Wednesday, November 25, 2020

An Etymology of "Racism"

This post addresses the history of the word "racism" and how it came to be associated with power.  

The Origins of the Term "Racism"

From Politicsweb, the origins of the term "racism" go back to the term "racialism" used in the early 1900s regarding the Dutch and British in South Africa.  However, "racism" is not used until the 1930s to describe anti-Jewish policies in fascist Italy and Germany.  As the link above points out, 
In the New York Times’ archive there are, in fact, two pre-1936 references to “racism”, both from James G McDonald, League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Jewish and other) coming from Germany.
The first is from a brief news report on 17 June 1935 quoting McDonald as using the term “racism” in relation to Adolf Hitler’s “contagious” anti-Jewish doctrines in a speech to the annual convention of Brith Sholom in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the day before.

The use of racism to describe the fascist anti-Jewish sentiment is also documented in the online dictionary of etymology.

However, by the end of his history of the term "racism," James Myburgh, a South African journalist and editor of Politicsweb, makes a compelling case that the reason why Jews were targeted in Germany and Italy was because they held enviable positions in banking, science and other areas of society.

I would counter that Myburgh has a point that Jews had achieved a level of success that raised the attention of fascists in Germany and Italy, but nonetheless, Jews did not have the political or social power to prevent the horrible violence that would be directed toward them.  Myburgh is missing the forest for the trees.  Race is a societal creation and should be viewed on a societal level.  That means viewing Germany as a whole and Italy as a whole.  This might be applied to the U.S. as many people with power have been minimized because of their race:

All of these people maintain positions of power but their positions are within a larger society that positions whites above other races.  In any case, the origins of the use of the term "racism" began with the treatment of Jews during WWII Europe.  Notably, there is a documented history of Nazi Germany adopting many of the U.S. race laws and policies - documented in Time and in the Atlantic.

The Connection of Power to Racism

Although the treatment of Jews in WWII was termed racist and the U.S. defeated the Nazi regime, the treatment of Americans who are black continued to be extremely unequal;  segregation, lynchings and unequal treatment continued despite calls for it to be dismantled.  In 1948 President Truman inched toward equality by ordering the desegregation of the Armed Forces.  It would be 20 years after that President Truman signs the Fair Housing Act.

It was under this backdrop that educational psychology professor Patricia Bidol-Padva published her 1970 book Developing New Perspectives on Race: An Innovative Multi-media Social Studies Curriculum in Racism Awareness for the Secondary Level in which she defined racism as prejudice plus power.   This begins a social science paradigm for understanding racism as a connection to power.  One reason that power was an important component in 1970 was that although a 20-year struggle for civil rights had just taken place with numerous laws being in place to theoretically protect Americans who were perceived as black, it is far from arguable that there was equality in the U.S.  In other words, by law, all Americans were equal, but in every day, Americans seen as black were still not anywhere near as equal in terms of power, jobs, wealth, income, or even respect.  And, as social scientist Keith Dowding notes in his book, the Encyclopedia of Power, in a system of racial classification, the group in power creates the classification system, so racism can't exist without a dominant group creating a system of race.  

Shortly after Bidol-Padva introduced power to racism, William Julius Wilson etched it into academic consciousness.   Wilson is an immensely important University of Chicago sociologist specializing in race.  Wilson's 1973 book Power Racism and Privilege: Race Relations in Theoretical and Sociohistorical Perspectives furthers the connection of racism and power.  As Thomas Pettigrew explains in his review
"A dynamic interrelationship exists between power andRacismThe dimensions of each concept cannot be appreciated without treating it in the context of the other."

The Problem with Language

Language is constantly evolving and this is true for terms like "racism" as detailed by Racist is a Tough Little Word; The Definition Has Grown and Shifted Over Time in the Atlantic by John McWhorter.  Because of this changing nature, words like "racism" have specific meanings within academia but may be used very differently in everyday language.
Additionally, being able to talk about the term "racism" is made more difficult by the way that "racist" has become a term that many use as a complete denigration of someone's character.  This creates a knee-jerk reaction and unwillingness to admit any racial infraction.  As we learned about in lesson 1 of this unit, this reaction is sometimes called white fragility.

Racism remains a force of enormous consequence in American life, yet no one can be accused of perpetrating it without a kicking up a grand fight. No one ever says, "Yeah, I was a little bit racist. I'm sorry." That's in part because racists, in our cultural conversations, have become inhuman.  They're fairy-tale villains, and thus can't be real.

There's no nuance to these public fights, as a veteran crisis manager told my colleague, Hansi Lo Wang. Someone is either a racist and therefore an inhuman monster, or they're an actual, complex human being, and therefore, by definition, incapable of being a racist.

Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic, who often writes about race, is one of several writers and thinkers who has drawn attention to this paradox:

The idea that America has lots of racism but few actual racists is not a new one. Philip Dray titled his seminal history of lynching At the Hands of Persons Unknown because most "investigations" of lynchings in the South turned up no actual lynchers. Both David Duke and George Wallace insisted that they weren't racists. That's because in the popular vocabulary, the racist is not so much an actual person but a monster, an outcast thug who leads the lynch mob and keeps *Mein Kampf *in his back pocket.


Overall, I tend to not emphasize definitions and memorization of very specific and nuanced vocabulary.  I am much more concerned with the big picture and the ideas that students take away.  In the case of the term "racism," here is what you should know:
  • Many scholars/academics will connect racism to power.  
  • Race only exists because a power structure created it and by extension, racism can only exist because of that power structure.  
  • Whether you personally connect race to power in your everyday lexicon is less important than recognizing that racism does in fact exist and is very much connected to a legacy of policies that have unequally distributed power throughout U.S. history.  
  • That unequal distribution still has consequences and implications for today's reality.


Bobo and Fox provide a useful review of race, racism, and discrimination in this 2003 article published by the American Sociological Association.

Race Lesson 6: Wages of Whiteness and Institutional Implicit Racism

HW: Read  Jonathon Metzel's Dying of Whiteness 

Institutional, Individual and Explicit Racism

We have been learning about the ways that the social construction of race has been used to gain and maintain power in society, also known as racism.  One type of racism is in the way that institutions have helped create and maintain power for the majority race, also known as institutional racism.  Another way that racism shows up is in individual racism as in the case of the tweets against Miss America, Nina Davuluri.  The tweets were a way of preventing her from being accepted as Miss America by saying she is not a "real" American, instead she is Arab, or a terrorist, etc...  All of the claims were meant to rob her of any acceptance, or power, which is racist.  These direct forms of racism are also called explicit racism.  However, there is also a hidden, subconscious racism also called implicit racism.  

Implicit racism 

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.
The passage above is connecting race to ingroups and outgroups that we learned about in unit 1.   If the ingroup has power then this can result in them viewing groups without power with mistrust, fear and stereotypes.  When that ingroup perceives itself a "race" such as white, then it becomes implicit racism.  

1.  Can you explain what implicit racism is?

Google Form for answering is here.

W.E.B. Du Bois's Wages of Whiteness and Implicit Racism

From the NAACP history website, William Edgar Burghardt Du Bois became the first African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard University (1895).  Du Bois became an assistant instructor in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. There he conducted the pioneering sociological study of an urban community, published as The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899). These first two works assured Du Bois’s place among America’s leading scholars.

From 1934 to 1944 Du Bois was chairman of the department of sociology at Atlanta University.  Du Bois published numerous works of academic research on African Americans.  His body of work was considered the greatest study of African Americans at that time and it still remains respected.

From the Social Science Research Council (SSRC),
Du Bois famously argues that whiteness serves as a “public and psychological wage,” delivering to poor whites in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a valuable social status derived from their classification as “not-black.” The claims embedded in this thesis—that whiteness provides meaningful “compensation” (Du Bois’s term) for citizens otherwise exploited by the organization of capitalism; that the value of whiteness depends on the devaluation of black existence; and that the benefits enjoyed by whites are not strictly monetary—shaped subsequent efforts to theorize white identity and to grasp the (non)formation of political coalitions in the United States.
An excerpt from DuBois is here:
Most persons do not realize how far [the view that common oppression would create interracial solidarity] failed to work in the South, and it failed to work because the theory of race was supplemented by a carefully planned and slowly evolved method, which drove such a wedge between the white and black workers  that there probably are not today in the world two groups of workers with practically identical interests who hate and fear each other so deeply and persistently and who are kept so far apart that neither sees anything of common interest. 
It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent on their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools. The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule. (Black Reconstruction [1935], 700-701)
Dubois wrote this in 1935, but I still think it applies to today.  For example, when reading about the racist tweets towards Nina Davuluri, it sends the message that she might be pretty and successful, but she is not and will never be a real American.  For the millions of poor whites who feel powerless, that small act of racism might make them feel good about being white, being a "true American."  This is another reason why all of the immigrant groups have tried to become white over the years.  It was not just for explicit benefits, it was also for these implicit benefits, or psychological wages of whiteness.  It constructs a reality where whites feel and experience life differently because they are white.  White is the majority group in the United States so it comes with a feeling of power and belonging.  This is true even for whites who might not have a lot of real power in society - low-income whites with less education.  So, for them, even though they are at the lowest end of the social class ladder, at least they are white.  And, many sociologists hypothesize that this benefits the ruling class of power elites because it keeps the middle/working classes from being a united front that could band together to demand more political control, more power, and better wages.  As we saw in our social class unit, if this was a purpose, it certainly has worked.

2.  Can you explain what DuBois' Wages of Whiteness are?

Peggy McIntosh's Interpretation of Implicit Racism

About 50 years after Dubois, Peggy McIntosh wrote about Dubois's psychological wages which she called the Invisible Knapsack that explained these "hidden wages" show up in a number of different ways in everyday life.  McIntosh called these "privileges".  This is how the term "white privilege" came about as part of our public discourse.   The essence of McIntosh's claim is that whites can live their daily life in the United States without having being judged for their race.  This includes meeting new neighbors, shopping, getting a promotion, etc... All of these are more likely to be viewed with individualism for whites and race-related for everyone else.  Essentially, it is saying that minority race becomes a master status for everyone who is not white.

McIntosh is not saying that whites have been handed everything on a silver spoon or that they have not worked hard for what they have.  She is simply saying that race is not a factor that white people have to overcome to be successful.  Many policies, institutions and individuals have used both explicit and implicit racism to get and maintain power.  Whites were privileged to be on the benefitting end of that power whether psychologically or materially.  However, many whites emigrated to the U.S. and worked hard to get by and make a better life for their future generations.  My grandpa was one of them.  He came from Italy in 1916 when he was just 15 years old.  He had no money and no immediate family in the U.S.  He worked whatever job he could find and eventually enlisted in the US Army.  He struggled, but eventually was able to buy a small house and retire.  He was just fortunate to not have to overcome racism as part of his uphill struggle.  He had white privilege.  As do I. And as do many of my students.  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.

3.  Can you explain what Peggy McIntosh means by "white privilege"?

4.  Are whites supposed to feel guilty about white privilege? 

5.  Are whites supposed to apologize about white privilege?

Tangible Privilege

Michael Harriot who has an MBA degree in international business from Auburn thinks that not only is privilege psychological, but it is also measurable.  The institutional advantages that we learned about yesterday lasted for hundreds of years.  This meant that generations of whites could pass on down their wealth and benefits to future generations.  Over time, this allowed an accumulation of wealth and privilege that continues to this day.  

Read the essay Yes, You Can Measure White Privilege below by Harriot and answer the questions embedded within the reading.  

Yes, You Can Measure White Privilege by Michael Harriot

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.

6.  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.

7. 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.

8.  What percent of blacks and whites attend a high-poverty school?

9. 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.

10.  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? (Economic Policy Institute)
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.
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.

11.  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.

12.  Which evidence from the essay did you find most compelling that there is a privilege that whites do not have to think about?

13.   If you choose to ignore or not acknowledge these statistics, are they still true?

14.  Questions or comments about implicit racism and white privilege?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Race Lesson 5: What Are We Racing For? Institutional and Individual Explicit Racism

1.  Please brainstorm an answer to this question:

We have seen that race is a social construction, but why does that matter? In other words, why would Thind care enough to take a case to the Supreme Court?

Click here for the Google form for this lesson. 

Even though the biological idea of race is a social construction, it has very real consequences (Thomas Theorum).  Race is often used to justify and promote unequal social arrangements. The inequality might simply be promoting the idea that a person or a group of people do not belong because of their race or the inequality might be very tangible benefits like free land or free money.

Institutions in the U.S. have created opportunities based on race

Not only do people react to each other based on their perceived races, but institutions have been constructed around the idea of race. Yesterday we saw the ways that institutions construct the idea of race, and who is white. Today we look at what opportunities are created based on race, or more simply, why would anyone want so bad to be white, if it's just a faulty label?  In many instances, the advantages to being white is explicitly written into the law or institution.  Here is a list for starters about why being white mattered and still matters explicitly:
  • 1705 a statute in Virginia required masters to give white indentured servants fifty acres of land, thirty shillings, ten bushels of corn and a musket.  
  • 1705 House of Burgesses passed the Virginia Slave Codes.  Those laws locked in a brutal system of white supremacy by giving slave owners sweeping rights to control and even torture the African people they owned, and making it illegal for black people to employ white people.
  • 1785 Land Ordinance Act provided a clearer system for putting formerly Native land into the hands of white settlers.  This was 640 acres at a dollar an acre.  And public education system was set aside in this act but it was designed to serve white children, not enslaved African children or Native Americans.
  • 1790 Naturalization Act allows whites to become citizens.  This isn’t about anything except the color of your skin - not merit, not hard work, not meeting the criteria, just being white, the color of your skin.
  • 1862 Homestead Act allowed people to claim land for free in the rapidly expanding United States, but excluded the vast majority of black people in the U.S., because you had to be a citizen to participate and enslaved people were not eligible for citizenship until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
  • 1934 FHA created loan opportunities that by 1962, would loan over 120 billion dollars that over 98 percent went to white people.
  • 1934 Social Security Administration was created to help aging Americans, but two-thirds of all African American workers were blocked from Social Security until the program was expanded in the 1950s.
  • 1944 GI Bill of Rights Millions of mostly-white men got higher education through the GI Bill and became engineers, scientists, doctors, teachers. The GI Bill also sent people to trade schools and helped veterans find jobs. But here again, men of color were at a disadvantage because of the military’s racist practices back then in assigning jobs within the military.  So, when people came home and met with a job counselor, a local job counselor, their duties were to line up a civilian job that matched the skills you gained in the military.  White men came home and became builders and welders and mechanics, and men of color came home and became dishwashers and cooks. until 1971, the GI Bill spent ninety-five billion dollars on veterans, helping them buy homes, get vocational training, and start businesses.  

For more on these ways that whiteness helped whites checkout the Seeing White series from Scene on Radio Podcast, episode 13 or listen below:

2.  What is one of the ways that being white resulted in advantages for that ingroup?  How might these advantages affect the Americans considered white in the long term?

What is racism?

These are all ways that people who were seen as white had access to institutional power.  The ways that race has played a role in helping certain groups gain or maintain power is what sociologists call "racism."  Since these examples above are about institutions creating and maintaining power, it is an example of institutional racism.  And since these examples are explicitly addressing whites, they are also called explicit racism.  An important distinction here is that racism is perpetrated against people who do not have power.  This is why people sometimes hear the idea that racism can't be perpetrated against the majority race, whites.  Racism is about maintaining power in favor of the racial group that holds power.  Another important distinction is that racism is an action, so people's actions can be racist, and in a society with as much racism as the United States, all of us are likely to have racist actions (even Ibram Kendi, an African American scholar and racism historian defines his own actions as having been racist), but that does not define us as people.  Instead of labeling individuals as racist, we should identify racist actions and language.  Otherwise, allowing the status quo to continue allows the racist power dynamic to continue.  So, Kendi makes that case in his book, How to Be an Anti-Racist.   So it is through this lens of language and actions that allow and promote racial disparities to exist that we will discuss "racism".  However, racism should not be confused with these other related terms:
  • bigotry - intolerance for a group of people
  • prejudice/bias - holding an over-generalized attitude that prevents objective consideration of an individual or group of people
  • discrimination - the unequal treatment of an individual or group because of their status in a group 
  • individual racism - individual ideas or actions that justify and perpetuate a minority individual from gaining or accessing power 
This sociological understanding is a more specific view of racism than what often gets labeled as "racism" in everyday language.

3.  How is the sociological definition of racism related to power? Is this different than how you have used the term racism in the past?

Below is more evidence about how race matters explicitly.   But explicit racism is not only institutional, it can also be individual racism.  Individual racism is when individuals use race to gain or maintain power  against minorities.  As you explore the examples think about how these situations use race to get or maintain power.  Also, think about whether these are individual acts of racism or institutional.

Miss America 2013, Nina Davluri came to SHS. But when she won the pageant, there was a flurry of tweets about her race.

Here is a post about tweets from the 2013 Miss America pageant.
Is this racism?
Is this prejudice?
Is this discrimination?

For more about racism (esp. with women from Indian descent) and beauty pageants, see this post based on Asha Rangappa.

4.  How do the tweets in the link above try to prevent Nina Davluri from gaining power?

5.  Do you see how racism is related to power?

Racism in College

Fraternities and sororities hold racial-themed parties that display very directly the racialized stereotypes that persist in the United States. Does this surprise you?  How would you feel/react to a party like this when you go to college?
Here is a post about why dressing up in this way is not okay.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education has an ongoing list of racist incidents.

Here is a post about a 2013 racist incident at a liberal college in a liberal state.

6.  What is one example from any of the three links above that shows how racism is used to make minorities feel uncomfortable at college?  

Racism in Sports

In 2018, Racism at Wrigley in the bleachers.
The stakes of the moment are made clear by a Latino female fan who security rescues from physical and verbal harm. She stands on the bleachers and points at each member of the white security team.
“You and you and you will never know what it’s like,” she says.
A few seconds later, a Latino fan involved in the altercation accuses security of “taking the white people’s side.” The fight appears to be ending when the non-Latino fan bellows the same slurs, putting his hands on either side of his mouth to amplify his voice and ensure he’s heard. It’s only then that he realizes he’s being recorded. (If you feel the need to fully absorb these words, you can watch the videos here.)
It’s a telling moment. He feels safe enough to shout those words next to security personnel. But when he realizes his actions might be seen outside of the stadium, he accosts the person recording the fight. Security also instructs this person to “put your phone away” and says “you’re on private property, you don’t have permission to videotape anyone.”
In 2017, Fans at Fenway made news numerous times over there racist taunts of opposing teams'  players.

In 2017, Yu Darvish was taunted and mocked for looking Asian.

In 2012, Joel Ward, a black NHL player scored the winning goal in the NHL playoffs and he became the target of racial slurs.

Racism in the Marketplace
A college student from Queens got more than he bargained for when he splurged on a $350 designer belt at Barneys — when a clerk had him cuffed apparently thinking the black teen couldn’t afford the pricey purchase, even though he had paid for it, a new lawsuit alleges.
“His only crime was being a young black man,” his attorney, Michael Palillo, told The Post.

Racism in Politics

During the Healthcare debate in 2009, Representative David Scott of Georgia had a 4foot swastika painted over his office sign.

The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies hate groups in America. This link will show you a map of all the hate groups in the United States.   Is this surprising?  Is this concerning?

This article from the Mail Online, A British online newspaper:
And with Mr Obama reportedly receiving more death threats than any other American president - 400 per cent more than those against his predecessor George Bush, according to a new book...A black U.S. Congressman had a swastika painted over his office sign after he yelled at allegedly racist protesters at a Southern town hall meeting, it emerged today.
Michael Tesler's Post Racial or Most Racial documents the tremendous amount of racism that President Obama faced during his presidency, including ongoing claims that he was not American.  Is this any different than the flurry of racism that Ms. Nina Davluri faced after becoming Miss America?

"Tesler shows how, in the years that followed the 2008 election—a presidential election more polarized by racial attitudes than any other in modern times—racial considerations have come increasingly to influence many aspects of political decision making."

Racism in the Media

Jeremy Lin is an example of the racial stereotypes in sports and how stereotypes can be more or less permissible for different groups within a society.  Here is a post explaining that dynamic from the society pages.   Here is a clip of the skit from the daily beast.  Have you seen or heard any explicit racism in your own life?

And this post from Soc Images shows how different media make their consumers more or less aware of systemic inequality.  In other words, some media helps it's viewers understand the structural problems that create inequality while other media ignore these factors.  By ignoring the factors it promotes the current structure which has created an unequal distribution of power.

7.  Choose one area from the above examples (sports, the marketplace, politics or the media) and explain how that area exemplifies or sustains the balance of power against racial minorities.

Explicit Racism Backstage

Sociologists Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin explain in their book Two-faced Racism that racism can be explicit even if it is not always shared publicly.  Read an excerpt here.  Watch a video of Leslie Picca here:

SOCHE Talks: Two-Faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage from SOCHE on Vimeo.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Race Lesson 4: Social Construction in the United States

Let's begin with a quick activity.

Census Classification and Racial Subjectivity
 For most of the history of the U.S., the census held every ten years measures race by allowing the census examiner to choose the race that he perceived the people to be.  You will attempt to do this by clicking here to do an activity from PBS's Race Power of an Illusion where you have to categorize people like a census taker would have.  (Use Safari or a browser that enables Flash)

Here is a screenshot of the activity:

This subjective, visual categorization of people is how the US Census operated until 1970.

After you complete the activity above, click here to fill out the Google form.  I recommend opening it in a new window.

1.  After finishing the activity, how many people did you correctly identify racially?

2.  How does this activity help to reveal that race is a social construction? 

Because race is a social construction, racial categories change depending upon which country you are in.  Using our sociological imagination, we will see that not only does race change depending upon where you are, but it also changes over time.  In the U.S., depending on when you are living, your race might be different. Remember that Omi and Winant made the case that race is a product of social, political and cultural history.  That is true within the history of the U.S. too.  During different time periods within the history of the U.S., social, political and cultural dynamics influenced race.  The sections below will show how different social institutions in the U.S. changed racial categorizations during various time periods.
Not only was racial classification based on this subjective and visual categorization of people, but also the categories have changed over time. This is just one way that institutional policies constructed race differently throughout US history.  Look at the different choices for the U.S. census over the years below.  Note how you would be categorized if you were living during each census.

3.  How many different races would you have been in the censuses above?

4.  As the census changed can you identify one change and what the social, political or cultural changes were that resulted in a changing census? (You can try to examine the graphic or use the Society Pages link above for a guided explanation)

One census example worth examining is "Mexican" which was only used in 1930 and then discontinued.  Code Switch from NPR has a terrific history of the terms in Gene Demby's 2014 episode here.  In 1970 it was re-added as an ethnic group.  Both introductions were the result of economy at the time.  

Dowling's research challenges common assumptions about what informs racial labeling for this population. Her interviews demonstrate that for Mexican Americans, racial ideology is key to how they assert their identities as either in or outside the bounds of whiteness. Emphasizing the link between racial ideology and racial identification, Dowling offers an insightful narrative that highlights the complex and highly contingent nature of racial identity.  

The 1965 immigration law was another institution that played a pivotal role in shaping the U.S. and making it the multi-cultural nation that it has become.  This 2019 episode of NPR's Fresh Air highlights Tom Gjelten's 2016 book, A Nation Of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story.  
The 1965 law opened the U.S. to countries all over the world, and it also created a demand for cheap labor that lead to the illegal immigration crisis from Central America.

The Supreme Court and Race

The Census Bureau is not the only U.S. institution that subjectively affected racial categorization over the years.  Because of the subjective nature of race in general and the census in particular, a number of Supreme Court Cases were forced to determine racial classification and policy.

United States V. Thind 

Bhagat Singh Thind (1892-1967) was born in Punjab and came to America in 1913.  He attended the University of California at Berkeley and paid for it by working in an Oregon lumber mill during summer vacations. When America entered World War I, he joined the U.S. Army. He was honorably discharged on the 16th of December, 1918 and in 1920 applied for U.S. citizenship from the state of Oregon. Several applicants from India had thus far been granted U.S. citizenship. 
He was applying based on the naturalization law at the time which was the 1790 United States Naturalization Law.  It stated the first rules to be followed by the United States in the granting of national citizenship. The law limited citizenship to immigrants who were "free white persons" of "good character".  The census forms allowed Singh to choose from these categories: White, Black, Mulatto, Chinese, American Indian.  His application for citizenship was challenged by the immigration office.  Singh argued that he was white from a state very close to the Caucasus Mountains, the region where anthropologists believed that Caucasians emerged from.

5.  Decide how you would rule:
____ Singh is a white man who deserves citizenship. 
____ Singh is not white and therefore does not deserve citizenship.

The Court determined that Thind was not white or Caucasoid, even though he did not fit into the other categories of race at the time (Mongoloid/Asian, Negroid/Black, American Indian).  Instead, the court ruled that because most people would say that he is not white, then he is not white. The court also ruled that this ruling applied to all Hindus - even though Thind was not even Hindu!  He was Sikh.  This was just one way of many that the legal system that shaped race throughout U.S. history.   For more information about Thind, checkout the Scene on Radio podcast.  It has a whole season on race and a whole episode about Thind (embedded below) as told through his son, who, surprisingly, had no idea about the case and everything that his dad went through!

I really want to emphasize the significance of Thind here.  The Thind case represents a simple idea that complicates race relations in the U.S. in so many ways:

For many Americans, being "American" means being white.

In Thind's case it is quite literally being considered not a citizen;  After the Thind ruling one-third of all Americans with Indian descent leave the country!

Besides the Thind ruling, here are some other ways that the legal system (legislation subsequently reinforced by Supreme Court) constructed race in the U.S.:
  • Dred Scott v. Sandford 1857 (Black Americans could never be citizens of the United States.)
  •  Chae Chan Ping v. United States 1889 (Limited rights for Americans who had Chinese ancestry.)
  • Pace v. Alabama 1883 (miscegenation law allowed criminalizing interracial marriage - not overturned until 1967!)
  • Ozawa v. U.S. 1922 (Japanese are not white.)
  • Thind v. U.S. 1923 (If you don't seem white, you are not and Hindus are not white.)
  • Lum v. Rice 1927 (Citizens who are Chinese don't have the right to attend white schools.)
  • Korematsu v. U.S. 1944 (Americans can be held in prison or concentration camps because of their ethnicity and without due process.)

The changing nature of whiteness in the U.S.

From Harper’s Illustration, (paraphrased)

They are distinctly marked – the small and somewhat upturned nose, the black tint of skin…They are uneducated, and as a consequence, they are jobless,, poor, and they don't save what little money they have.  They drink alcohol, and act like barbarians…Of course they will violate our laws, they are like wild bisons leaping over the fences which easily restrain the civilized domestic cattle, and they will commit great crimes of violence, even murder, which certainly have increased lately.

6.  Who do you think the magazine is talking about? Why?

This caption and illustration show the subjectivity of race in the United States.  The writer was referring to the Irish who were emigrating in large numbers in the 1840s and 50s.  The Irish were not considered white.  Not only does this not make sense physically/biologically, but the caption reveals how subjective and social race was.  They were looked down on because of the jobs they did (dock labor), because of their religion (Catholic), because of their culture (alcohol use) and their social class (poor).  This subjectivity is just one example throughout the history of the United States.  Over the years, Jews, Italians, Greeks and other Southern Europeans faced discrimination because they were considered less desirable than Northern Europeans, but all of these people are considered "white" by today's standards.

Here are some sociology readings about how different groups have changed over time:
All of these are examples of how race has changed over the years in America.  Who is considered white changes because there is no empirical or objective way to define race.  And if you are considered white, you learn to not think of yourself in terms of race (Bonilla-Silva).  Race doesn't exist in any biological or empirical sense, it only exists as a social construction.

7.  Is it surprising that the idea of who is white has changed so much over the years?  Which group is most surprising to hear about?  

For more on how race has changed, see Nell Irvin Painter's book called, The History of White People

Here is a review on Salon.

Here is an interview on NPR with Painter.

Here is a book review from NY Times.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Race Lesson 3: Amazing! Race Around the World

Yesterday's lesson explained that racial categories are not scientific.  There is no way to separate humans biologically, physically or scientifically into distinct racial groups.  If there was, then racial groups would be the same all over the world.  They would fit into the scientific classification system such as kingdom, order, phylum etc...  But instead, each country/culture has its own racial types.  Racial classification in each country is based on the country's social, cultural and political history.  In other words, race is a social construction.  In sum,
  • Racial categories vary around the world.
  • The categories are formed in each country because of the local social, cultural and political history.
For more information on how race is socially constructed:
See the book Racial Formation by sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant.
The book by Omi and Winant called "Racial Formation" (1986) provides a detailed explanation of how race is socially constructed.  Here is a video of Omi and Winant explaining their seminal work.
Here is an excerpt: Racial Formation by Omi and Winant.

If race varies around the world based on the social, cultural and political histories of each country, what are some examples?

Race in Japan

For example, when I was in Japan, I asked some Japanese friends what races were in Japan and they said "nihon-jin and gai-jin," Which means "Japanese people and foreign people.  In other words, the Japanese think that there are Japanese people in the world and then there is everyone else.  And then I pressed him further and I said, " But aren't there different groups within Japanese culture?"
My friend finally said, " Ahh yes... there were ancient Japanese who settled the islands from the north and there were ancient Japanese who settled the islands from the south, and you know how to tell who came from where?  Earwax." That's right, earwax! He explained that some Japanese have dry flaky earwax and others have wet greasy earwax.  That determines where your ancestors came from and a different biological group that you are a part of- essentially a different race.  But that makes no sense to us because in the US we never think of earwax as part of race.

Race in Mexico

Mexico has a complex history involving Spanish imperialism.  Spain was already a mix of different ethnicities/heritages when it invaded Mexico and mixed with the first nations people living there as well as with black Africans brought there through the Atlantic slave trade.   The result is a complex mix of races.  Here are the racial groups in Mexico:
  1. Mestizo: Spanish father and Indian mother
  2. Castizo: Spanish father and Mestizo mother
  3. Espomolo: Spanish mother and Castizo father
  4. Mulatto: Spanish and black African
  5. Moor: Spanish and Mulatto
  6. Albino: Spanish father and Moor mother
  7. Throwback: Spanish father and Albino mother
  8. Wolf: Throwback father and Indian mother
  9. Zambiago: Wolf father and Indian mother
  10. Cambujo: Zambiago father and Indian mother
  11. Alvarazado: Cambujo father and Mulatto mother
  12. Borquino: Alvarazado father and Mulatto mother
  13. Coyote: Borquino father and Mulatto mother
  14. Chamizo: Coyote father and Mulatto mother
  15. Coyote-Mestizo: Cahmizo father and Mestizo mother
  16. Ahi Tan Estas: Coyote-Mestizo father and Mulatto mother

Race in Brazil

In Brazil, although the Brazilian census defines the races as:
branco (white), pardo (multiracial), preto (black), amarelos (Asians), caboclos (indigenous and white mixed), indigenous, moreno (olive).  However, Brazilians are far more conscious of physical variations.  For example, in 1976, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) conducted a study to ask people to identify their own skin color.  Here are the 134 terms, listed in alphabetical order:
    Acastanhada (cashewlike tint; caramel colored)
    Alva (pure white)
    Alva-escura (dark or off-white)
    Alverenta (or aliviero, "shadow in the water")
    Alvarinta (tinted or bleached white)
    Alva-rosada (or jamote, roseate, white with pink highlights)
    Alvinha (bleached; white-washed)
    Amarela (yellow)
    Amarelada (yellowish)
    Amarela-quemada (burnt yellow or ochre)
    Amarelosa (yellowed)
    Amorenada (tannish)
    Avermelhada (reddish, with blood vessels showing through the skin)
    Azul (bluish)
    Azul-marinho (deep bluish)
    Baiano (ebony)
    Bem-branca (very white)
    Bem-clara (translucent)
    Bem-morena (very dusky)
    Branca (white)
    Branca-avermelhada (peach white)
    Branca-melada (honey toned)
    Branca-morena (darkish white)
    Branca-p�lida (pallid)
    Branca-queimada (sunburned white)
    Branca-sardenta (white with brown spots)
    Branca-suja (dirty white)
    Branqui�a (a white variation)
    Branquinha (whitish)
    Bronze (bronze)
    Bronzeada (bronzed tan)
    Bugrezinha-escura (Indian characteristics)
    Burro-quanto-foge ("burro running away," implying racial mixture of unknown origin)
    Cabocla (mixture of white, Negro and Indian)
    Cabo-Verde (black; Cape Verdean)
    Caf� (coffee)
    Caf�-com-leite (coffee with milk)
    Canela (cinnamon)
    Canelada (tawny)
    Cast�o (thistle colored)
    Castanha (cashew)
    Castanha-clara (clear, cashewlike)
    Castanha-escura (dark, cashewlike)
    Chocolate (chocolate brown)
    Clara (light)
    Clarinha (very light)
    Cobre (copper hued)
    Corado (ruddy)
    Cor-de-caf� (tint of coffee)
    Cor-de-canela (tint of cinnamon)
    Cor-de-cuia (tea colored)
    Cor-de-leite (milky)
    Cor-de-oro (golden)
    Cor-de-rosa (pink)
    Cor-firma ("no doubt about it")
    Crioula (little servant or slave; African)
    Encerada (waxy)
    Enxofrada (pallid yellow; jaundiced)
    Esbranquecimento (mostly white)
    Escura (dark)
    Escurinha (semidark)
    Fogoio (florid; flushed)
    Galega (see agalegada above)
    Galegada (see agalegada above)
    Jambo (like a fruit the deep-red color of a blood orange)
    Laranja (orange)
    Lil�s (lily)
    Loira (blond hair and white skin)
    Loira-clara (pale blond)
    Loura (blond)
    Lourinha (flaxen)
    Malaia (from Malabar)
    Marinheira (dark greyish)
    Marrom (brown)
    Meio-amerela (mid-yellow)
    Meio-branca (mid-white)
    Meio-morena (mid-tan)
    Meio-preta (mid-Negro)
    Melada (honey colored)
    Mesti�a (mixture of white and Indian)
    Miscigena��o (mixed --- literally "miscegenated")
    Mista (mixed)
    Morena (tan)
    Morena-bem-chegada (very tan)
    Morena-bronzeada (bronzed tan)
    Morena-canelada (cinnamonlike brunette)
    Morena-castanha (cashewlike tan)
    Morena clara (light tan)
    Morena-cor-de-canela (cinnamon-hued brunette)
    Morena-jambo (dark red)
    Morenada (mocha)
    Morena-escura (dark tan)
    Morena-fechada (very dark, almost mulatta)
    Moren�o (very dusky tan)
    Morena-parda (brown-hued tan)
    Morena-roxa (purplish-tan)
    Morena-ruiva (reddish-tan)
    Morena-trigueira (wheat colored)
    Moreninha (toffeelike)
    Mulatta (mixture of white and Negro)
    Mulatinha (lighter-skinned white-Negro)
    Negra (negro)
    Negrota (Negro with a corpulent vody)
    P�lida (pale)
    Para�ba (like the color of marupa wood)
    Parda (dark brown)
    Parda-clara (lighter-skinned person of mixed race)
    Polaca (Polish features; prostitute)
    Pouco-clara (not very clear)
    Pouco-morena (dusky)
    Preta (black)
    Pretinha (black of a lighter hue)
    Puxa-para-branca (more like a white than a mulatta)
    Quase-negra (almost Negro)
    Queimada (burnt)
    Queimada-de-praia (suntanned)
    Queimada-de-sol (sunburned)
    Regular (regular; nondescript)
    Retinta ("layered" dark skin)
    Rosa (roseate)
    Rosada (high pink)
    Rosa-queimada (burnished rose)
    Roxa (purplish)
    Ruiva (strawberry blond)
    Russo (Russian; see also polaca)
    Sapecada (burnished red)
    Sarar� (mulatta with reddish kinky hair, aquiline nose)
    Sara�ba (or saraiva: like a white meringue)
    Tostada (toasted)
    Trigueira (wheat colored)
    Turva (opaque)
    Verde (greenish)
    Vermelha (reddish)
      1.  Choose one of these countries to comment on - Japan, Mexico or Brazil.  What is most striking about this classification?

      Here is the Google form for this lesson.  Open it in a new window and as you read this post answer when prompted.

      Can a plane ride change your race?

      Looking at the distinctions in Japan, Mexico and Brazil might not make sense to us because we view race so differently.  However, all of this is evidence that race is a social construction.   Read the passage below (also available here) and then answer the questions after.

      2. After reading the above passage, answer this:   
      Did the girl’s race change?  Why or why not?

      When finished, click here for an explanation.  Read the explanation then answer #3 below.

      3.  Did you answer in number 2 the way I explained it above?  If not, do you understand the explanation?

      The next exercise will be examining different censuses from around the world.  You will see that depending on where you are, the country's census will classify you differently.  Open the following link in a new window and in #4 note how you would be classified in each country.  Feel free to simply type your response whether it is "white" or "other" or whatever.  Be sure to respond to each country's question(s). 
      Here is a link to different censuses around the world.

      4.  What are the different ways you would be categorized around the world? List them here.  Make a note of how many different ways you would be classified as around the world (this is number 5).

      5.  Count the number of different responses you had for number 4.  How many different ways would you be labeled?   

      6.  Choose one of the countries above and hypothesize how the country's political, social or cultural history contributed to the way the country's people view race today.

      In sum, today we used our sociological imagination to examine how race is different based on where you are.  And that difference means you will be classified, viewed and treated differently based on where you are.  You may even see yourself differently.  In other words, you will experience the world differently based on where you are and how your race is perceived.  Race is a social construction.  Tomorrow we will see how race has changed over time right here in the U.S.  In other words, we will use our sociological imagination to see that race is different depending on when you are there as well.

      7.  Any questions about how race is a social construction?