It's all about perspective

Posts tagged ‘race’

Tim Wise: Imagine if the Tea Party was Black

Tim Wise: Imagine if the Tea Party was Black.

I’ll let Tim say his peace. He is a much better man that I.

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Study shows genetic disorder leads to lack of racial stereotypes and social fear.

Williams syndrome children show no racial stereotypes or social fear | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine.

So we find ourselves another study claiming that, essentially, racial stereotyping is natural and genetic. Only with genetic disorders can we truly get past these natural urges.

What a crock. This study is based on the “Preschool Racial Attitude Measure (PRAM-II), which is designed to tease out traces of gender or racial biases in young children.” It does this by showing young children a picture of two people. These are made different by color, gender, or both. The child is then told a story about the two pictures and asked to point out the person they feel the story is more likely about. Bias is determined by the how often the child points to the gender-same or ethnic-same people when the story uses positive adjectives versus when the child points to gender-different or ethnic-different people when the story uses negative adjectives.

This measurement is faulty for a couple of reasons.

1: The children are only shown two choices so there is bias built in to the measurement. Add a third choice for “neither” and a fourth choice for “feel equally about both” and the test might actually start measuring something.

2: While the test is measuring prejudice, it is not measuring stereotype. A prejudice is a preconceived judgment or opinion. Since the test uses positive and negative adjectives as a measurement tool, you are asking the children to apply a positive or negative judgment to the pictures. Stereotyping, on the other hand, would be measured by the children’s willingness to classify people without those value judgments. Now then, the real question becomes, “are these children assessing values because they feel one gender/race is superior to the other, or because they are simply more comfortable with one over the other?”

So what then does this study show? Not much really. It is fascinating in that it attempts to look at the genetic foundations of prejudice and may even be applicable to group-think studies. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for the finished paper and will likely be doing a full critique of it.

White Backlash

Take a glance over to the right of this blog to the Blogroll widget. You’ll see a link to The Color Line. It’s a blog ran by Contexts, which is the online home of the magazine of the same name. It is a quarterly magazine dedicated to the exploration of sociological topics made relevant to the non-sociologist. (e.g. a haven for making sociology more public)

The Color Line’s most recent post is concerning White Backlash. The feeling that, as a group, whites are becoming increasingly threatened and destabilized by developments in political power, globalization, and shrinking of white population.

It is a great article that touches on many of the topics I’ve covered in the past about race. It also touches on how each of the above influences have combined to create a very white group of very angry people. I’ve been wanting to study the Tea Party group for the very reasons the article brings up. As I have seen no evidence of how these people are anything less than a more politically-correct version of the KKK. However, that has been my experience with the news and we all know how accurate and unbiased the news is.

Also, I’ve started to restructure the site a bit, in preparing to move to my own domain social-context.org. (To the three random people who check out my little spot on the web every week, look for it soon.) I’m moving definitions to their own page, Social Dictionary, rather than as a subset of the FAQ.

An open letter to Kris Broughton

I stumbled across your writings by accident, and first allow me to say how great it is to finally find a voice speaking about the questions I’ve had as a white sociologist studying race, privilege, and cultural creation. Your questioning of the current media machine’s ethnic influences is one which needs to continue to be questioned before any real action can be started. (e.g. Fox’s white network of unfair and imbalanced news; CNN and other major news outlets’ portrayals of black men and women during the Katrina disaster)

Your frame of “our national tribe” in Who Controls America’s Racial Narrative is one I find to be long overdue. It seems more and more we are becoming splintered. The states which make our union are increasingly becoming exclusionary. People from Missouri find little with which to relate to our cousins in New York or California.

I also find the questions you begin to ask in “Recarving Our Cultural Totem: An Excerpt” to be both long overdue and fascinating as I have been asking similar questions about my own ethnicity. My own research into white culture has uncovered some disturbing revelations on the nature of white privilege.

However, I would like to ask a few questions myself on your excerpt. One: does the book take into account the “trinity” of cultural interactions; e.g. race, class, and gender? Two: in answering your questions, (as I attempt to answer my own) how does one account for their own pre-conceived notions? Three: your frame of “Black America 5.0” assumes that Black America 4.0 – Integration, has already occurred. How do you take into account the stark contradictions to that integration which you refer to in your other posts?

In this paragraph you discuss what I can only perceive as an attempt to connect with your “paler brethren:”

This is a stubborn subset of the black community that wants to have their cornbread and eat it too. But if they are honest with themselves, they have to admit that all white skinned people do not enjoy all the attendant privileges of whiteness. Southern rednecks, Appalachian hillbillies, Midwestern hicks — they face a level of ostracism that is almost equal to what some of us encounter because we have our hair braided, or because we wear hip hop clothing, or sport rows of gold capped teeth.

However, your claim that certain subcultures of whiteness do not enjoy the same level of privileges others do is not only incorrect, but lacks respect of social environment and the basis for intra-ethnic racism. Southern rednecks, Appalachian hillbillies, and Midwestern hicks may feel out of place in a larger urban area, but in their home regions they enjoy the exact same (if not increased) level of privileges which every other white person receives. This is not always the case in ethnic communities. Intra-ethnic racism is based not on stereotypes one ethnic group creates about itself, but on ones which are borrowed from the parent culture. Furthermore, anyone may choose to “dress the part” of a stereotype and then subsequently remove the costume, but I will never be able to walk into a room full of Native Americans and say “it’s okay guys, I’m not white any more, I’m Cherokee now.”

I applaud the attempt to relate, as I agree it needs to happen for real change to occur, but that is one of the fundamental issues in collaboration between ethnic groups in the United States: white’s inability to relate to the struggle of minorities under institutional racism. A poor white does not equate to a poor Souix or poor black; they may be similar in appearance, but are in no respects equal in circumstance to each other.

So in your opinion, how do whites collaborate and relate to minorities when they have no real understanding of what its like? I have been poor, homeless, and starving. I know what its like to go to bed so hungry you just want to die so the pain goes away. Is that the thread which people, regardless of race or creed need to grasp at when attempting to bridge racial lines? Focus not on our differences but in how we are similar? In theory I would agree with that, but then do we just forget everything that came before? I believe that is more of a slap to the face than anything else. Doing so not only lessens the influence of those events on current ones, but allows whites to continue to act without consequence. I believe whites must take responsibility for their cultural history before this outreach along shared experiences can occur and be meaningful.

I think this is one of the linchpins of color-blind racism. Your question “how do we get others, whether they are white, Latino, or Asian, to [rearrange their mythological constructs] when they encounter us?” Those mythological constructs are based in white culture. For them to really change one (or both) of two things must occur; white culture must change, or white culture must become the minority. I think that if we can get white people to start taking responsibility for their culpability in the situation real, lasting change can begin.

I look forward to reading your book.

In the beginning…

So I want to talk about race. I’ve done this before, but in my previous post I only talked about science and splitting hairs between the definitions. This time, I want to talk about what this little monster called race has done, what it’s been doing, and what it’s likely going to do to us if we don’t do something. I’ll likely not get to all of that in this post, but I have to save something for next time.

Unfortunately, there is no real progression of racism so a simple linear look at race in the United States is somewhat worthless. Now we can track it and study it and find it throughout history, but race is a subtle thing with not-so-subtle trappings. Its like finding out that all your apples taste sour not because of that new fertilizer you’re using, but because of what your great-grandfather used; it was fine for him at the time, but now its wreaking havoc on you. Now this shit our forefathers threw all over the place is coming back to poison us.

Seeing as how race is a social construct it changes with each new leap or change in culture. This used to take several generations, but with the advent of the modern age and the swiftness with which information can be distributed these changes occur at a much more rapid pace. So now we find ourselves trying to figure out where to go from the forgotten and broken promises made in the 60’s, the 70’s, and all the way back to the Bill of Rights. This was supposed to be the future and the future wasn’t supposed to be racist or have anything to do with skin color. And for anyone, ANYONE, who says that race and racism is over because we managed to get a black man in the White House; shut up and sit down because you haven’t been paying attention for pretty much your whole damn life.

The United States of America, the country I love and, contrary to how I write about it, am so proud of, needs to face the truth about itself. This country was born from the womb of racism. Our forefathers committed heinous atrocities all in the name of economic progress. We hunted down and killed Native peoples by the millions. We bought and sold human beings. We treated human beings like little more than trinkets to be done with as we wished. I say we need to own this. We need to take responsibility for what our predecessors did because no one else is. We were shamed into action in the 60’s and 70’s, but shame, like anger, is an emotional energy that only lasts so long and does not extend into the next generation. Now we sit here almost two generations down the road and there is no real change that can be counted. One person, one family making good does not a revolution make, nor fulfill a promise.

Every time we pledge allegiance to the flag, every time we sing the Star Spangled Banner, every time we cheer the Braves or the Chief’s and we’re talking about a sports team instead of political leaders, every time we tell an off-color joke, every time we laugh at an off-color joke, every time we cross the street to avoid someone who looks different than us, we say to our children, our friends, and our society that “all of that stuff was okay. All of it was necessary and perfectly fine. You don’t have to take responsibility for it either.” This absolutely must stop.

So let me start at the beginning.
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Racism?

I’m a member of a few social networking sites. Myspace, Facebook, Atheist Nexus, and a place called OkCupid. OkCupid is an entertaining site as it mashes up a dating site like Yahoo personals or Match.com with a social network site like Myspace. I have some fun on there and have met a few entertaining people. But what sucks the hours right out of my day is the forums.

Just like any forum there are varied and sometimes quixotic topics ranging from “how many drinks would it take to sleep with the poster above you” to “critique my profile.” Today though, I was looking through the forums and ran across this topic titled “In the name of God…” It was started by a thirtysomething white male in response to a few emails he had received.  Apparently the original poster (OP) specifies on his profile that he is only looking for a single white female. The person who emailed the OP inquired about this and wondered if he would be willing to “give up on all other races and possible love connections just because they are not white.” The OP responed to this by relegating his choice in skin color on his potential mate to the same level as hair and eye color, weight, or height. The woman emailing the OP brought in God and made the OP out to be a racist and herself to be more enlightened because she’s a God-fearing woman and the OP must not be. What followed has been a flurry of topic responses calling him prejudiced, racist, a bigot, and many others. There are plenty of responses that back the OP, but far more that denounce his choice of potential mates.

So I have been wondering, is this man’s exclusion of several ethnicities from his pool of potential mates based on racism or on a measurement of attraction he has no conscious control over?

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Consciousness

As a burgeoning sociologist, my colleagues and classmates are constantly talking about the differences that: separate us, bind us, keep us downtrodden, keep us uplifted, or just generally keep us. We have had a very limited opportunity to study these things with two tragedies: Hurricane Katrina and the California fires.

Reading through news stories, blog posts, and listening to news programs, it lifts my heart to know that the discussion is not focusing on one aspect of the problem. No one seems to be focusing purely on race, or class, or economic status, or education. It seems that the talks are on all of those subjects and several not listed. Unfortunately I am seeing a deadlock in the discussions.

It seems that since we, as a society, are unable to put one single perfect all encompassing label on the problem, we are leaving it, frustrated that the problem is too hard and multi-faceted to tackle. What is happening to the discussion? There are many of us out there who are blaming it on one single thing, yet these people and their arguments are quickly becoming passé to the grand majority of the country when confronted by other arguments who say it is something completely different.

This may seem like a very clear “duh” moment, but it has to be said. There is no single perfect label to place upon this mess that Katrina and the fires of California have opened our eyes to. The problem is systemic; meaning that it has integrated itself into every aspect of our lives, is perpetuated from several different angles of society, and has as many outcomes as it has reasons. (more…)

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