Tag Archives: race/ethnicity

Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and the Recession

Rachel sent in a link to a post about the recession by Tim Cavanaugh at Reason that led me to an interactive graphic at the Wall Street Journal that lets you track job loss by either sector or by race/ethnicity and sex from December 2007 to August 2010.

Here is the race/ethnicity and sex data for January 2008 (for reasons I cannot understand, Asians are not separated out by sex, and as usual, American Indians aren’t included):

And here’s the breakdown for January 2010:

Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t weighted by the number of total workers per category, so we don’t have any way to know how these raw numbers translate into percentages of workers losing their jobs.

By economic sector, for January ’08:

January ’10:

[On a nitpicky note, the sector graphs show job losses in negative numbers, which would work if it showed total change in # of jobs. But I think we'd be thrilled if we had -8... thousand job losses, as the graph is labeled. Just a small sloppy labeling issue.]

As the data show, and as we’ve discussed before, the economic recession has disproportionately affected men. But Cavanaugh cautions that it might be a little soon to declare men an at-risk species or lament the bad luck of being born male. Presumably, if men’s over-representation in construction, for instance, has meant they suffered more than women from the real estate bust, if you felt like it you could turn it around and argue that perhaps they disproportionately benefited from the boom that preceded it. Additionally the employment sectors are pretty broad; “retail” or “finance” will include some specific occupations that are fairly gender balanced, some that are dominated by men, and some dominated by women. And overall loss in retail jobs doesn’t tell us if the losses are spread equally across occupations within the sector.

Should we care about the suffering of men and their families in the recession? Of course. And to the degree that men are disproportionately represented in occupations that are prone to boom/bust cycles, we’re likely to continue to see greater volatility in their employment rates than women’s, sometimes to their advantage, sometimes not. But we might want to be a little careful and look at some more in-depth data before we declare, as some commentators seem to want to do, that women have basically escaped the recession. If nothing else, men and women aren’t islands; lots of us share household expenses, and a woman whose husband loses his job but keeps her own doesn’t exactly avoid any negative consequences of the recession.

Related posts: more comparisons of joblessness, race and recession, unemployment and education level, not everyone suffers during a recession, the gender employment gap,

Travel, Privilege, and the Crush of the Tourist Gaze

During the colonial era, class-privileged citizens of colonizing nations would travel to colonized lands to, as I wrote in a previous post, “enjoy reveling in the seemingly bizarre and unfamiliar people and customs of these Other places…”  Human beings, in other words, were among the objects of this tourism, along with gorgeous vistas and unfamiliar plants and animals.

Today many citizens of wealthy nations still yearn for “authentic” and “unique” travel experiences.  It is somehow more prestigious to go where others do not.  And human beings are still, often, the object of such tourism.  This kind of travel, always ethically problematic, has become increasingly disruptive as fewer and fewer places are inaccessible and more and more people are able to afford to get there.  For those humans identified as worthy of the tourist gaze, this may sometimes mean constant and overwhelming objectification.

A new documentary, Camera, Camera, documents the crushing weight of tourism in Luang Prabang, Laos, where monks make a traditional sacred procession each morning.  Seth Mydans, reviewing the film, writes:

…this sacred ritual is now swarmed by scores of bustling tourists, some of whom lean in with cameras and flashes for closeups as the monks pad silently past.


Frustrated, Artist Nithakhong Somsanith says:

They come in buses. They look at the monks the same as a monkey, a buffalo. It is theater… Now the monks have no space to meditate, no space for quiet.

This clip from the documentary captures Somsanith’s concerns beautifully and hauntingly:

For more examples of tourism of this sort, see our posts featuring the appeal of the hula girl, colonial era postcards of the Burmese, vintage travel posters, and a contemporary Brazilian tourist opportunity.  Story via Karl Bakeman.

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

Race, Gender, and Book Reviews

In a post at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Steve Rendall and Zachary Tomanelli investigated the racial breakdown of the book reviewers and authors in two important book review venues, the New York Times Book Review and C-SPAN’s After Words.  They found that the vast majority of both reviewers and authors were white males.

Overall, 95% of the authors and 96% of the reviewers were non-Latino white (compared to 65% of the population).

Women accounted for between 13 and 31% of the authors and reviewers:

This is some hard data showing that white men’s ideas are made more accessible than the ideas of others, likely translating into greater influence on social discourse and public policy.  These individuals certainly don’t all say the same thing, nor do they necessarily articulate ideas that benefit white men, but a greater diversity of perspectives would certainly enrich our discourse.

Via Scatterplot.

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

Race, Gender, and Likes on OkCupid

Emma M.H., Rebecca A., Natalee B., Josh L., Anna M., Jordan G., and an anonymous reader all sent in a link to a new analysis released by OkTrends, this time of members’ profile essays and the likes/interests/hobbies the essays mention, broken down by race/ethnicity and gender. They list items that were statistically unevenly distributed by race/ethnicity, showing up much more in some groups’ profiles than others’; these aren’t necessarily the most common items listed by each group.

White men:

White women:

Christian Rudder, the author of the OkTrends post, points out an interesting trend: rural identifying/mythologizing. White men mention “I’m a country boy,” while for White women, being a “country girl” features prominently, meaning both groups are more likely to use this term than other racial/ethnic groups. The men also mention liking hunting/fishing, while White women include horses/horseback riding, bonfires, and the “midwest,” as well as country music/musicians. Most OkCupid users, according to Rudder, are in large metro areas. Of course, you can live in a city and still go riding or fishing, or these can be things you did before you moved to the city that you still really wish you could do and so remain an important part of your identity; and given current demographics, it’s more likely that a former rural resident would be White than non-White, thus showing up more in Whites’ profiles. But I also suspect that references to the “midwest,” or things associated with romanticized rural life (you know, running around in a beautiful wheatfield during a thunderstorm and stuff) are a code for a certain type of masculinity and femininity. Among Whites, hunting/fishing indicates you’re a particular type of “guy’s guy,” while being “a country girl” who likes horses and thunderstorms is, I think, a stand-in for implying you’re down-to-earth, nice, not superficial. Being “country” is thus, a lot of the time, shorthand for being authentic.

Moving on, here’s the image for Black men:

We see more self-description than in White men’s profiles — “I am cool,” “tall, dark, and handsome,” “god-fearing,” “calm,” “laid-back guy.” White men (and to a lesser extent women) seem to focus on what they like, not really what they are like, with only “I’m a country boy” and “I can fix anything” showing up in the analysis.

Black women:

If you combined general references to religion, they would stand out even more. In fact, African American men and women are quite a bit more likely than other groups to mention religion:

Data for Latino men:

Like Black men, they more frequently than White men  mention personality characteristics — “I’m a funny guy,” “respectful,” “I’m a simple guy,” “outgoing and funny,” etc.

Latinas, like Latino men, mention specific dances, not just a love of music or musicians:

Rudder notes that Asian men are the most likely of any group to highlight a specific ethnic/national identity in addition to the more general “Asian” label:

I see that above with Latino men, too — references to being Peruvian, Colombian, Dominican, etc. If I had to take a stab at explaining this, I’d guess it was related to differences in how racial/ethnic categories have been applied to different groups. In the U.S. over time, White ethnic categories (say, being Dutch-American vs. Polish-American) have largely faded into the background, all subsumed under the powerful racial label “White.” Distinctions within that grouping have become largely optional, a neat thing to mention, perhaps, but not very socially meaningful. African Americans have often found themselves in the same situation, but due to much more negative forces. The generally shared experience of slavery, racism, and discrimination, as well as negative stereotypes of anyone perceived as Black, mostly erased ethnic identifications among African Americans. Being Black became a master status, such a socially important racial categorization that even those who wanted to be recognized as from a specific location (South Africa, Jamaica, etc.) often found themselves unable to get others to recognize their ethnic distinction.

The broader “Asian” and “Hispanic” labels emerged more recently in U.S. history, and members of both groups often actively fought to preserve distinctions within them. It wasn’t until the ’60s that a pan-Asian identity really began to emerge, such that being called “Asian” really meant anything to people, as opposed to thinking of themselves as Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. And “Hispanic” refers to ethnicity, not race (most Hispanics identify as White); ethnic identities are generally more flexible than racial categories. Aside from personal attachments, many groups thrown into the labels Asian and Hispanic have seen clear advantages to preserving distinctions based on nationality, believing that, say, being Japanese American would be less negatively stereotyped than being simply “Asian.”

So I wasn’t extremely surprised to see that Latino and Asian men specified identifies within those categories…but look back at the Latina image, and then this one for Asian women:

Nothing. Not one specific identifier for either group stood out. I don’t know what to make of that, and would love to hear your suggestions.

There are also specific breakdowns for Asian Indians and Pacific Islanders on the OkTrends, if you’re interested.

Middle Eastern men (a sort of odd category, but whatever) also specify nationalities, which is to be expected as this is another group that has engaged in active contests about their racial categorization in the U.S. (in particularly, fighting to be considered White, not Asian or Black) and also focus on technical/financial careers or expertise:

Middle Eastern women are the only group who prominently mention something about their physical appearance (“petite”), for whatever that’s worth, and again, no nationalities listed:

Of course, as Anna pointed out when she sent in the link, this data isn’t necessarily about people’s actual likes/interests, it’s about what they present as their likes/interests in the dating marketplace. On a dating website, you’re trying to present a profile of yourself…but one tailored to be attractive to others. She wonders to what degree social stereotypes of your racial group, as well as the group you’re interested in dating (if you have any preference) affects how you would describe your interests. That is, it’s possible that in some cases people highlight interests or hobbies that seem to fit social expectations of what they’ll like doing…or what they think the individuals they want to date will want to do, or want their date to want to do. To interpret these results, as OkTrends does, as straightforward evidence of differences in preferences by race/ethnicity, ignores the important fact that these are interests presented as part of an intentional performance for strangers, and may or may not reflect what we actually spend time doing, learning about, or paying attention to in our daily lives.

Borrowing, Environmental Activism, and the Na’vi

Pop culture is always popping out new catch phrases, symbols, and characters that then get churned up into our larger universe of discourse and sometimes recycled in creative ways.  As much as I did not like Avatar, the movie did inspire many Americans to identify with a fictional indigenous population, the Na’vi, who desired to protect their environment.  Recognizing the impact of the movie, real environmental activists have been trying to transfer some of those feelings to their own movements by drawing connections between themselves and the Na’vi.

This is a good example of how the discursive resources available to movements are changing, unpredictable, sometimes come from unexpected places, and are increasingly global.  Avatar was an opportunity for environmental movements, some of whom are trying to preserve the momentum that began when movie-goers watched the home tree come crashing down in flames.

In London, England, these activists protest a plan to put a new mine on a site sacred to the Dongria Kondh tribe in India:
In Lima, Peru, activists call for more bicycle paths:
These activists, in Jakarta, Indonesia, are protesting the destruction of Orangutan habitat:
This university student adds color to a climate rally in Washington, DC:
In Manila, Philippines, activists oppose the privatization of water services:
(Photos from Time magazine.)
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Cartooning the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act

During the 19th the United States received many new residents from China.  Sometimes they came voluntarily; sometimes they were imported forcibly.  The term “Shanghaied” originally described the forced stealing of Chinese men to come work in America.  Many of them worked on the transcontinental railroad, built between 1863 and 1869.  Ninety percent of the workers on the central Pacific track, for example, were Chinese.

After the railroad was completed, however, many Chinese went to work in industries in which they competed with white American workers, especially mining, and they became scapegoats for white unemployment.  For some examples of anti-Asian propaganda, see our collection of “yellow peril” posters and cartoons.

Animosity towards the Chinese culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.  The Act meant that Chinese in America, most of whom were adult men, had little hope of reuniting with their families if they stayed in the U.S.; it also allowed the U.S. to deny re-entry if a Chinese person already in the U.S. left the country; and it excluded the Chinese in America from getting U.S. citizenship.

The Chinese Exclusion Act is an ugly moment in U.S. history that was supported by many Americans.  But this support wasn’t universal.  The political cartoon below attacks the Act.  “No admittance to Chinamen,” it reads.  But “communist nihilist-socialist fenian & hoodlum [are] welcome.”  The punchline reads, sarcastically, “We must draw the line somewhere, you know.”

(Image from Time.)

The Fenian, by the way, were Irish political groups, suggesting that the embrace of one minority group did not necessarily translate into the embrace of others.   Or maybe the cartoon was meant to go the other way: “If we’re going to exclude the Chinese, let’s exclude others as well.”

UPDATE: Loki offered the following helpful correction to my description of the word “Shanghaid”:

A bit of disagreement: The verb to Shanghai someone was more often used with respect to the practice of crimps or other people to use force, intimidation or outright kidnapping to man merchant ships during the 18th century.

I’m not about to claim that there weren’t cases of people from Shanghai being forcibly relocated to the US to work on the railroad – but the term refers to one of the abuses of common sailors that was considered usual practice in the age of sail.

Wikipedia article here, for some background of the maritime history of the term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghaiing

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

White Privilege, “How Lucky They Are”

In 1989 Peggy McIntosh published an essay that is assigned in nearly every Sociology of Race and Ethnicity course in America.  Titled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, the essay included a list of things that white people, but not others in a white-dominated society, can count on.  Here are a few:

I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

I thought of Peggy McIntosh when I saw this personal confession at PostSecret:

For more on white privilege, see our posts on Colin Powell being called a traitor, Sotomayor’s Supreme Court hearings, the privilege to shoplift, and “flesh” and “nude” colors.

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

Why Do the Japanese Draw Themselves as White?

Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white? You see that especially in manga and anime.

As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why?  Because to them white is the Default Human Being.

If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.

The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.

Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian”. They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.

You see the same thing in America: After all, why do people think Marge Simpson is white? Look at her skin: it is yellow. Look at her hair: it is a blue Afro. But the Default Human Being thing is so strong that lacking other clear, stereotyped signs of being either black or Asian she defaults to white.

When you think about it there is nothing particularly white about how anime characters look:

  • huge round eyes – no one looks like that, not even white people (even though that style of drawing eyes does go back to Betty Boop).
  • yellow hair – but they also have blue hair and green hair and all the rest. Therefore hair colour is not about being true to life.
  • small noses – compared to the rest of the world whites have long noses that stick out.
  • white skin – but many Japanese have skin just as pale and white as most White Americans.

Besides, that is not how the Japanese draw white or even Chinese people. The otherness of foreigners is clearly marked by physical stereotypes – just as Americans do with people of colour. In anime White Americans are stereotyped as having yellow hair, blue eyes and a long or big nose:

Gone are the big round eyes and the strange hair colours. Because those things have nothing to do with whiteness.

Note that the Japanese drop the markings of otherness if the action is set in a foreign land, like China or America. In that case the characters are drawn in the regular anime style. Because for that story the Default Human Being is understood.

Some Americans, even some scholars, will argue against this view of anime. They want to think the Japanese worship America or worship whiteness and use anime to prove it.  But they seem to be driven more by their own racism and nationalism than anything else.


Julian Abagond is a middle-class, West Indian, New Yorker; he is also a computer programmer who enjoys ancient Greek.  He writes whatever he wants at his blog.  In the borrowed post below, he explains that the question is really “Why do Americans think that the Japanese draw themselves as white?”  Enjoy.

All images are from Google images; Abagond retains no rights.

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