Archive for people of color
The Obama administration just submitted their amicus brief in regard to the Fisher v. University of Texas (Austin) affirmative action case, which our substantially conservative Supreme Court has decided to hear in the fall.
The brief is indeed fairly brief and mostly sticks to fairly narrow affirmative action arguments based largely in the language and logic of the University of Michigan Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) Supreme Court decision and a few related decisions, such as by arguing that the University of Texas (UT) remedial admissions plan tried unsuccessfully other admissions approaches first, only uses “race” as one variable among several “diversity” variables, is limited in time (reviewed every five years), and has had a modest but good effect in improving UT campus diversity. The brief lays out these conditions and the Grutter perspective allowing “race” as on variable among many pretty well, as a historically rather mainstream and white-centrist position on these university affirmative action issues.
The central arguments, and main rationale, of this brief use common but tepid “diversity” language and cite various important legal cases and agency/research studies (see here for one other study) to back up the argument that diversity helps (especially white, but they don’t use the word in that context) people adjust to and work with (including in the military and business) people who are different from them. The brief is generally cast in that more modest “diversity is important to student careers and success in the ‘real world’” rationale for adding some (modest, actually) “race” diversity to the student body.
What is not here in the rather timid Obama administration brief is rather striking. The brief never uses the word “racism,” nor does it directly reference the fact that UT was for many decades a prominent Jim-Crowed university. It still was firmly segregated, like all historically white southern universities, when I attended college in Texas in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Indeed, UT’s football coach then famously said he would not have an “N-word” on his football team, one of the last teams in the old southwest athletic conference to be racially desegregated. That prominent view of the coach was well-known in Texas’s black communities and indeed alienated many black parents and students from considering going to UT. I know that from personal efforts when I was a UT faculty member trying to recruit black students to this university in the 1970s and 1980s. Relatively few black students went to UT until the 1970s.
None of this long and extreme racist segregation background is noted in the administration’s brief, and the very high level of racial segregation still obvious in Texas high schools, from which UT draws most of its students, is only noted briefly and is not analyzed as to why that racial segregation was created or still persists.
Striking in this connection, too, is that there is no mention of the numerous white policymakers who historically and openly created (even into the 1960s), and still often create or maintain less blatantly, the state’s segregated high schools. White elite decisionmakers are only implicit in this brief, as they are in almost all discussions of U.S. systemic-racism issues. Clearly, the authors were afraid to call out and assess frontally the white racism that is foundational and systemic for Texas’s educational system, as elsewhere in the U.S. educational system.
Even the word “white” appears just four times in the document, once in reference to the plaintiff’s identity and only in vague passing comments for the other three cases. The reality of whiteness and white private in connection with such university cases, especially in the South, is nowhere addressed.
A major underlying structural and systemic issue ignored in this brief is the white-created system of Jim Crow racial segregation that dominated the state’s educational system from not long after its establishment by Reconstruction era state constitutions in the 1860s (ironically, shaped significantly by white and black “radical Republicans” then) for nearly a century, indeed until the mid- to late-1960s. The many impacts of that educational Jim Crow and other Jim Crow oppression cannot be undone by even more aggressive “affirmative” action than this modest plan of UT. That is especially true because a great many whites abandoned the public high schools as a reaction to the end of legal segregation. Whites have set up private overwhelmingly or completely white high schools across Texas, from the 1960s to the present, to avoid contacts with black (often Latinos too) students, and thus have usually destroyed much of the economic support and viability of all but the most well-funded public schools, and those mostly in white suburban areas of Texas cities.
The brief goes just as far as it had to go with its “diversity is essential” perspective in order to support the rather modest UT affirmative action program, and does that pretty well. Only a non-centrist, far-right white perspective would find the brief’s main arguments and this modest UT affirmative action program in admission really objectionable. It is but a very modest first step in the large scale change necessary for real and meaningful diversity in higher education.
Imara Jones at Colorlines raises the issue of a negative impact of this week’s Supreme Court’s degree on the health and the health insurance options for people of color. As a result of this week’s Supreme Court narrow 5-4 decision:
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s longterm effectiveness is in doubt, and the racial and economic inequalities at the very heart of the health care system stand to be reinforced. Medicaid—funded jointly by the federal government and the states—is the nation’s health care plan for the working poor . .. . Enlargement of Medicaid is the single most important provision of the Affordable Care Act for people of color. It’s the way that almost all non-whites covered by the law would receive insurance. If implemented as written, the law expected to cover 32 million Americans, accounting for 80 percent of those currently uninsured.
The law as written would force states to expand their Medicaid programs, to include the working poor, or else loose federal funds for all Medicaid. However the Supreme Court knocked down that provision. Some states will likely still seek these funds, but other states, especially with lots of working poor of color, likely will not:
And that’s a problem, particularly in the Southern, GOP-led states where huge numbers of working poor blacks and Latinos live. The majority of states, due to the recession, want to cover less not more people. . . . As former Republican governor, now Senator Lamar Alexander told The New York Times, “If I were governor of Tennessee, I would not expand Medicaid.” Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana echoed the point.
Saving the mandate got much of the media coverage, as many will be helped by what was saved, but
for millions more, the Supreme Court’s ruling will only exacerbate inequities at the core of our national health care crisis, and force the battle over the law back to the states. . . . Medicaid remains a bitterly fought over program today. The ruling yesterday will make it more so.
And the costs are of course very high in human terms, and in dollars as well:
The Center for American Progress estimates that this racial gap in health care coverage costs the country $415 billion a year in lost productivity.
And then there is the underlying question of why “we the people” allow such an undemocratic institution as our Supreme Court to even have this power over our health and health care? This decision by a few unelected folks over US health care is yet more evidence that we are not a democracy, but indeed a kind of plutocracy– that is, a pseudo-democracy that is actually ruled by an elite of the well-off and powerful, an elite that is also still mostly white and very disproportionately white male.
The MSNBC website has a nice summary of the new census data a lot of folks are talking about, titled “Census: Minorities now surpass whites in US births.”
According to census bureau figures for 2011 the children born, for the first time, are majority not white:
Minorities made up roughly 2.02 million, or 50.4 percent of U.S. births in the 12-month period ending July 2011. That compares with 37 percent in 1990.
And even with some decrease in Latin American and Asian immigrants, because of the economic downturn in the U.S. and some improvements south of the U.S. border, the population of the U.S. is still becoming ever more diverse.
There was this interesting bit of data as well:
. .the nation’s minority population continues to rise, following a higher-than-expected Hispanic count in the 2010 census. Minorities increased 1.9 percent to 114.1 million, or 36.6 percent of the total U.S. population, lifted by prior waves of immigration that brought in young families and boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years. . . . 348 of the nation’s 3,143 counties, or 1 in 9, have minority populations across all age groups that total more than 50 percent.
Still, the growth rate fell for Latino and Asian American populations to just two percent last year,
.. roughly half the rates in 2000 and the lowest in more than a decade. . .. Of the 30 large metropolitan areas showing the fastest Hispanic growth in the previous decade, all showed slower growth in 2011 than in the peak Hispanic growth years of 2005-2006…
Over at the NY Times, Thomas Edsall, has some interesting comments on the political implications of these shifts, which I recommend to you. Here is a sample:
. . . it’s interesting that the two-party system has not imploded. In the face of sustained centrifugal upheaval — including a proliferation of religious affiliations, the enfranchisement of substantial minority populations, rising levels of economic inequality, and the belief among a plurality of voters… that our economic system (capitalism) and the religious identification of three-quarters of the electorate (Christianity) are not compatible — we still are a nation of Republicans and Democrats.
He makes some interesting points about some opinion poll findings on how people see the Christian religion and capitalism (as in tension, a real surprise there) and also wonders out loud about the future of US parties and especially the Republican party. Can it adapt in this changing demographic world that
threatens its ability to compete nationally? As presently constituted, the Republicans have become the party of the married white Christian past.
This issue and related issues are ones I have dealt with deeply and historically in context in my new book, White Party, White Government.
There are clearly many political and policy implications to these demographic changes. Given the explosion of anti-immigrant nativism in this country in recent years, one can wonder if the mostly white nativists will take these data to heart and cut back at least on their anti-immigrant screed. One also has to wonder if the declining immigration will have any effects on the anti-immigrant legislation passed in numerous states. Especially with the looming Supreme Court ruling that will come down on the Arizona anti-Latino-immigrant law that has been celebrated in some white conservative circles.
Yet, many of us find these changes exciting and healthy for a country that has long depended on a diverse immigration for its social and economic health.
I am slowly revising my book, The White Racial Frame, for a second edition. A new white activist acquaintance in Minnesota sent me this comment in response to my questions to some folks of diverse backgrounds up there working in several effective anti-racism groups. She first made some kind comments on the book’s virtues, but then noted a discussion in the book that needs much more amplification and discussion:
Your research regarding the level of continuing negative stereotyping of people of color, through purposefully coded front-stage communications and through blatant back-stage communications, is most compelling. White readers of The White Racial Frame come away from the book much more able and motivated to interrupt these racist performances. What I would also hope to see more of in the second edition is articulation of the ways in which progressive/liberal/radical social justice activists (some likely readers of your book) act out of the white racial frame, making their organizations and themselves toxic to people of color. Why are almost all the liberal progressive organizations in Minnesota (environmental activists, child care advocacy groups, affordable housing lobbying groups, etc) virtually exclusively white?
Such white folks disavow any racist thinking on their own part and decry it in others. But in what ways are they reproducing the white racial frame in their personal interactions and within these progressive organizations? Clearly they are acting out of the frame, but they are (seemingly) completely unaware of this. On page 128, you point out that highly-educated whites often think and write, unreflectively, out of a strong and unexamined version of the white racial frame. “Holding that [white] racial frame in their heads, but trying to suppress overt actions reflecting it, whites frequently send powerful nonverbal signals, as real feelings … leak out into cross-racial interactions. “ (p. 135)
What forms do such subconscious performances of dominance and assumed superiority take? How do whites typically manifest the power and privilege of their social location in unconscious ways? What is being communicated non-verbally, and how is that being done? What assumptions are controlling our behaviors? In what multitude of ways on a daily basis do we assume that the white experience is also the experience of people of color, with that assumption informing our perceptions, feelings and understandings?
In the social networks I am part of, people of color tend to find these subconscious white behaviors more damaging than the explicit racial references whites engage in.
She and a Black colleague she works with then added that they
have found very little in the literature naming, surveying or researching such subconscious performances. So anything you could contribute to the understanding of this would be appreciated. Your book, with its articulated focus on the White Racial Frame, provides and ideal time and place for those of us who are white to consider such issues.
Because of her (and their) insightful, and on target comments, I have been thinking a lot about this way liberal/radical/progressive/anti-racist whites do conscious, half-conscious, or unconscious racialized and white-framed performances that alienate people of color and make organization difficult or impossible across the racial lines. Indeed, in a request earlier today about examples of what she is talking about, one of my Latino graduate students sent me this response as I was finishing up this post:
[She] raises an interesting point of the lack of interracial organizing. From my own experiences organizing in the Logan Heights (predominantly Mexican/Chicano) community in San Diego, white leftist/radical organizations and individuals such as C.P. USA, ACORN, labor unions (i.e. S.E.I.U), American Friends Service Committee often approach issues as “leaders” and don’t do enough to understand/involve the perspectives/concerns of the minority community. In essence, white progressives often (my own experience) have a difficult time relating to a non-white constituency, I suspect it due to race and class and the power/status discrepancy they create. Blee’s (2012) Democracy in the Making study of grassroots in Pittsburgh, PA also notes the lack of interracial organizing, and it resulting from white progressives who often talk about diversity/expanding their base. The book does not do enough to investigate the reason behind the lack of cross-racial outreach (but did cite in one case how white activists did not feel safe flying in minority communities.)
Very good points, indeed.
I would also welcome your thoughts on these matters (in the comments, for example), and any existing research or discussions you may have seen on these very important issues. Thanks.