Archive for costs of racism
It’s happened again. A white man gone mad has walked into a group of people and started shooting. Yesterday, in a suburb outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin a man with ties to white supremacist groups entered a Sikh Temple and opened fire. While this has prompted many to ask if it’s time to talk about gun control, I want to talk about racism and white supremacy.
(Image from here)
The gun man has been identified as Wade Michael Page, someone that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) had been tracking for some time as a potential threat. Page was a front man for a couple of white power bands and was heavily tattooed with white power symbols. However fascinating it may be to “decipher the tattoos” he wore, it would be a mistake to dismiss Page was an isolated actor from a lunatic fringe disconnected from the mainstream of U.S. society.
In fact, the reality is that white supremacy is a persistent, tragic feature of the American cultural and political landscape. The extreme expressions of white supremacy – like this shooting, or like some of the violent images and messages previously circulated in print and now online – are part of a larger problem. White supremacy is woven into the fabric of our society and it kills people.
Vijay Prashad, author of Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today (New Press, 2012), has studied the deadly consequences of racism directed toward South Asians, including many of whom are Sikh (a religion, not an ethnicity). Following 9/11, Sikh men and women were targeted for their turban and head-scarf. The (il)logic of white supremacy seems to be that since Osama Bin Laden wore a turban, it was the turban-wearing Sikhs who ought to be attacked. As Prashad noted in Uncle Swami, within the first week after 9/11, a disproportionately large number of the 645 bias attacks took place against Sikhs. Prashad goes on to make the connection between everyday racist acts and the recent violence when she writes:
“Patterns are shunned. Structural factors such as the prevalence of guns and the lack of social care for mentally disturbed people should of course be in the frame. But so too should the preponderance of socially acceptable hatred against those seen as outsiders. Intellectually respectable opinions about who is an American (produced, for example, by Sam Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenge to National Identity) comes alongside the politician’s casual racism (Romney’s recent suggestion that the US and the UK are “part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage,” erased in a whip lash the diversity of the United States and Britain). Racist attacks are authorized by a political culture that allows us to think in nativist terms, to bemoan the “browning” of America.”
As Rinku Sen points out here, there’s nothing “random” or “senseless” to this event but it is, instead, linked to the everyday microaggressions in our (white) families. She writes:
“I implore of my white friends, when your nutty uncle or classmate goes off about some set of foreigners, you must make a fuss, cause a family crisis, become unpopular, speak up. We cannot do this for you.”
This is precisely the kind of thing that Jenni Mueller talked about doing here. Some of us are doing this, making a fuss, causing a family crisis, but not enough of us, not nearly enough. Harsha Walia in a guest post at Racialicious echoes this when she writes:
“Whites might actually have to start distancing themselves from white supremacy.”
Where was Page’s family, one wonders, as he got more and more overtly extremist in his views and body art? Quietly ashamed or happily cheering him on? We won’t know from the usual bland, mainstream reporting on stories involving race.
Perhaps more pressing, there need to be more white people who will educate themselves and start exposing white supremacy in all its forms whether shooting up Sikh temples or heralding the superiority of “Anglo-Saxon heritage.”
Among all the Republican candidates’ rhetoric about the necessity to create jobs and get people back to work, there is never a reference to racism and its impact on our society. It’s a topic they studiously avoid, but it is embedded within their ideology—an ideology that continues to have pernicious effects on our country. As a sociologist and community organizer (also disparaged occupations among some segments of society), I would like to share a few facts that I hope will cause them to reconsider their aversion to the subject and become engaged in a discussion about fairness and the quality of life here.
Although much contemporary Republican rhetoric is ostensibly designed to encompass everyone, their speeches are sprinkled with euphemisms and code words that reinforce stereotypes about people of color and the poor, e.g. dwelling on concepts of welfare, food stamps, immigrants, and miscreants who are supposedly sapping the strength of this nation. In actuality, the Republicans’ penchant for demonizing nonwhites and the poor is a calculated attempt to unify whites in a struggle to retain the power and privilege they have monopolized since the country was founded.
One of their most egregious errors is their failure to acknowledge the common origins and destiny of the people of this nation. Though they came from different places and for various reasons—some willingly, and others under duress, scientists have established through DNA research that we are all descendants from ancestors who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago. There is only one human race, Homo sapiens, and there are no significant differences in intelligence or athletic ability based on the color of one’s skin or the shape of their ears, nose, lips or texture of their hair.
Now this is a difficult pill for some Republicans to swallow since the essence of their platform resides in assumptions about the innate moral inferiority of some people who are demonized as slackers, cheats, and ne’er-do-wells. It is much easier to blame the victims of racism and dysfunctional, unresponsive institutions than to tackle the systemic causes of the problems that plague our society. If we only expel illegal immigrants, lock up all the criminals, throw the welfare cheats off the public dole, curtail unions that shield incompetents and slackers, then we could save our society. And the plans they put forward at the local, state and national level are designed to do just that without regard to a few basic facts.
Republicans’ assume that the United States is a meritocracy with level playing fields that afford everyone equal opportunities to succeed, but research indicates that there are significant differences in the way people of color are treated, especially blacks and Latinos. Today, there are more Hispanic children living in poverty than white, over 6 million, even though Latinos account for less than a quarter of the nation’s children.
High school graduation rates (the percent of students who graduate with their peers in four years) reveal that less than half of black and Latino males complete high school compared to three-quarters of white males. Even more shocking are the incredibly low graduation rates of black and Latino males in some cities, hovering under 30 percent in Detroit, Buffalo, Cleveland, New York City and St. Petersburg. Places where the white male rates are only around 50 percent—also deplorable.
The level of education has a direct impact on one’s earnings: high school graduates bring in $8,000 more a year than dropouts, and college grads $27,000 more. The types of jobs workers obtain are also linked to their education, with the more interesting and autonomous jobs going to the higher educated.
I’ve heard the retort that things have changed. We’ve got a black man in the Office of the President. We’ve got 640 black mayors across the country—a far cry from the ‘60s when there were none. But the political power of cities has vastly declined along with their wealth. Most are on life-support.
“Well,” they say, “there are 43 black Congressmen and 25 Latinos.” Yet, political power is still wielded by whites in this nation. There are no black Senators and only two Latinos. There have only been four black Senators since reconstruction. There is only one black governor (Patrick of Massachusetts) and two Hispanics (Sandoval of Nevada and Martinez of New Mexico). Since blacks and Latinos account for over a quarter of the population, they are underrepresented in both Houses of Congress and governorships. They have not fared any better on the Supreme Court, with just 2 blacks and one Latina in its 220 year history.
Looking at the economy, there are only four blacks and five Latinos heading Fortune 500 corporations. For decades the unemployment rate of blacks and Latinos has been double that of whites, and large numbers of them are stuck in low-paying dead-end jobs. This is partly a function of their low education attainment, but research shows that blacks and Latinos earn less than whites with the same educational attainment in the same jobs. Other studies show that people with ethnic names are less successful in job hunting—less likely to be asked for interviews than whites with Anglo names.
While some blacks and Latinos have significantly improved their social and economic status over the last five decades, it is apparent from these facts that political and corporate power still resides in the hands of relatively few white men who are reluctant to share it. Our next installment will focus on other types of racial disparities and explore the Republicans’ ideological support for blaming the victims of inequality and perpetuating the myth of meritocracy.
H. Roy Kaplan was the Executive Director of The National Conference of Christians and Jews for the Tampa Bay area. His most recent book is The Myth of Post-Racial America.
Do leadership and decision-making processes in the research university mirror the racial stratification of American society? The structure of higher education is strikingly white male-dominated in its senior leadership ranks. According to “Pathway to the Presidency” published by the American Council on Education , close to 85 percent of the top-ranked positions in doctorate-granting institutions are held by whites and 66 percent held by males (King & Gomez, 2008).
The only exception to this pattern is the Chief Diversity Officer position–70.8 percent of these positions are held by African-Americans, with white incumbents holding 12.3 percent, And according to a NACUBO (2010) survey, Chief Financial Officers are 90% white and 68% male, a demographic that is considerably similar to Chief Academic Officers who are 85% white and 60% male.
In our forthcoming book, Diverse Administrators in Peril: The New Indentured Class in Higher Education, (Paradigm, 2011), Alvin Evans of Kent State University and I examine the fragile and unstable working conditions faced by women, minority and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) administrators in the highest ranks of the research university. Unlike faculty who pursue individualistic accomplishments solidified through the tenure process, university administrators generally serve in an “at will” status without employment protection to support the success of the entire institution.
In our survey and followup interviews with administrators from public and private research universities at the level of director and up, we discovered remarkable similarity in how the process of subtle discrimination unfolds through acts of marginalization, exclusion, and social closure. These patterns of discrimination transcend geographical location, institutional prestige, and public/private research university status. What it tells us that power is still highly concentrated in the hands of a few, and that the covert, difficult-to-prove nature of subtle discrimination heightens the vulnerability of diverse administrators to forms of differential treatment.
Joe Feagin, reminds us of the high cost of wasting talent and creativity in The White Racial Frame, indicating that “a society that ignores such a great store of knowledge and ability irresponsibly risks its future.” And he also reminds us of the need for moral thinking and action that “frees up the knowledge and energy” of those who have faced barriers to achievement, knowledge-generation, and prosperity.
Based on the poignant yet courageous testimonials of diverse administrators shared in our study, structural changes that strengthen employment stability for administrators will help ensure more inclusive leadership practices. These changes will not only enhance the success of diverse administrators but immeasurably contribute to the dynamism, viability, and competitiveness of our American institutions of higher education.
Truthdig.com has a good report on the racist commentaries of Iowa’s resident right-wing provocateur, Rep. Steve King. His comments were in regard to the class action lawsuit, Pigford v. Glickman, which attempted to get some redress for the large-scale and routinized discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) against black farmers in the 1980s and 1990s
Government denial of legal redress to the aggrieved black farmers who were protesting discrimination in Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs resulted in a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Across the nation black farmers gave evidence about widespread discrimination in many aspects of the process of getting FSA loans and benefits. This discrimination took the form of FSA officials misinforming black farmers that there were no loan applications or benefits available in particular local FSA offices. Or, if a farmer somehow got an application, some FSA agents held back the information necessary for its completion. In many cases, completed applications were lost, delayed in the extreme, or denied for no legitimate reason. Once complaints from black farmers started coming in, the USDA went into a stonewalling mode for more than ten years and refused to deal with them.
Eventually, the targets of this discrimination had their day and court and won a major settlement of the class action suit, which was approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The black farmers involved could choose among three options: reject the settlement, get $50,000 if they could show injury, or petition for more in binding arbitration. However, for many farmers the standard compensation offered was insufficient as a response to many years of discrimination, for they had lost their homes, farm equipment, and land, some of which had been in the family for generations. In the initial complaint, the requested damages had been for $1 million for each farmer, which appears to be more appropriate compensation for the damages and pain incurred by most of those involved.
The truthdig report indicates that
The USDA settled out of court in 1999, admitting to widespread racial discrimination against black farmers …. About 15,000 farmers were paid a total of more than $900 million in the settlement, but tens of thousands of farmers filed claims after the deadline, and many charged that the government’s outreach had been insufficient and that they had incompetent legal counsel, causing them to miss their opportunity. … President Barack Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack promised an additional $1.15 billion to cover the remaining claims, which was [belatedly] appropriated by Congress.
Speaking about this lawsuit, Rep. King let loose with his unreflective white racist framing:
Obama supported the farmers because he is “very, very urban”. . . . “King emphasized the word ‘urban’ ” in his speech by “drawing the first syllable out.”
This is a case about rural farmers, so “urban” here is a barely disguised way of saying he did it because he is black. Truthdig continues with King’s website comments:
On Dec. 1, King’s website described the case as a “fraud” because 94,000 African-Americans have submitted claims when the authorized compensation encompasses only 18,000. [However]… Tens of thousands of farmers never had their claims considered because they missed the deadline due to bad legal advice. On Nov. 30 he stated that Obama introduced “legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim.” [Yet] …The “new claim” was actually an act to make all injured parties whole, including those who didn’t get the best legal counsel because they couldn’t afford it or because the statute of limitations expired.
King keeps pushing his white racial framing, also claiming that all these black farmers wanted was reparations for slavery. Yet, much statistical data cited in the truthdig piece and in our book show that the real problem is contemporary racial discrimination, institutionalized racism, not slavery:
The farmers were seeking equal funding by the USDA for work they did within their lifetimes, not for the unpaid work of their ancestors.
King just cannot keep quiet. On one right-wing talk show he continued but arguing that
Obama supports the farmers because he “has a default mechanism in him that breaks down on the side of race, on the side that favors the black person.” . . . All of this speaks to the larger issue of who gets to define what “side of race” Obama, the USDA or anyone else favors. It is striking that nobody is calling King’s opposition to the farmers and the president his “default mechanism of breaking down the side of race” in action.
Maybe that’s . . . because the default mechanism for the white side of race is, in fact, our default.
Indeed, well put.
The Southern Poverty Law Center just published a comment on the increase in racially motivated crimes by non-Latinos against Latinos
Here is a sampling of these racist attacks:
Early last Saturday in Baltimore, Martin Rayez, 51, was beaten to death with a piece of wood. The man arrested for the crime, Jermaine Holley, 19, allegedly confessed and told police that he “hated Hispanics.” He has been treated in the past for schizophrenia. The killing occurred in East Baltimore, the scene of other recent attacks on Latinos. . . . In June, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix said that the murder of a Mexican-American man a month earlier was a hate crime. Gary Thomas Kelley is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Juan Varela. He also is charged with menacing Varela’s brother with a gun. “Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die,” Kelley shouted at Varela before shooting him in the neck, police said. The dead man was a third-generation, native-born American.
There have also been 11 attacks on Latinos on Staten Island just since April.
The SPLC attributes some of these violent attacks to the hostile climate created by U.S. political officials:
Two of the most outrageous recent examples: Texas Republican Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Debbie Riddle both claimed that pregnant terrorists plan to sneak into America to give birth to future terrorists who will automatically become U.S. citizens and eventually “help destroy our way of life,” as Gohmert put it. Both representatives claimed that former FBI officials divulged the terrorist baby threat to them.
Given that undocumented immigration has declined in recent months, this upsurge in the hostile racial climate, fed by actions such as those of leading Republican officials in Arizona, seems to be intentional. Anti-brown-immigrants seem part of an old right-wing framing of U.S. racial matters.
The human rights report to the United Nations that I mentioned yesterday does not even discuss the thousands of these racially and ethnically motivated crimes that the U.S. has seen in the last decade, including these against Latinos–although it does mention the new hate crimes law and has a brief sentence on anti-gay crimes. The human rights report also has rather general and skewed language on official attacks such as racial profiling:
The United States recognizes that racial or ethnic profiling is not effective law enforcement and is not consistent with our commitment to fairness in our justice system. For many years, concerns about racial profiling arose mainly in the context of motor vehicle or street stops related to enforcement of drug or immigration laws. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the debate has also included an examination of law enforcement conduct in the context of the country’s effort to combat terrorism. Citizens and civil society have advocated forcefully that efforts by law enforcement to prevent future terrorist attacks must be consistent with the government’s goal to end racial and ethnic profiling.
Even racial profiling is not discussed in its problematic details, with data, but is tied to outside terrorist attacks. There is also no mention in the report of the internal terrorism against thousands of Americans of color.
The National Center for Education Statistics has just released a very interesting and revealing 2010 statistical report– Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups–on children and parents, with a main emphasis on educational issues. Here are just a few of their findings:
photo credit: Steve Snodgrass
The percentages of children who were living in poverty were higher for Blacks (34 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (33 percent), Hispanics (27 percent), and Native Hawaiians or Other Pacific Islanders (26 percent), than for children of two or more races (18 percent), Asians (11 percent) and Whites (10 percent).
Forty-eight percent of public school 4th-graders were eligible for free or reduced- price lunches in 2009, including 77 percent of Hispanic, 74 percent of Black, 68 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native, 34 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander, and 29 percent of White 4th-graders.
These revealing data show extreme poverty levels for major groups of color, with very high levels qualifying for reduced-price or free lunches. Among other things the data demonstrate huge problems of structural inequality and racism that seem to be off the white-controlled policy agenda for the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
In 2008, some 44 percent of White 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in colleges and universities, while in 1980 some 28 percent were enrolled. In addition, approximately 32 percent of Black 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in colleges or universities (an increase of 12 percentage points from 1980) and 26 percent of Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled (an increase of 10 percentage points from 1980).
Inequality and structural racism at lower grades contribute substantially to inequalities up the line at college. Here, again, very substantial differentials. Some other data also tell us something significant about current immigration and demographic patterns:
In 2008, a higher percentage of Asian children (51 percent) had a mother with at least a bachelor’s degree than did White children (36 percent), children of two or more races (31 percent), Black children (17 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native children (16 percent), and Hispanic children (11 percent).
The Asian children are more likely to be the children of documented immigrants, who have come in under a biased U.S. immigration system that increasingly tends to “cream off” the world’s middle and upper middle classes. Thus, many documented immigrants come in with college degrees and some social or economic capital that facilitates socioeconomic their and their children’s mobility in the U.S. Other children of color are no so fortunate, including those who are the children of undocumented Latino immigrants. Other data are also revealing:
In 2007, a higher percentage of White (18 percent) children ages 12 to 17 reported drinking alcohol in the past month than did their Hispanic (15 percent) peers, peers of two or more races (13 percent), and Black (10 percent) and Asian (8 percent) peers.
I wonder why we do not have white leaders and politicians talking a lot about the “white problem” of drug (alcohol) use among white youth in the U.S.
And like other studies they also show the trend toward an more diverse society where whites are gradually becoming a statistical minority, especially among children:
Between 1980 and 2008, the racial/ethnic composition of the United States shifted— the White population declined from 80 percent of the total population to 66 percent; the Hispanic population increased from 6 percent of the total to 15 percent; the Black population remained at about 12 percent; and the Asian/Pacific Islander population increased from less than 2 percent of the total population to 4 percent. In 2008, American Indians/Alaska Natives made up about 1 percent and people of two or more races made up about 1 percent of the population.
And these demographic changes continue at a fast pace today.
We have all heard the story that America is a nation of active citizens and joiners (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1840) — resulting in a citizenry that joins together for the common good. However, according to Harvard professor Robert Putnam, social capital—which is about connections, reciprocity, and trust—is on the decline and consequently, American civil society is on the decline. Putnam lists many reasons for this decline in our modern lifestyles, but I believe that nothing decreases connections and trust among Americans more than racist public policies such as Arizona’s SB 1070 law.
We need to consider the costs that this policy will have on the overall American story of connectedness. Not surprisingly social capital among blacks and Latinos is already significantly lower than among whites (See link here.) However, it is important to consider that Latino citizens are a huge part of the population in Arizona. Pretending that Latino citizens aren’t a huge part of the population in Arizona and that these Latino citizens won’t incur gigantic costs in terms of civil liberties violations and sense of personal security is ridiculous. Despite Governor Brewer’s assurances that there will be no racial profiling against Latino citizens, anyone who reads the bill, which, “Requires officials and agencies to reasonably attempt to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a lawful contact where reasonable suspicion exists regarding the immigration status of the person…,” knows that it is patently obvious that long-time Latino citizens are indistinguishable from undocumented Latinos. “Reasonable suspicion” amounts to being Latino in Arizona. My father, a Latino living in Tucson, now feels uncomfortable around his white friends because they disagree about SB 1070. This is beyond a political or ideological disagreement.
For a Latino, this is about acceptance, respect, equality, and yes, trust. So, there are more than civil liberties violations and personal security at stake—it is about the ending of relationships between Latinos and whites, it is about separating life-long friends, maybe for good.
The story of Latinos living in Arizona after SB 1070 now is sadness, and at best for those Latinos who are citizens an increased fear–and hiding at worst for those who aren’t documented. It is about decreased community connectedness along racial lines on all counts. I know if I was an undocumented Latina about to give birth I would risk giving birth at home rather than going to the hospital and possibly being deported. Why can’t whites see the social and personal costs of this policy? Perhaps it is because most whites are between four to ten generations removed from their immigrant parents; immigration for them is some distant thing. Maybe this is why they do not realize we are all in the same boat. Maybe that is why they don’t see the costs of this type of racism on America.
De Tocqueville had it wrong. We are not a nation of active citizens and joiners. We are a nation of exclusion by race. If strong social capital is an important component of our nation’s civic health, then America will pay a huge cost for generations to come if we keep targeting Latinos.