America the Beautiful, America the Violent

Antoinette Tuff performed miracles on that crucial day at an Atlanta area charter school. Talking an obviously distressed and irrational young man down from what would most assuredly be another catastrophe of America’s young children at the hands of a man with mass casualty weapons. Listening to the 9-1-1 recording and her interview with Anderson Cooper, the nation saw just how close these school officials and students escaped tragedy. And even more astounding is that neither Antoinette herself nor the intended shooter lost their lives. It was indeed a miracle. But what touched many of us through this ordeal was exactly how Ms. Tuff handled the situation. She did not use special operations 101 or psychological training in crisis management, nor did she fight violence with more violence to defuse the situation. She used the principle of love to save lives. Tuff was able to connect in that brief moment with the shooter, conveying to the young man that he mattered in the world and was loved. Where others had likely failed to convince him otherwise, Tuff got through. She penetrated the man’s soul, and by that, the plan was averted and the nation was spared.

We are in the midst of a national crisis—a fight to recover the souls of young men lost, caught in the throws of a self-deprecating patriarchy and its stratified emphasis on race, class and gender. These particular interlocking social constructions of a manufactured reality have not served the emotional well-being of our young men especially well. If you are a young man in our society and you are black, mentally ill, poor, homosexual, or emotionally traumatized from early childhood experiences (whether it be from a fractured home or abuse)—you are among those at greatest risk of killing or being killed. We care very little about those who are outside the norm of white, middle-class, mentally/emotionally healthy, heterosexual males. And yet we emphasize that their masculinity is of utmost importance.

Our society places emphasis on masculinizing male children by withholding affection (in comparison to females), consigning to them gender-appropriate toys, and communicating calculated signs of “appropriate” forms and displays of affection. This image of masculinity is only hastened by the over-exposure of violence to our culture (and young men), which reaffirms their image-conscious masculine identities. In other words, what it means to be a man is further manufactured by media outlets including Hollywood films, sports broadcasting, hunting & fishing shows, and video games—all which commodify maleness, branding it for profit.

Interestingly, we expect our children to decipher and understand the difference between “good” violence (hunting, defending the country in times of war, sport shooting, etc.) from that of “bad” violence. This task is difficult enough by loving, informed and concerned caregivers . Without positive and influential role models, these young men not only lack the ability to categorize violence, but they also lack effective coping strategies.

These same young males who emerge with little guidance, are the same ones who believe in their mind that (whether real or imagined) they matter very little in the world and often feel left out and left behind, particularly young men of color (our most vulnerable resource). This can evoke the deepest sense of pain, driving many young people to make life-altering decisions with dire consequences. Enveloped within our nation’s narcissism, we pretend that human conflict found in the popular saying “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” cannot hurt as bad as physical pain. We now know this could not be further from the truth. It matters greatly that we humans feel loved, affirmed and empowered in ways that allow us to flourish in productive ways rather than destructive ones.

These “random” acts of violence are not entirely individualistic actions and maybe not so random after all; they were created and maintained due to our unapologetically and grossly unequal society, predicated on the status hierarchy of white over black, male over female, Christian over non-Christian, and wealth over poverty. The inequality in our country serves to make these men feel emasculated as they often relate manhood to material objects like cars, ostentatious jewelry, neighborhoods, shoes and women, which may explain why disrespect, humiliation and shame are often triggers of violent acts.

When men of all stripes do not have an equal voice, they have few options. Between our emphasis on patriarchy and our skewed definition of masculinity combined with our lack of direction for these souls, it is no wonder they turned to destructively violent means when they feel unheard or threatened. Many turn to affirming themselves by “being a man” and resorting to violence, chaos and self-destruction. Others who feel unheard, make the world see them through a horrific and monumental event. Either way, the lack of positive, self-worth-promoting entities in a patriarchal society make the affirmation of self through violence all the more likely.

Antoinette Tuff accomplished something that few others could have done. She was able to divert another potential Sandy Hook and national tragedy by showing genuine concern and love for the shooter. (That is not to say that anyone could have reasoned with the other mentally ill individuals who have killed our children and loved ones in other mass shootings. I wonder if the strong souls who lost their lives were even given a chance to do so. But in this case, one person was given a chance—and it was the right person.) She practiced the convictions of her faith in Jesus who taught his followers to love our enemies; she was able to affirm to Brandon Hill that he mattered in the world. She let him know that he was loved. And she meant every word.

Dr. Darron Smith is an assistant professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Follow him on twitter @drdarronsmith.

Stop-and-Frisk: Racial Discrimination in Policing

This short video (4:17) from Communities United for Police Reform, tells the story of a high school senior, Kasiem Walters. Walters recounts his experience with the “stop-and-frisk,” a racially discriminatory policing strategy used by the NYPD:

Defenders of the “stop-and-frisk” policy, including NYC Mayor Bloomberg, often justify these practices as “getting guns off the streets” of New York.

This claim is not supported by the evidence. According to data collected by the NYCLU,

Guns are found in less than 0.2 percent of stops. That is an unbelievably poor yield rate for such an intrusive, wasteful and humiliating police action. Yet, stop-and-frisk has increased more than 600 percent under Bloomberg and Kelly. And the rate of finding guns is worsening as the NYPD stops more innocent people each year.

And, this map from the data of stop-and-frisks alongside gun stops created by WNYC, further undermines the claim that this policy is doing anything to remove guns from the streets:

This policy hurts young black and Latino boys, like Kasiem Walters, yet Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly seem unmoved, entrenched even in their defense of the practice. Bloomberg for his part is dismissive of the claim that there is any racial bias in the practice, and, in fact, recently claimed by some very faulty logic that whites were stopped too often, and blacks not often enough. Kelly vigorously defends the stop-and-frisk policy. And, there is at least one account – delivered under oath – that Commissioner Kelly has said that stop-and-frisk is “meant instill fear in blacks and Latinos… [knowing] every time that they left their homes they could be targeted by police.”

There are some actions to take to stop this.

Communities United for Police Reform has a petition you can sign to support the Community Safety Act, package of comprehensive reforms for NYPD.

And, serious candidates running for NYC Mayor are making stop-and-frisk and ending the reign-of-terror of Ray Kelly campaign issues in this election.

We can build a better city, indeed a better world, where all high school seniors, including the ones that look like Kasiem Walters, can walk on a sidewalk without fear.

“A Long Slow Drift from Racial Justice” — The Hidden Perils of the Fisher Ruling

Last week two decisions from the Supreme Court seemed to turn the clock back on the delicate framework of Civil Rights constructed in the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson eras, in what the former president of the University of Michigan and Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, called “a long slow drift from racial justice.” The high court’s decisions in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder and Fisher v. the University of Texas, while appearing to give credence to the principles of racial justice, severely eroded the means to attain voting and educational access.

The Shelby Country decision nullified Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, while maintaining Section 5. Section 4 required nine states and some counties to obtain preclearance from the Department of Justice prior to changing voting requirements. Although based on a formula last updated in 1975, most observers believe that a bipartisan Congress will not coalesce in passing an updated formula. Chief Justice John Roberts justified the decision by stating that “things have changed dramatically” in the South and this country. Within 48 hours of the law passing, Texas, one of the states formerly covered under Section 4, moved to strengthen its requirements for voter identification and indicated that redistricting maps would no longer require federal approval. Comedian Bill Maher aptly termed the Voting Rights decision as evidence of Racism 2.0, in the evolution of more subtle and carefully constructed forms of exclusion. The Fisher decision, in turn, set an almost impossibly high bar for the use of race in college and university admissions that will likely result in unparalleled levels of litigation.

In the Fisher case, Abigail Fisher, a white undergraduate denied admission to the University of Texas claimed that her race prevented her admission to the university while less qualified minority students were admitted. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Fifth Circuit, asking the district/appellate Court to re-review the case with “strict scrutiny” of the inclusion of race in holistic review at the University of Texas. Although some affirmative action advocates viewed the outcome of the ruling as positive in that the justices recognized the value of diversity in the higher education experience, the decision now makes it extremely difficult for universities and colleges to consider race even as one factor among many in a holistic review of admissions applications. Ordinary Americans, as Lee Bollinger observed, will not pick up on the decoupling of race-conscious college admissions and “the larger project of social justice” amidst the legal maneuvering and minutiae.

The Fisher decision essentially brought the courts into the university and college admissions process by requiring a reviewing court to determine if a university’s use of race is necessary to achieve the educational benefits of diversity. Further, “the reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce” these benefits (Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al., June 24, 2013, p. 2). Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy, declared that in this process, “the university receives no deference.” Kennedy explained further that the courts, not university administrators, must determine that the means chosen to attain diversity are “specifically and narrowly framed to accomplish that purpose.”

As noted by Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the decision has led representatives of Pacific Legal Foundation and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, public-interest law firms that have brought litigation against affirmative action programs, to indicate that they look forward to representing individuals who wish to challenge university and college admissions policies. It remains unclear is how the courts can possibly handle challenges to admissions policies that might arise in the more than 4000 institutions throughout the United States.

Commentators indicate that universities and colleges will need to ramp up their efforts at data collection to meet the requirements of the Fisher decision and to prove that race-neutral efforts could not have attained the same level of racial diversity. Given the constraints of the Fisher decision and its aggressive intrusion in the realm of university governance, it will require significant efforts on the part of colleges and universities to find the appropriate channels to continue to enhance the access and success of minority students to educational opportunity.

The Paula Deen Scandal: White Racial Framing in Action

Professor Tricia Rose of Brown University has an interesting and savvy op-ed piece on the Paula Deen racism scandal. She makes this key set of points:

With each heartfelt tearful statement, Deen seems completely uninterested in the broader contexts of her comments, missing ample opportunities to address the reality of racism today both in the form of cultural and social interactions, but even more powerfully by policies and actions.

I heard her speak very little about the extraordinary injuries and injustices black people face, I have not heard her show alliance with those who fight racism nor show solidarity with or compassion for black people based on the profound impact racism has on their lives.

I grew up in similar circumstances to those of Deen, the assertively and comprehensively Jim Crow South. That is a central part of that “broader context” of her comments. Virtually all white southerners (and most in the North too) then grew up with, and had drilled into them, a very aggressive version of the white racist framing of society—replete with many thousands (and I do mean thousands, empirically speaking) of references by older whites, parents and others, to black southerners of all ages and conditions as N-words. Virtually all young white southerners used that word, as they unreflectively mimicked parents and peers. And a dozen other antiblack words.


(Image Source)

 

The even more important point missed in almost all discussion I have seen of Deen is that the overtly and brutally racist language of the southern (and northern) white racial frame was not isolated, for it was (and still is) connected to many dozens of antiblack and other racist stereotypes, ideas, narratives, images, interpretations, and inclinations to discriminate. It has been now for nearly four centuries.

The real issue is this white racial frame, this white worldview, not just one major racist word, or two. As a white person drilled in the white racial frame, you do not just give up using one word (and often just in public, too) and, suddenly, become a virtuous non-racist. You have to work constantly and aggressively to deframe and reframe away from that dominant white racial frame in the antiracist direction–and that takes much effort. And that effort is never finished over any white lifetime.

So, where is the public discussion of this broad and deep white way of looking at society, a framing that in some version is the backbone perspective for most white Americans today–and most especially in many of the racist performances of a great many prominent and not-so-prominent white conservatives today.

Central to the common white defensiveness on these issues is the heart of that centuries-old white racial frame – the sense that white people are the most virtuous, civilized, and intelligent Americans. Yet these “virtuous” whites created systems of racial oppression in the form of 246 years of slavery and nearly 100 years of Jim Crow that rival the worst systems of oppression created over long centuries of world history. And widespread contemporary racial discrimination as well.

In her piece Professor Rose raises a very good question about why Deen does not just come out and take an anti-racist stand. In my view that would be one that accents and condemns the current discriminatory treatment African Americans and other people of color still receive in this country–and emphasizes the need for this country’s white leadership to aggressively confront their own racism and that imbedded across the institutions of this still racist society.

That seems an elementary response, at least looking from outside the dominant white racial frame critically–for example, from the perspective of those people of color oppressed by it for so long.

“What in the Wide, Wide, World of Sports is going on here?” Social Control & Racism in Sports

Surprised? No. Hurt? No. I am neither bamboozled, disillusioned, flimflammed, confused, taken aback, floored, or any other adjective one would possibly use to describe their emotions pertaining to the latest public act of overt racism and idiocy which was illustrated by Spain’s top golfer Sergio Garcia. Media outlets from the Huffington Post to ESPN reported on his comments relating to Tiger Woods. In summary, this past Tuesday evening in London during the European Tour’s Players’ Awards dinner, a reporter asked the golfer if he was planning to invite his nemesis to dinner during the imminent U.S. Open. Garcia responded by saying, “We will have him round every night…”We will serve fried chicken.” After reading the story, I instantly saw my southern elderly grandmother saying, “Oooh Weee!!” But I digress. After you know what hit the you know what, Garcia issued a foreseeable apology.

I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during the European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.

To me what seemed pure and concentrated racism was in fact a harmless joke? What was I thinking? Seriously, it seems whenever well-known white politicians, sports figures, and movie stars are forced to retract hurtful comments, pertaining to non-whites, which usually only occurs due to the possible threat to their financial “Cheese,” the term “joke” is always utilized to set forth rationalization. Dr. Jane Hill, out of the University of Arizona who studies language ideologies in the reproduction of racism, would deem this behavior as an example of a “gaffe.” The supposed slip of Garcia’s tongue reproduces the white “folk-theory” while advancing the highly constructed virtue of whiteness. For the ultimate purpose of justifying white privilege, the use of gaffes permits whites to stigmatize nonwhites through the process of “reproducing racist stereotypes.” Even though many people do not truly believe all Black people are genetically drawn to eating fried chicken, Hill would argues that Garcia’s gaffe

still becomes easily accessible, become an element of automatic, unreflective action and reaction that is very difficult to notice and contest.

The media serves an excellent instrument for the accessibility of these messages.

It is important to note here the media has historically and currently function as an instrument of the white racial frame. I argue the frame itself acts as a bulwark in its attempts to maintain the deep-rooted system of oppression that ultimate seeks to gain supremacy. What is presented on within the media around the world is an unvarying spin cycle of stereotypes and demonizing imagery that at the end of the day devalues non-whites, in particular blacks. I determine that today’s media reproduces the collective images and messages that were first seen as early as the 1915 movie, “The Birth of a Nation.” The images and sounds that carry messages of the past are facilitated and directed by those in charge—White elite.

As seen in the past, the historical stereotypes associated with non-whites today are simply socially reproduced neutralizing agents utilized to secure the continuation of racial conquests. Unlike in the past, today’s acts do not include the deed of public lynching. Come on, those are socially frowned upon, right? But the utilization of racial stereotypes, such as those performed by Garcia, ultimately affects the psyche of both whites and non-whites. Moreover, they can be used as social control techniques to remind non-whites the stereotypical worthlessness of Blacks. This can be seen within others in the sports world. For example, many do not recall a popular sports commentator named, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder who worked for CBS. He was fired for his comments relating to the dominance of Blacks in sports. Moreover, in 1988 he stated Black male athletes were

bred to be the better athlete because, this goes all the way to the Civil War when … the slave owner would breed his big woman so that he would have a big black kid [CNN. Sports Illustrated. Video Almanac, 1988].

Dr. Joe Feagin would deem these noted acts as a resource needed by whites to rationalize the treatment of Blacks in order to legitimize U.S. white power and privilege, while at the same time denying the same power and privilege to non-whites.

But then again, Garcia is not an American citizen. How did a Spaniard come to utilize the white racial frame? One would be remiss to believe the legitimization of white dominance is foreign to those overseas. The power of anti-black sentiment and action are publicly demonstrated. For example, it has been documented that during soccer’s World Cup events, non-white players were spat upon, and racially mocked. At the same time spectators and even some players visibly replicated Hitler’s mustache and Nazi salute while yelling, “Heil Hitler.” Another example which gets little attention from the white dominated media can be seen within Greece. Currently due to the economic doom experienced by its people, citizens have taken up arms against non-Greek citizens. I mean literally taken up arms. Specifically, violence and racist sentiments are on the rise. The political party, Golden Dawn, which resembles the Nazi faction of the past, has gained political power and devotion though their rhetoric which expresses violence toward immigrants.

The Racist Violence Recording Network reported 154 cases of racist violence in 2012, including 25 in which the victims said the perpetrators were police. The figures were released a week after more than 30 Bangladeshi workers suffered shotgun wounds on a strawberry farm in southern Greece during a dispute with foremen over back pay.

Some have even pointed to Israel as a place of rising acts of racism which target African immigrants and asylum seekers.

Overall, in relations to the remarks of Garcia, and others who will definitely be heard in the future, are merely methods of social control and oppression. They serve as reminders of the past. Control initiated to remind whites of their power and placement upon the self-constructed hierarchical ladder. Control initiated to remind non-whites, specifically Blacks, of their placement at the bottom. The ramifications of historical enslavement, repetitive social and institutional practices of oppression, and racism itself toward non-whites is normalized through the use of false perceptions, and stereotypes. All of which are steered for all to partake in destructive thoughts and violent actions.

Minority Student Identity Development: Complex Questions

A new monograph, Latinos in Higher Education and Hispanic-serving Institutions by Anne-Marie Nunez and others includes a chapter on the question of Latino student identity development. The monograph indicates that “a well-developed ethnic identity has been linked to higher levels of self-esteem and overall quality of life….” (p. 29). Yet clearly the journey toward identity development for minority students is a continuous and complex one, without a single clear answer, and defined by individual circumstances. Researchers have noted the clear link between physical identifiability and discrimination. When racial/ethnic identity is linked to visible characteristics, it then becomes a question for the individual how to internalize, reconcile, embrace, and even transcend this identity.

The monograph cites Vasti Torres’ bicultural orientation model (BOM) that presents a nuanced understanding of differences in identity formation based upon an original study of 372 Latino students (1999). This model identifies four alternatives or modalities for how Latino students navigate between two cultures: 1) bicultural (comfort with both cultures); 2) Latino/Hispanic (orientation toward culture of family origin; 3) Anglo (strong connection with majority culture; and 4) marginal (discomfort with both cultures. Torres later conducted a longitudinal study of 10 Latino undergraduates and found distinct differences depending upon environment where they grew up, family influence and generational status, and self-perception of status in society.

Students from diverse environments had a stronger sense of ethnicity, and students from areas where Latinos constitute a critical mass did not view themselves as minorities until they arrived on a predominantly white campus. First-generation college students struggled to balance the demands of schooling with parental expectations. Self-perceptions of ethnic identity relate to whether this identity is viewed as a source of privilege or nonprivilege and whether or not negative stereotypes are seen to pertain to the individual.

Beverly Tatum sheds further light on the complex interrelationship of racial/ethnic identity development and physical identifiability in her landmark book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?. She describes identify development as circular, rather than linear, like moving up a spiral staircase. In some sense, we are never finished with this process. Tatum draws upon William Cross’ five-stage theory of identity that begins with pre-encounters with the beliefs and values of the dominant white culture; then moves to a stage of encounter when racist acts draw attention to the significance of race and one’s own devalued position; 3)immersion in the multiplicity of one’s identity; 4) internalization of a positive identity that embraces one’s own difference; and 5) internalized commitment to support the concerns of diverse others.

The pain of racist encounters can cause individuals to reenter the cycle and re-examine their own progress. Perceptions of incompetence associated with minority women in academe are a case in point. As documented in a new book, Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia edited by four female professors, racist encounters can cause individuals to doubt themselves and begin the dangerous process of self-fulfilling prophecy and internalization of stereotypes. For example,Yolanda Niemann, in her essay entitled “The Making of a Token,”writes of the disparaging remarks made about her during her third year pre-tenure review, including the mischaracterization of her highly rated teaching evaluations as “poor” by an antagonistic reviewing committee and the stigmatization of negative expectations.

What remains clear is that in the formative college years, the role of college professors is critical in helping minority students in the process of identity exploration as they encounter stereotypes, misperceptions, and even devaluing experiences on our college campuses. The ability to provide a framework for understanding can allow minority students to progress on the continuous, circular staircase leading to the internalization of a positive identity.

Prom Night in the Deep South

Proms serve as a strong indicator of the racial tension in “post racial” America.  The Saturday April 27, 2013 edition of the New York Times includes a news story about a small, rural town—Abbeville, Georgia—and Wilcox County High School where some students are challenging the tradition of the a segregated prom.

A student, Mareshia Rucker who is African American, watched from a crouched position in a car as her White classmates attended the White Prom. Like all of the Black students she was not invited. From her hidden position in the car she thought about this:

“These are people I see in class every day… What’s wrong with dancing with me, just because I have more pigment?”

The excuses given for continuing segregated proms, mostly from the white parents, was that the students had a different taste for their music, dancing and tradition. New York Times columnist Robbie Brown explains it this way:

“But locally, the separate proms have defenders. White residents said members of the two races had different tastes in music and dancing, and different traditions: the junior class plans the white prom, and the senior class plans the black prom.”

At Wilcox County High School since integration took place the proms have been organized as private, invitation-only events that are funded and sponsored by the students parents and not the school.

A week after the White Only Prom took place a small group of Blacks and White students raised funds, organized and held an integrated prom. The school board has said it will soon vote on a new structure for proms, sponsored by the school and not parents.

 

In this day and age, supposedly a “post racial America,” some argue that race-based proms are an enigma.  But are they really?  Since the 1970s public schools have re-segregated.

RACIAL SEGREGATION NOW

In Charleston, Mississippi located in the heart of what is known as THE DELTA with a total population of less than 3,000 and a median household income of less than $21,000, Charleston garnered national attention in 1997 and again in 2008 when the issue of segregated senior proms was in the news.

The national spotlight for Charleston came because the academy award winning African American actor Morgan Freeman offered to fund the school’s prom in 1997—but only if it were open to both Black and White students.  His offer was turned down by the school board and white parents (the Black population outnumbers the White population in Charleston).

Some 10 years later Freeman made the offer again and this time it was not only accepted but the Canadian documentary film crew headed by Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman was interested in making a documentary, Prom Night in Mississippi.

Like other short-lived celebrations (a national championship one season; a last place finish the next), one has to wonder in this era of post-racialism how deep is social segregation?  As the illustration below reveals, even when school systems are integrated the proms remain segregated.

(Image source)

 

 

RACIAL SEGREGATION THEN

Racial segregation in the Deep South did not end with the US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka, Kansas in 1954.

 

 

In the BROWN decision Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for the majority, said this:

Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system… We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

Across the entire history of the US, the majority of African Americans attended inferior grammar and secondary schools.  Those seeking to attend white schools in the north, including colleges and universities, were often denied access.  Some schools in the north desegregated voluntarily and in some cases early in the 20th Century, but schools in the south resisted integration severely and systematically.  In some cases movements to integrate even under court order erupted into violence.  The integration of Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas was so contentious that President Eisenhower sent National Guard troops to protect the eight young men and women attempting to attend school there.  Similarly, when James Meredith attempted to integrate the University of Mississippi a near war broke out forcing President Kennedy to send in armed troops.  Governor Ross Barnett closed the Ole Miss campus in response.

 

The Brown v. the Board of Topeka, Kansas decision (see above) which guaranteed African Americans the right to attend any public school was intended to offer access to the institution of education in the United States.  Yet, it has been only partially successful.  First of all the Supreme Court decision was resisted.  It was intensely resisted in the Deep South so much so that many southern school districts were not integrated until the early 1970s, nearly 20 years after the historic decision.  The most severe resistance to school integration was in Mississippi.  The resistance movement resulted in the development of a set of private, often religiously affiliated, academies, colloquially referred to as “seg academies” which acknowledges that they were and continue to be entirely segregated; as privately funded schools they are not required by the Brown decision to integrate nor are they required to meet performance standards or be accredited.

 

Sara Carr’s article in the December 2012 Atlantic   captures the raison d’être of the segregation academies that sprang up in states like Mississippi, Alabama and all across the south after the Brown v. Board 1954 decision:

“These schools were started to keep white children away from blacks,” said Wade Overstreet, a Mississippi native and the program coordinator at the national advocacy organization Parents for Public Schools. “They’ve done an amazing job of it.”

 

The unintended consequences from this self imposed segregation for Whites has not been seriously addressed in that those White kids from the post-Brown segregated south were stymied in their education resulting in their inability to attend elite northern liberal arts colleges.  Why?  Because by setting up “seg academies” that did not have to adhere to performance standards the perception of these schools outside of the south is that they were not delivering the type of college prep education that would be required to be successful in college.  This perception is further exacerbated by the overall impression from the Civil Rights Movement that southerners are “backward.”

 

 

 

Incredibly, forms of deep social segregation continue today no place more clearly than in the school system that long-standing U.S. tradition of the SENIOR PROM!

 

The point of these illustrations is that its not simply the integration of schools that will produce integrated proms.  The concerns that White parents expressed in the 1960s and 1970s about their children sitting in desks next to Black children—which I would argue was really a concern about integrated friendships and heaven forbid integrated romances—has taken on a life of its own through the debate and struggle around the prom.

 

My theoretical underpinning for “Prom Night in the Deep South” is Joe Feagin’s WHITE RACIAL FRAME, in which he says (129):

“Even when whites do racist performances targeting Americans of color, the old racial frame accents that they, as whites, still should be considered to be “good” and “decent” people.  The dominant racial frame not only provides the fodder for whites’ racist performances, but also the means of excusing those performances.”   Such back-stage actions are interpreted as harmless, as “no big deal,” and often as just good interactive “fun.”

 

This frame allows White parents and school board members in the Deep South to see themselves as “better” than their kids and other White students viz., their Black schoolmates and, therefore, worthy of still holding the coveted segregated prom.

Further, the south as a whole was stunted by segregation which requires the setting up and running of a two-tiered system—politically, economically, socially, recreationally, with regards to health care and education— that proved to be not only expensive but also backward (Smith and Hattery 2010).  And, since neighborhoods, communities, whole sectors of large cities are segregated it stands to reason that schools will continue along this path as well (Hattery & Smith 2012).

And, as long as banks continue the practice of “redlining” as long as differential access to home mortgages exists and as long as major legal statutes against social segregation are not upheld, we will continue to see pockets of segregation across the US and in the south.

Even in schools where White and Black students sit next to each other in class, the over-arching concern that White parents have about love across racial lines is the driving factor behind the move to keep proms segregated.

 

References (linked above):

Brown, Robbie. 2013. “A Racial Divide Closes as Students Step Up.” New York Times, April 26th

Carr, Sarah, 2012, “In Southern Towns, ‘Segregation Academies’ Are Still Going Strong.” The Atlantic (December 13th)

Feagin, Joe R. 2010. The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing. NY: Routledge

Hattery, Angela J. and Earl Smith Smith, 2012, African American Families Today: Myths and Realities, (Rowman & Littlefield).

Hattery, Angela J., Earl Smith, 2007, “Social Stratification in the New/Old South: The Influences of Racial Segregation on Social Class in the Deep South.” Journal of Poverty Research 11(1), 55-81.

Orfield, Gary. 2011. “Segregated and Satisfied in the Southland?” Huffington Post

Smith, Earl and Angela J. Hattery, 2010, “Cultural Contradictions in the South.” Mississippi Quarterly Vol 63 (2): 145-166.

Rubin, Richard. 2003. Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South. NY: Atria Books.

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~ Guest blogger Earl Smith is Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Wake Forest University.

The Race of Birth: Systemic Racism Again?

The other day I was reading and came across this:

Prior to 1989, the race on a newborn’s birth certificate was determined by the race of the parents. An infant with one White parent was assigned the race of the non-White parent. If neither parent was White, the child was assigned the race of the father. Since 1989, the race of the mother has been indicated as the child’s race on the birth certificate.[Note 1 below]

Of course being the mother of a multiracial Asian child, my curiosity was massively peaked. I didn’t remember identifying my son’s race/ethnicity after he was born. Did nurses mark it for us? What did they put considering both my husband and I are multiracial Asian too? I rushed to find my son’s birth certificate. No race listed. End of story? Of course not.

A birth certificate is a vital record documenting the birth of a child. In the U.S., State laws require birth certificates to be completed for all births, and Federal law mandates national collection and publication of births and other vital statistics data.The data is managed by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What I pulled from my files was a Short Form Birth Certificate, an unofficial document containing very little information. The short form does not list race. It merely certifies that an actual official birth certificate exists somewhere else. A Long Form or Certified Birth Certificate is the official document; a duplicate of the hospital birth record that is prepared when a child is born. The long form certificate does list race.

The manner in which birth race is recorded has changed over time. The most recent 2003 revision included the important update of allowing multiple-race selection. As far as I can tell a “multiracial” option has not yet been added (as it was to the 2010 Census).

And here’s where it gets complicated.

First, although the NCHS has expanded its race/ethnicity codes extensively and allows multiple-box-checking, doing so has created a statistical dilemma. How does the system compile answers when some people check 1 box and others check 2, 3, or more? I poured over many online documents (including those posted on the NCHS website) and found myself drowning in confusion. I am certainly open to being corrected on this point if someone else can figure what in the world the NCHS is talking about – but it appears that complex algorithims are used to bridge multiple-race responses into one single response, a single race response. What??

Second, despite collecting race information on both parents, birth data is still reported, in most cases, by the race of the mother.

Third, states have been slow to adopt the newest certificate form. As of 2007, 26 jurisdictions had not yet implemented it.

The last explains many online birth certificate discussions between confused mothers of mixed race babies:

Carmen: “When my daughter was born the hospital put black on all of her documents (immunizations etc). I am black and my hubby is white, I thought it was a little weird that they should ignore the fact that my child is bi-racial. The nurses told me, (a little condescendingly mind you) that ALL government doc default to the race of the birth mother. So I had a question for the white mothers with bi-racial children with black fathers, did they put white on your child’s documents? Or was this some backwards thing they do just to black mothers?” –Circle of Moms (2010)

Ultimately this all gets pretty sticky when we consider birth certificate data has played a long-standing role in public health planning, action and funding. Leaving me, as always, with more questions than answers. How does the inaccuracy of recording mixed race impact the lives and representation of multiracial people? And how do us parents experience this inaccuracy as we are asked again and again to identify our multiracial children?

See my blog here.

Note:
1. Tashiro, Cathy J. “Mixed but Not Matched: Multiracial People and the Organization of Health Knowledge”. The Sum of Our Parts. Ed. Teresa Williams-León and Cynthia L. Nakashima. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001. 173-182. Print.

Lil Wayne, Neoliberalism, & the White Racial Frame

Henry A. Giroux, in a recent post entitled, “Lil Wayne’s Lyrical Fascism,” alleges “We have come a long way from the struggles that launched the civil rights movement over fifty years ago.”

After reading the actual article, due to the esteemed Dr. Giroux’s critique on the rapper Lil Wayne, it would seem “We” definitely have not arrived. Giroux examines not only the deplorable lines within Lil Wayne’s contribution to the remix of “Karate Chop” (Yes, it actually called this), where he declares he will “beat the pussy up like Emmett Till,” but more importantly Giroux lends a spotlight to the underlying condition that allows for racist, sexist, and historical mockery to take place within the 21st century.

(Image from here)

 

Giroux goes on to call into question the economic drive that fosters the media’s atmosphere consisting of poisonous and destructive attributes. These elements thusly seep through the “sleazemonger” which occupies our airwaves, satellites, and print. He also calls our society to the proverbial mat due to our collective lack of resistance to said subject. Importantly, Giroux comments on the existence of “a deeper order of racist ideology and commodification that is pushed to the margins of discourse in the neoliberal age of colorblindness.”

Those who follow his scholarship are aware Giroux has argued over the years that fundamentalist neoliberals who reject democratic idealism while praying to the gods of free market have gained the necessary financial momentum and social vigor to heavily influence the political and economic domains around the world like never before observed in history. In fact, they not only influence policy and political directions of those we elect to represent our interests, but they also seek to weaken those non-commodified areas within our communal space which serve as sources of conflicting critical discourse. Indeed, the mainstream media have become a brilliant source for accomplishing this charge. Due to their unwavering compulsion to gain profit, these free market fundamentalists hold almost no empathy in regard to their actions, which may create inequality, mortal anguish, and subjugation. Overall, the collective soul of a people and their democratic footing in this world is simply collateral damage to those seeking the all might “Dolla Bill Ya!”

I agree with Giroux in terms of the current state of neoliberalism and the erosion of democratic practices that is facilitated by use of the media. Malcolm X was right when he said, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

But at the same time when taking into consideration Giroux’s take on the neoliberal methodology in regard to using the media to gain profits through the use of racist and misogynistic messages (which are easily swallowed by the zombies that surround us), I strongly argue, simply, they are playing an old tune we as a world have been dancing to since the beginning. Remember, Joe Feagin contends racism and oppression are still viewed as normal parts of society due to the enmeshment of the White racial dogma embedded in the foundations of U.S. society. In addition, his concept, the white racial frame, spotlights a created set of organized “racialized” ideas and stereotypes that have the power to induce strong emotions. It is important to know these actions are based off of the U.S. historical enshrinement of a frame of thinking which at the center, is composed of a pro-white sub-frame (which takes notice of the superiority of Whites) and a demonizing anti-black sub-frame. In fact, institutional racism relies on the presence and mechanism of anti-Black attitudes and practices that are displayed overtly and covertly.

Therefore, what we are seeing today with the likes of Lil Wayne is nothing new. In terms of people of color attaching their own psychological chains to their advancement, this is nothing new as well. The power of racism and the allure of the white racial frame have the ability to ensnare those targeted for oppression into unconsciously adhering to their own demise. The historical and powerful speech by Malcolm X, “The House Negro and Field Negro,” although forceful, seems fitting:

There was two kind of slaves. There was the house negro and the field negro. The house negro, they lived in the house, with master. They dressed pretty good. They ate good, cause they ate his food, what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near their master, and they loved their master, more than their master loved himself…If the master got sick, the house negro would say “What’s the matter, boss, we sick?” We sick! He identified himself with his master, more than the master identified with himself. And if you came to the house negro and said “Let’s run away, Let’s escape, Let’s separate” the house negro would look at you and say “Man, you crazy. What you mean separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?” There was that house negro. In those days, he was called a house nigger. And that’s what we call him today, because we still got some house niggers runnin around here…

If Malcolm were alive today, would he feel this is applicable to rappers like Jay-Z who has made million along his musical path calling women bitches?

Fascinating, due to having a baby daughter in 2012, he declared to never use the word again. Thank you Jay-Z. How about Lil Wayne and music mogul Russell Simons who hasve defiantly defended the current status and messages of hip/hop? Are they men under the illusion that they are in control and their pursuits? Are they purely focused on money and simply representing a faction of the neoliberal camp? But are they in reality the all encompassing “House Negros” affected blindly by the messages of subjugation.

Therefore. Dr. Giroux, the only difference I see today, beyond the democratic erosion of our society due to neoliberalism, is the advancement and use of technology in facilitating an old message that attempts to keep a white foot on the neck of people of color.

Racial Barriers to College Coaching

Have you ever wondered to yourself while watching a college football game on a Saturday afternoon why there are so many (often times a majority) black players on the field, but an overwhelming majority of fans and coaches are white? If you have not, rest assured you are not alone. The black athlete and everything else white seems to be the norm. The problem, however, is this racial standard continues to hamper blacks’ progression throughout US society, and is even more elucidated in the very institution one would expect the most progress to be made – sport.

(Image source)

When considering the historical and systemic nature of racism in the US (see Feagin, 2006), much more attention has been placed on economic, political, educational, and legal institutions. The institution of sport, however, tends to be overlooked. Perhaps this is the case because of its egalitarian façade that gets displayed to the public. What is not being shown is the real racial inequality that has and continues to exist in the leadership structure of sport. Most prominent is the multi-billion dollar industry of NCAA Division I collegiate athletics. For instance, according to Lapchick, Hoff, and Kaiser’s (2011) latest Racial and Gender Report Card for college athletics, black male student-athletes are overly represented (60.9% and 45.8%) in the two most revenue generating sports (basketball and football, respectively); however, black head coaches for men’s basketball and football are represented at 21% and 5.1%, respectively, and assistant coaches at 39.5% and 17.6%, respectively. Even worse, whites dominate (81.8%) the athletic director role as well. Considering sport represents a microcosm of society, reflecting its ideals, hierarchies, and problems (see Edwards, 1973; Eitzen & Sage, 1997; Sage, 1998), it is not surprising to see whites in a position that guarantees them the most abundant financial rewards. As a result of this white hierarchy, though, blacks wishing to enter the coaching profession continue to face racial barriers.

Hawkins (2001) argues the power structure of NCAA Division I predominantly white institutions of higher education (PWIHE) “operate as colonizers who prey on the athletic prowess of young black males, recruit them from black communities, exploit their athletic talents, and discard them once they are injured or their eligibility is exhausted” (p. 1). This colonial model seems fitting, given several researchers (e.g., Eitzen, 2000; Hawkins, 2001; Lapchick, 2003) have found that black student-athletes on PWIHE campuses are entrenched in a system that exploits them politically, economically, and racially. For those black student-athletes who do survive the abuse, they continue to find their professional outlook limited.

The notion of stacking in sport, or positioning of players to central or non-central positions on the field based on race and/or ethnicity, often surfaces as an explanation as to how whites carry on their dominance in sport leadership. Whites have traditionally placed themselves in more central positions, positions associated with greater interaction, leadership, and intelligence; while blacks have been situated in more peripheral positions, which are linked to less leadership, minimal interaction, and greater athletic ability. Brooks and Althouse (2000) found there to be a correlation between those higher up in the leadership ranks (e.g., head coach, athletic director) with past playing position. In particular, prestigious sport jobs are generally acquired by those who have played more central positions (e.g., quarterback in football, pitcher in baseball); thus, because blacks more often are relegated to peripheral positions (e.g., wide-receiver in football, outfield in baseball), blacks are often framed as less qualified to enter leadership positions beyond the playing field.

Further explanations (e.g., Sagas & Cunningham, 2005; Sartore & Cunningham, 2006) demonstrate blacks’ promotional and/or hiring coaching opportunities are thwarted due to the tendency of white decision-makers choosing white candidates (qualified and unqualified) over qualified blacks. This struggle for racial equality is more troubling given those with the final hiring decision (i.e., athletic director) perceive employment opportunities to be equal for blacks (Tabron, 2004), which ultimately trickles down to those wishing to enter the coaching profession (e.g., black student-athletes), since they perceive they will have to contend with racial inequality prior to and once in the profession (e.g., Cunningham & Singer; Kamphoff & Gill, 2008). This racist sporting reality, similar to wider US society, illustrates blacks have a long way to go for racial justice.

Michael R. Regan, Jr.
Texas A&M University