How do the blind experience race?

In this piece on NPR’s Code Switch, Kat Chow discusses the forthcoming book by Hastings College of Law professor Osagie Obasogie, Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race in the Eyes of the Blind.  Inspired by Ray Charles’s experience of race, as depicted in the biopic Ray, Professor Obasogiebegan interviewing blray charles-fotoind people to get a clearer understanding of how the blind experience race.

The results, I think, are not terribly surprising.  Professor Obasogie notes that since the blind are socialized into the same racially structured social milieu that the sighted are, they internalize race in much the same way.  Only, for the blind, this means drawing on proxies for skin color and needing to make inferences about race from other clues.  (Which the sighted also must do in situations where skin color is ambiguous.)

Nonetheless, this looks like a fascinating study and one that will add a new dimension to the discourse on race and the operations of racial oppression.

 

 

The State of Women in America

The Center for American Progress has published a nuanced analysis of the equity status of women in the U.S.  They found that:

The role of women in the United States has changed dramatically over the past few decades. For one, more and more women have taken on new responsibilities outside the home by joining the paid workforce. While women made up only about one-third of the workforce in 1969, women today make up almost half of all workers in the United States. Women are also stepping up to lead the country; a record number of women ran for public office in 2012, and a record-high percentage of women are serving in Congress. In addition to making progress on issues of economics and leadership, women have made progress on health issues, which impact women’s personal well-being, as well as their economic security. Over the past few years, women have been able to end gender discrimination by big insurance companies and gain free contraception coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.

Despite women’s advancements, however, substantial inequalities remain. Although an increasing number of women are either the sole breadwinner for their family or share the role with their partners, women in the United States are paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The pay gap is even larger for women of color. On average, African American women make 64 cents for every dollar that white men make. While 2012 was a watershed year for women in terms of getting elected to public office, women still comprise only 18.1 percent of Congress, despite making up more than half of the U.S. population. They also face challenges on health issues, as 2012 saw continued conservative efforts to erode women’s ability to make their own decisions about their health and well-being.

A deeper examination shows that disparities for women also exist among states. Women in Vermont, for example, make on average close to 85 cents for every dollar a man makes, while women in Wyoming make only 64 cents—more than 25 percent less than women in Vermont. On leadership, 15 states have no female elected leaders in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Lastly, while less than 10 percent of women in Vermont, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are uninsured, nearly 25 percent of women in Texas do not have health insurance.

Read the rest of the report here.

BEING Disabled

When it comes to diversity, language is important, and language is political.  How we name differences and normative standards plays a central role in how power works to marginalize some while benefiting others.  Lisa Egan writes in xojane from her own experiences about how she should be described:

I am not a “person with a disability.” I do not “have a disability.” Given that I look like this:

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Image Credit: ewheeling.

You probably think I’m either delusional or in denial. I’m not, I just have a real problem with the phrase “person with a disability” and the notion of “having a disability.”

I am disabled. More specifically, I am disabled by a society that places social, attitudinal and architectural barriers in my way. This world we live in disables me by treating me like a second-class citizen because I have a few impairments — most obviously a mobility impairment.

 

Read the rest of her wonderful essay here.

 

 

 

Identifying racial oppression in schools

A new article by Brian Willoughby in the Fall 2013 issue of Teaching Tolerance provides suggestions for examining the ways that your school maintains the system of racial oppression.

Drawing on the work of Mica Pollock, he suggests asking the following questions:

  • Am I seeing, understanding and addressing the ways the world treats me and my students as members of racial groups?
  • Am I seeing, understanding and addressing communities and individuals in their full complexity?
  • Am I seeing, understanding and addressing the ways opportunities to learn or thrive are unequally distributed to racial groups?
  • What actions offer necessary opportunities to students in such a world?

It’s important, he reminds us, not to jump to conclusions without sufficient evidence.  So he urges taking the following actions when feelings or accusations of discrimination arise:

  • Look at the issue from all angles.
  • Gather as much data as you can.
  • Sit down and have meaningful conversations without being accusatory.

Read the rest of the article here.

New Interdisciplinary MA in Diversity Studies

Check out the new MA degree offered through the Wits Centre for Diversity Studies at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa–this is an exciting new opportunity for individuals interested in the scholarship of diversity.

The Wits Centre for Diversity Studies website also has a variety of useful resources and information.

Defining Gender Categories

A debate is brewing in the American Sociological Association over the set of categories the group should use to collect gender identification information from its members. As Colleen Flaherty reports on Inside Higher Ed:

Question: How many sociologists does it take to develop a working set of gender categories?

Answer: A lot.

Of all professional organizations, one might expect the American Sociological Association to have generally accepted gender categories on its membership form. But some in the association have accused it of being behind the terminological curve, and coming up with a better set of categories is revealing – to some – a surprising lack of consensus on the matter.

Tina Fetner, associate professor of sociology at McMaster University in Ontario and new member of the ASA Council, has taken the question to the blogosphere. In recent posts to Social (In)Queery and Scatterplot, she wrote: “The ASA is trying to respond to a request from its members to expand the options for gender on its membership form. Right now, the choices are female, male and prefer not to answer. There is no category that acknowledges transgender members at all, but creating a new category scheme is not as easy as it might seem.”

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/09/10/sociologists-debate-terminology-members#ixzz2eUNNdcVs
Inside Higher Ed

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.

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.