Tag Archives: race/ethnicity: Asians/Pacific Islanders

Who’s Reporting the News? An Analysis by Race and Ethnicity

Larry Harnisch, of L.A.’s The Daily Mirror, let us know that 4th Estate analyzed the racial and ethnic breakdown of reporters covering the presidential election for 38 major print media outlets. The analysis included front-page articles published between January 1st and October 12th of this year.

Here’s the key for all of the following images:

For every major topic, the overwhelming majority of front-page articles were written by non-Hispanic Whites, while racial/ethnic minorities were underrepresented compared to the overall U.S. population:

Major newspapers varied in the diversity of those writing their feature articles. The Dallas Morning News was the most diverse, with a particularly large percentage (18.8) of front-page stories written by African American reporters. The San Francisco Chronicle had the least diversity; 100% of its feature political stories were written by White non-Hispanics:

Overall, 93% of the feature articles analyzed in the database were written by White non-Hispanics, 4% by Asian Americans, about 2% by African Americans, and less than 1% by Hispanics. Compare that with each group’s proportion of the overall U.S. population:

These numbers clearly matter in terms of career opportunities and exposure for minorities within the industry. But they also should concern us readers. What does the lack of diversity mean in terms of the issues covered, the political contacts and average-Joe-voters spoken to, the topics seen as important enough to cover?

Also see our earlier post on the gender of those quoted in news stories about the election.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Human Zoos at the Turn of the 20th Century

***TRIGGER WARNING for racism and enslavement***

During a dark period of world history, intellectuals pondered where to draw the line between human and animal.  They arrayed humans hierarchically, from the lightest to the darkest skin.  Believing that Africans were ape-like, they weren’t sure whether to include apes as human, or Africans as apes.

One artifact of this thinking was the “human zoo.”  Kidnapped from their homes at the end of the 19th century and into the next, hundreds of indigenous people were put on display for white Westerners to view.  ”Often they were displayed in villages built in zoos specifically for the show,” according to a Spiegel Online sent in by Katrin, “but they were also made to perform on stage for the amusement of a paying public.”  Many died quickly, being exposed to diseases foreign to them.

This group of captives is from Sri Lanka (called  Ceylon at the time):

This photograph commemorates a show called “Les Indes,” featuring captives from India:

These captives are from Oromo in Ethiopia:

A German named Carl Hagenbeck was among the more famous men involved in human zoos.  He would go on expeditions in foreign countries and bring back both animals and people for European collections.  In his memoirs, he spoke of his involvement with pride, writing: “it was my privilege to be the first in the civilized world to present these shows of different races.”

The zoo in Hamburg still bears his name.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Overview of the Social Construction of Race

Dalton Conley’s newest animated video provides an overview of the social construction of race: the categories we define as race aren’t based in biology, yet they’re incredibly important factors that influence our opportunities, constraints, and life outcomes.

Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and the Pay Gap

The Washington Post has a post up by Dylan Matthews that looks at the U.S. gender wage gap over time. It has several charts that illustrate trends in pay very clearly. Here’s a breakdown of median income (in constant 2010 dollars) by gender and race/ethnicity, for all workers, both full- and part-time:

The gap remains for full-time, year-round workers, too. Women have gained ground, but within every racial/ethnic category, women’s median income is lower than men’s and every other group earns significantly less than Asian and White men. However, there’s a clear racial earnings hierarchy visible in the chart as well, which isn’t getting nearly the attention that the gender wage gap is:

Moreover, the income bump received from earning a college degree is still higher for men than for women:

There are additional charts further breaking down differences in pay among men and women in the original post. As Matthews argues, and as Philip Cohen has posted about here at Soc Images, the data just don’t support the “impending female economic dominance” narrative that has become popular recently.

Race/Ethnicity and Voter Turnout

As we enter the home stretch of the presidential campaign, there’s a steady stream of media discussions of potential turnout and differences in early voters and those who vote on Election Day, analysis of the demographics of swing states, and a flood of campaign materials and phone calls aimed at both winning us over and convincing us to actually go vote (those of you not living in swing states may be blessed with less of this).

So who does vote? And how many of us do so?

Demos.org recently released a report on voting rates and access among Native Americans. It contains a breakdown of voting and voter registration by race/ethnicity for the 2008 presidential election. That year, about 64% of all adults eligible to vote in the U.S. did so, but the rates varied widely by group. White non-Hispanics and African Americans had the highest turnout, with every other group having significantly less likely to vote. Half or less of Asians, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanics voted:

For every group, the vast majority of those who register do go on to vote. But significant numbers of people who have the right to vote aren’t registered to do so, and even among registered voters (the darkest blue columns), turnout is higher among White non-Hispanics and African Americans than other groups. This could reflect lack of interest in or enthusiasm for the election or the candidates, but likely also reflects structural and organizational differences, from poverty to the lack of concerted efforts by campaigns to make voting easier by providing shuttles to the polls and otherwise getting out the vote in these communities.

Colorblind Currency?: Canada’s New $100

An emerging controversy in Canada is a good example of just how difficult it is to be racially-neutral when the context is racially-charged.  The country recently redesigned its money.  On the back of the $100 dollar bill celebrating medical innovation they sketched an Asian-appearing woman looking into a microscope.  In a focus group in Quebec, people complained that the bill reproduced the stereotype that Asians pursue careers in science and medicine.  The Vancouver Sun reports:

“Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian,” says a 2009 report commissioned by the bank from The Strategic Counsel… ”Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown.”

A few even said the yellow-brown colour of the $100 banknote reinforced the perception the woman was Asian, and “racialized” the note.

The Canadian government responded that they had never intended the woman to appear “ethnic” and ordered the image re-sketched so it would be more racially “neutral.”  

They were then accused of being prejudiced again. Mu-Qing Huang, a Chinese-Canadian interviewed for the story, objected to the deletion of the figure’s Asian features:

If Canada is truly multicultural and thinks that all cultural groups are equal, then any visible minority should be good enough to represent a country, including (someone with) Asian features.

This is a tricky problem.  By including racial or ethnic minorities on their bills, Canada risks reproducing a stereotype.  Including all “neutral” figures can be seen as exclusionary because neutral looks suspiciously like White people in a country dominated by White people.  The third option is to deliberately break stereotypes by putting, say, an Asian woman running the hurdles and a Black woman looking through a microscope, but this can seem overly contrived (as many attempts at diversity do).

The truth is that all of Canada’s options can be read in racially-charged ways.  This isn’t because people are unfairly reading into the sketches, it’s because life in Canada is, in fact, racially-charged.  When race matters, it matters, all claims to colorblindness aside.

Thanks to Craig G., Tom Megginson, Jesse, Helen, and Alex, an MLIS from McGill, for the submission!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

New CEOs: The Diversification of the Corner Office

Cross-posted at Corporate Governance.

Sociologists Richard Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff began studying ascendance to the top corporate office 20 years ago and, while the population of CEOs is far from diverse, they report that they have been surprised to see as many women and minorities as they have.  Today there are 80 white women, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans at the head of Fortune 500 companies.

In a discussion about their book, The New CEOs, at The Society Pages, they ask whether the rise of non-white/non-male CEOs is really a disruption in the distribution of power.  Despite protestations to the contrary — “all CEOs, it seems, worked their way up from the bottom,” they say with tongue in cheek — almost all come from wealthy backgrounds.  The rising diversity, in other words, doesn’t include class diversity.

With one exception: African Americans.  Most African American CEOs, they show, did not grow up in wealthy families.  ”Many,” they write, “grew up with parents who were factory workers, postmen, custodians, day-care workers, or house cleaners.”  They refrain from speculating as to why they see this difference.

So, what’s next?  Zweigenhaft and Domhoff make some guesses as to the near future. The people positioned to be our next Fortune 500 CEOs will have graduated from college, got an MBA or law degree, will be currently earning more than $250,000 a year, and now hold a senior executive position.  Given these parameters, they conclude that:

…about two-thirds of those a step from the CEO office were white men, about 19% were white women, slightly fewer than 3% were African Americans, about 4% were Latinos, and about 8% were Asian Americans.

As the graph shows, compared to minority men, white women are far more likely to be rising into CEO positions in the near future.  Women of color, as they say, “almost disappear” in the data.  They explain that this likely has to do with their double minority status.  When hiring and promoting, people tend to look for ways of connecting with the potential employee.  A white man (usually doing the hiring) will see at least one thing in common with a white woman or a man of color.   As an example, they cite a study of executives with MBAs from Harvard:

…female Jewish executives all agreed that being female was more of an impediment to their careers than being a Jew, but many quickly emphasized that being Jewish, or different in any other way, was not irrelevant. As one put it, “It’s the whole package. I heard secondhand from someone as to how I would be perceived as a pushy, Jewish broad who went and got an MBA. Both elements, being Jewish and being a woman, together with having the MBA, were combined to create a stereotype I had to work against from the first day.” Another woman explained, “It’s part of the question of whether you fit the mold. Are you like me or not? If too much doesn’t fit, it impacts you negatively.”

These dynamics affect your entire career trajectory, of course, but Zweigenhaft and Domhoff believe they become even more intense as people approach the top office.  They conclude:

Culture (in the form of cultural capital), education, and class are all still in play. While gender and color remain the best predictors of who will make it into the upper echelons of the corporate world, beyond that, it’s intersectionality [of different identities together] wherever we look.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Whites, Blacks, and Apes in the Great Chain of Being

I’m reposting this piece from 2008 in solidarity with Lisa Wade (no relation), whose (non-white) child was described by his teacher as  “the evolutionary link between orangutans and humans.”  It’s an amateur history of the association of Black people with primates. Please feel free to clarify or correct my broad description of many centuries of thought.

The predominant colonial theory of race was the great chain of being, the idea that human races could be lined up from most superior to most inferior.  That is, God, white people, and then an arrangement of non-white people, with blacks at the bottom.

Consider this drawing that appeared in Charles White’s An Account of the Regular Gradation in Man, and in Different Animals and Vegetables (1799). On the bottom of the image (but the top of the chain) are types of Europeans, Romans, and Greeks.  On the top (but the bottom of the chain) are “Asiatics,” “American Savages,” and “Negros.”  White wrote: “In whatever respect the African differs from the European, the particularity brings him nearer to the ape.”

Nearly 70 years later, in 1868, Ernst Haeckel’s Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte was published.  in the book, this image appeared (his perfect person, by the way, was German, not Greek):


In this image, we see a depiction of the great chain of being with Michelangelo’s sculpture of David Apollo Belvedere at the top (the most perfect human), a black person below, and an ape below him.

Notice that there seems to be some confusion over where the chain ends.  Indeed, there was a lot of discussion as to where to draw the line.  Are apes human?  Are blacks?  Carolus Linneaus, that famous guy who developed the classification system for living things, wasn’t sure.  In his book Systema Naturae (1758), he published this picture, puzzling over whether the things that separating apes from humans were significant.

In this picture (also appearing in White 1799) are depictions of apes in human-like positions (walking, using a cane).  Notice also the way in which the central figure is feminized (long hair, passive demeanor, feminized body) so as to make her seem more human.

Here we have a chimpanzee depicted drinking a cup of tea.  This is Madame Chimpanzee.  She was a travelling attraction showing how human chimps could be.

In any case, while they argued about where to draw the line, intellectuals of the day believed that apes and blacks were very similar.  In this picture, from a book by Robert Knox called The Races of Men (1851), the slant of the brow is used to draw connections between the “Negro” and the “Oran Outan” and differences between those two and the “European.”

The practice of depicting the races hierarchically occurred as late as the early 1900s as we showed in a previous post.

NEW! Nov ’09) The image below appeared in the The Evolution of Man (1874 edition) as part of an argument that blacks are evolutionarily close to apes (source):HLFig2
During this same period, African people were kept in zoos alongside animals.  These pictures below are of Ota Benga, a Congolese Pygmy who spent some time as an attraction in a zoo in the early 1900s (but whose “captivity” was admittedly controversial at the time).  (There’s a book about him that I haven’t read.  So I can’t endorse it, but I will offer a link.)  Ota Benga saw most of his tribe, including his wife and child, murdered before being brought to the Bronx Zoo.  (It was customary for the people of his tribe to sharpen their teeth.)

The theorization of the great chain of being was not just for “science” or “fun.”  It was a central tool in justifying efforts to colonize, enslave, and even exterminate people.  If it could be established that certain kinds of people were indeed less than, even less than human, then it was acceptable to treat them as such.

This is a “generalizable tactic of oppression,” by the way.  During the period of intense anti-Irish sentiment in the U.S. and Britain, the Irish were routinely compared to apes as well.

So, there you have it.  Connections have been drawn between black people and primates for hundreds of years.  Whatever else you want to think about modern instances of this association – the one Wade and her child are suffering now, but also the Obama sock monkey, the Black Lil’ Monkey doll, and a political cartoon targeting Obama – objections are not just paranoia.

(I’m sorry not to provide a full set of links.  I’ve collected them over the years for my Race and Ethnicity class.  But a lot of the images and information came from here.)

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.