Tag Archives: race/ethnicity

Black American Soldiers In World War II

Last year Gwen posted about Medal of Honor, a World War II based video game that featured an all white cast.  In her post, she gives numbers as to the diversity of the U.S. military at that time.  Here, I offer some photographs of Black American soldiers during the war (borrowed from The History Place):


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.

Victor Rios on The Youth Control Complex

In this 11-minute video, Dalton Conley interviews Victor Rios about the youth control complex.  He argues the that punishing arm of the state (the prison system) and the nurturing arm of the state (the education system) work together to criminalize, stigmatize, and punish young inner city boys and men.

Rios’ ideas apply very well to the treatment of Latarian Milton, the 7-year-old boy who was charged with grand theft auto for taking his grandmother’s car for a joy ride.

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.

Spanish and English Versions of a Public Advisory

Dolores R. sent us a photo from Olvera St. in downtown Los Angeles. Olvera Street is a historic site/tourist attraction that commemorates a pueblo founded in 1781.  Some call it the birthplace of Los Angeles.

The photo is of a sign pleading with visitors to behave.  It is written in both Spanish and English but, as Dolores observes, the message in each language is slightly different (translation below).

Dolores explains:

Translation is mostly the same, with the exception of the part regarding the plants. The English says, “Do not touch plants.”

The Spanish version says (literal translation), “Abstain from touching anything, cutting or etching names in the cactus.”


See also our post documenting differences in the English and Spanish versions of a Kaiser pamphlet for new moms (hint: only one of them emphasizes sterilization).

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.

Parodying Native Appropriation in Marketing

Before Halloween, I posted a video where Erin Gibson satirizes the way women’s costumes are overwhelmingly a “sexy” version of something…anything. Commenter HP took issue with it, wondering whether it satirized or challenged the topic in a useful way, rather than, in HP’s term, “pinkwashing” it — that is, presumably critiquing sexism but doing so in a way that looks nearly indistinguishable from the cultural trend supposedly being critiqued.

I thought about that when I saw a video my friend Captain Crab posted. The video features actor Graham Greene, a member of the Oneida tribe, and spoofs ads for Lakota, a brand of arthritis pain-relief medications that appropriates Native American imagery:

While it clearly parodies the Lakota brand and ads, I can’t quite decide how showing Greene then trying to sell his own product fits in — does that undermine the message about appropriation of native cultures? I sort of felt like it did, turning it more into laughing at this idea that everyone’s trying to sell you something. After all, Greene’s product refers to him as “Dr.,” so who is he to criticize sketchy marketing methods?

What do you think? An effective commentary on use of elements of Native American cultures in marketing?

Black Intellectuals and Artists on Sexism in Hip Hop

In this ten-minute Black Tree Media video, sent in by Janet F., black intellectuals and artists debate sexism in hip hop. The video features over a dozen perspectives — Stanley Crouch, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Ben Chavis, Nelly, T.I., Chuck D, MC Lyte, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Mike Jones, Master P, and Kim Osorio — and covers a lot of ground.

My apologies if the video is preceded by a commercial:

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.

Historical Trends in Voter Turnout

Made in America‘s Claude S. Fischer posted this figure depicting the percent of the voting-age U.S. population who voted in presidential elections, 1824-2008:

The figure shows radical shifts in the percent of the voting-age population that turned up at the polls, putting the recent Obama bump in perspective.  Fischer narrates two of the trends:

Americans streamed to the polls at rapidly growing rates during the antebellum years (the upwardly slanted oval) probably because: competitive two-party politics emerged; barriers to voting such as property requirements were lowered; states added more polling places so rural voters did not have to travel as far; a growing spoils system provided more government goodies for the victors; and the parties made elections entertaining – parades, fiery speech-making, and well-lubricated election days… By the 1880s and ‘90s, voting rates hit about 80 percent.

The downward oval is accounted for, in part, by women.  Women were granted suffrage in  1920 but, as Fischer says it, “…it took a while for women to get into the habit of voting.”  The drop started before this, however, so there’s more to it.  Fischer continues:

One factor was declining party competition; the Republican and Democratic parties retreated to different regions of the country.  In addition, two general sorts of innovations helped discourage voting: changes in rules and changes in incentives

Native-born, upper-middle-class, largely Protestant Progressives were able, after much struggle, to reform election rules in many places… The new rules narrowed suffrage by, for example, requiring voters to be citizens, to register long before elections, and to pass literacy tests to vote. Other rules eliminated straight party-line voting… and even party identification on ballots, making it more difficult for less-educated voters to know whom to vote for. These moves raised the barriers to voting and helped drive down participation in the North. (In the South, of course, new Jim Crow laws essentially prevented any blacks from voting.)

Progressive reforms also eliminated some of the incentives people had to vote… The arrival of the secret ballot in the late 19th century eliminated the easy opportunity to sell one’s vote…

The institution of civil service employment reduced other financial incentives to vote …many Americans voted in order to get jobs for themselves, their relatives, or their friends. The fewer the positions filled by political appointment, the less the incentive to vote…

…government reforms also made it harder for the parties to raise money… [and t]hat, in turn, reduced the hoopla – the parades, bands, and such – and the free goodies that parties could dispense on election day. By the time women got the vote, a lot of the fun had gone out of voting. Turnout rates fell to about 50 percent.

Read Fischer’s full postfor his thoughts on why Americans do and don’t turnout to vote today.

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.

Kimberle Crenshaw on Post-Racial Politics

In this 9-minute GRIT TV video, Kimberle Crenshaw, a law professor who coined the term “intersectionality,” discusses what’s wrong with a “color-blind” approach to politics:

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.

“Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things”: Deconstructing Muslim Stereotypes

Many of you may have heard about NPR’s decision to fire commentator Juan Williams last week after he appeared on The O’Reilly Factor and made the following comments:

Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Williams was widely criticized for the remarks after video of his appearance showed up on a number of liberal websites, and NPR quickly fired him, arguing that his comments about Muslims discredited him as a commentator (more on that below).

Muriel Minnie Mae, Duff M., and an anonymous contributor all let us know about the site Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things, created in response to the incident. The site deconstructs the idea of “Muslim garb” by showing…well, pictures of Muslims wearing things. Examples from the site include Ismail Merchant:

Husain Abdullah:

Zeb and Haniya, Pakistani folk singers:

Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin:

Omar Fadel (in, as the website points out, the traditional Muslim fedora):

Dalia Mogahed, the sister of one of my former students:

You get the idea. New images (with awesome captions) are currently going up every few minutes, and it’s a great example of the diversity that exists among Muslims, variety that tends to get ignored in stereotypical depictions of Muslims (who are often conflated with Arabs and Middle Easterners, though the world’s largest Muslim population — over 200 million — is in Indonesia and only 20% of all  Muslims live in the Middle East and North Africa).

Even in the cases where individuals are wearing something that others might identify as clearly “Muslim”, such as hijab, is it fair to say they are “identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims,” as Williams stated? Is it that Dalia, above, is stressing her Muslim identity above all else (say, more than being a professional, with the suit, or a married woman, with a wedding ring) by covering her hair? Or, perhaps, does covering her hair make individuals who are uncomfortable with Muslims unable to see her as anything but “first and foremost” a Muslim?

Side note: Since this post brings up the whole Juan Williams situation, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that a number of commentators argue Williams’s comments are being unfairly decontextualized with a selectively-edited video. If you watch the full segment, he starts out with the comments above (the only part that got widely distributed), which indicate a personal discomfort with Muslims, but goes on to disagree with O’Reilly, saying that we don’t blame all Christians for the actions of Timothy McVeigh and that the concern should be not about Muslims, but about extremists. William Saletan of Slate says,

I’m not saying Williams is the world’s most enlightened guy. He’s wrong, for example, about the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero. And it’s certainly unsettling to hear him admit that he worries when he sees Muslims in distinctive dress. But admitting such fears doesn’t make you a bigot. Sometimes, to work through your fears, you have to face them honestly. You have to think through the perils of acting on those fears. And you have to explain to others why they, too, should transcend their anxieties or resentments and treat people as individuals.

Here’s the full video, so you can judge for yourself — is Williams justifying his admitted fears, or arguing we have to work past such prejudices?