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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

December 18, 2009

Written by C.N.

New Books: Barack Obama & American Race Relations

As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them. A book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its complete contents.

A year after Barack Obama’s historic election as President of the United States of America, the following books examine the larger sociological context of his campaign and election, with a particular focus on the question of to what extent does his election signify any important change or improvement in race relations in the U.S.

Yes We Can?: White Racial Framing and the 2008 Presidential Campaign, by Adia Harvey Wingfield and Joe Feagin (Routledge)

Yes We Can, by Wingfield and Feagin

This book offers one of the first sociological analyses of Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign for the presidency of the United States. Elaborating on the concept of the white racial frame, Harvey Wingfield and Feagin assess the ways racial framing was deployed by principal characters in the 2008 election. This book counters many commonsense assumptions about race, politics, and society, particularly the idea that Obama’s election ushered in a post-racial era. Readers will find this book uniquely valuable because it relies on sound sociological analysis to assess numerous events and aspects of this historic campaign.

Barack Obama and African American Empowerment: The Rise of Black America’s New Leadership, edited by Manning Marable and Kristen Clarke (Palgrave Macmillan)

Barack Obama and African American Empowerment, edited by Marable and Clarke

Barack Obama and the African-American Empowerment examines the evolution of black leadership and politics since the Civil Rights Movement. It looks at the phenomenon of Barack Obama, from his striking emergence as a successful candidate for the Illinois State Senate to President of the United States, as part of the continuum of African American political leaders. The reader also examines the evolving ideals about the roles of government and the economy in addressing the historic disadvantages experienced by many African Americans. Here, some of the nation’s most influential intellectuals bring together original scholarship to look at the future of national politics and American race relations.

The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, by Gwen Ifill (Anchor Publishing)

The Breakthrough, by Gwen Ifill

In The Breakthrough, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential victory and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.

Ifill argues that the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s. She offers incisive, detailed profiles of such prominent leaders as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and U.S. Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama (all interviewed for this book), and also covers numerous up-and-coming figures from across the nation.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with power brokers such as President Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, his son Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict, the race/ gender clash, and the “black enough” conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history.


August 12, 2009

Written by C.N.

New Books: White Privilege

As part of this blog’s mission of making academic research and data more easily accessible, understandable, and applicable to a wider audience and to practical, everyday social issues, I highlight new sociological books about Asian Americans and other racial/ethnic groups as I hear about them.

This time, I mention three books that focus on the issue of White privilege, an emotional but often misunderstood issue, particularly as it relates to White Americans, many (i.e., a large number but not all) of whom feel that when the topic is mentioned, they are being personally accused of being racist. As the following books describe in detail, it’s much more complicated than that and in fact, White privilege is rooted at the institutional level.

The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing, by Joe Feagin (Routledge)

The White Racial Frame by Joe Feagin

In this book Joe R. Feagin extends the systemic racism framework in previous Routledge books by developing an innovative new concept, the white racial frame. Now four centuries-old, this white racial frame encompasses not only the stereotyping, bigotry, and racist ideology accented in other theories of “race,” but also the visual images, array of emotions, sounds of language, interlinking interpretations, and inclinations to discriminate that are still central to the frame’s everyday operation.

Deeply embedded in American minds and institutions, this white racial frame has for centuries functioned as a broad worldview, one essential to the routine legitimation, scripting, and maintenance of systemic racism in the United States. Here Feagin examines how and why this white racial frame emerged in North America, how and why it has evolved socially over time, which racial groups are framed within it, how it has operated in the past and in the present for both white Americans and Americans of color, and how the latter have long responded with strategies of resistance that include enduring counter-frames.

Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama, by Tim Wise (City Lights Publishers)

Between Barack and a Hard Place by Tim Wise

Wise, a white anti-racism activist and scholar (and author of White Like Me), pushes plenty of buttons in this methodical breakdown of racism’s place in the wake of Barack Obama’s victory. In the first of two essays, the author obliterates the canard of the US as a post-racial society; bigotry and institutionalized discrimination, he contends, have simply morphed into “Racism 2.0,” in which successful minorities are celebrated “as having ‘transcended’ their blackness in some way.”

While racial disparities in employment and income, housing, education and other areas persist, Obama has become an amiable sitcom dad like Bill Cosby, putting whites at ease by speaking, looking and acting “a certain way”-not to mention avoiding discussion of race. In his second, more incendiary essay, Wise concludes that whites must take responsibility for racism.

What the majority of whites fail to grasp, he says, is that they continue to benefit from a system of “entrenched privileges” centuries in the making, and that racism remains a serious obstacle for millions of African Americans. There’s no sugar coating here for whites, nor are there any news flashes for Americans of color, but Wise bravely enumerates the unpalatable truths of a nation still struggling to understand its legacy of racist oppression.

Silent Racism: How Well-Meaning White People Perpetuate the Racial Divide, by Barbara Trepagnier (Paradigm Publishers)

Silent Racism by Barbara Trepagnier

Vivid and engaging, Silent Racism persuasively demonstrates that silent racism – racism by people who classify themselves as not racist – is instrumental in the production of institutional racism. Trepagnier argues that heightened race awareness is more important in changing racial inequality than judging whether individuals are racist. The collective voices and confessions of non-racist; white women heard in this book help reveal that all individuals harbor some racist thoughts and feelings.

Trepagnier uses vivid focus group interviews to argue that the oppositional categories of racist/not racist are outdated. The oppositional categories should be replaced in contemporary thought with a continuum model that more accurately portrays today’s racial reality in the United States. A shift to a continuum model can raise the race awareness of well-meaning white people and improve race relations. Offering a fresh approach, Silent Racism is an essential resource for teaching and thinking about racism in the twenty-first century.

White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism, by Paula S. Rothenberg (Worth Publishers)

White Privilege by Paula Rothenberg

Studies of racism often focus on its devastating effects on the victims of prejudice. But no discussion of race is complete without exploring the other side—the ways in which some people or groups actually benefit, deliberately or inadvertently, from racial bias. This is the subject of Paula Rothenberg’s groundbreaking anthology, White Privilege.

The new edition of White Privilege once again challenges readers to explore ideas for using the power and the concept of white privilege to help combat racism in their own lives, and includes key essays and articles by Peggy McIntosh, Richard Dyer, bell hooks, Robert Jensen, Allan G. Johnson, and others. Three additional essays add new levels of complexity to our understanding of the paradoxical nature of white privilege and the politics and economics that lie behind the social construction of whiteness, making this edition an even better choice for educators.

Brief, inexpensive, and easily integrated with other texts, this interdisciplinary collection of commonsense, non-rhetorical readings lets educators incorporate discussions of whiteness and white privilege into a variety of disciplines, including sociology, English composition, psychology, social work, women’s studies, political science, and American studies.


July 8, 2008

Written by C.N.

New Book: Myth of the Model Minority

As American society in general and Asian Americans in particular continue to evolve in the increasingly globalized and transnational 21st century, it becomes even more important to understand the unique details that are included within both collective categories.

With that in mind and following up on my recent post about differences among Asian Americans when it comes to education, a new book entitled The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism written by Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin promises to be a very useful and enlightening resource on the Asian American experience:

In this pathbreaking book sociologists Rosalind Chou and Joe Feagin examine, for the first time in depth, racial stereotyping and discrimination daily faced by Asian Americans long viewed by whites as the “model minority.” Drawing on more than 40 field interviews across the country, they examine the everyday lives of Asian Americans in numerous different national origin groups.

Their data contrast sharply with white-honed, especially media, depictions of racially untroubled Asian American success. Many hypocritical whites make sure that Asian Americans know their racially inferior “place” in U.S. society so that Asian people live lives constantly oppressed and stressed by white racism.

The authors explore numerous instances of white-imposed discrimination faced by Asian Americans in a variety of settings, from elementary schools to college settings, to employment, to restaurants and other public accommodations.

The responses of Asian Americans to the U.S. racial hierarchy and its rationalizing racist framing are traced—with some Asian Americans choosing to conform aggressively to whiteness and others choosing to resist actively the imposition of the U.S. brand of anti-Asian oppression.

This book destroys any naïve notion that Asian Americans are universally “favored” by whites and have an easy time adapting to life in this still racist society.

I have not read the book yet and I have to admit that I do not know Rosalind Chou’s work very well, but I am a huge admirer of Dr. Feagin and respect him and his work immensely.

Therefore, but I have no doubt that this book will be a very enlightening and useful resource for faculty, students, and anybody else who seeks to understand what it means to be an Asian American in 21st century American society.