Monday, May 27, 2013

Not Your Parents' Racism: Neo-Racism and the Generation Gap

 I am increasingly and humorously aware of the widening generation gap between myself and the students in my sociology classes.  Seemingly small differences in pop cultural references can make the meaning a clever example on my part irrelevant, or result in a total breakdown in communication due to my lack of knowledge about youth culture jargon.  

More substantial are the different perceptions of racism held by my students.  Younger people have more of a shared culture now than in previous years.  Styles of dress, music, slang terminology, and access to technology are more likely to be similar than different for this demographic of students living in a close geographic area.  Because of these similar lifestyles, some perceive that racism, and discrimination in general, no longer exit.  Additionally, due to the utter lack of historical knowledge taught in schools or in the home, younger people are barely aware of the present societal and institutional affects of legalized racism in the U.S. 

Recently, while talking about overt vs. covert racism, a student asked about the significance of a noose because he, and many in the class, had never heard of lynching.  A separate class of 27 students did not know the definition of abolitionism.  More students in yet another class had never heard of the massacres that took place at the Pine Ridge Reservation and were surprised to learn of the economic, psychological, and social peril that native people are still subjected to.  This lack of a reference for racism, institutional racism specifically, is the most dangerous threat to anti-racism.  Not knowing or being able to recognize racism in all its forms and vehemently denying its affect on relationship-building among people is the victory of all proponents of modern racism.

We know that legalized racism no longer exists.  Racism in its most familiar forms, slavery, Jim Crow segregation, vocal objections to the presence of racial minorities in public spaces, etc. are less and less present in our lives.  However, neo-racism, racism disguised as everyday practices that go unacknowledged by the majority, is what plagues society currently.  A broader vision of racism as a practice that overwhelmingly (as opposed to only) negatively affects people identified as a particular racial group must be employed in order see the effects that this powerful ideology has on our lives.  Seeing the after effects of Hurricane Sandy in New York, the lack of response from otherwise vocal members of the predominately white faction of the mainstream feminist movement when a 9 year old Black girl was called a cunt in a public forum, and the continued apathy of all members of society at the increasing murder rate of Black youth versus the rare occurrence of mass shootings in predominately White communities requires that we look more critically at these events and identify the systemic problems in each.  Another aspect of neo-racism is that the proponents could very well be racial minorities.  This fact can prevent an accurate analysis of racism from being made.  A person who does make that analysis can be accused of being racist themselves or of playing the race card, an accusation that serves to delegitimize that presence and effect of racism.

The knowledge and accurate analysis of history is imperative to understanding racism.  Without this understanding how can we recognize it in all of its changing and evolving forms?  This is especially necessary for those not old enough to remember the extent of physical segregation and its contribution to racist ideologies.  Often for people, young people especially, if they cannot see something it does not exist.    For others who are not as young, our memories tend to be short and yesterday’s news is soon forgotten. Racism is very much still here, but its form has changed. The purpose of recognizing and bringing attention to racism, racist practices, and racist ideologies is to combat and defeat it.  Without awareness and a correct analysis, this feat is nearly impossible.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Data Analysis & Quantitative Sociology: Daily Mail - The Racist Map of America, Tweets analyzed for offensive keywords reveal the most bigoted parts of the US and which people are the most hated

This is a great example of the use of data analysis tools and quantitative sociology!

Referred to as a 'hate map' on social media sites, what can you deduce from this map?  Do concentrations of hate words in a certain region automatically equal higher levels of racism in those areas? What is unique about these areas that would make people more likely to use hate language in their social media, specifically Twitter, interactions?  Does this make you think about how you express yourselves via social media or in person?

Full article:
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

The racist map of America: Tweets analyzed for offensive keywords reveal the most bigoted parts of the US and which people are the most hated

  • The project Geography of Hate was created by cartography students at Humboldt State University
  • Students analyzed 150,000 tweets containing hate words sent between June 2012-April 2013
  • Researchers looked at usage of 10 slurs in three categories: racist, homophobic and disability
  • Use of offensive term n***** was not concentration in any single region, but had pockets of concentration in Iowa and Indiana

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Al Jazeera English - Opinion - The wrong kind of Caucasian

 "In 1901, a 28-year-old American named Leon Czolgosz assassinated US President William McKinley. Czolgosz was born in America, but he was of Polish descent. After McKinley died, the American media blamed Polish immigrants. They were outsiders, foreigners, with a suspicious religion - Catholicism - and strange last names.

At a time when Eastern European immigrants were treated as inferior, Polish-Americans feared they would be punished as a group for the terrible actions of an individual. "We feel the pain which this sad occurrence caused, not only in America, but throughout the whole world. All people are mourning, and it is caused by a maniac who is of our nationality," a Polish-American newspaper wrote in an anguished editorial.

It is a sentiment reminiscent of what Muslims and Chechens are writing - or Instagramming  - today, after the revelation that Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, are of Chechen descent. At this time, there is no evidence linking the Tsarnaev brothers to a broader movement in Chechnya, a war-torn federal republic in southern Russia. Neither of the brothers has ever lived there. The oldest, Tamerlan, was born in Russia and moved to the US when he was sixteen. The youngest, Dzokhar, was born in Kyrgyzstan, moved to the US when he was nine, and became a US citizen in 2012." (cont The wrong kind of Caucasian - Opinion - Al Jazeera English)

The Un-Whitening of Terrorism in the U.S. - Depictions of the Tsarnaev Brothers

from Gawker
Ethnic identification has been heavily used in stories about the bombings at the Boston Marathon.  From the earliest accounts of the suspects as "dark-skinned" by CNN's John King ( to all other news reports trying desperately to make synonymous the Tsarnaev Bros.with Chechnya.  Every word and ethnic designation that applies has been used...except for the term "White."  The Gawker pointed out that The Week coverage and illustration of the Tsarnaev Brothers distanced the suspected bombers even further from being white by the "browing" of their depictions, with emphasis on their noses, lips, & eyebrows.  All features that are tied to racial designation in the U.S.

I asked my students the seemingly simple but amazingly complex question of why.  Sociologically answers can range from the resistance of the power majority to identify itself with terrorism to anti-internationalist/anti-immigrant sentiments used to marginalize them and the immigration issue even more.  However, for me, the conversation can be even deeper.

Most recently, the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev were turned away from several places when seeking to bury their son.  If Timothy McVeigh's (one of the terrorists, to whom that term was never applied, behind the Oklahoma City bombing) body weren't cremated, I wonder if his family would have faced the same obstacles trying to bury him?  More grounded in reality, Adam Lanza's body was claimed by his father and the burial arrangements were kept secret.  How is that possible when the denial of burial services are headline news for the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

One answer is white privilege. Actually, that's a pretty big answer.  Another answer is, again, anti-immigrant sentiment which has been largely opportunistic as well.

I'd enjoy hearing other thoughts on the issue as well.  As always, feel free to comment, share, follow, and like what you've read.  As long as we keep the conversation for the pursuit of answers flowing.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Womanisms: Shaping a Latina Feminist Identity

Womanisms: Shaping a Latina Feminist Identity: Courtesy of Tennessee Guerilla Women My mother would never call herself a feminist, even though she is the embodiment of a feminist. S...

Points of Unity in These Turbulent Times: Hopelessnes, Alienation and Fear during Times of Tragedy

It is very easy to see no commonality between the rash of tragedies we are suddenly surrounded by. Numerous incidents ranging from unfortunate to fatal, all happening in roughly the same time and same geographical space, to people whose social experiences seem to be worlds apart. Some people respond by citing the random unpredictability of things. Others respond by quoting religious texts which tell us we are in the last days of this world. Still others react by drawing further into themselves and seeing every stranger as a potential threat. In our country this threat perception has and continues to take on racial and religious tone which further breeds separation and distrust.

How then do we avoid these unproductive coping tools, is the question I’ve been asking myself. Further, how do I present a reasonable and realistic manner of thinking to my students in our classroom conversations? Seeing our current condition through a materialist or scientific lens was my first answer. Also, to use sociological reasoning to draw different people, places, and incidents closer together to expose the appearance of the problem and get at a common essence. One of my main teaching objectives is to keep the interrelatedness of all things at the forefront of our conversations. But again, how exactly are we tying these events together? What could be common in the experiences of:

- a poor black youth in Chicago who makes the decision to run towards a crowd of other young people firing a gun
- a girl who decides that death by suicide is an acceptable alternative to vicious bullying due to pictures and videos of her unconscious body being sexually assaulted by various boys
- a white man who enters a middle school and opens fire on children and their teachers
- an unknown person or persons who plants several bombs at a populated sporting and social event for the purpose of violently disrupting lives
- a man who sees a young black male walking down the street at night on a cell phone as enough of a threat that he hunts him down, kills him, and claims self-defense
- a segment of the country that believes this was a rational course of action
- several Indian men who use the rhetoric of morality as justification to beat and rape women, some to death, and a legal system that echoes that way of thinking
- a person from any demographic that uses drugs or alcohol to escape their reality


Recognizing that all these acts are nuanced and complex in ways very specific to their context, I’ve been thinking about the first few steps in the thought process that eventually materializes into action. What makes someone susceptible to ideas that result in taking lives, even one’s own? One probable rationalization is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. More than just having nothing to look forward to, this hopelessness produces a feeling that nothing, neither actions nor consequences, matters. Implicit in this feeling is alienation. Due to the impersonal make-up of social structures and economies, people feel separated from each other, separated from the things they do, separated from ambitions, and separated from their own lives. Whether we take a traditionally Durkeimian view of anomie (societal normlessness leading to a lack of social integration) or a Marxist view of alienation (people being estranged from each other, what is important to them, their work, etc.) on the matter, I believe that common threads can be found. What are the depths of these roots?

Can there be a common root in different societies or countries? What similarities in thinking can we draw between the “cherry petals” of Japanese student soldiers and other suicide bombers in the Middle East, US, and other places of different ages and genders?

As I’m fond of saying, these issues leave me with more questions than answers, but it is important to have these conversations. It is important to think about what can be done in our own lives to stay productive about finding these answers. I, too, an keeping feelings of crippling sadness and inactive resignation away. Writing and talking about these things are my outlets. Hopefully reading and responding to these thoughts can be part of yours.