Trump and White Nativism

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Thanks to the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, the 2016 presidential election has become a national referendum on racism. When Americans elected Barack Obama in 2008 many hoped that it signaled the long-promised denouement of white supremacy. But for many others, Obama’s presidency represented their worst nightmares realized. Now, as Mychal Denzel Smith observed recently about Trump: “He is the backlash.” Or, as comedian Larry Wilmore frames it, the Unblackening of the White House has begun.

But Trump’s appeal is not really new. In fact, it’s as old as the United States.

Beginning in 1790, the US made white skin a prerequisite for citizenship. This hateful pigment bias established white skin as the norm for US citizens. By making whiteness the norm, the founders categorized non-white skin as a type of deviance. This is not just history. In 2015, a federal judge reaffirmed as recently as 2015.

This means that, for people of color, even the simple act of appearing in public constitutes a form of anti-normative criminality. The fact that people of color are vastly overrepresented in US prisons in large part because they are more likely to be perceived by law enforcement as “incorrigible recidivists.”

How could a nation that touts itself as “the world’s greatest democracy” equate non-white skin with criminal deviance?

Emile Durkheim, a founder of sociology, argued that every society constructs its own definitions of deviance. Deviance functions as a type of social glue. It works by lionizing those who comply with social norms and stigmatizing those who don’t. The US’s European settler-colonialists incorporated an ethnocentric preference for white skin into the political substrate of American democracy and designated everyone else ‘deviant.’

These European settler-colonialists wanted to claim ownership of an entire continent that was already occupied. If Europeans were going to make a home for themselves in North America, they would either have to share the continent with its original inhabitants, or they would have to murder millions of indigenous people and steal their land.

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Although Native Americans may have been willing to co-exist, Europeans weren’t keen on the idea of sharing. They were keen on the idea of plunder. So, Europeans invented the ludicrous fiction of white nativism. White nativism is the notion that light-skinned Europeans are North America’s true natives. As the true natives, whites are deserving of all that plunder. Or, so the fiction goes.

White nativists have constructed a range of prejudices for different groups of people in the US. White nativists enacted genocide against Native Americans, instituted slavery, established Jim Crow, and devised mass incarceration for African Americans. White Nativists have also excluded Chinese immigrants from the US, interned Japanese Americans and have treated Latinos as if they were all illegal immigrants. More recently, white nativists have openly contemplated a national ban on Muslims. Through these mechanism the US has celebrated whiteness and denigrated those with relatively more skin pigment.

Donald Trump takes pleasure in fomenting racism for his own political gain. Given Trump’s nauseating popularity as a 2016 presidential candidate, it is also obvious that many Americans share Trump’s white nativist tendencies. Since entering the 2016 presidential race, each time Trump has uttered a despicably racist comment his popularity with the American public has increased.

Donald Trump wants to take America back to the days when privileged white racists got their jollies by terrorizing people of color. Sadly, a passionate cadre of fellow racists want to help Donald Trump set civil rights back a century. It doesn’t have to be like this.

If Americans really love democracy, then they — and by that I mean we — can and must dismantle white supremacist racism. And we need to start dismantling racism today.

In our book, A Formula for Eradicating Racism, Earl Smith and I argue that Americans can terminate the climate of sadism that inspires white supremacist racism by erasing the Three-Fifths Compromise from the US Constitution and replacing it with a universal declaration of human equality.

We could, as a nation, choose to do this. Other countries, including South Africa, have embraced human rights as part of their foundational tenets.

Or, we could elect Donald Trump. If America elects Trump, a candidate now endorsed by the likes of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

Register. Vote. And tell your non-Trump-voting friends and family to do likewise.

~ Professor Tim McGettigan teaches sociology at Colorado State University-Pueblo and he writes books about social change. Most recently, he is the co-author, with Earl Smith, of A Formula for Eradicating Racism: Debunking White Supremacy. 

Dating in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter

When I started my dissertation research a year ago, I had not considered what impact the widespread media coverage of #BlackLivesMatter as a movement and rallying cry might have on my respondents. With my research, I intended to explore the online dating experiences of women who identify as multiracial here in Texas; what I have found has been a complex mobilization of Black Lives Matter as a metric of racial progressiveness. In 2016, it has become clear that the increased media attention being paid to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is shaping a particular orientation toward, and conversation around, race and racism in the United States. As scholar Khury Petersen-Smith notes, the movement has “shattered what remained of the notion of a ‘post-racial’ America.” More specifically, my work has found that BLM has impacted individual-level relationships, creating a framework within which people are able to evaluate and “vet” their dating partners, especially amidst claims that society is more “progressive” and that the atrocities we have witnessed are “not about race.”

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As every good social scientist knows, words mean things. The language around, and produced by, movements like BLM – particularly in regards to discourses of race, racial inequality, state-sanctioned violence, and racism – has influenced the ways in which the multiracial women in my study discuss race, racism, and inequality in the context of their intimate relationships. Several women have described using their own stances on the issues BLM addresses as a means of selecting potential dating partners. This finding suggests that BLM and other widespread social justice movements are having significant impacts on how people are navigating racial politics on an interpersonal level. This is particularly pertinent during a time where U.S. media and popular culture is especially focused on issues of racism and state-sanctioned violence.

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Thus, Black Lives Matter provides multiracial women with a means of framing their commentary on racism, racial inequality, and violence. Often, these women describe trying to find a “middle ground” in which to exist politically, so as to not fall within the so-called “extremes.” This middle ground calls to mind the notion of mixed-race people being a “bridge” between communities. The “middle ground” also suggests that to be on the extremes is to identify too closely with blackness or to not be “beyond” race. Thus, many women expressed contradictions over the course of their interviews; for several women the tensions around race and racism are issues of “diversity” and something that these women perceive black people to be “ethnocentric” about. It is telling that the multiracial women who believe that the concerns of BLM are solely concerns for black people are women who are not of black descent. However, women of myriad mixed racial backgrounds – including those who are not part black – noted that the issues the movement highlights are concerns for us all.

 

Alternatively, the women concerned with the so-called “appropriate” behavior of those interacting with the police rather than the inequality inherent in police violence rely on counter-Black Lives Matter narratives. They suggest that if someone is “acting stupid,” then an officer can only assume they are “dangerous and on drugs.” As social scientists have demonstrated for decades, overwhelmingly, the people who are assumed to be dangerous and on drugs are people of color. Virtually every woman who indicated that those killed by police are somehow responsible also relied on some “liberal” talking points, suggesting that officers “not go for the kill shot right away” or that “we need better training.” However, these women also used anti-black logic, which suggests that those killed by police are the deserving aggressors. Virtually all the women I interviewed who opposed BLM utilized the “some bad apples” discourse to suggest that these instances of police brutality are isolated incidents. This logic enabled several women to suggest that the movement is being overly sensitive and that the wrongdoing is on “both sides.”

 

In terms of dating, women who consider potential dating partners’ views on issues of race and racism were invested in finding someone capable of making informed commentary. White masculinity in particular has a specific meaning in this political climate. Some multiracial women expect white men they date to have a certain racial literacy – the racial socialization and antiracist training that defends against and counters racism – and would not consider dating (white) men who are not at least marginally versed in anti-racist discourse and logics. This, however, is not necessarily a requirement for all potential partners, as several women indicated that they assume that men of color will just “get” that racism exists. So, white men are expected to provide proof that they “get it,” much of which is proven through how they engage with discourses around race and racism. Several women described pulling up videos of police assaults – such as the now infamous pool party in McKinney, TX – or referencing other news stories during dates in order to see how men would react.

 

While it may not be surprising that women are excluding partners that they do not view as compatible, it is notable that several women indicated that “what’s going on” in the U.S. did not seem to matter much until about two years ago, correlating with the rise in Black Lives Matter demonstrations and news coverage. Public discourses impact our everyday lives, particularly the highly racialized, classed, and sexualized process of dating. We should be concerned for not only how people are responding to BLM and other related social movements, but also how people are implementing racial rhetoric in their everyday lives. As the mixed-race women in my research illustrate, the dating practices of Americans have the unfortunate potential to continue to reproduce much of the polarizing and unequal racial politics, as well as inherently unequal social structures, that have made Black Lives Matter and its like necessary in the first place.

~ Shantel Buggs is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on dating patterns and race. 

 

 

Next Step for Beyoncé

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Watching the Super Bowl Half Time Show, I was excited to see Beyoncé use her international platform to send a decisively pro-Black political message. As a sociologist, though, I took note of the typical over sexualization of black women and concur with others that sexy dancing is far from taking a revolutionary stance. Nevertheless, I was pleased to see Queen B adding public advocacy for black empowerment to her behind the scenes support. I was not pleased, however, at the blatant colorism embodied by the performance. Oversimplified for brevity, colorism is the racist higher valuation of lighter skin over darker skin and results in lighter skinned non-white people being privileged over their darker skinned brothers and sisters in everything from health to the criminal justice system (pdf). In spite of her donations and other shows of support in the black community, Beyoncé has and continues to uncritically capitalize on society’s biased preference for lighter skinned blacks. At the start of her career, for example, the other members of Destiny’s Child were encouraged to tan to facilitate Beyoncé standing out as the lightest. Her latest video, “Formation,” passes this on to the next generation by featuring her daughter, Blue Ivy, as the lightest in a group of little girls.

 

And when she performed with all-black female dancers at the Super Bowl, Beyoncé was, as usual, the lightest (and the only one with light hair) in the group. The fact that all of the Super Bowl dancers were darker than Beyoncé suggests they were selected not just for their dancing skills but for their appearance as well.

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To be fair, prominently featuring brown skinned, black-haired black women in one of the biggest events of the year is important to celebrate given the pervasiveness of colorism in the media. Nevertheless, when browner skinned black women are used as the backdrop against which the lighter skinned, long blondish-brown haired star can stand out and seemingly shine even brighter, then blackness is subordinated to whiteness despite any lyrical affirmations to the contrary.

Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance sent viewers two messages. It verbally asserted that black lives, culture and politics are valuable while simultaneously visually affirming white aesthetic supremacy. The performance literally conveyed that even in 2016 when black women “get in formation” it is lightest skinned first and then, as the old adage goes, “if you’re black, get back.” Obviously Beyoncé cannot change her skin tone, and since light hair looks very nice on her I am not suggesting she dispense with her chosen hair color either. I am suggesting however that the next step in her growth, maturation and development as a black celebrity/political figure should be to take a long hard look at why she feels the need to so often position herself (and now her daughter) as lighter than others. Beyoncé has already shown that she has embraced #blacklivesmatter.

I look forward to the songs and shows to come were she someday to embrace #blackisbeautiful, too.

 

~ Jennifer Patrice Sims, PhD, is an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Her work examines racial perception, mixed race identity and the sociology of fictional societies, in particular Harry Potter.

Black Twitter, White Tears

Something is happening everyday on Black Twitter, the social media platform that amplifies African American culture.

When Twitter began in 2006, it is doubtful that the founders had any idea that it would become a platform for race dialogue. Yet from Nicki Minaj’s critique of structural racism to Donald Trump spreading fabricated statistics about the relationship between race and crime to the recent discussion and debate over the #BlackGirlMagic and #OscarsSoWhite hashtags, here we are, almost ten years later, watching racial debates play out in 140 characters or less.

For those of us in academia, Twitter provides ample “teaching moments” for our students. The combination of relatability and timeliness makes Twitter something that millennial students can understand, often better than they can understand traditional academic material.

For example, in Angry White Men, sociologist Michael Kimmel elaborates the concept of aggrieved entitlement. Kimmel explains that because straight white men are used to race, gender, and sexual orientation privilege, recent societal changes towards equalizing the playing field– such as equal rights and the increasing social and economic parity for racial minorities, women, and LGBT Americans– feel like mysandry and oppression. Many of the people Kimmel interviewed felt as if the things they deserved were unfairly being taken away from or denied to them.

This feeling of entitlement to be the sole possessor of social goods is often evidenced on Twitter whenever black users create a culturally-relevant hashtag. For example, in August of 2015 the hashtag #IfHogwartsWasAnHBCU resulted in days of comical tweets from the amorphous, ever-present “Black Twitter”.  As Buzzfeed reported at the time, Black Twitter used this hashtag to poke fun at life at an historically black colleges, while also imagining a Harry Potter world of Hogwarts infused with Black culture.

Some of the more hilarious examples of this collective Black imagination included the band being better than the football team (and thus being the only real reason anyone attends football games), as well as speculation about which black celebrities would play which Harry Potter characters:

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Yet the Black imagination– conjured solely for the Black gaze– was too much for some Twitter users to handle. Feelings of entitlement to white dominance, both on social media and in society’s collective imagination, was no doubt the logic behind one user who tweeted that a hypothetical, magical HBCU was ruining Hogwarts for her:

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For Blacks to create a form of entertainment that neither featured nor benefitted the White majority was seen as, for lack of a better word, perverse.

Then, a few months later, right before Thanksgiving, the hashtag #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies found Blacks again sharing intra-cultural jokes and social commentary on our culture. Black users’ application of the hashtag revealed a collective insight into a social zeitgeist, one created and perpetuated by the fact that many black Americans share similar culture and experiences.

Still, before we had finished laughing so hard that we choked on our “diabetes-sweetened Sweet Tea”, some white Twitter users fired back, calling us “racists”.

In the words of the illustrious prophet, Yo Gotti, “We woke up to some Twitter beef.”

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Notice here that there is no attempt to gain awareness of a historically-suppressed perspective, no urge to debunk the narrative of power and privilege that has pervaded our country for centuries. No desire to understand or deconstruct the cultural implications of the hashtag. There is just one sentiment: rage. Rage at the perceived unfairness of asymmetrical license to stereotype Blacks.

This rather insidious envy, born of the desire to engage in uncritical mudslinging with impunity, obscured the more socially-significant questions that White Twitter users should have raised. Instead of asking, “I wonder where these cultural jokes are coming from?”, these Twitter users ask: “Why can’t we be ‘racist’ too?”

The disappointment shown towards a missed opportunity to subvert and demonize a celebration of Blackness is a clear sign of the terminal illness that mass majority racism has inflicted upon our society.

And that’s just half the problem.

Twitter users not only lamented this missed opportunity, but seemed incensed that their perspective on this intra-cultural issue wasn’t even acknowledged.

To expand, Black people are notorious for what is called “playing the dozens”, for our resilience, wit, and ability to laugh in order to get through tough times. After a long, harrowing year of watching the extrajudicial oppression and execution of countless innocent Black men and women, the #TWBF hashtag emerged as an attempt to gather around the cultural fire, to enjoy a holiday, to laugh off stereotypes, and to live in our resilience. This one social media phenomenon was a true and necessary manifestation of the cultural love, joy, and resilience shared within our culture, not only in spite of, but because of the race-specific and global challenges Blacks face in the world today.

This feeling of Black togetherness and camaraderie is ever-present, and the use of culturally-specific hashtags on Twitter only serve as contemporary mediums for expressing this inner beauty and strength. That the #TWBF hashtag was seen as a racist affront to Whites is as random as an outsider trying to get in on a family joke.

Dude. No one was even talking to (or about) you.

More so than classic white privilege or Kimmel’s concept of aggrieved entitlement, the white Twitter users who angrily object to the existence of black hashtags epitomize mass majority narcissism, wherein not only do Whites believe that they should be the sole possessors of social goods, but of the social gaze as well. For these White social media users to be offended by a minority group’s celebration, discussion, and acknowledgement of its own culture only further illuminates how deeply this mass majority narcissism sits in the bosom of our country.

In spite of the strange and self-centered opprobrium launched at Blacks having a good Turkey Day, Black Twitter users will continue to create and enjoy our hashtags. Because they’re fun. Because they’re funny. And because despite the narcissistic expectations of the mass majority,not everything on Twitter has to be about, for, or even intelligible to white users.

So stop being mad, son.

 

~ This post was written by Jennifer Patrice Sims, PhD, and Vanisha Renée Pierce, MS. Sims is an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Her work examines racial perception, mixed race identity and the sociology of fictional societies, in particular Harry Potter.  

Pierce is an urban fantasy, dystopian sci-fi, and sci-fi thriller novelist and creative entrepreneur. Her fiction work explores the collisions between socio-political hegemony and the Afro-futuristic imagination. Her entrepreneurial mission is to educate, inspire, and empower women to connect with their innate creativity.

Fear of the Other: Xenophobic & Racist Reaction to Syrian Immigrants

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At this moment, we as a nation are vehemently forced into the political abyss of media yapping, threats, erroneous talk of revenge, and fear mongering. The rhetoric is not only disguised as being purely rooted in the devout notion of protection, but it also invokes within the credulous hearts and minds among us those age old sentiments that signify love of country. In actuality, the beat to this poorly constructed rap mimic infused dogmatic arguments that are wrapped stringently by phobia and systemic racism.

By removing the white veil of deceit, one comes face to face with a ghastly reality—history repeating and pain afoot. History has a way of creeping back upon us all when lessons forged from times long gone go unheeded. Avoiding the pain and shame that are rooted in these mistakes should be a no brainer. But it seems as a country, we are many times absent of said brain. U.S. reaction to the horrific public executions that were witnessed throughout the globe in Paris and Mali (which has gotten very little attention), effortlessly and opportunely ushered in an unseemly side once thought repudiated by citizens and politicians of the past. Specifically, in regard to the attack in Paris, dissecting the words of presidential hopefuls, such as Ben Carson, one is left with the blood and guts of malignant and dogmatic arguments that strike to propose plans to refuse Syrian refugees access to safety within the borders of “these here United States”. The entire 2016 republican presidential candidates, 289 House of Representative legislators, 31 state governors, and most likely that village idiot you live next to who refuses to remove his McCain and Palin yard sign are all calling upon the President to halt all efforts of the administration to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees. Their stance is usually discussed in a nativist and superior tone. Take for example the current conservative darling, medically brilliant, and foreign policy and social commentator wag, Ben Carson who has recently inserted foot into mouth [] with his unapologetic comparison between rabid dogs and Syrian refugees. In addition, people such as Roanoke Mayor David Bowers calls for the use of actual internment camps for refugees, to Donald Trump’s injudicious idea of registering and requiring Muslims to carry religiously identifiable ID cards. An idea that surely invokes the hatred and racist ideology surrounding the treatment of Jews and U.S Japanese citizens during WWII. These few listed are not alone. FOX news and other conservative media columnists, as well as many citizens with the red, white, and blue coursing through their nationalistic veins warmly and proudly called upon the gods of hate to harness remarkable rhetoric and sentiment filled with classic xenophobia and racism. This stance is not taken on upon a minority as one would initially think. A survey conducted by Zogby Analytics found that 42 percent of U.S. citizens believe it is ok to profile Muslim and Arab Americans. In fact, the attitudes toward these populations have gotten worse since 2010. Controversies swirling around the building of mosques and Islamic centers in U.S. have increased. It would seem that the negative feelings and actions toward Muslims along side people such as Governor Christie who said, he would go as far as not permitting even “‘3-year-old orphan’s’” admission into the country, it is hard to turn away from the premise that race and fear are factor in this debate.

I am sure those who regularly subscribe to Fox news and have Martin Dugardon and Bill O’ Riley’s latest debacle, Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency, patiently waiting by their bedside nightstand would disagree. There are even some minor conservative Jewish advocacy groups that would disagree. But as Noam Chomsky said, “Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.” Therefore, my argument to the blind would indeed sound “out of this world.” Politicians, Joel B. Pollak, author of, Why Syrian Refugees are not Like Jewish Refugees in WWII, as well as those who cowardly practice the art of commenting to his online commentary have all missed reading a number of pages from the U.S. history book. For example, when openly proposing that the rhetoric and recommended treatment of Muslim refugees is xenophobic or racist, most conservatives media pundits and politicians predicate their argument on the notion that Jews during WWII were not attempting to threaten U.S. lives as violent Muslims fanatics today. In addition, today many would agree that Jews were not seen as threats to the stability of the U.S. Real Talk people—this was not the case. A U.S. poll published in 1938 in Fortune magazine reported that less than 5 percent of surveyed U.S. citizens believed that legislators should raise the immigration quote to protect those fleeing fascism in Europe. Many of those fleeing were in fact Jewish.

 

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In fact, two-thirds of those surveyed agreed with the idea of keeping Jews out of the country. These feelings even were noted before the infamous Kristallnacht (Night of Crystal) took place on November 9th and 10th of 1938. Days also referred to as the “Night of Broken Glass” consisted of instigated violence toward Jews on behalf of Nazi Party. Throughout Germany, Sudetenland, and Austria, rioters destroyed 267 synagogues. Violence was also directed toward thousands of Jewish businesses and cemeteries. In addition, 30,000 Jewish males were arrested and transported to local prisons and later concentration camps (Dachau, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald). After the hideous event was seen by the world, the feelings toward “political refugees” still did not dwindle in the U.S.. In January 1939, two-thirds of respondents of Gallup’s American Institute of Public opinion poll were opposed to allowing Jews into the country. The act of not only turning away of 937 Jewish passengers of the German transatlantic liner St. Louis, but also the lack of U.S. citizen outcry rationalized these polls.

You may be asking, “But why?” Why would such a country as ours turn away marginalized and racially persecuted people? Especially when they are White. It is important to understand the held feelings U.S. Government officials (FBI, legislators, and etc.), as well as President Franklin Roosevelt publically voiced regarding Jewish refugees. They were in fact seen as a potential threat to national security—spies and saboteurs.

You know, terrorists. Government officials, such as American ambassador to France, William Bullitt blamed the fall of France on Jews:

“More than one-half the spies captured doing actual military spy work against the French Army were refugees from Germany,” he said. “Do you believe there are no Nazi and Communist agents of this sort in America?”

In addition, to the voiced concern for allowing Jews into the country, U.S. government’s use of spy trials fueled American perception that accepting Jewish refugees could be catastrophic. Digging deeper into American history, beyond the polished chapters of American exceptionalism that are brought out like the good silverware when company comes over, we see a racial disregard to Jews that does not simply start with WWII. Anti-Semitism can be seen as far back as during the Civil War when General Grant issued General Order No. 11 that expelled Jews from territory under his control in the south (Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee).

Grant’s rationale was guided by his pattern of associating all Jews with the illicit business pertaining to the cotton trade in the south. President Lincoln agreed with his stance. U.S. Antisemitism continued throughout history. During large waves of immigration, roughly between 1880 and 1924, Eastern and Southern European immigrants were not classified as quite White. They were indeed seen as the racially “other”. During this period, groups such as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), and powerful individuals like Henry Ford advocated for violence toward Jewish communities. They essentially blamed all social and economic ills on the Jewish community. For his anti-Semitic remarks and work, the Nazi Regime granted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle to Henry Ford in 1938. In addition, many are not familiar with the information that U.S. schools and universities also limited the enrollment of Jews and Catholics until non-Protestants such as Jews and Catholics until the late twentieth century. The Jewish Community was not alone in sharing similarities with Syrian refugees.

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Examples of Japanese American suffering under the tyranny of racism are tied to their treatment during WWII. Even though no evidence ever existed, they were seen a potential spies. Approximately three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Roosevelt. The U.S. government thusly imprisoned 127,000 Japanese Americans. Even before camp construction was complete, many were housed in racetrack stables like livestock. Thousands were forced to sell business and properties at fractions of their value. Even after the war had ended, anti-Japanese sentiment did not. Many of the imprisoned could not return home due to posted signs within communities that demanded for Japanese Americans to never return. One cannot forget that fear and racist ideologies supported the treatment and public sentiment. It is on display when observing the imaging of Japanese Americans during WWII. The act to dehumanization came by way of drawings, posters, and movies that depicted Japanese people as ruthless, buck-tooth, animalistic, knife carriers, and sneaky. Many characters were seen as menacing and murderous individuals out to destroy the U.S. Everyone was in harm’s way. This included the precious White woman.

Where was the mass outcry? None could be found because the nation in general already perceived the Japanese as the “other.” This can be linked to the treatment of Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Naturalization Act of 1870, the Chinese massacre of 1871, and the theory of the yellow peril all embody mistreatment built on the White racial frame.
But back to the future we must go. Here we see history actually repeating in terms of the treatment of Jews and Asian American to the current issue regarding Syrian refugees. In 2014, the Pew Research Center asked self identified republicans and those who politically leaned toward the party’s ideology to rate a number of religious groups on a “feeling thermometer (0 cold to 100 warmest),” Republicans subsequently gave Muslims an average of 33  Pew Research Center reported that White evangelical Protestants were the coldest to no other group than Muslims. In mostly republican states, these same people who receive the coldest regard as reported by Pew, are seen by Carnegie Mellon University as less likely to give job interviews to applicants who have public social networking profile that reveal them as Muslim. As discussed earlier, sentiment leads to action. Anti-Muslim hate crimes for example rose dramatically by 50% in 2010 and remained high in 2011. In 2014, hate crimes in general were reported to have dipped with the exception of anti-Muslim crimes.

The symbolism we see today is soaked in fear and hate. It has engulfing our nation once again. The cavalier nature and lack of outrage regarding the current course of ideological and political travels of those who claim to represent our interest, and bear the responsibility of upholding the best of our nation has principally gone unchecked. As a people, our lack of giving voice to the issue is deafening to my ears of social and racial justice. If we not careful, and the nation does not come together to quill the tongues of the Trumps that take up our televisions, and protect the innocent from hate, we will in deed repeat our mistakes. But unlike before, the stakes have worsened.

 

~ Dr. Terence Fitzgerald is Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California.

The White Racial Innocence Game

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Just one day after a successful student movement forced a college president to resign, the “collective white” is playing the racial innocence game and blaming people of color for the racial climate on college campuses across the nation. Whether at Yale or Mizzou, most whites believe that students and faculty of color are “hypersensitive,” playing “the race card,” and censoring (mostly) innocent white students and administrators. Yesterday morning, for example, Joe Scarborough savaged two black journalists from the Washington Post who are regulars in his MORNING JOE show. He demanded they explain to him why the President of Mizzou had to resign for two “isolated incidents” (he actually used this phrase). Scarborough argued that there is no evidence of “systemic racism” at Mizzou and that the ousted President had agreed to the demand of establishing an ethnic studies requirement (faculty reading this post know these requirements have been in place in many colleges since the 1980s or early 1990s). Since Eugene Robinson and Jonathan Capehart did not answer Mr. Scarborough’s questions in a cogent way and since Mr. Scarborough’s questions represent, in my view, how most whites interpret events in college campuses, I want to take some time to explain how systemic racism operates in HWCUs (historically white colleges and universities).

First, whites need to understand that most colleges and universities in the USA are white-oriented and white-led. This is why I call them HWCUs and, as I have argued many times in my FB (Facebook) posts, these institutions reproduce whiteness through their curriculum, culture, demography, symbols, traditions, and ecology. The white innocence game begins with the assumption that these spaces are racially neutral, but that assumption is false! HWCUs were 100% white institutions until very recently and that white history shaped them in profound ways. The admission of a few people of color in the late 1960s and 1970s into HWCUs—and I must point out that their admission was because people of color protested and demanded inclusion—did not lead to their “integration,” a concept that involves much more than spatial cohabitation. In fact, many ways whites, the W in HWCUs, have remained central to their organization and culture. We were brought into these places as guests with the expectation that we would not ask for anything else—we have been for a long time but few dots of color in otherwise white canvasses. (As an aside, part of the white innocence game is the belief by whites that we are ungrateful for all they have done for us; for all they have given us over the years. To this “white sincere fiction” (Feagin and Vera, White Racism), given that we fought for our freedom and partial inclusion in America, I say, “Thank you massa!”)

Second, whites were not, and are still not, happy with our presence in universities. They think (and some even tell us to our face) that we are all “affirmative action babies.” We all know how horrible the first black and Latino folks who “integrated” (they were just the firsts guests in white canvasses) were treated in these places, but what many whites outside and inside the academy do not know—or pretend NOT no know–is that people of color are still treated as second-class members in the academy. We still do not feel as equal members of the academic club and all the reports on campus racial climate in HWCUs across the nation bear this out. Mr. Scarborough and whites in general, please check out the manifold reports that clearly show how we feel in these places.

Third, Mr. Scarborough and members of the “collective white,” racism (racial domination) is as SYSTEMIC in college campuses as it is in the nation at large. For example, college admissions are based on tests that are not reliable measures of the capabilities and likelihood of success of students of color. Faculty are hired based on their records, but no one discusses how race (racism) affects the productivity of whites (positively) and of non-whites (negatively), a situation that gives whites systemic advantages. The statues, names of buildings, and traditions in HWCUs are emblems of whiteness which makes us feel like we do not belong! And most of the localities in which HWCUs are located, reproduce and reinforce whiteness. Please liberal whites reading this post, do what you seldom do: talk to faculty and students of color and they will tell you how hard is to go out at night in their college town; how hard is to deal with campus and city cops; how hard is to go to a bar in your bucolic white town. And although I believe racial domination is accomplished mostly through subtle and institutionalized practices, WE ALL have experienced in college campuses what Dr. Elijah Anderson calls “the nigger moment”; we have been called names, mocked, or harassed in old-racism fashion.

Fourth, classrooms are hostile zones for most of us. If as students we raise concerns about the material used by our professors in the classes (“Professor Blanco, why are you not including African artists and artistic traditions in your WORLD ART HISTORY course?”), we are accused of trying to politicize things (“You folks always want to talk about race!”). If we are professors and dare suggest that racism is as American as apple pie (i.e., that it is structural), white students say we are calling them racist and making them feel bad (“You don’t know ME….I am a good person.”). We are disrespected and unappreciated as professors and suffer in our evaluations because of racism.

Fifth, if Scarborough and other whites asked us open, rather that accusatory questions, such as, “How do you feel in the college in which you work?” they would be surprised. They would hear about how often we experience microaggressions perpetrated by professors, students, staff, and the campus police. They would hear how we feel like most white colleagues (faculty and students) do not understand, care, or appreciate our work. They would hear about how alienated and tired we are in these institutions. They would hear about how the racialized stress we endure day in and day out is literally KILLING us. Yes, racism experienced in low but constant intensity is, as the work of David R, Williams clearly shows, a silent killer.

So Mr. Scarborough and whites in America, racism in the academy, like racism in the nation, is indeed systemic! Although it no longer operates primarily the way it did 50 years ago, the new “killing me softly” way in which racial domination is carried out is effective in maintaining the white house WHITE. So please, please, please STOP the racial innocence game; stop saying that you play no part of the American racial game in America because some of your “best friends are black” (you don’t know their names, but they are your very best friends); stop accusing people of color of dividing the academy (NEWSFLASH, we have been divided forever!) and “censoring” you (are you kidding me?); stop proclaiming that because you do not use the N-word and are a “good person,” that this is enough (you still receive the “wages of whiteness” so your claim to racial innocence is not credible)!

Finally, If you want protests on college campuses to cease and want racial peace in America, then admit that race matters, admit that racism is real and systemic, and work with us towards the transformation of society in general and HWCUs in particular. But if you just keep saying “I don’t see race (or racism),” if you continue the white innocence game, then we will continue believing wholeheartedly that you are part of the problem and will keep SHOUTING as loud as we can “No Justice, No Peace!” It is time for you, Mr. Scarborough and whites in America, to step up to the historical plate and, as Spike Lee would say, “Do the right thing!” The ball is on your court.

 

~ Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is Professor and Chair of Sociology, Duke University. This post originally appeared on Facebook and is re-posted here with the author’s permission.

Modern Romance and the Glaring Absence of Race

Race is at the center of how we construct and act on our notions of desire, but you wouldn’t know that from reading Modern Romance, a unique collaboration between a sociologist and a comedian.

In collaboration with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, Aziz Ansari wrote Modern Romance, a book that explores “dating in the digital age.” Addressing the contemporary dynamics of romantic relationships – which are often mediated through various forms of technology (cell phones, online dating websites, etc.) – a major draw of Ansari’s New York Times best-selling book is that it seems to explain why young people are so “awful” about dating more traditionally and therefore, are not good at getting married.

Ansari, a comedian by trade, has established himself as someone who makes (albeit marginally) insightful observations about inequality, particularly when it comes to race, as with his new Netflix series Master of None.

In fact, Ansari notes that racism in Hollywood – specifically the problematic representation of Indian and other South Asian characters – was a central motivator for his creation of Master of None, as no one else would have offered him this role:

When they cast these shows, they’re like, ‘We already have our minority guy or our minority girl.’ There would never be two Indian people in one show. With Asian people, there can be one, but there can’t be two. Black people, there can be two, but there can’t be three because then it becomes a black show. Gay people, there can be two; women, there can be two; but Asian people, Indian people, there can be one but there can’t be two. Look, if you’re a minority actor, no one would have wrote this show for you… Every other show is still white people.

This astuteness around issues of race, racism, and representation are what drew me to Ansari’s book on dating this summer.

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The book, however, is deeply flawed when it comes to any form of analysis of race. Considering Ansari’s awareness around issues of race in his comedy, I found the glaring absence of race in this book extremely disappointing. How one can write about “modern” romance and not note the role that race plays in terms of who is or is not deemed attractive is actually quite mind-boggling.

Modern Romance assumes a consistency of dating experience across race that is problematic. Assuming that people of color have had the same experiences as, or with, white people with online dating is critically irresponsible and is contradicted by the research. White millenials in particular have proven time and time again they are not as progressive as they are assumed to be, including in who they choose to date (or exclude from dating).

Even best-selling author and OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder notes the continued role of racism in the chances of finding a partner online in his book Dataclysm and on the blog OKTrends. He reiterated this fact again during a Q&A at the 2015 meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago that I attended. When Helen Fisher of Match.com suggested that online dating had wiped out prejudice, he was quick to correct that misperception. Given the widely known and easily available data on race and online dating, the disappearing of race from Modern Romance’s analysis is all the more curious. This colorblind approach does little to help us understand contemporary intimacies that begin online and does even less to advance sociological understanding of modern romance.

Ansari does not mention the racial or class identities of the daters except for two Indian American men in a focus group. Thus, the text allows heterosexual middle class whiteness to masquerade as “universal.” This is particularly evident when Ansari and Klinenberg discuss the dynamics of traditional means of meeting potential dating partners with some residents of a New York City retirement home.

As the older informants in their book relate how they met their partners in their apartment buildings or in their neighborhoods, the book conveniently avoids noting how segregation and the white habitus were at play in terms of determining who people had access to decades ago and at present. When Ansari attempts to explicitly address race, it is treated as a cute joke. Ansari notes that he would have had a “hard time” trying to date in the 1950s due to being “brown” but he doesn’t go beyond that. Xenophobia, racism, and a variety of structural and legal inequalities also go without mention (Loving v. Virginia, for example) in Ansari’s brief commentary on his prospects in the time “before technology took over.”  It’s unclear what motivates this gaping lack of critical analysis other than a desire to maintain the levity of the book and, possibly, to avoid the “messiness” of race for Ansari’s predominantly white “progressive” audience.

More disturbingly, however, the book does an excellent job of perpetuating racist stereotypes. The author(s) herald the fact that they did not just rely on focus group and interview data from the States; they also talked with people in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Paris, France, Tokyo, Japan, and Doha, Qatar. Yet, the “international perspectives” chapter focuses mainly on contrasting Japan, Argentina, and the U.S.

In a problematic set of metaphors, the Japanese – particularly the men – are referred to as “herbivores” in contrast to the “rib eye-eating maniacs” of Argentina. This distinction perpetuates Western understandings of the sexuality of Asian and Latino men. There is a lengthy history of fetishizing the virility and “hot bloodedness” of Latino men while denigrating the lack of these qualities in Asian men in the United States, a dynamic that is well-documented in studies of interracial marriages (see Nemuto, Steinbugler or Frankenberg). These stereotypes inform not only dating and marriage dynamics in the U.S., but serve as motivation for phenomena such as sex tourism. Further, recent sociological studies have led to a focus in the media around the racist preferences of online daters, specifically the lesser prospects of black women and Asian men.

There may be nothing “new” about the relationships between race, sex, and romance, but if we truly want to understand “modern” romance, researchers (and comedians) must work to avoid strengthening colorblind logics.

 

~ Shantel Buggs is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research looks at dating and mixed race identity when mediated through online dating sites. 

 

What No One Will Say When a Cop Gets Killed

In New York City this week, an NYPD cop was killed and another man shot just a few blocks from where I live and work. Killed was Officer Randolph Holder who was a kind and brave man, an immigrant from Guyana, and his death is a senseless tragedy. This is what everyone will say now. This is what we are all obligated to say now.

(Randolph Holder, 33, NYPD, was shot and killed Tuesday, October 20, 2015 in East Harlem

Image source)

The man who allegedly shot the officer, Mr. Tyrone Howard, was in a diversion program – a kind of alternative sentencing program for those with non-violent, drug-related charges.  Mr. Howard, who was also shot and injured by Mr. Holder, had no history of violence, but instead had a series of arrests for low-level drug-related charges.

(Tyrone Howard, 30, accused of shooting Randolph Holder. Image source)

Mr. Howard, 30, had made bail in February for selling crack cocaine to an undercover cop in one of the NYPD’s buy-and-bust operations that serve as the daily machinery of the war on drugs, providing overtime pay for cops and locking up a huge swath of the citizenry. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin—acting within the law of the recently reformed harsh Rockefeller drug laws—decided Mr. Howard’s case should be sent to an alternative-to-prison system known as ‘diversion.’ There is lots of research that demonstrates these sorts of diversion programs are effective at reducing recidivism (e.g., Holly Wilson and Robert Hodge, “The Effects of Youth Diversion on Recidivism: A Meta-Analytic Review.Criminal Justice and Behavior 2013).

Almost before the bullets had stopped flying, NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio questioned why Mr. Howard was not locked up to begin with. Then, a cascade of calls began that urged an end to any alternative programs began right away even though this shooting had nothing to do with the effectiveness of diversion, and Bill de Blasio (mayor of NYC) knows this.  Leading progressive voices, like Kassandra Frederique of Drug Policy Alliance, called for reason and urged New York to keep successful alternative-to-incarceration programs like diversion.

But, a reasoned debate about the merits of diversion programs has not been on offer in the mainstream, local news in New York City this week. Instead, we’ve heard a lot from Pat Lynch.

The mainstream media coverage here has been a relentless, 24/7 cycle of very narrowly focused coverage, prominent featuring interviews with Pat Lynch, the thuggish NYPD union representative.  Much of that coverage has included law-and-order headlines like this one from the New York Daily News:

Manhattan DA’s office ‘puts gun in hands’ of accused cop-killer Tyrone Howard

Pat Lynch

(Pat Lynch, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association)

“Too Soon”

Months ago, activists with Rise Up October had planned a rally for Saturday, October 24 to call attention for an end to the systematic policy brutality that takes the lives of a disproportionate number of black and brown people. They could not have known that a cop would be killed in New York just days before. What these activists were rallying to call attention to is the sustained and systematic way police kill black and brown people.

Nationally, the U.S. Justice Department does not collect data on the number of people killed at the hands of police (no federal agency does), but according to research conducted by the Malcolm X Grassroots organization, every 28 hours in 2012 a Black man, woman, or child was killed by someone employed or protected by the US government. In New York, according to the NYPD’s own Firearm Discharge Report, the overwhelming majority of those killed by police are black and brown people.

Who is Shot by NYPD

 

Yet, this systematic destruction of black and brown lives is lost in the media coverage that the rally was a “disgrace” and “too soon” following the death of a cop.

 

NYPost_Cover

(New York Post Front Cover, October 25, 2015)

Certainly, some of my fellow citizens are saying “f-ck you to the NYPD,” as the New York Post reports on its cover today. Activist and East Harlem resident Josmar Trujillo writes about the reaction to the shooting from neighbors and long-time residents in the area. “I don’t care about them getting shot because at the end of the day they don’t care when we get shot,” Trujillo reports one resident told him. He goes on:

The young woman [in East Harlem] I spoke to wasn’t even as blunt as local young people I spoke to that simply said “Fuck ’em” when I asked about the shot cop. What about the fact that the cop was black, I asked three young men walking down 119th street the day after the shooting. “It don’t matter,” they told me. “As long as he’s wearing that patch, fuck him too.”

It’s not surprising that in a neighborhood — and a city, and a nation — where black and brown lives are not respected by police, people have no respect for the police and are unmoved by their deaths. It’s also not surprising to me that people who live under police surveillance and under the constant threat of state-sanctioned violence by the police are hearing about the death of a cop and saying, “fuck the police.” This is something people are saying.

What No One Will Say

What no one will say, at least in public with a microphone, is that since Rockefeller Reform, the law-and-order crowd has been waiting for a cop to be killed to trot out their push-back on those reforms. Just a few years ago here in New York State a coalition of progressive activists got Rockefeller Reform passed. These reforms were part of what made diversion programs like the one Mr. Howard was in possible.

The coalition of progressive groups that fought for Rockefeller Reform have been noticeably quiet in the media since Mr. Holder was killed; and, who can blame them? There’s no winning a media cycle when the mainstream media is in lockstep about a cop who has been killed.

What no one will say when a cop gets killed is that this death is collateral damage in the trillion dollar failed war on drugs and its twin, mass incarceration.  In New York City what this means is 95% of the inmates in New York City jails are African American or Latino, while these two groups make up only about half the city’s population. A majority of those in NYC’s jails are there for low-level drug offenses like marijuana and these, too, are racially biased. U.S. government surveys have consistently found that whites use drugs, including marijuana, at higher rates than do African Americans and Latinos. Nonetheless, the NYPD arrests whites for drug possession at much lower rates than it arrests African Americans or Latinos, according to research by Professor Harry Levine. Mass incarceration and the war on drugs that fuels it, are part of the engine of white supremacy in NYC and the nation as a whole.

Tyrone Howard was a man with low-level drug charges who was being forced out of public housing because of those charges.  Randolph Holder was assigned to patrol public housing. A key part of his job was patrolling public housing for people with drugs or on outstanding warrants for drug offenses. Both men were cogs in the machinery of the drug war. If we want fewer cops killed on duty, we must stop the senseless pursuit of people for use, possession or sale of drugs, and tying every other human right – including housing – to those draconian laws.

What no one will say is that Tyrone Howard’s life has ended now in a social death in our gulag of prisons as much as the physical life of Randolph Holder has ended in death.

What no one will say is the rhetoric of “blue lives matter” is white supremacy dressed up in the guise of public safety.

What no one will say is that even now, even when a cop has been killed, we have to continue to demand an end mass incarceration, and the whole law-and-order apparatus that feeds that beast.

On the very same day that the shooting in East Harlem happened, more than 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs — including NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton — met in Washington, D.C. They met as part of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, a group of law enforcement officials who recognize from the inside that the system of mass incarceration is broken. Rather than focusing on law-and-order solutions to a host of social problems, this group steps forward to say that reducing incarceration will improve public safety because people who need treatment for drug and alcohol problems or mental health issues will be more likely to improve and reintegrate into society if they receive consistent care, something relatively few jails or prisons offer. Mr. Bratton said that New York State and city law enforcement agencies “were well ahead of the curve in understanding that you can’t arrest your way out of the problem.”

And, then, a cop is killed and the media narrative immediately shifts into high gear with its low key “blue lives matter” agenda. The abrupt shift reminds me of the capitalists that Naomi Klein describes who wait for a ‘shock’ of some kind to strike so they can implement their brand of disaster capitalism.

What no one will say is that a cop killing is just the kind of ‘shock’ that the law-and-order opportunists needed to push forward their agenda to lock up more people.

 

The “Moynihan Report”: 50 years of Racist Poverty-Shaming

Debates about poverty play out over a heavy sub-text of race. Competing theories assign blame either to moral and cognitive deficiencies of poor people themselves, or to greedy over-lords who unjustly exploit and suppress workers and their families. The class politics are obvious, but arguing the essential unfitness of poor people is aided immeasurably by the rhetoric and logic of racism. If made of somewhat different stuff and recognized as lesser peoples, then both exploitation and the misery they experience seem defensible, or at least unavoidable. Science defeated the hard racial argument in the middle of last century when geneticists determined that race is a biological fiction. But the concept of culture offered a workaround that retained the utility of race by substituting ethnicity. The shift to culture, instead of hard-wired traits, has appealed to liberal “third way” reform thinkers as well as those on the right, forging an odd alliance who find common ground in the hagiography of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The “culture of poverty,” a concept ironically made popular by a trio of liberal leftists in the 1960s, asserts that children raised in poverty learn failure from their upbringing and pass it on to their own children, much like inherited physical traits. Shared cultures in “ghetto” communities produce dysfunctional patterns of thought and behavior that perpetuate poverty. Oscar Lewis, anthropologist; Michael Harrington, muckraking journalist; and Daniel P. Moynihan, federal policy analyst and future politician, were the three figures who helped ignite a contentious debate early in the War on Poverty, which not coincidentally over-lapped with the Civil Rights movement.

Moynihan’s influence has been most enduring. His 1965 report, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (PDF), brought this idea to the mass media in the midst of an extended urban uprising in the Watts section of LA. As an assistant secretary in Lyndon Johnson’s Department of Labor, he issued an official verdict that African American poverty was mired in a “tangle of pathology” resulting from excessive numbers of female headed households. Moynihan conceded that male unemployment unsettles marital stability, but believed that racial disparities in joblessness reflected a family structure that produced uncompetitive workers, implicitly justifying employer discrimination. Growing public unease over urban violence magnified the report’s message that African American culture was pathological.

The leaked report was followed by weeks of coverage and many extreme reactions. The government was launching a campaign to end poverty; an official report defined the problem in terms of gender, race, and culture, deflecting attention from substantive obstacles and economic problems then (and still) confronting African Americans. The report was dissected by critics and supporters alike. Moynihan’s naïve statistical inferences and reliance on limited secondary sources weakened his position and tended to discredit his thesis. Anthropologists and historians published research that contradicted his assertions. Through the 70s and early 80s, the report lost its luster. Moynihan complained periodically about the criticism he had endured over his report, claiming he had been the victim of ideological enemies on the left. It could have ended there.

The 1980s was a period of revanchism against the Great Society, backlash against what were deemed excessively liberal conditions in the preceding two decades. Under Reagan, Sen. Moynihan opposed the new harsh policies, but his earlier ideas about black poverty gained renewed support, especially from right wing commentators like Charles Murray. Also included, however, was liberal sociologist William Julius Wilson who praised Moynihan’s foresight, excoriated his critics, and instated culture into his quest to understand poverty. Wilson framed inner city poverty as the home of the “underclass” where black middle class flight had left a zone bereft of upstanding two parent families, a cultural sink lacking effective norms. Faced with wrenching industrial changes, their defective culture worsened the problems — a combination of cultural and structural causes, suggesting possible partial solutions addressing bad culture rather than unfair economics. This approach resonated with many in the Republican administration, but it also drew interest from a widening circle of academics and liberal policy analysts.

In 2007, the American Academy of Social and Political Science established an annual award in Moynihan’s name for public intellectuals of note. Their journal published a special issue titled “The Moynihan Report Revisited,” with largely praiseful articles and missing some noted critics. The Urban Institute borrowed the title for their own conference and publication [[http://www.issuelab.org/resource/moynihan_report_revisited_the]] that was also mainly an homage to Moynihan’s allegedly prescient contributions. In 2010 Herbert Gans, a sociologist who had written an early response to the report, revisited it in light of all the new praise for its importance. He came to the same conclusion he had 45 years earlier; it was not good research or a credible argument. He praised Moynihan’s work as a senator, but not as a scholar or early policy analyst.

Nevertheless, Moynihan’s fame as a social prophet has continued to grow and his ideas arguably have helped steer scarce poverty funding into neoliberal programs aimed at teaching poor people about the virtues of middle class culture, or forcibly displacing them for their own good. And we have spent billions more incarcerating and punishing non-violent poor people of color based on faulty perceptions of crime and risk. Both critics and supporters credit the Moynihan Report for helping shape the policy environment that ended welfare and anointed the view that poverty, race, and crime are all tied together. Alice O’Connor’s book, Poverty Knowledge, offers an incisive analysis, as described in my recent book, Blaming the Poor.

In the United States poverty and race are frequently connected in the mind’s eye, in what Joe Feagin has called the white racial frame, where facts disappear in the mist of centuries long racial conditioning, like the fact that “welfare queens” in the days before welfare was ended were overwhelmingly white. Current revivals of Moynihan’s haplessly racist caricature of immoral black single mothers and their dangerous teenaged sons disregard the fact that single motherhood has soared among all ethnic groups, especially among people with low incomes, a predictable response to dire economic conditions. It is not cultural, but structural; not racial but a reflection of class inequality and material scarcity. Moynihan was fond of saying that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Moynihan’s sloppy research and undeservedly popular conclusion illustrates that caution very well.

Susan Greenbaum is Professor Emerita of Anthropology, University of South Florida