Archive for blogging
The archived video(s) of An Exploration of Whiteness and Health A Roundtable Discussion
is available beginning here (updated 12/16/12):
The examination of whiteness in the scholarly literature is well established (Fine et al., 1997; Frankenberg, 1993; Hughey, 2010; Twine and Gallagher, 2008). Whiteness, like other racial categories, is socially constructed and actively maintained through the social boundaries by, for example, defining who is white and is not white (Allen, 1994; Daniels, 1997; Roediger, 2007; Wray, 2006). The seeming invisibility of whiteness is one of its’ central mechanisms because it allows those within the category white to think of themselves as simply human, individual and without race, while Others are racialized (Dyer, 1998). We know that whiteness shapes housing (Low, 2009), education (Leonardo, 2009), politics (Feagin, 2012), law (Lopez, 2006), research methods (Zuberi and Bonilla-Silva, 2008) and indeed, frames much of our misapprehension of society (Feagin, 2010; Lipsitz, 1998). Still, we understand little of how whiteness and health are connected. Being socially assigned as white is associated with large and statistically significant advantages in health status (Jones et al., 2008). Anderson’s ground breaking book The Cultivation of Whiteness (2006) offers an exhaustive examination of the way whiteness was deployed as a scientific and medical category in Australia though to the second world war. Yet, there is relatively little beyond this that explores the myriad connections between whiteness and health (Daniels and Schulz, 2006; Daniels, 2012; Katz Rothman, 2001). References listed here.
The Whiteness & Health Roundtable is an afternoon conversation with scholars and activists doing work on this area.
The roundtable is sponsored by the Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) and the Critical Social & Environmental Psychology program at the Graduate Center CUNY. The event is hosted by Michelle Fine (Distinguished Professor, Social Psychology, Women’s Studies and Urban Education), Jessie Daniels (Professor, Urban Public Health and Sociology) and Rachel Liebert, (PhD Student, Critical Social/Personality Psychology).
I’m posting this from Atlanta where I’ll be attending a variety of meetings with assorted flavors of sociologists that go by a bundle of acronyms (SSSI, SSSP, ASA, SWS, ABS). I’ve organized a few sessions at one set of meetings and am presenting on a panel at another, so feel obliged to promote those a bit. If you’re in Atlanta and can drop by any of these sessions, I’d be delighted to see a friendly face or two.
Here’s the line up:
Race and New Media (ASA) Marriott Marquis
Sun, Aug 15 – 8:30am – 10:10am
Blogs and Belonging: Online Representations of Harlem
*Danielle M. Jackson (City University of New York – The Graduate Center)
Describing the Process of The Mexican Cyber-Moral Panic in The United States
*Nadia Yamel Flores (Texas A&M University), Guadalupe Vidales (University of Wisconsin, Parkside), April Plemons (Texas A&M University)
Facebook: A “Raced” Space or “Post-Racial”?
*Stephanie Marie Laudone (Fordham University)
Reviewing Whiteness: The White Savior Film and the Online Film Reviewers
*Matthew W. Hughey (Mississippi State University)
Networking and Building Coverage of Your Research, (aka, Blogging + Twitter for Scholars) – SWS
Sun, Aug 15 – 10:30am-12noon
Crystal Jackson, Theta Pavis, Jessie Daniels
Internet and Society (ASA) Marriott Marquis
Sun, Aug 15 – 12:30pm – 2:10pm
Open Source and the Moral Field of Computing
*Jon M. Smajda (University of Minnesota)
Reconceptualizing the Public/Private Distinction in the Age of Information Technology
*Sarah M. Ford (University of Massachusetts-Amherst)
The Young in São Paulo: Media Use and Global Participation
*Heloisa Pait (Universidade Estadual Paulista-São Paulo State University)
Internet and Society (ASA) Marriott Marquis
Mon, Aug 16 – 8:30am – 10:10am
Bottom-up Internet Political Activities with General Internet Intermediaries
*Ho Young Yoon (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Gender Authenticity in MMORPGs: Heralding Solid-to-Virtual World Consistency
*Zek Cypress Valkyrie (University of Colorado at Boulder)
Meeting Online: The Rise of the Internet as a Social Intermediary
*Michael J. Rosenfeld (Stanford University)
The Tension between User-centered Design (UCD) and E-government
*Nalini P. Kotamraju (University of Twente)
Cheers, sociology friends!
One of our blogger-readers (Sara Libby) has blogged recently on the question, “When Exactly ARE White People Allowed to Talk About Race?” She critically assesses another blog post by Elie Mystal, who recently wrote too under the title of “White People: If You’re Not Bill Maher, Please Shut Up About Race.” Mystal has a long and interesting post on whites trying to speak on racial matters, and among his points he makes these:
Over a year into the first presidency by a black man in the history of the United States, we’ve learned one thing about race in America: Bill Maher is the only white man in the country that can make a quality racial joke without sounding racist. I don’t know how we got here, maybe white people who listen to Rush Limbaugh honestly don’t know the difference between edgy commentary and racism Limbaugh spews on a daily basis? Maybe conservative media outlets have convinced white people that talking about race respectfully means the terrorists win? . . . . [Maher is] seemingly the only one that can find the humor in having a black President (the same way he saw the humor in having a retarded President) without actually offending people with a basic sense of humor. In fact, he’s the only white person that can find the humor of having black people and white people live together (as they do here and no where else on Earth) without offending people.
But after watching general white people (talking heads, journalists, celebrities, average people on the street) stumble through racial humor for a year, I now live in fear that some untalented white comedian (think: Dane Cook) will try to get on the trail Maher blazed and inadvertently start a full scale race war.
He then suggests that Maher might well take on the task of teaching the racist white activists, our “best educated” young whites (as we have blogged about several times recently) about racist joking and racist framing, as well as hate crimes:
If Bill Maher had a “ghetto-themed” cookout, it’d be funny. I don’t know how exactly, maybe Chris Rock would show up asking for “just one rib,” Maher would go as a predatory lender, Cornell West would come to drop some knowledge, and everybody would leave high on what we all assume is Maher’s top notch horticultural products? Somehow, he’d would make it work. . . . Clearly, we need to educate white people on the difference between funny and offensive. I understand that the line must seem blurred to many white people — especially the ones that are themselves racist but think they are not because they don’t wear pointy hats. It must be hard for some of them to balance the desire to hide their personal racial animus with their desire to sound lively and interesting at cocktail parties.
Libby comments on this post with her own questions, thus:
Clearly, we need to educate white people on the difference between funny and offensive. I understand that the line must seem blurred to many white people — especially the ones that are themselves racist but think they are not because they don’t wear pointy hats.. I hesitated to write this post, lest it be seen merely as an attempt to have people pat me on the back and tell me that no, Elie couldn’t possibly have been talking about me! . . . Your insights are precisely the kind of dialogue we need to see more of from aspiring white-girl pundits. . . . There is something to be said, though, of the fact that condescending to people who truly try to understand, dissect and move the ball forward on racial discourse without having dark skin themselves will only assure that the people who do speak out about race are the ones who don’t care how offensive they’re being.
She continues with a bit from her own background:
I came from a lily-white community (and state), and was raised by conservative parents who sometimes make vaguely racist statements; and yet I’ve tried to eek out a career discussing race in a thoughtful and measured way, without having much of a personal stake in it . . . , other than wanting to live in a world where people are judged individually and by “the content of their character,” as Dr. King has said. … I care more passionately and deeply about racism than probably every other issue facing our society right now. . . . Have I personally experienced racism before? Hell no – I’ve got blond hair and blue eyes. But how else will we ever get to a point where we can have an honest and intelligent dialogue on race if people like me don’t at least try to grapple with it? … if non-black people are constantly being told that they shouldn’t even attempt to broach the issue, since they’ll inevitably reveal how racist they are, then progress is impossible. . . . Two of the incidents he addressed in his “Bill Maher” post – John Mayer and the “Compton Cookout” party at UC San Diego – are ones I’ve also tackled on my blog, and roundly critiqued for their racial insensitivity. . . . Perhaps I’m getting worked up over nothing, because … Elie and I basically agree about the racial issues we both end up covering – and YES, there is an enormous amount of offensive, derogatory, hateful, shameful stuff out there being spewed by white people. If there weren’t, my writing career would quickly grind to a halt. And I can’t imagine how horrible it feels to experience even the most subtle types of racial discrimination. But I can attest that being told you can’t possibly conjure a valuable contribution to a public discourse on race just because you’re white doesn’t feel great, either.
I think Sara may be, as she suggests, overreacting a bit to Mystal’s post. Apart from his flamboyant title, Mystal is really pressing for whites to develop at least the racial sensitivity of Maher if they are going to presume to converse seriously on racial matters, and especially if they plan to make humorous comments. He is clearly not saying whites who are grappling with and critically assessing the racist hierarchy and white racial frame should keep quiet. In my view such whites certainly need to continue with serious searches for antiracist understandings and actions, and speak out especially to other whites, even as they make mistakes in that process. IMHO, speaking out as critically as one can on the dominant white racism is the obligation of all ethical human beings. Why do you think?
A blogger over at DailyKos (blackwaterdog) has raised a question I have been thinking about for nearly a year now. How is President Obama being treated differently than other presidents and leading white politicians?
He first notes the differential treatment by the mass media in regard to President Obama’s intense and innovative meeting this week with Republicans:
With anyone else, CNN wouldn’t dare go to commercials every time the president speaks, like they did during that summit on Thursday. They wouldn’t dare counting how many minutes George Bush or Bill Clinton were talking. Chris Mathews wouldn’t dare making an issue out of Ronald Regan calling members of congress by their first name. . . .They fully cooperate with the Right-Wing smear machine when it comes to president Obama’s national security performance – even if almost every independent and military expert actually thinks that he’s a terrific Commander in Chief.
Not just the white supremacists and extreme rightists have constantly quibbled about or directly disrespected our President:
On Thursday, almost every Republican had no trouble interrupting him in the middle of a sentence. They looked like they’re going to vomit every time they had to say “Mr. president”
Much has been made in various media about Obama being “professorish” and/or “arrogant,” but clearly this is a stereotyped way of putting down his distinctive intelligence and grasp of the facts on many issues, including health care. Many folks accuse him too of being
elitist (because he uses big words that they don’t understand). He is weak on national security (because he actually thinks about the consequences). He divides the country (well, he did that the day he had the audacity to win the election). Worst of all, he actually thinks that he’s the president.
The racist imaging has obviously come from the far right wing and white supremacists, but some criticism is also coming from the white left, which can be seen in the left political blogs:
. . . there’s also some hidden and maybe subconscious and disturbing underline tone behind some of the things . . . throughout the Left blogosphere…. “He’s weak, he’s spineless, he’s got no balls, primary him in 2012.”
Adia and I predicted some of this attack in our Yes We Can? Book, but it is already clear that we need to add a chapter to that book on how quickly and severe these attacks have become, and not much more than a year into his pathbreaking Presidency. What do you make of the many attacks on President Obama so far?
In Cyber Racism, I examine the many ways racism is being translated into the digital era from the print-only-era of newsletters (such as those I explored in my earlier book, White Lies). I also spend some of the new book exploring ways of fighting cyber racism (see Chapter 9). There is a recent example that illustrates both the pernicious threat of cyber racism and an effective strategy for combating it.
Allen McDuffee is a NYC-based freelance journalist whose writing has appeared in The Nation, Mother Jones, DailyKos and HuffingtonPost. McDuffee as well as for his own site, Governmentality. Here’s McDuffee’s account of how this incident began (from July 15, 2009):
Last night as I looked at the results from my statistical gathering software program, I was disgusted to learn that an individual had posted and linked to some content from my blog. Most writers and bloggers work hard to get their work linked to, but when I saw the content of this individual’s blog, I literally became sick to my stomach.A white supremacist, with a screen id and blog called Kalki666, found a post I had written critical of Israel and decided to repurpose it for his anti-Semitic agenda. He also used me as his research assistant for the main part of that same post when he found this post on my blog from May 21 and just re-posted it yesterday. And then there are the swiped images, too. Not only had he posted my content and linked to me on his blog, he further linked on white supremacist discussion boards. In no way, shape or form will I allow him to attribute his agenda to my reporting and blogging. I fully condemn Kalki666′s actions and everything that he, his blog and his community stand for. Yes, I am critical of Israeli policies. I am also critical of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. But beyond that, it needs to be clear that being critical of Israel does not make one anti-Semitic.
This kind of “re-purposing” of content intended for a white supremacist agenda is one of the characteristics of cyber racism. In the book, I talk about the way other white supremacists have used this same strategy to re-frame material from the Library of Congress archive of WPA recordings with freed, former slaves to make their argument that slavery was “sanitary and humane” rather than the brutal and de-humanizing institution it was, in fact. Lifted out of context and re-posted on a white supremacist website, the oral history of slavery becomes part of an arsenal of web savvy white supremacists. In McDuffee’s case, text he authored critical of Israel – but not intended as antisemitic – ends up re-posted on a white supremacist forum to further their antisemitic agenda. On the web, as in print publishing, context and authorship matter; but, unlike printed-media, the copy/paste technology of the web makes the migration of ideas from one context and author to another several orders of magnitude easier.
Then, McDuffee’s story gets even more interesting. He writes:
Now, upon further research, I learned that Kalki666 was surfing and posting from an IP address registered to Wheaton College (IL)–a conservative, Evangelical Christian college. [And...] I’m writing to Dr. Duane Liftin, the President of Wheaton College. He should be made aware of the types of activities that are occurring on the Wheaton College IP address. If it’s an employee, I’m sure this violates the usage policy of the College. If it’s a student, well I suppose this opens a whole host of other issues.
I’m also going to bring it to the attention of WordPress, where the blog is hosted. While the post that I’ve described here probably does not violate their usage policy, I’m certain that I saw several others that do–ones that, in my mind anyway, provoke violence. To me, this is the difference between free speech and injuring speech that ought be censored. As a journalist, I take this issue very seriously and, again, I think this deserves its own post where I will elaborate in the next few days.
So, while the form of this digital-era white supremacy is thoroughly web-based, so is the response. First, McDuffee identifies the IP address (the unique identifier for each computer) and locates it geographically and institutionally to a suburban Chicago college. He then uses email to contact the president of the college and the software company that runs the blog software. McDuffee smartly invokes the “usage policy” (sometimes called “TOS” for “Terms of Service”) in place at the college. Indeed, most institutions, software platforms, and Internet Service Providers (the company that provides your Internet service) have some sort of TOS that prohibits explicitly racist / antisemitic language that encites hatred or violence. I’m often asked if fighting cyber racism isn’t “impossible” because of “free speech protection” – and the answer is no, it’s not impossible. This sort of hate speech over the Internet is a “TOS” issue, not a free speech issue. However, enforcement of these policies is almost entirely left up to individuals – like McDuffee – to pursue the issue and demand action.
Furthermore, McDuffee deftly uses his blog to document and post the responses from the college president, the blogging software and from the white supremacist in question. McDuffee was understandably horrified by this turn of events, and he was tenacious in his quest for a just resolution. And, his efforts paid off. Within 48-60 hours (approximately 2 days) of the initial discovery, McDuffee posted this:
UPDATE #9: Wheaton College President Duane Litfin emails me (July 17 1:44pm)
The culprit has been found and escorted off campus. More details to follow shortly.
As it turned out, the culprit was neither a student, nor an employee of the college, but was an interloper who had accessed one of several free-to-the-public computers in the college library. He was identified as Merrill Sech, 38, of Westmont, IL. When the campus police and a local Wheaton police confronted him on the college campus to escort him off campus and issue a do not return letter because he violated their computing policy, he assaulted the officers. So, Sech was arrested. According to McDuffee’s FOIA request, Sech also has a history of other criminal offenses and is currently in DuPage County Jail. For more info, there’s also this podcast about the incident. According to McDuffee, the story is still unfolding in various ways, so you’ll want to check his Governmentality blog (or follow him on Twitter @allen_mcduffee) to catch all the updates.
For my purposes here, I want to highlight that in order to effectively fight cyber racism, you need people who are 1) committed to the value of racial equality, 2) web-savvy and 3) willing to take action. McDuffee embodies all these qualities as an individual. On what might be called the structural side, you need laws and policies in place that regard hate speech as unacceptable (as the college did in this case), and officials that are willing to take action against these sorts of violations (as the college president, campus and local police did).
McDuffee’s encounter with this white supremacist illustrates several of the points that I make in Cyber Racism, chiefly that the threat from white supremacy online is less a threat of “recruiting” and more a threat to ideas and values of racial equality. McDuffee’s encounter also illustrates that the political struggle for racial equality is one that requires us to be committed, web-savvy and willing to take action and demand a response from institutions and organizations that may be unwitting perpetrators of white supremacy.
It’s with more than a little sadness that I report on what appears to be the demise of Blackprof.com. Started in 2005 by Spencer Overton, a George Washington University law professor, along with eight or nine other black law professors, Blackprof.com consistently provided a sharp analysis on race, law and culture. For me, Blackprof.com was a model for what was possible when Joe and I started this blog in 2007.
I visited the site a few days ago and noticed that it was fallow, something others had noticed as well, and thought nothing of it. People stop updating blogs for a lot of reasons and then eventually come back to them. And, that’s what I had hoped for at Blackprof.com.
Until today, when I went back there to check something in their archive and I got one of those nasty, this-site-may-harm-your-computer messages. It seems that the pharma-hackers have attacked the site so that now you can’t even see the content of the site.
It’s seems an ignoble end to a long-running and quite noble effort, and a collective of voices that will be missed. RIP Blackprof.com.
With the beginning of March, 2009 we mark our second year of blogging here at Racism Review and this seemed like a good time to note a few milestones. Given that most blogs fail after not very long, we’re happy to still be in the blogosphere. We’ve managed to not only survive but succeed on a number of measures, and that success is the result of a collaboration with all of you. Together, we’ve recently passed some big numbers worth noting, including: 500 posts, 30 blog co-authors, 2,387 total comments. While Joe and I continue to write the bulk of posts here, we are grateful to the 30 co-authors that blog here and we’re always looking to add people to that roster. And, we deeply appreciate the people who “de-lurk” to post comments and thus enliven the conversation here. Of course, we’re thrilled with those of you who come here to read regularly, and so you’ll pardon a little shameless self-congratulations in the form of a Webalizer bar graph:
The upward trend here is the big story. The trend also looks a little more dramatic because it reflects the time we’ve been with our new host, Liquid Web (long-term readers will recall the horrible server crash of June, 2008 – thanks again to Jon Smajda for his help during that time). We had our highest month of readership (or, web traffic) so far in February, 2009. Those numbers look like this:
- Total Hits: 307,470
- Total Files: 239,454
Of course, the Webalizer FAQ recommends subtracting the difference between “hits” and “files” to get a more accurate sense of the traffic. So, for February that still means approximately 68, 016 unique visitors here. In terms of daily traffic, the numbers look like this:
- Average Daily Hits: 10,981
- Average Daily Files: 8,551 (difference: 2,430)
- Max Daily Hits: 17,253
- Max Daily Files: 13,803 (difference: 3,450)
Even if we take the smallest number from all the above (2,430), this is still more readers than the audience for the majority of academic books and substantially more than the readership of most academic journals. Nicely done everyone that reads, writes and comments here! And, once again, many thanks to all our readers, commenters and co-authors!
Audre Lorde wrote that “… what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect” (excerpted here). Audre left us in 1992, but her legacy continues. Today, there’s a network of women of color (WOC) bloggers that are bringing the tradition of Audre Lorde to the digital age. Despite the disabling rhetorics about the digital divide, and the near fetishism of the white-male-mainstream-blogger, these radical women of color speak truth to power. And, since the New York Times is highlighting the work of one WOC blogger at the Democratic Convention (hat tip Pam via Twitter), I thought it would be a good time to highlight just a few of these brave women here:
Lots of these blogs are covering mainstream politics, such as the presidential election, yet these voices are rarely the ones that mainstream news outlets read and draw on for commentary. Let’s hope that’s changing. Perhaps these blogs can offer a different angle of vision in the social and political landscape, while providing a mechanism for speaking truth to power.
Last week was International Blog Against Racism Week (IBARW) and, a bit belatedly, I wanted to draw attention to a couple of excellent posts from that event, both of which deal in some way with whiteness and what it means to be white (image: “Shiny Happy White People” from DCVision, Flickr CreativeCommons) and struggle against racism.
Alexis Lothian blogging at QueerGeekTheory praises the focus on intersectionality in this year’s cautions about what she sees as the downside:
“That doesn’t, of course, come without a risk – of interminable ‘white guilt’ posts, of the idea that this is the one week in the year when bloggers should think about race, et cetera – but I still think it’s a rather wonderful example of the way online community creates mobile sites of theorizing and activism that don’t necessarily rely on established networks or on the academy.”
White guilt seems an inevitable, if regrettable, cul-de-sac of conversation about racism with white people, because it leads to white resentment. A number of multicultural trainers have adopted a group-work exercise meant to address this, and Priscilla Brice-Weller blogging at Solidariti writes about her experience with this:
“…we were asked to … talk for three minutes with a partner about what we hate about [being white ... or whatever other group we belong to ... it could be related to sexuality, race, age, class, or anything else]. Then we were asked to talk for three minutes about what we love about [being white]. The one rule was that we couldn’t talk about our group in relation to other groups (so in my example, I couldn’t talk about being white in relation to being black/brown/anyone else).
It turned out that for the first minute or two I focussed on stereotypes. When the stereotypes were out the way, the truth started to emerge. I found that during the second “what I love about being white” session, it was difficult to speak because I had nothing positive to say. When you find yourself in that situation, and particularly as an anti-racism campaigner, it’s pretty confronting.
When I reflect on this, all I can think of is how white people invaded Australia, how the English invaded India, how the Americans invaded Iraq, how the global north (which includes Australia) lives in comparable wealth to the global south and still fails to address the balance of power in that relationship. There’s plenty of wonderful things white people have done, but I think about the negative things first. Obviously I’ve still more reflection to do, because to work effectively across difference I need to be able to embrace my own people too.”
While I admire Priscilla and others involved in IBAWR for tackling these issues, I think that the approach advocated by many multicultural trainers like the one she encountered in Sydney is wrong-headed because it suggests a symmetrical, “we are all the same,” approach to dealing with racism. As I noted in a post awhile back, uncovering the history of racial oppression and privilege is an asymmetrical process that has an asymmetrical effect in the present depending upon one’s standpoint.These sorts of exercises, if followed to the logical conclusion, would have us believe that if we are “proud to be white” just as people of color are “proud to be black” or “proud to be Latina,” then we will all have moved away from racism and toward racial harmony. I don’t agree. Cultivating the notion that one is “proud to be white” leads – it seems quite obviously – to white pride. That certainly seems to be the wrong direction.
Of course, individual whites can, and should, take action to find examples of white, anti-racist activism and to adopt those as models for their own lives. Yet, if what we end up doing is sitting around in racially-segregated groups discovering why we’re “proud to be white,” I don’t think we’re engaging in anti-racism. A more productive approach is one that foregrounds accountability and responsiveness, as our occasional fellow-blogger Tim Wise explains (via Macon D at Stuff White People Do and originally from Carmen at Racialicious):
“And I think that’s because a lot of white folks come to this work with the mentality that we’re doing it for other people. And, one of the things I learned doing community organizing, working in public housing in New Orleans for about fifteen months with a great organization down there called Agenda for Children, that was connected to the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, which does anti-racism training, was that they really taught me—and I haven’t figured it all out—but they taught me the importance of accountability, and trying to be responsive, and responsible to, people of color, understanding that ultimately we want to follow the lead of people of color, but that we’re not doing it for them. . .”
What Tim suggests here – being accountable to and responsive to people of color – is a very different project than the multicultural-training where we all put our chairs in a circle and decide what we like about being white. The challenge, of course, for white people is understanding the history and present-day record of racial discrimination and oppression, then choosing to take action to end it rather than getting mired in the dead-end of guilt and resentment.