Bobby Jindal Urges People of Color to just be White

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal published an op-ed piece in Politico where he says in part:

We have made tremendous progress, but as long as our society is comprised of imperfect human beings, we will always be striving for a more perfect union. We must not let this constant process prevent us from acknowledging the enormous strides we have already made.

Yet we still place far too much emphasis on our “separateness,” our heritage, ethnic background, skin color, etc. We live in the age of hyphenated Americans: Asian-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Indian-Americans, and Native Americans, to name just a few.

Here’s an idea: How about just “Americans?” That has a nice ring to it, if you ask me. Placing undue emphasis on our “separateness” is a step backward. Bring back the melting pot.

There is nothing wrong with people being proud of their different heritages. We have a long tradition of folks from all different backgrounds incorporating their traditions into the American experience, but we must resist the politically correct trend of changing the melting pot into a salad bowl. E pluribus Unum.

There are several problems with this argument.  One is that racial and ethnic identities have become in the modern era important aspects of our sense of self and so cannot be discarded as simply as he suggests.  Another problem is that research in cognitive science shows that categorizing people is a fundamental way our minds work, so urging us to simply see sameness is unrealistic.  See the recently published Blindspot for an accessible overview of this research.  Yet another problem is that his suggestion that we all just think of ourselves as “American” means in practice thinking of ourselves as white.  A 2005 study by Devos and Banaji shows that most Americans implicitly associate being American with being white.  And since whiteness is the dominant frame that shapes our cultural images and conceptions, assimilation to ‘Americaness’ just means assimilation to whiteness.

Advertisements

Call for Submissions: Forum on Disability Studies Discourse

This forum on disability discourse over at The Feminist Wire should generate some necessary engagement with how power circulates in disability discourse these days.

Disability seems to be trending in academia these days. For example, a recent conference on “Cripistemologies” brought together disability studies scholars with folks who study gender and sexuality, focusing particularly on animals, chronic pain/injury, and trans* embodiment. And scholars who work in several other areas (e.g., transnational feminisms, globalization studies) have recently turned their critical attention to disability.

We are avid supporters and practitioners of interdisciplinarity and celebrate theory driven by (in)justice, but at the same time, we find ourselves curious about this “turn” to disability studies–a field that has been making significant contributions for quite some time now. What, we ask, is at stake for disabled people when “disability” is used as a heuristic for making sense of human-animal relations, for example? The appropriation of disability, disabled lives, and non-normative bodies for projects unrelated to disability justice demands a critical lens.

We thus conceived of this forum as a space for wrestling with the issues raised by academia’s rediscovery of disability and its (mis)appropriation by/for various intellectual projects. We ask: Why disability, and why now? What are the stakes, and for whom, in melding disability with various studies of “the other”? Is there something about disability that should make it “exempt” from use as a metaphor? And what of the established field of disability studies? How do new explorations of disability expand upon or constrain the praxis-centered disability studies project?

In the service of challenging the more insidious effects of the “rediscovery” of disability, we also conceived of this forum as a “safe(r) space” for explorations of “disability” writ large. So this forum, we hope, will address a series of questions or provocations:

  • What does it mean to live as “disabled” in the 21st century? And how is this living complicated by geography, access to technology, class status, race, etc.?

  • Disability as it relates to other lived identities–including race, gender, sexuality, age, geography, citizenship status, income/class status, and other embodied markers–is too often overlooked in conversations about intersectionality. Where are these absences especially conspicuous, at what cost, and for whom?

  • How can we talk about the triumvirate of race, class, and gender while attending to the ways these are embodied both “normatively” and “non-normatively?”

  • What does a feminist disability politic look like? What does it feel like to inhabit a space of “feminist disability”?

  • How does “disability” function as a monolithic category that obscures material realities of diverse embodiments?

  • What are the promises and the limits of crip feminism?

We invite academics, writers, and activists to weigh in on any or all of these complicated issues. We welcome critical essays, creative nonfiction, interviews, reviews, op-eds, fiction, poetry, and visual art. Essays, reviews, and creative nonfiction should be no longer than 2,000 words and not already submitted elsewhere. Please email us at feministwire@gmail.com if you have questions about the length and/or format of creative works.

Submissions will be due by October 10, 2013. All work should be submitted to us through our online system, Submittable, accessed here. Please review our general submission guidelines before sending us your work. Also, please title the work(s) and label the submission “Disability Forum.” Include a bio and headshot or other photo. The forum will run from late October through early November.

Original post can be found here.

Why privilege is so hard to give up – Salon.com

Privilege is a systematic structure that grants unearned advantage to a select few on the basis of their identity. Peggy McIntosh describes privilege as an “invisible package… of special provisions” — invisible because while we may not always be aware of our privilege, we do in fact benefit from it. Because identity is varied, privilege comes in many different forms (i.e. white privilege, Christian privilege, heteronormative privilege, and even American privilege.) No matter how much we deny it, we all consciously and unconsciously benefit from our identities.

Recently I engaged in a conversation about white rage and white privilege with two conservatives, former congressman Joe Walsh and John Nolte of Breitbart.com on HuffPost Live. In my closing remarks, I mentioned the idea of white privilege and the problems that arise from it. John replied that he was “offended” because I suggested that he is privileged and benefits from white privilege.

And a few days ago, I had a conversation with a fellow academic about black male privilege. He is of the belief that there is no sociological truth to the idea. We debated the issue back and forth for a long time. When I tried to remind him of the black male privilege checklist, a checklist developed by Jewel Woods that “reflect[s] aspects of Black men’s lives that we take for granted, which appear to be ‘double standards,’ but in fact are male privileges that come at the expense of women in general and African American women in particular,” he rejected them. The fact that I could not present black male privilege in charts or statistics made my argument fall on deaf ears.

Both of those conversations got me to thinking: Why do we fail, or at times even refuse, to acknowledge our privilege? Is it mere ignorance or is it something deeper?

Read the rest of the essay here:  Why privilege is so hard to give up – Salon.com.

On How Unconscious, Habitual, Behavior Maintains Systems of Oppression and Privilege

One of the most important things to know about racial oppression is how it is sustained in everyday practices.  Structures of advantage and disadvantage of all types, including those based on racialized identities, are maintained in our everyday, largely unconscious, actions.  Social psychologists have developed the concept of implicit bias that explains how this occurs.  Here is Rinku Sen, President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center, discusses how implicit bias frames the Zimmerman verdict:

The verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial caused in me the kind of existential crisis that my optimistic nature is usually able to fend off. In these weeks I have come to understand just how much light exists between the basic assumptions of the racial justice movement and those of most white Americans. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in the week after the verdict revealed a huge gap between black and white attitudes. Just 30 percent of white respondents said they were dissatisfied with the verdict, compared to 86 percent of blacks. The key strategic question for a racial justice movement is whether to focus on growing that 30 percent, or simply to out organize the rest. To figure out an answer, we need to delve into the complicated relationship between explicit racism, unconscious bias, policymaking and culture.

Our legal frameworks are based on punishing explicit racism. Yet the not-explicit kind, what is known among social psychologists as “implicit bias,” also undergirds the punishing policies that make young black men so vulnerable to deadly forms of discrimination. That reality creates a challenge, because it’s much easier to condemn obvious racism than the kind that expresses itself in, say, Juror B37’s statement that Zimmerman could credibly assume Trayvon Martin was “trying to do something bad in the neighborhood.” Implicit bias is the reason why.

In the best-selling book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman describes the brain as having two parts, which he calls Systems 1 and 2. System 1 is lightning fast, intuitive and overconfident. It makes many, many judgements, often based on false assumptions. System 1 selectively pulls facts and images to justify those judgements, totally unaware that it is doing so. System 2, however, is slow, methodical, and much less confident, and it only kicks under real pressure.

System 1 is willing to give George Zimmerman’s snap judgements about Trayvon the benefit of the doubt. To make your System 2 kick in and ask, for example, “Do I really need to clutch my bag/call the police/pull out my gun because a black man is walking toward me?” requires a decision, a desire to push System 1 aside. The good news of the Pew poll is it suggests that at least 30 percent of the nation’s white people have moved beyond their System 1s and engaged their System 2s. Several hundred of them are represented in the Tumblr We Are Not Trayvon.

What happens in System 1 with regard to race is called implicit bias, which Maya Wiley, president of the Center for Social Inclusion, did a great job of explaining on “Up with Steve Kornacki.” Implicit bias is the way that social psychologists refer to the phenomenon by which we are unaware of our prejudices. Our judgments about people don’t qualify as prejudices because our brains are happy enough to have a coherent story about “those people.” They’re happy to linger in System 1. Social psychologists at Harvard University, University of Virginia and University of Washington created the implicit bias test online to enable people to see their biases at work in a series of rapid-fire judgments driven by images of white and black people.

Read her full essay at Rinku Sen: The Racist Mind – COLORLINES.

Celebrate James Baldwin’s Birthday

“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.” — The Fire Next Time

Although he spent a great deal of his life abroad, James Baldwin always remained a quintessentially American writer. Whether he was working in Paris or Istanbul, he never ceased to reflect on his experience as a black man in white America. In numerous essays, novels, plays and public speeches, the eloquent voice of James Baldwin spoke of the pain and struggle of black Americans and the saving power of brotherhood.

via James Baldwin – About the Author | American Masters | PBS.

The Costs of Racial “Color Blindness” – Harvard Business Review

This new research just published in the Harvard Business Review shows that people who studiously avoid mentioning racial identity when the situation calls for it are perceived to be more racially biased than those who call attention to it.  They also confirm independent research that shows that by approximately the age of 10 whites internalize the norm of colorblind discourse, whereas children younger than 10 do not feel compelled to be colorblind.

From the opening paragraphs:

It’s a natural tendency, proven time and again in research: When you see a new person, one of the first things you notice is his or her race. In business life, however, we typically pretend we don’t notice—a behavior that’s called “color blindness”—because we want to reduce our odds of exhibiting prejudice or engaging in discrimination, or of seeming to do either.

Our research, conducted with our colleague Sam Sommers, of Tufts University, shows that there are drawbacks to the color-blind approach. In a series of experiments, we found that when people avoided referring to race in situations that cried out for a mention of it, other people perceived them as more racially biased than if they’d brought the subject up.

via The Costs of Racial “Color Blindness” – Harvard Business Review.