White Men Reeling: #BlackStormtrooper and the White Racial Frame

The latest Star Wars film titled, The Last Jedi, is scheduled for release on December 15, 2017. As Richard Lawson wrote in Vanity Fair prior to the theatrical debut of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

Star Wars has never been a bastion of diversity. Lando and Leia were the only non-white and non-male main characters (among the humans, anyway) in the original franchise; George Lucas’s dreadful prequels at least made some attempts at racial diversity, with Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits playing large roles, though it mostly forgot about women. (And some critics took issue with ethnically charged alien characters, but that’s a different story.) So [The Force Awakens] was [J. J.] Abrams’s chance to issue something of a corrective, to open up this universe to more people.

In white fans’ reactions to the casting of a black man in a lead role in The Force Awakens, key elements of systemic racism were distinctly present, including white power and entitlement rooted in the U.S. racial hierarchy, the dominant white racial frame that rationalizes and defends unfairly gained white privilege and power, and the pro-white and anti-others sub-frames. Tweets posted by white fans to twitter hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII (see below) typify the white racial frame and its sub-frames. For example, the director, producer, and writer of The Force Awakens, Abrams (a white Jewish American male) was targeted for allegedly endorsing “white genocide” given his racially diverse cast, including Nigerian descended British actor John Boyega in the secondary lead role.

A white racist framing was plainly evident in the whitelash against this casting of Boyega. #BlackStormtrooper is a hashtag related to virtual whitelash besieging John Boyega’s appearance as a Stormtrooper in the teaser trailer for the 2015 Star Wars. In November 2014, the trailer was released on the Movieclips Trailers YouTube channel. It opened with a shot of a Stormtrooper, played by Boyega, abruptly appearing on what appeared to be a desert planet. Twitter (most of whom appeared to be white male) users instantaneously started to comment on Boyega’s “race” with the hashtag #BlackStormtrooper, questioning the legitimacy of a black Stormtrooper. Shortly after, Boyega posted a message on Instagram thanking supporters of the new film. To those posting to #BlackStormtrooper, he simply said: “Get used to it.”

“#BoycottStarWarsVII because I am sick of muds being casted in white parts,” wrote #StopAppropriatingWhiteCulture. For this particular Twitter user—who identified “as a neoreactionary … with the Pro-Trump white supremacist ‘alternative right,’” and who earlier had tweeted that he hoped Trump would turn out to be a fascist —- Star Wars “belongs” entirely to whites. In response, a pop culture critic sort of agreed, writing:

[W]hen George Lucas made Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977, 99 percent of his cast was either Caucasian, or extraterrestrial aliens covered in prosthetics. “George, is everybody in outer space white?” John Landis says he asked Lucas after watching the first Star Wars. An emphasis on diversity increased as the sequels went on—Billy Dee Williams showed up in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, earning instant legend status.

The whitelash against Boyega’s casting also included important elements that Joe Feagin outlines in his white racial frame, including: racial stereotypes and prejudices; racial narratives and interpretations; racial images and preferred language accents; racialized emotions; and inclinations to discriminatory action. The broad framing also included an especially positive placement of whites as superior and virtuous (Feagin’s pro-white subframe) and an especially negative placement of racialized people as inferior and unvirtuous (Feagin’s anti-others subframes). Tweets included the following:

“Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White. #BoycottStarWarsVII #WhiteGenocide.”

“#BoycottStarWarsVII because it will be ghetto garbage.”

“#BoycottStarWarsVII – I know the trailer is short, but it’s pretty unrealistic that we don’t see the black guy committing murder or rape.”

““Diverse” casting is both a symptom of #WhiteGenocide, and a conditioning tool to help facilitate it. #BoycottStarWarsVII.”

To reiterate, the #BoycottStarWarsVII hashtag was purportedly created to incite a boycott of the 2015 film The Force Awakens. While Internet news media sources extensively reported that the hashtag was genuine, other commentators have surmised it was a ruse contrived to produce controversy. In October 2015 twitter user @DarklyEnlighten posted a tweet encouraging readers to boycott The Force Awakens because of the alleged absence of white lead characters and because of the casting of Boyega in the secondary lead role. @DarklyEnlighten tweeted for followers to create the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII.

To some observers, #BoycottStarWarsVII was far more troublesome than a few white trolls; it was an exemplification of the poor state of U.S. race relations in the 21st century. African American activist and social commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of numerous books on the black experience in the U.S., called the #blackstormtrooper remarks “alarming.” He viewed the virulent racist discourse on #BoycottStarWarsVII as yet another fervent example of how badly U.S. racial relations have deteriorated, starting with Trayvon Martin—the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed in 2012. The #blackstromtrooper comments “are indicative of just how polarized the discussion has become,” remarked Hutchinson.

Kimberley Ducey is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Winnipeg

Debating Racial “Microaggressions”

What constitutes a racial micro-aggression and when does it become a macro-aggression? Is the concept of micro-aggression misleading? Are they really macro-aggressions?

Following the Civil Rights era, second generation forms of discrimination replaced more overt, egregious acts of discrimination with subtle, repeated, cumulative exclusionary actions and behaviors. The term “racial micro-aggressions” was first introduced by Chester Pierce to describe the subtle insults experienced on a daily basis by black Americans. In his seminal work, Micro-aggressions in Everyday Life, psychologist Derald Wing Sue describes micro-aggressions as

brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership (p. xvi).

Sue introduces a taxonomy of racial micro-aggressions that include three categories: micro-assaults; micro-insults; and micro-invalidations. This taxonomy, while valuable in identifying the dynamics of everyday discrimination, does not yet provide clear distinctions by which to evaluate or differentiate the different types of aggressions.

Are micro-aggressions conscious or unconscious? Sue indicates that perpetrators of micro-aggressions are “usually unaware that they have engaged in an exchange that demeans the recipient….” (p. 5). Similarly, in his view, racial micro-aggressions occur “below the level of awareness of well-intentioned people” (p. 9). Yet when he differentiates the three types of micro-aggressions, he indicates that micro-assaults are “likely to be conscious and deliberate” and expressed as “explicit racial derogations” (pp. 28-29) whereas micro-invalidations and micro-insults are often unconscious.

The distinctions among the three types of racial micro-aggressions are also unclear. Sue gives examples of verbal micro-assaults as phrases like calling Chinese Americans “chinks” and gays as “fags.” He gives an example of a micro-invalidation as telling a Latino/a individual, “If you don’t like it here go back to your own country.” In another work, Microaggressions and Marginality, Sue provides an example of a micro-insult as when an African American student who has done outstanding work in his economics class is told by the professor, “You are a credit to your race.” He finds this to be a micro-insult rather than a micro-assault because it allows the perpetrator to adhere to his belief in racial inferiority, even if unconsciously and “denigrates in a guilt-free manner” (pp. 9-20). This example, however, seems to be at the very least a micro-assault.

Challenging Sue’s theoretical perspective, psychologist Scott Lilienfeld assails the micro-aggression concept as vague, subject to misinterpretation, and often referring to innocuous statements or what he terms inadvertent or unintentional cultural slights. He cautions against an overemphasis on micro-aggressions in diversity training, suggesting that such training can produce the opposite effect by increasing defensiveness by majority group members. Lililenfeld worries that the term “aggression” denotes negative intent and could cause pushback that would defeat the purposes of diversity training and cause the opposite effects. Further, from an empirical standpoint, Lilienfeld indicates that few studies have controlled for the experiences of the perceiving person, including that individual’s sensitivity, depressions, and other personality traits and attitudes. In addition, he notes that correlational evidence does not yet sufficiently support the causal link between micro-aggressions and negative mental health outcomes.

A new study brings greater clarity to these questions and probes the source and causes of micro-aggressions. The study focuses on whether or not slights or subtle derogatory messages delivered by majority group members to racial minority group members are symptomatic of more deep-seated racial animus and attitudes. Jonathan Kanter and colleagues surveyed a sample of 118 white, non-Hispanic students and 33 black students at a large public university and found a positive correlation between delivering micro-aggressive messages and the presence of racist attitudes. For example, when white students selected the item “a lot of minorities are too sensitive,” this selection was found to be the greatest predictor of negative feelings toward black students.

In seeking to understand this evolving body of evidence, Joe Feagin’s conceptualization of the underlying “white racial frame” offers a broad perspective and explanation for the manifestation of micro-aggressions. Feagin indicates that the white racial frame represents the composite of elements that come into play in everyday practice by those white individuals who seek to impose, emphasize, or retain racial identity. No one, in his view, uses the frame in exactly the same way. Each individual invokes a different internal hierarchy of selected racialized images, emotions, and ideas. Individuals can accept certain elements of that white racial frame while consciously or unconsciously rejecting others.

The “micro-” terminology itself seems inadequate in describing verbal and nonverbal acts of discrimination and hostility which often have long lasting and painful effects. In our survey study of diverse administrators in higher education, Alvin Evans and I found that the outcomes of acts of everyday discrimination can have lasting career impact. One of the most prominent examples is when Claudia, an African American administrator, was singled out by her white male supervisor while he was speaking during a staff meeting about African Americans in general. The supervisor uttered what Sue might term a micro-insult, “Oh, I don’t mean you. You’re different. You’re an Oreo.” He would often ask her, “How do black people feel about… “ (any number of subjects). Soon the supervisor would not take her phone calls or provide her with direction or feedback. He repeatedly tried to push her to the edge and force her to resign, sometimes calling her at 11:00 p.m. and giving her assignments due at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. Not long afterward, when Claudia would not comply with an unethical directive, he fired her and had security walk her off campus.

This example and others cited in our study suggest that research attention needs to focus on the material, social, career-related, and economic impact of micro-aggressions as well as the underlying causes of what Joe Feagin describes as the socially inherited white framework of numerous racialized images, emotions, stereotypes, and interpretations that give rise to day-to-day acts of exclusion.

The accumulation of micro-invalidations, micro-assaults, and micro-insults suggests patterns that require much further analysis as to whether they are conscious or unconscious–and whether their impacts on people of color are really “micro-” or almost always “macro-” We also need to study ways of coping and resistance that are effective in situations that involve power differentials between majority and minority group members in order to offer psychological support to those who experience everyday forms of exclusion.

Fanning the Flames of Intolerance and White Nationalism

During last night’s rally in Phoenix, Arizona, President Donald Trump further fanned the flames of intolerance and divisiveness—-flames that he has stoked and encouraged throughout his candidacy and presidency. Accompanied by individuals such as Ben Carson, the only black member of his Cabinet, and Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, he appeared to try to offer an image of multi-racialism. It didn’t last long. Contradicting his own efforts at visual diversity, he deliberately mischaracterized his responses to white supremacist, Neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia by omitting his repeated reference to “many sides” as responsible for the violence. Trump failed once again to even mention the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer, who was run down by a car in an act of domestic terrorism. Heyer believed in standing up for those who were not heard.

Calling those who would allow Confederate statues to be removed, “weak, weak people,” Trump asserted, “They’re trying to take away our culture, they’re trying to take away our history.” Perhaps most troubling of all was the response of what appeared to be an audience of mostly white supporters, who cheered vociferously in support of ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the implied commitment Trump made in the rally to pardon him. Arpaio was convicted of federal crimes and criminal contempt in defying a court order to end racial profiling tactics against Latinos.

The resurgence of white identity politics and white nationalism in America has brought to the surface what Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin term the “backstage” of two-faced racism. As demonstrated by their research sample drawn from the diaries and journals of over 600 white students from across the nation. On the frontstage white protagonists may present themselves as color blind in front of diverse audiences. But in backstage settings of all white audiences, individuals made blatantly racist comments, actions, and emotions. Such comments were “tolerated, if not encouraged—and sometimes even expected” (p. 91). Trump’s rants, provocative comments, and equivocation regarding white supremacy and the KKK, have energized his base, normalized racist speech, and made it socially acceptable to bring comments and actions from the white backstage to the more diverse frontstage.

Take, for example, the findings of a survey of 600 white, non-Hispanic American adults conducted in 2016 by Ashley Jardina, an assistant professor at Duke University. The participants rated on a scale of 0 to 100 to describe how warm they felt about the Ku Klux Klan and Trump. Surprisingly, 11 percent rated the Klan at 50 degrees are higher and nearly one quarter rated the Klan between 10 and 50. On the same survey, the researcher found that 40 percent described being white as extremely or very important to their identity and 54 percent indicated that whites have a lot to be proud of. In addition, white identifiers were more likely to believe that the increase of racial or ethnic groups is having a negative impact on American culture. They also tended to believe that America owes white people more opportunities than they currently have. These results are consonant with Trump’s lament about the loss of (white) “American culture” in the rally.

Feelings of fear and lack of safety among racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBT individuals, and members of Muslim and Jewish religious groups have increased under Trump’s administration. Incident after incident reinforces this feeling of alienation and a lack of safety among diverse individuals. A case in point is Trump’s sudden, unscripted twitter announcement that transgender individuals will not be allowed in the military.

Perhaps no more symbolic incident could represent the alienation of the Trump administration from cherished American values than Latino CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s recent interchange in a press conference with Trump’s white adviser Stephen Miller, in which Acosta quoted the Statue of Liberty’s inscription,

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Acosta was responding to the administration’s proposed skill-based immigration plan that would cut legal immigration in half and require that prospective green-card holders learn English before arriving in America. Acosta asked Miller,

Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them, you have to speak English? Can’t they speak English when they get here?

When Miller drew on a standard white nationalist argument about the origins of the poem on the Statue of Liberty, saying the verse had been added later, Acosta replied,

You’re saying that does not represent what the country has always thought of as generations coming into this country. Stephen, I’m sorry, that sounds like some national park revisionism. The Statue of Liberty has been a beacon of hope to the world for people to send their people to this country.

It is a time to be fearful for our democracy. It is a time to speak out for what we believe to be the values of this society. A friend recently reminded us of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s eloquent Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech:

It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed. [Wiesel continued]. . . how naive we were. . . the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. . . . Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.

Liberal White Supremacy: Charlottesville and a Conversation with Justice

This past weekend, I was riding bikes with my ten-year old daughter, Justice, when she asked me what a white supremacist is. She had heard from her friend’s mom, a self-identified liberal, that white supremacists are people who think “whites” are better than anyone else. This prompted a long discussion between us about different types of white supremacists. When most liberals use the term “white supremacist,” they usually have a stereotypical image in mind of an uneducated, “white” southerner, who is an outspoken racist. They use offensive words regularly and are just not very good at hiding their racism. These white supremacists are psychologically useful to many liberal “white” people who want to divorce themselves of guilt and prove that they are good, non-racist people. These liberals subscribe to what Joe Feagin and Hernan Vera call “sincere fictions of the white self.” The ultimate goal of such individuals is to show that they are generally good people. They can easily do so by separating themselves from overt racists like the ones in Charlottesville. If they openly show their disgust of racist symbols, such as the confederate flag and the statue of Robert E. Lee, they can secure their place as non-racists. While it is important to challenge overt racism and racist symbols, it is equally important to denounce other more insidious and covert forms of racism in which liberal minded folks engage.

Liberal white supremacy is not outspoken. It manifests quietly in the kinds of acts liberals are quick to condemn and those they let slide. I see white supremacy in many of my liberal friends, who condemn the statue of Robert E. Lee and the confederate flag, but would never call their child’s principal or teacher a racist for promoting uncritical school celebrations of Columbus Day or Thanksgiving. To do so would make them feel uncomfortable and might put their children in an unfavorable position with school authorities.

So, every year, I find myself alone in challenging the school curriculum. The kind of homework Justice brought home in Kindergarten, which she immediately began to protest, included an endearing puppet of Christopher Columbus and a poem about how brave he was and how we should strive to be like him. Five years later, I went to Justice’s sixth grade orientation only to find a history textbook that portrayed Columbus sympathetically, noting a quote from his ship logs, where he describes indigenous people as: “Well-built people of handsome structure…and show as much love as if they were giving their hearts.” The book leaves out the part where Columbus stated, “With fifty men, we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” Not a peep from liberal parents. At most, they can muster an uncomfortable stare or a thoroughly disgusted “Tsk!” Still, few are willing to call the school officials, who condone this curriculum, racists. In our liberal town, there is a statue honoring Columbus with an inscription that reads:

CHRISTOPHER
COLUMBUS
DISCOVERER OF AMERICA
IN 1492
FORESIGHT-FAITH-COURAGE
DEDICATED TO THE VALLEY RESIDENTS
OF THE TOWNSHIP OF WEST ORANGE
NEW JERSEY OCTOBER 10, 1992

So, this was dedicated on the five-hundredth year anniversary of 1492. At the same time in Genoa, Italy 20,000 people took to the streets in protest of the quincentenary. Where’s the outrage among liberals in the Northern U.S. against this statue and others like it?

The same problem is present at school celebrations of Thanksgiving. One year, I witnessed kids playing and saying that they were Indians. My liberal “white” friend, who I know is someone that cares about social justice and vehemently denounces white supremacists in Charlottesville, corrected her daughter by telling her she should use the phrase, “Native Americans.” She kind of missed the point. A correction in words is not enough to challenge the racist ideology that encourages “white” children to see indigenous people as caricatures to play. This also connects to a school curriculum and media images that treat Native Americans as objects of the past.

Instead of protesting these issues and calling them what they are, racist, most liberals just go along with them. They don’t want to start trouble, when it is in their own backyards, so they remain silent and complicit in their everyday liberal white supremacy. However, in the case of Charlottesville, a place that seems far removed from liberal bubbles in the North, it is easy for these same parents, who refuse to speak up other days of the year, to condemn white supremacy. These liberals also have a special hatred for Donald Trump and a special love for Barack Obama. These political opposites serve the same psychological function for a lot of liberal “white” folks. Enthusiastically embracing Barack Obama allowed “white” liberals to prove they didn’t have a racist bone in their bodies in the same way that hating Donald Trump did.

Since the election of Donald Trump, it seems that identifying as a liberal has become, to some, a radical act. I want to caution my liberal comrades against this. Consider what Malcolm X had to say about “white” liberals and conservatives:

The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.

Politically the American Negro is nothing but a football and the white liberals control this mentally dead ball through tricks of tokenism: false promises of integration and civil rights. In this profitable game of deceiving and exploiting the political politician of the American Negro, those white liberals have the willing cooperation of the Negro civil rights leaders. These “leaders” sell out our people for just a few crumbs of token recognition and token gains. These “leaders” are satisfied with token victories and token progress because they themselves are nothing but token leaders.

The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox.

The job of the Negro civil rights leader is to make the Negro forget that the wolf and the fox both belong to the (same) family. Both are canines; and no matter which one of them the Negro places his trust in, he never ends up in the White House, but always in the dog house.

Both types of white supremacy do not challenge the dominant white racial frame. In fact, they support it. Liberal white supremacists are concerned with finding evil racists that allow them to look good. They do not challenge the racial or economic status quo unless it is safe to do so and then only if it does not upset their social and economic positions. They would deny that they are white supremacists, because they do not say racist things, but they are just as culpable in maintaining the larger system of white supremacy.

Angie Beeman is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Baruch College. She is currently writing a book manuscript entitled, “The Limits of Liberal Ideology: Silencing Racism and Privileging Class in Progressive Movements.”

More White Assaults on Affirmative Action in Admissions

Led by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the federal government has launched a frontal assault against the last vestiges of limited, race-sensitive affirmative action programs in college admissions. According to an internal announcement leaked last week to the New York Times, the Justice Department is looking for internal Civil Rights Division lawyers to work on

intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.

The announcement stated the project would be handled by the Division’s front office and essentially staffed by Trump’s political appointees, rather than by the Educational Opportunities Section of career civil-rights lawyers who normally address cases related to education. Upon further press inquiry, Justice Department spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores, said the purpose of the project was to “investigate one admissions complaint” filed on behalf of Asian-Americans, but the announcement was met with skepticism by career civil rights attorneys. Furthermore, the announcement stated that multiple lawyers were needed to work on “investigations” and requested that they submit resumes by August 9.

Trump and Sessions are playing on some of the public misunderstanding and confusion about affirmative action admissions programs in higher education. These programs are voluntary and represent the efforts of colleges and universities to create more diverse and inclusive campuses as well as to expand access and opportunity for historically underrepresented groups. These programs have been thoroughly vetted and tested by a conservative Supreme Court that has established a number of significant hurdles for colleges and universities in a series of cases culminating in Fisher v. University of Texas last year.

The new initiative by Trump and Sessions is deeply troubling for the following reasons:

1. This initiative seeks to eliminate holistic admissions review processes that would enhance campus diversity and yield the educational benefits for all students that the Supreme Court already has upheld as a “compelling state interest.”
2. It splinters minority groups by using Asian Americans as a proxy and pretext to overturn limited race-sensitive admissions programs. As Nancy Leong points out, “By framing opposition to affirmative action as concern for Asian Americans, opponents of affirmative action can protect the existing racial hierarchy — with white people at the top — while disguising their efforts as race-neutral rather than racially motivated.”
3. It unites the federal government’s legal strategy with the private legal efforts of wealthy, white elites who repeatedly have challenged race-conscious college admissions programs.
4. It does not address preference programs that favor alumni children and wealthy donors, groups that tend to be heavily and disproportionately white. Donald Trump himself is described as having benefited from the connections of his wealthy father in his transfer from Fordham University to the Wharton School as an undergraduate economics major.

Recall that just last summer the Supreme Court upheld the narrowly-tailored holistic admissions plan of the University of Texas at Austin by a vote of 4-3 in the appeal of Abigail Fisher in the Fisher v University of Texas at Austin case. Edward Blum, a wealthy white conservative entrepreneur and head of the one-person organization, the “Project on Fair Representation” founded in 2005, personally recruited Abigail Fisher, the daughter of an old friend, for this landmark lawsuit.

As Stephanie Mencimer points out, Blum is the brains behind the “effort to get the Supreme Court to rethink civil rights.” Blum has engineered at least a dozen lawsuits, four of which have made it to the Supreme Court, challenging what he perceives to be race- and ethnicity-based laws in voting, education, and contracting Blum guided the 2009 lawsuit, Shelby County v. Holder, that successfully challenged provisions of the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to voting I.D. requirements in Southern states. He has attempted to recruit Asian American plaintiffs in his suit against Harvard University, alleging that Harvard has held Asian American applicants to higher standards than other applicant. He has also filed suit against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for its own statements relating to black enrollment. Not content with the outcome in Fisher, Blum has also now filed a new lawsuit alleging that the holistic review process at UT-Austin subverts state law and will be pursuing this suit with the conservative Texas Supreme Court.

In Affirmative Action at a Crossroads: Fisher and Forward, Alvin Evans and I chart the progressive change in the interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Supreme Court from protecting minority rights to protecting majority interests in college admissions programs. The appointment of conservative judge Neil Gorsuch will only further solidify this direction. As Kristin Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law noted, Jeff Sessions

has a clear record of hostility to racial diversity. [She added] We will not stand by idly as the administration continue to hijack and obstruct this Division’s core civil rights mission.

In the view of leading scholar Carol Anderson, these new mostly white (male) assaults on affirmative action in college admissions build on white racial resentment and seek to punish minority achievement and aspiration. The attack on limited and legally compliant affirmative action programs designed to enhance racial diversity on college campuses is but another salvo in the (extraordinarily white) Trump administration’s clever strategy of pitting minority groups against each other in the effort to perpetuate division and thwart the inclusive goals of our pluralistic democracy.

Messy Truths about White Trump Voters

Van Jones, I would like to personally recognize you for your undertaking with concern to your exploration within the minds and souls of white Trump voters within your recent televised CNN series entitled, “The Messy Truth.” I get the intellectual journey you are on and appreciate your determination. I truly do. Unfortunately, in regard to the often glossed over purview of recent advanced racialized assessments related to the past electoral democratic debauchery, like many brash hired gun commentators on both the left and right who are propagated by the media to perform political illusion for the ill-informed passive thinkers—you are simply wrong. Your attempted psychological stretch to “make nice” and create an alternative narrative for Trump supporters ignores a hard reality that renowned influential intellectuals such Derrick Bell, Joe Feagin, and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva have discussed, researched, and proven time and time again—the dynamics of race are almost always present. The intellectual and scholarly fortitude of these men compels me to keenly point to those you wish to defend as guilty of participating in collaborative racism. Decisions to vote based on issues such as the economy, on the surface seem to have validity. But when looking not only closer with a critical eyes, but also to the results of the 2016 election, Mr. Jones and others have overlooked the dark shading of racism. In a Rolling Stone interview he argues that:

…progressives think that that all 60 million people who voted for him have signed on to an Alt-Right, white nationalist agenda…a lot of people held their nose and voted for Donald Trump – despite his bigotry, not because of it.

Thusly, he and his media kinspersons consequently advocate for the construction of “bridges” between progressives and Trump devotees.

I contend: Before building any bridges, the ground must first be examined for sinkholes before the golden keepsake shovel is pulled out for pictures. Before we as a nation move forward, we must first be brutally honest and face the ideological perspective, that even though many Trump supporters do not have a smoldering, smelling KKK hood placed in the backseat of their truck after the latest cross burning, their electoral actions, as argued by previously mentioned scholars, are more likely than not internally effected by a dark white-racist ideology that dates back to the first Dutch-flagged slave ship in 1619 Virginia. Their ability to essentially turn a blind eye to the documented psychological effects of media-covered incidents filled with hateful rhetoric–and at times physical violence toward historically marginalized people such as Muslims, Latinos, and Blacks–proves it so.

I am sure many of you are saying to yourselves, how does this apply to evidence provided by an NBC exit poll that explains “29 percent” of Latinos respectively voted for Trump? The answer is simple. It does not apply. Looking beyond the hyperbole and political spin, political scientists have vehemently argued and provided much evidence which proves the quoted Latino turnout for Trump was were wildly exaggerated. This entry is focused on arguments pertaining to phrases such as “sincere ignorance,” “self-hate,” and “conscientious stupidity” within a much longer argument.

But I digress. In terms of whites in America, many are under the false assumption that you are either racist or not. A little secret—-Racism is not binary. Any race scholar worth his/her salt knows that racism moves across an internal sliding scale. Some are blatant proud bigots who spew out epithets with no remorse, adopted an ideology inferiority toward those on the darker side, and practice national terrorism. Others are your uncles who have Black and Brown co-workers they like (he calls, “the good ones”), but also believe in the slogan “White Lives Matters.” In the end, when confronted with policies and groups that threaten their racial interests, all those whites along the middle to extreme fringe lines of the spectrum safeguard it with white-generated colorblind rhetoric and actions that speak to acts of racial criticism and/or ignore the plight and pains of those Americans of color that they see as potentially threatening their interests. But whites in general have come to the aid of people of color, right? Derrick Bell’s forwarded theory, “convergence interests,” argues that in general whites will support issues pertaining to racial justice for marginalized people of color only when that support “converges” with their interests. This has been proven from Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) to the current bipartisan push to change certain drug laws.

In the end, as Texas A&M Distinguished Professor Feagin argues, we live in a country that is infused with our forefathers-generated system of racism (systemic racial oppression) that was created to maintain modern capitalism and white access to power. In order to maintain power over non-Whites, a white rationale was created to drive and rationalize oppressive acts such as slavery. This rationale is wrapped in conscious and unconscious repeated organized and racialized stereotypes and racialized emotions that consequently foster discriminatory acts or racial justice “in-actions.”

The in-action to empathize with the fear and anger of those on the receiving end of the racial hate rhetoric of Trump and his supporters are examples of Feagin’s white racial frame. The absence of care toward the recipients of physical and psychological warfare created by the Hitler-saluting KKK and other white nationalists members make Trump voters guilty of consciously or unconsciously acting in accord to a transgenerational set of white-racist ideas whose ultimate goal is to maintain the historic U.S. racial hierarchy, while ignoring the pains of those historically seen as un-American, as alien.

If we are truly trying to come to an understanding regarding this racialized country or the racial ramifications related to the previous election, we as a country must be honest—Race Matters. Sorry, by ignoring it Mr. Jones, you have become not a facilitator, but another barrier to our country attaining true democracy for all.

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The “Birther” Movement: Whites Defining Black

Hallelujah I say, Hallelujah! Did you hear the news? Did ya? After sending a team of investigators to Hawaii, drawing the attention of the national and international media, and leading an almost six year charge of infesting the mind of those already under the influence of the white racial frame into a catnip type psychological and emotional frenzy; the “benevolent one,” Donald J. Trump, has publically and emphatically acknowledged that our President of the United States of America is—get this, “an American!” Yes it is true. Republican presidential nominee and town jester, Trump on Friday, September 16, 2016 recognized in a public forum for the first time in eight years that President Obama was indeed born in the U.S. After not only leading, but becoming synonymous with what many have described as the “birther movement,” Trump has conceded and given up on furthering the conspiracy theory that our President is not an American citizen.

Listening today in regard to the news coverage of the spectacle orchestrated by Trump, while at the same time attempting to foil my biological reaction to orally evacuate my stomach, I witnessed the all too common deflecting and reflecting of liberal and conservative political pundits on my big screen at home, and upon the satellite radio broadcasting platform. I also heard the babbling and flippant shrilling response by the mostly nearsighted list of news celebrity commentary analysts (i.e., any nut job with an opinion barbarously willing to spin emotions and misdirection to the masses absent of critical thinking). In my analysis, I argue that the heart of the issue was not discussed or investigated with a third eye, so to speak. Beyond the attempts to brush Trump’s statement off by conservatives, liberals spoke of Black anger. Specifically, the anger that they discussed was in relations to the manner in which most Blacks feel in regard to the delegitimizing of President Obama. I have come to the conclusion that their examination of the core regarding the discussion was flawed. Further, what was missed from discussion related to the initial start of the birther movement to Trump’s recent declaration is simple, but at the same time extremely complicated. Donald Trump is simply a contemporary example of a wealthy elite White male, within a long line of wealthy elite White males, exercising their self given authority to define us, determining our place in this society. The ability to hamper our ability to construct our narrative is as old to this country as the U.S. flag. This is what I feel unconsciously angers most Blacks—well, at least me.

Historically and legislatively, beginning with the transaction of Dutch traders selling twenty Africans in Virginia in 1619, Whites have controlled our definition. For example, Whites struggled between categorizing Black slaves as both indentured and lifetime slaves. Before slavery as we know it developed fully into an institution, slaves existed in a state of uncertainty. For example, a number of legislative pieces between 1639 and 1659-60, depicted black servants not as merely property, but instead as members of a shared community alongside Whites of diverse classes, including wealthy Burgesses and indentured servants. In 1659–1660, Virginia colony law fully institutionalized Black slavery for the first time. The law shaped the perspective of categorizing African slaves as commodities. Just like other items imported into the colony from abroad, African slaves were considered “other” or property. The idea of personhood like that of whites was completely absent. This perspective was galvanized in 1776 under the Articles of Confederation enacted by Continental Congress–which officially and explicitly used the term “white” in its statement about counting the population. Moreover, the defining of the slave identity once again appeared within the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Provisions created during the convention thusly gave allowance to whites running southern states to count slaves as 3/5 persons (Three-Fifths Clause) so whites there could have more representation in the new Congress.

One cannot forget the history behind the 1662 Virginia law that in particular focused on the behavior directed toward mixed-race people. The notion of the ‘one drop rule’ was consequently constructed. This legal means for identifying who was Black was judicially upheld as recent as 1985 “when a Louisiana court ruled that a woman with a black great-great-great-great-grandmother could not identify herself as ‘white’ on her passport.”

Science has also had a historical significant part in defining Black as well. In essence, Blacks were not only seen as property, but subhuman. The work of individuals such as George Mason, Carl von Linne (Carolus Linnaeus), Louis Agassiz, and Immanuel Kant, to the ghastly experiments performed on unwilling female slaves performed by Dr. J. Marion Sims underscored Thomas Jefferson’s sentiments:

Whether the black of the negro reside [sic] in the reticular membrane between the skin and the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the color of the blood, the color of the bile or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature.

White elites have also defined Blacks through name. In 1960, the U.S. Census Bureau used the term Negro for the first time to define Black Americans. Even though Blacks began to construct their identity by replacing Negro with more empowering categories such as Colored, Black, and African American, the U.S. census continued to use Negro and refused to change the identifiable marker for participants. The decision to drop Negro as an option was not decided until 2013. This is an illustration of the power to not only control the nomenclature, but also one’s identity. All of which is within the hands of Whites.

Finally, there are countless, and too many to state here, historical and contemporary examples within the White controlled media, news industry, literature publications, and even pornography to define what is Black. Together they have identified us as the boogeyman. We are the rapist, foreigner, oversexed, stupid, and violent underbelly of U.S. citizenry. Being Black in America, one is born with an imposed identity as “Other.”

All Donald Trump has been doing for the past eight years with his investigations, statements challenging our President’s allegiance, intelligence, academic credentials, religion, and birthright, is continuing said trend. A trend that is truly “American.”

Post-Truth Culture and the White Racial Frame: Presidential Politics

To understand the 2016 presidential election and its potential consequences it helps to look at it through the lens of what Jeremy Gordon referred to in a recent NYT’s article as our “post-truth culture.” Gordon made the point that the popularity and addiction of professional wrestling, “reality tv,” and other forms of inauthentic entertainment—where “the blurry line between truth and untruth” only increases the appeal to audiences—have seeped into presidential politics as well. Gordon states,

For a while, it became trendy to insist that the 2016 presidential election, with all its puffed chests and talk of penis size, seemed more like a wrestling pay-per-view event than a dignified clash of political minds. In politics, as in wrestling, the ultimate goal is simply to get the crowd on your side.

Getting the crowd on “your side” leads to electoral victory. And Trump is a master at getting the crowd on his side. Despite switching political parties at least five times and being married three times, voters on the far right are most definitely on Trump’s side viewing him as a family man of conservative values. For example, in a National Public Radio report by Kirk Siegler, conservative Mormon Janalee Tobias said of Trump,

Donald Trump wants to make America great again. Think about what made America great in the beginning: There were laws and people came here legally and didn’t have their hand out.

Siegler wraps up the story by stating that Tobias believes Trump is a good family man who abstains from alcohol, two important pillars in the Mormon religion. Never mind that Trump marketed a brand of Vodka in 2006 under the slogan “Success Distilled.”

“Post-truth” may be the modus operandī of the Trump campaign, but it is nothing new when it comes to US politics and policy as one of Stephen Colbert’s best skits on Comedy Central on “truthiness” demonstrated a decade ago when he told us he would dismiss the facts and instead go with his guts when delivering the “news” for the nation. Colbert included the war in Iraq and how it just felt right that Saddam Hussein was gone as example of truthiness. However, scholars of Latin America have known that the “blurry line between truth and untruth” and truthiness have been a dominant part of U.S. foreign policy since the Cold War. The CIA’s overthrowing of the democratically elected President Árbenz in Guatemala is just one example.

Post-truth politics have domestic policy consequences as well, especially when it comes to lies about our racial past and current racial inequality. As Joe Feagin argues in his book White Party, White Government,

In these myth-filled narratives, the Protestant “settlers” came to North American with modest resources and dreams of liberty, and drew on religious faith, virtuousness, and hard work to create prosperity in a land allegedly populated by some thinly scattered “savage” Indians.

Most of us have also heard the narrative that the U.S. is a land of opportunity where can achieve the American Dream if they just work hard enough; however, empirical measures of racial inequality including a racial wealth gap, disparate levels of educational attainment, segregation, and the most prominent example, law enforcement abuses should dispel this belief. Yet it doesn’t. Why? Because we also live with what Feagin calls the white racial frame, which consists of a broad racial framing of society that includes racial stereotypes, narratives, images, emotions, and discriminatory actions. Feagin states,

The dominant frame has persisted now over centuries only because it is constantly validating, and thus validated by, the inegalitarian accumulation of social, economic, and political resources.

This theory helps to explains why there are still vast differences today among whites and people of color while at the same time a strong-held belief that the U.S. is a land of opportunity, freedom, and equality for all. Therefore, this presidential election is showing us the product of the intersection of a culture steeped in “truthiness” and the white racial frame. We should not be surprised to simultaneously have the most diverse electorate in the history of this nation—with people of color comprising 31% of the electorate—and also to have the Republican presidential campaign entrenched in white supremacy narratives and traditions.

This explains how Mormons such as Tobias can believe Trump doesn’t drink, or why the middle class voters believe that Trump understands them. A white respondent in the Atlantic who was asked why he supports Trump thus stated:

Speaking from the right, I believe that Trump embodies the frustration and rage of the white middle class. This is his main support base and is an evershrinking group that no longer feels they have a voice. Politicians pay lip service to the middle class but spend no time helping them. Black lives matter more and illegal immigrants who break the law get a free pass. Evangelical Christians in this country no longer feel that they have the right to religious freedom and have watched what they perceive as a sacred institution in marriage gutted. All the while, politicians they voted for to represent them just plain don’t. Now enter Trump.

People of color have a different view of things. Our reality is that America is a society where, as a mother of an eleven year-old bi-racial son, I will not allow him to wear a hoodie out in public. He is too tall and strong looking, his hair is too long, and his features are too dark to be safe if he does. And when he turns sixteen I will not only teach him the rules of the road, but also the rules of engagement with the police before I let him drive.

The truth is the U.S.’s racial demographics are changing, and this scares the “evershrinking group” of whites because self-serving political candidates like Trump are telling them they should be scared with nativist policy proposals such as banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. As Jacobson points out, these types of fear tactics led to the internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II, and are now being recalled as the correct thing to do by many. The consequence of our post-truth politics and the white racial frame may be a disruption to normal political cycles the likes of which we have not seen before. And this should scare us all.

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

Trump’s Bête Noire: Citizenship of Us-Born Children of the Undocumented

Undocumented immigrants’ children born in the US have become Trump’s latest foe. He does not believe that these US children hold valid citizenship despite the fact that since they were born in the US they receive citizenship automatically, a right granted by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Donald Trump

He put it as follows:

I don’t think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers — and I know some will disagree — but many of them agree with me and you’re going to find they do not have American citizenship.

In his usual rambling manner, he does not name any of the “very, very good lawyers” nor does he elaborate his reasons for saying that these children are not US citizens by birth. Trump is not one to quibble over “details”: The children are not citizens because he says so, because the “incompetent idiots in Washington are wrong” as always.

An article in the Washington Post outlines the flaws in Trump’s proposal:

He leaves out what is perhaps the most important detail: Such change would be very difficult as it would require the repeal of the 14th Amendment, which would take require the approval of 75 percent (or 38) of the state legislatures, an unlikely event. There have been 11,000 attempts to amend the Constitution in the entire history of the United States, and only 27 succeeded.

Even Trump sycophant Ted Cruz admits the difficulty of changing Constitutional amendments. According to birthright supporters, ending it would have catastrophic consequences:

Supporters of birthright citizenship say there are a number of reasons it should be maintained. It’s part of the Constitution. Attempts to restrict it have historically been motivated by racist fears of immigrants and their children. Ending it would be a bureaucratic nightmare. The most extreme consequence would be a massive group of stateless people — neither citizens in the U.S. nor in foreign countries.

These warnings do not seem to have much on an impact on other Republicans, particularly the candidates for the Presidential nomination:

This week, several of Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals, including Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, echoed his call to end automatic citizenship for the American-born children of undocumented immigrants, repealing a constitutional right dating from the Civil War era.

Public opinion about birthright citizenship is mixed. A Wall Street Journal /NBC poll found that 43% of Republicans in the sample said that the U.S. should work to find and deport people who have come to the U.S. illegally. However, a survey of a sample of 2,002 adults conducted by the Pew Research Center in May, 2015, found that 72 percent of respondents believed that

Undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay in the country legally, if certain requirements are met.

Public opinion may be divided, but the effects of the anti-birthright campaign have been dire. Some children in Texas are unable to secure the birth certificates they need to enroll in school:

At issue is the health service agency’s Vital Statics Unit, which is responsible for issuing birth certificates, and its refusal to honor various foreign identifications from immigrant parents. Many Mexican immigrants receive identification cards commonly known as matriculas, which are issued by Mexican consulates to citizens living and working in the United States. But officials [in Texas] have increasingly come to refuse these, making it harder for parents living in the U.S. illegally to obtain birth certificates for their children.

To sum up: Trump is stirring up more anti-undocumented immigrant rhetoric through an attack against a Constitutionally-given right, birthright US citizenship. Trump, always the sophist, contends that children of undocumented immigrant born in the US were never citizens, an idea he claims is supported by “very good lawyers,” whom he fails to identify.

In fact, the only way to eliminate birthright citizenship is to repeal the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, something practically impossible because bringing about such repeals are very difficult, as shown by thousands of attempts have failed in the past. The “bottom line” is that Trump is stirring up a controversy that has no practical purpose. The only result is that undocumented parents find it very difficult to obtain the birth certificates their children need to enroll in school. How Trumplike: Being a loose cannon and disregarding its consequences.