Talking About Race: Moving Toward a Transformative Dialogue Presentation Transcript
Talking About Race: Moving Toward a Transformative Dialogue Tom Rudd, Senior Researcher Student-Faculty-Staff Brown Bag Michael E. Moritz College of Law February 5, 2009
What is race?
Why should we talk about race?
Why is it difficult to talk about race in a transformative way?
What are the consequences if we do not talk about race?
Energizing a transformative dialogue
Strategies for effective inter-racial dialogue
What Is Race
All humans today are 99.9% genetically identical, and most of the variation that does occur is in the difference between males and females and our unique personal traits.
Anatomical traits that are thought to identify a particular race are often found extensively in other populations.
When asked to provide personal family information for the 2000 census, about 7 million people reported that their ancestry included two or more races.
Social scientists generally agree that race is a socially constructed phenomenon. The American Anthropological Association’s statement on race states that “physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.” *
* “Social Constructs - Definitions of Key Race Relations Terms.” Accessed at http://racerelations.about.com/od/skillsbuildingresources/g/socialconstruct.htm
Why We Should Talk About Race
Research suggests that even when we are not talking about race, we are thinking about it.
Race has been, and continues to be a strong force in determining how opportunity and resources are distributed in our society.
Race influences many of the important decisions we make in our personal, professional, and social lives: where we live, who our friends are, which political candidates we vote for, which social programs we support…
Why We Should Talk About Race: Challenging Implicit Bias
“ Implicit Bias”
Research suggests that most of us are guided by a set of very subtle “symbolic attitudes” that develop over time from our earliest experiences—attitudes like racial prejudice or liberal/conservative political ideology.
These attitudes, operating in our “unconscious” (also called “subconscious”) mind are usually invisible to us and can control our position on critical issues like affirmative action and school integration.
Negative unconscious attitudes about race are called “implicit bias” or “symbolic racism.”
Why We Should Talk About Race: Challenging Implicit Bias
Very often, unconscious attitudes about race are in conflict with attitudes located in our conscious mind—what we believe we think about race.
Drew Westen* writes that our unconscious attitudes are less egalitarian than our conscious attitudes and that most White Americans—including many who hold consciously progressive values and attitudes—harbor negative associations toward people of color.
When we talk about race, we have the opportunity to examine and challenge our implicit bias and reinforce our conscious beliefs.
* The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation ,
Why It Is Difficult to Talk About Race in a Transformative Way
U.S. history of violence, repression, and injustice toward people of color
Feelings of resentment, guilt, and hostility
Color blind racism
“ Strategic color blindness” – fear of being labeled a racist
Lack of information about consequences of racial inequality
Failure to actively envision how a “true Democracy” should look
Consequences of Not Talking About Race
Colorblind racism is reinforced.
Race-based social & economic inequality is trivialized.
Prevailing notions of group privilege and social hierarchy are strengthened.
A “post racial” attitude gains salience.
Since the civil rights acts of the 1960s, racism is a thing of the past.
There is full equality in the society now that all people have rights under the law.
All Americans have an equal opportunity to achieve success—President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Tiger Woods are proof …
Our cities are hyper-segregated not because of structural racialization but because people of color choose to live only with other people of color no matter how negative the environment might be.
Ignoring Racial Disparities
Poverty rates for African Americans and Native Americans are nearly double the national poverty rate.
Across the country, the high school drop out rate for White students was 6.0% in 2005 while the rates for African American and Latino students were 10.4% and 22.4% respectively.
In Columbus (Ohio) the 2003-2004 high school graduation rate in city schools was 40.9% compared to 82.9 percent in the suburbs. Roughly 60% of students in Columbus city schools are African American compared to some 12% in Columbus suburban schools.
In 2007, 31.8% of Whites had attained four or more years of college compared to 18.7% for Blacks and 12.7% for Latinos.
Native Americans die from tuberculosis at a rate 650% higher than the general population and are four times more likely to die of diabetes.
Data Sources: Ohio Department of Education; U.S. Bureau of the Census; Infoplease.com
Emerging “Post Racialism”
“ No more excuses.”
“ Race doesn’t matter any more.”
“ An African American president proves that race doesn’t matter.”
“ Now, everybody has an equal chance.”
“ There are no more racial barriers.”
Moving Toward A Transformative Dialogue: What We Need to Do
Reassess the importance of Individual racism.
Understand and illuminate “structural racialization.”
Rethink the current connection between “merit” and Democratic values.
Promote “targeted universalism.”
Expose the “linked fate” of all Americans.
Reject false dichotomies.
Create space for everyone in the dialogue.
Understand the “work” that race is doing in the society.
A Transformative Dialogue: Reassess the Importance of Individual Racism
The word “racism” is commonly understood to refer to instances in which an individual intentionally or unintentionally targets others for negative treatment because of their skin color.
This individual view of racism is too limited.
Our society is a complex system of organizations, institutions, individuals, processes, and policies.
Racialized outcomes are created and perpetuated by interactions and arrangements within this system.
RACIALIZED OUTCOMES DO NOT REQUIRE RACIST ACTORS.
A Transformative Dialogue: Understand “Structural Racialization”
A structural racialization perspective helps us to see the connections between seemingly independent “opportunity structures.” For example:
The federal government accelerated White migration to the suburbs by subsidizing home mortgages for Whites through the National Housing Act of 1934.
As Whites left the cities, the quality of housing and schools declined.
Today, hyper-segregation in metropolitan regions leads to low performing schools.
Low performing schools are linked to high drop out rates and low rates of educational attainment.
Low educational attainment is linked to poor diet.
Poor diet is linked to poor health.
Poor health is linked to lowered life expectancy.
A Transformative Dialogue: Understand the Importance of Framing
Framing is the way that messages about race are presented to their audiences.
Framing is also the way that these messages are actually seen and interpreted by audiences.
Frames appeal to both conscious and “unconscious” attitudes. If information does not fit an individual’s internal frame, it will probably be rejected.
A Transformative Dialogue: Challenge The Conventional Meaning of “Merit”
Merit is traditionally used to award opportunity and resources to privileged populations.
Merit reinforces feelings of entitlement and social hierarchy.
Traditionally, merit measures what individuals have done, not what they might do.
Merit can be used creatively to energize Democratic values. For example:
In college admissions, merit is measured on the basis of past academic achievement and performance on standardized tests
This practice leads to an unbalanced distribution of opportunity and a lack of substantive diversity in the academy
“ Democratic Merit” challenges the academy to “operationalize” merit in a way that promotes the conditions necessary for a thriving democracy and to define and use merit as an incentive system to reward those actions that a society values.
A Transformative Dialogue: Promote “Targeted Universalism”
Universal policies that are race-neutral do not address the multiple opportunity barriers that impact populations of color.
Targeted universalism is a strategy that addresses the needs of marginalized groups while also addressing the needs of the larger population.
Targeted universalism recognizes that different groups are situated differently relative to the institutions, opportunities, and resources available in the society.
Targeted universalism requires policies that proactively connect all people in a geographic region to jobs, stable housing, and good schools while recognizing the unique spatial “situatedness” of African American and Latino communities. *
* powell, john a. “Race, Place, and Opportunity.” The American Prospect Sept. 22, 2008. Accessed at http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=race_place_and_opportunity
A Transformative Dialogue: Expose Our Linked Fate
Too often, we envision race as a system that separates groups from each other with durable boundaries around each group.
This view supports the notion that disparities impacting one group have no impact on other groups.
Talking about race creates an opportunity to expose and illuminate the “linked fate” that is shared by all Americans—how inequality for some groups impacts the entire society.
Inequality in educational opportunity Low-performing inner-city schools Reduced competitiveness in the global economy Negative economic consequences for ALL AMERICANS
A Transformative Dialogue: Reject False Dichotomies
Too often, we “polarize” what we believe to be true.
Honest or Dishonest
Hard Working or Lazy
Liberal or Conservative
Republican or Democrat
These false dichotomies distort our view of the world, obscure a more nuanced assessment of reality (some conservatives have liberal ideas), and create barriers to a transformative dialogue on race.
A Transformative Dialogue: Bring Everyone to the Table
Too often, issues that touch on race and social justice are perceived as “Black issues” or “White issues.”
In the U.S., issues about racial equality, opportunity, and social justice are fundamentally issues about Democracy .
Everyone has a stake in guaranteeing that Democratic principles are fully implemented in the society.
So, everyone is a stakeholder in the transformative dialogue on race…
A Transformative Dialogue: Understand the “Work” That Race Does
Although race is an abstract social construction, it continues to be a dominant force in American society.
Investigating and understanding the “work” that race does in the society can assist in bringing about a true Democracy where:
opportunity is not limited by race, ethnicity or class
democratic ideals inform social policy
all people recognize and embrace the universal responsibility that each person has for the welfare of every other person.
The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity is deeply engaged in this investigation…
Strategies for Effective Inter-Racial Dialogue About Race STRATEGY RATIONALE Don’t hold individuals or groups accountable for institutionalized racialized outcomes “ Finger pointing” stimulates anger, guilt, and resentment Reject false dichotomies The world is not simply “black or white” Don’t make assumptions about the racial attitudes or political ideology of others Focusing on individual attitudes obscures an understanding of the structural nature of racial inequality Look for commonalities across groups Our common humanity transcends political ideology Stress the importance of “structural racialization” and consider how racialized outcomes affect everyone, not just people of color People care more about issues when they can see how they are impacted
Strategies for Effective Inter-Racial Dialogue About Race STRATEGY RATIONALE Stress “equal opportunity” as a common goal for all Americans Frame the conversation so that everyone is a stakeholder Avoid “exceptionalism” There have always been some highly successful people in every group; this fact does not mitigate racial inequality When discussing race-based inequality, focus on desired outcomes, not just on present disparities Information about racialized disparities can actually reinforce racial stereotypes Challenge people to acknowledge that we all harbor some degree of “implicit bias” Left unchallenged, unconscious negative attitudes gain power Avoid stereotypes Stereotypes are almost always false
Strategies for Effective Inter-Racial Dialogue About Race STRATEGY RATIONALE Acknowledge that while we must work for a time when race does not affect opportunity, right now, it does… Despite the fact the we have elected an African American President, race still matters in America Use narratives over numbers Personal narratives can have greater impact than hard data on stimulating attitudes shifts Avoid framing issues around “what’s fair”—use “equal opportunity” instead “ Fairness” has different meanings to different people In group discussions, set guidelines that ensure mutual respect and civility Even the most contentious conversation can be civil
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Eliasoph, Nina. “‘Everyday Racism’ in a Culture of Political Avoidance: Civil Society, Speech, and Taboo.” Social Problems 46 (1999): 479‐502.
Grant-Thomas, Andrew and Gary Orfield, eds. Twenty-First Century Color Lines: Multiracial Change in Contemporary America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.
Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Talking About Race – Resource Notebook . Columbus, Ohio: 2008.
Mazzocco, Philip. “The Dangers of Not Speaking About Race: A Summary of Research Affirming the Merits of a Color‐Conscious Approach to Racial Communication and Equity.” Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, May 2006. http://4909e99d35cada63e7f757471b7243be73e53e14.gripelements.com/publications/TheDangersofNotTalkingAboutRaceMay2006.pdf
Morrison, Toni. “On the Backs of Blacks.” Time 2 Dec. 1993: 57. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979736,00.html
powell, john a. “Race, Place, and Opportunity.” The American Prospect Sept. 22, 2008. http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=race_place_and_opportunity
“ Thinking Change: Race, Framing and the Public Conversation on Diversity – What Social Science Tells Advocates About Winning Support for Racial Justice Policies.” Prepared by the Center for Social Inclusion for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, The Ohio State University (August 2005). ( http://www.diversityadvancementproject.org/media/ThinkingChange.pdf )
White, Ismail K. “When Race Matters and When It Doesn’t: Racial Group Differences in Response to Racial Cues.” American Political Science Review 101(2007): 339‐354 . http://www.apsanet.org/imgtest/APSRMay07White.pdf