whites; and Islamic (read indigenous) ethnic groups that must be resisted as a danger to European civilization – arise from root ideologies of the “hostile” or savage Indian as a threat to western civilized settlement, extended as a rationalization for genocide of Native Nations and enslavement of Africans, both further connected to militias that regulated borderlands and individuals that identified the dangerous “other” within the colony and subsequently the state.

Within the United States the case is especially pernicious, since the resurrection of these racist icons, rationalizations and practices are further rooted in the Constitution of the United States of America, (See Joe Feagin’s White Party, White Government), with over two hundred years of racial struggles and wars to eliminate the legalized racial orderings but not the de-facto racialized practices. This resurrection is further troubling as clearly racist, ethno-dominating policies are being re-founded in states such as Arizona, Florida and Georgia with popular political initiatives defending the dominant group initiatives, furthering the ideological defense of individuals such as Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin and racist institutions such as Breivik’s killings being labeled as that of a “psychopath” and not those of the supremacist, protectionist ideologies that Breivik invoked in his own defense.

Deep icons of the “dangerous other” existing below the surface of a troubled society only take certain political mixes to become resurrected, with the savage now being an Islamic or Indigenous recalcitrant, “hostiles” becoming “terrorists” or enemy combatants, and historically suppressed groups such as Blacks and Latinos being swept up in racist tides of anti-crime nativism. Seriously anti-racist activists need to attend to the use of deeply embedded racial icons in our society to rationalize race attacks and killings, else we will also resurrect supremacist ideologies that produce racist policies and turn back the meager gains we have made over the past two centuries for a more equitable, less race-based society.