Thursday, April 26, 2018

Measuring White Privilege

As you enter, please work on this independently.  Raise your hand if you have a question and I will come over to your personally. 

Defining Terms
First, let’s define terms.  Yesterday we talked about bias – both explicit and implicit.  Because this bias affects everyone – including people of color, it has effects on our society.  The long term effects are sometimes called white privilege (see page 222 of the Ferris and Stein textbook for more info).  White privilege is the idea that whites in our society have certain advantages that are not available to non-whites.  These advantages are usually not even noticed, similar to the implicit bias that we learned about yesterday.  Remember that racism puts people in the majority (in the U.S. it’s whites) in a position to use race to maintain their power in the country.  This does not mean that whites are supposed to feel guilty about this privilege.  They are not supposed to apologize for it.  This is a lesson that simply acknowledges that it exists.  Remember, sociology is about how individuals are shaped by their society and their social position in it.  Being a certain race shapes how society treats you – what advantages or disadvantages you have.

Question 1: What does “white privilege” mean? (Try to answer without re-reading) 

Question 2:  Are whites supposed to feel guilty about white privilege? 

Question 3: Are whites supposed to apologize about white privilege? 

How does white privilege show up?

Michael Harriot who has an MBA degree in international business from Auburn thinks that it is measurable.  Read the essay below by Harriot and answer the questions embedded within the reading (in italics).
Whenever anyone slips the words “white privilege” into a conversation, it immediately builds an impenetrable wall. For some white people, the words elicit an uneasy feeling because, for them, the term is accusatory without being specific. It is a nebulous concept that seemingly reduces the complex mishmash of history, racism and social phenomena to a nonspecific groupthink phrase.
Question 4:  Does talking about white privilege give you a defensive/uneasy reaction? Be honest about your feelings
But white privilege is real.
Instead of using it as a touchy-feely phrase that gives white people the heebie-jeebies because it conjures up images of Caucasians sitting on plantation porches drinking mint juleps while they watch the Negroes toil in the Southern sun, we should use it as a proper noun, with a clear definition. White privilege does not mean that any white person who achieved anything didn’t work hard for it. It is an irrefutable, concrete phenomenon that manifests itself in real, measurable values, and we should use it as such.
Question 5: Does white privilege mean that white people did not work for whatever they have achieved?
Imagine the entire history of the United States as a 500-year-old relay race, where whites began running as soon as the gun sounded, but blacks had to stay in the starting blocks until they were allowed to run. If the finish line is the same for everyone, then the time and distance advantage between the two runners is white privilege. Not only can we see it, but we can actually measure it. If we begin viewing it as an economic term—the same way we use “trickle-down economics”—then it might be debatable, but it becomes a real, definable thing that we can acknowledge, explain and work toward eliminating. Race might be a social construct, but white privilege is an economic theory that we should define as such:
White privilege: n. The quantitative advantage of whiteness
Here are four examples that explain white privilege in economic terms.


If education is the key to success, then there is no debate that whites have the advantage in America. In 2012, the U. S. Department of Education reported that about 33 percent of all white students attend a low-poverty school, while only 6 percent attend high-poverty schools. In comparison, only 10 percent of black students attend a low-poverty school, while more than 40 percent of black students attend high-poverty schools.
This means that black students are more than six times more likely than white students to attend a high-poverty school, while white students are more than three times more likely than black students to attend a low-poverty school.

Question 6: What percent of blacks and whites attend a high-poverty school?

Question 7: Did you personally choose to live in district 125?  Did your parents ask you if you wanted to go to district 125 before they moved into district?

National Equality Atlas
The logical response to this is for whites to explain the disparity away with statistics of black unemployment and the minority wage gap, but that might not be true. In 2015, a research scientist named David Mosenkis examined 500 school districts in Pennsylvania and found that—regardless of the level of income—the more black students, the less money a school received. While this may not be true for every single school, people who study education funding say that they can predict a school’s level of funding by the percentage of minority students it has. Even though this is a complex issue that reveals how redlining and segregation decreased the property tax base in areas where blacks live—therefore decreasing funding—it underscores a simple fact:

White children get better educations, and that is a calculable advantage.


Even when black students manage to overcome the hurdles of unequal education, they still don’t get equal treatment when it comes to jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of Friday, April 7, the unemployment rate for African Americans was nearly double that of whites (8.1 percent for blacks, 4.3 percent for whites).
There are some who will say blacks should study harder, but this phenomenon can’t be explained by simple educational disparities. A 2015 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that whites with the exact same résumés as their black counterparts are hired at double the rate. In fact, a white man with a criminal history is more likely to be hired than an African American with no criminal past.
Question 8: Assuming that resumes are exactly the same, who is more likely to get hired, a white with a criminal history or an African American with no criminal history?

A similarly named, but different, organization—the Economic Policy Institute—examined 2015 data and discovered that at every level of education, whites were twice as likely to have jobs as blacks. (Economic Policy Institute)

If it is statistically easier for whites to get a better education, and better jobs, then being born white must be an advantage in and of itself.


But let’s say a black man somehow gets a great education and finds a job; surely that means the playing field is level, right?
Not so fast.
Pew Research/
Researchers at EPI found that black men with 11-20 years of work experience earned 23.5 percent less than their white counterparts, and black women with 11-20 years of experience were paid 12.6 percent less than white women with the same experience. This disparity is not getting smaller. The wage gap between black and white workers was 18.1 percent in 1979, and steadily increased to 26.7 percent in 2015. When Pew Research controlled for education and just looked at income data, white men still surpassed every other group.
These income inequalities persist to create the disparities in wealth between races, manifesting in generational disadvantages. A black person with the same education and experience as a similar Caucasian, over the span of their lives, will earn significantly less.
Question 9: Assuming the education and work experience is the same, who is likely to get paid more, a minority or a person in the majority? 


It is a little-known fact that the average black person pays more for almost every item he or she purchases. While there is no discount Groupon that comes with white skin, there might as well be.  A John Hopkins study (pdf) showed that supermarkets were less prevalent in poor black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods with the same average income, leading to increased food costs. News organization ProPublica recently found that car-insurance companies charge people who live in black neighborhoods higher rates than people in predominantly white areas with the same risk.
When it comes to credit, it is even worse. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, The Atlantic reports, “even after controlling for general risk considerations, such as credit score, loan-to-value ratio, subordinate liens, and debt-to-income ratios, Hispanic Americans are 78 percent more likely to be given a high-cost mortgage, and black Americans are 105 percent more likely.” Even banks as large as Wells Fargo have lost cases for up-charging minorities.
According to the Wall Street Journal, large auto lenders have paid more than $200 million since 2013 to settle lawsuits for charging minorities higher rates, but in November, both Democrats and Republicans voted to reduce regulations on the financial institutions that offer auto loans. The National Consumer Law Center filed a 2007 lawsuit that exposed how “finance companies and banks put in place policies that allowed car dealers to mark up the interest rates on auto loans to minorities based on subjective criteria unrelated to their credit risk.”
Instead of hurling the term “white privilege” around as an imprecise catch-all to describe everything from police brutality to Pepsi commercials, perhaps its use as a definable phrase will make people less resistant. Maybe if they saw the numbers, they could acknowledge its existence. It is neither an insult nor an accusation; it is simply a measurable gap with real-world implications. It is the fiscal and economic disparity of black vs. white.
In America’s four-and-a-half-centuries-old relay race, the phrase “white privilege” does not mean that Caucasians can’t run fast; it is just a matter-of-fact acknowledgment that they got a head start.

Question 10: What are the three areas of white privilege that are measurable?

Question 11: If you choose to ignore or not acknowledge these statistics, are they still true?

Here is a study from ProPublica that provides an excellent and measurable example of institutional racism, implicit bias and white privilege.

Once you are finished, here is a study from economists that explains another way that privilege was measured.

After that, please read this article from the journal Sociology of Education.  It provides research on the implicit racism and how it affects kids in high school.

Question 12: What is the authors' claim?  What evidence do they provide?

When Implicit Bias Becomes Privilege...

When Implicit Bias Becomes Privilege...

What color dress is Mrs. Obama wearing in this picture?

This picture featuring Michelle Obama was published with a caption saying that she wore a "flesh-colored" dress. Are they implying that Michelle's skin is not flesh? I don't think so, but this is an example of the privilege of being white; white skin is considered normal/flesh-colored.  This is just one of many privileges of being white in a culture that sees white as normal, desirable or better than other "colors".  This type of privilege is often unnoticed, subconscious, implicit.  But, it has a big impact.
Here is another example from Johnson and Johnson.  Note that the bottle says, "Normal to Darker skin," implying that there is normal skin and then there is darker skin which is implicitly abnormal. And, here are some privileges related to Christmas.  Some sociologists call these subtle nudges of racism microaggressions.  Here are 25 microaggressions from buzzfeed.

Sociologist Peggy McIntosh writes about White Privilege in her essay, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
In class instructions:
Please read through McIntosh's reading and choose one of the numbered privileges to respond to.  Take out a sheet of paper and write down which privilege you are responding to.  Things to consider: Have you ever thought about this before?  Why do you think McIntosh considers this a "privilege"?  Can you see this type of privilege happening in your day to day life?  

Here is an example of implicit bias from the NY Times about Baltimore and the Texas biker fight.

When you're accustomed to privilege, equality sounds like oppression.  From Chris Boeskool of Huffington Post.

Privilege does exist and it's measurable.  From Michael Harriot of The Root who explains the ways privilege shows up in education, employment, income, spending.

Robin DiAngelo, author of What Does it Mean to Be White and White Fragility; Why It's So Hard for  White People to Talk about Racism published this op-ed about White Privilege.  Here is a journal article about White Fragility.

Here is an example from Sociological Images of how white privilege shows up even when discussing racism.

This article from Contexts explains how the approach to drug problems change when the victims are middle class and white.

Teaching Tolerance explains white privilege here.

National Seed Project explains it here:

Finally, this video called Slip of the Tongue uses slam poetry to explore how one girl stands strong to embrace her identity
without giving in to popular pressure to change who she is.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Implicit Bias

Besides being explicit, biases can be implicit too.  Prejudices and stereotypes exist in our subconscious.  These hidden biases are called implicit bias.  Although implicit bias can be about myriad topics (gender, occupation, age), it can also promote racism.  Here is an explanation from Teaching Tolerance:
While the brain isn’t wired to be racist, it uses biases as unconscious defensive shortcuts.
As human beings, we are not naturally racist. But because of the way our brains are wired, we are naturally "groupist." The brain has a strong need for relatedness.
This wiring for “groupism” usually leads the dominant culture (the in-group) in a race-based society to create “out-groups” based on race, gender, language and sexual orientation. A system of inequity is maintained by negative social messages that dehumanize people of color, women and LGBT people as “the other.” For folks in the in-group, the brain takes in these messages and downloads them like software into the brain’s fear system. This leads to implicit bias: the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that shape our behavior toward someone perceived as inferior or as a threatening outsider.
Look at the following pictures and captions which both appeared in the press after Hurricane Katrina.

How does this represent implicit bias from the editor?

How does this promote implicit bias in society?

Police Surveillance and Implicit Bias from the Sociologist Toolbox
Here are a number of other examples
 (A NY Police Lt., Harvard U. President, State Senator Obama)

A Girl Like Me

Watch the following video and explain what evidence it provides that explicit bias exists and promotes racism and implicit bias exists and promotes racism.

What evidence does the video provide that explicit bias exists and promotes racism?

What evidence does the video provide that implicit bias exists and promotes racism?

The Police Officer's Dilemma from University of Colorado at Boulder

And another example of implicit bias is from the University of Chicago's Joshua Corell who showed how people react in a split second when they confront someone with a weapon. Soc Images explains it here.  See here for a link to the game and conclusions.

The Kirwan Institute from The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University does extensive research on implicit bias through their Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.

The institute publishes a yearly review of the state of implicit bias research.  You can find that here.

Kirwan Institute and Medicine

Kirwan's 2017 research shows that even doctors and patient health are affected by implicit bias.  The research is supported by the American Association of Medical Colleges.  You can download it here.

University of Chicago School of Economics and Labor Market

Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan published a study of implicit bias and the labor market in The American Economic Review called Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination?

Sociology of Education and School Discipline

Edward Morris and Brea Perry's research found that discipline in school for subjective offenses might be shaped by implicit bias.  See their research published in the ASA's journal here or here.

What Would You Do? 
And this video showing how people are more quick to be suspicious and to call the police if they see a black man committing the same crime as a white man.

Implicit Racism

Racism can often be hidden in our unconsciousness. Even though as individuals we might work consciously to not be racist, we live in a racist society with a racist legacy. From the moment we are born we are influenced subtly to think of white as good and black as bad. Look at these examples from various media. They are not trying to be racist, but the message they send reinforces racist ideology.

These pictures though very similar, are different in two important areas: the race of the people and the caption.

Lebron James was only the third male to ever be featured on the cover of Vogue and he was the first "black" American ever to be on there. and yet, he is portrayed as an angry gorilla. Here is a critique from blackademics.  And here is one from

Harvard has been conducting an ongoing study of how we implicitly associate certain traits with being good or bad. You can take the survey here. Click on Demo first.

See how this implicit racism shows up even within the same minority groups that are being discriminated against.

Some examples of implicit bias are listed below.  Please choose an article and examine it for:
1.  What is the implicit bias that the article examines?
2. Why is this bias "implicit"?
2. What person or group is being biased against whom?

A)Read this SHS basketball article that is full of implicit bias

Then checkout this post showing that Jewish players were dominant in basketball in the first half of the 20th century.

B)And another example of implicit bias is from the University of Chicago's Joshua Corell who showed how people react in a split second when they confront someone with a weapon. Soc Images explains it here.  See here for a link to the game and conclusions.

C)Here is an article showing that traffic stops in Illinois have an implicit racial bias:

D)This study shows a racial bias in NBA foul calling.

E)Here is a study showing that immigrants are treated differently based on skin color.

F)Having an African American sounding name will result in biased treatment as well.

Here are a number of other examples (A NY Police Lt., Harvard President, State Senator Obama) from the sociologists toolbox.

And this video showing how people are more quick to be suspicious and to call the police if they see a black man committing the same crime as a white man.

Takeaways (For more info see Ferris and Stein 222-223 and 226-227):
What is implicit racism?

What evidence is there for implicit racism?

What is white privilege?