Tag Archives: race/ethnicity

New Barbie Dolls Put the Japanese Back in Time

There is a tendency in Western culture to envision white people are more modern and progressive than people of color who are seen as more traditional, even tied to ancient ways of life (see this post and its links).  This tendency is illustrated in Mattel’s new Japanese Ken and Barbie dolls, released this year:

When was the last time you saw a Japanese person dressed like this?  Regarding Ken, Dolls of Color put it:

Right, because an Asian Ken can’t be wearing jeans and a tshirt? Or a tuxedo if one must get fancy? An Asian Ken must be some kind of exotic fantasy and not just that cool dude next door? Right.

We’ll know that we respect people of color as people when we start portraying them as people instead of exotic objects or historical artifacts.

UPDATE: Of course, as several commenters have pointed out, these costumes aren’t at all historically accurate.  Instead they exoticize a stereotyped notion of the traditional Japanese person.

Via Racialicious.

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.

Special Education Eligibility by Race and Region

Rachel F. sent in a link to a site sponsored by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems that provides a lot of information on rates of children diagnosed as in need of special education services, broken down by race. For instance, this map shows the proportion of African-Americans aged 6-21 who qualified for special ed services in 2006-2007 for all disabilities (you can also select a specific disability). The states are arranged into quintiles (so each color includes 20% of the states):

I always prefer to know the exact percentages, so I clicked on the Tables tab at the top of the page and looked at the Special Education Rates by Race and Disability link. Here are the percentages for the map above (just the first page of the table):

Here’s the equivalent data for Whites (again, page 1 of the table):

The site also provides info on teacher certification (look under the Tables tab). Here’s page 1 of a table of the states ranked by the % of special-ed teachers who are not fully certified in special education:

If you go to the map and click on a state, you can get the trend in certification over time. This shows special ed teachers who aren’t fully certified in California:

Of course, there are all sorts of interesting questions about special ed that this data set doesn’t address. The evidence is pretty clear that boys are more likely to be diagnosed as having a learning disability than girls are, and some critics suggest that behavioral issues like acting up and causing teachers headaches are becoming the basis of a diagnosis that can have life-long consequences for teachers’, parents’ and students’ expectations about how they’ll do in school. Insofar as perceptions of behavior are affected by a student’s race (see Ann Ferguson’s Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity), this could have particularly negative consequences for some groups.

Interpreting rates of use of special ed programs is hard, too. Does the fact that Black kids in Iowa have much higher rates of qualifying for special ed courses than Black kids in Mississippi do mean that there are more disabilities in Iowa? Or that kids there benefit from better screening to identify kids who might benefit from the classes?

Aside from that, thoughts on what might be causing the dramatic differences in rates between states and between race/ethnicities?

Social Change and Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever

An anonymous reader sent us a link to Alan Taylor’s flickr set, where he documents shifts in a children’s book, Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever, between 1963 and 1991.

First, the book took out two stereotypical visual references to “Indians”:

Second, they added a reference to Channukah alongside Christmas;

Finally, they made several changes regarding gender.  Dad now helps with meals:

Jobs are no longer segregated by gender (the pilot is no longer “handsome,” the “baggage man” is now a “handler,” and the “pretty stewardess” is now a “flight attendant”):

The “brave hero,” “jumping gentleman,” and “fire fighter” are now gender neutral:

And girls are generally added, using bows (for better or worse) as a signifier:

An interesting sign of the times!  Thanks to Alan for so neatly putting up the comparisons!

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.

Happiness Trends for Black and White Americans

The New York Times reports that there has been an increase in the percent of Black Americans reporting that they are “pretty” or “very” happy (though Blacks lag behind Whites in happiness).  Indeed, while their happiness quotient appears to have dipped a bit this decade, Blacks have reported significantly higher rates of happiness in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, compared to the ’70s.

Still, the article entirely skips over the fascinating gender difference.  While American Black men’s happiness appears to have peaked in the ’80s and ’90s, they show real losses in reported happiness in the ’00s.  In contrast, Black women’s happiness has been steadily rising; they  neither express the same rapid increases or decreases that characterize the trend among men.

When we look at race and gender together, Black men are often among the most disadvantaged groups in society.  They are among the most hard hit by the recession in terms of joblessness.  They are less likely than Black women to enroll in and complete college.  That said, I am hardly an expert in happiness studies… any ideas as to why the gender disparity in self-reported happiness would be so much stronger among Blacks than Whites?

Via Racialicious, and sender-inners Patricia P. and Dmitriy T.M.

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.

The Extent of the White Class Advantage

Yesterday I posted the news that the percent of Americans in poverty reached nearly 15% in 2009.  Philip Cohen, at Family Inequality, used the same Census data to give us an idea of how both wealth and poverty are distributed across U.S. racial groups.  We know that Blacks, Latinos, American Indians and some, but not all, Asian sub-groups are poorer, on average, than Whites.  Cohen offers us a different way of looking at this, however, by plotting the income-to-needs ratio for Whites, Blacks, and Latinos over the last 8 years.

That income-need ratio is, by definition, 1.0 at the poverty line, and numbers above that are multiples of needs, so 3.0 is income of 3-times the poverty line.

That ratio sits along the vertical axis, with time at the horizontal:

This, Cohen explains, “…allows us to see the size of the White advantage…”  He continues:

So, for example, the richest 5th of Whites are above 11-times the poverty line, while the poorest 5th of Whites are (on average) just above the poverty line. In contrast, the richest 5th of Blacks and Latinos are around 7-times the poverty line, and 40% of both groups are below 1.5-times the poverty line.

It’s not simply, then, that Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately poor.  Their poor are also poorer than the poor Whites and their rich are less rich than rich Whites.

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.

Conflating “Ethnic” and “Curvy”

Jessica B. sent in a link to an article and slideshow at CNN titled “Is Ethnic Beauty the New ‘It’ Factor?” What fascinated me about the post is how much “ethnic” is conflated with “curvy,” as though having large breasts or not being stick-thin is a specifically racial/ethnic trait. From the article:

More voluptuous figures, fuller lips and darker skin, features traditionally associated with women of African, Latin and Asian cultures, are “in.”

“What’s not to love, embrace and emulate about ethnic beauty?” said Us Weekly fashion director Sasha Charnin Morrison. “The use of curvier, more rounded figures looks refreshing.”

I suppose the author is right in that “voluptuous” figures have often historically been associated with non-European women, often as a way of stereotyping them as sexually promiscuous. But they haven’t been applied equally, and in fact, in the U.S. Asian women often find they are held to a fantasized pre-pubescent version of the beauty ideal, that expects thin bodies, small breasts, etc.

The first photo, of Beyoncé, identifies “honey brown skin,” “warm hair tones,” and “sultry curves” as part of ethnic beauty. Notice the subtitle under the photo of her — “a whole lot of woman”:

The slideshow also has a photo of Jennifer Lopez, who has “Latina curves”:

Scarlett Johansson and Christina Hendricks are included as examples, as far as I can tell for no other reason than that they have cleavage and waists of different circumference than their hips:

They also include Kim Kardashian, a “woman of Armenian descent” who “takes pride in her curves,” Nicki Minaj’s “Asian-like eyes,” and this photo and caption of Tyra Banks:

Presumably Tyra wasn’t an example of ethnic beauty when she was a “thin model,” but once she “grew into her curves” she became ethnic. But look at those photos again: despite all the discussion of curves, and the clear existence of breasts and some hips, what I see are a lot of very thin women. Tyra was once a thin model? That photo is from 2010, and she looks awfully slender to me.

In addition to treating “curves” and being “ethnic” as interchangeable characteristics, the article contains some exoticization of non-White women as particularly exciting and unique, such as this quote from what appears to be a random guy they asked:

Ronald Gavin, a 32-year-old single man from Tampa, Florida, agrees. “I mean let’s face it, ethnic women have this exotic appeal — it’s the curves and the fact that they don’t have this carbon-copy look like anyone else,” Gavin said. “

We’ve noted the fetishization of Black women’s butts before, and the conflation of non-White and curvy (also here). Yes, some non-White women have large butts and cleavage. So do lots of White women. And lots of women in all groups don’t have either, or have just one or the other, or have them but don’t still somehow manage to be very thin and toned overall. But having this body type is, in this case and many others, so identified as “ethnic” that White women who have boobs and hips become examples of “ethnic” beauty, not simply a version of female beauty. Notice that Scarlett Johansson’s body isn’t described as having “European curves” or, I don’t know, “British-American curves” or whatever her ethnic background might be in the way that Jennifer Lopez’s curves are perceived as an ethnic marker. It’s a great example of selective perception: women of all racial/ethnic backgrounds share body shapes, but certain physical features, such as hips, are seen as a group characteristic only for some women.

Finding Glee in Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit”

Cross-posted at Jezebel.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel passed along a fantastic and entertaining example of resistance.  In the video below, a Columbia University a cappella group sings Dr. Dre’s Bitches Ain’t Shit.  The appropriation of the song works on so many levels: the all heavily-white, all-female group, the sweet choral arrangement, the pastel prep fashion, the strategically placed tennis rackets. They use race, class, and gender contradictions to force us to see and hear the song in a new way. All serve to mock the original, taking the teeth out of the language at the same time that they expose it as grossly misogynistic. Awesome.

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.

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,