Case Study

Please note: due to the severe restrictions placed on journalists in China, the majority of media depicting the fallout from my case study will be from Turkish reactions, as there have been no reactions from those in Xinjiang published to Western media that I can find.

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This map illustrates one of the areas I will be discussing: the province of Xinjiang in China.

In 2014, Thailand captured and held around three hundred Uyghur people fleeing China. In June of 2015, around 170 were sent to Turkey – the location they wanted to go to escape racially and religiously motivated persecution in China. In July of 2015, after pressure from China, the remaining Uyghur being detained were sent back to China.

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Uyghur illegal immigrants caught on the Thailand/Malaysian border.

The issue of race in China is more than just an issue of mistakenly applying biology to distinct groups of people – it’s an issue of ethnocentric thinking and cultural superiority. China is a country that has 5,000 years of continuous civilization brought about by land invasions and cultural suppression and integration. Those cultures in the regions that the Chinese dynasties conquered were brought into the fold, leading to the extinction of those distinct groups of people. As such, since early in China’s history there has been an idea that China was the center of the world (and, perhaps, all of creation) because of their superior society and culture. Confucian values, white skin, and conformity were all looked upon highly – and to this day, they still are.

Xinjiang is a province in China that is home to many minorities. For the Han Chinese, the most common (and ruling) race in China, minority people are often a source of problems. Despite the government’s official stance that minorities should be celebrated and protected, there is often a subtle movement to lessen such diversity by encouraging Han Chinese to migrate out into areas where minorities form a majority. Within Xinjiang, this has meant that over time Han Chinese have come to take the majority of leadership, white-collar, and energy positions, according to Martin Jacques – an esteemed scholar, editor, professor, and journalist. In his book, When China Rules the World, he details how the Uyghur are seen as inferior: “a 15-year-old Uighur . . . was quoted as saying: ‘Everything is organized in an unfair way at school. The teachers always think the Han are better students. They look down on us'” (Jacques 323). Uyghurs are often characterized as dirty, thieving, and stupid.

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Uyghur refugees being detained in Thailand.

This issue has culminated in recent years, with rising tensions providing fuel for separatist movements that have in turn become linked to terrorist movements: the Uyghurs are not just a distinct culture and race, they are Muslim. The recent escalation of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims has found fertile ground in Xinjiang, where Uyghur separatists struggle to become independent of China. What further complicates the issue is that most Chinese refuse to believe that they are racist, to the point that there is some belief that, if anything, they are the ones who are victims of racism (Jacques 324). However, not all separatists in Xinjiang are terrorists.

“In a related incident, one Uyghur man complain discrimination from the Shanghai airport security, who stopped him, and takes off his shoes, while all others passengers, who is Han Chinese, goes normally.
‘Why are you singling me out to check my shoes?’ Said the Uyghur man, who takes flight from Shanghai to Urumqi. 
One security officer replayed to him’ because you are a Xinjiang people!’.
The man goes angry for apparent discrimination.
‘This is discrimination. I did not cause today’s explosion but what caused the explosion is precisely discrimination like this.'”

Enter Thailand’s move to return the Uyghur refugees to China. While the action itself was not racist, it supports China’s renewed persecution of Uyghurs by slipping them under the convenient umbrella of terrorists and law-breakers. This is, I believe, a pivotal moment in the ongoing fight between the Uyghurs and Chinese in that it further confuses the issue internationally; Uyghurs are seen as being religious first, and thus the issue of Chinese racism is not properly addressed. Also, as Uyghurs flee Chinese persecution – often seeking asylum in Turkey where they often have relatives and are free to practice their culture and religion – Thailand’s move sets a dangerous precedent where China can claim Uyghur refugees as being terrorists and have them sent back to face incarceration, torture, and further rights violations. In light of the recent attacks on Paris (which the Chinese government is using to help sway international opinions against Uyghurs), this could prove to be the start of a slippery slope, where China eventually wipes out Uyghurs by cutting them off from any potential international support.

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Turkey, however, remains closely tied to the Uyghurs, as can be seen by this protest in Turkey after the refugees were returned to China.

Han Chinese in China are seen as better because they are part of a superior culture and history, which makes their form of racism much more intimately connected with culture, class, history (China’s sense of society has had uninterrupted development for at least 5,000 years – even those who conquered China, such as the Manchu, conformed to China’s culture, form of government, and religion) , and nation than Western forms of racism. But what I find particularly unsettling is China’s use of religion to justify their racism, and obscure it. In this sense, they can change perception about what they are doing into something that the West views as being acceptable: instead of systematically destroying a race and culture, they will instead be seen as rooting out terrorists and terrorist sympathizers.

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The above picture is an anti-Uyghur poster that depicts Uyghur men, with their typical dark hair and beards, as terrorists.

What makes this case so complicated is that China does not and will not see that its hegemonic values as wrong. If anything, they feel that they are completely justified in their actions and beliefs. However, from an outside perspective this challenges their hegemonic values because it shows the exact opposite. They are not objective. They are heavy-handed, and they are engaging in persecution of a perceived race of people by using whatever convenient means at hand. Before China entered the global market, they did not need a reason for keeping the Uyghur and other minorities under heel. Now, however, as the Uyghur struggle to use whatever means necessary to free themselves from China’s grip, China is able to use their desperation against them to make Chian’s side look more sympathetic to outsiders.

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An example of terrorist activities in China that are being attributed to all Uyghurs, instead of the small minority it actually is.

Which is why social justice is such an issue. While the U.N. and other nations strongly condemned Thailand’s return of the refugees, and riots happened in Turkey (they feel kinship to the Uighurs, and as a result wound up attacking the Thailand consulate in Istanbul), not much can be done while China parades Uyghur actions as being wholly terrorist in nature. It is, I believe, a deeply rooted issue that not even a regime change can fix. Instead, it would need grassroot efforts and investigative journalism to show that those returned to China are not the terrorists they are being painted to be, and that those refugees face retaliation for trying to escape China for no other reason than they are seen as an inferior race full of thieves and liars. But, with various blogs, human rights groups, and small news outlets decrying China’s actions, it is possible that over time the public can be informed as to what’s going on and help create international pressure against China’s actions. However, it would take more than pressure to fix the issue – it would take Xinjiang becoming an independent nation separated from China’s influence.

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Turkish citizens burn a Chinese flag in protest over Thailand’s actions.

While this case immediately harmed those refugees sent back to China, it sparked outrage across the world. It became international news, and renewed interest in the Xinjiang plight (they are, however, a fairly frequent fixture in international news). Frequent exposure of the issue to the international community is needed for any change to happen. However, it is important to realize that Uyghurs in rural areas do not have the same experience as urban Uyghurs; the Han Chinese who make up nearly half the population in Xinjiang tend to live in urban areas. As a result, rural Uyghurs do not face the same racism by merit of not being around those who are racist. By the same merit, the Chinese government forms policy that still affects the way those in Xinjiang live, which means that the Uyghur way of life can be interrupted at any time (such as when fasting is banned during Ramadan). It’s important to realize that many Uyghur are farmers who mind their own business, a minority have taken up radical Islam, and only a portion of the overall population is actively looking to separate from China. This can only be realized by more coverage of the situation in Xinjiang, especially journalism that recognizes the amount of diversity in the province.

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Uyghur farmers sell crafts in a village.  The article this was taken from was, as it happens, about Chinese authorities taking land from Uyghur farmers and then building on it.

There is another side, however.  It is also important to realize that China is a huge place with a huge population.  Even if there are embedded attitudes, or a generalization of beliefs, China is also made up of individuals who do not experience the same level of racism as others (and, indeed, some who vehemently reject Martin Jacques’ ideas) — the same way that there are those in the US’s southern states who are very racist, and others who are not.  However, as people, we all still struggle with deeply embedded notions of race and ethnocentrism that can affect us subconsciously: sometimes by not even realizing that there is a problem.

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There are many people in China.

In this particular instance, I think that breaking from hegemonic tools is easier than many other incidents of ingrained racism because of the fact that Chinese racism takes a different form than Western racism, and because the issue is largely localized to a province that is looking for independence. It is my belief that there is no way to halt Chinese racism in any short-term way, especially not by means of Thailand’s handling the refugees. Instead, what needs to happen is that other nations recognize what China is doing to the Uyghur people, and there be enough international pressure against China that those nations who harbor Uyghur refugees do not face retribution in the form of economic sanctions from China. Longterm, it needs to be understood that China is a homogenous culture and race. The Han Chinese were a race created in the middle of the 20th century in order to rebuild, and covers a wide array of ethnic backgrounds from groups that were conquered by the Chinese dynasty over their long history (Shambaugh 297). This homogenous race and culture is supported by the government – only by more exposure to outside ways of thinking of China’s youth (which is made possible by hundreds of thousands of Chinese university students finding education outside China) will this majority perception likely be interrupted.

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Uyghur men being sent back to China.

When looking at Thailand’s move to send back refugees to China, it can be seen as a forgettable incident in the midst of terrorist activity and violence. Indeed, it can seem fairly innocuous when compared with riots, shootings, bombings, and civic unrest – but it is not something that happened in isolation. It is a moment where an outside nation submitted to China’s ideas about the Uyghur people, and defended its actions against international criticism. It is a moment when the international community acknowledged that China is violating the human rights of the Uyghurs. However, it is also a moment when the conversation about Xinjiang and Uyghurs shifted from a matter of race and religion to a matter of religion and terrorism. It is a moment that China took advantage of, when international attention was bearing down on them, to change the conversation to one where they are the victim and not the persecutor.

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There have been claims made that Thailand sent women and children on to Turkey, but sent all the men back to China, resulting in families of refugees being separated.

With the Paris attacks fresh in memory, and an international hatred and intolerance of Muslims on the rise, the incident with Thailand stands to become a precedent, where any time refugees are caught, other nations will decide to err on the side of caution and send them back rather than look to be sympathetic to terrorists. Even with Turkey strongly on the side of the Uyghurs, this gives nations who border China – and thus have a strong reason to remain friendly with China – an excuse to overlook human rights violations, as well as the strong racial reasons for China’s ongoing desire to absorb the Uyghurs into the Han Chinese. Race is a complex issue in China, further complicated by religion and terrorism. However, the latter is no excuse to continue to let ancient attitudes about outside races and the cultures that define them persist into the future.

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Xinjiang landscape.
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Racing and Heritable Consequences

“Why DNA Isn’t Your Destiny” is about short-term heritable changes in biology that can happen due to the way a person lives that are then passed down at least one generation. So, your bad choices that lead to bad traits in yourself can result in those same bad traits being expressed in your children without them needing to make the same bad decisions. What happens is that the genes remain the same, but the markers that decide whether a gene is expressed or not change due to those decisions. This is called epigenetics, and scientists and researchers are beginning to create medical advances based upon it. That is, creating medication that can help encourage good biological traits as opposed to bad ones.

“Low-income blacks stranded in food deserts” is about housing. In particular, neighborhoods and housing districts. In lower income areas, there is little to no access to low-priced healthy food, in particular fresh meat, vegetables, and fruits. Some of this is because there’s no room; the current trend for food markets is that they have become large super-stores that require a big lot for the actual building and another big lot for parking. However, low-income housing is often cram-packed together, leaving no room for these kinds of stores. What does fit into these areas, however, are fast food restaurants and small mom and pop stores. This also includes such things as corner bodegas, which typically have a tiny selection of fresh food and mostly contain pre-packaged, highly processed foods as well as a selection of hot junk food such as pizza – I have a friend who lived in one of the lower income areas in New Jersey, and if he wanted healthy food he had to travel a long way into the city. He was on food stamps despite having a full time job with benefits, and it was a weekly struggle for him to find healthy, cheap food. The bottom line is, you have to travel to find healthy food, and even if you do have the time (and money) to travel, you might not have the money to buy good, nourishing food.

In an earlier module, I made a statement that race wasn’t real. At the time, I had thought that I was saying that race is a cultural construct, but thinking about the context in which I had said it as well as my word choice, I have realized that in many ways there’s still a lot of subconscious assumptions that I have made about race. One of those had been that race only mattered in terms of direct racism – that is, refusing service to someone or harming someone because of their skin color. However, this line of thought is, in my opinion, what leads to our current week’s learning about race and health: for the average person, we assume that the blame must be placed on the individual. It is incredibly hard to imagine the entire sticky web of action and consequence that has resulted in all of the issues that we have discussed. But most of all, it’s hard to imagine that one such consequence is health.

Before I took this class, if someone had asked me if a person’s race could affect their health, I would have immediately thought it was a question on biology. It never would have occurred to me that the conditions surrounding people who are raced can have direct health consequences.

So now, when I look at the question “are we creating two classes: one with good health that is nonraced and one with poor health that is raced?” I immediately say: yes. The reasons for this can be seen for looking back over the past weeks of modules; it is a combination of all of the issues for race that results in these diseases. This was echoed in the book reading that dismantled the idea that it is based upon biology. Instead, because of the systematic pressure placed upon black people (and to a lesser extent other non-whites such as Hispanics), the economic disadvantages, the lack of opportunities, and the inherent difficulty of living a healthful life, we have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have created circumstances that encourage a whole group of people to do badly, and then see them do badly and then the society sees it happening and makes uneducated assumptions about why.

Therefore, no, these classes are not fixed. However, due to the article on epigenetics (and on the cycle), I would say that they are heritable. Not in the sense of genes, but in the sense that you inherit some of the same issues that plagued your parents; without outside help, most people aren’t able to escape. It’s a huge issue that has been created by society, and thus for the entire group (because it is possible for individuals – by luck, ability, sheer force of will, or some unusual circumstance – to break their own cycle and maybe for some people around them) society is needed to end the issue.

As for what we can do, well, the same line I’ve been giving for the last several modules. Education. Starting young. Providing resources (money, goods, and skilled people to manage it) to create better infrastructure and opportunities. We have to overhaul the system, and in order to do that we need to focus on our children.

The Wealth Gap

The wealth gap is the difference between acquired wealth and assets between the white population and (primarily, but not inclusively) the black and Hispanic population. On the outside, it is primarily based upon numbers – such as the value of white homes being ten times that of black or Hispanic homes – but there is more to the story than just the visible numbers. The wealth gap is also about the systematic structuring put into place by legal and financial institutions that have helped to at worst widen the gap and at best keep it the same.

Historically, financial institutions (primarily lending) have helped to create this gap by purposefully giving better opportunities to white clients, and worse opportunities to black clients. Additionally, as per the book, between 1934 and 1962 the federal government had allotted money for housing loans, but the vast majority of these loans were given to white citizens – only two percent of these loans went to nonwhite citizens. Too, in the early 20th century, banks decided that housing areas that were primarily white had higher value than those areas that were primarily nonwhite (particularly black). This artificially increased the gap. This practice was outlawed in 1968, but that did not end the discrimination. Even today, white clients are guided towards prime mortgages, while nonwhites (particularly blacks) are guided towards subprime mortgages. Even in 2003, blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be turned down for mortgages – while Asians, as the model minority, were slightly more likely to be approved over whites.

Currently, there are numerous factors that help to sustain the wealth gap. Labor is a big one. Blacks and Hispanics make around 20% less than whites, and in addition to that are less able to invest or save that money. Investment, in this instance, is an example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

Education is another factor. People with degrees tend to make more than those without degrees, and nonwhites are not as likely to be able to get degrees. As we saw with the race and education model, poor schools are more likely to have black or other nonwhite students. These poor schools tend to gear children towards low-end opportunities, such as working in factories or in retail. As a result, children are not aided in going to college. Not only that, but because they live in poor areas they are exposed to other poor lifestyles, such as criminal/gang activities. As a result, they are much less likely to advance to college (or even finish high school) than their white middle-class counterparts. Thus, they are not afforded the same job opportunities that higher education provides. People in poor areas who do go onto college have to overcome much harder obstacles than their white-class counterparts.

And, of course, not acquiring valuable skills or learning cycles back into the issue of labor. People without a high school degree or a college degree – and no opportunity to learn other valuable trade-skills – are more likely to make less, or find a job that does not pay much. Then, in order to make ends meet, a person might be forced to work two or three jobs – which then further limits their opportunity to learn valuable skills that might help them get a better paying job.

As a result of all of this, we go into the last factor: housing. Housing is a major way to store money, and accrue value. However, being born of poor parents, getting a high school (or less) education, and being forced into a labor pool that does not provide much money results in either only being able to rent or buying a home in a poor area that is unlikely to accrue value (and may even depreciate). Then, a person’s children will only be able to attend a poor school, which inserts the next generation into the same cycle.

As for future solutions, I’m going to go on to sounding like a broken record: education, and educating children. Sadly, the poor in our country tend to be devalued (in more ways than one) and left behind; there is an aversion in our society and culture to aiding people who are in rough situations. We tend to think of them as being lazy, and their issues as being their own fault. However, our society and culture has a tremendous weak spot for children. By raising the minimum standards allowed in schools (and very stringently enforcing those standards), providing aid programs for schools below standards, and investing more money into those schools, we raise the chance of breaking the cycle. Additionally, providing good after-school programs (either by creating or helping to expand those that already exist) for these children so they are less likely to turn to the criminal element in their need for camaraderie, self-value and structure, would also help to break the cycle. Further, helping state colleges provide more financial aid opportunities for high school graduates from poor families would also be a start.

Additionally, educating children from all walks of life into thinking about people as people would help to break the cycle. These are the people who will one day be working in financial and legal institutions, and who will one day face the choice of looking at someone’s skin color and deciding what opportunities they are allowed to have.

Rejecting Whiteness

“Dreaming of a Self Beyond Whiteness and Isolation” is primarily about the boundaries of race as well as social boundaries. The author demonstrates this by talking about the nation-state, and the formation of national boundaries and national identities. He also discusses the Dred Scott case, wherein the boundaries of citizenship (that the government could decide who did and who did not fall under the rights granted under citizenship) were further withheld from blacks. He then goes into a discussion about how race and racism came about via the need for reliable slaves who could be classified into being slaves by destiny (they were less than human). He suggests that we better understand the underpinnings of individual and social whiteness, in order to end the performance of whiteness.

“6 Reasons We Need to Dismantle the Model Minority Myth of Those ‘Hard-Working’ Asians” is about how the model minority myth, despite seeing to be a positive stereotype about Asian people, is harmful to Asians and is used to “protect institutionalized white supremacy and validate anti-black racism.” She suggests that this myth only serves to divide people of color; that is, it uses Asian groups as a means to prove that black people deserve what they have, because if they wanted to do better they would be able to by pointing to Asian people as the example. Her suggestions involves the individual doing reflection on his or her own privilege, power, and identity; and having conversations about these issues with friends, family, and loved ones. She suggests building up communities and building bridges, as opposed to using stereotypes against each other.

“Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid” is about how segregation of schools has continued up into present day, and in some cases is worsening (some schools were once forcibly integrated, but have since been resegregating). He uses a few different schools as examples. These schools are located in ghettos, serve primarily children of poor people (typically poor black people; white children are notable because there are so few to none of them in these schools), and are in disrepair. The programs at these schools are focused around teaching automatons; they expect the kids in these schools to become factory workers, or otherwise to become menial workers. There is little to nothing in place to help these children escape poverty. In contrast, Kozol mentions how rich white parents, who place their children in schools that can cost $30,000 per year, question how paying more into the education of poor children can make a difference in terms of kids completing high school or getting good grades. His suggestions are, of course, being willing to pay more into these poor schools who are so far below the schools white children attend, and doing what it takes to see that these schools receive fair amounts of funding.

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The concept of whiteness promotes educational disparity among the so-called races by putting a higher value on white children than on black children or other less valued races. We begin to accept that black children are somehow destined to just do poorly; we accept that it is not the issue of poor schools, bad curriculum, or teachers who have not received the proper training, but instead that these children have done bad and will continue to do bad simply because that is who they are. The concept of whiteness includes the subtle belief that black children not only naturally do worse than white children, but that they are not important enough to receive the same benefits as white children. Whiteness promotes a status quo where legislators and citizens step on the backs of poor black children in order to give a better education to white children.

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Based on the “Still Separate” article, I didn’t really see much about inclusion being promoted by the educational system or how disparity between schools is addressed proactively. Instead, what I got was that during the Civil Rights movement these things were addressed – black kids and white kids were integrated into schools, effort was made towards equalizing the quality of education each public school received – but now things are slipping back to how they were. Even if there is no actual segregation laws, and effort is put into not saying things outright that would indicate racism, there is a definite gap. In the article, there was a definite sense that it’s the elephant in the room for white people. Those who have to deal with the schools (via employment or as a student) say it outright – white kids wouldn’t have this problem – while white people look at the issue and declare that they don’t understand why these schools keep doing so badly. At the end of the day, these schools simply do not have the same resources as those with white schools, to the point that they don’t even have the proper number of bathrooms, or mold-free walls, or even roofs that don’t have holes in them. They don’t have the same selection of extra-curricular activities, or even access to AP classes or other classes that might help them get to college.

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Asian countries (and parents) put a higher amount of pressure on their children when it comes to having good grades, which is what has helped to build the stereotype that Asian people naturally do better in school. Not only that, but Asian immigrants into the US are typically allowed in because they have some sort of performance of ability or skills that we need, which further increases the stereotype that they are smarter. By the grace of these stereotypes, if Asians are white, then in terms of ‘smartness’ whites do not measure up. However, because the western world has been built around the concept of whiteness being best, it is distasteful to the hegemony to give up that power to anyone else.

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So, Asians have to be included in the white category in order for that category to continue to be at the top. A hegemony does not give way to another by anything other than a forced shift; it will seek to continue to stay where it is. So it is with whiteness. Whiteness unconsciously seeks to remain within the host of benefits it has accrued for itself. Everyone wants to not need to struggle to do well – so it makes sense that Asians would gravitate towards being included within whiteness as opposed to being without (it would take conscious, prolonged effort to supplant whiteness as the dominant race). This is why the articles about the model minority myth call for proactive thought and action towards dismantling this unconscious (or conscious) way of thinking.

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The approach of focusing on dismantling whiteness is different from previous attempts due to the fact that it is not looking at the overall race concept. Nor is it trying to completely dismantle looking at people as being different – instead, it is trying to kill the snake by chopping off its head.

When considering race, I don’t think this would necessarily be any more successful than any of the other efforts. Instead, I believe that in order to change the destiny of separation by race that we have placed upon ourselves, we need to first address the issue from the bottom up: teaching children that everyone matters equally. Not just by what we say, but by what we do, and what tools we use. “Skin tone” should not just refer to white skin. Picture books should have protagonists with a variety of skin tones. Historic figures, role models, and even guests brought in during asseblies should be from a variety of backgrounds and skin colors. World history should be taught from a broader perspective than just Greeks being the end-all be-all to civilization and European conquerors being seen as the epitome of civilization. Finally, there should be more historical and modern heroes focused on a wider range of backgrounds and cultures.

I came into this class thinking that I understood my own racial biases. I didn’t realize the depth of my own ethnocentricity. I didn’t arrive at that point by my own conscious desires, but by a process of learning that started when I was a very young child and continued up through adulthood. Dismantling whiteness is just another way to pick at the symptoms instead of addressing the cause: we only have adults who succumb to the hegemony because we’ve taught them to be that way. We need to stop unconsciously teaching children that whiteness means better.

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Everyday Antiracism

Education is where we, as members of the human race, can begin to eradicate future notions of racism and untrue conceptions of race. In the essay “Everyday Antiracism in Education,” Dr. Mica Pollock explains how our current ways of teaching blanket statements about race, such as that children should “be colorblind” or “celebrate diversity” can be actively harmful in certain situations, and that they are too abstract for everyday circumstances that children will encounter as they grow older. Instead, she focuses on four lesson ideas that teachers can use to help children better understand what race is and how to treat people with dignity and value rather than make shallow judgments based upon culturally created ideas about what being a member of a certain race means.

The first lesson “involves rejecting false notions of human difference.” An idea of an activity that could teach this to students would be to have an open question and answer session where you ask a question such as “How are black/white/Asian/Native American people different from other people?” and have students write their answer onto an anonymous piece of paper. The teacher would then randomly draw the answers, read them out loud, and discuss the answer with their students. The idea would be to get the students to critically think about why they answered the way they did, and open the floor up for concepts of race and how there are no significant genetic differences between these groups. In other words, to help students understand that since there is no significant biological difference, the only difference is in how we think about and treat other people.

The second lesson “involves acknowledging and engaging lived experiences along racial lines.” This lesson could involve showing a slide of when race groups were added or taken away from the US Census, and talking about why those changes happened. Students could be shown a variety of cultural props, and asked what each prop makes them think or feel. Then, after they discussed their reactions, they would be asked how they would feel if someone had that reaction about one of their cultural props (a certain haircut, style of dress, or accessory such as a backpack). They could then talk about what it would be like to live as a race that is thought poorly of, or mocked or treated like less than human, such as black people before the Civil Rights Movement, or Arab-Americans or Muslim-Americans are today.

The third lesson “involves capitalizing upon, building upon and celebrating those diversities that have developed over centuries and decades.” They could be asked to bring in a picture of their favorite food, and asked how it makes them feel to have people tell them that they like the food versus hating the food. Then the class could discuss what it means to enjoy things as a group, and how exploring and sharing in diversity can lead to rich experiences. The teacher could then play clips that highlights the different ways food is prepared in different cultures, and then ask the students to come up with other differences in cultures that they find interesting or enjoyable.

The fourth lesson “involves equipping self and others to challenge racial inequality.” Students could be reminded of the first lesson where they realized that all humans are fundamentally the same in biological makeup. The final lesson could involve a final group project where each group is assigned a race. They would then come up with a list of five or so racial stereotypes, and have examples of people who break this stereotype (either famous people or people they know), as well as at least one person who is seen by the global community as being an exceptional individual (such as a Nobel winner).

Census

The “Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010” document tracks population growth and movement across the United States. It pays particular attention to the top ten highest growing and/or populated states, and the top ten lowest growing and/or populated states. It can be correlated with economic issues, such as has happened with Detroit, and also with areas known for their business, such as Los Angeles. It tracks by state and by county, as well as fastest growing. It has maps that show changes by numeric values as well as percentage values.

The “Congressional Apportionment” document explains how the number of Representatives of each state are portioned out by state population. It briefly goes over the history of appointment, and gives a table to show how the number of Representatives has changed per state over time. It also gives the mathematical formula used to calculate how the number of Representatives changes, and then gives the change in number for states between the 2000 and 2010 census. The total number of Representatives has stayed at 435 since 1911, excluding the year 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii became states – though it reverted back to 435 during the next census in 1960 when the population data could be properly used to portion out Representatives to the new states. Over time, states may lose or gain Representatives, though some states stay the same.

There is not a relationship between the size of the state and the number of people in it: Alaska is the largest state and has a relatively small population, whereas Rhode Island is one of the smallest states and has a very large population. However, the size of the population of any given state directly affects their congressional representation in the House of Representatives. The more people you have, the more Representatives you have.

It is crucial to have representation because votes in the House are done based on majority (50% plus one vote). Not only that, but more representation means more individuals to be on committees, and more senior Representatives. More representation likely means more legislation introduced to the floor that has to do with your state and your state’s needs, as well as more pull in adding pork to bills that correspond to the needs of your state’s communities. Representatives are the voice of your state in politics.

More reps lead to greater power and benefit to the home state because of the majority method of voting. The House of Representatives is based upon representation, and so the greater the population the higher the number of reps needed to adequately represent that population (unlike the Senate, which is the same for all states). In places with diverse populations, too, the more representatives you have the more likely you will have a representative that works for the goals or needs of your own community.

I chose the “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander Population: 2000 and 2010” document for this section of the homework. It details the incredible diversity within Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups, and takes pains to note how this group was one that picked numerous combinations with the main category – more than half. The use of multiple race options for this group increased 44% in the ten years between census data, and the overall group grew three times faster than the overall US population. It discussed which combinations grew fastest, where population of the group grew the most, as well as general distribution. I could not find a corresponding map in the list of links, but this document itself contained numerous maps that displayed the data in different ways, such as Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders by county, percentage vs overall population by county, and change by percent. It also included numerous tables and graphs.

I chose the “Households and Families: 2010” document. It detailed the makeup of a household, and the relationships between the householder and the other individuals living within the residence. Most of the relationships were familial in nature. However, nonrelated relationships have incrased. It made a special point of noting that same-sex unmarried partnerships “appeared inflated due to mismarking errors in the gender item on the census forms” (3), though it didn’t state how they determined mismarking to be happening. It noted where most households were (California, Florida, New York, and Texas), as well as detailing household composition. Many households were one-person households, which can be seen on one of the maps listed. Judging by the map, the highest number of one-person households seem to occur in the northeast and midwest, with the fewest seeming to occur in the west and south.

The collection of these data are such a big issue because in order for your representatives to be able to represent you, they need to know you exist and in what conditions. For the household section, for example, if you’re living with ten other people in a one bedroom because you can’t afford better housing, but neither you nor the people living with you have been counted (and others in your neighborhood due to socio-economic conditions), then this is an area in your county that is unknown to be having problems. When aid is being discussed in Congress or allocated, you will not be helped. You might as well not even exist. Similarly with a minority group, the more that it can be demonstrated by population and socio-economic conditions that the group is suffering, the higher chances that solutions will be attempted for that group.

The absolutely unfortunate thing about the census data is that it prolongs the cultural/social identity of race (particularly in enforcing negative stereotypes), yet, at the same time, there are legitimate issues due to race that need to be addressed. To that end, I favor leaving things as is (but condensing if possible) with an option for write-ins. This allows underrepresented groups to be recognized, especially if there are developing or ongoing issues at stake that have not been previously seen. This also helps to keep the majority of data as simple as possible (I think that as-is has reduced race as much as possible without doing too much overlap).

Write-ins complicate things (they can muddy up data, especially if people write in things that are similar or the same but have different names), and it’s possible that by keeping things as is and adding write-ins, that it will result in too much diversity (such as people writing in “Irish” instead of selecting “White”) without benefiting the people who need it most (ie, the hardest hit groups still get underrepresented).

But I do believe my arguments are stronger simply due to the fact that we must try to provide a way for groups who need help to identify themselves – such as Arabs trying to get their own category instead of being included with whites. By providing a write-in, if enough of them select it then they will have a chance to better argue their points about why they need their own category.

White or Disenfranchised

As we have explored this year in this class, racial discrimination is a real problem. Arab individuals, though they have been classified as ‘white’ in the US Census, are a group who have experienced racial discrimination. Similar to the racism Japanese (and other Asian-Americans) experienced after Pearl Harbor, Arabs are in the awkward position of being dis-favorably compared to the Middle-Eastern attackers who committed 9/11. So, it makes sense to me that Arabs would not want to be included in the dominant white category: in their lived experience, they are treated as a harmful minority who should not live in the US. As a result, they would want protection from the harm others seek to do to them — which they would not be able to get when classed as the dominant white majority.  Too, now that discrimination against them is rising, a separate category for them on the US Census could be used to track some of that (especially in terms of income gaps).

Being properly counted as a disenfranchised group means a better estimation of aid needed for those groups. If, say, 100 people are counted as needing aid within a city, then that city would calculate out money needed for programs to assist around 100 people. If, however, the actual number was 500 people who needed aid, then there would not be enough to go around.  Too, any studies done using census data (especially those used in projections or for long-term projects or changes in legislation) would then have a much higher chance of falling short.

However, aid is not the only issue present. Census numbers get used in studies and politics, meaning that numbers that are underrepresented can be used against those groups (such as LGBT households) or to hide the fact that they are being discriminated against. The book mentioned that many times in the history of the census, numbers of certain groups have been used against them politically or for some discriminatory purpose — it’s the same for LGBT households. Too, by being shown on the census, other matters can be tracked such as the data showing “…that African American and Latino/a same-sex couples are raising twice as many children as white same-sex couples, with black couples earning on average $10,000 less than their heterosexual peer households.”

For undocumented workers, it’s necessary to know how many people are working in the US but aren’t part of the system in order to better understand the problem and how to fix it. The data itself isn’t used as a means to deport people, but it could be used to devise programs to help these individuals become a productive part of the country (paying taxes, or paying into health care) so that they get paid what they should and so that the money circles back into the nation.  Too, when considering Federal aid programs, it’s necessary for these individuals to be counted for the same reasons listed above — aid only gets determined based upon counted numbers.

Linguistic Markers of Race

“Among Linguists, Black English Gets Respect” discusses how variations in language and how people use them as a means to discriminate, even though language itself cannot be inherently good or bad. This is then related to the events in Oakland where it was decided that teachers would learn Ebonics in order to better help the students. Ebonics used to be considered a type of slang, or a bad form of English, but after it has been studied it has been found that it is a structured language variation with its own set of rules. Even so, because people hear it and think it sounds a certain way, they make unnecessary judgements. Black English is then compared to other English dialects that are (or have been) also judged harshly, solely because of the way the listener thinks they sound. At the very end, it brings up an argument from linguists that if it had been Africans who had colonized America with white slaves, it would be white English that would be looked down upon.

“Dispute Over Ebonics Reflects a Volatile Mix Thar Roils Urban Education” discusses more of the fallout that occurred as a result of the Oakland School Board’s decision to train its teachers in ebonics. This decision became widely discussed nation-wide. It focuses on Oakland rather than language, going over Oakland’s controversial history in regards to trying to match ethnicity with education. They have a history of trying to make sure their teaching material matches and is relevant to their multi-cultural students – the article gives some statistics about the ethnic/racial makeup of the student population for the district. The recent decision was just another part of that, where Oakland saw a problem with the performance of their black students and was trying to decide how best they could address that problem. The ebonics decision was part of that, though unlike other recommendations the ebonics decision was pushed through without a lot of opportunity for debate.

“Views of linguists and anthropologists on the Ebonics issue (Part 1)” takes expert testimony from linguists and linguistic anthropologists on the Oakland controversy, where the Oakland school board made their December 18, 1996 decision regarding ebonics. Within the paper itself, ebonics are referred to (for the most part) as African American Vernacular English (AAVE). These experts discuss what AAVE is, in that it is its own dialect with its own phonological and syntatctic rules that are similar to other such dialects (with a section on some of the rules, as well as referring to prior research on AAVE). Others discuss the social issues surrounding AAVE, in that there is a sense that any nonstandard English is considered to be automatically bad. There is also discussion about how AAVE is only part of the issue of why black children do poorly in school. It is pointed out that education systems should take care that black students are not considered to be stupid, as if they can’t understand the slight variations between AAVE and standard English. The final expert recounted an experiment he did where having children have their own dialect be part of the curriculum helped them to feel more excited about the subject matter, and more connected with the schoolwork as a result.

The validation of ebonics by linguists is like the validation of any subject by experts: until it is displayed on media and brought into the heart of public consciousness, it is not guaranteed to change anything. In the case of ebonics itself, I think a lot of the time peoples’ reactions towards how someone sounds is a largely personal preference. In the day to day interactions between different socio-economic groups of people, it won’t make a large difference in the sense of people not liking the way ebonics sounds, or thinking negatively of the person who speaks ebonics. It is an expression of racism, and just because an expert validates ebonics as a legitimate dialect will not change the way that people feel about it.

(though this video is not about ebonics itself, I included it because I feel that it contains many of the same issues of feeling alienated, dismissed, scorned, or found funny because of the way you look and sound)

As with many of the other blog posts and activities we’ve had, it is another measure of how people deal with racist thoughts and leanings. Those with entrenched feelings on the matter won’t change without some form of extensive self-thought or a willingness to change. For (what I believe to be) the majority of people who are racist without meaning to, while expert testimonial will help, it still needs to reach a point of social acceptance. Being seen in the media, popular culture, people respected in the community are the filters necessary for ebonics to become accepted enough to the point that it affects the lived experience of race.

However, I also believe that people will remain uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. If all you ever hear is your own accent and dialect, you are unlikely to associate another’s heavy dialect with positivity unless it accompanies a positive experience.

The acceptance of ebonics in the education system is a step towards validating disenfranchised students, in my opinion. It’s a way to attempt to bridge a socio-economic gap that poor students cannot help and never asked for. While some of the experts felt it was looking down on students (or making them out to be stupid), to me it’s a way to try to connect with children who might feel that their home culture or values are not in turn valued by the school system. When a child’s learned way of speaking, or the things they value are devalued (especially by those who are supposed to be looking out for them, or are considered to be authority figures they’re supposed to respect), it becomes an issue where they might disconnect. Even so, this does not solve the entirety of the problem; in the articles it was stated numerous times that the schools they are required to attend are awful. Numerous factors in the schools are in play here; language itself matters as it forms part of how we think of ourselves.

If using a dialect that has been linguistically validated is a racial marker, than acceptance of that dialect should, over time, impact discrimination. Just as we judge people on how they look or how they act (in terms of mannerisms), we judge people on how they speak or sound. If people were to accept ebonics as a natural extension of English rather than just the way black people talk, I think it would decrease racially based discrimination. However, this does not mean that people wouldn’t still judge the sound or use of ebonics. People judge the way people from Boston speak, or the way southern people speak; I’ve had a friend from Australia make fun of my northwestern accent: but those aren’t racially motivated judgments, and we view them as legitimate accents and ways of speaking.

So yes, I do believe that by standardizing, speaking about, and validating ebonics, over time it will filter into public consciousness as something completely normal and part of American dialect and accents – but it will not happen any time soon, and it will not happen without incorporation into things people learn at a young age (the same way most children or young adults learn about other accents or dialects as just being part of the country).

Race in News and Politics

“Obama and the Media – PEW Report” is largely focused on the media’s interaction with President Obama and news surrounding African American individuals or the community. It covers the first year of Obama’s presidency, and largely focuses on the Gates incident (as this was the top-covered story featuring a black man) for its tie-in of Obama and news coverage. The findings of this report is that race did matter to the media, and the fact that Obama happens to be black was explicitly used in tie-ins to Black America.

It also looked at a political angle – media coverage of how the issue of race and racism affected the Obama Administration. In some cases, opponents to Obama who did not themselves say anything that could be construed as having to do with race were nonetheless accused of having racist intentions, or that their objections were spurred purely by racism. This then reflected back onto the administration.

Most other stories that covered African Americans did not really cover issues faced by Black America. They instead focused on black individuals as interest pieces without delving into problems caused by race (such as health care coverage). Media was mostly focused on difficulties faced by black individuals, though there were a few upbeat stories. The end figure was that 9% of media coverage of the Obama administration’s first year was tied in to race.

I did previously think that Obama being elected was a step forward for race in the US. I thought that even though there was a lot of controversy surrounding him, the fact that someone who was not visibly white was elected was a step away from the hegemonic racial norm of US presidents. On the other hand, I also believed that in part what made him such a promising candidate for people (which lead to people wanting to elect him) was just that: he wasn’t part of the norm, and he promised things outside of the norm. But he was a sole outlier in an otherwise white field, and as we look towards the 2016 election it looks like more white people, so I’m not sure if we did step forward or if we just proved that we’re open to non-white people being in charge.

I haven’t been more aware of race issues since Obama became president – at least not because of his presidency. What I have been aware of, I’ve been aware of because of the media. Would Ferguson and similar cases still have happened with a white president? Going by history, yeah, it likely would have. It would have made the news, it would have become a social topic, and I would have become aware of it in that context. But being more aware of deeper racial issues as I have been with this class is not something that has occurred with Obama’s election.

But, I do need to admit that I am not a very big news consumer. What I hear, I tend to hear at random and through people I know. I do not recall hearing about Gates’ arrest. Then again, I don’t really remember much of the news from 2009 to 2010; what I can recall is mostly focused around the recession.

As for the teachable moment provided by the blogger Andrew Breitbart and the Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, I think that it proves my thoughts about Obama and race correct. While the start of his presidency looked like it was a step forward, all it seems to have become is a sort of neutral stance. America can get a non-white person elected, and that’s great, but it’s only skin-deep. Race is still an uncomfortable topic, and one that is sensitive to politicians. Real change in race issues isn’t going to be top down, in my opinion: it’ll come from the bottom up.

Case Study

The Romani people have not been treated well by those around them since, essentially, they first left India. Even as time passed and their cultural practices and identity changed, how people outside their culture viewed them didn’t much change. Roma were from outside Europe. They didn’t settle the same way most European cultures did. They existed outside of the social norm, and that made them unknown entities – dangerous and problematic. Stereotypes were applied to them, such as being dirty thieves, and in many places any individual who is thought to be Romani is treated as being guilty for a wide array of crimes or behaviors, regardless of whether or not they actually are guilty of such actions.

A protester in London.
A protester in London.

France is one of the places where this sort of racism occurs. It happens on more than just a cultural level; there are reports of there being systemic anti-Roma behaviors that extend up through social classes and into areas of the government itself; elected officials have been accused of not doing enough to improve the human rights of the Roma people. However, this is something that the wider world often doesn’t pay attention to, especially in the case of the US, and perhaps the average person isn’t aware of – until an incident between a homeless man, his puppy, and an animal rights group was filmed and put onto the internet.

In the video (which takes place in Paris, France), people from an animal rights group – Cause Animale Nord – struggle with a homeless man in order to remove his puppy from his possession. He and the puppy both cry out, and he is eventually overwhelmed and the puppy picked up and carried away. Though he gives chase, he is unable to get his puppy back. Next, the group posted an ad on Facebook to adopt the dog out (after renaming it Vegan). Both this and the video itself sparked outrage online from viewers who saw it. The reason given for the taking of the puppy was that the homeless man was a Roma who had drugged and mistreated the puppy in order to gain more money from begging. The group stated that this was a common Roma scheme, and that if the police would not take action, they would.

This incident captured my attention because there is a clear difference between online onlookers who understand and, perhaps, feel the racism associated with the Roma, and those who did not see the man as being anything but a loving dog owner who had nothing else but his puppy. In this particular case, the man was not confirmed as even being Roma by any of the news articles I checked – yet he had been forced into a position where he was treated as one: a second-class citizen, deemed guilty because he hit markers associated with the Romani. He was homeless, he had a dog, he was seen as taking advantage of the weak, being sneaky: he was, in other words, judged as being a despicable human being not worth even basic judicial rights.

“No state racism. Liberty, equality, fraternity for everyone.”

This is linked to him being considered an outsider, of the lowest social class (even beneath the usually stigmatized homeless, though he is also that); stigmatized not just by the common social beliefs of the area, but also by government practices. The Romani are a group that have been pushed to the fringes so hard that they have not been able to integrate with the common culture. Instead, they have to fight for survival, which sometimes leads to unsavory behaviors. This then reinforces the beliefs about them (whether or not any unwanted acts are perpetrated by many or the few, anyone deemed to be Romani and bad is applied to all Romani) and further deepens the cycle.

This incident thus challenges the idea of hegemonic values because of the massive outside perspective brought on by the internet. For many people who watch the video, there is a breakdown of understanding. Someone who is racist against Roma might understand what happened and why (and even agree with it), but for someone who is not even aware of the racial implications of how the Romani are viewed and the negative behaviors associated with them, it is blindingly obvious that this was a completely uncalled for act. In which case the centuries of racism and the reason for that racism are peeled away, and shown to be an ugly justification for people to act against the Roma for their own concept of the greater good.

Here, the sign protests deportation of Romani people from France.
Here, the sign protests deportation of Romani people from France.

In the case of the video, it sparked social justice in the form of an online petition for the man to get his dog back. There are reports that because of the social pressure and the hyper-focused attention on both Cause Animale Nord and France itself, the dog was given back to the homeless man. This itself does not solve the racism against the Roma, but in my opinion it did shine the light on how ugly racism against them has gotten. Because in this case, and other cases where they are denied governmental aid, the chance for schooling, are victims of hate speech and acts, it is patently obvious that this happened for no other reason than the individual is assumed to be Roma and there is a knee-jerk belief that all Roma do bad things. There is no excuse for the treatment given to the Roma.

They each need to be seen as individuals with individual problems, from each child who needs to be educated to adults who are doing everything in their power to survive. It cannot be assumed that an entire group of people are inherently evil or predisposed to committing crimes or unsavory acts. As with the homeless man, in order to approach the topic without relying as traditional viewpoints, it is necessary that each person is seen as a person first, without being blinded by cultural or social stigmas. It is possible; one only has to look at the numerous posts on the social image sharing website Imgur and the social media site reddit to see how numerous individuals (including French people) react to the video with sympathy (understanding the pain of being separated from a beloved pet), and outrage (understanding that this was done without care or proper legal steps).

puppystolen_3452839b

It can only be hoped that use of social media and the pressure of the international community will encourage the French government to treat the Roma as citizens rather than outsider criminals not worth the most basic efforts towards human rights.