Race and Class


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  • Perhaps the most critical flaw in our formulations of race and class is that they are assumed to be phenotypical markers or economic locations ahistorically derived and acontextually applied. Our current understanding of race and class did not arrive as the culmination of inevitable objective, historical logic. Race and class acquired meaning over time and are not comprehensive outside of that development.
  • Low unemployment and booming industry during WWII sparked fears that pro-union laws would help undermine the region’s racial order as blacks returning to the South from overseas were being organized by labor. Southerners were concerned that labor organizing might fuel civil rights activism and that close enforcement of the FLSA would cause wage leveling along racial lines.
  • Race and Class

    1. 1. Race and Class john a. powell Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law. Director, Kirwan Institute March 9, 2009
    2. 2. Overview <ul><li>What is Race? What is Class? </li></ul><ul><li>Race and Class as Mutually Constitutive </li></ul><ul><li>How Race Survived </li></ul><ul><li>The New Deal </li></ul><ul><li>Targeted Universalism </li></ul>
    3. 3. Race and Class <ul><li>What do we mean by Race? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Biology? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Culture? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Construction </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What is meant by Class? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Income? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social Status? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wealth? </li></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Race & Class in the US as Interactive <ul><li>Poverty and race 2006 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>White (non-Hispanic): 17.9 million in poverty, 9.3% poverty rate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Black: 9.0 million in poverty, 25.3% poverty rate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Asian: 1.4 million in poverty, 10.7% poverty rate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Latino (all Latinos): 9.3 million in poverty, 21.5% poverty rate </li></ul></ul>
    5. 5. The Racial Wealth Gap
    6. 6. Hurricane Katrina <ul><li>Why were African American and poor neighborhoods impacted the most from Katrina? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The dynamics of spatial inequity, combined with patterns of racial segregation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flood risk in New Orleans was not equitably distributed and followed historical patterns of segregation in the City </li></ul></ul>After levee breaks, the Ninth ward rapidly floods in New Orleans. Photo by Ted Jackson/NEWHOUSE NEWS SERVICE) Evacuees sit stranded in the streets outside the Convention Center of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina September 3, 2005. REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON
    7. 7. Dualism and Reductionism <ul><li>Many assume that racial disparities can be best addressed through class measures and vice-versa; or, that one can be reduced to the other. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Marxism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Critical Race Theory </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Racial and Class Meaning <ul><li>It’s not simply that race and class interact, they are cultural and social constructs, and they convey meaning . </li></ul><ul><li>In each era of American history, race and class have helped define each other. </li></ul>
    9. 9. How Race Survived History <ul><li>Roediger looked at times in which there were palpable shifts in race and how they didn’t hold </li></ul><ul><li>Also, he underscores the continuing hesitance to address race in political discourse </li></ul><ul><li>Some declare race “over” while others like President Obama seek to shift toward “class-based” remedies </li></ul><ul><li>He calls for a broad-based coalition between racial groups, feminists, immigrants, working class in order to transform the social order </li></ul>
    10. 10. Race and Class as Mutually Constitutive <ul><li>Racial meaning, identity and practices have constrained, helped shape and limit our class consciousness. </li></ul><ul><li>One of the reasons that America is exceptional in lacking a labor party, having a weak union movement and a thin, two-tiered social welfare system is the way that we do race. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Race and Social Welfare Spending (Alesina and Glaeser) </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Race and Class <ul><li>Racialized systems not only impact institutional arrangements but also particular institutions, such as unions, with consequences for the entire society. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: Race and Taft-Hartley. Southern Democrats, concerned that low unemployment and booming industry after WWII might cause wage leveling along racial lines, flipped their vote. The result was Taft-Hartley. </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. The New Deal <ul><li>There was no greater mechanism in the 20 th century for increasing the material and social distance between poor whites and poor non-whites. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Social Security Act </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NLRA and FLSA </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Selective Service Readjustment Act (GI Bill) </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. The GI Bill <ul><li>The GI Bill was the most wide ranging set of social benefits ever offered by the federal government. </li></ul><ul><li>It reached eight out of ten men born during the 1920s. </li></ul><ul><li>It is credited with creating the modern middle-class, but almost exclusively for whites. </li></ul>
    14. 14. The GI Bill <ul><li>Millions of GIs bought homes, attending college, started business ventures, and found jobs. </li></ul><ul><li>Between 1944 and 1971, federal spending for former soldiers totaled over $95 billion </li></ul><ul><li>Although formally colorblind, there was no greater instrument for widening the racial gap in post-war America. </li></ul>
    15. 15. GI Bill - Homeownership <ul><li>Between 1945 and 1954, the US added 13 million new home to its housing stock. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1946 and 1947, VA mortgages alone accounted for more than 40 percent of the total </li></ul><ul><li>VA Mortgages paid for nearly 5 million new homes, by making homes affordable with capped interest rates and 30 year loans. </li></ul>
    16. 16. GI Bill – High Ed. <ul><li>On the eve of WWII, some 160,000 Americans were graduating from college each year. The GI Bill paid for the entire cost of tuition plus a stipend. </li></ul><ul><li>By 1955, about 2,250,000 veterans had participated in higher education. </li></ul><ul><li>The country gained more than 400,000 engineers, 200,000 teachers, 90,000 scientists, 60,000 doctors, and 22,000 dentists. </li></ul><ul><li>Another 5,600,000 veterans enrolled in some 10,000 vocational programs </li></ul>
    17. 17. GI Bill – Administration/Implementation <ul><li>The implementation of the GI Bill was left to state and local government, including those that practiced Jim Crow racism </li></ul><ul><li>The GI Bill needed the backing of Southern Democrats to pass, which gave discretion to white administrators in the South </li></ul><ul><li>It empowered private institutions, such as banks and colleges, to offer services only to veterans they would choose to assist or admit. </li></ul>
    18. 18. GI Bill - Implementation <ul><li>Local control strongly discouraged blacks from applying for GI benefits. </li></ul><ul><li>Banks and colleges refused to admit or accept black applications, so blacks were shunted into segregated institutions and neighborhoods to receive funds. </li></ul><ul><li>In the South, 95% of black veterans used their benefits in historically black colleges. </li></ul>
    19. 19. GI Bill <ul><li>Even in the North and West, black enrollment in higher education remained small, never exceeding 5,000 during the late 1940s due to persist discrimination and a lack of access to counseling. </li></ul><ul><li>In 1947, some 20,000 eligible black veterans could not find places to use benefits even though they qualified. </li></ul>
    20. 20. Two Groups <ul><li>10 Constraints Reduce Opportunity for Group A </li></ul><ul><li>2 Constraints Reduce Opportunity for Group B </li></ul><ul><li>Any one of these constraints denies opportunity </li></ul>
    21. 21. Two Groups Differently Situated <ul><li>A Universal policy removing the first two constraints would only vastly improve the opportunity of Group B </li></ul><ul><li>Group A would still be denied opportunity. </li></ul>
    22. 22. What’s the Solution? Transactional v. Transformative Interventions <ul><li>A transformative intervention is one that works to permanently transform structural arrangements. </li></ul><ul><li>A transactional intervention, on the other hand, is one that may impact outcomes across several domains but does not fundamentally change the way structures and institutions operate. </li></ul>
    23. 23. Universalism v. Particularism <ul><li>Universalism takes people as they are. It is a transactional intervention. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>GI Bill </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>N.J. Fair Share </li></ul></ul><ul><li>“Targeting within Universalism” </li></ul>
    24. 24. Group A Group B Universal Program
    25. 25. Group A Group B Universal Program
    26. 26. Targeting within Universalism <ul><ul><li>Combines a call for the universal with attention to the particular experience of minority Americans. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supports the needs of the particular while reminding us that we are all part of the same social fabric. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rejects a blanket universal which is likely to be indifferent to the reality that different groups are situated differently related to the institutions and resources of society. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It rejects the claim of formal equality that would treat all people the same as a way of denying difference. </li></ul></ul>
    27. 27. A New Paradigm <ul><li>What is our alternative vision? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A model where we all grow together </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A model where we embrace collective solutions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where race is experienced and addressed in a different way </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No longer using race to divide and distract from class struggle </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Using race to transform our society in a way that lifts up all people </li></ul></ul></ul>
    28. 28. Concluding Thoughts <ul><li>Be deliberate about building coalition </li></ul><ul><li>Through a new paradigm and with coalition building we can make great strides in addressing the race and class disparities in our nation </li></ul><ul><li>Strategic transactional change, can ultimately accomplish transformation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Eyes on the prize(s) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Remember- We Have, and Can Make Progress! </li></ul>
    29. 29. Questions or Comments?