Dr. Julianne Malveaux on Surviving and Thriving in America



Over at Dr. Boyce’s fine blog, Dr. Julianne Malveaux (President – Bennett College and economist and founder of Last Word Productions, Inc.) has some interesting comments on positive aspects of Black Americans surviving and thriving drawing on her latest book, Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History.
(Photo: from her website here)

A prolific book and article writer on racial issues (USA Today, Black Issues in Higher Education, Ms. Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Progressive), in this commentary Malveaux makes some key points about progress under great oppression for African Americans. First she notes the data on the dismal conditions that systemic racism has brought:

When I look at the data that define the reality for African Americans in the economy, I am often alarmed and discouraged. One in four African American lives in poverty. Nearly one in three is out of work. . . . This is hardly the first time African Americans have experienced disproportionate pain.

But in spite of these and many other disturbing statistical data, she reminds us all that

even in harsh times African Americans have been more than survivors, we have been thrivers. We have made it despite horrible conditions, despite unfairness, despite racism. The playing field has never been level, and yet we have played on the slanted field, returning, returning, and sometimes winning.

She discusses numerous cases of those who have survived and thrived against high odds. Here are just a few:

Madame C.J. Walker is on the book’s cover, and everyone knows about this first self-made woman millionaire in the United States, but few know of Maggie Lena Walker, the woman who started the Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia. . . . The most powerful acts of economic history, acts at our foundation, were those African Americans who bought their own freedom. . . . I wrote my book because everyone needs to know about self-emancipation, about the will and the tenacity of people of African descent.

After noting too how enslaved African Americans not only bought their own freedom but that of relatives, Malveaux ends her commentary with a timely call for yet more collective efforts:

And so we need Kwanzaa now more than ever. We need the principle of Ujamaa – cooperative economics. The statistics tell a grim story about our status, but our history is a compelling reminder that in good times and in bad, African Americans have survived and thrived.

I have recently heard Malveaux speak at the U. Pittsburgh conference on racism issues last summer. If you get the chance to hear her, I encourage you to do so. She is one of the powerful thinkers and speakers on race and racism issues in the US today.
Thinking about her book and comments, I would suggest this: They say that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but it seems that eternal organization may be even more important.

New Research: Journalists “Grappling With Our Own Racism”

There is interesting new research just published about journalists and racism in the production of news. The research is reported in an article, “Coming to Terms with Our Own Racism: Journalists Grapple with the Racialization of their News,” by Emily Drew, Assistant Professor at Willamette University, and appears in the October issue of Critical Studies in Media Communication (behind a paywall).

It came as something of a surprise to me to learn that from 1990 to 2005, 28 major metropolitan newspapers in the United States sought to grapple with race relations and racism by devoting significant time, staff, and financial resources to launching systematic examinations of the ‘‘state of race.’’ (p.2)

All the news that's fit to print | 088/365
Creative Commons License photo credit: mfhiatt

Drew’s research was well-designed.  She interviewed 31 of the editors and writers who brought their newspaper’s race series into being.  In this research, she argues that explicit and intentional ‘‘racial projects’’ can foster antiracist consciousness in their producers and promote changes in news production. (p.3)

Specifically, she examines how a journalistic project that was seemingly about ‘‘them’’ (society), ultimately became about ‘‘us’’ (news media). Drew found that as journalists sought to ‘‘discover the facts’’ about how racism manifested in their communities, they began recognizing its manifestations in their own profession. As one editor put it, her paper’s race series, ‘‘challenged us to go beyond the rhetoric and hold up a mirror, an honest mirror . . . one that was not tainted by our own thinking that we were too sophisticated to be part of that.’’ (pp.2-3).  Here is one of her respondents, explaining the change:

“We thought we were reporting on ‘them’ . . . those people, and organizations, and institutions that were still disenfranchising racial minorities. As it turned out, racism was about ‘us’ in the media, our news production, our editorial decisions and our own lack of diversity. (Editor of a ‘‘Race Series’’ at a major U.S. newspaper)” (p.1)

Returning to Drew’s analysis of this process, she writes:

“In the process of investigating how ‘‘new racism’’ operated in their local communities, journalists began engaging in a reflexivity, one that illuminated the need to probe their own institution’s relationship to race and racism. Most interviewees indicated that analyzing the media — let alone their own newspaper — was not a part of their agenda or design when they first began. But once the series began publication, community responses and discussions in the newsroom meant they could not avoid examining the racialization of their newsroom. As one interviewee noted, newspapers across the country, for 20 years, had been ‘‘guilty of their own sort of ‘benign neglect’ towards race as a newsworthy issue’ ” (p.8).

She concludes by talking about the dismay that some of the white participants in her research expressed about the lack of opportunity to address race:

Having undergone significant learning through the race series, one white journalist expressed tremendous frustration at the lack of opportunity wite people have to learn and grow. ‘‘There is not a forum in which we can discuss race, genuinely, with people listening. How can we have such a risky and honest [conversation] without a reason?’’ he asked. When white people have reason, and people of color have safe opportunities to address race and racism with openness and intentionality, they interrupt the mechanisms of racism that socialize people into blindness and silence about the structures of privilege and oppression” (p.16).

There are a number of things to note about this study, perhaps foremost is the focus on the process of news production which is often lamented for its role in the production of racist images, but too little studied. I also appreciate the nuance here in examining people who are “well-meaning” and filled with “good intentions” not to replicate racism, yet find themselves in an occupation and industry which does this in many unexamined ways.

If you’d like to read more about racism in the production of news, I recommend Pamela Newkirk’s Within the veil: Black journalists, white media. (New York, NY: NYU Press, 2000) and Darnell M. Hunt’s Channeling Blackness: Studies on Television and Race in America (NY: Oxford UP, 2004).(H/T to @dr_grzanka for that second ref.)

Do Subtle Discrimination and Social Justice Belong in Leadership Development Programs?



Mary Rowe, ombudsperson at MIT argues that subtle discrimination is the primary scaffolding for segregation in the U.S., a scaffolding that maintains inequality through micro-inequities–small, ephemeral, covert events that marginalize historically disadvantaged groups. She writes about how micro-inequities come to her attention everyday:

I hear of racist and anti-gay graffiti, of ethnic jokes in a lab, of someone failing to introduce a minority person, or confusing the names of two people of color I hear of someone ascribing the work or idea of a woman to a nearby male, of people who think exclusively of male contacts when a job or coveted assignment is open, of someone’s obvious discomfort at being assigned to travel with a woman or a person of another race. I hear of women who take a different path to class because of a man who seems to hang around on the path. I hear of a minority employee not notified of a vital matter at work. I hear of a woman trainee assigned to a certain office she did not want to be in, ‘because the man in that office was lonely and wanted to be assigned with a woman.’

Are these issues that leaders need to know about? Are the dynamics of subtle discrimination a subject for leadership development programs?

A thought-provoking new report on leadership and race entitled “How to Develop and Support Leadership that Contributes to Racial Justice” has just been issued by the Leadership Learning Community. The report suggests the leadership programs that simply focus upon diversity practices, equal opportunity, and individualism, do not recognize how systems such as culture, institutional practices, and policies, impact career and life opportunities for disadvantaged groups. A revealing chart in the report indicates that almost 90 percent of the 122 institutional leadership programs surveyed address diversity, but only half include training on structural racism and white privilege. An even smaller number (a little over 30 percent) include GLBTQ concerns.

Why does this matter? Should structural considerations relating to racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, and other forms of exclusion be included in our leadership development programs? Should we not simply continue to talk about the value of diversity without addressing the systems that perpetuate social stratification within our institutions and organizations?

These questions remain controversial. It is easier to focus upon general discussions of diversity and multi-culturalism without delving into the difficult problems that this country has faced and is still facing. As American’s foremost theorist on systemic discrimination, Joe Feagin, reminds us in The White Racial Frame , the United States is a country shaped by extensive slavery and comprehensive legal segregation for a time period of 350 years, between 1619 to 1969, when legal segregation officially ended.

In the field of higher education, we know from recent reports that a high degree of racial and gender stratification persists in the administrative leadership ranks. My colleague, Alvin Evans of Kent State University, and I are exploring the implications of this stratification for university leadership in an upcoming book.
And as Adrianna Kezar and Rosana Carducci point out in Rethinking Leadership in a Complex, Multicultural and Global Environment now is the time for a revolutionary reconceptualization of leadership models from hierarchical, individualist leadership models that focus on power over others, to process-centered, nonhierarchical, collective forms of leadership that emphasize mutual power.

We agree. In Bridging the Diversity Divide: Globalization and Reciprocal Empowerment in Higher Education my co-author and I identify the importance of a framework of demography, diversity, and democracy that infuses the climate and culture and fosters reciprocal empowerment. Reciprocal empowerment corrects the imbalance in asymmetrical power relations through distributive justice, collaboration, and self-determination. In this era of globalization, the need for new approaches in our leadership programs that address critical social justice issues has never been stronger.

International Athletes Protest Racism: US Media Ignore Protests

At OpEdNews, Bill Hare scooped the mainstream media with a story I still have not seen anywhere else, the reality of numerous antiracism protests by World Cup athletes in South Africa recently. Not only were there pictures of former Black president Nelson Mandela everywhere at the various playing arenas, but there were regular demonstrations of a

fervent commitment to stamp out international racism. . . . Before the games begin player representatives of the competing national teams deliver statements condemning racism.

He added:

After that, in a show of unity, pictures are taken of both teams as the players that will shortly be locked in determined competition are shown posing together. The focus is on understanding and camaraderie as opposed to hate, bigotry and ignorance.

The diversity on some of these football teams was also impressive.

I wonder why in our mainstream media we have had several stories of racist actions across the country by our lunatic fringe–such as at some Tea Party events and by far-right talk show hosts–and yet no stories of these demonstrations against such racism by many of the world’s leading athletes.

It is good to see some modest, if too quickly and weakly analyzed, reporting on U.S. racism, but we should pay more attention to the actions and words of such antiracist activism, especially in the international context.

There is a certain public and media provincialism and parochialism that seems to go with our conventional America-first nationalism.

Beyond Good and Evil Whites

If you’ve been reading the news lately, I’m sure you’ve run across at least some coverage of a rather raucous Neo-Nazi rally that took place around noon on 17 April on the south lawn of Los Angeles City Hall.  Approximately 50 members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) attempted to stage a permitted rally, where they evinced their white nationalist call for all people of color to be forcibly removed from the Southwestern United States.

However, according to officials and media reports, about 500 predominantly white counter-protesters shouted down the NSM with cries of “racists go home” and “stop the Nazis” before things turned a little ugly—both police and the white supremacists were pelted with rocks, bottles, eggs and other items by the counter-protesters.  Los Angeles Police Detective Gus Villanueva reported that several people received minor injuries and some were arrested (all those arrested were counter-protestors).  In the wake of Saturday’s clash, an anonymous policeman was quoted in one report as saying, “It’s just one group of racists protesting another group of racists.”

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(Photo Source: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / April 17, 2010)

That quotation caught the blogosphere ablaze, with left-leaning sites such as the Daily Kos proclaiming:

“… this is disturbing, beyond the obvious false equivalency being made as if Neo-Nazi’s are the same as those people who are offended by Nazi’s, and those people who are organizing for immigration reform,”

and respective comments on right-leaning blogs like Free Republic and American Power that the police officer’s remark was the “best line ever” and that the counter-protesters “are more dangerous, despite what the MSM keeps feeding us about ‘right-wing terrorists’ and ‘tea party violence’.”

What this kind of media framing accomplishes is the dichotmatizing of racial conflict qua whiteness into a war between the quintessentially “good” versus “evil” whites.  Once the comparison is made, it begs us to answer the question: who is worse?  Such discussive and ideological missteps then threaten to trap us in a public discourse in which talking heads battle back and forth over who is the “real” racist, a point that writer Ta-Nahesi Coates makes frequently at his blog for The Atlantic.  Sociologists have long noted this phenomenon, Alastair Bonnett (2000: 10) writes the story of racism and antiracism is:

“…staged with melodrama, the characters presented as heroes and villains: pure anti-racists versus pure racists, good against evil.”

So also, Jack Niemonen (2007: 166-166) remarks that we often:

“… paint a picture of social reality in which battle lines are drawn, the enemy identified, and the victims sympathetically portrayed.  … [distinguishing] between ‘good’ whites and ‘bad’ whites.”

Of course, there is hardly any question that racism exists, only over where it is, and who wields it—and that finding it is a matter of utmost importance.  In “Beyond Good and Evil”  (1886), Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:

“It might even be possible that what constitutes the value of those good and respected things, consists precisely in their being insidiously related, knotted, and crocheted to these evil; and apparently opposed things—perhaps even in being essentially identical with them.”

Accordingly, my own sociological research (Hughey forthcoming – opens pdf) bears out an eerie resemblance between White Nationalist and White Antiracist understandings of white racial identity.  In previous posts here,  I’ve shared research based on fourteen months of ethnographic study amidst a white nationalist and a white antiracist group.  From this research, I found that both groups often relied on similar “scripts,” if you will, to construct a robust and strikingly similar understanding of white and nonwhite identity on a personal, interactive, micro-level.

Now don’t get me wrong.

Both pose different kinds of threats and there remain deep differences between White Nationalists (not to mention within that “movement”—it’s a heterogeneous bunch) and White Antiracists (so too, they are diffuse and varied) (for more on these points see: Zeskind 2009; O’Brien 2001).  Yet, members of both engaged in what I call an “Identity Politics of Hegemonic Whiteness.” That is, they both possess analogous common-sensed “ideals” of white identity that function to guide their interactions in everyday life.  These “scripts” serve as seemingly neutral yardsticks against which cultural behavior, norms, values, and expectations are measured.  Hence, white identity is revealed as an ongoing process of formation in which (1) racist and reactionary scripts are used to demarcate white/non-white boundaries, and (2) performances of white racial identity that fail to adhere to those scripts are often marginalized and stigmatized, thereby creating intra-racial distinctions among whites.

We seem to resist this understanding because of the seductive reach of pop-psychology explanations about racism.  For example, in The Nature of Prejudice (1954: 9) Gordon Allport remarked that prejudice is an individual “antipathy based upon a faulty and inflexible generalization.” A facile reading of Allport’s work has, unfortunately, saturated our culture and has turned many a layperson into self-professed experts of “hate.”  In this model, “racism” is assumed to belong to the realm of ideas and prejudices and is little more than the collection of a few nasty thoughts that a particular “bad apple” individual has about another person or group. With this understanding in play, we can too easily come to think of racism as a bad thought or moral failing, and then proceed to divide the world into those that are “sick” with the “disease of prejudice” and those that are “healthy” anti- or non-racists.  As Desmond and Emirbayer (2009: 342-343) recently penned in the Du Bois Review:

“This conception of racism simply will not do, for it fails to account for the racism that is woven into the very fabric of our schools, political institutions, labor markets, and neighborhoods. Conflating racism with prejudice … ignores the more systematic and structural forms of racism; it looks for racism within individuals and not institutions. Labeling someone a “racist” shifts our attention from the social surroundings that enforce racial inequalities and miseries to the individual with biases. It also lets the accuser off the hook—“He is a racist; I am not”—and treats racism as aberrant and strange, whereas American racism is rather normal.”

Simply put, white supremacy is the ether which we all consume.

Beliefs that racism is perpetuated by “stereotypes” and “prejudice”—that we all carry along in the black-box of our minds—absolves our social structures and culture of any blame.  Concentrating either on neo-Nazi’s or counter-protestors or trying to weigh and balance which one is more or less racist, misses the point completely.  And while the anonymous officer’s comment that “It’s just one group of racists protesting another group of racists” remains a violent oversimplification and slander ignorant of the nuances and difference, perhaps such a remark might invite us to consider the habitual, unintentional, commonplace, polite, implicit, and supposedly well-meaning dimensions of racist ideologies and practices that collude with the dominant expectations of white racial identity.

~ Matthew W. Hughey, PhD is Assistant Professor of Sociology and affiliate faculty member of African American Studies and Gender Studies at Mississippi State University.  His research centers on racial identity formation, racialized organizations, and mass media representations of race.  He can be reached at MHughey [at] soc.msstate.edu.  His website is http://mwh163.sociology.msstate.edu/

>>>PS: If anyone is attending the Southern Sociological Society Meetings in Atlanta this week, I invite you to my panel where I will present some of my research on this topic.  The title of my talk is “Beyond Good and Bad Whites: Ugly Couplings of Racism and White Identity.”

April 4, 1968 — A Time to Remember



April 4, 1968, about 6:01pm. We should always remember that time. It has now been 42 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was moving conceptually and in his actions in a more radical direction combining antiracist, broader anticlass, and antiwar efforts—which efforts likely had much to do with his assassination.King (Photo: Wiki-images)

I remember the day vividly, like it was yesterday, and can still remember the time of day when one of my students at the University of California called me to tell of the terrible event, and I can still remember well my and his distressed emotions as we talked about the shooting. (We did not know Dr. King had died at that time.) He was one of the few African American students then at that university and as one would expect was devastated by the event, as I was too.

The events leading up to Dr. King’s assassination need to be taught everywhere. In late March 1968 Dr. King and other civil rights leaders participated in and supported the local Memphis sanitary works employees, black and white, who were striking for better wages and working condition.

Conditions in Memphis, as elsewhere, were very oppressive for workers, in both racial and class terms, as this wikipedia summary makes clear:

In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.

King gave his last (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”) speech at a rally for the workers at the Mason Temple in Memphis.
This is the famous section near the end of his prophetic speech, where he reflects on death threats he had often received:

We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.

Let us remember him well, and especially his prophetic antiracist, anti-capitalistic, and antiwar messages, on this Easter day, 2010.

Reflections on the The March for America: a Movement Matures

As I waited in the bus for the rest of our riders to come trickling in, two middle-aged,  men, Ricardo and José,  slowly walked in, clearly fatigued after the pre-march rally, immigrant rights march, four-hour rally and long hike to the stadium where hundreds of buses were parked. As they stumbled in  José  asked “and now what do we tell Obama”? “Nothing more for now”, responded an exhausted Ricardo as he plopped on his bus seat. “We have already spoken with our bodies”.

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(Image from Messay Photography @Flickr – excellent slideshow here)

Four years ago when I started researching the immigrant rights movement in Chicago, a march of this magnitude in DC was barely imaginable.  I was one of a group of scholars at the University of Illinois at Chicago who were closely studying the megamarches in Chicago while observing from afar the multitude of marches in cities large and small throughout the country.  Spurred by  by a loose coalition of organizations,  churches, religious groups and unions in light of the collective fear  of a bill that would have criminalized immigrants and those who supported them, the megamarches were a sign of Latino political potential, albeit ones that relied primarily on the strengths of each home base. The kind of national organization and coordination of grassroots efforts that a megamarch on DC would have required still seemed quite distant. Moreover, after an immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate failed in the summer of 2007, some feared that perhaps the Latino muscle shown would be hard to revive. The marches continued, but dwindled significantly in numbers in 2008 and 2009.

However, interpreting this decline in the number of marchers as a decline of the immigrant rights movement would be a serious mistake.  Post-2006 activism and advocacy continued in many forms. Throughout the country new community organizations proliferated in many major cities but also were created for the first time in small cities, suburbs and villages that had great immigrant demographic growth but low preexisting levels of organization.  For example, last year, in the Chicago metro area, PASO,  the West Suburban Action project, was founded, bringing  together two large churches and several suburbs to organize for immigrant rights among other issues.  Barely four months ago,  a group of undocumented youth created the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL) , born out of an arduous and ultimately successful campaign to prevent the deportation of a local college student. Eleven days before the DC march, the IYJL staged its first major action, a march and rally. Stating that they were undocumented and unafraid,  eight undocumented youth publicly came out of the shadows, telling their painful stories of what it means to grow up undocumented in the US, emphasizing their need to speak for themselves about their lack of freedom and opportunity in the only country they consider their home.

Meanwhile, older organizations continued their steady work. Centro Sin Fronteras continued to focus on the family separation issue, working  closely with Continue reading…

A Key Anniversary in the Global Anti-Racist Struggle: The Sharpeville Massacre



March 21st marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre of at least 69 unarmed civilians in a now-famous South African township. Here is a Wikipedia summary of the events:

On 21 March, a group of between 5,000 and 7,000 people converged on the local police station in the township of Sharpeville, offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their pass books.

This was part of a large-scale effort of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which was competing with the African National Congress in protesting these highly offensive, authoritarian, and racist pass laws:

By 10:00 am, a large crowd had gathered, and the atmosphere was peaceful and festive. Fewer than 20 police officers were present in the station at the start of the protest. Police and military used low-flying Sabre jet fighters to attempt to intimidate the crowd into dispersing. . . . The police set up Saracen armoured vehicles in a line facing the protesters and, at 1:15 pm, fired upon the crowd. Police reports claimed that members of the crowd threw stones at them (or at their cars) and that inexperienced police officers opened fire spontaneously. The police were armed with Stens and tear gas. Lieutenant Colonel Pienaar, the commanding officer of the police forces at Sharpeville, denied giving any order to fire and stated that he would not have done so. Nevertheless, his attitude towards the protest is revealed in his statement that “the native mentality does not allow them to gather for a peaceful demonstration. For them to gather means violence.” . . . The police continued firing even when the crowd had turned to run, and the majority of those killed and wounded were shot in the back. There was no evidence that anyone in the crowd was armed.

According to the official record, some 69 people were killed, with 180 suffering injuries—at least 68 of whom were women and children. The impact on anti-apartheid organization among Black and other South Africans was great:

The Sharpeville massacre led to the banning of the PAC and ANC and was one of the catalysts for a shift from passive resistance to armed resistance by these organisations. The foundation of Poqo, the military wing of the PAC, and Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, followed shortly afterwards.

Once South African apartheid fell, Sharpeville became the site where new President Nelson Mandela signed the new democratic Constitution of South Africa. This day is now commemorated as human rights day in South Africa, and is a day for all of us to remember in the global anti-racism struggles.

Racism and Anti-Racist Protests at U. of California, San Diego

To update Joe’s February 17 entry on racial tensions at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), stemming from a “Compton Cookout” party, students from the UCSD Black Student Union have issued a racial “state of emergency.” About 200 students met with UCSD administrators to present 32 points of demand

As a reaction to the outrage of the racially-themed party, a student organization aired a live segment on closed-circuit television, Koala TV, supporting the “ghetto-themed” party:

After Kris Gregorian, editor in chief of humor newspaper the Koala, said that protestors of last week’s controversial “Compton Cookout” party were “ungrateful niggers” on Channel 18, the Black Student Union declared a “State of Emergency” and issued a six-page list of demands to the university.

According to SignOnSanDiego.com:

Brewing tensions were made worse yesterday morning, when students searching for a copy of the videotape found a piece of cardboard in the student-run television studio with the words “Compton lynching” written on it — an apparent reference to the party, which was billed as the “Compton Cookout.” The discovery was publicized in the middle of the emotional meeting between students and administrators. It prompted tears and repeated outcries from black students, who said they do not feel safe or welcome on campus. African-Americans make up less than 2 percent of undergraduates, a level that has been unchanged for a decade, despite recruitment efforts.

Much of the commentary to these events is focused on “Free Speech”:

Sixth College senior Mike Randazzo is hosting a “Compton Cookout Part Deux: Equal Rights” party on March 4. He is requesting that guests come dressed as their favorite stereotype to promote free speech and show that the intentions of the original Compton Cookout were innocent. Currently, 120 people have RSVPed as attending. “I created this event to get people to understand that the creators meant no ill will,” Randazzo said. “It’s wrong that people are getting outraged and I want to help people come together and put an end to the hatred to show tht [sic] UCSD is not a racist place.”

Apparently this student believes that equal opportunity stereotyping is the solution to racial problems; he obviously has no comprehension of the legacy of and contemporary consequences of the racial hierarchy.

One student from the Black Student Union stated:

“I’m not saying that they don’t have the right to freedom of speech, but where’s my right to be protected from that?” …“I am a student in your class, and I have to sit next to these racist kids. What kind of college is this?”

Unfortunately, this is a question that needs to be addressed on many college campuses.

Lessons in Anti-Racism



When I was in graduate school, Tom Pettigrew used to remind us that many white Americans hold their racial prejudices and stereotypes at a rather superficial level, mainly as a way of conforming to whites and the white supremacist culture/society around them. (He suggested that a smaller proportion held these views very deeply, as a Freudian-type “crutch” that held their very troubled personalities together.) The clear lesson he was offering is that for many whites some significant change in racial views should not be difficult. The learning context matters.

Recently, one of my former graduate students, now a professor, sent me this comment about a new white student in her class:

I am beginning a new semester of my Race class. I decided to formally introduce your “white racial frame” concept the first week of the semester this time…My students journal free-form every other week or so, and here is the very first journal entry I read. I particularly love the last line of the first paragraph:

White Racial Frame: When first entering this course I never imagined that within the first class session my mindset would be changing about race and the role it has in the world today. The idea of the “white racial frame” is what immediately caught my attention. The idea that there is a term for a frame of mind I never knew existed struck me. I am the typical definition of a “white girl” and I know it. Blonde hair, blue eyes, sheltered lifestyle and never struggled a day in my life, I know I am a white girl. I just never considered that my frame of mind about the world is compromised because of it.

I always thought of my life as fair. I had the ideal mindset that the United States represents all that is fair; everyone has their own chance and makes their own choices from a totally level playing field. It is only now that I can see that things may be set up differently. My view was that my parents work hard for what we have and that anyone can do the same for their families. Maybe it is a naive frame of mind to believe the world to be fair, but it was nice that way. It is only in more recent years I can see the trends that lead me to believe that all is not fair and the world is a tough place. I believe that is partially due to my sheltered life that I grew up with and partially because of the “white racial frame” that I did not know I possessed.

Society prioritizes the white race and does not even realize it. I have done it and only now realize it. Everyday simple situations I find myself choosing someone who is white for a job, or maybe being more comfortable with a white person than anyone else. Even in my relationship preference I have only dated white men. Have had several opportunities to do otherwise, but simply never acted upon it. Before this class I never questioned that the president has always been a white male (until Obama obviously). I am realizing that the “white racial frame” expands into so many things in our lives. It can be as simple as daily life within my own home, and can expand all the way into politics in the world. I am excited to be in this course to help open my mind to more of these situations and to educate myself more on the role of race in society.

Things can change. Excellent teaching and teachers matter.