White Sexual Violence against Enslaved Black Women

Historians have estimated that at least 58% of all enslaved women between 15 and 30 years of age were sexually assaulted by white men during the antebellum period. In addition to the white male privilege and power evident in this extensive routine rape of black female slaves, the reactions of white women to their husbands’ sexual behavior helped perpetuate racial and gender subordination as well as white privilege.

White women reacted to sexual violence perpetrated against enslaved black women by their husbands in a variety of ways including ignoring or denying the behavior, divorcing their husbands, or punishing the enslaved black women who were sexually victimized. These reactions are repeated throughout a variety of records from slavery including Work Projects Administration slave narratives, divorce petitions, autobiographical slave narratives, and diaries.

For white women, the legal structure created some incentives to stay quiet about their husbands’ sexual violation of enslaved black women. During the 1800’s, a variety of state courts declared that a man had the right to execute “moderate chastisement” of his wife “in cases of emergency,” such as the Mississippi Supreme Court in Bradley v. State in 1824. The white male dominated structure of the legal, political, and economic system was crucial to white women’s responses to their husbands’ sexual violence against slaves. The desire to stay physically unharmed and financially secure likely encouraged many white women to remain silent about their husbands’ sexual behavior.

Mary Chesnut, an elite white woman living in the mid-1800’s described the denial of white women in her diary. She writes

every lady tells you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody’s household, but those in her own she seems to think drop from the clouds, or pretends so to think.

An anonymous former slave who was interviewed for the Work Projects Administration slave narratives wrote similarly,

Before my old marster died, he had a pretty gal he was goin’ with and he wouldn’t let her work nowhere but in the house, and his wife nor nobody else didn’t say nothin’ ’bout it; they knowed better. She had three chillun for him. . . .

Despite the potential consequences of speaking out against their husbands, some white women did file for divorce from their husbands often in large part because of the sexual “relationships” they had with enslaved black women. Through divorce petitions white women portrayed themselves as innocent victims of their husbands’ adultery. White women repeatedly overlooked the sexual violence and victimization of the enslaved black women coerced into their husbands’ “affairs.” Meanwhile they portrayed themselves as meeting the ideal standards of white womanhood, such as Margaret Garner from Mobile, Alabama who in 1841 petitioned for divorce explaining that she “calmly remonstrated” with her husband with regard to his affair or Mary Jackson from Georgia who treated her husband “Joseph with respect and affection and rendered due obedience to all the lawful commands.”

These women depict themselves as willfully submissive and obedient. Although the obedient, passive and loyal portrayals of themselves assisted white women in gaining divorces from their husbands as well as a portion of the economic resources in many cases; they simultaneously reinforced white gender roles and the white sexism that is associated. Moreover, when white women frame themselves as the sole victims of their husbands’ “affairs” with enslaved black women, they reinforce a narrative which focuses all attention on their own needs and the role of the court in protecting white women from men who have failed to achieve white male virtue, as opposed to acknowledging the needs of the black women who were sexually victimized and requiring of legal protection against rape.

Some white women also enacted a form of secondary abuse through physical and verbal punishment against the enslaved black women who had been sexually violated by white men. Through physical and verbal abuse, white women could transfer their feelings of humiliation, jealousy, or degradation into feelings of racial superiority over female slaves. Because white women were unable to enact any behaviors which would give them power over their white husbands this physical abuse directed at the enslaved black women simultaneously reflects the gender-subordinated and racially-privileged status that white women held. Not only did white women reinforce racial oppression through their responses, and lack of responses, to their husbands’ sexual violence, but they also reinforced their own oppression as white women by failing to resist the white male behaviors and white male dominated structures which ensure their gender subordination.

Today, although interracial rape of black women by white men has decreased significantly from the antebellum period, the intersecting institutions of oppression which shaped the identities and influenced the dynamics between white women, white men, black women, and black men persist. This raises the questions, in what ways are intersecting institutions of oppression creating incentives for some groups to partake in oppressive racial and gender performances and acts of domination today, and how does each group contribute to the overarching intersectional system of oppression?

Rachel is a Phd student doing her dissertation work on this issue of the extensive sexual coercion and rape of Black women by white men during the slavery era.

Livestreaming Now: Whiteness & Health Roundtable Today at CUNY Graduate Center (Updated)

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.

Follow the livetweeting on Twitter at @jgieseking (Jen Jack Gieseking) and @SOSnowy (Collette Sosnowy), and via the #DigitalGC. You can also view the compilation of those Tweets on Storify here.

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).

Asian Americans: An Uncritical Pew Center Report

Some 18 million Asian Americans make up today nearly 6 percent of the population, a figure than has grown from one percent before the 1965 Immigration Act replaced an openly racist immigration system set up in the 1920s. This reform law of the 1960s allowed into the U.S. a much greater diversity of immigrants.

A recent report titled “The Rise of Asian Americans” has been published on the Pew Research Center website, with much interesting – if somewhat poorly assessed – statistical data on Asian Americans, much of it from a 2012 survey Pew did.

Much of the tone of the report is a “model minority” one, as in this opening statement:

Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success. . . .

The report accents the “milestones of economic success and social assimilation.” There are no qualifiers in this opening Pollyanna-ism that signal the racial and other societal problems Asian Americans face, including discrimination from whites with power over them and extremely heavy outside pressures on them as “forever foreign” to “assimilate.” Some discussion of barriers appears much later in the Pew analysis, and it is insufficient. Oddly, too, there is little citation of the relevant social science literature on the reality of everyday racism for Asian Americans, such as this recent book that Rosalind Chou and I did.

Still, there is much interesting data in the report. It cites data indicating that three quarters of Asian Americans are foreign-born immigrants, and that half say they cannot speak English very well. Being immigrants means a reality that some social science literature indicates makes publicly noting and organizing against discrimination they face much more difficult. Just getting situated in jobs and housing, and getting adjusted to a new country takes precedence in many cases—as the data on half not knowing English well indicates–and thus conformity to white folkways, to a white-dominated society, can become a passive anti-discrimination strategy. If you talk, dress, and act as “white” as you can, perhaps you will suffer fewer racial barriers.

The report notes that Asian American immigrants are the fastest growing group of immigrants, now surpassing Latinos in that regard. Especially interesting is the large proportion that come from the middle and upper middle class of their home countries:

More than six-in-ten (61%) adults ages 25 to 64 who have come from Asia in recent years have at least a bachelor’s degree. This is double the share among recent non-Asian arrivals….

They average more educational attainment than the populations of their home countries as well. While there are significant numbers of legal immigrants who are not from these relatively affluent backgrounds, a great many do come from such backgrounds–and that is one reason they tend to do better than the average American in terms of upward socioeconomic mobility:

. . . especially when compared with all U.S. adults, whom they exceed not just in the share with a college degree (49% vs. 28%), but also in median annual household income ($66,000 versus $49,800) and median household wealth ($83,500 vs. $68,529).

The report fails to note, like many other commentators, that a great many come with very significant socioeconomic resources. In some sense, our legal immigration system often “creams off” from the world’s middle and upper middle classes. That is also one reason that Asian American immigrants do better on average that Latino immigrants, many of whom are relatively poor and undocumented. One does not need racialized notions of “Asian culture” and “Hispanic culture” to explain this differential socioeconomic mobility.

The report uses the 2012 survey of Asian Americans to play up certain common images of Asian Americans, such as their “strong emphasis on family”:

More than half (54%) say that having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in life; just 34% of all American adults agree. Two-thirds of Asian-American adults (67%) say that being a good parent is one of the most important things in life; just 50% of all adults agree.

The survey also used some rather simplistic questions about “hard work,” and found that “Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard, a view shared by a somewhat smaller share of the American public as a whole (58%).” More than 90 percent thought their country-mates were very hardworking.

Down in the report they finally note significant socioeconomic differentials and problems faced within the “model minority”:

Americans with Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and “other U.S. Asian” origins have a higher poverty rate than does the U.S. general public, while those with Indian, Japanese and Filipino origins have lower rates.

Not much discussion is devoted to this important finding, nor to the reality that large percentages of these Asian Americans do not yet know English very well (and thus do not seem to easily fit the “high assimilation” tone of the article).

The report offers some important summaries of variations in geographic patterns of residence, and religious identifications. There is also significant variability in how the immigrants came to the United States. The Vietnamese mostly came as political refugees, while

half of all Korean and Indian immigrants who received green cards in 2011 got them on the basis of employer sponsorship, compared with about a third of Japanese, a fifth of Chinese, one-in-eight Filipinos and just 1% of Vietnamese.

Educational and family reasons account for most of the others.

After noting in a cursory way that much Asian immigrants faced large-scale racial discrimination and being “othered,” the report concludes that the (problematical) Pew survey data questions show that Asian Americans do not face much racial discrimination. Only one in five said they faced “discrimination” because they were Asian, and only 13 percent said that “discrimination” against their group was a major problem.

One would have thought that these researchers might have looked at the research literature and realized that “discrimination” is often an intimidating word for (especially newer) Americans of color, and that there are much better ways to ask about the specific racial barriers they face—including often using softer language and, most importantly, asking about a significant list of possible racial mistreatments that have been reported in previous studies. The report also operates from a white racial frame in talking about the “perception of discrimination” on the part of their Asian American respondents–a common white-generated way to downplay the importance of discrimination as somehow just “in the minds” of those people of color who are targeted by it. And the white perpetrators of racial discrimination targeting Asian Americans , past and present, are never mentioned.

The report also discusses, as many other commentaries to, the relatively high level of outmarriage for Asian American newlyweds, a figure about 29 percent for those married from 2008 to 2010, more than for any other racial group. Women are much more likely to out-marry than men, a reality linked partially to the negative images of Asian American men in this society ( and ignored in this report) and fully explained in a new book by Rosalind Chou.

A very interesting report that deserves much more critical analysis and assessment in regard to immigrants and the U.S. future than the Pew researchers provide.

Parents Know: It’s Time We All Listen



Parents know what their children need, especially when it comes to their education. And it’s about time that we start listening to them. In the nation’s rush to blame everyone, including the parents, for children’s, especially minority children’s, educational failure, we have stopped listening to the people who know the most about their own, and their community’s children. The parents. And instead of listening to these parents, these mothers, we listen to everyone else. Everyone else gets a say in what is right or wrong, but mostly wrong, with the schools – movie directors, politicians, educational policy experts, and academics (myself included). And most of these people do not have children in the public schools (again, myself included), particularly the low income public schools that bear the brunt of most criticism.

And it’s not as if these parents are not demanding to be heard. It’s just that the United States is used to ignoring them. Historically, low income minority women have been the most marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised, suffering from what Patricia Hill Collins calls a triple threat of disadvantage. For those parents who might not speak English fluently or speak it as their first language, this is only all the more true. However, it’s not as if these groups do not advocate on behalf of their children. They do. It’s just these groups are often intentionally ignored, or silenced, because to listen to them would call attention to the tremendous injustices that not only they, but their children, the most vulnerable of our American citizens, suffer.

Stigmatized as being on welfare, sexually promiscuous, or involved with illegal drugs, low income minority mothers are often seen as social pariahs. But the stores of knowledge they hold, both with regard to their own cultures and histories, as well as the oppositional consciousnesses documenting the explicit injustices to which their children are subject are profound. And they must be heard. We, as the American public, must listen as they rally nationally – in Bridgeport, Connecticut, New York City, Paterson, N.J., Baltimore, Dallas, Texas, Sacramento, Chicago, and St. Augustine, Florida. In these cities, and so many others, they rally.

Demanding that school boards address the existence of toxic substances in their schools, increased parental involvement, that schools in their neighborhoods not be closed, overcrowding , privatization of school employees, cuts to education funding, physically abusive teachers, and fewer tests, these parents clearly know what the specific problems in the schools are.

They do not need educational experts, politicians, or others who have never stepped inside their neighborhood (unless to campaign), much less their schools, to tell them what is keeping minority test scores low. They know. And it’s time the rest of the country listen. This July, parents, as well as teachers and other supporters, from around the nation will convene in Washington, D.C., to reclaim their rightful control over their children’s futures. I hope we listen.

Millions of Parents as Felons?: But Only Blacks Go to Jail



Ms. Kelley Williams-Bolar, is an Akron, Ohio resident, poor, law abiding, single mother of two daughters (14 and 16 years of age), student in education at Akron University, and now a convicted felon for deciding to break “the rules” and falsify proof of residential documentation in order to bypass the school designated by the local school district. Instead of going to schools that are unsafe, violent, provide below standard academics, and consisting of a population approximated between 92-93% Black, she took it upon herself to send them to a school in the Copley-Fairlawn district where her father resided.

Within this district, the schools her children attended for two years were meeting state adequate academic progress benchmarks and had a population of White students between 73-82%. How do we know this sort of colossal atrocity that impairs the moral compass that guides our society occurred? It so happens that the rich White suburban school district hired a private investigator to unravel the dastardly deed. What do you expect though? The district has even gone as far in the past to pay $100 to anyone giving information on students who were attending the schools illegally. It was evident to all on-lookers that the school district was doing everything possible to keep outsiders out. Well, Ms. Williams-Bolar was sought, arrested, and convicted of tampering with records. She was sentenced to five years in prison. The judge in the case reduced the time down to 10 days, 80 hours of community service, and three years probation.

(Numerous other blogs and websites have discussed these issues and one has a place you can sign up in protest (see here).

Brian Poe, the Copley-Fairlawn Superintendent reported that the case cost the district $30,000 of lost tuition and $6,000 for investigative purposes. He denied that the mother was singled out due to her race. In the words of Representative Wilson of South Carolina, “You lie!”

Today, a persistent ideology is looming where Whites and an increasing number of middle to upper class Blacks blindly believe that racism no longer exists in the 21st century. However, evidence otherwise dictates that racism, oppression, and control, does exist and is persistent to survive the tides of time. Moreover, Joe Feagin scholarly noted that since slaves were first stolen from Africa, White’s intent was to not only physically enslave them through force, but by creating a system that transcended through generations to advantage Whites through the social and psychological control mechanisms that targeted people of color, subsequently holding them to their placement on the second class tier upon the White constructed racial ladder of hierarchy. This transcends still throughout all major institutions within the U.S., such as education.

Research has noted that the increasing residential segregation of Whites is closely related to their schools of choice. Simply put, heavily White suburban areas are mostly chosen by white parents due to the low number of Black and Latino populations within the area and within the schools. By blocking and alienating the abilities of Blacks, and Latinos from attending these schools, Whites are able to continue to benefit from the existence of the sites and strangleholds of White power. As in the past, within the 21st century, these “normal” actions that enable the power and privilege of Whites in part are fueled by the old White racial frame. Therefore, Ms. William Bolar is simply a casualty of “The Machine.” This racist machine constantly reminds us that there exist two unequal worlds today. Little Rock Nine
Creative Commons License photo credit: Steve Snodgrass

Perilous Family: Amy Chua, Sino-Anxiety, and US Politics

News and social media, bloggers, and readers have flocked upon Amy Chua’s controversial article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” Since appearing in The Wall Street Journal last week, the article has generated over 7,000 comments, countless blog posts, rebuttals from Chua and her daughter, and even death threats.

Scholars have widely criticized the model minority myth, and Chua deserves no passes. But I want to examine the media’s interest in pursuing this dialogue in the first place. Notice that Chua’s article falls under the “Life & Culture” category. Lifestyle news isn’t simply a space wherein readers escape from depressing and laborious facts of hard journalism. It’s a soft arm to more overt U.S. geopolitics set forth by hard news, guiding readers toward a cultural view supportive of these politics. From this angle, we see Chua’s article playing to Sino-anxiety and tensions around the family as a unit of politics.

China’s economic ascension is an obsession of Western news media; so is the family. Consider, how often issues buttressing the conservative and liberal divide in American politics contend over defining the family—reproductive rights, gay marriage, the military. No wonder readers were riled up. Chua’s claim that Chinese parenting is “superior” to American families provokes both conflicts, hedging forth the fear that America’s apparent economic decline is also cultural, and accelerated by Chinese families “abroad” and within U.S. borders. Bourgeois trends might feel tacky for American readers struggling with their wallets; unacceptable are insinuations that “foreign parenting” would overpower the Western family.

Chua embodies “yellow peril,” a classic xenophobia scripting East Asians as willfully destructive toward Western civilization. (Interestingly, Chua has written on violence toward Chinese and other “market-dominant minorities” in the Global South.) But is this peril not contradictory, when it’s brought to the verge through affluence and dominance—values of a distinctly Western, neo-liberal lifestyle? The tensions are messy, but as they’re framed, not coincidental.

Intermarriage among Blacks in America



The newly released report Marrying Out tracks the boundary crossings in terms of interracial marriages that are happening among the races in the United States. The timing of the report is propitious; for the past year or so, we have been investigating another aspect of this boundary crossing in America – that is, intermarriages among blacks. Using Census data from 2000, we identify, for the first time, the proportion and the dominant forms of interethnic marriage between black Americans, who are native to America, and blacks who come from the Caribbean and Africa.

The report Marrying Out reveals the historical significance of interracial marriage as an indication of race relations in this great land of ours. But equally significant, we think, is the extent to which immigrant blacks are marrying native black Americans. In general, researchers presume that cultural differences among blacks are so profound and conflict so pervasive that black immigrants (mainly Caribbean and African) are more likely to distance themselves than identify with African Americans. Even as the American black population becomes more diverse through immigration, especially in large metropolitan areas, it is taken for granted that, as immigrants, Caribbean and African blacks wish to increase their chances of social mobility by avoiding marriage with African Americans (Jackson 2007, Beyond social distancing: Intermarriage and ethnic boundaries among black Americans in Boston pp. 217 – 254).

We focused our attention on black ethnic intermarriages: marriages among blacks with different ethnic ancestry (also described as black intraracial marriages) because we realized, after reviewing the literature, that there was no information on black interethnic marriages. Despite much recent scholarly attention, we did not find definitive answers to (basic) questions such as: What proportion of black marriages is interethnic? What are the dominant types of interethnic marriage among blacks? Who marries whom among blacks? How educated are these intermarried couples? What do they earn? How long has America been home to the immigrant spouses? Where in America do these couples live? We used data from the 5% Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) of the 2000 U.S. Census that link the attributes of individuals in a given household to the attributes of the head of household. (The designation “head of household” is usually the person, or one of the people, in whose name the home is owned, bought, or rented. The head of household is usually the one who provides primary support for the household.) Our goal was to capture black interethnic married couple households.

Results

Based on Census 2000 data, we obtained a sub-population of 102,887 black intraracial non-Hispanic married couples from America, the Caribbean and Africa. This number represents about 3% of all marriages involving non-Hispanic blacks (as shown in table 1).

Undoubtedly, the estimate we report here has grown over the past 10 years given current migration and mobility patterns. Although we cannot be certain about the extent of growth, our baseline 2000 data gives a threshold for measuring the boundary crossing that is occurring among blacks. But, compared to interracial marriages (see Marrying Out report), should the rate of black interethnic (black intraracial) marriages be higher, at least about the same as the rate of black interracial marriages?

Among black interethnic marriages, there are more unions involving Caribbean husbands and American wives (41%) followed by American husbands with Caribbean wives (34%). This represents three-quarters of all black interethnic marriages. The higher rate of interethnic marriage with Caribbean partners is consistent with their population size and their history of migration to the United States. Caribbean blacks have been migrating to the United States since the early 1900s; and American and Caribbean blacks share a long period of interaction when compared to recent African immigrants. And the probability of intermarriage with native-born counterparts increases the longer the migrant resides in the host country. The rarest form of intraracial coupling is the one involving Caribbean husbands and African wives.

We also found that: (1) By proportion, more Caribbean husbands are older (≥ 55 years) when compared to American husbands and African husbands in interethnic married households (shown in table 2). (2) By proportion, more intermarried Africans have college degrees (tables 2 and 3). (3) Proportionately more American husbands and African husbands earn high incomes (≥ $75,000) than Caribbean husbands (table 2). (4) More Caribbean spouses have been in the United States longer when compared to African spouses (tables 2 & 3). (5) The households of African husbands and Caribbean wives seem to be prosperous – more of these couples have college degrees and more of them earn high incomes. Their profile suggests that among black interethnic married couples, this type may be the proverbial ‘power couple.’ Black interethnic married couple households are mainly in New York/New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, Maryland/Virginia/DC, Texas, and California. They are, to a lesser extent, also in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota/Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Our results and the results of the Marrying Out report contradict the conclusions of two studies; one study by Model and Fisher (2002: Unions between blacks and whites: England and the US compared. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25, pp 728–754) contended that: “when blacks out-marry, they are far less likely to choose white partners than black partners of a different ethnicity”. Another study by Batson, Qian, & Lichter (2006, Interracial and intraracial patterns of mate selection among America’s diverse black population. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 658 – 672) reported that “a disproportionate share of Blacks, regardless of national origin, are likely to cohabit with other groups than to out-marry.”

Regine O. Jackson (Assistant Professor, Emory University) and
Yoku Shaw-Taylor (Research Scientist)

Domestic Terrorism: Racial, Gender, and Class Angles (UPDATED)

As you probably know by now, a white software engineer crashed his plane into an office building in Austin and killed himself and at least one other person. David Neiwert has a probing article at Crooks-and-Liars,” with a video from Fox News that moves strongly away from calling this an “act of terrorism.” They describe the act as like someone who wildly attacks with a gun at their workplace. The Obama administration’s press secretary and the Department of Homeland Security are also saying it probably was not an act of terrorism. A newsperson at Fox concluded:

Our Homeland Security contacts telling us, this does not appear to be terrorism in any way that that word is conventionally understood. We understand from officials that this is a sole, isolated act.

Neiwert notes that

Well, this is true only if the conventional understanding of the word “terrorism” has now been narrowed down to mean only international terrorism and to preclude domestic terrorism altogether. Since when, after all, is attempting to blow up a federal office as a protest against federal policies NOT an act of domestic terrorism? You know, Timothy McVeigh used a “dangerous instrument” to kill 168 people in Oklahoma City. He too was angry at the federal government, and was converted to the belief that acts of violence was the only means possible to prevent the government from overwhelming our freedom and replacing it with tyranny.

He was also not brown or black. That seems to have something to do with the way these events are reported and described as “not terrorism” by media and government officials. Indeed, I see no one at the mainstream media outlets analyzing that the likely suicide attacker was white, or even much analysis of his note below.

The very long letter from the apparent suicide attacker was left by him on the web, and reads in part:

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?” …. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all. ..While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. . . . Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand.

A major thrust of his suicide note is an attack on taxation, and this is what the media has played up. This is similar to the anti-government motivation for the kind of domestic terrorism engaged in my Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City. Very few in the mainstream media have so far explored his strong critique of the business world:

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies.

He continues with a discussion of his efforts as an engineer and rails against people losing their pensions to corrupt management executives, unions, and officials. After much economic difficulty, he moved to Austin, which gets a bad review:

So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done. I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work.

He then had more economic troubles, and blames the IRS for this problems:

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything. Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”. Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes. . . . I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. . . .I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough. . . . Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the /only/ answer. . . . Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well. *The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.* *The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.* Joe Stack (1956-2010)

We get here a close look at the mind of a suicide attacker, and probably should read it closely. His rationale for violence is carefully presented. This event and its reporting have important racial and class angles.

There is also a major gender violence angle here. MSNBC reported some domestic dispute between the attacker and his wife before the incident, and he appears to have set to light his house on fire, and the fire department had to rescue his wife and daughter. Gender gets downplayed often in these cases. This man first terrorized his wife and daughter, then engaged in an act of domestic terrorism against the government. His wife and daughter are now homeless.

White anger and violence directed at the government is not usually reported as terrorism. White, heterosexual, Christian men infrequently get called out as such and generalizations developed on the basis of these demographics. If these recent incidents by white men had been committed by Muslim men or others of color it is quite likely those demographics would be foregrounded. @GuerrillaMama has put it eloquently (via Twitter):

Suppose two men committed separate acts of extremist murder in the United States within a month. Suppose the gunmen attacked a church and a national landmark, motivated by politics and religious prejudice, targeting a nationally controversial figure and innocent civilians. Suppose there was a history of attacks by similarly motivated men in America, ranging from individual shootings and bombings to an act of spectacular violence that destroyed a federal office building. Suppose two Muslim men had done this. Is there even a question that we would be using a particular term to describe this behavior? Might reporters and news anchors be terming these horrible acts, say, “terrorism”?

Still, Matt Yglesias cautions about an overreaction to this event:

But instead of complaining about the hypocrisy involved in not trying to whip people into a fit of terror and madness about this incident, I think it makes more sense to congratulate everyone on handling this in a calm and sensible manner. . . . Simply put, the odds of “death by disgruntled anti-tax activist flying an airplane into your office” are extremely small and it’s extremely difficult to think of cost-effective and efficacious methods of ensuring that this never happens again. Off the top of my head, this looks to me like a demonstration of the desirability of better mental health services in the United States, but that’s something that I would think was true one way or the other.

In my view, this is a good time for much careful reflection and action about the underlying, stressful, oppressive class, racial, gender conditions of this society. For example, the society’s structural conditions, mentioned in the suicide note, that sometimes play a role in driving people of any background to such extreme violence are also rarely examined in the mainstream media. One can and should examine these contextual conditions of suicide attackers closely without excusing such violence. They often tell us something about our societies. Clearly, the economic depression we are now in is likely part of his story. So, it seems to me, is the violent rhetoric of many in the “tea bag” movement and on white supremacist websites. This extremely violent talk and discussion probably makes violence seem “normal” to people like this suicide attacker. Why is there no mainstream media discussion of the broader racial and class and gender implications of this story, and the biased ways it is being handled?

UPDATE: MEMBER OFCONGRESS EMPATHIZES WITH WHITE DOMESTIC TERRORIST (VIA TPM)

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) told a crowd at CPAC on Saturday that he could “empathize” with the suicide bomber who last week attacked an IRS office in Austin, and encouraged his listeners to “implode” other IRS offices, according to a witness. King’s comments weren’t recorded, but a staffer for Media Matters, who heard the comments, provided TPMmuckraker with an account. The staffer, who requested anonymity because she’s not a communications specialist, said that King, an extreme right-winger with a reputation for eyebrow-raising rhetoric, appeared as a surprise guest speaker on an immigration panel at the conservative conference.

We should note too that the only person this white domestic terrorist killed was a black veteran of Vietnam.

Children Learning Racism



The Intelligence Report has a very interesting article on how and where children learn racist ideas, with a focus on children of white supremacists. The report quotes a number of scholars on this how and where issue:

“Overall, there’s not a lot of evidence that, at least in the long term, kids get their prejudice from their parents,” said Charles Stangor, who runs the Laboratory for the Study of Social Stereotyping and Prejudice at the University of Maryland. “I would call it more of a community effect than a parental effect. The community fosters tolerance or prejudice.”

What is this “community”? The article cites another researcher:

That community includes peers and other adults, such as teachers, coaches and clergy, said Frances Aboud, a psychology professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who studies the development of racial prejudice in children. “There are so many other influences in a child’s life [besides parents], particularly once they start kindergarten.”

The account only mentions peers in passing, but research that Debi Van Ausdale did for 11 months in a multiracial daycare center showed clearly that children learn a great deal about racial matters from other children. That they form important peer groups and learn much from each other is a key finding of this study, yet these children’s groups still do not get enough attention in social science research on racial learning and systems of racial oppression. 512ENERVJDL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_Children, as young as three years old, teach each other the basics of the white racial frame and the dominant racial hierarchy.

There is much else to the lives of children and racism that does not get enough attention. Teachers are quite important, and some research does focus on them and the curriculum.

And then there are the children of the supremacists. The fears and stresses of children of white supremacists are explored a bit in the Intelligence Report article:

Children of racial extremists may have to contend with other effects of their parents’ bigotry, Aboud said. “I think [they] probably become sensitive to that type of adult; other kids might not be aware that there’s that kind of extreme emotional hate toward people,” she said. “[Children of racial extremists] might have lived with more fear. They might have felt vulnerable themselves to that kind of hate: What if I cross my parents in some way — am I going to get that hate directed at me?”

This is yet another seriously under-researched area.

Once Again, Women – Especially Black Women – Are to Blame

How many readers remember the Moynihan Report, the shorthand title for The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” written by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965?  Supposedly, the rationale for the report was to draw attention to the need for social policies and programs that would address the many problems faced by Black families, especially single-parent, female-headed Black families, in the United States.  Regardless of the intent, the Moynihan Report soon became one of the most frequently cited sources to support the argument that the problems facing Black, single-parent, female-headed families – e.g., disproportionately high rates of poverty, crime, illness, substance abuse, “illegitimate” births – were not the products of racism, but were actually caused by Black women themselves: by their strength, their independence, their emasculation of Black men. In subsequent years, the “myth of the Black matriarchy” was refuted by sound empirical research, but such myths, it seems, die hard, and it appears that this one has been resurrected recently, albeit in somewhat different form.

 

I am referring to the substantial media coverage recently of “the successful, but lonely Black single woman.” As one recent Washington Post article put it, there is now a large group of young Black women who seem to “have it all” – good jobs, high incomes, nice homes and cars and clothes – but they’re lonely; they don’t have a man or the prospect of marrying anytime soon. It turns out, according to a report released today by the Pew Research Center, that young, successful White women are experiencing the same relationship troubles.  Among Americans aged 30-44 years old, women are more likely than men to have a college degree.  They are also less likely to have lost their jobs in the recent economic recession; men held about 3 out of every 4 jobs that were lost. These changes are producing a “role reversal,” according to the Pew report, that is “profoundly affecting the marriage pool.” While the Pew report, which analyzes recent Census data, shows that the education and income gap by gender is greater for Blacks than for Whites, the focus of many media stories it seems to me is a new twist on the notion of the Black matriarchy.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: craigfinlay


In a recent ABC News Nightline segment, for example, it was reported that the number of never-married Black women is about double the number of never-married White women. The segment mentions various reasons for this difference, including the smaller number of “marriageable” Black men due to higher mortality, incarceration, and unemployment rates. But the segment focuses primarily on Black women. Several young, successful Black women were interviewed about their intimate relationships and what they desire in men they date. The women come across as strong and independent – and as wanting too much. “Relationship guru” Steve Harvey is also interviewed and he makes it fairly clear that these women have unrealistic expectations. He is shown advising the women to adjust their goals by, for instance, dating older Black men.

 

The Washington Post article I mentioned previously is even more explicit. It features Helena Andrews, author of Bitch is the New Black, a collection of satirical essays about young, successful Black women in Washington, DC.  Andrews and her friends, according to the article, pride themselves on being “mean girls,” especially when it comes to meeting and dating men. But their “bitchiness” is just a mask; in their public presentations of self they convey a “don’t mess with me” attitude, but beneath this veneer is a well of loneliness and, it appears, it’s all their own fault. What do they expect?  Instead of exploring with men – men of all races – why perhaps strong, independent women might be threatening to their masculinity and why this is their problem not the women’s problem, the implication of these and other similar stories is what man would want a woman like this? According to the Pew Research Center study, women’s educational and occupational successes in recent years mean that men benefit more from the economic gains of marriage than women do; in 1965, when the Moynihan Report was issued, the reverse was true.  So why aren’t we applauding young, successful Black women for their achievements instead of blaming them for lower marriage rates? Why are we ignoring the fact that young, successful White women are also reporting difficulties finding compatible marriage partners? And why aren’t we analyzing why men cannot let go of norms of hegemonic masculinity and why they find successful, strong, and independent women intimidating?  Sexism and racism are alive and well.