Robbing Percy to Pay Paul: How Lottery and Education Policy Reproduces Racial Inequality

Malcolm X would often tell his followers, “Racism is like a Cadillac, they bring out a new model every year.” Although newer models look much different than older ones, the fact of the matter is a Cadillac is still a Cadillac. Likewise, racism is still racism, regardless of how it has changed throughout the years. The works of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Joe Feagin, among others, have shown that racism is about how racial categories are central organizing principles of social circumstances and opportunities. Racial groups atop the hierarchy are enumerated numerous advantages, both symbolic and material, while other groups are disadvantaged. In the modern era, the racial rule persists in ways that are institutional, covert, and seemingly nonracial, but no less effective. I argue that the utilization of lotteries to finance public services, like education, exemplifies a new model of this racism.

In a neo-liberal age characterized by disinvestment of the welfare state, lotteries have become a viable alternative for governments to generate hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. Politicians are generally receptive to them, particularly when confronted with budgetary shortfalls, because they raise huge tax revenues for social services like education with little resistance from the public. Lotteries rely upon voluntary participation, but as Charles Clotfelter and Phillip Cook argue, they are nonetheless forms of taxation because these revenues carry the same value regardless of how the state collects and spends them. Often times, however, lottery revenues are not generated equally across social groups. Some groups contribute more to social services than do others though the lottery tax. When these revenues are redistributed in a way that transfers money from one community to another, one community’s fiscal gain comes at another’s expense. So the question stands: Who plays and who pays?
Recently, I completed a study that takes up this very question. Using Chicago as a case study, I simultaneously compared the generation and allocation of lottery revenues. My findings show that this money-exchange process is organized along lines of race (and class). The lottery is a racially regressive source of revenue (it collects much more money from blacks than whites), but the state spends these revenues on education without considering from whom they originated. When this occurs, resources are transferred from communities of color and spread across all communities.

After auditing financial records from the Illinois Department of Revenue, I found that lottery sales vary considerably by a community’s racial and class background. (See Figure 1 for an overview of bivariate statistics showing this pattern.) Consider, for example, one illustrative comparison of a few communities of relatively equal population size. During the early 2000s, communities of color and working class communities such as Avalon Park, Calumet Heights, Roseland, and South Shore generated well over $20 million of lottery sales annually, whereas white communities and middle- to upper-class communities like North Center and Lakeview generated only $4 to $5 million. Such trends remained consistent after performing regression analysis, in which I was able to test for independent and simultaneous effects of race and class while controlling other influential variables.

Once lottery sales are generated, nearly a third of every dollar is earmarked for public education in Illinois (see Figure 2). During the 2000s, the lottery’s contribution to state education amounted to nearly $600 million or more per year or roughly 10 percent of the state’s annual education budget (see Figure 3). It is placed in a general fund along with other sources of revenue and allotted to school districts based on three criteria: property tax levels, average daily attendance, and poverty levels within a district (see Figure 4). Illinois lawmakers intentionally designed the formula this way to ensure poorer districts receive more assistance than wealthier counterparts. Progressive intentions do not translate into progressive outcomes though, especially when lottery revenues are redistributed without considering from whom they originated.

In Chicago, money exchange between the lottery and education represents public policy that circulates money from those who need it most and spreads it around to everyone. This is especially true when lottery tax contributions outweigh other sources of money for education (e.g., property taxes). Under the worst circumstances communities of color are burdened with subsidizing public education, a service everyone is entitled. Public policy that circulates money in this way captures one mechanism for reproducing racially inequitable distributions of capital. Therefore, let us call this new Cadillac for what it is: Racism.

~ Kasey Henricks is a Ph.D. Student of Sociology at Loyola University Chicago and current Student Representative of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Contact can be directed to him at

No citizenship? No worries, Uncle Sam needs you. (Pt.2)

Yesterday, I began discussing the enlistment crisis in the U.S. military and the strategy of targeting Latinos/as to fill those needs.  Today, I continue that discussion.

The Few. The Proud. The Overzealous.

Some branches are quite open about their selective recruitment of Latina/o non-citizens and Latina/os in general. Campaigns such as “Leaders Among Us” and the “Hispanic H2 Tour” do not mask who they are targeting. They push 30-second commercial spots of Spanish-speaking brown folks and have military recruiters attend Latina/o-specific cultural events to sign up new enlistees. These tactics are suggestive of a racial and ethnic pursuit. The story does not end with these campaigns though.

Several incidents reveal the extent to which some recruiters will go to meet enlistment goals. These may be exceptions to the general rule, but because they such reports exist they should be further explored. In 2005, a Marines recruiter was convicted of providing false documents to Latina/o non-citizens in order to enlist them. In another incident, the Associated Press released a story about an Army recruiter crossing the Mexico border. A recruiter had traveled to a Tijuana high school in attempt to enlist students. While these cases don’t describe the entire recruitment efforts pursued by the military, they are indicative of who is being targeted. Nonetheless, more empirical evidence is needed to determine the extent to which these practices persist.

With fewer rights, privileges, and power, Latina/o non-citizens are left with less protection when faced with aggressive recruitment tactics such as those highlight above. For fear of deportation, coercion persuades effortlessly. If a recruiter came to a person’s door and that person did not have legal citizenship, let alone access to the legal system, imagine the leverage this recruiter would possess. In other instances, little coercion is needed. The lure of U.S. citizenship is enough, especially for those in marginalized locations. After dealing with problems like overpopulation, poor paying jobs and few of them, lack of social services and government corruption, many Latina/o non-citizens view spending a few years in Afghani mountains or Iraqi deserts as a viable option.

The politics of Latina/o non-citizens and the military

Many support the idea of non-citizens serving in the military. Among this group the question is not: “Is this ethical?” but “How can it be made most effective?” Much of this debate centers on whether recruiting efforts should be limited only to U.S. territories. Defense policy analyst Max Boot proposes aiding military needs by creating a foreign “Freedom Legion,” as reported by The Christian Science Monitor (Jonsson 2005). This proposal would follow the models of Britain’s Nepalese Ghurkas and France’s Foreign Legion. Boot argues that such a plan would tap into other cultures, help the military meet enlistment needs, and bring great people to the country. But this uncritical assessment does not acknowledge that such a practice would likely exploit disenfranchised populations.

While Boot’s optimism describes turning great people into U.S. citizens, it ignores poverty-stricken situations that would be a driving motivation for many to join. Not only, his position does not acknowledge that such strategies give uncertain promises of citizenship and places an assumed value on life. Because recruiters know how to reach their enlistment goals, the disenfranchised would be vulnerable to attacks by such a “legion of freedom.”

Those supporting non-citizen recruitment counter that it’s not an issue of exploitation, but a sense of loyalty and patriotism to the U.S. (see Avord 2003). Supposedly, military service is a means for Latina/o non-citizens to gain legitimacy in American society. Consider the words of Thomas Donnelly: “From the French involvement in the American Revolution to the iconic Hollywood image of World War II squads filled with Irish, Italians and Jews, Donnelly said immigrants have always been integral members of the military.” (see Davis 2007:Para 22).

Such statements assume that situations of immigrants are alike, but in reality, the many stories of assimilation are different. Unlike the French, Irish, Italians and Jews, Latina/os have not and will not receive the same passage. Their path to American society is one that does not come with the same social privileges and economic access that the aforementioned white ethnics have received.

The Latino/a situation is different. They have had a long-established presence in America predating mass European migrations. Unlike white ethnics, assimilation into American society has been a stratified one. Disparities in nearly every socioeconomic measure available prove this. The passage waiting for many Latina/o non-citizen service members is a path to lower rungs of America’s racialized caste-like system.

Hope on the horizon?

With current occupations having no end in sight, there is no reason to expect the number of Latina/o non-citizen enlistees to decrease. This group finds itself in quite the paradox: the very country they serve is a country filled with immigrant hysteria and anti-Latina/o hostility. This means that Latina/o non-citizens are engaged in a double-front. They fight for a country that they must also defend against – and potentially lose their life for.

~Kasey Henricks, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology, Loyola University Chicago

No citizenship? No worries, Uncle Sam needs you. (Pt.1)

Prolonged occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have created enlistment problems for the U.S. military. Extended tours, increased numbers of these tours, and a crunch to meet enlistment quotas are a few examples of troubles facing the military. In response to this dilemma, politicians and various branches of the military have taken up innovative enlistment practices to fix what could be broken. This scenario has translated into recruitment aimed at specific targets. After all, it’s not just anyone who serves the armed forces.

Uncle Sam
( Creative Commons License photo credit: Nevada Tumbleweed )

Who comprises America’s frontline?

Jorge Mariscal (2007) contends that “disenfranchisement” is the most apt word to describe why youth enlist, particularly from communities that are predominantly poor and comprised by people of color. These groups find themselves in unique, vulnerable positions. With few education and career options, less access to the legal system, and even fewer guaranteed social rights, many view the military as a stepping stone to making the best out of a bad situation. For many, it is a path to upward mobility. For some, it is the only path.

Such vulnerability to enlistment raises critical questions about sacrifice for this country. Namely, who has to? As reported by Segal and Segal (2004)[pdf], 200,000 new annual enlistees must be enrolled for the military to maintain its current size. Nearly all these recruits are either black or Latina/o, recent high school graduates, have parents with little education, or do not have immediate plans of entering college.

Being all that you can be given a Latina/o ethnicity

When it comes to U.S. militarism, some sacrifice more than others. One of the largest-growing groups vulnerable to enlistment includes Latina/os. Since 1985, the percentage of Latina/os in the military has nearly tripled – surpassing more than 11 percent of the military (see Lundquist 2008).

It is further worth noting the placement of Latina/os within the military. Much like blacks, they occupy lower statuses. Latina/os are much more likely to occupy infantry positions, and therefore see combat during these times of war and occupation; also, they are underrepresented nearly threefold in officer positions comprising only four percent of all military officers (Segal and Segal 2004)[pdf]. As these trends show, Latina/os are increasingly relied upon to perform the dirty work of U.S. militarism.

While the general Latina/o population faces numerous vulnerabilities in terms of military recruitment, a particular segment of this group faces unique, and perhaps more dire, circumstances.

No citizenship? No worries.  Uncle Sam needs you.

Though conservative narratives might have you believe Latina/o non-citizens abuse social services and “take ‘Amurkan’ jobs,” quite the opposite is true. Their contributions yield solutions to military problems. (This is very much a parallel situation to Social Security: Latina/o non-citizens bail out services they will not receive benefits from.) Despite such whitewashed narratives, this group plays a vital role in today’s military. And policymakers are well aware of this.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, policies have been created and revised to enlist non-citizens. Take the No Child Left Behind Act for example. This legislation has extended a helping hand to recruiters by placing certain stipulations on schools receiving federal funds. Such schools are required to release student information to recruiters, unless parents sign a little-known, little-publicized form specifying otherwise.

Shortly after the passing of NCLB, President George W. Bush issued an executive order[pdf], that further opened the borders for non-citizen enlistment. It provides an expedited path to citizenship by declaring non-citizens eligible for naturalization after one day of active-duty service.

Congress joined in the action with the passage of the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act[pdf]. This law reduced the peacetime waiting period from three years to one in effort to streamline the application process to citizenship.

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security revised several requirements for prospective enlistees, expanding the possibility of who could be recruited. Now, the military can waive requirements of citizenship or resident status if such an enlistment serves broadly defined interests of national security.

Taken together, these policies have helped expand the number of non-citizen enlistees[pdf], as reported by the DHS. Since 2001, the number of non-citizen service members filing for naturalization, receiving naturalization, or being denied naturalization has increased more than 700 percent.

It should be noted, however, that these figures are not broken down by nationality. But according to data reported by the Center for Naval Analysis (2005) [pdf], Latina/o non-citizens undoubtedly comprise most of these numbers. Seven of the top ten birth countries for non-citizen service members are Latin American, with Mexico being home for most.

Perhaps Lieutenant Colonel Margaret Stock (2009)[pdf], best summarizes the current situation:

“Over the past eight years, Congress [and other federal entities have] amended military-related enlistment and naturalization rules … encouraging recruitment of immigrants into the U.S. armed forces. Without the contributions of immigrants, the military could not meet its recruiting goals” (p. 4).

Tomorrow, part two on the vulnerability of Latina/o non-citizens to military recruitment.

~Kasey Henricks, Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology, Loyola University Chicago (The author wishes to thank Ana Moreno, Stephanie Coward, and Dave Campbell for their critically helpful comments on earlier drafts.)

A Matter of Technicality, Not Racial Contestation: The Coming SB 1070 Challenge

It appears the Obama Administration and Justice Department will be challenging Arizona’s immigration law, otherwise known as SB 1070, although no lawsuit has been filed yet.

If recent events are any indication, the forthcoming lawsuit will frame immigration as a national issue that requires a federal, not state, response.  In a recent interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented, “[Obama] thinks that the federal government should be determining immigration policy.” These comments were further corroborated by President Barack Obama, himself, when he first openly criticized the law. He said, “If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts [like Arizona] opening up around the country.” Further preview of the lawsuit to come was offered by Randal Archibold and Mark Landler of The New York Times. According to them, legal scholars say the Obama Administration and Justice Department have a stronger case if they argue that Arizona intruded upon what ought to be federally regulated.

As these accounts foreshadow, the merits of the pending challenge will likely be on grounds of federal versus states’ rights. At face value, this is certainly good news to those who oppose SB 1070. However, the grounds in which this case will likely be built has complicated implications for racial/ethnic issues. If such a challenge is solely built on the notion that immigration is a federal issue, then it will ignore the proverbial elephant in the room that made this law controversial in the first place: racial profiling.

Under SB 1070, Arizona lawmakers have enabled local police enforcement to approach anyone who they “reasonably suspect” to be of illegal status and verify their citizenship. Furthermore, this law enables local police enforcement to detain anyone they reasonably suspect to be in the U.S. illegally. Because reasonable suspicion remains undefined, this broadens what tactics can be employed to enforce the new law. As critics argue, this not only encourages police to rely upon racial and ethnic markers such as skin tone and language to enforce immigration law, but it gives them legal justification to racially profile.

If the Obama Administration and Justice Department file suit against SB 1070 on grounds of federal versus state authority, they virtually leave racial profiling unchallenged. 1

This is problematic because racial profiling is discriminatory as it targets individuals on the basis of group assumptions. And these group assumptions often times are faulty generalizations that depend upon stereotypes. All Latina/os or “Latina-looking” people are not illegal migrants, but SB 1070 enables law enforcement to presume such individuals as guilty until proven innocent. Instead of condemning racial profiling, the Obama Administration and Justice Department will likely change the subject and frame this law as an issue of how government authority should be delegated.

A failure to openly contest racial profiling reinforces a central feature of color-blind racism: the minimization of racial discrimination. When people buy into this post-racial fantasyland, as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva contends, they understand racial discrimination as more of a historical fact than a contemporary living nightmare for folks of color. Rather than address mountains of evidence (see Karen Glover and Katheryn Russell-Brown) that detail the persistence – and limits – of racial profiling, it remains unaddressed and thus the racial status quo is maintained. By remaining silent, the Obama Administration and Justice Department implicitly dismiss the enduring presence of such racial discrimination within the criminal justice system.

If the Justice Department wins its forthcoming lawsuit on grounds that immigration is a federal issue, then SB 1070 will have been defeated by technicality. Though this would successfully nullify this racist law, it’s premature to bring out the champagne glasses just yet. Turning your back on a problem does not make that problem go away. The merits of racial profiling must be openly contested for SB 1070 to be genuinely defeated in the name of racial progress. Such a task is cumbersome, but it is necessary if America is to become closer to the ideal that many have dreamed. In the hopeful words of Langston Hughes, let America be the land it could be:

“O, let America be America again

The land that never has been yet

And yet must be

the land where every man is free….

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—America will be!”

1 Though I have critical reservations about this legal strategy due to its racial implications, it may very well prove to be most effective. If the Obama Administration and the Justice Department squarely tackled the unconstitutionality of racial profiling, they run the risk of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court dismissing their claim on grounds of precedent: the 1975 ruling of the United States v. Brignoni-Ponce. For this case, the Court essentially legalized racial profiling by enabling police to use someone’s racial appearance as grounds for stopping and searching motorists. Michelle Alexander points this out in her new book: “In that case the Court concluded that the police could take a person’s Mexican appearance into account when developing reasonable suspicion that a vehicle may contain undocumented immigrants.”

Kasey Henricks, Master’s Student, Sociology Department, Loyola University Chicago

Dan Fanelli, Racial Profiling, and Whitewashing Terrorism: How Racial Fictions Become Racial Realities

It was only a matter of time.

Shortly after Faisal Shahzad was indicted on charges for the foiled Times Square car bombing, Florida GOP primary congressional candidate, Dan Fanelli, publicly endorsed racial profiling to combat terrorism. Fanelli released two campaign messages at his website entitled “Simple Facts” and “Simple Facts II.” (These advertisements are also available at “Simple Facts” and “Simple Facts II”).

While Fanelli’s concern for safety from terrorism may be a legitimate one, his solution is nothing short of racial tyranny, or what Tim Wise labels “The Tyranny of Common Sense” ( “The Tyranny of Common Sense: The Faulty Logic of ‘Terrorist’ Profiling.” Pp. 128-132 In Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflection from an Angry White Male, Tim Wise, (Ed.), Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press, [2005] 2008. “The Tyranny of Common Sense: The Faulty Logic of ‘Terrorist’ Profiling.” Pp. 128-132 In Speaking Treason Fluently: Anti-Racist Reflection from an Angry White Male, edited by Tim Wise. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press.. Fanelli suggests that terrorists have a profile, and it is only common sense that this profile be targeted. In these recent ads, the line between “Arab-looking” men and terrorists is blurred, and Fanelli leads his constituency to believe these two are one in the same. All the while, Fanelli symbolizes white heroism and righteousness as he vows to protect “America” from Arab-looking men flying planes into buildings. His solution: Stop political correctness, end the invasion of privacy (e.g. supposedly unfair screening processes), and racially profile those who look like terrorists.

This, however, begs a fundamental question: What does a terrorist look like? According to these ads, they are dark-skinned, Turban-wearing, Arab-looking men who look similar to Shahzad or the 19 al-Qaeda members that committed the atrocities of 9/11. For Fanelli, these acts of a few individuals are justifiable grounds to profile a group that comprises millions of people. According to Fanelli, it’s just common sense. However, his common sense is nothing short of a gross overgeneralization that unjustly targets innocent people.

Racial profiling not only targets innocent people, but it fails as an effective counterterrorism tactic. Despite the fact that terrorists come in many different shades, Fanelli casts a picture that relies upon one-dimensional anti-Arab stereotypes. Even the al-Qaeda network, which Fanelli alludes to with a Twin Towers reference, is a global network comprised of decentralized terrorist cells (Howard, Russell and Reid Sawyer. Terrorism and Counterterrorism: Understanding the New Security Environment, Readings and Interpretations (2nd Edition). Dubuque, Iowa: McGraw-Hill, 2006.). Its vast presence transcends boundaries of racial identifiers such as skin tone and physical appearance and ethnic identifiers such as language or “Arab-sounding” names. In short, racial profiling is based on ill logic, and it is not a reliable tactic.

Though Fanelli suggests that it will enhance safety, racial profiling could have the reverse effect as intended.  With attention diverted to “Arab-looking” men, “closet terrorists” who don’t fit the profile might be overlooked. For example, consider the most recent successful terrorist act on American soil. This atrocity was committed by Joseph Andrew Stack, a software engineer enraged over U.S. tax policies and the federal government in general. His rage drove him to crash a plane into Austin’s IRS building this past February.

Ironically, in one ad Fanelli jokingly says that if “good-looking, ripped guy[s] without much hair” were hijacking planes and flying them into buildings, then he’d have no problem being profiled. Did I mention that Stack was an older white man without much hair, and as Jon Stewart satirically points out, looks striking similar to Fanelli? However, Fanelli does not seriously suggest that white men ought to be racially profiled. And virtually no other public figures make this suggestion either.

But why? It certainly is not because there’s been a shortage of isolated terrorist acts committed by white men. Other atrocities in recent history include terrorist acts committed by Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold of Columbine, and most other school shootings. And unfortunately, this list goes on. Despite these examples, Fanelli incessantly suggests racially profiling “Arab-looking” men is the answer to preventing terrorism.

In the short run Fanelli’s scapegoating tactics may get him elected, but in the long run they have much larger implications. These ads operate as a narrative that reinforces what Joe Feagin labels the dominant white racial frame (The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Framing and Counter-Framing, New York: Routledge, 2010). This frame contrasts a positive orientation of whites with a negative orientation with racial “Others,” and it helps whites (and others) process their everyday racial world. Through narrative, Fanelli’s ads legitimize a particular type of information that perpetuates racial oppression.

Fanelli discourages his constituency to critically think about terrorism and the limits of racial profiling. He does this by including the atrocities of 9/11 that were committed by “Arab-looking” men and excluding examples that counter his narrative. Through the evocation of anti-Arab resentment and fear of terrorism, Fanelli’s ads encourage audiences to ignore inconvenient facts of recent racial history and selectively remember others. This, in turn, legitimizes negative Arab stereotypes and problematizes an entire group of people.

All the while, these ads reinforce “sincere fictions of the white self” by legitimizing romanticized stereotypes of white heroism and innocence (Feagin, Joe, Hernán Vera, and Pinar Batur, White Racism: The Basics (2nd), New York: Routledge, 2001). These stereotypes are reinforced when Fanelli self-proclaims his heroism by vowing to protect “America” from terrorists and when the other unnamed white man is casted as an innocent bystander, subjected to intrusive safety screening processes. Consequently, these ads not only scapegoat one group, but they exonerate and glorify another, particularly whites.

For those who care about living in a racially just world, Fanelli’s ads pose a serious problem. Their effectiveness depends upon many whites, and others, to adopt the dominant white racial frame. In doing this, Fanelli’s message persuades many to live in what Charles Mills calls a “racial fantasyland” (The Racial Contract, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997). And if people believe in such a racial fantasyland as though it were real, recognition of past and present racial realities remain out of reach.

    ~Kasey Henricks, Master’s Student, Sociology Department, Loyola University Chicago