Four Country Survey on Racial Discrimination

On 24 January 2011, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Association for Canadian Studies released the results of a four country (Canada, the U.S., Spain, and Germany) survey on racism and discrimination.
Amongst the findings:

• German respondents were more likely than Canadian, American, and Spanish respondents to believe that visible minorities and whites are treated equally in the work place.
• One in three Canadian, American, and Spanish respondents claimed they witnessed a racist incident in the past year.
• Opposition to interracial marriage was lowest in Canada and highest in Spain.
• Spanish and German respondents were more likely than American and Canadian respondents to agree that their national government should take the lead in combating discrimination.

Findings specific to Canada were as follows:

• Canadians were evenly divided over whether racism is on the rise within its borders.
• Québec francophones were more likely to favor living in neighborhoods surrounded by people from the same racial background than any other group in Canada or the U.S. The second most likely to prefer racially homogeneous neighborhoods were white Americans.
• Canadian allophones (who are more likely to include visible minorities) were the most likely to have a preference for racially diverse neighborhoods.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, said the poll results call into question assumptions regarding what motivates a person to select a given neighborhood, stating:

It makes you think about that theory that minorities self-impose segregation on themselves and they are the ones who want to live in clusters or enclaves… This survey suggests the contrary…. It actually suggests that it’s not the allophones or ethnics who prefer living in clusters or enclaves. It is actually the francophones and, to a slightly greater extent than allophones, the anglophones.

Meanwhile, Ayman Al-Yassini, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation stated

[t]he reality is that Canadians are more aware of the whole issue of racism and discrimination than other countries.

Jedwab concurred, explaining that while the U.S. survey indicates the same proportion of those surveyed view racism as an increasing difficulty, the breakdown within different categories of people produced variations between the countries that are worthy of note.

Canadians were categorized as English, French, or allophone. Half of English Canadians considered racism a growing problem, while that proportion was approximately 40 percent for francophones and allophones. In the U.S., people were categorized as whites, blacks, or Hispanics. Among blacks and Hispanics, more than 55 percent view racism as a growing problem, while 44 percent of whites did. For that reason, Jedwab suggests that Canadians view racism as outside their personal experience, while Americans view the issue more subjectively:

In the United States, it’s more those groups who are expressing the phenomenon through the lens of how they feel they’re affected through those groups. As opposed to in Canada, you’re seeing an assessment being made on the part of English Canadians about what the situation is, not so much as whether they’re affected by it individually.

The study is based on polling by firms in each country. In Canada, Leger Marketing polled 1,707 respondents online between 31 August and 4 September. In the U.S, the online poll of 1,048 respondents was conducted by the Opinion Research Corp. between 30-31 August.

Stephen A. Mutch, Tessa M. Blaikie, Crystal S. Van Den Bussche, and Kyla E. Doll are sociology students at University of Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada). Kimberley A. Ducey is a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, University of Winnipeg.

Discrimination and Diversity: Senior University Leadership

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.

UnERD 2010
( Creative Commons License photo credit: -Kenzie- )

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.

Republican Rep. King’s Racist Framing: Black Farmers and Obama 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

As we summarized the case in our book, White Racism: The Basics:

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.

Flying While Black: Border Control, DNA and the Case of the Lips

After tracing his maternal ancestry in 2005 through genealogical DNA testing, or personal genomics, and finding his ancestral links to the Mende and Temne peoples of Sierra Leone, actor Isaiah Washington attested to his “rebirth” saying he believes that “DNA will finally become the tool to bridge the gap between our brothers and sisters who have been lost.” Earlier this year, now “DNA-branded” [see note at end on this term] as Sierra Leonean, Washington was sworn in as a citizen of that country. Citizenship by way of mitochondrial DNA.

But what about the role of DNA for our brothers and sisters who have been stranded or detained abroad? Enter “the lips case”.

On May 21st 2009, Somali-born Canadian citizen Suaad Hagi Mohamud attempted to board a flight out of Nairobi to return home to Toronto, after a three-week visit to Kenya. Upon inspecting her passport, Dutch KLM airline authorities claimed that her lips looked different than that observed in her four-year-old passport photo, branded her an “imposter” and not the rightful holder of the passport that she presented. Mohamud was detained overnight in the airport. Two Canadian High Commission officials met with her the following morning, told her “you are not Suaad” and confiscated her passport. Mohamud was held in the airport for four days until she was released on a bond, tasked with proving her identity within a two-week time frame.

Canadian High Commission officials did not accept Suaad’s ID cards and she was charged with using a false passport, impersonating a Canadian and with being in Kenya illegally. Subsequently she was jailed by Kenyan authorities from June 3rd to June 11th, facing possible deportation to Somalia. While Mohamud was in limbo in Kenya, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon was quoted on July 24th as saying, “there is no tangible proof” that Mohamud is Canadian and that “all Canadians who hold passports generally have a picture that is identical in their passport to what they claim to be.”

It wasn’t until Mohamud requested DNA testing through a motion filed before the Canadian Federal Court by her attorney in Toronto, and then had that test conducted on August 10th 2009 that charges against her were dropped. Mohamud’s DNA was compared to that of her Canadian born son, confirming her identity with a probability of 99.99%. She was issued an emergency passport and she boarded a plane to Amsterdam to make her way home to Toronto arriving on August 15th. This DNA verification not only proved who she said she was, but, apparently, determined her citizenship status as well. This case raises the question of “who can be abandoned by the state and by what technological means? and “will this case be used to argue for even more surveillance by way of a genomic encoded passport?”

The Mohamud case reveals that although identification documents function as a key technology in the contemporary management of state sanctioned human mobility, the discretionary power exercised by the customs inspector, and increasingly by the airline official as proxy customs inspector, is a power that makes it plain that, as David Lyon puts it, “all technologies are human activities.” (Identifying Citizens: ID Cards as Surveillance) Meaning, that these technologies of border control (passports, biometrics, airport pre-boarding passenger screening zones) are developed within, put to use and often replicate existing socio-spatial inequalities. (See this deadly example too)

For Mohamud, DNA testing was a technology of hope that allowed her to challenge her abandonment or “racial purging” by the state. The answer to whether Mohamud’s abandonment was racially charged is found in an interview with the CBC where Mohamud contested that

The Canadian High Commission wouldn’t be treating me the way they treat me. If I’m a white person, I wouldn’t be there in one day. I wouldn’t have missed the flight.

Mohamud has since filed a 2.6 million dollar lawsuit against the Canadian government.

Note: Sociologist Patricia Hill Collins uses the term “DNA-branded” in discussing the “freak” show that is ‘Whose Your Daddy?’ episodes of The Maury Povich Show and The Montel Williams Show, where potential fathers are subject to paternity testing and if DNA-branded as father they are subject to the requisite lecture on responsibility by the hosts.

Simone is now tweeting surveillance stories and links at @wewatchwatchers

Arizona Native Americans Oppose New Nativist Law

I’ll bet Arizona’s mostly white nativists, including right-wing Republicans, did not see this one coming. Native American groups in Arizona have made it clear they will not enforce the new Arizona anti-immigrants law. An Arizona Capitol Times report by Evan Wyloge states:

Native American tribes are charging that the law was written without considering their unique circumstance and that it will violate their sovereignty and their members’ civil rights. Despite a request by Gov. Jan Brewer’s office to comply with the new law, Native American tribes will continue to oppose it and seek ways to avoid its implementation, said John Lewis, executive director of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, which represents 20 tribes in the state. [and a fifth of the lands]

One reason is that the new law will

lead to disproportionate stops and detentions for tribal members, violate their sovereignty and negatively impact the tribal economy.

Police officers, especially white officers, are likely to target Native Americans, because they often look Latino. I wonder why that is? Could it be because a majority of Mexicans and Mexican Americans have substantial Native American (indigenous) ancestry?

And that raises another point. Aren’t most European Americans in Arizona and elsewhere the descendants of undocumented immigrants who came into a country without the permission (and often against the opposition) of the existing indigenous inhabitants? (We had no general exclusionary immigration laws until 1920-1924, so requiring immigration documents for all is fairly new in this country’s history.)

Hmmm. Does that also mean that a majority of current Mexican immigrants have deeper historical and ancestral roots in North America, and in what used to be northern Mexico (e.g., Arizona), than European Americans?

Navajo Nation Councilmember Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. has commented on the implications of the law:

“What if we had a law that said whenever a white person is traveling through the Navajo Reservation, we have reasonable suspicion that they’re carrying drugs? Where would the outcry on that be? ….We were here before anyone else, before any white people, and now we’re going to be questioned about being here legally?”

What if, indeed!

Anna’s Story: Latino Counter Frames to Racism, and the Importance of Language & Culture

Anna grew up the youngest daughter in of Mexican immigrants who earned a meager living as farmer workers in Burley, Idaho. Who would have imagined she would become a successful attorney in a city like Seattle? Who would have imagined she would win the 2009 King County Bar Association’s Pro Bono award—an award usually reserved for attorneys from the big firms, not for lawyers in solo practice who devote themselves to the area of labor law helping undocumented workers collect wages they are owed? Who would have imagined she would unexpectedly become the legal guardian and new mom of her niece’s three- year-old son because her niece was shot and killed by her husband and the father is in jail?

As Anna recalls the experiences that motivated her to go to law school, she notes they weren’t all pleasant. Her reasons stemmed mostly from witnessing her parent’s being treated terribly. She hated that they weren’t treated fairly when they worked in the fields, whether it was in the sugar beets, the beans, or in the potato fields. Remembering the conditions in the fields made her cry, particularly when she described having to take their own toilet paper because they didn’t have bathrooms, or when the ranchers would give them unfair and illegal rules such as only allowing them fifteen minute lunch breaks. What was worse, she stressed, was that her parent’s would be even stricter by imposing only a ten-minute lunch on her and her family so that the rancher wouldn’t get mad at them for taking lunch at all. Her dad was always particularly cautious when it came to the ranchers or bosses because he didn’t have any power or rights. And that lack of power for her dad is what made her want to go on to law school.

As an undergraduate she told her advising professor that she was interested in going to law school. Her professor told her flat out that she didn’t have what it takes to be a lawyer. Of course, as a Latina from her socio-economic and racialized background, she had heard this kind of “advice” from her teachers before. While it made her angry, she didn’t internalize it. She had stopped doing this a long time ago. Instead she told herself that this political science professor didn’t know what he was talking about. After all, he wasn’t a lawyer. When she was offered an opportunity to attend Gonzaga University’s Summer Pre-law program and her life took off. It was at Gonzaga that she met other Latinas from different regions of the country, all from farm worker backgrounds and they understood each other. They knew the same Mexican musicians, they could speak Spanish, they shared many of the same experiences (including many of the same reasons for wanting to go to law school), they understood the same jokes, and they were all Latinas who were driven and ambitious and wanted to succeed. For the first time in her life, Anna felt comfortable and at peace with others from her culture who were also ambitious and driven.

Windy Field
(Creative Commons License photo credit: crowdive)

However it wasn’t easy. Her first year in law school was a difficult one. She was going through a divorce from a very controlling husband. She was having a lot of health problems from all the stress. In addition, there were family obligations and pressures to contend with during that crucial first year of law school: her oldest brother got into trouble with the law, her other brother became seriously ill with diabetes, her youngest brother’s family life was falling apart, and her mother had to return to Mexico because her aunt had passed away. So she was dealing with all these family pressures and problems and went to the Dean of the law school to see what would happen if she would just drop out that year. When the Dean told her that if she quit, she would not be guaranteed a spot the following year. At the time the doctors weren’t sure of her medical diagnosis, so they couldn’t postpone her final exams on medical grounds, and she knew she would just get further and further behind. She either had to finish the year or quit law school altogether. She decided to make it through her first year final examinations. She recalls that during one final examination she actually just put her head down and started to write her exam and to cry. She wrote the whole exam with her head on her desk while crying. Somehow she passed it. Somehow she passed all her exams that year and she made it through her first year of law school when at times getting to class was all she could handle.

After earning her law degree she returned to Idaho to try to help farm workers, but in many ways she felt she was in a straight jacket. Due to the systemic institutional racism that farm workers lived under, she felt as if all she could do was say, “I can’t help you” in Spanish. She described the story of people coming to her telling her that a brother was in Mexico because the rancher called immigration to avoid paying him, but since the brother was no longer in the country, she couldn’t collect his wages for him. She recalled another example of being powerless to help when a farm worker was injured on the job, because farm workers couldn’t receive workers compensation since farm work was exempt from workers compensation at that time. Frustrated and ready to leave Idaho behind, she was offered a position at the Northwest Justice Project in Seattle and took it. Now in solo practice, she has been practicing law in Seattle ever since.

Although far removed from the suffering she and her family experienced as farm workers, and far removed from many of the obstacles she had to overcome to attend and complete law school, Anna’s story is the story of many Latinos who must balance their lives in American culture by doing what is necessary to succeed, while at the same time, trying not to let the process of success change them in ways that are antithetical to traditional Latino culture and values. Her story highlights that for many first generation Latino professionals, the Latino culture is critical for survival and for success, it is the foundation and the motivation for all that they do. However, it also shows that because Latinos as a group are situated in a disadvantaged position in society, Latino professionals are never too far from the pain and dysfunction found in their communities of origin. It seems there is always a crisis when you come from a poor immigrant family without many rights in society.

Often the economic pressures, the cultural expectations of being available to the family (no matter what the situation may be), the fear of the unknown—many times from the parents’ negative experiences in a racist and unkind society, and the need to become too individualistic or too “Americanized,” make it extremely difficult for Latino professionals. In Latino culture one’s family comes first. La familia is one of the most noble and honored priorities of the culture.

Anna’s story of growing up in a farm worker immigrant household in Idaho to becoming such a successful attorney that won the King County Bar Association’s Pro Bono Award, to raising her niece’s three year old son as her own son demonstrates that if you don’t give up, if you are there for the family, if you fight the good fight, then you can become a great success. But it isn’t easy. You have to be strong enough to resist the stereotyping, the questioning, and the racialization you encounter in your new professional role. And at the same time, you have to be available to drop everything you are doing and help out your family or it can be seen as an act of betrayal to your family that you’re not there for them. This is a lot to balance. However, as Anna looks back on her life now, she realizes that part of her is and will always be drawn back to her roots, to her family, and to her culture. She hopes she can instill this cultural strength in her new son as her parents did for her, because in the end her culture is what helped her persevere.

Anna’s story is reflective of many of the stories I heard from the Latinos I interviewed. Her experiences demonstrate not only the white discrimination and opposition her and her family encountered over and over again, but her story is also reflective of the many strategies of resistance Latinos use to confront the racial, class, and gender oppression they experience. Chou and Feagin observe that “among all groups of color, only African Americans have managed to create a strong counterframe and to teach it to successive generations” Yet they discovered in their study of Asian Americans, that communities of color such as Asians are displaying acts of resistance even if they are not direct. Similarly, the Latino respondents in this study are also actively resisting the negative framing of who they are. Often the strategies of resistance to the openly anti-Latino climate in America begin at home. Like Anna’s parents, most of the Latinos in this study came from families who wanted them to lay low and not to make waves. Why: because as an immigrant family, one doesn’t make waves or draw attention to themselves. However, one thing many of the parents insisted upon was that that the respondents learn and speak Spanish at home. Speaking Spanish become a way for them to maintain some sort of semblance of dignity when everything around them told them that they were inferior.

Professor Ron Schmidt understands this well when he writes, “Despite the controversy surrounding English-only debates, the importance of language, identity, and culture go hand-in-hand.” Professor Schmidt argues that language is central to one’s identity; to attack it is to attack the person. He states, “[I]f language, for example, becomes an important marker of ethnic identity, then language policy represents one avenue through which to gain greater public recognition and respect for a particular ethnic community” (p. 53).He is absolutely right. Nearly half of the Latino respondents in this study spoke Spanish as a first language and over thirty percent indicated that they currently speak both English and Spanish within both their family settings and social occasions.

Language and cultural maintenance become heroic acts of resistance on the part of immigrants and their children who often have so few rights.

~ This post is an excerpt from a book manuscript by Dr. Mária Chávez, Assistant Professor, Pacific Lutheran University

Pew Poll: Americans Support Police-State-Like Tactics on Immigration

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has recently released a national opinion poll (done on on May 6-9, 2010) on the general public’s reactions to the Arizona immigration law (SB 1070), which makes being an undocumented immigrant traveling in or through Arizona a major crime under state law. Here is their summary and here is the full report.

The key and actual questions are these:

Q.10 The state of Arizona recently passed a law dealing with illegal immigration. As I describe some parts of the
law, tell me if you approve or disapprove of each. [The three percentages are for these responses, reading from left to right: approve, disapprove, don’t know/other]:

a. Allowing police to question anyone who
they think may be in the country illegally: 62% 35 3

b. Requiring people to produce documents verifying
their legal status if police ask for them: 73% 23 4

c. Allowing police to detain anyone who cannot
verify their legal status: 67% 29 4

On the face of it, these survey data are pretty chilling, with a very substantial majority of the general population supporting key aspects of laws like that in Arizona. On another question, 59 percent of those polled say they approve of the new Arizona law.

More than two thirds buy into the conservative argument that police have a right to act on their own subjective hunches that a person is in the country illegally. In the Southwest this means routine racial profiling, as white residents will almost never be “thought to be in the country illegally.” Indeed, as legal analyst and scholar Michelle Alexander shows in her great new book, The New Jim Crow, the not so secret “secret” of everyday practice in all major aspects of our criminal justice system is that this system routinely and demonstrably (from tons of research) operates in an well-institutionalized racist fashion, with whites with power (especially police officers, prosecutors, and judges) able to pretty much discriminate against working class Americans of color with impunity — and with the backing of numerous recent court decisions by our arch-conservative Supreme Court (perhaps our most undemocratic political institution). People of color are easily targeted when the Supreme Court and the congress back up routine discrimination in the streets. The subjective “thinking” of police and other criminal justice officials is now the criterion of “justice” when it comes to many crime policing and prosecution decisions.

The second question’s and third question’s huge positive responses might, however, have been different if the supportive respondents (especially the majority of white respondents–Pew does not give a racial breakdown) had routine experience with being mistreated or harassed by the police seeking such information–like many Americans of color. Also, I wonder how they would feel if they were taken to jail if they did not have their key documents (birth certificate?) with them, as this law requires. Apparently a driver’s license is not enough. (Have you ever gone out on the streets without key documents?)

The increasing public support of essentially police-state tactics over the last decade (notice that the large, mostly white employers are not principally targeted–the easier way to stop immigration?) is one of the chilling things about this supposedly “post-racial” America. (Related issues in some of the likely police stops out of this law seem to be the fourth amendment’s protections against government searches without specific evidence and without warrants, and the fifth amendment’s protection against self-incrimination, and its a person shall not “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Have these also been nullified by the routine operation of the justice system, including recent Supreme Court decisions?) Actually, we have now quickly gone to the post-post-racial America.

Anti-Latino Racism: A Pew Center report

The Pew Hispanic Center has an interesting fact sheet, “Hispanics and Arizona’s New Immigration Law,” which provides some useful data for our often data-less, faith-based, often white-racist or white-fearful, debates on U.S. immigration. According to a 2009 Pew survey of Americans

nearly one-in- four (23%) Americans said Hispanics are discriminated against “a lot” in society today, a share higher than observed for any other group…This represents a change from 2001, when blacks were seen as the racial/ethnic group discriminated against the most in society.

In the earlier period some 25 percent of those polled said blacks were discriminated against a lot, which was more than the 19 percent who said the same for Latinos. Now in the 2009 survey only 19 percent said blacks were discriminated against “a lot,” compared to the 23 percent for Latinos. Pew makes a significant point out of Latinos being seen as (but, actually, only a little ) more discriminated against than African Americans, but what I see as much more striking is that this majority-white national sample actually has rather low percentages that see either group as facing “a lot” of discrimination.

This is the more important finding. Once again, only a modest minority of whites apparently see any problem with racial discrimination for either group. This is the white racial frame in its modern white-virtue, little-discrimination form. Lots of analysts talk about this as a new form of racism, of “colorblind racism,” but actually it goes back for centuries. Whites since the 1600s have seen themselves as virtuous, and thus as doing nothing wrong or bad in their everyday oppression– which is thus seen as something other than oppression or racial discrimination.

Pew also has some interesting data on other matters affecting Latinos:

One-in-ten Hispanics say that they have been asked by police or other authorities about their immigration status….According to the [Pew] 2008 National Survey of Latinos, 45% of Latinos said they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence that police officers in their communities would treat Latinos fairly. Eight-in-ten Hispanics say local police should not be involved in identifying undocumented or illegal immigrants.

Racial profiling and likely other police malpractice thus seem a reality for many Latinos in this country–even before Arizona’s nativistic legislators made it even more of a national discussion. Less than half have confidence in police officers treating folks fairly. Also

According to a 2009 Pew Hispanic Center survey of Hispanics ages 16 and older, one-third (32%) say they, a family member, or a close friend have experienced discrimination in the five years prior to the survey because of their racial or ethnic background.

Significant anti-Latino discrimination is regularly found in Pew surveys, but I have yet to see any national discussion of this raical discrimination. Indeed, to my knowledge well into the 21st century we still have no major study or book of the extensiveness of racial discrimination facing Latinos in the United States. How tardy is our contemporary “social science”?

Of course, a little recent social science data indicate that this Pew “32 percent” is very likely a severe underestimate of the actual discriminatory reality faced by Latinos. (And my Latino students report much more than this.)

I keep wondering when U.S. pollsters like those at Pew will get beyond their methodological naïveté on these matters, and ask in-depth questions that use savvy language likely to get people of color to talk more openly about the extensive discrimination they do face–more likely about 90 percent, not 32 percent, in recent months (not years).

Why Did Dean Kagan Preside Over a Whitened Harvard Law School?

A Salon article by four law professors of color raises very serious questions about Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s weak hiring record as the 11th Dean of Harvard Law School. There she presided over an extensive hiring program, but only one faculty member of color was hired:

Of these 32 tenured and tenure-track academic hires, only one was a minority. Of these 32, only seven were women. All this in the 21st Century.

She is rumored to be President Obama’s choice for the current Supreme Court vacancy. Whether that is true or not, she is in the final list. And her very weak commitment to diversity there at HLS, where she has significant power to bring diversity change, signals that the mostly white folks who seem to be advising the president on such critical matters are operating in a business as usual fashion. Placement of someone like her on the court will likely assist in its rightward movement.

Colorblindness Linked to Racism Online and Off

An important and path breaking new study links colorblind racial ideology to racism online and off.  The study, by Brendesha Tynes, a professor of educational psychology and of African American studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Suzanne L. Markoe of the University of California, Los Angeles, is published in the March issue of Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.

The study, which examined the relationship between responses to racial theme party images on social networking sites and a color-blind racial ideology,  found that white students and those who rated highly in color-blind racial attitudes were more likely not to be offended by images from racially themed parties.  In other words, the more “color-blind” someone was, the less likely they would be to find parties at which attendees dressed and acted as caricatures of racial stereotypes (e.g., photos of students dressed in blackface make-up attending a “gangsta party” to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day) offensive.

To conduct the study, Tynes and Markoe showed 217 ethnically diverse college students images from racially themed parties and prompted them to respond as if they were writing on a friend’s Facebook or MySpace page.   Fifty-eight percent of African-Americans were unequivocally bothered by the images, compared with only 21 percent of whites. The majority of white respondents (41 percent) were in the bothered-ambivalent group, and 24 percent were in the not bothered-ambivalent group. n the written response portion of the study, the responses ranged from approval and nonchalance (“OMG!! I can’t believe you guys would think of that!!! Horrible … but kinda funny not gonna lie”) to mild outrage (“This is obscenely offensive”).

The students also were asked questions about their attitudes toward racial privilege, institutional discrimination and racial issues. Those who scored higher on the measure were more likely to hold color-blind racial attitudes, and were more likely to be ambivalent or not bothered by the race party photos.  Respondents low in racial color-blindness were much more vocal in expressing their displeasure and opposition to these images, and would even go so far as to “de-friend” someone over posting those images.

Tynes’ research also revealed an incongruence of reactions among white students that she’s dubbed “Facebook face,” which she explains in an interview:

“To their friends, they would express mild approval of the party photos or just not discuss race,” Tynes said. “But in private, in a reaction that they thought their friends wouldn’t see, some students would let us know that they thought the image was racist or that it angered them. We think that it’s because whites have been socialized not to talk about race.”

According to Tynes, a color-blind racial attitude is the prevailing racial ideology of the post-Civil Rights era, and is the view that seeing race is inherently wrong:

“If you subscribe to a color-blind racial ideology, you don’t think that race or racism exists, or that it should exist. You are more likely to think that people who talk about race and racism are the ones who perpetuate it. You think that racial problems are just isolated incidents and that people need to get over it and move on. You’re also not very likely to support affirmative action, and probably have a lower multi-cultural competence.”

Since a color-blind racial ideology is associated with endorsement of the racial theme party photos, Tynes says that mandatory courses on issues of racism and multicultural competence are necessary for students from elementary school through college.

Tynes, who recently was awarded a $1.4 million grant to study the effects of online racial discrimination by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said that along with the role children and adolescents play in producing online hate, her inspiration for the study was the numerous racially themed parties that occurred on college campuses across the country in 2007 and the resultant blowback when images from the parties were posted on Facebook and MySpace.