Research Suggests Why Grand Juries Fail to Indict

Man holding sign with Tamir Rice picture

(image source)

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park, was shot and killed by police called to the scene by a neighbor. On Monday, a grand jury failed to indict the cops who killed Rice. The failure to indict anyone in the murder of a child is sickening, but not in any way surprising. The non-indictment of these Cleveland cops responsible for Rice’s murder stands in a long and depressing list of recent failures to indict: in the death of Eric Garner, in the death of Sandra Bland, in the death of Michael Brown.

Someone unfamiliar with the U.S. judicial system might glance at this string of failed indictments and imagine that it’s fairly common for grand juries to not bring indictments. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Grand juries almost always indict every case brought before them by a prosecutor. So why this succession of failed indictments?

There is a ton of research that suggests some explanations.

  • Police & Prosecutorial Dominance. “The house always wins,” and in police-involved shootings, the “house” is the police. Even in the rare cases when officers are indicted for shootings, such as in the killing of Amadou Diallo, the indicted officers are likely to be acquitted, restored to their jobs, and later promoted. This police and prosecutorial dominance is not merely a case of closing ranks behind a blue wall of silence, but part of the larger fabric of the systemic racism known as the New Jim Crow. The dominance of police and prosecutors is now, over the last 30 years, become part of the legislative and judicial system, as Michelle Alexander has detailed in her work.

michelle alexander - new jim crow book cover

(Michelle Alexander, author of New Jim Crow)

  • White Dominance of Police Departments. Throughout the U.S., police departments tend to be whiter than the general population. For example, Maple Heights, the neighborhood in Cleveland where Tamir Rice lived, went from being mostly white to nearly two-thirds black in the last few decades. But the police force there remains predominantly white, despite a 1977 affirmative action deal in which the city agreed to hire more people of color. Overall, in the U.S. the percentage of whites on a police force is more than 30 percentage points higher than in the communities they serve, according to an analysis by the NYTimes drawn from a government survey of police departments.

 

  • Whites’ Anti-Black Views Shape Policing. The perspectives of whites, as policy makers, police and as plain citizens who call 911 on a neighborhood boy playing in a nearby park as a cause for concern, shape the way policing is done in the U.S. Nearly half of whites believe “many” or “almost all” black men are violent. Whites overestimate the amount of crime, in particular violent crime, involving blacks.

graph - whites overestimate black part in crime

(image source)

 

When describing the events surrounding the killing of Tamir Rice, the prosecutor described a “perfect storm of human error.” It seems that the right to be a human being, is not one that Tamir Rice, or Sandra Bland, or Eric Garner, or Amadou Diallo will get.

Dr. King’s Sermon on Christmas

Reflecting on peace and goodwill this time of year, I often return to Dr.King’s sermon on Christmas from 1967. This morning, I was struck by his global scope in this passage:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.”

In this lecture, he explains that part of the reason people are so upset about riots that had happened recently is that these were attacks on property, which he says, “is symbolic of the white power structure.”

Many people forget (or never knew) how radical King had become, connecting the fight for racial justice to the anti-war movement and a global poor people’s movement.

This sermon was one of five he gave in the prestigious Massey Lecture series. He titled the series “Conscience for Change.” These lectures are compiled in both text, as a book, and audio format, as a CD) [The book was re-released as “The Trumpet of Conscience.”] The lectures were recorded almost fifty years ago and the use of “man” throughout can be off-putting, but otherwise, King’s words still resonate as we continue wrestle with the legacy of white supremacy.

You can also listen to the entire message here (about 1 hour in length and the site requires free registration).

Peace and goodwill to all of you.

White Terrorism: The White Supremacy of Anti-Abortion Extremism

On Friday, November 27, an anti-abortion extremist opened fire on a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado Springs, killing three people and wounding nine others. The assailant was arrested while still alive – even though one of the people killed was a cop. As lots of people have been pointing out, he survived because of the privileges of his whiteness.

Others have noted the gentle treatment the gunman is receiving from the mainstream press accounts of his background before the shooting. The New York Times originally referred to him as a “gentle loner”.  Then, in response to lots of push back on Twitter, the Times-edited out that word. Now, the piece refers to him instead as “itinerant”. (The NYTimes has not added an editorial note about this change.)

Still others have noted the reluctance of U.S. politicians, such as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) the head of the House Intelligence Committee, to name this act domestic terrorism. (There’s been a similar reluctance to call the white supremacists shooting of Black Lives Matter protestors an act of domestic terrorism – but more about that in another post).

White Supremacy and Anti-Abortion Extremism

The white supremacy of anti-abortion extremism goes deeper than this gunman’s deferential treatment by police, or politicians’ reluctance to speak plainly about what we can all see, or the mainstream media’s white framing of these acts of terrorism.

What I foWhiteLies_coverund in my early research of six different white supremacist organizations’ literature is that abortion is viewed as a form of racial treason (White Lies, Routledge, 1997, p.67-8). I analyzed hundreds of newsletters from these organizations over two decades (1970s-1990s) and found a consistent set of beliefs about abortion, anti-Blackness and anti-Semitism.

For white supremacists, the decline in the number of white births is directly tied to their fear of a decline in white dominance in the U.S.  In this worldview, fewer white births is due to two factors. First, they contend there are fewer white women are who are willing to become pregnant and give birth to white children. Second, they believe that white women are quick to have abortions (or easily persuaded to do so) and are nonchalant about them afterwards.

The apparent willingness of white women to have abortions is counterposed against both anti-Blackness and anti-Semitism. For white supremacists are convinced that white women are having too many abortions, but Black women are having too few. And, they believe that Jewish men (mostly as doctors) and Jewish women (as feminists and champions of abortion) are behind this as a form of racial annihilation. I saw this again and again in the text of the publications I analyzed, as well as in the illustrations.

Anti-Blackness and Anti-Abortion

A drawing from white supremacist publication Racial Loyalty (published by Ben Klassen) highlights the anti-Blackness of their anti-abortion stance. The illustration is a series of four panels, in each one a woman enters a clinic. In the first three panels, the women are all global-majority women, and each enters a clinic designated as a “Birth Clinic,” while her numerous children wait outside. In the fourth panel, a white woman enters an “Abortion Clinic,” and the caption below the (Jewish) doctor reads, “In a moment, we’ll dispose of the child to be.”(from Racial Loyalty, no.59, 1990, p.12, cited in Daniels, 1997, p.68).

The message in this crude drawing is clear: the wrong people – white people – are having abortions. Anti-abortion extremism here is not about the protection of “all life” but rather about the protection of the white race.

Anti-Semitism and Anti-Abortion

WhiteSupremacy_AntiAbortionAn illustration from White Aryan Resistance (WAR – published by Tom Metzger), depicts the anti-Semitism of anti-abortion extremism. In this drawing, directed at white women readers of WAR, warns of who the real culprits are behind abortion:

“Did you know that most abortionists are Jewish or other non-whites…and that the pro-abortion movement is headed by unfeminine feminist Jewesses who counsel non-whites to not get abortions…and did you know that abortionists slaughter nearly one million white babies every year? Jewish ritual murder is alive and well in the United States of America …and is very legal!” (WAR, vol.8, no.3, 1989, p.4 – cited in Daniels, 1997, p. 130).

By characterizing “abortionists” as Jewish and engaging in “ritual murder”, Metzger and his ilk are invoking a centuries old form of anti-Semitism.

A bit of an aside here: another way that Jewish people, especially feminists (almost always and exclusively Jewish) in WS rhetoric are convincing white women to not have white babies is by persuading them to be lesbians. Got me there. Queer, check. No children, check. Persuaded by many feminists, some of them Jewish. Check, check, and check. But I digress.

The message again and again throughout white supremacist literature and ideology is that abortion is a racial crime. It’s wrong when white women do it (but not others), and it’s promulgated by Jewish people, and it’s intended to harm the white race. While anti-semitism in mainstream rhetoric is more coded, the use of the term “abortionist” (instead of “doctor” or “abortion provider”) is an indication of the deep white supremacy of anti-abortion extremism.

The Real Racial Gap in Abortion & Reproductive Health

As I did this research, I learned that the white supremacist rhetoric in these newsletters was often the exact inverse of the actual social facts of the world. This is true when it comes to abortion.

The reality is that overall number of abortions are trending downward in the U.S. for all women. According to the Guttmacher Institute, about 1.1 million abortions were performed in 2011, at a rate of 16.9 abortions for every 1,000 women of childbearing age, down from a peak of 29.3 per 1,000 in 1981. This downward trend is holds across all racial groups.

However, there is a racial gap in who gets abortions. But it’s the exact opposite of what the white supremacists’ fear it is. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 37% of abortions were obtained by Black women, 34% by Latina/Hispanic women, 22% by white women and 8% were designated as some other racial category.

Who-has-abortions

The reality is that an African American woman is almost five times likelier to have an abortion than a white woman. A Latina woman more than twice as likely to have an abortion than a white woman, according to the CDC. These racial disparities in abortion rates hold even when considering income differences, a study in a recent issue of the AJPH found.

The same AJPH  study also found that women of color may not have the same access to information on reproductive health and at the same time, experience pressure from their doctors to use contraceptives and to limit their family size. That is how subtler side of mainstream white supremacy works. It’s not a crude drawing about the “wrong” people having abortions. It’s a lack of access, it’s pressure from a doctor in a white coat, a side comment about family size, and an unsolicited prescription for a contraceptive. This contemporary racial gap in the use of abortion is tied to a legacy of white supremacy when it comes to Black and brown women’s bodies.

“The denial of Black reproductive autonomy serves the interests of white supremacy,” writes Dorothy Roberts, professor at University of Pennsylvania, in Killing the Black Body (Pantheon, 1997). Roberts documents this brutalization in great detail in her book, beginning with slavery and moving to the present day, Black women who were enslaved were viewed only in terms of how their reproductive lives might be profitable for their white owners. Later, in the first half of the 20th century, the eugenics movement turned contraception from a tool of (white) women’s liberation into a tool of control to cut birth rates among southern blacks, and as late as the 1970s black women were routinely sterilized by hysterectomies that were not medically necessary. More recently, Black women from economically impoverished urban areas have been routinely forced by courts, doctors, and health care organizations to be implanted with the Norplant birth-control device; doctors frequently refuse to remove it on request.

For Latina women, a similar but distinct pattern emerges that is tied to colonialism. In Puerto Rico, white researchers in sterilized as many as 35% of Puerto Rican women without their knowledge, consent or permission. In California, government officials sterilized some 20,000 people – mostly Mexican Americans under a eugenics law in effect from 1909 to 1979 (the year I graduated high school – not ancient history). While California did more sterilization than any other state, the number of eugenic sterilizations carried out in the United States in the 20th century totals roughly 60,000, according to research conducted by Alexandra Minna Stern, a professor at the University of Michigan. “Latinos were disproportionately sterilized,” Stern observes.

The real racial gap in abortions, the reality that it is disproportionately Black and Latina women who are accessing abortion services, is tied up in this legacy of white supremacy and reproductive health.

“Fringe” and Mainstream White Supremacy and Anti-Abortion Extremism

When I was doing this research into white supremacist newsletters and publications, I was sometimes shocked by the extremist rhetoric and images I saw. But at the same time, it was as if I could see many of these same ideas everywhere in mainstream culture, just dressed up in fancier clothes.

My research led me to conclude that “fringe” white supremacist rhetoric is really much closer to the mainstream discourse of elected officials, academics, and the mainstream media than most people would like to believe. This argument, which I first made in 1997, is still true and relevant for understanding anti-abortion extremism today, such as the shooting in Colorado Springs.

The mainstream political party with an explicitly anti-abortion platform in the U.S. is the Republicans, and the GOP candidates are lining up to condemn the shooting in Colorado Springs, but want to distance themselves from anti-abortion rhetoric.  The thing is, that’s a tough trick to pull off in an election that’s seen Carly Fiorina spouting crazy-talk  that precisely mirrors that of anti-abortion extremists.

And, then there’s Ted Cruz.

A Republican Senator from Texas, born in Canada to Cuban parents, has tried to distance himself from the shooting in Colorado Springs by spouting more crazy-talk about the gunman. Crazy-talk being a key GOP strategy.

(Image source)

But just last week, Cruz was touting the endorsement he received from Troy Newman, the anti-abortion extremist who leads Operation Rescue. Newman has a book that calls for the “execution” of all “abortionists,” a rallying cry that over 100 gunman – all of them white men – have taken literally.

“We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice,” Cruz said. Perhaps more than another mainstream politician, Cruz is directly linked with anti-abortion extremism and it is deeply rooted in white supremacy.

 

It’s important to call out the preferential treatment that the gunman in this case has received – from the arrest while alive, to the descriptions of him in the mainstream press. And, my research leads me to conclude that it’s also urgently important to understand the deep white supremacy of anti-abortion extremism. Only then will we really appreciate the scope of white terrorism.

 

 

 

 

 

NBC Executive Screws Up in Meeting With Latino Leaders

Despite his unending fascistoid comments, NBC invited Donald Trump to host a Saturday Night Live show on November 7. When Latino personages protested against this astonishing decision, NBC stuck to its guns. Recently a group of Latino legislators, hoping to iron out any animus resulting from Trump’s appearance, met with NBC executives to discuss the issue.

(Image source: Wikipedia)

The meeting began on a bad note. NBC News President Deborah Turness’s comments about a young Latina girl were intended to show compassion. Instead, they were racially insensitive and a California legislator reacted negatively and made his views known:

Near the start of the meeting, Turness was describing a story her network had covered about Pope Francis’ interaction with a young girl who said she feared her parents would be deported. Turness referred to the girl’s parents as “illegals.” This statement did not sit well with the attendees. California Democrat Rep. Juan Vargas protested: “I’m going to stop you right there. We use the term undocumented immigrants.”

Turness apologized and attempted to mollify members of the audience by stating that “We love the Hispanic community…Yo hablo español.”

Ms. Turness’s statements were patronizing and reminded me of the old racist saying “Some of my best friends are . . .” The Latino legislators came to the meeting to discuss issues that concerned them, including Trump’s Saturday Night Live performance, and Ms. Turness’ response says “I like you and your language.” This interaction makes perfect sense when we view it in light of the dominant white racial frame, with its white arrogance and stereotyping of Latinos. It’s not necessary to reason with Latinos about grievances as long they know you like them. The belief is that Latinos’ minds are like children’s minds.

One would expect major NBC executives to address Trump’s appearance, which had created such a furor in the Latino community. But this would not be the case. Incredibly, these top executives stated that Trump’s appearance just “was a matter for NBC Entertainment, whereas only representatives from the news division were present” at the meeting with Latino legislators.

As Rep Tony Cárdenas (D-Cal) put it:

You know that [Trump is] an issue on all of our minds and as soon as you start talking about it, you say none of the executives for the entertainment (division) are here. It was a cop out. It was disingenuous.

In all likelihood NBC’s decision was based on their expectation that a program featuring Trump would receive high ratings, and they were right, for that SNL had a whopping 6.6 household rating on Saturday night. It was a question of priorities: the folks that support Trump (mostly white) count more than Latinos who don’t deserve to receive even the most basic respect and courtesy.

~ José A. Cobas, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Arizona State University

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

(Syrian refugees arrive in Greece, image source: Reuters)

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

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

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

 

(Image source)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Image source: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

 

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

“Illiberal”: The White Backlash Word

It did not take more than a day or two for there to emerge a white backlash against the spate of protests by African-American students on predominantly “white” college campuses like the University of Missouri and Yale University; including a rant by an apparent liberal on National Public Radio against what he saw as their “illiberal” behavior.

My google search found the adjective illiberal defined as “opposed to liberal principles, restricting freedom of thought or behavior” and “uncultured or unrefined.” White” conservatives and their allies condemn such protests as being indicative of a victim’s mentality. “White” moderates and those who think like them dismiss them as coming from people who are overly sensitive. And now the latest buzzword that initially appears to come from “white” liberals and those who accept their ways of thinking about racial conflict as a means toward progressive social change is that such actions are “illiberal.” What they all have in common is that they are all essentially “white” racial backlash frame responses to the expression of the pain born of the oppression of African-Americans.

Such white backlash is consistent with the “All Lives Matter” slogan dismissal of the “Black Lives Matter” movement; a movement which is now a driving force behind the campus protests.

In my Conceptualizing Racism book I discuss such racially-charged language battles between what I call linguistic racial accommodation and linguistic racial confrontation as well as what I refer to as the IPA Syndrome of groups that benefit from oppression. The letters IPA refer to the ignorance of not knowing; the privilege of not needing to know, and the arrogance of not wanting to know.

We see all of that in the attempt of some “white”–assumed to be–liberals to now use the word “illiberal” to silence African-American outrage at oppression just as their more conservative cousins have used the term “political correctness;” which more and more “white” moderates and liberals have come to accept. This emotionally-charged and paternalistic finger wagging behind the charge of illiberalism evokes the racist image of “black” savages who have invaded the hallowed “white,” and above all “civilized,” halls of academia; devoid of any real appreciation of and respect for its core values like freedom of speech and academic freedom.

But alas appearances are often deceiving. As it turns out the main driving force behind the concept of liberalism is not liberals, but their occasional racial allies; the extreme right wing. The “illiberal” concept is being pushed by political extremists who abhor the very words liberals and liberalism but now seem to want to seduce those who see themselves as liberals into a liberal/right-wing coalition against militant African-American social protest. At this coalition’s center is the extreme right-wing intellectual Dinesh D’Sousa who in 1998 published a book titled Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. You may recall D’Sousa for his The End of Racism book which in the mid-1990s provided a racist cultural argument to justify white supremacy which complemented the biological argument made a year earlier by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve that was published by the same publisher.

This means that self-identified liberals who might find themselves attracted to the concept of illiberalism should be aware of this part of the concept’s history and how it is being used by the right-wing who ordinarily detest the very word liberal to form an unholy racial alliance against the legitimate aspirations of African Americans and other racially oppressed peoples. But there is still more ignorance, privilege, and arrogance to the use of the word “illiberal” as an ideology to beat back African-American protest than even that.

The term illiberal arrogantly assumes that all progressive African Americans are–indeed all left-leaning African Americans can aspire to be politically–is liberals. It assumes that like “white” liberals we are conflict-aversive and ultimately committed to sustaining the status quo by simply making minor tweaks to the system for it to function more smoothly.

It also arrogantly disallows the possibility that there is an African-American Left politics that dares to venture beyond whiteness and an intellectually, ethically, and politically shallow, multi-cultural/diversity framed liberalism. Now here is the racial bottom line, if you will. For progressive African Americans the best response to being labelled “illiberal” is to reject the label and framing of liberalism altogether by beginning a new conversation with the simple question that shatters the presumptuousness of white racial arrogance by simply asking. “And what makes you believe I am a liberal?”

Noel A. Cazenave is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. His forthcoming book, Conceptualizing Racism: Breaking the Chains of Racially Accommodative Language, is to be released this month. His current book project is tentatively titled, Killing African Americans: Police and Vigilante Violence as a Racial Control Mechanism and he plans to teach a course on the same topic at UConn next fall.

Black Athletes and Social Protest: A Long Tradition

Amid racial tensions on the campus of the University of Missouri, the student protest group, Concerned Student 1950, demanded the resignation of University President Tim Wolfe after mishandling several racialized incidents. At the center of the protests was graduate student and activist Jonathan Butler who began a hunger strike on November 2nd following Wolfe’s refusal to take action. At Butler’s behest, 32 black players on the Mizzou football team chose to take a stand in solidarity, protesting the systemic oppression felt by black students on the predominately white campus. Just as 1960s activist Dr. Harry Edwards (who was the architect behind the 1968 Olympic podium black power salute of track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos) understood the power of the voice of the black student-athlete, Butler wisely struck an accord with the football players and inspired them to take up these disputes that similarly affect them and other marginalized students on campus.

Butler’s awareness undoubtedly led to the swift resignation of the beleaguered President Wolfe as well as the school’s chancellor. After months of ongoing protest, the president stepped down within two days of the athletes’ involvement. Ironically, this resembles a time when many schools in the West protested Missouri’s next opponent, the Mormon church-sponsored Brigham Young University, for their policies on blacks. Less than 50 years ago, fourteen black football players at the University of Wyoming sought to wear black armbands in their upcoming game against BYU in protest of its racist and objectionable teachings regarding people of African lineage.

The difference between then and now, however, was the disposition and sensitivity of the coach. The Black 14 (as they were called) went to Coach Lloyd Eaton in earnest to ask for support in bringing attention to what the players understood as a grave injustice. Instead, they were met with wrath and indignation, and they were unceremoniously kicked off the team effective immediately. In contrast, Missouri Football Coach Gary Pinkel showed unprecedented courage and leadership this past weekend as he gathered his team, ultimately encouraging all players to stand together with their brothers in battle, refusing to practice or compete until action was taken in favor of justice for stigmatized minorities.

It is a rare event when white Americans stand up for racial justice in defense of the oppressed, which is evident by the white outcry at his involvement in such a polemical issue. His players deserve much praise as well for putting their future on the line for a just cause. This is not the first time we have seen athletes speak truth to power, but it has been quite some time since we have witnessed an era of athletes standing in righteous defiance against social injustice.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a long-time athlete activist himself, recently lambasted Michael Jordon in an interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered” for choosing “commerce over conscience.” Abdul-Jabbar came of age in the 60s during the rise of the athlete-activist. Along with him, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Tommie Smith, Arthur Ashe, John Carlos and many others all stood up for racial injustice and used there prominence and visibility to draw attention to social issues that afflicted the African American community. These competitors would blaze a path for future black athletes to follow, leaving a legacy for the next round of freedom fighters. The black athletes that immediately followed, however, were focused more on their “brand” and the balance sheet, as they found a way to increase their presence in the burgeoning sports-industrial complex.

Michael Jordan undeniably changed the game, allowing players to realize the value of their labor power in negotiating contracts as well as lucrative celebrity endorsement deals. Even more so, pitching and developing products for mass consumption for the Nike Corporation, and ultimately branding his likeness with the Air Jordan sneaker craze, paved the way for today’s athletes to open up additional revenue streams. A player’s brand became the locus for the black professional athlete of the 1990s, as they labored to gain financial security for their families in a hostile environment.

But at what cost did this come to themselves and the black community? Jordan proved that the athlete had power to negotiate his or her own contracts and take a piece of the monetary share. But by failing to recognize that his power could be utilized to help alleviate human suffering, he in essence turned his back on black America, a people still in crisis. This was never more apparent than when “his Airness” famously stated, “Republicans buy shoes, too,” as he declined to politically endorse the black North Carolina incumbent for Senate against proud southern racist Jesse Helms.

Blacks have been largely left out from the developmental and business aspect of sport (coaching, operations, etc). They were hired to be the workhouse, the beasts of burden, with no stake in the game. The new millennium has seen a resurgence in athlete activism.

LeBron James is arguably the most formidable among his peers; his voice is often heard loud and clear. He recognizes the enormous sway that he holds in a sport-frenzied and capital-driven society. Feeling an obligation to use that platform in the cause of social justice, “King James” has been deliberate in taking a position to support African Americans, whether it be posting a protest picture supporting the late Trayvon Martin or voicing criticism of former Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But James certainly has not been the only audible dissident. Members of the St. Louis Rams staged a pre-game demonstration in support of the Ferguson community in the wake of Michael Brown’s death by a Ferguson Police Officer. And after the news that Eric Gardner’s killer would not be indicted, Derrick Rose kicked off a wave of consternation donning a warm-up t-shirt embossed with the “I Can’t Breathe” protest declaration. Several football players and soon entire NBA basketball teams followed suit. These concerns, however, were not isolated to the professional athlete. Collegiate programs like Notre Dame women’s basketball and Georgetown men’s basketball also involved themselves in the fray.

Just when the final words were inked in my new manuscript, When Race Religion and Sport Collide, which examines the thorny issue of race in college athletics in an age where players are asserting themselves and their rights to a quality education or compensation, the Mizzou football program eloquently provided a cogent roadmap for other division I teams to follow that demonstrate the ways in which players can and should use their popularity within big-time college sports to influence action and policy.

In the wake of the Wolfe resignation, will this undertaking allow students of color greater voice on campus, such as recruiting more faculty of color and administrators to represent their interests? Or will all progressive action silently fade back to what it was as soon as the money streams reopen? After all, with the self-reinstatement of the black athletes, University of Missouri no longer stands to lose an estimated $1 million at their next game against the cougars at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium.

Many have criticized the involvement of the athletes and Coach Pinkel, despite issues of race that directly affect the players on a human level. And yet, these dissenters are the same folk that buy tickets to the games, hoping to be a part of the sports madness so long as the players remain silent to marginalization. In other words, their presence is strictly for the sole purpose to entertain the fan. But this is precisely what these high-profile student-athletes should be doing—using their status for positive measures in the community, advancing the cause of equality in a nation rife with hatred.

University of Maryland wide receiver Deon Long walked among demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest holding a sign that would define his generation. He asked, “Are we still *thugs* when you pay to watch us play?” His question embodied all that is wrong with US race relations.

Darron T. Smith is a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He is the author of When Race, Religion & Sports Collide: Blacks Athletes at BYU and Beyond, which was recently released to critical praise in November 2015. Follow him on twitter @drdarronsmith This post first appeared on Huffington Post Sports

The White Racial Innocence Game

(Image source)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

U.S. Sex Trafficking: Hidden Ramifications of Systemic Racism

On the way home from teaching while attempting to evade the headache that comes from interaction with the average southern California driver, I thought a little music would help me to relax from a day filled with attempts to connect theory to brain, I hit the power button. Instead of the musicality of calm, the deep chest bumping beats of some rapper I had no idea existed was in the midst of some diatribe falsely immersed in wealth, power, and masculinity. Listening and simultaneously keeping my eyes on the road while blindly reaching to change the channel, I could not help but pick up on the overdone theme.

(Image source)

The lyrical artist was drawing a colorful linguistic picture which depicted him as a “pimp” engulfed in “hos,” and luxury. As the new satellite radio station took over the airway in my car, the serenity that ensued “got me a thinkin.’” How have terms such as pimp and ho become so cavalier within our vernacular? How have popular depictions of these terms become so common on our flat screens and within the digital tracks of our CDs? I ask because one cannot escape the glamorization lapidated lyrics of celebrated musical artists transferred through radio waves. The jokes told, amongst those you feel free to divulge your hidden social irresponsibility—“What do you tell a Hooker with 2 black eyes? Nothing you have already told her twice.” Or how about the television dramas and comedies that find a way to make it OK to laugh, while concurrently publicly scorning and blaming the women for their misfortune. The deep thinking caused my stomach to turn and my black brow to curl.

It is evident to me that behind the romanticized representation of pimps, men (loosely applied term of identification…ok, correction…scum) who control women through fear, violence, manipulation, and intimidation; and the proceeding life of the women they prey upon, deserve no glorification. Within a dark world few are willing to broach through legislative action or socially responsible research within the academy, there exists not only human injustice, but also racial injustice.

Though secrecy, unwillingness of victims to come forward, and the all-around nature of sex trafficking, the U.S. State Department notes that we must be cautious when referring to the exact numbers of incidences. But for the sake of conceptuality, it is important to understand the depth of the issue. For example, those trafficked into the U.S., the U.S. State Department stated that roughly 600,000 to 800,000 victims annually cross international borders worldwide. A majority are girls and women, and about half of these victims are younger than 18 years-of age.

Within the U.S., Polaris, a human trafficking advocacy group, noted that for those reported to their organization, 1 in 6 were endangered runaways that were more likely to have been victims of sex traffickers. The economy surrounding the topic is astounding. In 2014, it was reported that cities such as Denver and Atlanta gained 39.9 and 290 million respectively from sex trafficking. In terms of U.S. victims, the Department of Justice reported in 2011 that known cases of sex trafficking victims whose race was known, 40.4, 25.6, 23.9, 5.8, and 4.3 percent were Black, White, Latino, Other, and Asian respectively. For those victims arrested for sex offenses, 55 percent of were Black children. Some have argued the economic angle to describe this occurrence. The Urban Institute reported that when traffickers were interviewed, they overwhelmingly understood that this business is consumer driven. In fact, the demand regulates heavily toward White women. They again understood the economic gain of utilizing all women, especially White women who could yield the highest economic gain. But if caught by law enforcement, they also agreed that by trafficking only in Black women their sentences would be shorter.

The fact that millions of international and national adult women and children (males and females) are exploited, sold, kidnapped, raped, manipulated, at times brained like cattle, beaten, and emotionally scarred should be enough for us to be pursue vigilant activities toward eradicating the trade. But the silence related to the topic is deafening. The lack of real effort regarding sex trafficking occurring within the U.S. does not baffle me one little bit. First, we have a history of ignoring the plight of children and women. Historically, women treated as property and the rate of physical abuse children is not uncommon to the pages of US history. Neither are the ramifications of systemic racism. In relation, the lack of overwhelming public concern toward Black females is not abnormal.

From the rape and medical experimentation performed on enslaved Black women by white “doctors” such as the father of modern gynecology, J. Marion Sims, who without anesthesia performed ghastly experiments to the recent discovery of forceful eugenic sterilization of Black girls and women in North Carolina are all illustrations that lend explanation to the current lack of light shined upon said the current injustice.

Looking back now, I even wonder why I wrote this piece. I am conscious enough to know I made no major blow to foil this dastardly deed of exploitation. What did I do? Maybe I simply informed those who have no information. All I can really hope for is that maybe, just maybe the next time you hear someone call themselves a “pimp” and someone a “ho” in a passing exaltation, you will awaken from reverie to a state of revulsion and outrage.

~ Terence Fitzgerald, PhD, Ed.M, MSW, is Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California (San Diego Academic Center).

Modern Romance and the Glaring Absence of Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

81IWfWiI1vL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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