The Path to Transformation: Building a Multiracial Movement

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  • 1. The Path to Transformation: Building a Multiracial Movement john a. powell Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law ISAIAH April 16-18, 2009
  • 2. Presentation Contents
    • Analyzing how we think, talk, and act on race
      • Talking about race
      • Identity and the self
      • Framing, implicit bias, priming
    • The role of whiteness
    • Space and institutional arrangements
    • Recognizing our interconnectedness
      • Targeted universalism
      • Coalition building
  • 3. Analyzing How We Think, Talk, and Act on Race Source: Lester, Julius. Let’s Talk About Race
  • 4. The Social Construction of Race
    • People talk about race as though it is essential, even though it is socially constructed
      • This provokes some important questions:
        • How is race constructed?
        • By whom?
        • For what purpose?
    • The fact that race is constructed implies that it has a history and that it is constantly changing.
    • How does our perception of race change? What forces are causing these changes?
  • 5. Analyzing How We Talk About Race
    • We often think about and talk about race within false dichotomies.
    • 1) Black / White
        • The public has generally not adopted the notion of a continuum
    • 2) Civil Rights / Post-Racialism
        • Older Americans often look at race from a Civil Rights angle
        • Younger Americans tend to use a post-racial perspective
        • Whites tend to be absent from this discussion
    • 3) Affirmative Action, School Integration: Race / Class
        • Race and class are both multidimensional
  • 6. Hesitancy to Talk about Race
    • Most people do not know how to talk about race in constructive and transformative ways.
    • Reasons for the hesitancy include:
      • Fear of stigmatizing groups and creating self-fulfilling prophecies
      • Concern about reinforcing negative stereotypes
      • Fear of stimulating frames that create resistance to social-justice policy and encourage inter-group conflict
      • Ignoring similar stresses of whites
  • 7. Why We Need to Talk about Race
    • To not talk about race is to talk about race.
    • Race plays a critical role in the creation and perpetuation of many social, political, and organizational structures that control the distribution of opportunities.
    • Race affects all aspects of our lives.
      • Where we live, who our children’s friends are, what social programs we support, how we vote, etc.
    • We must address race to understand the history of our nation’s democracy and the future well-being of its people.
  • 8. Consequences of Not Talking about Race
    • Racial disparities are masked
    • Misperceptions about equality are reinforced
    • Support for equitable interventions is decreased
    • Diversity becomes less valued
    • “Color-blindness” gains salience
    • Inadequate proxies, such as class, become more visible
    • Understanding of “linked fate” is weakened (we fail to see that institutional arrangements are functioning poorly for everyone)
  • 9. Framing
    • How messages are framed affects how they are perceived.
    • Conversations about race and diversity must be honed to ensure that messages are effective.
    • We need to start from the assumption that an awareness of racial disparities is fundamental to fostering race-conscious approaches to social justice policy.
      • This is the first step in proactively achieving and maintaining diversity in our public institutions.
  • 10. Another Example: Binary Frames Shaping How We Think About Race
    • False Dichotomy: Civil Rights / Post-Racialism
      • Civil Rights mindset – We have yet to entirely overcome historical challenges.
      • Post-Racialism mindset – Racial problems were more notable in the past.
    • Implications: What should we do?
      • Civil Rights mindset – Nothing. We are stuck in the past.
      • Post-Racialism mindset – Nothing. Our problems are largely solved.
    • Both perspectives yield racial apathy. These are the dominant frames in our society.
  • 11. Implicit Bias
    • We unconsciously think about race even when we do not explicitly discuss it.
      • Implicit thoughts can overpower our explicit positions.
    • People have multiple networks that may be activated without our awareness.
      • Depending on the situation, one network becomes dominant over the others.
    • Race is part of how we process information.
      • Research indicates that we categorize people we see by their race in less than a tenth of a second.
    Nicholas D. Kristof. “Our Racist, Sexist Selves.” New York Times 6 April 2008 & Barbara Reskin. “Unconsciousness Raising.” Regional Review, 2005 & Drew Westen’s The Political Brain (2007)
  • 12. Priming
    • Our environment affects our unconscious networks.
    • Priming activates mental associations.
      • Telling someone a scary story activates a frame of fear
    • Claude Steele’s “stereotype threat”:
      • For example, tell students about to take a test that Asian students tend to do better than whites, the whites will perform significantly worse than if they had not been primed to think of themselves as less capable than Asians.
    http://www.eaop.ucla.edu/0405/Ed185%20-Spring05/Week_6_May9_2005.pdf
  • 13. Identity
    • Identities can be multiple and conflicted
      • The British did not become “white” until Africans became “black”
    • Both internal and external pluralism is supported by a healthy society
    • We may experience an uncomfortable awareness of our own multiplicity
      • W.E.B. DuBois’ double consciousness
  • 14. Identity, Groups, & Structures
    • Identity reflects group positioning rather than actual group identity.
    • Groups are often seen as possessing some distinct personal or social attributes that differentiate group members from non-group members.
    • “Considered relationally, a social group is a collective of persons differentiated from others by cultural forms, practices, special needs or capacities, structures of power or privilege.” (p. 90)
    • “… a structural social group is a collection of persons who are similarly positioned in interactive and institutional relations that condition their opportunities and life prospects.” (p. 97)
    Inclusion and Democracy by Iris Marion Young (2000); chapter 3
  • 15. The Self – Hobbesian View
    • Current paradigm: Hobbesian, isolated
      • Perceives individuals as autonomous-independent selves
        • Egoistic, possessive, separate, isolated, rational
    • This has led to increasing isolation and fear of the other
      • This framework creates and marginalizes the racialized other
      • Racial disparities are seen as a subjective, personal experience
      • Creates false separations – negates shared humanity
    • Whiteness is a social category that has been inscribed in the separate Hobbesian self.
  • 16. The Self – A New Paradigm
    • What is the alternative vision?
      • A model of connectedness
      • Individuals as part of something bigger
      • Inter-being, unified, not egoistically separate
    • Individualism and interconnectivity are not mutually excusive
    • When a linked correctly, interconnectivity supports individuality
  • 17. The Role of Whiteness
  • 18. Whiteness and the Continuum
    • There is a perception that minority populations are surpassing white populations.
    • When considering racial identities, we must address the role of whiteness and white space.
    • The fluidity of other races’ locations in the continuum depend on how we think about whiteness.
    • This continuum is becoming more
    • complicated, yet it is stable.
  • 19. Defining Racial Categories
    • The Census has been a tool for defining “whiteness”
    • “Whiteness” is not a stable category
      • i.e., Irish Americans were once considered non-white
      • Are Hispanics/Latinos considered white (yet)?
    • Given that racial categories are dynamic, there is no way to know whether whites will be a numerical minority
  • 20. Deconstructing Racial Categories
    • Our collective failure to deconstruct racial categories, especially the “white” category, has two main ramifications:
      • The racial hierarchy is maintained
      • Whites who want to reject the white category need an alternate identity
    • What is the meaning of being in these categories?
      • These categories are constructed, sorted, and policed
  • 21. Not Just a Typology
    • These categories of racial identity are more than just a typology.
    • They give social meaning and social significance to race.
    • These categories are reflected in institutional arrangements.
      • Ex: Privilege is sorted through institutional arrangements, which are never neutral
        • There is a tendency to favor one group over another
          • Ex: U.S. holidays arranged around Christian beliefs
  • 22. Space & Institutional Arrangements
  • 23. The Arrangement of Structures
    • How we arrange structures matters
      • The order of the structures
      • The timing of the interaction between them
      • The relationships that exist between them
      • We must be aware of how structures are arranged in order to fully understand social phenomena
  • 24. Transformational vs. Transactional
    • Transformational : Institutions need to be rearranged to support individual and collective values of (mutuality, equity, and democracy…)
    • vs. Transactional: Institutions are arranged appropriately; individuals just need to negotiate them better
  • 25. The Process of Transformation
    • Moving people to a transformative place is not just an internal project.
      • It is both interpersonal and institutional.
        • One may be easier than the other at times.
          • You may be able to change the interpersonal but not institutional policies, or vice versa.
    • “Be hard on structures but easier on people.”
  • 26. Individuals as Social Actors
    • Often individuals are regarded as inert entities separate from society
      • This should not be our view
    • Questions of agency:
      • One perspective: “I am acting on the world. If I become part of the world, do I lose my agency?”
  • 27. Relationships with Institutions
    • We have relationships with institutions and responsibilities to them. This responsibility is shared with others.
    • We adapt to institutions as they adapt to us.
      • Co-created
      • Co-constituted
    • Q: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
      • A: The farm
  • 28. Recognizing Our Interconnectedness “ We are all caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” -The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • 29. Creating Empathetic Space
    • Everyone needs help now and then; we all want to do better
    • We share deep values, concerns, and hopes
    • Addressing the problems that have a racial footprint has implications and benefits for all members of society, not just marginalized groups – linked fate
      • It’s not “robbing Peter to pay Paul;” instead, everyone benefits
    http://www.equaljusticesociety.org/2008/12/talking-about-race-in-the-obama-era/
  • 30. Targeted Universalism
    • Targeted Universalism recognizes racial disparities and the importance of eradicating them, while acknowledging their presence within a larger inequitable, institutional framework
    • Targeted universalism is a common framework through which to pursue justice.
      • A model which recognizes our linked fate
      • A model where we all grow together
      • A model where we embrace collective solutions
  • 31. Interconnectedness
      • Recognize the interconnectedness of our being and our fate
      • Develop and implement solutions that benefit ALL members of society
      • Reject the myth of scarcity
      • Strengthen our democracy
      • Collaborate and focus on coalition building
    Interconnectedness provokes both political and spiritual questions.
  • 32. Coalition Building
    • We need to move from transactional level to a deeper transformative level
      • What would this look like?
      • What are the costs and consequences of this transition?
    • Coalition across groups, space, ideology
    • Ethics of connectedness and linked fate
      • Structures, policies, institutions actively disconnect us whereas they could proactively connect us
  • 33. The Path to Transformation
    • Moving from a transactional to a transformational paradigm requires redefining the self in relation to others
    • Moving beyond the self: “In every major religious tradition the ideal is unity, and separation leads to suffering.”
    • * * * * * * * * * *
    • What interferes with building these transformational relationships?
    • What kind of leadership is required of us?
  • 34. Transactional v. Transformational Leadership
    • Transactional Leadership
      • The approach emphasizes getting things done within the umbrella of the status quo; almost in opposition to the goals of the transformational leadership.
      • It is considered to be a "by the book" approach in which the person works within the rules.
      • As such, it's commonly seen in large, bureaucratic organizations.
  • 35. Transactional v. Transformational Leadership
    • Transformational Leadership
      • Transformational leadership is about implementing new ideas
        • These individuals continually change themselves
        • They stay flexible and adaptable
        • They continually improve those around them
      • Transformational leaders have been written about for thousands of years--being both praised (Christ and Buddha) and cursed (Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan)
  • 36. A Transformative Agenda
    • Transformative change in the racial paradigm in the U.S. requires substantive efforts in three areas:
      • Talking about race: Understanding how language and messages shape reality and the perception of reality
      • Thinking about race: Understanding how framing and priming impact information processing in both the explicit and the implicit mind
      • Linking these understandings to the way that we act on race and how we arrange our institutions and policies
  • 37. Linked Fates…Transformative Change
    • Our fates are linked, yet our fates have been socially constructed as disconnected, especially through the categories of class, race, gender, nationality, region…
  • 38. Questions or Comments? For More Information, Visit Us On-Line: www.KirwanInstitute.org