It's not what you think: How structural dynamics and implicit bias reproduce racial hierarchy in the age of Obama


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It's not what you think: How structural dynamics and implicit bias reproduce racial hierarchy in the age of Obama

  1. 1. john a. powellExecutive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law Lassiter Conference on Structural Racialization UK School of Law February 25, 2011
  2. 2.  Racial possibilities in the age of Obama Structural Racialization  Arrangement of structures Public/Private? Corporate Prerogative and race Mind Science  Challenging our biases 2
  3. 3.  Why does race continue to play such a critical role in determining societal outcomes? Haven’t we entered a post-racial moment with the election of Barack Obama? While significant, Obama’s victory does not erase the persistent inequalities that hinder the life chances for marginalized groups 3
  4. 4.  Black and Latino children are much more likely than white children to attend high-poverty schools A white man with a criminal record is three times more likely than a black man with a record to receive consideration for a job Minority home-seekers with good credit scores steered to high-cost, sub-prime mortgages thus devastating their communities in light of the foreclosure crisis By prematurely proclaiming a post-racial status, weignore the distance we have yet to travel to make this country truly a land of equal opportunity for all, regardless of racial identity. 4
  5. 5.  President Obama’s election “suggests that a sea change in race relations has already occurred” However, his “exceptional racial background” and the fact he was elected in the midst of national crises indicates “race hasn’t been overcome so much as temporarily superseded.”  These crises could worsen racial resentment “race forms a basis for the exploitation and hoarding of material, political, and cultural resources; in turn, the same processes that facilitate racial stratification continually reconstitute race.” Source: Lopez, Ian Haney. Post-Racial Racism: Crime Control and Racial Stratification in the Age of Obama 5
  6. 6.  We have fluidity in terms of racial identities ▪ Situations affect who you are, how you identify. ▪ For example, it may not be until you’re in a room with full of people of a different race that you become truly aware of your own race. ▪ The British did not become “white” until Africans became “black.”• In order to notice race, society has to create this category/idea of race. After it is created, individuals can negotiate it using the social tools created by society. 6
  7. 7.  Although racial attitudes are improving, racial disparities persist on every level. Inequity arises as disenfranchised groups are left out of the democratic process. Source: 7
  8. 8.  Membership, the most important good that we distribute to one another in human community (Michael Walzer) ◦ Prior in importance even to freedom ◦ Citizenship, a precondition to freedom ◦ Membership, a precondition to citizenship Distribution of membership Cost to not belong 8
  9. 9.  The cost of membership in a democratic society  Current estimate for family of four: $48,778* ▪ Over three times as many families fall below family budget thresholds as fall below the official poverty line How far do you fall (children in extreme poverty, skyrocketing bankruptcy rates, family homelessness)? Are all neighborhoods are neighborhoods of sustainable opportunity?Source: James Lin and Jared Bernstein, What we need to get by. October 29, 2008 |EPI Briefing Paper #224 9
  10. 10. Conscious and Pattern Unconscious (i.e. recognition and implicit bias) generalization Categorization Inequalit This may y change over time, but the Emulation Hoarding and and whole Exploitation Adaptation structure is highly inertSource: Douglas Massey. Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 2007. 10
  11. 11. Implicit StructuralBias Racialization 11
  12. 12.  How race works today  There are still practices, cultural norms and institutional arrangements that help create and maintain (disparate) racialized outcomes Structural racialization addresses inter- institutionalarrangements and interactions  It refers to the ways in which the joint operation of institutions produce racialized outcomes ▪ In this analysis, outcomes matter more than intent 12
  13. 13. Context: The Dominant Consensus on Race National values Contemporary culture Current Manifestations: Social and Institutional Dynamics Processes that maintain racial Racialized public policies and hierarchies institutional practices Outcomes: Racial Disparities Racial inequalities in current levels of Capacity for individual and community well-being improvement is undermined Ongoing Racial Inequalities 13Adapted from the Aspen Roundtable on Community Change. “Structural Racism and Community Building.” June 2004
  14. 14. • One variable can explain why differential outcomes.…to a multi-dimensional understanding…. • Structural Inequality – Example: a Bird in a cage. Examining one bar cannot explain why a bird cannot fly. But multiple bars, arranged in specific ways, reinforce each other and trap the bird. 14
  15. 15. • Understanding the relationships among these multiple dimensions, and how these complex intra- actions change processes • Relationships are neither static nor discrete 15
  16. 16. Physical Social Cultural OutcomesThese structures interact in ways that produce racialized outcomes fordifferent groups… 16
  17. 17. Racialized… Spatialized… Globalized…• In 1960, African- • marginalized people • Economic American families in of color and the very poverty were 3.8 times globalization poor have been more likely to be spatially isolated concentrated in high- from opportunity via • Climate change poverty neighborhoods reservations, Jim than poor whites. Crow, Appalachian mountains, ghettos, • the Credit and• In 2000, they were 7.3 barrios, and the Foreclosure crisis times more likely. culture of incarceration. 17
  18. 18. LOW OPPORTUNITY HIGH OPPORTUNITY• Less than 25% of students in • The year my step daughter Detroit finish high school finished high school, 100% of the students graduated and• More than 60% of the men 100% went to college will spend time in jail • Most will not even drive by a• There may soon be no bus jail service in some areas • Free bus service• It is difficult to attract jobs or • Relatively easy to attract private capital capital• Not safe; very few parks • Very safe; great parks• Difficult to get fresh food • Easy to get fresh food 18
  19. 19. Which community would you choose? 19
  20. 20.  How can we be sensitive to inter- and intra-group differences? How do the ladders or pathways of opportunities differ for different people? Every institution has built in assumptions, i.e. “stairways” are a pathway – but not for people in wheelchairs, baby strollers. 20
  21. 21. …Some people ride the …Others have to run up“Up” escalator to reach the “Down” escalator to opportunity get there 21
  22. 22. People are “differentially situated”Not only are People arepeople situated impacted by thedifferently with relationshipsregard to betweeninstitutions, institutions andpeople are systems…situateddifferently with …but peopleregard to also impactinfrastructure these relationships and can change the structure of the system. 22
  23. 23.  We come from different places. Illuminating people’s different and shared experiences of oppression encourages collective action with others whose experiences may be slightly different.  Young’s 5 Faces of Oppression: Different groups/people experience one or more of these faces throughout their lives  Exploitation  Marginalization  Powerlessness  Cultural Dominance  Violence 23Source: Grassroots Policy Project. “Faces of Oppression.”
  24. 24. Segregation impacts a number of life-opportunities Impacts on Health School Segregation Impacts on Educational Achievement Exposure to crime; arrest Transportation limitations and other inequitable public servicesNeighborhood Job segregation Segregation Racial stigma, other psychological impacts Impacts on community power and individual assetsSource: Barbara Reskin ( 24
  25. 25.  Zoning laws prevent affordable housing development in many suburbs Municipalities subsidize the relocation of businesses out of the city Transportation spending favors highways, metropolitan expansion and urban sprawl Court decisions prevent metropolitan school desegregation School funding is tied to property taxes 25
  26. 26.  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 26
  27. 27.  One cannot have a just society unless the arrangement of institutions are just -John Rawls 27
  28. 28.  The government plays a central role in the arrangement of space and opportunities These arrangements are not “neutral” or “natural” or “colorblind” Social and racial inequities are geographically inscribed There is a polarization between the rich and the poor that is directly related to the areas in which they live 28
  29. 29.  Racialized policies and structures:  Promoted sprawl  Concentrated subsidized housing  Led to disparities between schools ▪ Achievement gap ▪ Discipline rates ▪ Funding disparities ▪ Economic segregation ▪ Graduation rates ▪ Racial segregation 29
  30. 30. Photo source: (Madoff) AP 30
  31. 31. Today…Institutions and structurescontinue to support, notdismantle, the status quo.This is why we continue tosee racially inequitableoutcomes even if there isgood intent behind policies,or an absence of racistactors. (i.e. structuralracialization) 31
  32. 32.  A series of mutually reinforcing federal policies across multiple domains have contributed to the disparities we see today  School Desegregation  Homeownership/Suburbanization  Urban Renewal  Public Housing  Transportation 32
  33. 33.  Distinction blurredExamples: Private colleges Housing as a private good complemented by government policies  GI Bill  Expansion of highway system  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac 33
  34. 34.  Civil Rights Act of 1875 – equal treatment in “public accommodations”  Citizenship clause and membership in political community Overturned by Supreme Court eight years later  “The wrongful act of an individual, unsupported by any such authority, is simply a private wrong, or a crime of that individual” 34
  35. 35.  Private vs. public discrimination  Tension between addressing state action vs. de facto conditions produced by “private” decisionsSource: CSUN Daily Sundial Newspaper 35
  36. 36. “What the nation, through Congress,has sought to accomplish in referenceto that race is, what had already beendone in every state in the Union for thewhite race, to secure and protect rightsbelonging to them as freemen andcitizens; nothing more. The oneunderlying purpose of congressionallegislation has been to enable the blackrace to take the rank of mere citizens.” 36
  37. 37. "The distinction between governmentand private action, furthermore, canbe amorphous both as a historicalmatter and as a matter of present-dayfinding of fact. Laws arise from aculture and vice versa. Neither canassign to the other all responsibility forpersisting injustices.” 37
  38. 38.  Misidentifying the situation, not public vs. private Public Private Private Expansion of corporate prerogative Domains Corporate Corporate space diminishes public Non-pubic Corporate &private space 38
  39. 39.  Corporations under control of state for much of US history – serving a public function Natural entity theory: corporations as separate juridical entities with separate rights Fourteenth amendment and corporate personhood Source: Terrence Nowicki Jr. 39
  40. 40.  Taney Court: states’ rights, anti-elitism and denial of citizenship to blacks  “provided a coherent defense of both corporations and slavery in a rapidly democratizing union” (Austin Allen) Corporate dominance connected to whiteness  “middle-stratum identity” (Martinot) Citizens United: expansion of corporate rights and reduction of civil rights Source: powell, j. and C. Watt.“Corporate Prerogative, Race, and Identity Under the Fourteenth Amendment.” Cardoza Law Review Vol. 32:3. 40
  41. 41.  Capitalist Welfare State Property Owning Democracy John Rawls: Justice as Fairness 41
  42. 42. CORNEL WEST: “…I don’t think PresidentBush individually hates black people. Hispolicies were racist in effect and consequence,and especially classist in terms of generatingmisery among poor and working people,disproportionately black and brown…And Iwould say that even about the Obamaadministration.” (Democracy Now!) 42
  43. 43.  The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of political importance:  1)the growth of democracy;  2)the growth of corporate power; and  3)the growth of propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy (Alex Carey) 43
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  45. 45.  Treasury report February 2011: “Reforming America’s Housing Finance Market” Does not mention role of segregation in housing and credit markets in subprime crisis Three options laid out: variations of privatization  Potentially mortgage costs, down payments, fees/costs for FHA loans Disproportionate impact on people of color and low- income communities 45
  46. 46. Universal TargetedPrograms Programs Targeted Universalism 46
  47. 47.  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 47
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  51. 51.  Only 2% of emotional cognition is available to us consciously Racial bias tends to reside in the unconscious network Messages can be framed to speak to our unconscious 51
  52. 52.  Racial attitudes operate in our “unconscious” (also called “subconscious”) mind Usually invisible to us but significantly influences our positions on critical issues Negative unconscious attitudes about race are called “implicit bias” or “symbolic racism.” 52
  53. 53. Howmessages are framedaffects how they are perceived. 53
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  56. 56. When scientists showed a similar sketch to people from East Africa - a culturecontaining few angular visual cues - the family is seen sitting under a tree. Thewoman is balancing an item on her head.Westerners are accustomed to the corners and box-like shapes of architecture. Theyare more likely to place the family indoors and to interpret the rectangle above thewomans head as a window through which shrubbery can be seen. 56
  57. 57.  Race is a social reality While we are hardwired to categorize in- group vs. out-group, we are “softwired” for the content of those categories Softwiring is social Racial categories and meaning can be constantly be reconfigured 57
  58. 58. High Pitied Esteemed Out-Group In-Group Warmth Despised Envied Out-Group Out-Group Low Low High CompetenceSource: Douglas Massey. Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 2007. 58
  59. 59. High Pity : Esteemed: women, Your own group, elderly, who you identify disabled with Warmth Despised: Envied: African Competent, but Americans, don’t really like Undocumented them: Asians Low immigrants Low High CompetenceSource: Douglas Massey. Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 2007. 59
  60. 60.  Unconscious biases are reflected in institutional arrangements Prejudice leads to outcomes, and the outcomes reinforce the stereotypes / prejudice  Ex: Females aren’t good at math. Many females don’t take math classes. 60
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  62. 62.  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, and the whites will perform significantly worse than if they had not been primed to think of themselves as less capable than Asians Source: 62
  63. 63.  Experiment with 7th graders; ~50% white & 50% Black  Given a list of values ▪ Experimental group: Choose the values that are most important to you and write why they are important ▪ Control group: Choose the values that are the least important to you and explain why  End of semester – While Black students still did not do as well as whites, the Black students in the experimental group showed a 40% reduction in racial achievement gap  Experiment was repeated with a group of college students and yielded a 50% reduction in the racial achievement gapSource: Cohen, Geoffrey L.., Julio Garcia, Nancy Apfel, and Allison Master. (2006). “Reducing the Racial Achievement Gap: ASocial-Psychological Intervention.” Science 313(5791): 1307-1310, 63
  64. 64.  Be aware of implicit bias in your life. We are constantly being primed Debias by presenting positive alternatives Consider your conscious messaging & language.  Affirmative action support varies based on whether it’s presented as “assistance” or “preference” Engage in proactive affirmative efforts – not only on the cultural level but also the structural level 64
  65. 65. KirwanInstitute on: