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.
The following new books highlight how demographic, political, economic, and cultural changes taking place in U.S. society are transforming racial/ethnic dynamics as well. In the process, the traditional relationship of being White and being American — and the larger dynamics of Whiteness — are also evolving. As always, a book’s inclusion is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily mean a full endorsement of its contents.
The Myth of Post-Racial America provides a history of race and racism in the United States. These concepts became integral parts of American society through social, psychological, and political decisions, which are documented so readers can learn about the origin of myths and stereotypes that have created schisms in our society from its founding to the present day. This information is essential reading for students and teachers so they can become more effective in their work and value cultural differences, modes of expression, and learning styles.
Discrimination and racism has existed in America since the very early days of colonization. In the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers declared “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” and yet, it would be another 189 years before Americans would be equal by law. It has been suggested that with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, America had finally overcame its ugly past of racism and discrimination. As we entered into the new millennium, the author wondered if America had really set aside its biases and discriminatory practices.
The author interviewed eight people as he developed the foundations for this book. One of the people he was honored to interview was Brian Swann, the brother of famous footballer Lynn Swann. Brian shared his story of a racially motivated encounter that he and his brother’s had experienced in the 1970’s in San Francisco, California, at the hands of the San Francisco Police Department. Each of the eight people interviewed for this book brought with them a different experience and viewpoint as it relates to discrimination and racism in America, and more specifically, white male privilege in America. The author brought these eight individual viewpoints together, and told their story as they relate to American history, from the early days of colonization through the present day.
This interdisciplinary textbook challenges students to see race as everyone’s issue. Drawing on sociology, psychology, history, and economics, Seeing White introduces students to the concepts of white privilege and social power. Seeing White is designed to help break down some of the resistance students feel in discussing race. Each chapter opens with compelling concrete examples to help students approach issues from a range of perspectives.
The early chapters build a solid understanding of privilege and power, leading to a critical exploration of discrimination. Key theoretical perspectives include cultural materialism, critical race theory, and the social construction of race. Each chapter includes discussion questions to help students evaluate institutions and policies that perpetuate or counter forces of privilege and discrimination.
The second edition of Melanie Bush’s acclaimed Everyday Forms of Whiteness looks at the often-unseen ways racism impacts our lives. The author has interviewed and surveyed hundreds of college students and reveals that even though we talk as though we live in a ‘post-racial’ world after the election of Barack Obama, racism is still very much a factor in everyday life. The second edition incorporates new data and interviews to show how the everyday thinking of ordinary people contributes to the perpetuation of systemic racialized inequality. The book introduces key terms for the study for race and ethnicity, reveals the mechanisms that support the racial hierarchy in U.S. society, then outlines ways we can challenge long-standing patterns of racial inequality.
Timely—as the 2012 presidential election nears—and controversial, here is the first book by a major African-American public intellectual on racial politics and the Obama presidency. Renowned for his cool reason vis-à-vis the pitfalls and clichés of racial discourse, Randall Kennedy—Harvard professor of law and author of the New York Times best seller Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word—gives us a keen and shrewd analysis of the complex relationship between the first black president and his African-American constituency.
Kennedy tackles such hot-button issues as the nature of racial opposition to Obama, whether Obama has a singular responsibility to African Americans, electoral politics and cultural chauvinism, black patriotism, the differences in Obama’s presentation of himself to blacks and to whites, the challenges posed by the dream of a postracial society, and the far-from-simple symbolism of Obama as a leader of the Joshua generation in a country that has elected only three black senators and two black governors in its entire history. Eschewing the critical excesses of both the left and the right, Kennedy offers a gimlet-eyed view of Obama’s triumphs and travails, his strengths and weaknesses, as they pertain to the troubled history of race in America.
The deeply entrenched patterns of racial inequality in the United States simply do not square with the liberal notion of a nation-state of equal citizens. Uncovering the false promise of liberalism, State of White Supremacy reveals race to be a fundamental, if flexible, ruling logic that perpetually generates and legitimates racial hierarchy and privilege.
Racial domination and violence in the United States are indelibly marked by its origin and ongoing development as an empire-state. The widespread misrecognition of the United States as a liberal nation-state hinges on the twin conditions of its approximation for the white majority and its impossibility for their racial others. The essays in this book incisively probe and critique the U.S. racial state through a broad range of topics, including citizenship, education, empire, gender, genocide, geography, incarceration, Islamophobia, migration and border enforcement, violence, and welfare.
White Americans have long been comfortable in the assumption that they are the cultural norm. Now that notion is being challenged, as white people wrestle with what it means to be part of a fast-changing, truly multicultural nation. Facing chronic economic insecurity, a popular culture that reflects the nation’s diverse cultural reality, a future in which they will no longer constitute the majority of the population, and with a black president in the White House, whites are growing anxious.
This anxiety has helped to create the Tea Party movement, with its call to “take our country back.” By means of a racialized nostalgia for a mythological past, the Right is enlisting fearful whites into its campaign for reactionary social and economic policies. In urgent response, Tim Wise has penned his most pointed and provocative work to date. Employing the form of direct personal address, he points a finger at whites’ race-based self-delusion, explaining how such an agenda will only do harm to the nation’s people, including most whites. In no uncertain terms, he argues that the hope for survival of American democracy lies in the embrace of our multicultural past, present and future.
I’m sure you have all heard by now that last week, after dealing with increased media publicity about questions regarding his U.S. citizenship, President Obama felt compelled to petition the state of Hawai’i to publicly release his long form Certificate of Live Birth that verifies that he was in fact born in the U.S. and is therefore eligible to be President. Below is a news clip of the story from NBC News:
As many observers point out, this release of the long form Certificate of Live Birth should appease many Americans who may have had a slight doubt about President Obama’s birthplace. However, it is not likely to convince “hardcore” birthers who will undoubtedly continue to question Obama’s status as an American, no matter what the evidence.
So let’s just cut to the chase: this “birther” movement is not really about Obama’s eligibility to be President. Rather, it just another example of the White Backlash that I have been describing for a while now and illustrates the resistance and difficulty that a number of White Americans still have about having a person of color as President and the larger context of demographic and cultural changes taking place in U.S. society. To summarize some of my earlier posts, several institutional trends are fundamentally changing U.S. society:
The changing demographics of the U.S. in which non-Whites increasingly make up a larger proportion of the population and the projection that in about 35 years, Whites will no longer be a majority in the U.S.
The political emergence of non-Whites, best represented by the election of President Obama, and also illustrated by the growing Latino population.
The continuing evolution and consequences of globalization, the growing interconnections between the economies of the U.S. with other countries, and the economic rise of China and India.
The “normalization” of economic instability and how, even after this current recession ends, Americans will likely still be vulnerable to economic fluctuations that affect the housing market, stock market, and overall unemployment.
The unease about the U.S.’s eroding influence and military vitality around the world.
In basic terms, these institutional trends have led many (as always, meaning a large number but not all) White Americans to feel destabilized as their implicit and taken-for-granted position at the top of the U.S. racial hierarchy is increasingly being threatened — politically, economically, and socially. They are also afraid that, as the U.S. is starting to lose its position of being the dominant political, economic, and military superpower in the world, their standard of living — and hence, their identity — are being threatened in the process.
As social scientists document, whenever anybody or any group feels threatened, they tend to get defensive, reactive, and attempt to cling on to their privileges as much as possible. One mechanism by which they do so is to assert a more rigid cultural boundary between them and “others” — insiders vs. outsiders, us vs. them. In the case of the birther movement, this attempt revolves around differentiating between “real” Americans (in the traditional image of U.S. society — White, middle class, and Protestant) and those perceived as “fake” Americans — immigrants, people of color, and specifically, President Obama.
At this point, it is almost exasperating to list and recount every single example of the racist aspects of the birther and White backlash movement. So for now, perhaps the best way to illustrate this further is to use humor and satire. For that, I will turn to Stephen Colbert and his recent observations about this issue below — make sure you view the video through to the end — punchline is well worth it:
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 contents.
The start of a new year represents a renewal of hope for many people. In this case, one of my hopes is that, as a nation and society, we as Americans can continue to strive toward racial/ethnic justice and equality and to overcome the individual-, group-, and institutional challenges that get in the way of recognizing and internalizing the many benefits that a diverse and multicultural society provides us. To help in this process, these new books give us some examples of how we as Americans can become more united across racial, ethnic, and cultural divides.
Mosaic in southern California is one of the largest and most innovative multiethnic congregations in America. Gerardo Marti shows us how this unusual church has achieved multiethnicity, not by targeting specific groups, but by providing multiple havens of inclusion that play down ethnic differences. He reveals a congregation aiming to reconstruct evangelical theology, personal identity, member involvement, and church governance to create an institution with greater relevance to the social reality of a new generation.
Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead is Frank Meeink’s raw telling of his descent into America’s Nazi underground and his ultimate triumph over drugs and hatred. Frank’s violent childhood in South Philadelphia primed him to hate, while addiction made him easy prey for a small group of skinhead gang recruiters. By 16 he had become one of the most notorious skinhead gang leaders on the East Coast and by 18 he was doing hard time.
Teamed up with African-American players in a prison football league, Frank learned to question his hatred, and after being paroled he defected from the white supremacy movement and began speaking on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League. A story of fighting the demons of hatred and addiction, Frank’s downfall and ultimate redemption has the power to open hearts and change lives.
Fire in the Heart uncovers the dynamic processes through which some white Americans become activists for racial justice. The book reports powerful accounts of the development of racial awareness drawn from in-depth interviews with fifty white activists in the fields of community organizing, education, and criminal justice reform.
Drawing extensively on the rich interview material, Mark Warren shows how white Americans can develop a commitment to racial justice, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because they embrace the cause as their own. Contrary to much contemporary thinking on racial issues focused on altruism or interests, Warren finds that cognitive and rational processes alone do little to move whites to action.
Rather, the motivation to take and sustain action for racial justice is profoundly moral and relational. Warren shows how white activists come to find common cause with people of color when their core values are engaged, as they build relationships with people of color that lead to caring, and when they develop a vision of a racially just future that they understand to benefit everyone — themselves, other whites, and people of color. Warren also considers the complex dynamics and dilemmas white people face in working in multiracial organizations committed to systemic change in America’s racial order, and provides a deeper understanding and appreciation of the role that white people can play in efforts to promote racial justice.
The first study of its kind, Fire in the Heart brings to light the perspectives of white people who are working day-to-day to build not a post-racial America but the foundations for a truly multiracial America rooted in a caring, human community with equity and justice at its core.
Despite recent progress against racial inequalities, American society continues to produce attitudes and outcomes that reinforce the racial divide. In Transcending Racial Barriers, Michael Emerson and George Yancey offer a fresh perspective on how to combat racial division. They document the historical move from white supremacy to institutional racism, then look at modern efforts to overcome the racialized nature of our society. The authors argue that both conservative and progressive approaches have failed, as they continually fall victim to forces of ethnocentrism and group interest.
They then explore group interest and possible ways to account for the perspectives of both majority and minority group members. They look to multiracial congregations, multiracial families, the military, and sports teams-all situations in which group interests have been overcome before. In each context they find the development of a core set of values that binds together different racial groups, along with the flexibility to express racially-based cultural uniqueness that does not conflict with this critical core.
Transcending Racial Barriers offers what is at once a balanced approach towards dealing with racial alienation and a bold step forward in the debate about the steps necessary to overcome present-day racism.
Following up on my earlier post entitled “White Backlash: Yes, It’s Real,” I will use this post to maintain a continually updated list of news stories that highlight and exemplify various examples of this kind of direct and indirect anti-minority, anti-‘foreigner,’ and pro-‘traditional American’ mentality and behavior that is increasingly on display throughout American society. The list in in reverse chronological order (most recent stories first). Also, feel free to mention any other examples I missed in the comments section at the bottom.
Secret Service to Probe Bullet-Ridden Picture of Obama (Jan. 2012) A photograph showing a group of men with guns posing with a bullet-riddled T-shirt containing an image of Barack Obama’s face is to be investigated by the Secret Service. The picture originally appeared on the Facebook page of an Arizona (surprise!) police officer.
Arizona Teenage Girls Post Racist YouTube Denigrating Immigrants (Jan. 2012) A group of Arizona girls post a video on YouTube about “Mexican immigration” and the “new Arizona law that just passed the legislator (sic).” The video was pulled from YouTube and the creators deleted their YouTube account shortly after their inboxes and social media accounts were flooded with video responses and hate mail.
Blond UCLA Student Majoring in White Privilege (March 2011) Clueless UCLA student Alexandra Wallace thinks it’s cool to post a video on YouTube where she mocks and stereotypes Asians (yes, the tired, old ‘ching chong’ routine) and makes light of the catastrophe in Japan. [Insert blond joke here].
British Prime Minister Calls Multiculturalism a Failure (February 2011) Cameron stereotypes and indicts entire religious, ethnic, and cultural groups by arguing that “hands-off tolerance” in Britain and other European nations has encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups “to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”
Ohio Mom Sent to Jail for Sending Kids to Suburban School (January 2011) A single African American mother tries give her kids a better life by sending them to a predominantly White school, only to be arrested, convicted of “tampering with school records,” and sentenced to 10 days in jail.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Multiculturalism has ‘Utterly Failed’ (October 2010) Germany’s leader declares that attempts at building a multicultural society has “utterly failed” and that, basically it is entirely the responsibility of non-Germans (i.e., non-Whites) to integrate into the German mainstream. Didn’t we hear a similar message from another high-profile German Chancellor back in the 1930s?
Islamophobia Reaches a Fever Pitch (August 2010) Racist and xenophobic opposition to a mosque near Ground Zero and calls by some Christian leaders to burn the Koran on 9/11 illustrates America’s rising hatred of Islam.
U.S Hospital Fires 4 Filipina Nurses for Speaking Tagalog on Their Lunch Break (June 2010) Four Filipina ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital haven’t gotten over the shock of being summarily fired from their jobs, allegedly because they spoke Pilipino during their lunch break. . . “They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” [Nurse Hachelle Hatano] added.
South Carolina State Senator Calls President Obama a “Raghead” (June 2010) Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts refers to President Obama and Nikki Haley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate of Indian descent: “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
Arizona Passes Law Censoring Ethnic Studies Programs (May 2010) On the heels of the law that critics argue would legalize racial profiling against Latinos, Arizona’s new anti-ethnic studies bill “prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”
Alabama Governor Candidate Declares “We Speak English” (April 2010) Tim James, Republican candidate for Governor of Alabama, releases a TV ad in which he declares, “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it” (you can watch the actual ad at the link above).
John Jay College Accused of Bias Against Noncitizens (April 2010) The Justice Department files a lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accusing it of violating provisions of immigration law by demanding extra work authorization from at least 103 individuals since 2007.
Male Studies vs. Men’s Studies (April 2010) A group of White male academics are trying to create a new academic discipline that highlights the ways in which males (by implication, White males) are apparently an underrepresented and oppressed group in contemporary American society.
UC Regents Sorry for Acts of Hate on Campuses (March 2010) Summarizing numerous racist incidents at numerous University of CA (UC) campuses, students and faculty try to get the UC Regents to see that racial ignorance and intolerance is a serious and endemic problem.
The Year in Nativism (March 2010) The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes notable recent hate crimes against immigrants in 2008 and notes that nativist extremist groups have more than tripled in number, from 144 in 2007 to 309 in 2009.
Justice Department Fights Bias in Lending (January 2010) Under a new initiative from the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department begins targeting the rising predatory practice of “reverse redlining” aimed predominantly at minorities in which “. . . a mortgage brokerage or bank systematically singles out minority neighborhoods for loans with inferior terms like high up-front fees, high interest rates and lax underwriting practices. Because the original lender would typically resell such a loan after collecting its fees, it did not care about the risk of foreclosure.”
New Basketball League for Whites Only (January 2010) The “All-American Basketball Alliance” announces plans to create a minor league basketball league in which “only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”
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.
The following two books connect history with the emerging 21st century from the point of view of African American and indigenous groups, respectively.
The End of White World Supremacy explores a complex issue— integration of Blacks into White America—from multiple perspectives: within the United States, globally, and in the context of movements for social justice. Roderick Bush locates himself within a tradition of African American activism that goes back at least to W.E.B. Du Bois. In so doing, he communicates between two literatures—worldsystems analysis and radical Black social movement history—and sustains the dialogue throughout the book.
Bush explains how racial troubles in the U.S. are symptomatic of the troubled relationship between the white and dark worlds globally. Beginning with an account of white European dominance leading to capitalist dominance by White America, The End of White World Supremacy ultimately wonders whether, as Myrdal argued in the 1940s, the American creed can provide a pathway to break this historical conundrum and give birth to international social justice.
The issues native peoples face intensify with globalization. Through case studies from around the world, Hall and Fenelon demonstrate how indigenous peoples? movements can only be understood by linking highly localized processes with larger global and historical forces.
The authors show that indigenous peoples have been resisting and adapting to encounters with states for millennia. Unlike other anti-globalization activists, indigenous peoples primarily seek autonomy and the right to determine their own processes of adaptation and change, especially in relationship to their origin lands and community. The authors link their analyses to current understandings of the evolution of globalization.
Racial hatred and the extremist ideas behind White supremacy are not new. As my friend and fellow sociologist Rory McVeigh writes in his new book The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan: Right-Wing Movements and National Politics, hate groups come in all forms, sizes, and levels of formal organization and have played a role in American race relations for over a century.
However, with the election of Barack Obama as our first non-White President, the current recession and economic insecurities confronting many Americans who had been comfortably middle-class up to this point, and the continuing uncertainty of institutional trends such as globalization and demographic population changes, many Whites understandably feel a little destabilized these days.
It is within this context that many Whites see an opportunity to rail against what they perceive to be the “invasion” or “taking over” of their country by those who are different from them — immigrants and non-Whites. Most recently, this has taken the form of post-election racial incidents and of subtle and non-so-subtle forms of immigrant bashing.
But as many sociologists such as my blogging colleague Jessie at Racism Review and other observers point out, this upsurge in racial intolerance is different because with the advent of internet technology and the proliferation of social networking websites, the message of White supremacy is being broadcast much more widely to a growing audience of White Americans feeling destabilized. The following video report from ABC News last year summarizes this emerging trend (about 3 minutes long):
A recent MSNBC article goes into more detail about this trend of racial/religious extremists using internet and social networking websites to spread their message of intolerance:
Militants and hate groups increasingly use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube as propaganda tools to recruit new members, according to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The report released on Wednesday noted a 25 percent rise in the past year in the number of “problematic” social networking groups on the Internet. . . .
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said Facebook recently removed several Holocaust denial sites, including one that featured a cartoon of Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, whose diary written in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam is among the best known stories of the Holocaust. . . . He pointed out a YouTube user whose racist content has caused his postings on the site to be taken down repeatedly, but he simply creates a new user profile, or channel, and posts the material again.
Extremist groups are also setting up their own social networking sites, the report said, picking out one called “New Saxon,” described as “a Social Networking site for people of European descent” produced by an American Neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Movement. Other groups have created online games such as one created by an Iranian organization and called “Special Operation 85 — Hostage Rescue,” and one called “Border Patrol” in which the player has to shoot Mexicans, including women and children, as they try to come over the border into the United States.
I’m not here to say that we should ban or further restrict such websites or other forms of internet, communication, or media technology just because they allow people to spread messages of hate and intolerance more easily than would otherwise be possible (although I urge the administrators of such sites and internet services to take quick and decisive action to remove such blatantly offensive material, as per their stated policies). In other words, the technology itself is not to blame — it’s how technology is used.
With that in mind, I hope that those of us who oppose such racial and religious intolerance will make full use of such websites and technologies to counteract messages of hate with our own messages of understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and peace. This very site is my own attempt to do just that and thankfully, there are plenty of other sites and efforts toward promoting greater racial diversity and respect as well.
In fact, a homemade furniture commercial hosted on YouTube that has apparently become an internet sensation shows us that racial tolerance and capitalism can coexist together and that yes, it is possible for all of us to “just get along”: