Call for Papers: Ferguson, Social Media, and Activism

Hashtag Feminism started by Tara L. Conley (Teachers College, Columbia University) invites contributions that provide insightful perspectives on the recent events transpiring in Ferguson, Missouri. Specifically, we are looking for perspectives that account for the ways social media, namely Twitter has played a role in igniting activism in Ferguson and across the country.

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The disconnect between Facebook and Twitter and how people talking about Michael Brown and Ferguson. This may also highlight a discussion on the different ways Facebook’s and Twitter’s algorithms are capturing conversations across social media. See this Medium piece as a useful example or starting point.
  • Criticism of ‘Twitter Activism’ and response from Black feminists.
    Resource roundup of follow-worthy hashtags, livestreams, and Twitter users covering and editorializing the events happening in Ferguson.
  • Activists story telling about their experiences organizing around Ferguson online and offline.
  • Youth organizers using Twitter to organize, raise awareness, and resist during the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Refer to #F Submission Guidelines for further information about style, content, and pitch guidelines.

 

~ This is re-blogged from here.

#Hashtag Activism, Viral Videos and the Trouble with White Feminism

After a brief haitus to deal with some institutional shenanigans and the personal fall out from those, I’m back to writing about the trouble with white women and white feminism series. If you’re new to this series, you can read from the beginning, or just dive in here. The concept is that I’ll do a series of blog posts and compile them into a free reader. I started, ambitiously, thinking I would do this in a 15-week semester and be done with it, but life (and committee work) intervened. Meanwhile, white women and white feminism keep on doing what they do and in this call out culture, there’s not enough calling that out in my view. If you’re new to thinking about these ideas, Quinn Norton has given the world an excellent two-part series on whiteness. Do go read it.  Onward…. to Part IV. White Women’s Feminist/Digital Activism.

Hollaback is often pointed to as a success of online feminism. If you’ve ever ridden the subways in NYC and you have heard the announcement about “a crowded subway is never an excuse for unwelcome touching” you have witnessed some of the fruits of their activist labor. On October 28, 2014 they published this video called “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” that immediately went viral and now has over 32 million views (screenshot below). Screenshot of the viral video about street harassmentThis video was crafted by a PR firm to “go viral” – and to raise money for the Hollaback organization. Unfortunately, the video over-sampled in Harlem neighborhoods, and edited out white men who harassed the woman. As the ever insightful Zeynep Tufecki points out, there are some profound methodological problems with the video that result in a racially skewed result. Of course, the director of the video denies any racist intent, move along, nothing to see here.

This is not new, nor is it a mistake, rather it is a key element of the white feminism which is at the center of the Hollaback enterprise. As I noted in a 2009 WSQ piece, there is a preponderance of men of color represented on the Hollaback blog in photos taken by white women. This angle of vision is one that is consistent with carceral feminism, an approach that sees increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to street harassment and violence against women. (See Elizabeth Bernstein’s work on this.)

Carceral feminism is integral to white feminism and to this wildly popular, viral video campaign. The activism of Hollaback in this instance also raises questions about the potential for digital feminist praxis. As Susana Loza asks in the Queer/Feminist Praxis issue of Ada:

Is mainstream feminism destined to remain the terrain of white women? Or can the digital media praxis of women of color, their hashtag feminism and tumblr activism, their blogging and livejournaling, broaden and radically redefine the very field of feminism?” 

One of the insights I have gleaned from black feminist thought is that standpoint and positionality matter, in other words, who you are in relation to the research matters. I’ve done this here and here, and continue to do so in various ways. This seems to be one place that white feminism keeps messing up, thinking that the experience of “A Woman” who also happens to be white can stand in for the experiences of *ALL* women.

My own personal experience, my research on white supremacy, and the work of scholars such as Vron Ware, whose Beyond the Pale offers a discursive production of whiteness through a gendered reading of colonial history and Ruth Frankenberg, whose White Women, Race Matter, makes a compelling argument for the importance of examining the social position of white women, specifically, occupy in our society, lead me to the conclusion that it is crucial to critically analyze the position of white women in our society.

But – bracketing white women for now – to focus on the trouble with white feminism, and here, it is the critiques by scholars and feminists of color such as Jessica Johnson, Patricia Hill Collins, Chela Sandoval, Toni Morrison, bell hooks and many, many others I follow on Twitter whom Gramsci would consider “organic intellectuals” make the need for a critical examination of the trouble with white feminism a pressing one.

To return to Loza question about the digital media praxis, it seems clear now that that as Demetria Irwin has observed: “the feminist revolution will be tweeted, hashtagged, Vined and Instagrammed.”

When Mikki Kendall started the hashtag #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen in August, 2013 as a form of digital media activism directed at the predominantly white feminist bloggers, it was the hashtag heard around the feminist world. Kendall was calling out prominent white feminists who either rallied around or simply didn’t rebuke a rather unpleasant man claiming to be a feminist.  In her piece about the hashtag at The Guardian, Kendall noted that women of color were being “in favor of a brand of solidarity that centers on the safety and comfort of white women.” 

I would argue that a similar thing is happening with the Hollaback video, only this time, it’s white men as street harassers who are being edited out in favor of the brand solidarity that centers on the safety and comfort of white women.

You see this lots of places in white feminism, like in the Sandberg Lean In brand, which is a white, corporate brand of feminism, in which race, and more importantly white supremacy, is a taboo subject, as bell hooks notes. More recently, Susan Cox has observed the ways that Facebook – the company which Sandberg leads with Zuckerberg – is re-shaping our identities in ways that are antithetical to feminist notions of multiple, intersectional selves through their oppressive “real names” policies.

Kendall endured a vicious backlash after starting the hashtag heard ’round the world, and as far as (white feminist) Michelle Goldberg is concerned, it’s Kendall’s own fault.

For Goldberg, Twitter was “insouciant” women of color feminists like Kendall ruined it for white feminists with their “toxic tweets.”  Goldberg is critical of Kendall who seems to embody the archetypical angry black woman in the hatchet piece Goldberg wrote for The Nation.

The real “offense,” if you will, of Kendall and other women of color on Twitter is that white women are made uncomfortable when called out for bad behavior. And, on Twitter, it just feels a little closer, more intimate somehow.

In Sara Ahmed’s terms, this is a violation of the “politics of feeling good” which seems to be at the heart of white feminism. Ahmed’s contribution here is considering how certain bodies are seen as the origin of bad feeling, as getting in the way of public happiness, exploring the negative affective (feelings) value of the figures of the feminist kill-joy, unhappy queer and melancholic migrant. In other words, how women of color, immigrants, queers all disrupt the happy, unified, narrative of “women” feeling good about (white) womanhood by pointing out difference. This gives white women the sads. Then they seem to get very, very angry. This is why we can’t have nice things, like feminism.

Mandy Van Deven points out that there is discomfort for (some) white women in the #solidarityisforwhitewomen conversation. That may be so, but this discomfort is not going away because women of color speaking up and speaking out are not going away.

Hashtag activism amplifies the challenge to white feminism. The hashtag that Kendall created sparked lots of others, such as #NotYourAsianSideKick. These are going to continue and proliferate and those holding onto the mythologies of white feminism are going to be mighty uncomfortable. Personally, I think that’s a very good thing because, as Chela Sandoval has observed, the “structural deficiency within feminist praxis” is its inability to deal with the challenges of feminists of color (Sandoval 2000, 49). To be able to move beyond an entrenched, defensive, and “toxic” white feminism, we need to follow these words of Loza and Nguyen:

“Feminists of the digital age must refuse the nostalgic discourse of authentic selves, of natural bodies, of fixed communities and instead attend to the “structures and relations that produce different kinds of subjects in position with different kinds of technologies” (Nguyen 2003, 302).

The work is not easy but if we want a digital feminism that has a praxis informed by critical race theory, then those who have only known white feminism will have to decide to be brave enough to get past hurt feelings, to learn how to parse hatred from anger, and begin doing the work of anti-racist, anti-colonial feminism. Are any of us brave?

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Research Brief: New Publications on Race and Racism

Here is a recap of some of the latest research on race and racism. As always, I note which pieces are freely available on the web, or “open access” with (OA), and those behind a paywall with (locked).

Research in the Dictionary

 

  • Cunningham, Jennifer M. “Features of Digital African American Language in a Social Network Site.” Written Communication, October 2014, (Vol. 31 No. 4): 404-433. Abstract: This study examines a social network site (SNS) where specific interlocutors communicate by combining aspects of academic American English (AE), digital language (DL), and African American Language (AAL)—creating a digital form of AAL or digital AAL (DAAL). This article describes the features of DAAL in the discursive, online context of MySpace, by analyzing a corpus of DAAL comments (1,494 instances). The use of SNSs affords a space where AAL exists in written form, serving the function of approximating spoken AAL. More interesting, however, is the function that DAAL serves as a text that is visually distinct from AE, emphasizing the orthographic freedom of DAAL on SNSs. By examining how DL and AAL exist and combine in an SNS environment, this research found DAAL to be a robust form of written communication. (locked)
  • Holling, Michelle A., Dreama G. Moon, and Alexandra Jackson Nevis. “Racist Violations and Racializing Apologia in a Post-Racism Era.” Journal of International and Intercultural Communication ahead-of-print (2014): 1-27. Abstract: In theorizing the dialectic of public acts of white racial offenses and the in/sufficiency of apologia associated with white racial discourse, we examine racist violations and racializing apologia from 24 white public figures in the United States between 1996 and 2012. Analysis of racist violations reveals that each offense undermines race as a social and political marker, whereas racializing apologia makes explicit the constant force of racialization and latent nature of whiteness in apologia strategies. We view racializing apologia as potentially liberatory, capable of allowing for a defense of oneself and challenging reproduction of racial formations. (locked)
  • Reger, Jo. “The Story of a Slut Walk Sexuality, Race, and Generational Divisions in Contemporary Feminist Activism.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (2014): 0891241614526434. Drawing on a participant observation at a 2011 slut walk, I use elements of autoethnography to investigate issues and divisions in contemporary feminism. Slut walks emerged as a form of feminist protest early in 2011 when a police officer remarked that women should stop dressing like sluts if they did not want to be victimized, spurring a global mobilization promoting ideas such as “sexual profiling” and “slut shaming.” As quickly as the slut walks spread, critiques also emerged. In this essay, I explore the critiques of claiming slut as an empowering identity through my own experiences. I present five scenarios from the protest as a way of examining ideas such as “inverted” generational disidentification, the legitimization of patriarchal and feminist gazes, the articulation and silencing of women’s and girls’ sexual desire, social movement spillover, and the continuation of racial divides in North American feminism. (locked)
  • Titley, Gavin. “No apologies for cross-posting: European trans-media space and the digital circuitries of racism.” Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture, March, 2014 Vol. 5, Issue 1, . doi:10.1386/cjmc.5.1.41_1. Abstract: This article proposes points of departure for researching the circulation and assemblage of racist ideas and racializing discourses in the trans-media space of interactive, hybrid digital media. It contends that racist mobilizations are increasingly invested in organized and opportunistic communicative actions that depend on the integration of interactive digital media to a wider media ecology and European political environment. Further, if social media can be understood as a constant ‘invitation to discourse’, then they also provide an invitation to discourse on the nature and scope of racism in a putatively ‘post-racial’ era. In contending that the affordances and dynamics of social media networks are politically generative in relation to the politics of racism, it proposes working with malleable resources in the sociology of racism to develop approaches that are not limited to the established focus on extremist sites, but that can account both for the circuitries of digital media exchange and the particularities of regional racial formations. (locked)
  • Von Robertson, Ray, Alma Bravo, and Cassandra Chaney. “Racism and the Experiences of Latina/o College Students at a PWI (Predominantly White Institution).”  Critical Sociology (2014): 0896920514532664. Abstract: This study explored Latina/o American college students at a predominantly white university in the South. The authors assessed how 12 Latina/o American college students understood racism and racial microaggressions, and developed counter-spaces to navigate the white college milieu. Qualitative analysis revealed instances of racism were dealt with through assimilation and working hard to excel. Additional responses involved aligning themselves with same-race groups and maintaining a high grade point average. Our findings demonstrated that Latina/o students often utilized counter-spaces and determination to excel in college. Finally, a major contribution of our research was that it provided an example of a small case study of Latinas/os, primarily consisting of males, a group that has traditionally been underrepresented in higher education, who performed very well academically at a PWI. (locked)
  • Weiner, Melissa F. “The Ideologically Colonized Metropole: Dutch Racism and Racist Denial.” Sociology Compass 8, no. 6 (2014): 731-744. Abstract: Many in The Netherlands deny the existence of race and racism even as significant research strongly suggests otherwise. This paper synthesized existing literature to illuminate The Netherlands’ unique form of racism, which is rooted in racial neoliberalism, anti-racialism (i.e. the denial of race), racial Europeanization, and the particular Dutch history of colonial exploitation. This article summarizes existing scholarship addressing racism in wide array of social institutions in The Netherlands before addressing the historical roots of Dutch racism and how Dutch aphasia and racial Europeanization deny the links between contemporary and historical oppression before, finally, offering an explanation for this disconnect. (OA)

Happy reading! Do you have some research you’d like to see in one of our upcoming Research Briefs? Let us hear from you in via the contact form. As always, bonus points for sharing open access readings.

Understanding Halloween Racism

Halloween is a centuries-old tradition for marking the end of summer that is now associated with overtly racist costumes worn by some whites. How did this come to be and how can we understand it?

ray rice racist halloween costume

(Image source)

Many people know that Halloween stands for “hallowed evening” and associated it with the Christian All Saints Day (Nov.1). But Halloween is actually much older than this, though precise details are obscure.

For the origins of Halloween, folklorists most often point to the Celtic festival of Samhain which comes from the Old Irish for “summer’s end,” while other scholars suggest that the origins of holiday might come from the Roman feast honoring Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia.

An estimated 93% of households celebrate Halloween in the U.S. today, but it wasn’t celebrated in the U.S. until the mid-1800s, when Irish immigrants brought the ritual with them.

The rituals and practices that emerged in the U.S., shaped the way the holiday is celebrated elsewhere. You can see this in a recent photo feature at The Guardian of “Halloween preparations around the globe” .

 

 

pumpkins in china

(Halloween in China, image source)

Nevermind that most of the photos from “around the globe” are from the U.S., the images that are from outside the U.S. seek to replicate a fall-in-New England version of Halloween.

Make no mistake, Halloween is big business. Americans will spend $2.8 billion on costumes, including $1.1 billion for children’s costumes, $1.4 billion adult costumes and $2.2 billion on candy and another $350 million on costumes for their pets, according to a National Retail Federation survey. What was once a relatively minor holiday primarily for children and celebrated by one ethnic group in the U.S., has turned into a major consumer ritual widely celebrated by adults, many of them in overly racist costumes. Why?

In their study of journal entries from college students (N=663), researchers Mueller, Dirks, and Houts Picca analyzed the study participants entries during Halloween.

The authors point to Durkheim who noted that although some holidays can be about reinforcing social control (watch “Home for the Holidays” and think of Durkheim), other holidays like New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras, are “rituals of rebellion” where all the usual rules of social life are temporarily suspended. Often this is a time when those in lower social positions temporarily assume more powerful roles,. Durkheim’s argument was that these types of rituals are a necessary safety valve for society because they allow people to blow off steam in short, neatly contained bursts. Once the holiday is over, then go everything goes back to the usual social order.

Halloween is now a “rituals of rebellion”, but not exactly in the way that Durkheim described it.

Mueller and colleagues found that many of the people in their study chose costumes that would be considered racist in other contexts, but they mostly minimized the significance by pointing to the holiday’s social context, like “Josh” described:

… because this is Halloween and anything goes. Normally dressing up as people from other cultures, such as the Rastafari, would be considered some sort of racism or people might be offended … This is the great thing about Halloween, people can go all out and be whoever they want to be, without having to worry about what people will think or who will be offended. (Mueller, Dirks, and Houts Picca, 2007, p.325).

By making light of racist costumes in the “safe” context of Halloween, the authors argue that this creates a way for people to trivialize and reproduce racial stereotypes while supporting the racial hierarchy. However, instead of the Durkheim-ian  “ritual of rebellion,” in which those in less powerful positions momentarily assume more powerful roles, racist Halloween rituals reverses this.

In the contemporary iteration of Halloween, it’s the more socially powerful group – whites – who temporarily take on the position of the less socially powerful group – African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.

By enacting this “reversed ritual of rebellion” whites are responding to what many see as a seemingly restrictive social context of the post-Civil Rights, “post-racial” era. And, a la Durkheim, when this short burst of rebellion is over, then the dominant social order is reinforced. In other words, this brief moment of ritualized acting out only serves to reinforce the already existing white dominance.

racist costumes not ok

(Image created by Ohio University, Students Teaching Against Racism in Society – STARS)

““Tiempo de acabar el Embargo de Cuba”: It’s Time to End the Cuban Embargo

A recent New York Times editorial denunciated the unproductive 54-year old United States embargo against Cuba and exhorted President Obama to end it. The editorial’s publication is not remarkable because the same argument has been made before in the media. What is unusual is that a second click will take the reader to a Spanish translation.

Shortly afterward Fidel Castro wrote a column in Granma, a Cuban newspaper, analyzing in detail the Times’ editorial [[l]]. The New York Times, in turn, ran an opinion page about Fidel’s column. It also appeared in Spanish translation. In the past few days I’ve been pondering the significance of the New York Times’ bilingual columns. They are a step in the right direction because they seem to recognize the validity of Spanish, which is the language with the second largest number of speakers in the US.

Cuban Embargo Political Cartoon

(Image source)

I should note, however, that all of the bilingual New York Times’ columns I mentioned pertain to just Latin American issues, which some may see as a reflection of the common perception that Spanish is not “American.” Moreover, the publication of Spanish columns in a major newspaper can give the false impression that the racialized status of Spanish in the United States is crumbling. That is not the case.

Spanish is still racialized because its speakers are still racialized and there are no indications that their status is changing.

Race, Racism + Sperm Banks

Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon love their daughter, but have sued the Midwest Sperm Bank that made her conception possible because of the racial realities of their chosen community.

 

Jennifer Cramblett and her attorney Tim Misny.

Jennifer Cramblett and her attorney Tim Misny.

This case not only demonstrates that two white women can sue and potentially settle for large sums of money over the racial identity of their child, but that whiteness is a commodity that puts a price tag upon a contractual agreement.

Two issues are central in this suit.

First, the Midwest Sperm Bank and the couple have a contractual agreement for the delivery of sperm. Because sperm from a different donor was delivered, this contract between the two parties may have been broken.

Second, the issue has to do with the conception of a biracial child in a white homogenous community. The plaintiffs, Cramblett and Zinkon, assert that the racial characteristics of their daughter pose a “problem” that they must now deal with in a variety of ways that are financially costly and emotionally taxing.

Sperm Bank Advertisement, London

Sperm Bank Advertisement, London

Race and ethnicity are crucial in the marketing of sperm. Future parents typically select sperm donors based on physical, racial, and sometimes religious characteristics that represent one or both parents. Although race or ethnicity are not often explicitly discussed by couples, they do inform lesbian couples’ decisions of sperm donors. According to research presented by Ryan, Moras and Shapiro in a paper presented at the American Sociological Association (2010) this type of choice is often based on an attempt to match the resemblance of relatives of both partners. Thus, it’s not surprising for Cramblett and Zinkon to pick sperm that physically and racially matched the non-biological partner. Even in the era of assisted reproductive technologies, women’s reproductive choices continue to be highly shaped by racial concerns of the children, including for this white lesbian couple.

However, in my article, “Skin tone, biracial stratification and tri-racial stratification among sperm donors,” (Racial and Ethnic Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3, 2014) I examined an online sperm bank catalog.  In my study, I tested three hypotheses related to skin tone, black-white polarity, and tri-racialism.  I found that the selection of donors did not reflect any general preference for lighter skin tone donors, a higher selection of white donors in the black-white polarity, or any trend towards tri-racialism.

Cramblett and Zinkon are asking the court to find in their favor because they believe they have personally suffered emotional, economic, and physical harms for conceiving a biracial daughter. The case’s argument is based upon individual harm to this couple and their daughter.

The court is essentially being asked to pay the couple for the cost incurred due to white racism and the loss of white privilege.

On the one hand, this case demonstrates that white racism still exists in our supposedly post-racial society and has emotional, economic, and physical impact. On the other hand, as others have pointed out, we have documentation of the cost of racism, yet when the court has been asked to compensate by people of color for this cost they have generally answered with a resounding “no”. For instance, it wasn’t until 2013 that there was any acknowledgement by North Carolina that African American women who were forcibly sterilized. North Carolina has not paid reparations to these women. This reality raises a number of questions.

Among these questions: why should this white lesbian couple be paid for the sperm bank’s mistake and to raise a biracial daughter when so many others have been denied this?

~ Guest blogger Carol Walther is Associate Professor of Sociology, Northern Illinois University

Research Brief: Open Access Edition

Today is the start of International Open Access Week, and so today’s research brief will feature only research that’s freely available on the web to anyone regardless of institutional affiliation.  (What’s open access you may be wondering and why should academics care about it? More about open access over here.)  Onward, to the latest open access research about race and racism.

Research in the Dictionary

 

  • Coleman, Robin R. Means. “Training Day and The Shield: Evil Cops and the Taint of Blackness” (book chapter from) The Changing Face of Evil in Film and Television (2007): 101. Abstract: “The police detectives of Hollywood’s Training Day (2001) and cable televisions The Shield (2002-) Alonzo Harris and Vic Mackey, represent the newest face of evil in entertainment media. Harris and Mackey are menacing, rough cops who rule their urban beats like the  street gangs and criminals who co-exist in the same cement terrain. Training Day and The Shield utilise a discourse that emphasises racial signifiers and class positioning to portray a social environment that justifies the presence of such troublesome policing. Through a critical, cultural analysis of these figures, we explore these sociopolitical themes while expounding upon definitions of evil that begin with describing a war between light and dark, black and white. Our analysis is informed by James McDaniel,
    St. Augustine, and Nietzsche’s definitions of evil. We argue that, by definition, only the Alonzo Harris characterisation, portrayed by a black body, in contrast with that of a white Vic Mackey, can be considered truly evil in nature by virtue of his undivided emersion in the ‘dark’ — morally and racially.” (OA)
  • Dreisinger, Baz, et al. “Prisons, Pipelines and Pedagogy: Diary of the Birth of a Behind-Bars College Program.”  Journal of Prison Education & Reentry, Vol. 1 No. 1, (2014), pp. 55-66. (A “practitioner paper” – no abstract available.) (OA)
  • Lavoie, Carmen. “Institutional Racism and Individual Agency: A Case Study using Foucault’s Disciplinary Power.”  Critical Social Work, (2014) Vol. 15, No. 1. Abstract: “Institutional racism is a principal factor in the exclusion and oppression of racialized groups. Social work scholars have examined the organizational indicators, attitudes, and actions of staff that contribute to institutional racism in order to elucidate its function. However, an understanding of the interplay between institutions and individuals within institutional racism has remained largely elusive. This paper aims to address this gap. Using the work of French philosopher Michel Foucault and his theorization of disciplinary power, this paper presents a case study of one social worker’s efforts to address racism in her organization. The result is a unique understanding of institutional racism that considers the dynamic interactions between institutional constraints and individual agency. Such an analysis enables those in direct practice as well as in leadership roles who are committed to anti-oppression social work to understand the barriers and routes to anti-racist institutional change.” (OA)

Happy open access reading!

Want to see your research featured here? Send us your latest research and please consider using an open access, peer-reviewed journal as the outlet for your next publication on race and racism.

 

 

 

 

Democracy & American DREAMers: DACA & Undocumented Latino Youth

Immigration—particularly undocumented immigration—continues to be an unresolved issue in America; however, it is part of the larger unresolved issue of the political and social inclusion of Latinos (as well as other visible racial and ethnic groups) in the U.S. It is an issue that will increasingly affect us all because of our changing demographics with Latinos at 16.9 percent of the population projected to be 30 percent of the population by 2050 at the latest.

This lack of inclusion is underscored in a new book my coauthors, Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti and Melissa R. Michelson and I recently published which looks at the experiences of undocumented Latino youth who have been raised in the U.S., but because of the inability of our political leaders to pass immigration reform dealing with even the seemingly straightforward aspects of the issue—namely, how to incorporate and legalize Latino youth who have grown up in the U.S—their lives have been severely limited at every turn. In our book we systematically examine the experiences faced by undocumented Latino youth based on in-depth interviews conducted immediately after President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in the summer of 2012. Through 101 interviews conducted in California, Texas, Washington, and Oregon we learn the effects of living in the U.S without the “nine-digit number” (Social Security number). We learn how living as undocumented youth has impacted their decisions after completing high school, their political socialization and self-identity, and their feelings of trust and confidence in our government, and even their personal and intimate relationships.

Regardless of their geographic location, the sample of DREAMers in our book all experienced life with a greater sense of fear, vulnerability, lack of freedom, and obstacles. It was felt while they were shopping, traveling, driving, or in one case, serving as a university student body president who was “outed” and had his life turned upside down. In some cases, their unauthorized status even affected their willingness to call the police if someone had been in a car accident. Living as an undocumented Latino youth in the United States is, even post-DACA (which provides some measure of protection from deportation) as one of our respondents stated, “not full freedom.” Similar to the experiences of immigrants in the past, our sample of DREAMers is affected by the white racial frame in that they are racialized targets at every turn. This racialization places greater limitations on all aspects of their lives. As one of our respondents states,

[B]eing an illegal immigrant shapes who you are, . . . when you’re growing up, like what you become and . . . how you act and whatnot.

Listening to the stories of our sample of DREAMers, we learn about the lives of hardworking, good kids who have grown up in America seeking to achieve the American dream like everyone else. Some always knew they were undocumented, but not quite what it meant; others first learned as teenagers. Just as they were trying, like other teenagers around them, to assert their independence – to go away to college, to get a first job, to learn to drive – they find themselves stopped in their tracks by a system that relegates them to the margins because they are undocumented.

Based on this research, if we truly hope to have a democracy, then we must have the wisdom and the tenacity to continually seek ways to improve our society by extending the promise of America’s most cherished principles to the DREAMers. Latino youth are our future and there will be no real democracy for any future Americans without the political and social incorporation of Latinos. Similarly to the pre-Civil War South and through the 1960’s where nearly half of the population was legally oppressed by the other, an America where one third of the youth entering their voting age, their legal working age, or college age either are excluded from the body politics or are suspected of not belonging to the body politic, democracy is crippled or false. As Douglas S. Massey states,

[T]he most serious task remaining for immigration reformers is the legalization of the 11 million persons who are currently unauthorized, especially the 3 million or more persons who entered as minors and grew up in the United States. The lack of legal status constitutes an insurmountable barrier to social and economic mobility, not only for the undocumented immigrants themselves, but for their citizen family members. Not since the days of slavery have so many residents in the United States lacked the most basic social, economic, and human rights.

The U.S.’s founding values of “establishing justice” or the “blessing of liberty” currently does not apply to 5 million Latino youth who are just kids trying to be kids in the only country they’ve ever known.

If we make a commitment to DREAMers through humane immigration policy such as passage of the DREAM Act, our entire society will be enriched by not only the economic and cultural benefits that they will bestow upon American society, but because we will stop undermining our democratic values through the continual exclusion of undocumented Latino youth who have so much to contribute to society, if only they are allowed to. As one undocumented young woman
we interviewed states:

We are members of this society whether people acknowledge it or not, but we continue to be discriminated against, marginalized and “othered.” We experience rejection on a daily basis, and although we continue to overcome barrier after barrier, it is not a way of life that any person should have to experience. We are talented individuals who want to be able to give back to our communities. Why does legislation continue to prevent us from doing so? Why let our skills go to waste? Why not use them to improve this nation? This problem is much bigger than people want to acknowledge. . . . [W]e are human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

As we document in our book, all of the DREAMers we spoke to recognized that their immigration status had had powerful impacts on their lives.

And yet, as we found time and again in our research, they keep on dreaming as underscored by one of our respondents:

Well, whatever is within my reach I’m going to do it. After I finish my bachelor’s and continue my master’s, and if possible go into the PhD program; if not, I’ll set up a business as I have a business already, so keep going and make it bigger. I won’t stop. If there’s something in my way I’ll just go another way.

Whiteness and Global Academia: Sociological Observations

I have recently taken a look at the list of the current board members of the International Sociological Association Research Committee on Labour Movements. I was convinced that the composition of the board would reflect, at least to some extent, the diversity of the global sociological community and the fact that labor movements are a global phenomenon.

To my utter surprise, I immediately realized that there was not even one Black African scholar among the sixteen members of the board. And, even more strikingly, the Africa Regional Representative is a white woman from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg …

Not only Black sociologists from Africa, but also Black sociologists in general are glaringly absent from this important committee. The president is a white South African woman, again from the University of Witwatersrand, and there is yet another white woman from another South African university among the board members (a most peculiar fact).

Five other members, from Europe, the United States and Australia, are white, too, and the Regional Representative for Latin America, a Brazilian sociologist, would be identified as white in many parts of the world. Both vice-presidents are white men from Europe. There are no board members from the Caribbean, and the Brazilian member is the only Latin American one.

It is obvious that this important committee of the best known and most largest international sociological organization is grotesquely and shockingly dominated by white researchers; but somehow this grotesque and shocking fact seems to have gone unnoticed, as if it were somehow “normal” that such committees are white-dominated, “normal” that even though the ISA currently has members from 167 countries, the white members are far more likely to access positions of power and play a significant role inside the organization.

In 1969, at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association in Montreal, some African and African American scholars publicly expressed their justified outrage at the white domination of this organization by staging a walk-out and an occupation protest. After the ASA meeting, the African descendant scholars, led by the eminent and largely self-taught historian John Henrik Clarke, founded a new organization devoted to African studies, African Heritage Studies Association, which organized its first annual conference in 1970, at the historically black Howard University. The AHSA describes itself on its website as “the major challenger of Eurocentric view of Africa and African Studies.”

One is left to wonder if Black/African descendant sociologists are likely to revolt against the white domination of the ISA in the foreseeable future, despite the enormous imbalance of power between them and white scholars.

Significantly, a sociologist who was one of the presidents of the ISA in recent years, the Polish sociologist Piotr Sztompka (he was the ISA president in the years 2002-2006), has displayed on many occasions a complete misunderstanding of the position of those who oppose white-dominated sociology.

Ever since Akinsola Akiwowo made a call for ‘indigenous African sociology’, I have been puzzled by such claims and searched for possible examples of those alternative, indigenous sociologies. Akiwowo did not provide one, and because he based his conclusions in the area of the sociology of knowledge on the empirical evidence of African oral poetry [it] does not indicate any alternative sociology, but new original data to support (or undermine, as the case might be) the ‘mainstream’ sociology of knowledge of Marx and Mannheim

wrote Sztompka in his 2011 article “Another Sociological Utopia.”

Sztompka clearly believes that sociology is a discipline created by white Western scholars, but (mysteriously) free from any white-centric bias and fully trustworthy, and that alternative approaches are neither needed nor possible. His views did not in the least prevent him from reaching the highest position of power inside the ISA: this fact speaks volumes about the imbalance of power inside the global sociological community.

Joanna Tegnerowicz is a specialist in the history of ideas and an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology of the University of Wroclaw in Poland

Spanish in the US: Racialization (Part II)

Victorious intruders often justify their actions by playing up their self-defined probity vis-à-vis the supposed wickedness of their victims. White settlers in the 19th Century Southwest were no exception: they held an undisguised contempt for Mexican citizens residing in the region. Their attitude was couched in the language of race and they referred to Mexicans as “niggers” and mongrels.

One of the “racial” traits that “tainted” Mexicans was their language. In the aftermath of the 1848 Mexican-American War, the eradication of Spanish became an important goal of whites in power. They started early in a person’s life. To “divest” Mexican children of their racial baggage, the elimination of Spanish was pursued avidly in schools.

In 1929 some Mexican Americans in Corpus Christi, Texas, decided that to improve their lot they would succeed in areas in which they were supposedly deficient. To this end, they founded the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), restricting membership to US citizens and emphasizing English-language skills. Predictably, their efforts were insufficient to penetrate staunch racist barriers. : LULAC members and their mother language remained racialized.

The efforts to squelch Spanish extended well into the 20th Century. They included the portrayal of Spanish as an intruder in English’s linguistic realm. Harvard luminaries Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Huntington (2004) were among the proponents of this perspective. Schlesinger said unequivocally that “The language of the new nation [US] . . . [is] primarily derived from Britain.”

In a similar vein, the Huntington asserted that

America’s culture … is still primarily the culture of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century settlers who founded American society. The central elements of that culture … include . . . the English language.

There is overwhelming evidence that the “establishment” still favors the hegemony of English. However, white economic and political elites have been forced to relent in their “monoglot” policies, not so much as a gesture of sympathy toward Latinos but as a necessity for these elites to pursue Latino votes and markets.