Born that way? ‘Scientific’ racism is creeping back into our thinking. Here’s what to watch out for.

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-09-28 17:45Z by Steven

Born that way? ‘Scientific’ racism is creeping back into our thinking. Here’s what to watch out for.

The Washington Post
2015-09-28

W. Carson Byrd, Assistant Professor of Pan-African Studies
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Matthew W. Hughey, Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

This month, Jennifer Cramblett lost her “wrongful birth” lawsuit, which centered on a troubling ideology that has been creeping into mainstream discussions in ways not seen in decades. Cramblett claimed that the sperm used to inseminate her came from the wrong donor, leading to a biracial child, which she had not wanted. Her lawsuit claimed that this mix-up in the lab caused her and her family personal injuries of various kinds.

This lawsuit was shadowed by a troubling logic: the idea that race is a biological reality with particular traits and behaviors that can be avoided through proper breeding practices. In doing so, Cramblett’s claims echoed arguments made in a darker era of global history of “scientific” racism.

Here’s how the argument goes. Some people are born with outstanding talents, easily mastering basketball, mathematics, languages or piano, if given the right environment in which to grow. What biologist or social scientist could argue with that? But alongside that genetic understanding, an old and pernicious assumption has crept back into the American conversation, in which aptitudes are supposedly inherited by race: certain peoples are thought to have rhythm, or intellect, or speed or charm. That’s a fast track toward the old 19th- and early 20th-century problem of “scientific” racism…

…Sociological data suggest that the social behavior of both slaves and slaveholders better explains mortality rates than do physiological qualities of health, speed or strength. In particular, groups of rebellious young men were were most likely to die than those who passively acquiesced, while the economically well-off slaveholders were more likely to kill slaves than those who could not afford to lose property. In sum, the social forces of organized rebellion and the political economy of slavery are better explanations for mortality rates than abstract appeals to “genes” or “natural selection.”

Hughey’s and Goss’s work finds that such explanations have actually proliferated in an era that many argue is “colorblind” or “post-racial,” from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews who proudly said that he forgot, for a moment, that Obama was black, to a 2011 New York Times article that referred to interracial marriage as “a step toward transcending race,” to the claim that “all”— not “black” — lives matter, as presidential candidate Rand Paul recently insisted

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In its focus on genetics and race, global newspaper coverage of athletics is far from “post-racial”

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-09-13 02:27Z by Steven

In its focus on genetics and race, global newspaper coverage of athletics is far from “post-racial”

The LSE’s daily blog on American Politics and Policy
The London School of Economics and Political Science
London, United Kingdom
2015-09-10

Matthew W. Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

Devon R. Goss, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology
University of Connecticut

With the years of racially segregated sports now long behind us, many would consider that sports coverage is color-blind and post-racial. In new research which examines newspaper coverage of race, sport and genetics from 2003 to 2014, Matthew W. Hughey and Devon R. Goss find that this is not the case. They write that the media persistently reinforces the notions that African American’s athletic success is based on biology, while whites’ comes from hard work and intelligence. They also debunk the ideas often seen in the media that race has a biological reality which can be defined by genes, and that the historic process of slavery somehow eliminated ‘weaker genes’ from the African American population, making them a more athletic race.

For many, sport represents the ultimate color-blind space, affording a level playing field where only one’s training and skills are the hallmarks of competition. Hence, racist and prejudicial beliefs and phenomena are both literally and figuratively, out-of-bounds. Moreover, sport has been understood as an activity that promotes racial harmony amongst both participants and observers. But such a claim is a bit simplistic.

To make sense of the correlation between different racial groups’ success and failures amidst different athletic events, many draw from the deep well of scientific racism to quench their thirst for explanatory knowledge. For instance, some research has found that many athletes believe that white sporting success is attributable to intelligence, while nonwhite success is accredited to genetically predisposed bodies—a longstanding cultural trope known as “white brains versus black brawn”—that has been around for at least a century. After African American boxer Jack Johnson became the heavyweight champion of the world in 1908, he precipitated a slow reconsideration of the assumption of nonwhites’ physical inferiority—a central tenet of early 20th century racial science and eugenics. Fast forward to our contemporary moment and the banal ubiquity of this trope among sports commentators is well known, and was even recently panned by the comic duo Key & Peele

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In this book we set the “post-racial” claims into relief against a background of pre- and post-election racial animus directed at Barack Obama, his administration, and African Americans in general.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-09-01 02:06Z by Steven

In this book we set the “post-racial” claims into relief against a background of pre- and post-election racial animus directed at Barack Obama, his administration, and African Americans in general. In specific, we examine how racial fears, coded language, and explicit as well as implicit (automatic/subconscious) racism are drawn upon and manipulated by the political Right. Racial meanings are reservoirs rich in political currency, and the Right’s replaying of the “race card” still serves as a potent resource for “othering” the first black president in a context rife with nativism, xenophobia, racial fatigue, and white backlash.

Matthew W. Hughey and Gregory S. Parks, The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama. (New York: New York University Press, 2015) 2.

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The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2015-08-31 00:38Z by Steven

The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama

New York University Press
May 2014
232 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780814760543

Matthew W. Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

Gregory S. Parks, Assistant Professor of Law
Wake Forest University School of Law, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

On November 5, 2008, the nation awoke to a New York Times headline that read triumphantly: “OBAMA. Racial Barrier Falls in Heavy Turnout.” But new events quickly muted the exuberant declarations of a postracial era in America: from claims that Obama was born in Kenya and that he is not a true American, to depictions of Obama as a “Lyin African” and conservative cartoons that showed the new president surrounded by racist stereotypes like watermelons and fried chicken.

Despite the utopian proclamations that we are now live in a color-blind, postracial country, the grim reality is that implicit racial biases are more entrenched than ever. In Wrongs of the Right, Matthew W. Hughey and Gregory S. Parks set postracial claims into relief against a background of pre- and post-election racial animus directed at Obama, his administration, and African Americans. They provide an analysis of the political Right and their opposition to Obama from the vantage point of their rhetoric, a history of the evolution of the two-party system in relation to race, social scientific research on race and political ideology, and how racial fears, coded language, and implicit racism are drawn upon and manipulated by the political Right. Racial meanings are reservoirs rich in political currency, and the Right’s replaying of the race card remains a potent resource for othering the first black president in a context rife with Nativism, xenophobia, white racial fatigue, and serious racial inequality. And as Hughey and Parks show, race trumps politics and policies when it comes to political conservatives’ hostility toward Obama.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. The Grand Old Party and African Americans: A Brief Historical Overview
  • 2. Unsweet Tea and Labor Pains: The Tea Party, Birthers, and Obama
  • 3. A Fox in the Idiot Box: Right-Wing Talking Heads
  • 4. Political Party, Campaign Strategy, and Racial Messaging
  • 5. The Social Science of Political Ideology and Racial Attitudes
  • 6. Unconscious Race Bias and the Right: Its Meaning for Law in the Age of Obama
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Index
  • About the Authors
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“Race” is man-made, and much of the scientific enterprise has traditionally supported the myth that racial differences accurately represent real, biological differences among humans.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-08-24 02:25Z by Steven

“Race” is man-made, and much of the scientific enterprise has traditionally supported the myth that racial differences accurately represent real, biological differences among humans. These beliefs limit how scientists, policymakers, and everyday citizens can work together to tackle the real racial inequality of today. By increasing the dialogue of how we can tackle racial inequality regardless of whether we work in a laboratory or not, we can continue to deconstruct the myth that race is found in our genes, and begin to search in earnest for the legal, policy, economic, political, and social forces that make the effects of race all too real.

Matthew W. Hughey, “The Risks of Turning Races Into Genes,” The Huffington Post, August 20, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-w-hughey/the-risks-of-turning-race_b_8010956.html.

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Biological Determinism and Racial Essentialism

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2015-08-24 02:14Z by Steven

Biological Determinism and Racial Essentialism

The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Volume 661, Number 1, September 2015
pages 8-22
DOI: 10.1177/0002716215591476

W. Carson Byrd, Assistant Professor of Pan-African Studies
University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

Matthew W. Hughey, Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

In August 2012, nine months after being artificially inseminated using a sperm donation from the Midwest Sperm Bank of Downers Grove, Illinois, a white Ohio woman named Jennifer Cramblett gave birth to a racially “mixed” and healthy baby girl named Payton. Despite the triumph, the woman soon filed a “wrongful birth” suit in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that the sperm bank gave her sperm vials from an African American donor instead of a white donor, which in turn caused “personal injuries . . . pain, suffering, emotional distress and other economic and non-economic losses” (Circuit Court 2014, 8). The lawsuit states “that they now live each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future” (Circuit Court 2014, 6).

The supposed racial mismatch between parent and child in Cramblett v. Midwest Sperm Bank reveals the presence of two powerful belief systems that haunt both the popular imagination and stalk the scientific landscape: the notions of “biological determinism” (that race is genetically inherited) and “racial essentialism” (that group-based biology maps to basic social behaviors). Together, biological determinism and racial essentialism form the “ideological double helix” that intertwines to shape beliefs about race and inequality and influence the theoretical approaches, analytic strategies, and interpretations taken by scholars conducting biomedical and social scientific research. The suit turns on the assumption that varied racial groups have bounded and characteristically unique arrangements of genetic material: as the complaint contends, “Their desire was to find a donor with genetic traits similar to both of them” (Circuit Court 2014, 2–3). Such devotion to racial essentialism motivates a belief that the two white parents in this case are more similar to each other (because of their shared “whiteness”) than they are to their child (because of an unknown “black” father), even though the…

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The Risks of Turning Races Into Genes

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2015-08-24 01:25Z by Steven

The Risks of Turning Races Into Genes

The Huffington Post
2015-08-20

Matthew W. Hughey, Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

From 22-25 August, sociologists from around the nation and world will descend upon the Windy City of Chicago to discuss sundry issues as they participate in the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. One issue, however, is quite controversial: do genes or the social environment determine our behavior and health? Precisely, does nature or nurture determine the outcome of racial differences and racial inequality found throughout society?

Many readily acknowledge scientific advances are a necessary part of an improving society. From making cars more efficient on the road and beaming pictures from Pluto across the solar system to Earth, to developing new medical procedures to help us live better and making a longer lasting light bulb. Despite the many improvements science affords, cultural bias and normative assumptions can undergird the scientific methods and lead us down a dangerous path that has plagued American society for centuries. This path relies on a logic about race and difference that was and continues to be shared by many: from Thomas Jefferson to Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who murdered nine African American churchgoers in Charleston this summer. What may be even more surprising is that a variation of this same logic can infiltrate science and influences how we understand who achieves better jobs and even who succeeds at professional sports.

In the just released issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science we edited, I have gathered (with Professor W. Carson Byrd) an array of experts on race, science, technology, and society to explain how the fiction of “race” can have very real consequences. By exploring both biological determinism and racial essentialism together–what I and Professor Byrd call the “ideological double helix”–we explain how misunderstandings of race, genes, and inequality frequently creep into supposedly an objective science…

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‘It’s not written on their skin like it is ours’: Greek letter organizations in the age of the multicultural imperative

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-09-19 22:05Z by Steven

‘It’s not written on their skin like it is ours’: Greek letter organizations in the age of the multicultural imperative

Ethnicities
Volume 13, Number 5 (October 2013)
pages 519-543
DOI: 10.1177/1468796812471127

Joanna S. Hunter, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Radford University, Radford, Virginia

Matthew W. Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

Today’s students wrestle with the continued salience of racial identity on campuses that encourage the celebration of ‘diversity’ while at once digesting messages that the USA is now largely ‘post-racial’. Based on data collected through fieldwork observation, focus groups and in-depth interviews with a local Multicultural Greek Council for fraternities and sororities, we argue that ‘multicultural’ student organizations engage in a variety of racial identity tactics that simultaneously constrain and enable the perception of their racial identities. By relying on the two cultural narratives of multiculturalism—abstract and organizational—members of Greek organizations that do not conform to the White/Black binary can construct identities and a movement understood as rational, progressive and generally innocuous. Yet, in practice, the dominant expectations to perform ‘multiculturalism’ were manifest in narrow, essentialist and singular expressions of ethnic pride as an oppositional identity to Anglo-conformity and color-blindness, rather than an embrace of pluralism and multiculturalism per se. By highlighting how members of multicultural student organizations navigate this troubling paradox, our study raises important questions about the concept of multiculturalism, especially as it is constructed and enacted by the millennial generation.

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The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?

Posted in Anthologies, Barack Obama, Books, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-10-03 18:49Z by Steven

The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?

Oxford University Press
January 2011
336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4
Hardback ISBN13: 9780199735204; ISBN10: 0199735204

Edited by

Gregory Parks, Assistant Professor of Law
Wake Forest University, Winston Salem, North Carolina

Matthew Hughey, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of Connecticut

The United States has taken a long and winding road to racial equality, especially as it pertains to relations between blacks and whites. On November 4, 2008, when Barack Hussein Obama was elected as the forty-fourth President of the United States and first black person to occupy the highest office in the land, many wondered whether that road had finally come to an end. Do we now live in a post-racial nation?

According to this book’s contributors, a more nuanced and contemporary analysis and measurement of racial attitudes undercuts this assumption. They contend that despite the election of the first black President and rise of his family as possibly the most recognized family in the world, race remains a salient issue-particularly in the United States. Looking beyond public behaviors and how people describe their own attitudes, the contributors draw from the latest research to show how, despite the Obama family’s rapid rise to national prominence, many Americans continue to harbor unconscious, anti-black biases. But there are whispers of change. The Obama family’s position may yet undermine, at the unconscious level, anti-black attitudes in the United States and abroad. The prominence of the Obamas on the world stage and the image they project may hasten the day when America is indeed post-racial, even at the implicit level.

Features

  • Draws on a growing body of scholarly literature on implicit racial bias.
  • Discusses the implications of the entire First Family’s rise to prominence, not simply the President’s.

Contents

  • Contributors
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Measuring Racial Progress in America: The Tangled Path of Race – by Matthew W. Hughey (Commentary: Constraint and Freedom in the “Age of Obama” – by Kenneth Mack)
  • Chapter 2: Implicit Bias: A Better Metric for Racial Progress? – Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, Robert Livingston and Joshua Waytz (Commentary: The Erasure of the Affirmative Action Debate in the Age of Obama – by Ian Ayres)
  • Chapter 3: Black Man in the White House: Ideology and Implicit Racial Bias in the Age of Obama – by Kristin Lane and John Jost (Commentary: Black Man in the White House: A Commentary – Marc H. Morial)
  • Chapter 4: Obama-nation?: Implicit Beliefs about American Nationality and the Possibility of Redefining Who Counts as “Truly” American – by Nilanjana Dasgupta and Kumar Yogeeswaran (Commentary: As American as Barack Obama – by Lawrence Bobo)
  • Chapter 5: Does Black and Male Still = Threat in the Age of Obama? – by Jennifer A. Richeson and Meghan G. Bean (Commentary: Threat, Fantasy, and President Obama – by Eddie Glaude, Jr.)
  • Chapter 6: Michelle Obama: Redefining Images of Black Women – by Shanette C. Porter and Gregory S. Parks (Commentary: First Lady Michelle Obama: Getting Past the Stereotypes – Julianne Malveaux)
  • Chapter 7: Barack, Michelle and the Complexities of a Black “Love Supreme” – Clarenda M. Phillips, Tamara L. Brown and Gregory S. Parks (Commentary: The Obamas: Beyond Troubled Love – by Jenée Desmond-Harris)
  • Chapter 8: Malia and Sasha: Re-envisioning Black Youth – by Valerie Purdie-Vaughns and Rachel Sumner (Commentary: Re-envisioning Black Youth: A Commentary by Marc Lamont Hill)
  • Chapter 9: Obama and Global Change in Attitudes about Group Status – by George Ciccariello-Maher and Matthew Hughey (Commentary: Commentary on Obama and Group Change in Attitudes about Group Status – Michael Dawson)
  • Chapter 10: The Role of Race in American Politics: Lessons Learned from the 2008 Presidential Election – by Thierry Devos (Commentary: The State of the Post-racial Union – by Farai Chideya)
  • Chapter 11: Obama’s Potential to Transform the Racial Attitudes of White Americans – by Jack Dovidio, Samuel L. Gaertner, Tamar Saguy and Eric Hehman (Commentary: Black Behavior and Moral Dissonance: Missing Mechanisms in Theorizing the Obama Effect – by Richard O. Lempert)
  • Chapter 12: New Bottle, Same Old Wine: The GOP and Race in the Age of Obama – by Russell J. Webster, Donald A. Saucier and Gregory S. Parks (Commentary: New Bottle, Same Old Wine: A Response – by Melissa Harris-Lacewell)
  • About the Editors, Contributors, and Commentators
  • Index
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