The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.
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.
First off, Happy New year to everyone. Hopefully 2012 will bring you and your loved ones — and humanity in general — a little more peace, prosperity, and harmony. With that theme in mind, the following new books highlight some possible ways that racial/ethnic relations in the U.S. are headed in the new year and the near future. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
From a venerated and bestselling voice on American life comes a contemporary look at the decline of black rage; the demise of white guilt; and the intergenerational shifts in how blacks and whites view, and interact with, each other.
In the heady aftermath of President Obama’s election, conventional wisdom suggested that the bitter, angry, and destructive elements of discrimination were ebbing at last and America was becoming a postracial nation. But with this dawning age that promised so much came shifting demographics and a newfound seat of rage in the polarizing Tea Party movement, even as black optimism gained ground, giving rise to questions about assumed truths concerning race in America.
Combining the talents earned from a lifetime in journalism with the insights and thoughtfulness of a close observer of the American experience, renowned author Ellis Cose offers a fresh, original appraisal of our nation at this extraordinary time, tracking the diminishment of black anger and investigating the “generational shifting of the American mind.”
Weaving material from myriad interviews as well as two large and ambitious surveys that he conducted—one of black Harvard MBAs and the other of graduates of A Better Chance, a program offering elite educational opportunities to thousands of young people of color since 1963—Cose offers an invaluable portrait of contemporary America that attempts to make sense of what a people do when the dream, for some, is finally within reach as one historical era ends and another begins.
In short, The End of Anger is not just about blacks but about America—its past and its hoped-for future—and may well be the most important book dealing with race to be published in recent decades.
New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles have long been shaped by immigration. These gateway cities have traditionally been assumed to be the major flashpoints in American debates over immigration policy—but the reality on the ground is proving different. Since the 1980s, new immigrants have increasingly settled in rural and suburban areas, particularly within the South. Couple this demographic change with an increase in unauthorized immigrants, and the rural South, once perhaps the most culturally and racially “settled” part of the country, now offers a window into the changing dynamics of immigration and, more generally, the changing face of America.
New Destination Dreaming explores how the rural context impacts the immigrant experience, how rapid Hispanic immigration influences southern race relations, and how institutions like schools and law enforcement agencies deal with unauthorized residents. Though the South is assumed to be an economically depressed region, low-wage food processing jobs are offering Hispanic newcomers the opportunity to carve out a living and join the rural working class, though this is not without its problems. Inattention from politicians to this growing population and rising black-brown tensions are both factors in contemporary rural southern life.
Ultimately, Marrow presents a cautiously optimistic view of Hispanic newcomers’ opportunities for upward mobility in the rural South, while underscoring the threat of anti-immigrant sentiment and restrictive policymaking that has gripped the region in recent years. Lack of citizenship and legal status still threatens many Hispanic newcomers’ opportunities. This book uncovers what more we can do to ensure that America’s newest residents become productive and integrated members of rural southern society rather than a newly excluded underclass.
From Alaska to Florida, millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets across the United States to rally for immigrant rights in the spring of 2006. The scope and size of their protests, rallies, and boycotts made these the most significant events of political activism in the United States since the 1960s. This accessibly written volume offers the first comprehensive analysis of this historic moment.
Perfect for students and general readers, its essays, written by a multidisciplinary group of scholars and grassroots organizers, trace the evolution and legacy of the 2006 protest movement in engaging, theoretically informed discussions. The contributors cover topics including unions, churches, the media, immigrant organizations, and immigrant politics. Today, one in eight U.S. residents was born outside the country, but for many, lack of citizenship makes political voice through the ballot box impossible. This book helps us better understand how immigrants are making their voices heard in other ways.
Although it is one of the least-known social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the Asian American movement drew upon some of the most powerful currents of the era, and had a wide-ranging impact on the political landscape of Asian America, and more generally, the United States. Using the racial discourse of the black power and other movements, as well as antiwar activist and the global decolonization movements, the Asian American movement succeeded in creating a multi-ethnic alliance of Asians in the United States and gave them a voice in their own destinies.
Rethinking the Asian American Movement provides a short, accessible overview of this important social and political movement, highlighting key events and key figures, the movement’s strengths and weaknesses, how it intersected with other social and political movements of the time, and its lasting effect on the country. It is perfect for anyone wanting to obtain an introduction to the Asian American movement of the twentieth century.
Asian Americans are the most heavily immigrant population and their numbers are steadily rising from less than a million in 1960 to more than 15 million today. They are also a remarkably diverse population representing a vast array of ethnic groups, religions, and languages and they enjoy higher levels of education and income than any other U.S. racial group. Historically, socioeconomic status has been a reliable predictor of political behavior.
So why has this fast-growing American population, which is doing so well economically, been so overlooked the U.S. political system? Asian American Political Participation is the most comprehensive study to date of Asian American political behavior, including such key measures as voting, political donations, community organizing, and political protests. The book examines why some groups participate while others do not, why certain civic activities are deemed preferable to others, and why Asian socioeconomic advantage has so far not led to increased political clout.
Asian American Political Participation is based on data from the authors groundbreaking 2008 National Asian American Survey of more than 5,000 Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, and Japanese Americans. The book shows that the motivations for and impediments to political participation are as diverse as the Asian American population. For example, native-born Asians have higher rates of political participation than their immigrant counterparts, particularly recent adult arrivals who were socialized outside of the United States. Protest activity is the exception, which tends to be higher among immigrants who maintain connections abroad and who engaged in such activity in their country of origin.
Surprisingly, factors such as living in a new immigrant destination or in a city with an Asian American elected official do not seem to motivate political behavior neither does ethnic group solidarity. Instead, hate crimes and racial victimization are the factors that most motivate Asian Americans to participate politically. Involvement in non-political activities such as civic and religious groups also bolsters political participation. Even among Asian groups, socioeconomic advantage does not necessarily translate into high levels of political participation. Chinese Americans, for example, have significantly higher levels of educational attainment than Japanese Americans, but Japanese Americans are far more likely to vote and make political contributions. And Vietnamese Americans, with the lowest levels of education and income, vote and engage in protest politics more than any other group.
Lawmakers tend to favor the interests of groups who actively engage the political system, and groups who do not participate at high levels are likely to suffer political consequences in the future. Asian American Political Participation demonstrates that understanding Asian political behavior today can have significant repercussions for Asian American political influence tomorrow.
The American racial order–the beliefs, institutions, and practices that organize relationships among the nation’s races and ethnicities–is undergoing its greatest transformation since the 1960s. Creating a New Racial Order takes a groundbreaking look at the reasons behind this dramatic change, and considers how different groups of Americans are being affected. Through revealing narrative and striking research, the authors show that the personal and political choices of Americans will be critical to how, and how much, racial hierarchy is redefined in decades to come.
The authors outline the components that make up a racial order and examine the specific mechanisms influencing group dynamics in the United States: immigration, multiracialism, genomic science, and generational change. Cumulatively, these mechanisms increase heterogeneity within each racial or ethnic group, and decrease the distance separating groups from each other. The authors show that individuals are moving across group boundaries, that genomic science is challenging the whole concept of race, and that economic variation within groups is increasing.
Above all, young adults understand and practice race differently from their elders: their formative memories are 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Obama’s election–not civil rights marches, riots, or the early stages of immigration. Blockages could stymie or distort these changes, however, so the authors point to essential policy and political choices.
Portraying a vision, not of a postracial America, but of a different racial America, Creating a New Racial Order examines how the structures of race and ethnicity are altering a nation.
As 2011 comes to an end, once again I look back at the major events, developments, and trends in U.S. racial/ethnic relations during the past year and focus on some of the positive highlights as well as the setbacks in terms of achieving racial/ethnic equality and justice, with a particular focus on Asian Americans (my area of expertise). This list is not meant to be an exhaustive review of all racial/ethnic news in 2011, but rather the ones that I covered in this blog and ones that I believe have the most sociological significance.
Thoughts on the ‘Tiger Mother’ Controversy The firestorm over Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother book highlights some key lessons for Asian Americans and non-Asians in terms of parenting and cultural differences.
Today the U.S. and the rest of the world commemorates the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many media outlets, think tanks and research institutions, organizations, and individual commentators have offered their own analyses of what transpired on that day 10 years ago and what has happened since. Like those of many Americans, my reflections are complex and even contradictory.
On the one hand, I still mourn those who suffered on that eventful day, in the years since, and continue to suffer today. I also applaud the ways in which, at least for a while, we came together as Americans, united by our fierce loyalty to fundamental principles upon which this country was founded. On the other hand, I also feel that we as Americans have given given into fear too much and that has allowed many of our institutions to inflict needless hostility against innocent people inside the U.S. and around the world.
To hopefully serve as a teaching and learning resource about the issues related to this 10th anniversary, I humbly offer the following retrospective of posts related to 9/11, the war on terrorism, and the treatment of Arab and Muslim Americans (or those perceived to be by the rest of society) since Sept. 11, 2001 (in chronological order).
Not only are we nearing the end of the year but also the end of the first decade of the new millennium. I recently posted about the best and worst news events of 2010. In this post, I would like to take an even broader look at news events and other political, economic, cultural, and demographic trends of the last 10 years to identify what I consider the most important and significant issue that has affected racial/ethnic relations in the U.S. so far in the 21st century.
There are certainly many potential issues, trends, and events from which to choose. An obvious one are the 9/11 Attacks and the resultant War on Terrorism. As I’ve detailed since that fateful day in 2001, lives of Americans from all racial/ethnic backgrounds were literally changed overnight, not the least of whom were and are Arab and Muslim Americans, who have to balance their dual identities of being both Americans while also frequently being seen as “enemies in our own backyards.”
Another clear choice would have been the election of Barack Obama as the U.S.’s first non-White President. His campaign and eventual victory were certainly very historical moments in the racial/ethnic landscape of American society. For good and for bad, they further brought many underlying racial issues to the surface of American society and resulted in both more cohesion and divisions across racial/ethnic lines.
Further, a third good choice could be the emergence of Unauthorized Immigration as a divisive, hot button issue within American society. As the need for cheap labor increased, so did the numbers of immigrants from all over the world but particularly from Mexico and Central America arriving in the U.S. to fill that need. In the process, their presence led to numerous and ongoing debates and conflicts over whether their presence is good and bad for the country.
But in the end, I believe that one racial/ethnic issue in particular is even more significant than the others. This issue has become a underlying political, economic, and cultural dynamic that has exacerbated, intensified, and reinforced the effects of the other three that I mentioned above. In many ways, this issue has become a fundamental factor upon which many contemporary forms of racial/ethnic inequality and controversy are now based. That issue — the most significant racial/ethnic issue of the decade — is Globalization.
Globalization: Its Forms & Effects
Of course, there are different definitions of globalization. For my purposes, I define it as the contemporary and ongoing institutional process involving increasingly frequent and complex political, economic, and cultural interconnections and competition between countries and groups of citizens around the world.
Globalization can also take many specific forms. As I detail below, those that have had significant effects on racial/ethnic relations in the U.S. this first decade of the 21st century include demographic change, outsourcing and postindustrial occupational shifts, increased economic competition in the global marketplace, and decreased economic stability on the institutional and individual levels.
In taking each form one at a time, the first significant effect of globalization on American society and racial/ethnic relations is demographic change. For some time now, due to the continuation of high levels of immigration from non-European countries and the relatively high birth rates of non-White racial/ethnic groups, the U.S.’s population is gradually shifting from overwhelmingly White to more racially diverse and multicultural. In fact, the Census Bureau projects that if current trends are sustained, Whites will cease to be the majority population somewhere around 2050. Whites will still be the largest racial/ethnic group by far but for the first time in several centuries, non-Whites will comprise more than 50% of the U.S.’s population.
These demographic changes have already transformed the racial/ethnic composition of numerous cities, metropolitan areas, and states around the country. Further, such shifts have inevitably led to political and cultural transformations as well in these locations as well, such as the creation of new ethnic enclaves and communities where the majority of the population are Asian American, as one example. As social disorganization theory describes, such demographic changes have inevitably led to some resentment and tension between more established residents (predominantly White) and “newcomer” groups (who are predominantly non-White).
Globalization has also resulted in accelerating postindustrial trends in the occupational structure of the U.S. While the U.S.’s economy has been gradually shifting from one dominated by manufacturing to one focused more on services, in the past two decades, globalization seems to institutionalized a segmented labor market in which almost all new jobs that are created are located either near the top of the occupational structure (involving knowledge management and information technology, requiring high levels of education and job skills, and resultant high pay) or near the bottom (manual labor service sector jobs that require little education or job skills and involving low pay and job security). New middle-level (for example, “blue collar” skilled manufacturing) jobs are much less common these days.
The New Normal: Economic Instability
What this means for racial/ethnic relations is that there is more economic competition for jobs that offer some opportunity for social mobility. In the past, White workers were able to count on these mid- and high-level jobs that would propel them and their families into the middle and upper classes through succeeding generations. But today, due to globalization (and other factors), Whites face more frequent and more intense competition for such jobs from immigrants and non-Whites.
This is important because one of the most consistent sociological patterns through the years has been that whenever you have economic competition, almost always it will eventually lead to racial/ethnic hostility. Taken together, this increased economic competition seems poised to become the norm in the near future due to the ongoing effects of globalization and related forces.
However, because many White Americans have grown accustomed (perhaps even feeling entitled) to economic security and a middle class standard of living, these fundamental institutional changes and feelings of economic insecurity are likely to be the biggest shock to them. Feeling destabilized themselves and perceiving that others (particularly immigrants, American non-Whites, and international non-Whites) to be benefiting at their expense, it is not surprising that many Whites would ultimately feel threatened, angry, and engage in some form of backlash or scapegoating.
Therefore, it is within this context that I feel that globalization is the most significant racial/ethnic issue of this past decade. The demographic shifts and economic instability brought on by globalization and felt by many Americans, but particularly White Americans, forms the foundation upon which much of the anti-immigrant and anti-minority tensions, hostility, and backlash of the past 10 years is based, along with magnifying its political, economic, and cultural effects.
The war on terrorism and much of the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim suspicions involve the conscious or unconscious fear of America’s majority White and Christian cultural dominance being threatened. In many ways, Barack Obama’s election as our first non-White President also symbolizes a loss of power for the majority White establishment. And much of the vehement opposition to unauthorized immigration again is based on the direct and indirect fear that non-Whites are “taking over” or “invading” the U.S., determined to “overthrow” its majority White culture.
So while there have been many notable and important news events in this past decade that have affected racial/ethnic relations, from a sociological point of view, one significant common thread among them all is that, to a large extent, they are based on the demographic, political, economic, and cultural effects of globalization and how such effects are perceived to be a threat to the institutional power and hegemony of the U.S. White majority population.
As we near the end of 2009, it’s fitting to review the major events, developments, and trends in U.S. racial/ethnic relations in 2009. Therefore, below is my look back at some of the positive highlights as well as the setbacks in terms of achieving racial/ethnic equality, with a particular focus on Asian Americans (my area of expertise). This list is not meant to be an exhaustive review of all racial/ethnic news in 2009, but rather the ones that I covered in this blog and ones that I believe have the most sociological significance.
King, Obama, Tet, and the Diversity of Change A new year brings new hope as we connect Martin Luther King, Barack Obama’s historic election, and Tet the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, around the theme of change, rebirth, and renewal.
Recession Can Lead to Better Race Relations The current recession has certainly led to a lot of hostility and conflict, but can also help bring Americans together and bridge racial divides as they support one another.
How Immigrants Contribute to American Society Within the partisan an emotional debates on the cultural and economic effects of immigration, several new studies point out that immigrants ultimately make several important contributions to American society.
Asian Americans Celebrate Several Congressional Achievements The “End of Year Report” from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus summarizes the major achievements by Asian Americans in the federal government, including renewing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the diversity of federal appointments by President Obama, and several significant legislative proposals.
Asian Americans and Workplace-Employment Discrimination New data describes employment and workplace discrimination against Asian Americans who work for the federal government and notes that while Asian Americans have the highest rates of experiencing discrimination, they are the least likely to formally report them and to file complaints.
As we turn the page on 2009 and the entire decade (one that many Americans would like to forget), let’s hope that 2010 and the new decade will lead to more prosperity, equality, and harmony for Americans from all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.
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.
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 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.
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.
2005: Model Minority Expectations and Suicide The intense pressure from families and society of living up to standards of high achievement can be overwhelming and has led many young Asian Americans to take their own lives.
2004: Inter-Asian Sentiments Examples from popular culture in both Japan and South Korea illustrate the contradictory nature of inter-ethnic relations between Asians of different ethnic groups.
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. As always, please remember that I highlight them for informational purposes only and do not necessarily endorse their entire content or arguments.
The result of work initiated by the Harvard Civil Rights Project, this collection provides an excellent overview of the contemporary racial and ethnic terrain in the United States. The well-respected contributors to “Twenty-First Century Color Lines” combine theoretical and empirical perspectives, answering fundamental questions about the present and future of multiracialism in the United States:
How are racial and ethnic identities promoted and defended across a spectrum of social, geopolitical and cultural contexts?
What do two generations of demographic and social shifts around issues of race look like ‘on the ground?’
What are the socio-cultural implications of changing demographics in the U.S.?
And what do the answers to these questions portend for our multiracial future?
This illuminating book addresses issues of work, education, family life and nationality for different ethnic groups, including Asians and Latinos as well as African Americans and Whites. Such diversity, gathered here in one volume, provides new perspectives on ethnicity in a society marked by profound racial transformations.
The contributors include: Luis A. Aviles, Juan Carlos Martinez-Cruzado, Nilanjana Dasgupta, Christina Gomez, Gerald Gurin, Patricia Gurin, Anthony Kwame Harrison, Maria-Rosario Jackson, John Matlock, Nancy McArdle, John Mollenkopf, John A. Powell, Doris Ramirez, David Roediger, Anayra Santory-Jorge, Jiannbin Lee Shiao, Mia H. Tuan, Katrina Wade-Golden and the editors.
While the focus of this blog is on race issue inside the U.S., I think it’s important to (1) recognize how such issues have globalized and transnational connections and (2) understand the state of race relations in other countries. With that second point in mind, the BBC News has an article about a new report on racial attitudes in Australia:
The study, titled “Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project”, interviewed 12,500 people over almost a decade. A key finding was that while Australians in general are welcoming of diversity, the view of national identity remains narrow.
The group most often singled out as “not belonging” in Australia was Muslims or people from the Middle East, Professor Dunn told reporters on the weekend. . . . Professor Dunn said indigenous Australians were the next group on the “not belonging” list.
He added there was evidence of an emerging antipathy towards black Africans after higher immigration from countries such as Sudan and Somalia. About one in 10 people said they did not approve of intercultural marriages – about the same number who said they believed that not all races were equal. . . . .
“It’s better than in many other parts of the world, certainly in parts of western Europe where three in 10 people would hold those views,” he said. . . . However, more than 80% of people see cultural diversity as a benefit “and that’s a good thing for Australian society,” the professor said.
His findings also suggested that New South Wales is the country’s most racist state. This was explained by Mr Dunn as due to Sydney’s role as the largest recipient of immigrants.
My first reaction is, I find it rather ironic and actually, pretty outrageous that indigenous Australians can be seen as “not belonging” in Australia when in fact, they were the first ones there and it was the European colonizers who basically took over the country and oppressed the Aborigines. That is about as arrogant as you can get.
Beyond that, it’s probably difficult to understand these numbers in isolation. That is, while a significant portion (80%) of Australians see diversity as a benefit for their country, 10% still believe that some races are superior to others. So the question is, if we use a very simplified interpretation and say that 10% of Australians are “racist,” is that 10% a big number, or a small number?
In other words, is the glass half empty or half full? Should we focus on the 80% who think diversity is good, or the 10% who apparently hold blatantly racist opinions?
To try to give you some perspective and a point for comparison, back in January 2008, I posted about two repots on racial attitudes in the U.S.. One of the results was that of all American adults surveyed in one study, 75% believed that Whites and Blacks got along “very well” or “pretty well, while 20% believed it was more like “not too well” or “not well at all.”
Results from the other study that I posted about indicate that around 40% of Latinos and Asian Americans hold stereotyped beliefs about African Americans. Nonetheless, other results from the same study showed that 86% of Asians, 89% of African Americans, and 92% of Latinos agreed with the statement, “African Americans, Latinos, and Asians have many similar problems. They should put aside their differences and work together on issues that affect their communities.”
So in other words, there seems to be some ways in which race relations in the U.S. may look somewhat negative or discouraging while at the same time, other ways in which they look positive and encouraging. What that tells us is, race relations is a very complicated issue and not one that can be easily reduced to a single question or even a single survey.
Sociologists like me make it our career to examine and analyze race relations, and judging by the hundreds of posts I’ve written on this subject on this blog, you should get the idea that there is a wide variety of points, angles, and interpretations for any particular issue related to race relations.
With that in mind and going back to my original question, it does not look like the data on racial attitudes in Australia is that much different than that in the U.S. Both countries are westernized, industrialized, and majority White, so there are many historical, demographic, and cultural similarities.
For my readers who have been to Australia, or any other “western” country, have you noticed any notable differences in terms of race relations/racial attitudes between there and here in the U.S.?