In the U.S., we tend to organize politically according to identities. For example, we have a Gay Liberation Movement, a Women’s Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement, to name three big ones. All of these are personal characteristics made political.
The cartoon below, by Miriam Dobson, does a great job of showing one of the downsides of fighting for progressive social change in this way. For one, it can make people who carry multiple marginalized identities (for example, gay black men) feel unwelcome. And, two, it makes it seem like people without the identity can’t be part of the movement.
One solution is to think about oppressions in terms of intersectionality: we are all a mix of identities that resonate with each other in complicated ways. This is a rich idea, but one lesson that it has taught us is that the strategy of divide-and-conquer has been an effective way to keep multiple groups marginalized.
Instead of emphasizing identities, we could identify issues. And if our issue is oppression, we can join-to-resist. As the graphic explains: “oppression of one affects us all.”
Here is something quite simple, sent along by Judy B. It’s a screenshot of Gimp, an open source image editing application. An optional plug-in, created by a user, offers a series of filters for images, including ones that “beautify.” One of the options is “skin whitening.”
This is one more reminder that we live in a racist society that conflates whiteness with beauty. Remember, too, though, that someone — very possibly a set of people — had to make a conscious decision to include skin whitening as an option and position it as a sub-category of beautification. Then they had to, literally, type the words into the program and make it so.
This shit doesn’t just happen. It’s not random. Racism isn’t just an ephemeral cultural thing. It involves actual decisions made by real people who, if not motivated by racism, are complicit with it.
Pew Research Center reports that, as of 2010, women make up about 15% of enlisted soldiers and commissioned officers:
Not all types of women are entering the military at the same rate. Nearly a third of women in the military are Black, about twice their proportion in the general population. In contrast, about half are white, about 2/3rds their proportion among civilian women.
A larger proportion of women, compared to men, said that they joined the military because it was difficult to find a good civilian job:
They were just as likely as men, however, to report other more common reasons for joining:
Interestingly, women reported high levels of strain re-entering the civilian population and the majority believe that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not worth fighting:
Nevertheless, a large majority felt that entering the military was good for their personal growth and career opportunities:
Last week, the Census Bureau announced that as of July 1, 2011, for the first time the majority (50.4%) of babies under age 1 in the U.S. were not non-Hispanic Whites. Animal New York posted a video by Jay Smooth discussing the reactions to and implications of this news:
You can see the NYT article Jay Smooth parodies here, but note that the graph is mislabeled. The line labeled “White” actually only represents the data for non-Hispanic Whites, while the line labeled “Non-White” includes births to White Hispanics, so the terminology they used doesn’t accurately reflect what the graph illustrates.
Race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, disability, and veteran status are all what are called protected classes under federal law — characteristics that cannot be used as the basis for discrimination in hiring, housing, or other arenas. There are loopholes, however; one is that it is acceptable to discriminate based on a protected characteristic if you can show that it is “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ). So, for instance, if you can show that being female is a legitimate requirement for being able to perform a particular job, you can refuse to hire men. Hooters used the BFOQ argument when they were sued for sex discrimination because they would not hire men as servers.
The exceptions are race and color, which are not legally seen as ever being legitimate qualifications for doing a job. As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website states, “Nor may race or color ever be a bona fide occupational qualification under Title VII.” That is, there is absolutely no good reason that being of one race or another would ever be a legal basis for hiring.
And yet, there’s still at least one arena where race is blatantly and openly used as a basis for hiring: Hollywood casting. Back in 2006, Russell Robinson, a faculty member at the UCLA School of Law, looked at the sex and race/ethnicity characteristics specified in “breakdowns” — the summaries of characteristics presented in casting announcements. As Robinson explains in the article “Casting and Caste-ing: Reconciling Artistic Freedom and Antidiscrimination Norms,” his sample certainly doesn’t include all roles in the process of being cast during that period. Roles aimed at big stars who don’t go through the typical audition process may never be released as a breakdown, since there’s no intent to recruit for the role. But
Notice that African Americans and Latinos are particularly under-represented compared to their proportion of the total U.S. population. And while 22.5% of breakdowns specifically said the character should be White, almost half included language that designated the role as implicitly White — for instance, including only White actors in a list of prototypes for the role. In fact, interviews with casting directors indicate that roles are presumed to be White unless the breakdown specifically says otherwise.
Almost all breakdowns specified the sex of the character; 59% of the breakdowns specified the role was for a man, while 35% of roles were for women.
Robinson also analyzed the cast of 171 films released in 2005 that made at least $1 million. The majority of all roles were reserved for men. An overwhelming 73% of leads were men, and even supporting roles were predominantly for men:
Of the leads in those films, 81.9% were White non-Hispanic:
The U.S. Census Bureau has started releasing data from the 2010 Census. This map shows the change in the racial/ethnic minority (i.e., anything other than non-Hispanic White) population over the last decade:
They released a report, An Overview: Race and Hispanic Origin in the 2010 Census (available here), which includes data on those who reported more than one race. Among those who reported more than one race, the vast majority listed two. Here are the most commonly reported combinations:
AIAN = American Indian/Alaska Native, NHPI = Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and SOR = some other race.
Laura E. pointed out that New Geography posted some maps based on 2010 Census data. Here’s the Hispanic population as a percent of the total population, by county (notice that the legend need to be multiplied by 100 to get the percent):
The African American population (alone or in combination with another race, and again, multiply by 100):
There are 332 faces in this month’s issue of Seventeen. I counted a face as a head with at least one visible eye. That is, backs of heads and disembodied mouths or eyes were not included in my data. I researched the races of the models and celebrities that I could identify. Those whose race I could not determine with reasonable certainty I’ve excluded from my data, making for 319 surveyed faces.
Keiles was also surprised by the fact that, compared to the U.S. population, there were many models who identified as bi-racial. My guess is that it’s because advertisers think (and perhaps know, but I’m not sure) that models whose identities are hard to discern appeal to a larger array of audience members who may see themselves in what is otherwise an “ambiguous” appearance.
Any ideas as to why white Hispanics are particularly underrepresented? Is it possible that white Hispanic models simply identify publicly as “white”? Other ideas?
Keiles finds a similar patterns when she looks by gender and by whether it was Seventeen content or advertiser content:
Different countries formalize different racial categories. Below are examples of the ”race” questions on the Censuses of 9 different countries. They illustrate just how diverse ideas about race are and challenge the notion that there is one “correct” question or set of questions.
The categories in the drop down menu include:
The categories in the drop down menu include:
Black, African Am., or Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native
Guamanian or Chamorro
Other Pacific Islander
Some other race