A Queering of Black Theology:
James Baldwin’s Blues Project and Gospel Prose
by El Kornegay Jr.
My Life in Medicine
by Louis W. Sullivan with David Chanoff
(University of Georgia Press)
Community Action Against Racism in West Las Vegas:
The F Street Wall and the Women Who Brought It Down
by Robert J. McKee
Women, Slavery, and the Legacy of Margaret Garner
edited by Mary E. Frederickson and Delores M. Walters
(University of Illinois Press)
River of Hope:
Black Politics and the Memphis Freedom Movement, 1865–1954
by Elizabeth Gritter
(University Press of Kentucky)
The Great White Way:
Race and the Broadway Musical
by Warren Hoffman
(Rutgers University Press)
On Friday’s here, we’re highlighting resistance to racism. How do you tell someone they sound racist? In this short video (2:59) from 2008 Jay Smooth breaks it down:
This video has almost 1 million views since it first appeared, so maybe he’s on to something. What do you think?
Lupita Nyong’o won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress last night, for her powerful role in 12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen! Go Lupita! But lately I’ve been feeling a little fatigued by the “Oh-my-god-Lupita-Nyong’o-is-so-beautiful-I-can’t-DEAL-WITH-IT!”
The current fad-like coverage of the Kenyan actress, overshadows the more interesting things about her background, the stuff that doesn’t get reported. True, I assumed she was a nobody until this slave narrative film, but a quick skim of Wikipedia reveals the stuff that the media isn’t all that interested in.
Black and white people, alike, are enamored with Nyong’o for what I believe, are different reasons. Blacks are proud that Nyong’o crushed it in her portrayal of Patsey and I’m personally excited that we’ve got another black woman winning major acting awards. Whites seems to be most preoccupied with Nyong’o's exotic look and I think that’s something we, as a society, probably need to address.
For those who didn’t know it, Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico City and hails from an affluent family of artists, doctors and scholars. She attended Hampshire College, here in the states, and graduated with a degree in film and theater studies. She’s also a Yale graduate and a polyglot, fluent in several languages.
I was pretty excited to know that Nyong’o actually wrote, directed and produced a documentary, in 2009, called In My Genes, where she investigates the how Africans with albinism experiences life in a predominately black Kenya. I was stoked to know this because all I’ve seen of Lupita Nyong’o, is how beautiful she is on every red carpet she walks. Which is wonderful because Nyong’o is indeed quite beautiful! But she’s also extremely talented in other, more important ways.
I’m also weirded out by the onslaught of white people who are just plain gob-smacked by her exquisiteness. I’ve received an enormous amount of trending Facebook articles from various fashion sources that seem almost amazed by how beautiful Lupita is. It irks me that people don’t find it ironic how Nyong’o has preformed one of the most gut-wrenching representations of an enslaved black woman. Her character, Patsey, shows the reality of an enslaved body; this body is allowed to be ogled, worked to death, beaten, and raped. This body does not belong to Patsey and for some reason, it feels as though Nyong’o's body doesn’t belong to her either.
Not too much has changed in regards to the black female body. Society still turns a blind eye to the raped black female body, but leers at the black female body on display. Whether it be in a Miley Cyrus music video, on the cover of King Magazine, or on a red carpet, black female bodies are still objects to be commodified. Designers have fallen all over themselves to drape their designs on Nyong’o's black body. When commentators talk about her many red carpet looks, I find myself wondering: “Are they talking about how lovely the dress is, being held up by a black mannequin? Or are they talking about Lupita’s fascinating dark body and face?”
Admittedly, my cynicism can be dangerous. Instead of taking white people at their word, I’m being suspicious of their motives. Whites could genuinely find Nyong’o so gorgeous that they don’t know what to do with themselves: “I CAN’T!” They might find her beautiful without even consciously understanding their exotic motivations: “She’s just so. . . noble!” For all I know, they might not be trying to be provinganything when they loudly insist how stunning she is. This is 2014, why can’t I just be happy that another black woman has won an Academy Award? Young black girls of all shades are finally able to see themselves on screen! That, in itself, is really exciting!
Ugh, but then there’s that nagging feeling, the one built upon institutionalized racism and colonialism. The feeling that tells me that Lupita Nyong’o will end up just like the rest of them:
- Viola Davis, who white people thought was a national treasure because she played the help with such a noble, quiet strength.
- Quvenzhané Wallis, who was actually in 12 Years a Slave, but didn’t receive much press. For her role as Hushpuppy, in Beasts of the Southern Wild, she was nominated for a Best Leading Actress Oscar. During Oscars night, she was called the C-word by The Onion in a jokey tweet.
- Gabourey Sidibe, who played Precious, another “hard to watch” film. The white criticism was mixed and decidedly trite. But almost all of it had to do with her obesity.
- Halle Berry, the only black female to win the Best Leading Actress award. Ever. Had to preform the most cringe-worthy, upsetting sex scene with Billy Bob Thornton to be recognized by the Academy.
All of this is to say, Hopefully, one day, a black actress will win an Academy Award based on a performance that’s not based on the oppression of black women. Cate Blanchett won the award for Best Leading Actress last night. In the Woody Allen film, Blue Jasmine, she plays a New York socialite, whose life falls apart, forcing her to live with her sister in San Francisco. I’m sure she did an excellent job, she’s a great actress! But did she have to prove anything or teach black people a valuable lesson in history or humanity to get her award? Was she involved in a “teachable moment?”
Just as Blanchett is classically beautiful in, I don’t know. . . a kind of timeless way, I’m still hoping for the next great black actress to be beautiful in the same way. Not in an exotic, noble, new-car smelling way.
“Racial identity and racism shape white women’s lives: that is the repeated argument of this book,” writes Ruth Frankenberg in In her book, White Women, Race Matters. And, indeed, in many ways this is the framework for this series, the Trouble with White Women.
Frankenberg goes on to pose the question: “What are the social processes through which white women are created as social actors primed to reproduce racism within the feminist movement?”
Today, I turn to white women’s role in the second wave of the feminist movement, which spans roughly the early 1960s through the early 1980s. Any discussion of second wave feminism must start with The Feminine Mystique.
Many people credit Betty Friedan’s 1963 book, The Feminism Mystique, with launching the second wave of the feminist movement. The book, which celebrated its 50th “birthday”, is still lauded with reverential praise. What could have launched a movement and garner praise 50 years later?
Friedan’s argument in the book is often boiled down to her famously coined phrase, “the problem that has no name,” which she used to articulate the malaise felt by college-educated, middle- and upper-class, (heterosexually) married white women who were bored with leisure, with the home, with children, with buying products, who wanted more out of life. Friedan concludes her first chapter by stating: “We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: ‘I want something more than my husband and my children and my house.’” To be sure, this was a radical notion in 1963 for white women who, like my working-class-raised mother for whom “a husband, children and a house” were a fine constellation of aspirations to have.
(Shirley, my mother, circa 1960)
What Friedan defined as the “more” that women wanted were careers. Personally, I’m grateful that someone came along, about the time I was born, and shifted the expectations for what a (white) girl child could do in this world, because that literally changed the trajectory of my life. I’m grateful, too, that my mother was able to see some of the possibilities that feminism opened up for me, if she wasn’t able to see those possibilities for her own life.
There’s a serious problem with Friedan’s vision, however. What Friedan didn’t articulate was who, exactly, would do all that work of caring for a home and taking care of children if women were “liberated” from those tasks. Nor did Friedan leave room to consider women who highest aspirations included neither men nor children.
She did not discuss who would be called in to take care of the children and maintain the home if more women like herself were freed from their house labor and given equal access with white men to the professions. She did not speak of the needs of women without men, without children, without homes. She ignored the existence of all non-white women and poor white women. She did not tell readers whether it was more fulfilling to be a maid, a babysitter, a factory worker, a clerk, or a prostitute than to be a leisure-class housewife. … When Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique, more than one-third of all women were in the work force. Although many women longed to be housewives, only women with leisure time and money could actually shape their identities on the model of the feminine mystique.
Raising children and doing housework require labor. And, Friedan’s vision of feminism was one that liberated some women (mostly white, upper-middle-class) and contributed to the oppression of other women (mostly poor, working-class, women of color).
Shirley, my mother, was certainly one of those women who “longed to be a housewife.” When she married my father (her second husband), she achieved that goal, gave up her career and never worked in the paid labor force again. But she imagined something different for me. When I would ask her to teach me something having to do with housework – how to do laundry, for example – she’d shoo me away, with a dismissive “you don’t need to know how to do that.” And, for the most part, she resolutely refused to teach me such things.
When I would press her on why not, she would answer that: “you can hire someone to do that.” You see, in my mother’s vision of my upper-middle-class, white (heterosexually) married future, she imagined that I would employ a woman of color to do the housework. While certainly not a feminist, my mother’s vision for my life was certainly consistent with Friedan’s vision of feminism.
The central problem of Friedan’s analysis of ‘the problem that has no name’ is that she takes it as universal, representative of ‘all’ women, when it is so clearly now in hindsight, the plight of an elite segment of women. Here again is bell hooks:
From her early writing, it appears that Friedan never wondered whether or not the plight of college-educated white housewives was an adequate reference point by which to gauge the impact of sexism or sexist oppression on the lives of women in American society. Nor did she move beyond her own life experience to acquire an expanded perspective on the lives of women in the United States. I say this not to discredit her work. It remains a useful discussion of the impact of sexist discrimination on a select group of women. Examined from a different perspective, it can also be seen as a case study of narcissism, insensitivity, sentimentality, and self-indulgence, which reaches its peak when Friedan, in a chapter titled “Progressive Dehumanization,” makes a comparison between the psychological effects of isolation on white housewives and the impact of confinement on the self-concept of prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.
It’s this move – placing white women at the center of all women’s experience – that is the real trouble with white feminism. Once you begin to notice this tendency, you can see that it’s a pattern that repeats itself again and again.
Returning to Ruth Frankenberg’s book, White Women, Race Matters, she an interview with “Cathy” a (white woman) participant in her study who is reflecting on her experience of being in multi-racial feminist organizations:
[I thought] I had the line on everything. And then I found out that I didn’t… I started to see that just because everybody didn’t talk like I did, it didn’t mean they didn’t have anything to say. And the reason maybe they didn’t talk like I did was because I did talk like I did. And so I started to learn about apportioning space and stuff like that. And that was all tied in with learning about the world being made up of more than one kind of person, i.e., white. It was all in the same lesson.
As Frankenberg goes on to interpret this interview by saying: “Encapsulated here is a recognition of one way in which white women may dominate feminist discourse, setting the terms and mode of discussions and not providing conceptual or auditory space for the viewpoints of women and men of color.” (p.120)
This compulsion to believe “I had the line on everything,” to know the answers, to be right, to be the center, to be the normative example, to be the index case, this is at the heart of the trouble with white feminism. The real progress begins with, “And then I found out that I didn’t…”
The interviews that Frankenberg conducted bring to light the contours of how “racial identity and racism shape white women’s lives,” not merely in terms of personal beliefs or political attitudes, but also a set of material relationships. Here is Frankenberg:
[This] clarifies some of the forms race privilege and racism may take in the lives of white women… educational and economic inequality, verbal assertions of white superiority, the maintenance of all-white neighborhoods, the ‘invisibility’ of Black and Latina domestic workers, white people’s fear of people of color, and the ‘colonial’ notion that the cultures of people of color were great only the past. …racism emerges not only as an ideology or political orientation chosen or rejected at will but also as a system of material relationships with a set of ideas linked to and embedded in those material relations.” (p.70)
What I so appreciate about this analysis is the fact that she explicitly locates white women here, and that she also names the material reality of “the maintenance of all-white neighborhoods,” and “the ‘invisibility’ of Black and Latina domestic workers.” These two seem especially tied to a particular kind of white motherhood that I see here in New York, in which “good white liberal” women have children and then, either want to move out of the city to an all-white suburb or stay in the city where they employ a Black or Latina woman to care for their children. If you want an up-close view of neo-colonialism take a ride on the M101 bus down Lexington Avenue through the Upper East Side and listen to the way that 4-and-5 year old white children speak to the mostly Black and Latina women employed to take care of them. It is clear that these interactions are part of the system of material relationships linked sustained in large measure by the white women in these households.
Separate Roads to Feminism
There is excellent research that offers an important corrective to the conventional narrative about the Friedan-inspired second wave of feminism. In Benita Roth’s Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America’s Second Wave, she argues that scholars must move beyond the common presumption that there existed a single “women’s movement” in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Instead, she contends that black and Chicana feminist organizations constituted separate feminist movements, not simply different organizations within one movement. The notion that there was one, single ”second wave” of the feminist movement leads other scholars to a line of questioning that goes something like: ”why did so few Chicanas and Black women join white women’s liberation collectives?” You can see this, for example, in works such as The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement. This line of inquiry situates the feminist activism of women of color as peripheral to the history of the “second wave,” and Roth’s work offers an important corrective to this tendency.
The trouble with white feminism, including some scholarship about the second wave, is that it places white women at the center, as the universal example of “all women” when in fact, we are a global minority of women on the planet.
Next week, I’ll be back with more #troublewithwhitewomen as I explore the issue of affirmative action.
Your Monday research brief with a round up of some of the latest work in the field of race and racism is here.
- Fitzgerald, Kathleen J. “The Continuing Significance of Race Racial Genomics in a Postracial Era.” Humanity & Society 38, no. 1 (2014): 49-66. (locked)
While most scientists of the twentieth century argued for understanding race as a social construction, this understanding has shifted considerably in the past decade. In the current era, biological notions of race have resurfaced not only in the scientific community but in the form of direct consumer use of DNA tests for genetic ancestry testing, sometimes referred to as genetic genealogy, and the emergence of pharmacogenomics, or the marketing of race-specific pharmaceuticals. In this article, I argue that the return of race as a biological concept in the form of racial genomics can best be understood through an application of Blumer’s race as group position theory. Using that, I argue that during the past 20 years, four specific challenges to the racial hierarchy have emerged that have threatened white dominance: the original interpretation of the Human Genome Project results declaring humans to be 99.9 percent similar, thus, dispelling the idea that race has a genetic basis, the electoral wins of President Barack Obama and the ensuing rhetoric that America is a “postracial” society, and finally, the increase in interracial relationships and biracial/multiracial identities. The emergence of racial genomics, I argue, is a response to these specific threats to the racial hierarchy and to white dominance.
- Florini, Sarah. “Recontextualizing the Racial Present: Intertextuality and the Politics of Online Remembering.” Critical Studies in Media Communication (online ahead-of-print) (2014): 1-13. (locked)
Remembering is never an end in its own right, but a means of asserting power and legitimizing social hierarchies. Thus, voices that seek to interpret the past in contradictory ways are often silenced (Zelizer, 1995). No part of the U.S. past is more called upon to legitimize contemporary racial relations than the Civil Rights Movement, which is constructed as the end of the nation’s systemic racism. Institutionalized racism is thereby relegated to history. Troubling aspects of the past that might lead citizens to interpret the contemporary U.S. as anything other than an egalitarian meritocracy are erased or rendered ideologically safe. This article examines how the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), one of the largest contemporary Black Nationalist organizations in the U.S., uses its website to challenge the notion of a “post-racial” U.S. by undermining the history upon which this conception is built. The MXGM’s website recontextualizes contemporary events within marginalized accounts of the past to decrease the temporal distance between the racism of the past and present racial politics, constructing an uninterrupted historical continuum of racial oppression. This recontextualization process is reinforced at the structural level of the website through the inherently intertextual nature of hypertext.
- Kraszewski, J. “Branding, Nostalgia, and the Politics of Race on VH1′s Flavor of Love,” Quarterly Review of Film and Video,Volume 31, (3), 2014, 240-254. no abstract available - (locked)
- Moore, Wendy Leo. “The Legal Alchemy of White Domination Embedding White Logic in Equal Protection Law.” Humanity & Society 38, no. 1 (2014): 7-24. (locked)
The U.S. Constitution, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the law. Despite this Constitutional protection, however, the United States remains structured by deep racial inequality. Human rights advocates have suggested that this contradiction stems from unwillingness on the part of the U.S. government to go beyond equal protection of the law and provide state protection for a broader scope of human rights such as economic and cultural rights. Although this criticism of U.S. law and policy is warranted, I suggest even the notion of U.S. commitment to equal protection of the law must be critically interrogated given this country’s history of white racial domination. Through an explication of the equal protection jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court, I illustrate how the Court has embedded within the equal protection legal frame a postcivil rights racial logic, particularly tropes of black criminality and white innocence. In doing so, the Court has constructed a substantive legal definition of equal protection of the law that naturalizes and supports contemporary mechanisms and structures of white racial domination.
- Pierce, Jennifer L. “White racism, social class, and the backlash against affirmative action.” Sociology Compass 7, no. 11 (2013): 914-926. (OA)
Among scholars in sociology and history, the backlash against affirmative action has been blamed on White working-class Americans. What has received far less attention is the individual and collective institutional role(s) played by the White middle and upper middle-class in backlash politics. Given that individuals in these social classes have far greater institutional power than White working-class Americans, their beliefs and practices deserve sustained critical attention, and, as the few existing research studies demonstrate, White middle-class and upper middle-class Americans have played an influential role in backlash politics. Part of the reason for this gap in the literature is that these groups are more difficult to access as research subjects. Gaining access to this population may require working through many levels of a bureaucratic organization designed to protect their time and privacy. Moreover, when interviewed, these Americans are more likely than their working-class counterparts to mask racist sentiments through the polite language of “color blindness.” Research methods that complement surveys and in-depth interviews are recommended as strategies for probing White middle and upper middle-class Americans’ deeply hidden beliefs.
- Pierce, Jennifer L. “The History of Affirmative Action in the USA: A Teaching and Learning Guide.” Sociology Compass 8, no. 1 (2014): 89-98. (OA)
This Teaching and Learning Guide is designed to accompany my Sociology Compass article on affirmative action. The sample syllabus is organized historically beginning with FDR’s New Deal and the first use of the term affirmative action and ending with the most recent Supreme Court’s deliberations on this policy. In doing so, it attends not only to the varied meanings and forms of affirmative action across time but also the different interest groups arguing for and against this remedial policy. Along the way, it explores the changing history of race relations in the USA, considers the value of personal narratives as sources in exploring meaning and personhood, examines the ways the news media has framed the debate in contemporary America, and finally, speculates about the future of this controversial policy.
- Strmic‐Pawl, Hephzibah V. “The Influences Affecting and the Influential Effects of Multiracials: Multiracialism and Stratification.” Sociology Compass 8, no. 1 (2014): 63-77. (OA)
Early research on multiracials documents the existence of a newly emergent population, those who identify with more than one race or what is commonly now known as multiracials. Contemporary research on multiracialism has a new focus on the stratification that multiracials experience and how multiracials may be influencing a new racial hierarchy. This paper discusses some of the primary issues of multiracialism and stratification including colorism, the racial hierarchy, social class, gender and sexual orientation, and multiracial as a celebrity-like status. As the multiracial population grows, so must the field of multiracialism grows to include critical issues and questions regarding stratification.
- van Wormer, K., Jackson, D. W. III, Sudduth, C. (2014). “What We Can Learn of History from Older African American: Women Who Worked as Maids in the Deep South.” Western Journal of Black Studies 37 (4), 227-235. (locked)
This paper examines the life stories of six African American women who worked as maids for white families in the Deep South from the 1920s to the 1950s. Together their narratives present the facts about life during those times that are not contained in the history books. The role of older Americans as preservers of history and teachers of the younger generation is explored.
- Yancy, George, and Maria del Guadalupe Davidson, eds. Exploring Race in Predominantly White Classrooms: Scholars of Color Reflect. Routledge, 2014. (locked)
Although multicultural education has made significant gains in recent years, with many courses specifically devoted to the topic in both undergraduate and graduate education programs, and more scholars of color teaching in these programs, these victories bring with them a number of pedagogic dilemmas. Most students in these programs are not themselves students of color, meaning the topics and the faculty teaching them are often faced with groups of students whose backgrounds and perspectives may be decidedly different – even hostile – to multicultural pedagogy and curriculum. This edited collection brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars of color to critically examine what it is like to explore race in predominantly white classrooms. It delves into the challenges academics face while dealing with the wide range of responses from both White students and students of color, and provides a powerful overview of how teachers of color highlight the continued importance and existence of race and racism.
In “White Logic, White Methods” several essays address the false rationality of social science that is a thin veneer for whiteness.
You can rationalize away all disparate impacts of institutional racism and sexism if you shape your theories, models and measurements just so.
I have argued vehemently, albeit academically, that higher education research is one of the whitest fields of research out there these days. Somehow econometrics brought the rational choice penchant for ignoring statistical discrimination from econ and wedded it to the efficiency logics of market enthusiasm to create a perfect storm of obfuscation and rationalized oppression.
I mostly brush it off. This is the job and I don’t know of a job where this won’t be an issue.
However, I am clear about my critical position: the rational approach to re-inscribing race, gender, and class disparities in higher education policy, particularly through federal financial aid policy, is anything but. It’s all the same benign organizational racism that it has always been.
So, when the debate about instituting a “college readiness” test for means-tested federal Pell grants unfolded, I did what I often do: I asked about the racial implications of such a policy.
The analogy was clear to me. Even if it wasn’t clear to others, the meat of the argument remains the same. Secondary schooling is compulsory, which requires a commitment from the State to provide access to the primary qualification for Pell — a diploma or GED. A college readiness test would come with no State obligation. The ridiculous notion that excluding poor students who aren’t college ready from Pell would magically incentivize public education to get on the ball with preparing all students is the kind fairy dust that gives us trickle down economics.
Not a single higher education researcher could explain how this was anything but an act of institutional racism.
Being afraid of talking about race doesn’t excuse serious researchers from the consequences of ignoring race. I do not care if you intend for a policy to be racialized. I am here always for asking the ways in which effects are racialized, absent of intent.
So, let me be clear about my “racist” analogy of college readiness to poll taxes and literacy tests.
Wealth drives “college readiness”.
Black wealth accumulation lags white wealth accumulation because institutional racism has made it so.
From redlining that depresses the value of the greatest asset most Americans have to K-12 school districting that reinforces the salience of wealth and home ownership to curriculum and resources, many black students are unlikely to meet some arbitrary standard of college readiness.
And have no doubt that such a measure would be arbitrary. There is no single agreement on what college readiness constitutes.
There is no moral imperative behind instituting a college readiness barrier beyond “saving money”. But it is never clearly stated whose money we are saving or for what ends. Are we saving poor students’ money? Obviously not if we are denying them a grant and forcing them to rely on student loans more than they already do.
So whose money are we saving? I suspect we mean real peoples’ money. You know, not-poor real people.
As in, the not-poor people whose college readiness is possible because kids in other schools don’t get the resources to be college ready.
There is no scenario where the effects of poverty and racism won’t be expensive. The only scenarios are for whom it will be most costly.
The idea that remediating the effects of negative wealth accumulation and poverty through increasing the cost to individual poor people, who are more likely to be black, is anything but racist paternalism has yet to be effectively argued. Mostly because those who propose college readiness tests are too afraid of being called racist to seriously consider the racist effects of their proposals.
Kind of like how we refuse to acknowledge that punishing poor people doesn’t make them less likely to be poor.
It’s all very rational.
~ Guest blogger Tressie McMillan Cotton is is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. This post originally appeared at her blog, Some of Us are Brave.
It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for a research brief, our roundup of some of the latest publications about race, ethnicity and racism. Whenever possible, I’ll include an abstract or brief description about each piece of research. I’ll also note which citations are Open Access (OA) or locked behind a paywall or otherwise not available on the open web (locked).
Here’s today’s round up:
- Chao, En-Chieh. “The-Truth-About-Islam. Com: Ordinary Theories of Racism and Cyber Islamophobia.” Critical Sociology (2014): 0896920513508662. (locked)
This essay contends that the digital debates over Islamophobia show a curious resemblance to pre-existing American folk theories of racism. The outcry surrounding the reality show All-American Muslim is the case study, but the argument applies to a broader development of cultural racism and Islamophobia in American society. Starting from a discussion of the politics of racialization and ‘post-civil rights’ racism in the USA, the article outlines the mediation of racial politics through reality television and online commenting in relation to Islamophobia. Finally, appropriating the work of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Jane Hill on the underlying theories of American racism, I examine two seemingly opposing discourses entailed in the AAM controversy, and demonstrate that the entire online outcry has closely followed the old paradigms through which Americans talk about racism.
There’s a new edited volume out that has several pieces about race, racism and the intersection with queer politics that looks interesting:
- Bassichis, Morgan, and Dean Spade. “Queer politics and anti-blackness.” in Queer Necropolitics (2014): 191. (locked)
- About Queer Necropolitics, edited by Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, Silvia Posocco (Routledge, 2014). The book will appeal to activist scholars and students from various social sciences and humanities, particularly those across the fields of law, cultural and media studies, gender, sexuality and intersectionality studies, race, and conflict studies, as well as those studying nationalism, colonialism, prisons and war. It should be read by all those trying to make sense of the contradictions inherent in regimes of rights, citizenship and diversity.
There is a special issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine that focuses on structural racism, here are a few key articles:
- Came, Heather. “Sites of Institutional Racism in Public Health Policy making in New Zealand.” Social Science & Medicine (2014). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.055
Although New Zealanders have historically prided ourselves on being a country where everyone has a ‘fair go’, the systemic and longstanding existence of health inequities between Māori and non-Māori suggests something isn’t working. This paper informed by critical race theory, asks the reader to consider the counter narrative viewpoints of Māori health leaders; that suggest institutional racism has permeated public health policy making in New Zealand and is a contributor to health inequities alongside colonisation and uneven access to the determinants of health. Using a mixed methods approach and critical anti-racism scholarship this paper identifies five specific sites of institutional racism. These sites are: majoritarian decision making, the misuse of evidence, deficiencies in both cultural competencies and consultation processes and the impact of Crown filters. These findings suggest the failure of quality assurance systems, existing anti-racism initiatives and health sector leadership to detect and eliminate racism. The author calls for institutional racism to be urgently addressed within New Zealand and this paper serves as a reminder to policy makers operating within other colonial contexts to be vigilant for such racism.
- Feagin, Joe, and Zinobia Bennefield. “Systemic racism and US health care.”Social Science & Medicine 103 (2014): 7-14. (locked)
This article draws upon a major social science theoretical approach–systemic racism theory–to assess decades of empirical research on racial dimensions of U.S. health care and public health institutions. From the 1600s, the oppression of Americans of color has been systemic and rationalized using a white racial framing–with its constituent racist stereotypes, ideologies, images, narratives, and emotions. We review historical literature on racially exploitative medical and public health practices that helped generate and sustain this racial framing and related structural discrimination targeting Americans of color. We examine contemporary research on racial differentials in medical practices, white clinicians’ racial framing, and views of patients and physicians of color to demonstrate the continuing reality of systemic racism throughout health care and public health institutions. We conclude from research that institutionalized white socioeconomic resources, discrimination, and racialized framing from centuries of slavery, segregation, and contemporary white oppression severely limit and restrict access of many Americans of color to adequate socioeconomic resources–and to adequate health care and health outcomes. Dealing justly with continuing racial “disparities” in health and health care requires a conceptual paradigm that realistically assesses U.S. society’s white-racist roots and contemporary racist realities. We conclude briefly with examples of successful public policies that have brought structural changes in racial and class differentials in health care and public health in the U.S. and other countries.
- Lukachko, Alicia, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, and Katherine M. Keyes. “Structural racism and myocardial infarction in the United States.“ Social Science & Medicine 103 (2014): 42-50. (locked)
There is a growing research literature suggesting that racism is an important risk factor undermining the health of Blacks in the United States. Racism can take many forms, ranging from interpersonal interactions to institutional/structural conditions and practices. Existing research, however, tends to focus on individual forms of racial discrimination using self-report measures. Far less attention has been paid to whether structural racism may disadvantage the health of Blacks in the United States. The current study addresses gaps in the existing research by using novel measures of structural racism and by explicitly testing the hypothesis that structural racism is a risk factor for myocardial infarction among Blacks in the United States. State-level indicators of structural racism included four domains: (1) political participation; (2) employment and job status; (3) educational attainment; and (4) judicial treatment. State-level racial disparities across these domains were proposed to represent the systematic exclusion of Blacks from resources and mobility in society. Data on past-year myocardial infarction were obtained from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (non-Hispanic Black: N = 8245; non-Hispanic White: N = 24,507), a nationally representative survey of the U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 18 and older. Models were adjusted for individual-level confounders (age, sex, education, household income, medical insurance) as well as for state-level disparities in poverty. Results indicated that Blacks living in states with high levels of structural racism were generally more likely to report past-year myocardial infarction than Blacks living in low-structural racism states. Conversely, Whites living in high structural racism states experienced null or lower odds of myocardial infarction compared to Whites living in low-structural racism states. These results raise the provocative possibility that structural racism may not only harm the targets of stigma but also benefit those who wield the power to enact stigma and discrimination.
- Smith, Justin M. “Interrogating Whiteness Within Criminology.” Sociology Compass 8, no. 2 (2014): 107-118. (OA)
This paper merges critical White studies with the sociological field of criminology as a means to progress understanding of criminal behavior, justice, and social control. Up to this point, criminology has largely neglected the significance of whiteness within its boundaries of study. Thankfully, a strong foundation of research and theoretical statements has been completed in the interdisciplinary field of critical White studies. The formation of criminal law can be more clearly understood through the inclusion of frameworks offered by critical White studies. Additionally, nuanced explanations of criminal behavior and hate crime among Whites can be attained through this perspective.
As if public schools throughout the country do not have it bad enough, the economically upper crust have shed their demands to the masses in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, home of Louisiana State University. They effectively want out ! Specifically, the citizens of the upper middle and wealthy neighborhoods within the area are demanding not only their own town, but also a separation from the 42,000-pupil public education school system. This happens to be a system where “4 out of 10 families live in poverty.” If approved, the well to do will form their own public school district that is funded by property taxes collected from their sky-scraping valued homes. This shift would remove money from those economically poor children left to their own isolated devices within schools with already economic challenges. For those remaining, it has been estimated the move would decrease their total per-pupil spending from $9,635 to $ 8,870. The new and mostly all white school system would instead spend approximately $11,686 per-pupil.
Following the end of recent court-ordered desegregation judgments, citizens in states such as Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia have made similar efforts. These efforts were quoted as possibly having demoralizing effects on those occupying space on the outside of the golden circle of privilege. All of which is a result of a current public school apportionment system that relies heavy on local taxes to fund public education efforts.
The initiative to break away from school systems can be explained with oodles of meaningful terms within a contextual and complex landscape. And on the surface, they seem quite innocent and valid. For time sake, their argument can be summed up as, “We have failing schools blah, blah, we want to provide something better for our kids, blah, blah, and it’s not a racial matter, blah, blah.” But with the use of a critical white racial lens, one is able to see a rationale more depressing than that which is openly presented.
William Dean Howells, the great 19th century American social observer argued, “Inequality is as dear to the American heart as liberty itself.” I feel that nowhere is this more evident than in one of the country’s oldest institutions—public education. Albert Memmi stated that all systems in the U.S. had been designed to only benefit the ruling elite, while simultaneously denying those occupying the lower levels of the economic stratus and White constructed racial hierarchy.
In terms of education, many forget, or pretend to forget, our countries founding forefather, as well as those of education, not only viewed it as an intricate component needed to drive the succession and advancement of the U.S., but also a social tool to help maintain a dominant White Protestant culture. In its infancy, education was used to halt the possibilities of the influx of immigrants and newly freed Blacks from acquiring bona fide access to power and privilege. Therefore, the racial and cultural superiority over newly introduced racial groups such as Irish, Blacks, and Native Americans was reinforced within public education. This conscious need to ignore the needs of those seen as nonwhite was evident within their following historic treatment. Within U.S. history, many tactics have been utilized to deny Blacks from an adequate education. They consist of denying slaves opportunities, controlling curriculum and intent of post-antebellum schools (ex. Black colleges), to the means of legal segregation. School finance is simply an issue that many are unaware of as it relates to systemic oppression.
Legislative measures resulting from cases such as Brown v. Board of Education Topeka (1954) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have attempted to eliminate many of the past overt oppressive and discriminatory measures witnessed historically in education. Today in public education, there still exists a divided two raced “world” that is maintained by an inequitable school funding system. The monetary disparity between wealthy and poor school (i.e., Have v. Have Nots) consist racially of mainly people of color and upper middle to wealthy Whites. The Texas Civil Rights Project in 2012 reported that within Austin Independent School District (AISD), inequitable funding was allowed. Further, “AISD was shown to allow and support the private subsidization of higher-income (or “higher-equity”) schools, sometimes by as much as $1,000/student more than the amount of funds that support students in lower-income (or “lower-equity”) schools.”
Thus, funds that should be provided to low SES schools are not happening. In California’s Orange County, Laguna Beach Unified in 2002 spent $7,411 per student in comparisons to Orange Unified, which spent $5, 632 per pupil. In addition to wealthy property and local taxes, many wealthy areas are able to provide private donations that play a significant role in district funding. This difference in available funding can allow for richer districts to pay for specialists, more teachers, and services for students, specifically special education students in need. Many of the schools funded by property and local taxes in poor areas are unable to keep pace.
This mode of financial targeting is nothing new to America. For instance, during post antebellum, many of the Black schools did not receive equal resources and funding. Through the use of historical data, it has been proven that race definitely influenced public school funding. In fact, funds were actually diverted from Black school to their counterparts.
The dynamics of race in conjunction with the current state of school financing will continue to hinder the academic and progress of Black students in public education if allowed uninterrupted. But this hindrance is nothing new to America. Hence, its foundation of governance and citizenship operate in a fashion that empowers Whites while maintaining a social hierarchy that targets people of color. The current financial disparity in school funding will continue until a new approach to the issue is taken within the judicial system. Or until we decide to no longer eat cake.
In 2013, a Rasmussen Reports survey indicated “Most Americans (53%) believe professional sports have helped improve race relations in the United States…just 20% of American adults disagree. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure.” It is difficult for me to agree with this majority stance that professional sport has had a positive societal impact on race relations in the US when I see the lack of strides college sport and other major institutions (e.g., economic, political, educational) have made, and the mistreatment people of color continue to endure at the hands of the criminal justice system. Race relations may have improved within some major professional sport organizations, but to say race relations have improved in the US is stretching a bit far.
It is true that some of the most popular professional sport organizations have tackled their diversity issues recently. For instance, in the NFL, while the number of head coaches has diminished from an all-time high of eight people of color in 2011 to four in 2013, there have been other racial and ethnic advances. There has been progress in the hiring and promotion of racial and ethnic minorities above the VP level, general managers, senior administrators, professional positions, and even the first majority team owner. Additionally, although the number of African American players continues to decrease in MLB, the overall racial and ethnic minority landscape continues to rise with an increase in people of color as coaches, professional administrators, senior administrators, and VPs. Moreover, as the most progressive of the professional organizations, the NBA has made the most headway. This has been most vivid with over 80% of players being people of color, the second highest number of African American head coaches in history, a new record number of racial and ethnic minority assistant coaches, and an increase in people of color as senior administrators, team physicians, and NBA officials.
While these numbers seem promising for professional sport, college sport continues to lag behind in race relation improvements. The multi-billion dollar institution of college sport reveals that while black student-athletes are overrepresented in the most revenue generating sports (men’s basketball and football) their numbers beyond the playing fields and courts are trailing behind. When black male students-athletes in NCAA Division I athletics make up 57.2% and 43.2% of the athletes in basketball and football, respectively, but their numbers as head coaches (18.6% and 11.3%) and assistant coaches (39.0% and 25.7%) are marginally represented, then it is clear there is a race relations problem. This problem is even more pronounced considering that whites control the athletic director roles (89.0%), the highest level of athletic power on college campuses. If these numbers are not disturbing enough, they get even worse when the discussion moves outside of sport.
If professional sports have helped improve race relations, then why are there only 13% people of color serving as college presidents, or 16.8% racial and ethnic minorities in Congress , or 4.6% running Fortune 500 companies? Do we even have to go to the criminal justice system? If professional sports are improving race relations in the US, then why are unarmed black youths (e.g., Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis) continuing to be gunned down and the perpetrators do not have to answer for these crimes?
I think it is appalling to know that in the thirty-one states where the “Stand your Ground” law exists, whites who kill blacks are 354% more likely to be cleared of murder. If race relation improvements in professional sport have somehow trickled out to the rest of the US, I would sure like to know exactly where.
It seems that when such questions are being asked of participants on the impact they perceive professional sports to have on society’s race relations, they are either in a state of denial, blind to the realities of their surroundings, or perhaps the colorful façade of the playing fields and courts have mislead them. As Feagin (2014) argues, it is difficult to deny the existence of racial oppression when we still have housing segregation, discrimination in employment, obstacles in education, disparities in healthcare, barriers in business, and the many environmental health concerns that disproportionately affect people of color. While professional sports may have historically set the tone in breaking down racial barriers, and more recently with their progressiveness on creating more diverse organizations, it seems the rest of US society is still looking from the outside in unwilling to move in the same direction or at the same pace.