Tag Archives: race

Racial Stereotypes, Scapegoating, and the Economic Crisis

Office Hours sat down with  Catherine Squires to discuss her September 2012 article in American QuarterlyColoring in the Bubble: Perspectives from Black-Oriented Media on the (Latest) Economic Disaster. This is a great podcast to keep on hand for use in any class on race relations or any discussion on the recent economic crisis.

Letters
In this podcast, Squires explains how people of color were scapegoated by the mainstream media in responding to the sub prime mortgage crisis. Squires then explores how three publications that are targeted to African Americans or people of color more generally responded to this crisis. The podcast is a great discussion of  how neoliberalism and notions of “post-racialism” allow for stereotypes of people of color to remain unexamined and allow people of color to be scapegoated for social problems, even in this case of obvious fraud by lending companies.

We recommend the following discussion questions and activity to get students engaged with this topic:

1. How does Squires define “neoliberalism”? Were you familiar with this political philosophy before listening to this interview? Have you recognized the elements of neoliberalism in political discussions recently?

2. How does Squires define “post-racialism”? Were you familiar with this ideology before listening to this interview? Have you seen this ideology expressed by politicians? by your family and friends?

3. In what ways did Squires find that people of color were blamed for the sub prime crisis?

4. According to Squires, how did the ideologies of neoliberalism and post-racialism lend support to the blaming of people of color (instead of focusing on racist practices by the lending companies)?

5. Take a look at the three news outlets that Squires examines in this paper: Black EnterpriseThe Root, and Colorlines.  Take a few minutes to look over each site. How do they seem similar and different? According to Squires, how did each of the news sources respond differently to the economic crisis?

6. Is Squires optimistic that these news sources created by and for people of color have the ability to challenge dominant narratives about people of color? Why or why not?

Latino: Race or Ethnicity?

Is “Latino” a race or an ethnicity? As sociologists, we are quick to refer to “Latino” as an ethnicity, but will just as easily include “Latino” as a racial category next to “White,” “Black,” and “Asian.” So, which is it? And why does it matter?obligation

Wendy D. Roth tackles this question in her recent special feature on The Society Pages “Creating a ‘Latino’ Race.” This feature would be a great addition to any discussion of race and ethnicity in the United States and how those categories have evolved over time for White, Asian and Latino immigrants and citizens. This topic would be ideal for the first weeks of a course on Race and Ethnicity or to introduce the topic in an Intro to Sociology class. This would also be a good topic for a Research Methods class when discussing how we classify racial categories and why this practice can be controversial.

Use the following activity in class to get a conversation going about race, ethnicity and Latino identity:

First, hand out an example of the Census questions on race and ethnicity. Have students fill them out on their own. Then ask:

1. Did you feel that the available categories on this form lined up with your own racial and ethnic identity? Why or why not?

2. Do you think that having “Hispanic” as an ethnicity and not a race makes sense? Why or why not?

3. What benefits do you see to having “Hispanic” listed as an ethnicity? What drawbacks?

4. What might you change about this form if you could? Do you believe there are better ways to classify people racially?

 

Then, start a conversation about Roth’s finding using these questions:

1. According to Roth’s research, how is the way that Puerto Rican and Dominican migrants understand race and ethnicity quite different from how Americans traditionally think of race and distinguish it from ethnicity?

2. When Latino immigrants come to the United States, how do they fit into the racial classifications already in place (now and in the past)? How do these classifications not line up with how they identify themselves?

3. According to Roth’s finding, how does the experience of Latinos in the United States differ based on skin color? What does this say about race and racism in the United States?

4. Why have many Latino immigrants seen it as advantageous to remain “bicultural” instead of “passing” for (non-Hispanic) white?

5. Why is the Latino race/ethnicity question a controversial topic? Why does it matter if Latino people are understood as an “ethnicity” or as a “race” by the US government? What might this potential change mean for Latino Americans? How would such a change disrupt notions of strict racial categories held by many Americans?

 

Whiteness, Sport, and NASCAR Nation

As we all scramble to wrap up syllabus planning for the Spring semester, I wanted to share a great podcast I’m adding to mine!

Last week, Office Hours sat down with Joshua I. Newman and Michael Giardina to talk about their recent book Sport, Spectacle, and NASCAR Nation: Consumption and the Cultural Politics of Neoliberalism. Their conversation covered topics including the whiteness of stock car racing, religion and rebellion at the race track, and the production and consumption of Southern identity. 

I’m using this for an American Race Relations class, but it would also work great in a Methods course, as the authors talk about the ethics of conducting ethnographic research with groups of people who are very different from themselves.

The following are some questions to have them answer at home or to get the discussion started in class:

1. Which political party has incorporated NASCAR and NASCAR fans into their campaign strategy? How do the author explain this tactical choice? What do you think about this campaign strategy?

2. The authors point out that NASCAR has attempted to increase the diversity of its fan base. According to the authors’ research, how have some fans responded to this move?

3. What does it mean to “perform whiteness” and what are a few examples given by the authors? Why, according to the authors was this type of performance perhaps more prevalent at racetracks not located in the South?

4. Describe the methods used in this research. Why do the authors stress that this method was essential to address their research questions? Why was this method also challenging for the authors? Explain.

5. What applications might this research have for today’s political climate? How might NASCAR nation have changed under an Obama presidency versus a Bush presidency?

 

Discussing Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin’s death has drawn a great deal of attention from people throughout the United States.  Our own Sociological Images has written about the tragedy in three distinct posts (all found here).

This event occurred while my introduction to sociology courses were discussing race.  My students, logically, brought up his murder when we were discussing racial formation and racial stereotypes.  This turned into the most engaged, energetic and lively discussion we had all semester.

Students were, as they should be, angered.  They were frustrated with a society that allowed such tragedies to happen and disappointed that more people were not demanding Zimmerman be prosecuted.  I’m willing to go on a limb, however, and suggest not all students will feel the same way.

Despite my students’ passion, they brought up a variety of questions I believe their peers (and broader society) will have:

1) If Zimmerman is latino, is the case still about race?

Absolutely.  This question led our class to have a great conversation about the internalization of racial stereotypes and the impact of institutional and interpersonal racism on individuals.  We watched “A Girl Like Me” and discussed Kenneth Clark‘s original doll experiment.  (A group of my students are even setting out to do the same activity with children who are not black.)

2) Why would Zimmerman suspect Trayvon of suspicious behavior at all?

This question led to a great conversation about the impact of stereotypes on the perceptions we have of one another.  Using labeling theory, our class was able to discuss the way in which society ascribes particular labels to people based on the variety of statuses we embody.  These labels affect the way that people perceive us and the ways in which they interpret our behavior (such as the wearing of a hoodie).   In order to lead a discussion on labeling by race and gender, we watched the following clips from my favorite teaching show, “What Would You Do“: the bike theft, and racism in America (parts one and two).  Students immediately connected the material to the Trayvon case and their own lives (I had them do an in class writing on how they have been effected by labeling).

3) Why isn’t Zimmerman being charged?

Students, particularly those from states that do not have “Stand Your Ground” laws, are particularly puzzled by the fact that Zimmerman was not arrested.  Teachers who wish to discuss this topic can explore the history of these laws here.  My students, generally, were appalled by the interpretation of these laws (as addressed in that article) and their expansion.  Many expressed personal fear, and others remarked that, had Zimmerman been black, he would have been arrested immediately.

I encourage you to have conversations about Trayvon Martin in your classroom – not to exploit his death but to make students aware of the prevalence of such cases.  Hopefully, our students will one day be in positions in which they make and enforce laws and policies that will treat all people equally.

Environmental Justice

172/365  I Want to See the World

With Earth Day fast approaching, we’re seeing more stories about climate change (for example, see this sighting) and other environmental issues.  While there are many ways to study our environment sociologically, courses about environmental justice are becoming more popular.  Here we share a syllabus graciously provided by David Pellow at the University of Minnesota.  The description for his course, Race, Class, and the Politics of Nature, is provided below.  You can download the syllabus here:  Race, Class, and the Politics of Nature.

The phenomenon known as environmental racism has made headlines during the last three decades, in large part because the movement for environmental justice has placed this issue on the public agenda. This course introduces students to the theoretical and historical foundations of environmental racism and environmental inequality. We will examine and interrogate both the social scientific evidence concerning these phenomena and the efforts by governments, residents, workers, and community activists to combat it. We will consider the social forces that create environmental inequalities so that we may understand their causes and consequences. We will also consider ideas and practices that may lead to (1) a more equitable social distribution of the costs and benefits of markets and (2) more ecologically sustainable forms of production and social organization. Students will be expected to master several social scientific theories and concepts related to the subject matter. In particular, we pay close attention to the ways in which the concept of race intersects with gender, class, citizenship, indigeneity, and nation in order to better understand how systems of power and inequality are constructed, reinforced, and challenged.

Teaching White Privilege

As a way of teaching students about contemporary white privilege, many faculty members turn to the classic piece White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.  However, my peers and I have found that students often resist its content, in part because of the article’s date of publication.  The original piece was produced in 1988 making it older than many current college students. Nevertheless, it is clear that McIntosh’s article has a lot to teach contemporary students, if used the correct way.

The Activity

In order to thwart student’s immediate dismissal of McIntosh’s article as outdated, this activity encourages students to use their own knowledge and critical thinking skills to update the piece such that it fits with current race relations.  The activity consists of two parts taking place on two distinct days (unless you have a three hour block class): in part one students are expected to update McIntosh’s examples to match modern social patterns and, in part two, they add new, contemporary examples of white privilege to the list.  Please note, this activity is traditionally more successful if used later in the semester when students have reached some level of awareness of systemic racial discrimination.

Part One

For the first part of the activity students are expected to come to class having read McIntosh’s article.  Once seated, they are divided into groups of four to five students and handed a slip of paper containing eight of the twenty-six privileges. They are then asked to work together to select items on the list that they perceive to be outdated and/or want to discuss as a larger class.  Each group is responsible for choosing at least one item on their list and must be prepared to explain why they think the item is outdated and how they would change it to fit modern race relations.  After 20 minutes of small group conversation, we reconvene and discuss each groups’ chosen privilege to discuss.  As the instructor I am always prepared with current examples of blatant racial bias through anecdotes and statistics in all of these areas.  Discussion about intersectionality and geography are also important to extend the analysis of students on these issues.

Part Two

For the second portion of this activity, students are expected to add new examples of privileges to McIntosh’s list.  They are again placed in groups of four or five students and asked to brainstorm new items to place on the checklist.

Words of Caution

Over the past several years I have had great success using this activity to discuss the concept of white privilege.  However, there are a few common errors made by instructors that warrant words of caution.

One challenge with this activity, and in teaching in diverse classrooms, is to make sure that everyone is being intellectually challenged by the material without leaving any students behind. A second challenge is the tendency of professors to ignorantly exercise and reproduce the very elements of white privilege discussed in the article.  Students of color have distinct backgrounds and paths to a class on race relations relative to both their white peers and one another (some of the challenges faced by students of color in mostly-white classrooms are addressed in the chapter by Logan et al in this volume).  One of the most common transgressions committed by instructors is to, much like mainstream white society, assume that all people of a particular racial group have had similar experiences.  As a corollary, they often call on people of color to speak as “experts” for their racial or ethnic groups, a challenge mentioned by many students in the edited volume Making a Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out (Lesage, Ferber, Storrs and Wong 2002) and an experience many of my friends in college were forced to deal with.  Through this activity, and any activity in class, it should never be assumed that a person of color can speak for his or her race, much like it should never be assumed that a woman can speak for all women or a man for all men.

Racial Stereotypes in Marketing

The folks over at Sociological Images, have collected some great examples of the commodification of Black History by companies to market products like kool-aid, hair relaxers, BET, fried chicken and collard greens.

Image by gavdana via flickr.com

We suggest using these types of ads as a teaching tool in your classroom. First guide the students through the pictures posted on Sociological Images during class. Then, at home, have them find another example of a company using racial stereotypes to sell products (an ad, commercial or something like the image here) and write up a short summary of what stereotypes they believe it portrays. They could email them to you or post links to the class website. This activity would work best after students are familiar with the concept, but early enough in the course that it can inform their thinking for the rest. Sharing these images in class will start a great discussion, as well as get students to pay more attention to this type of racism in the media.

If students are having a hard time finding images, you could direct them to blogs that often post on this topic. For example…Sociological Images, The Color Line, Racialicious, Feministing…and many more!

Sports and Politics

The Society Pages’ first White Paper, published earlier this month, focuses on the intersections of politics and sport. White Papers are in-depth explorations of relevant topics in the social sciences and  will be an ongoing part of The Society Pages. We recommend using this White Paper, “Politics and Sports: Strange, Secret Bedfellows” by Kyle Green and Doug Hartmann, in your classroom as a great overview of the politics of sports…and the sport of politics. Score

This easy-to-read and informative paper explores many topics relevant to your students. Here are a few:

  • Do sports play a role in maintaining racial stereotypes, in particular the athletic prowess and intellectual deficiency of black men?
  • Similarly, how do gendered stereotypes of ability and interest in sports get reproduced? And how can such stereotypes be understood damaging for women?
  • Should sports be understood as a site where boys learn how to “perform” a hegemonic brand of dominant and physical manhood?
  • Are sports the “opiate of the masses”—something mindless to occupy the working class’s time and energy, which might otherwise be invested in creating drastic political change?
  • How can we understand the infusion of sports language and metaphors in politics? Why do politicians use such language and what are the possible repercussions of this type of language?
  • How should we understand the display of anthems, flags, and military personnel (or fighter jets) at sporting events of all kinds (e.g. standing for the national anthem)?
  • Should tax dollars be used to fund professional sports stadiums? How has this taken-for-granted link between state government and for-profit sports teams been formed?

 

Teaching Race, Ethnicity, and Migration

A group of graduate students at the University of Minnesota put together these fantastic resources on teaching race, ethnicity, and migration.

The Global REM Teaching Modules are a set of teaching resources related to Global R(ace) E(thnicity) and M(igration). Modules are appropriate for use in high school classrooms, and introductory college-level courses. Each teaching module includes a brief introduction to the topic, source materials, discussion questions, and suggested readings. These modules provide busy instructors with a series of comprehensive and organized 50-minute lesson plans for facilitating learning related to global race, ethnicity, and migration. At the same time, they are flexible enough to provide instructors room to use the modules in ways appropriate to the particular aims of their own course themes.

The main objectives of the Global REM Teaching Modules:

  1. To improve students’ research skills by encouraging them to utilize and analyze a variety of source materials
  2. To increase use of source materials related to issues of race, ethnicity, and migration, particularly in a global and/or comparative context
  3. To foster interdisciplinary thinking and to incorporate a wide range of disciplinary perspectives and methods in the classroom
  4. To provide busy teaching assistants and instructors with ready-made lesson plans for 50-minute class periods. The modules are especially designed for teaching assistants and instructors who may not have an expertise in race, ethnicity, and migration but aim to augment discussion of global issues related to these topics

The teaching modules were developed by an interdisciplinary team of graduate students in 2007, and are maintained by the Institute for Global Studies and the Immigration History Research Center. If you have questions or comments about the teaching modules, you may direct them to outreach@umn.edu.

 

Muslims in America

Lunchtime for Hoodies

Jen’nan Ghazal Read explores views of Muslims in her article Muslims in America in the Fall 2008 issue of Contexts. You can read the full text here! This is great article to assign in any class on race, culture or politics. Use the discussion questions and activity below to incorporate this article into your class.

Also, listen to Jen’nan Ghazal Read talk about these issues on the Contexts Podcast Office Hours.

 

1)    How do the political views of Muslim Americans compare to the rest of the American religious public?

2)    Why might Muslims, who ideologically align with most of mainstream America, still be considered “outsiders”?

3)     Can you think of other groups that are similarly considered “outsiders” in American society today?

 

ACTIVITY: The author provides demographic information on Muslim Americans. Download the Pew Center Report used in the article and write a summary of any information you learned that surprised you or that
you think should be more widely known.