Mapping post-election racism

Some folks argue that we are living in post-racial times.  That the days of racism are over.   After the Civil Rights era, it all just evaporated.  And the election of Barack Obama was somehow more proof of the fact that racism is no longer an issue in the U-S-A.  This “racism is no longer a problem” argument is a pretty common narrative these days.  Hmm.  From Gawker.com today:

Some Americans are racist. We know this, though there’s nothing quite like a black guy winning a national election to bring them out of the woodwork. The sheer volume of racist Tweets is disheartening, but can we learn anything from them?

Because this stuff is now nationally broadcast rather than confined to poorly Xeroxed newsletters, there’s data waiting to be mined. Floating Sheep, a group of technologically minded geographers, has attempted to determine just where the racism is coming from.

Read the rest here.  For more check out these links:

The National Monitor

Floating Sheep

Floating Sheep FAQ response

CNET news

Ryan Anderson is an environmental and economic anthropologist. His current research focuses on the social dynamics of coastal development and conservation in Baja California Sur, Mexico. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the department of anthropology at the University of Kentucky. You can reach him at ryan AT savageminds dot org or @anthropologia on twitter.

22 thoughts on “Mapping post-election racism

  1. Interesting. But as it stands this is a study of racism among twitterers, not among the inhabitants of those states. It was striking that the authors didn’t regress versus twitter adoption rates in each state. They should have incorporated some assumptions about specific user groups into their analyis. Although we’re well past the early adoption moment for Twitter, it seems safe to say that twitter use is likely very low among those groups from whom we might expect expressions of racism in relation to the election.

    #IHateIllinoisNazis

  2. Thanks for posting this, Ryan. I read about this last week and emailed links regarding it to multiple folks, many of whom are anthropologists. So good to have this posted in a more public anthropological forum.

    Two points on this topic, with the second following from the first:

    (1) John Yhemon is right to raise the question of the racist Twitter users highlighted perhaps not representing the people we ‘expect’ to be racist. In line with this question/sentiment, it is worth noting the oft-given quip that greater education (and especially a college education) diminishes racism, yet look at the post-election racial rioting which took place on the University of Mississippi last week, by white students incensed that a ‘black’ man would again be in the White House. (And as for my qualification of Preside Obama’s blackness, it is to remind people that we really can’t be very ‘post-racial’ in a country in which we are still using the hypodescent of the One-Drop Rule to ascribe Barack Obama’s racial category, which however contested it may be always and again is re-coded as Black.)

    (2) The issue of education not diminishing racism, the racist Twitter posters not belonging to the ‘usual suspect’ demographic categories of Bad ‘Real’ Racists (including the older white voters who were oft discussed as a preponderance of Romney’s supporters), and the continued legacy of antebellum racial taxonomies (such that we are clearly not ‘post-racial’) should raise the question of what race and racism are in the first place. Especially in light of the findings of “Anthropology as White Public Space?”, I think it would be worth revisiting this topic on Savage Minds. As this post again reminds us, analyzing where we see ongoing racial disparities (as well as racist behavior) matters, and in worthy of social science interrogation.

  3. My initial reaction on reading this post was “sad but true.” the distribution of the data points and colors on the map confirmed my expectation that the bulk of the nastiness is concentrated in red states, especially those in the deep South. However, one result of the work that I am doing with social network analysis is sharpened awareness of how graphic displays of information can mislead, so I stopped, went back,looked again at the numbers and the methodology used to analyze them. The relevant paragraphs in the source are as follows.

    >>Using DOLLY we collected all the geocoded tweets from the last week (beginning November 1) with racist terms that also reference the election in order to understand how these everyday acts of explicit racism are spatially distributed. Given the nature of these search terms, we’ve buried the details at the bottom of this post in a footnote [1].

    >>Given our interest in the geography of information we wanted to see how this type of hate speech overlaid on physical space. To do this we aggregated the 395 hate tweets to the state level and then normalized them by comparing them to the total number of geocoded tweets coming out of that state in the same time period [2]. We used a location quotient inspired measure (LQ) that indicates each state’s share of election hate speech tweet relative to its total number of tweets.[3] A score of 1.0 indicates that a state has relatively the same number of hate speech tweets as its total number of tweets. Scores above 1.0 indicate that hate speech is more prevalent than all tweets, suggesting that the state’s “twitterspace” contains more racists post-election tweets than the norm.<<

    I observed that the authors claim to have collected all geocoded tweets from the week of November 1, but they also say that what they analyzed was the distribution of 395 hate tweets. Given that the population of the USA is now a bit over 314 million people, that raises questions about how representative this sample is of US public opinion as a whole and also how representative the twitterverse itself is of that whole.

    When I turn to another data source, I discover that, according to election exit polling, yes, indeed, support for Romney was overwhelmingly white. But nonetheless the majority of those of us who reelected Barack Obama are also white.

    Returning to the original chart I also note the distribution of the grey states from which there were no racist tweets collected. These include a substantial block in the upper Midwest (Nebraska, the Dakotas, etc.) which are red states that Romney won handily. The more I consider these facts the more I come to the following conclusion: Yes, racism is still a serious problem in the USA, but the equations white=racist, even red state Romney voter=racist are clearly wrong. We left-leaning liberals also have to be careful about our own prejudices and how they affect the way we read data.

  4. @John: ” The more I consider these facts the more I come to the following conclusion: Yes, racism is still a serious problem in the USA, but the equations white=racist, even red state Romney voter=racist are clearly wrong. We left-leaning liberals also have to be careful about our own prejudices and how they affect the way we read data.”

    Agreed about the need to which those on the left need to check their prejudices so as to think about how we read data; but your white=racist reference also speaks to the larger problem of why anthropology continues to be ‘white public space’ and speaks to why it is ridiculous to claim that the US is ‘post-racial’. The veracity of the social calculus white= racist depends on how one understands and defines racism. If it is as overt and explicit enunciation a of hatred, as with the post-election Twitter posts discussed above, then yes, many people will be exempted. But if the definition is more nuanced and focuses on structural racism, institutional racism, unconscious/dysconscious racism, aversive racism, colorism, and racial bias, then the discussion of who/what is and is not racist changes dramatically. If the issues is how daily forms of white supremacy are normalized and reproduced, which anthropologists should certainly be focusing on (especially in relation to recent AAA publications on racism in anthropology and the academy), then defining racism as the kind of behavior exhibited in 300-plus Twitter posts makes for easy ignorance (both in the sense of ignoring a wide range of statistics on persistent racial inequality, and in the sense of a lack of knowing/knowledge).

  5. @DWP Agreed. But one thought. When a term is overused and extended to the point that it seems to cover everything from lynching to giving mild offense, it loses impact. The rhetorical force it once had dies. When dodgy data are used to support exaggerated claims, that is just plain wrong.

  6. John, the issue is not mild offense: http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/11/black_moms_neighbors_refused_to_help_as_sandy_swept_two_sons_away.html. Far from it. And to frame my comment as such is precisely why I keep posting as Discuss White Privilege and keep returning to the Brodkin et al. article on anthropology as white public space. You need to de-center yourself from the assessment of what is and is not racist since the very reason that I pointed to structural forms of racism and implicit bias is to counter the very idea that you are raising in saying that racism is about mild offense, from the perspective of whites who, given the privilege of their whiteness, are speaking about racism that they are not targeted by and can therefore think is mild, not that bad, etc. Easy for you to talk about mild offense when you are not the constant target of the racism you think is ‘mildly offending’; and when one is not constantly targeted and disadvantaged by the very forms of structural racism and implicit bias that I am pointing out, it is also easy to be ignorant of it and not to even see it.

    I am not talking about mild offense, or seeing racism which does not exist. Across every statistical measure of life outcomes and social well-being–from health and life span to wealth, education, and criminal ‘justice’ outcomes–their are significant, persistent, and often growing racial disparities. I am pointing you to why this racial disparities persist–and why some are worsening (including around racial climate issues in anthropology, as discussed in the 2010 report on the state of minority anthropologists)–even though so many people, especially left-leaning white people like you, believe they are not ‘racist’.

    Your comment is precisely why I suggested that their needs to be a series, on this blog, on what racism actually is. It is easy for you to talk about mild offense when you don’t actually have to worry about things like racial profiling, or the aversive racism and implicit bias that makes it possible for a sixty-year-old white man not to open the door for a black mother trying to save her sons from drowning in a hurricane, all while the ‘bad Samaritan’* neighbor (and his friends and fellow neighbors) insist that he is ‘not racist’–especially because he is a nice man–as if niceness, or good intent, prevents one from thinking and acting in racially biased and discriminatory ways, due to deep unconscious bias, or prevents one from benefitting, over and over and over again from the structural and institutional racism produced by these/racial biases.

    Because of your white privilege you are talking about racism as mild offense. Meanwhile, I am talking about structural/institutional/aversive/dysconscious racism which is literally killing people, every day, both quickly (as in the tragic case of the Moore boys) and slowly (as in the case of the daily microaggressions people of color, and especially dark-skinned black people, constantly have to endure, especially in ‘white public space’, which leads to the negative health outcomes discussed on sites like Neuroanthropology (e.g. the low-status macaque study: http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2012/08/21/social-position-drives-gene-regulation-of-the-immune-system/). What *you*, as a beneficiary of white male privilege, consider to be ‘mild offense’ (i.e. microaggressions) is actually racism which slowly kills people: no, not white people, but still people who should matter, and should not matter less. And that you reframed my comment about structural forms of racism and implicit bias as making the definition of racism a meaningless catch-all and about trivial examples of ‘mild offense’ is itself an example of microaggression. Needless to say, I was caused more than a bit of ‘mild offense’, especially because I know that you are a ‘left-leaning liberal’ and did not ‘intend’ to be ‘racist’. And this is itself the crux of the problem: the white power and white privilege which always makes racism about whether or not (white) people consciously intended to be racist, when this resistance to acknowledging structural racism and implicit bias itself reproduces structural racism and implicit bias.

    *http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/07/opinion/can-the-law-make-bad-samaritans-be-decent.html?_r=0

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2012/1106/1224326179793.html

  7. Also, John, if the issue is the manifestations of white power and racial hierarchy, then yes, one term–racism–can cover everything from lynching to incidents which cause ‘mild offense’. I think what you are not understanding is the concept of (racism as) white supremacy, of living in a world which is oriented to whiteness, normalizes whiteness, prioritizes whiteness. Not white supremacy as only something the KKK espouses and is invested in maintaining. We still live in a white-supremacist world, even with the Obamas in the White House. And because we do still live in a white-supremacist world, Obama’s half-whiteness itself made it possible for him to be President, as Harry Reid had to reluctantly admit in his leaked public comments about the role Obama’s light skin played in his electability.

    And yet for many, especially the racist Twitter commenters discussed in this post, even the half-white and Ivy League-educated Barack Obama is ‘too black’. So, not surprising that Glenda Moore was not helped by her neighbors. (Or I should say, not surprising to me as I have repeatedly been on the receiving end of the same antiblack racism cum colorism, and the ‘bad Samaritanism’ it produces and normalizes. Given that the AAA meetings commence in 24 hours: anthropologists could use the Moore family tragedy as a ‘teachable moment’ for addressing racism within and outside academic anthropology, to push for substantive antiracist policies, within anthropology departments and from the Obama administration, and such that white anthropologists, as a group, do not keep minimizing the forms and extent of contemporary racism within and outside the academy, but will this actually happen? Doubtful.) Gets at what Harry Reid said about electability, and how *most* (white) people understand blackness, especially the darker skinned the person ascribed black racial status.

    Why can’t we just be honest about this? The statistics on racial disparities and colorism certainly are. And those certainly are not about 300-plus tweets. The ‘left-leaning liberals’ in the Hollywood entertainment industry, fashion and advertising industries, news media still share the same racist-colorist biases which kept people from opening the door for Glenda Moore and which make this kind of criminal ‘justice’ possible (http://www.theroot.com/views/lighter-skin-shorter-prison-term), even if none of these left-leaning liberals voted for Mitt Romney or posted a racist post-election tweet.

    White supremacy. Definitely not about ‘mild offense’, to say the least.

  8. John wrote:

    “I observed that the authors claim to have collected all geocoded tweets from the week of November 1, but they also say that what they analyzed was the distribution of 395 hate tweets. Given that the population of the USA is now a bit over 314 million people, that raises questions about how representative this sample is…”

    From what I understand, this data is not a sample. From the FAQ link above:

    “The 395 tweets mentioned are the number of geocoded tweets referencing the given keywords from November 1 until November 7 at approximately 4:00 pm EST. This is NOT a sample, but the total population of geocoded tweets that matched our search criteria as outlined in the post.”

    John again:

    “Yes, racism is still a serious problem in the USA, but the equations white=racist, even red state Romney voter=racist are clearly wrong. We left-leaning liberals also have to be careful about our own prejudices and how they affect the way we read data.”

    Good points, John, especially about making assumptions based upon prejudices. The problem with that, of course, is that’s it’s another instance of making sweeping generalizations, which is part of the overall problem here.

    DWP wrote: “The veracity of the social calculus white= racist depends on how one understands and defines racism. If it is as overt and explicit enunciation a of hatred, as with the post-election Twitter posts discussed above, then yes, many people will be exempted. But if the definition is more nuanced and focuses on structural racism, institutional racism, unconscious/dysconscious racism, aversive racism, colorism, and racial bias, then the discussion of who/what is and is not racist changes dramatically.”

    I think the definition part of racism is an important issue. We need to try to be as clear as possible about what, exactly, we are talking about. And I think you make good point about the fact that racism and prejudice can take many forms, many of which can be subtle (yet no less powerful and damaging). But I also think John has a point about not letting the term get stretched so far that it starts to lose meaning.

    And, while racism in the US is often thought of primarily in black/white terms, I think it’s important to keep in mind that racism around the world (and even in the US) takes various forms. Another issue that confuses some of the conversations about racism is that other prejudicial factors are sometimes conflated with race (religion, class, culture, etc). So I do think that trying to keep definitions as clear as possible is important, although easier said than done.

    Thanks for the comments folks.

  9. Thanks for your comments, Ryan. Yes, I agree that the definition of racism should not appear to be a loose and overly elastic catch-all. That said, I think that when one defines racismas a political technology which ascribes status based on putative membership in hierarchically-ranked biological categories which are also assumed to map on to ‘culture’, behavior, and ‘values’, and when one defines whiteness as not just a racial category but a *racist* category always predicated on the exclusion on designated non-whites in general and designated blacks in particularly, and this exclusion is an exclusion rooted not simply in assumed biological/phenotypic/genealogical difference (i.e. of equally-ranked groups) but on the exclusion of racial groups assumed to be *fundamentally different* and inferior (socially, culturally, and/or biologically), then one can understand why race critical scholars would say that there are contexts in which it is fair to say white=racist. That is to say, the category whiteness exist because of racism, whiteness is a social category which comes into existence because of racism. And the ascription of white racial status is always already a racist differentiation.

    I agree that other forms of prejudice are salient and operational. But it is hard to disentangle them from racism, much of the time, and these other forms of prejudice are often co-constructed and imbricated with racial forms of prejudice.

    My comments to John focused on the US since the racist hate tweets were about the US election and the geographic distribution of those tweets in the US. I definitely agree that we should be careful about reifying the black/white racial binary, in the US or abroad, or representing it as the only form of racism. This said, the black/white racial binary still structures racial hierarchies in the US and structures ‘georaciality’. There is still a global orientation toward whiteness, even as people may challenge white hegemony and have local forms of racism which do not map exactly onto US racial categories and US racism. But even when we move outside the US we are dealing with an orientation toward whiteness and a pigments racy from white/light to black/white (especially around status symbols and aesthetic ideals). And abroad as in the US blacks, especially the darker they are, are all too often understood in regressive racist terms as the least ‘developed’, least intelligent, and, alas, least human. So given Anthropology’s complicity in making all this possible relative to its implication in colonialism and ‘biological racism’, and given AAA’s official race statements, we have a disciplinary responsibility to be honest about these ugly racial–and racist–hierarchies and categories and why they exist and persist.

    Again, Ryan, thanks for the feedback.

  10. Pigments racy should read as pigmentocracy. Apologies again for auto-correct typos I missed on the small screen of my phone.

  11. No. Talking about georaciality is like talking about the ‘global economy’, though not every single person uses money.

  12. @T: Most specifically I am referring to John Jackson’s discussion of the term in Real Black: “international tracks of racial mobility and processes of racial segregation”. I hope Professor Jackson will have more to add.

    I can say more later if necessary.

  13. John and Ryan: this relates directly to my previous comments on this post and provides a concrete example of why I responded as I did: http://www.techyville.com/2012/11/news/unemployed-black-woman-pretends-to-be-white-job-offers-suddenly-skyrocket/.

    I saw T’s question on georaciality a few days ago but felt too drained by the previous discussion to respond, thinking how troubling it is that the 2012 AAA conference keynote panel was on race and yet there continues to be so much denial of and indifference to what should be *obvious* persistent forms of racial inequality and global race/color hierarchies. Similarly, and as also relates to the present AAA meetings and ‘do as I say, not as I do’ racism of (academic) anthropology, even when people know that a certain anthropologist (now at AAAs) has engaged in blatant and shocking acts of antiblack racism which encourage people to feel justified in making judgments based on the race/gender/color biases discussed in the Techyville article, most (white) anthropologists can’t be bothered to care or repudiate the racism/racist sexism (and one can’t discuss the situation without it being censored on this blog, so as to show unethical, racist, and patriarchal deference to the celebrity anthropologists implicated in the cover-up of this widely known and publicly documented case of ongoing racist bullying).

    It just all leaves me wondering what the point is of any of these Savage Minds, anthropology discussions is when it doesn’t change racist behavior or override racial biases, at either the micro/macro or individual/collective levels. It is tiring to be constantly trying to get *anthropologists* to be aware of racial disparities and implicit biases which should be obvious *to anthropologists*, especially from the US or working in the US. And I don’t write this rudely or as an ‘aggressive’ ‘Angry Black Woman’ slap-down (though based on past history I know my comments will of course be taken as such). Just being honest, and thinking of the concept of *sanctioned ignorance*.

    Especially as I started posting on this site as Discuss White Privilege in response to Adam Fish’s discussion of Dorien Zandenbergen’s work in/on Silicon Valley and to query how it was not obvious that being a white anthropogist affected the experience of fieldwork and the ethnography it produced, I have to wonder why I constantly have to point out the obvious–over and over and over again–about how race (and color) affect how one experiences the world–especially as an anthropologist–in the US and abroad (i.e. globally): it affects the access you will have–especially to elites, and elite white men in particular; it affects the responses you will get, from other anthropologists included–including the kind of vicious, unethical personal attacks and character assassination you will be subjected to, especially for the ‘crime’ of frankly discussing how you are analyzing whiteness–anthropologically–in your scholarship; it affects the kind of funding and support you will or will not get, as well as your employment prospects (despite the comments of some white anthropology professors and their white male graduate students from a certain department who or on the record as saying “non-whites get jobs and fellowships thrown at them” such that black female graduate students doing projects on whiteness and race/gender inequalities need to “keep your ‘privilege’ critique at home if you want to be friends”), based on people’s racist-colorist ideas about how intelligent and ‘non-threatening’ you are.

    Some of the responses to my comments on this site have reminded me of the Chris Rock skit in which he states that white people love to talk about how good he has it because he is rich, while downplaying the persistence of racism, yet not one of these people would take a million dollars to trade places with him and live life as a black man. So when I read the georaciality question (and this is no attack on T), it made me tired, because I thought to myself: Why must we always pretend that we don’t ALL already know, implicitly, what georaciality is, or take issue with the concept of a global racial (race/color) hierarchy? As if the people who generally fight me on this concept (who are usually white or white-identified, and often white males) would ever switch places with me and give up their white male privilege so as to live in the world as a dark-skinned black woman: especially as such a subject position would clearly affect their access and mobility as an anthropologist–as well as a politician trying to become president, as a person trying to get a job, or as a person working in the advertising industry in Japan ( especially two or three decades ago)? Why must we keep having these persistent denials about the persistence/ persistent salience of racial inequality, especially from the people most benefitting from its persistence, as if (these) people really believe that things are so equal and unbiased? If nothing else, it is massively *intellectually* dishonest. We all know the proverbial playing field is far from equal, here and elsewhere, as statistical research confirms over and over and over again. So, as anthropologists in a discipline which officially claims to be antiracist, why are we debating basic (Durkheimian) *social facts*, while doing so very little to directly confront the implicit bias and structural racism which makes them possible (including by sanctioning ignorance about what should be obvious)?

  14. DWP, isn’t the answer to your question pretty clear? We ( and here “we” means people who think like me) can recognize that what you are saying is true, we can be disturbed by the ugliness of what you have encountered, we may even, as Bill Clinton once put it “feel your pain.” does that mean that what is clearly the most pressing and urgent issue in your life is also the most pressing and urgent issue in ours? The answer is, No. Take you and me, for example. You are, I gather from what you write, young, black, female, struggling to get some respect and find a job in a crappy academic job market. I am old, white, male, comfortably well off, a partner-owner in a small business that generates a respectable income. In terms of material interests, my problems are not your problems.

    What then of morality and politics write large? Are your problems more pressing than those of the workers at Papa John’s pizza whose hours are being limited because their a-hole boss doesn’t want to pay for Obama cafe, or the 1700 bakery workers who have just lost their jobs making Twinkies because Hostess is shutting down? What about the kids dying in Gaza and Syria? The girls in Afghanistan who run the risk of being killed for the crime of going to school? The millions who don’t get enough to eat, having had the misfortune to be born in places where the average wage is under a dollar a day?

    Institutional racism is real, it’s ugly, it’s hypocritical. If you want to talk about what to do about that, I’m on board. I’m not sure that I have a whole lot to say that hasn’t been said before, and I will annoy the hell out of you by talking possibilities, strategy and tactics instead of being shocked and horrified by stuff that’s been all too familiar for the nearly seventy years I’ve been alive. (I was there when the Panthers took over the student union at Cornell and made the front page of Time in 1968, when the Kennedy’s and King were assassinated. From my perspective the internal politics of the AAA are a tempest in a teapot.)

  15. John, I am not struggling to get an academic job. In fact, I am sufficiently disgusted by the hypocrisy and institutional racism/sexism in anthropology to see the prospect of teaching anthropology as a sure path to an early grave. And a large number of black anthropologists and potential black anthropologists feel as I do, hence the discussion in the AAA 2010 report on the state of minority anthropologists on the diminution of black anthropologists from 6% in the 70s to 3% today. People get tired of the institutional racism and willful ignorance and decide to go elsewhere: before, during, and after graduate school, prefer to get non-anthropology teaching jobs.

    I think one of the key points you are missing in answering my question as you have, which is itself a sign and effect of white privilege/power, is that I am most certainly *not* making a ‘woe is me, I have it worst, everyone needs to care about my problems as their number-one priority’ argument. Not even close. (And this kind of response is a common derailing response, though I know you did not consciously intend it as such. But this is why anthropologists need to talk about white privilege and how whites are socialized as whites such that this is so often their response when asked to engage the concept of white privilege/power/supremacy.)

    In fact, I am making two fundamentally anthropological claims/observations: first, that if anthropology is going to have an *official* antiracism position, then practitioners should practice the antiracism they preach, especially to others–which, unfortunately, is not the present state of affairs; and second, I am pointing out how the racism and white privilege many anthropologists don’t want to engage and acknowledge is not only negatively affecting the analytical arguments they are making and the scholarship they are producing due to the kind of massive, should-be-obvious theoretical blind spots I pointed out in my first post as Discuss White Privilege (in relation to hippies and hackers), but am pointing out that this constant race evacuation actually is helping to (re)produce the racism anthropology, and the AAA in particular, OFFICIALLY claims to repudiate.

    To the extent that I constantly reference myself and my own experiences the self-referentiality is a form of anthropological humility, not solipsism, both via taking all those post-Writing Culture admonitions about self-reflexivity and situating one’s self and one’s biases and limited perspective seriously, and an acknowledgment that I can often see what you can’t not because I am smarter and more virtuous than you, but because I can’t take the same privileges I am critiquing for granted in the same ways you can. Anthropologists love to talk about and advocate situated knowledge, and yet all too often the scholarship being produced, especially at the most status-conferring levels of ‘philosophical anthropology’, is actually *white* scholarship (i.e. written from the perspective of a white racial subject and its corresponding embodied experience of the world absent subaltern racial status) which does not acknowledge its racial subjectivity but then gets used to club non-white anthropologists over the head for having a different non-race-evacuated perspective, such that the former is labeled ‘real’/’smart’ anthropology and the latter is seen as unsmart, second-rate scholarship, “meaningless” and “personal” “whining”.

    The issue is not about me (whining about) my problems, the issue is about how racism is affecting the kind of anthropological scholarship produced (including via driving some people out of the discipline such that their contributions are lost) and why such de facto racist scholarship, intended or not, is a problem–especially in a discipline which officially claims to be antiracist.

  16. And by the way, John, all the problems you listed as more pressing than my complaints, actually are also issues of racial inequality–from the racial/racist underpinnings of opposition to ‘ Obamacare’ (as Mitt Romney more than made clear this week in his sour grapes grumbling about Obama giving away ‘gifts’ to minorities so as to get votes, to the imbrication of race and class such that one should be cognizant of the racial demographics of the Hostess factory workers, to how racist US foreign policy (both historic and contemporary), which does not prioritize all lives equally, or as much as white lives, especially in previous generations) has contributed both to the social suffering in Afghanistan and the issue of global poverty. The false dichotomy you’ve drawn between ‘my problems’ and ‘other more pressing concerns’ is exactly an example of the (white) race-evacuation of which I just wrote, and how it affects how one/an anthropologist conceptualizes a problem–or does not see one at all, even when it should be obvious.

  17. DWP, you write,

    I am not struggling to get an academic job. In fact, I am sufficiently disgusted by the hypocrisy and institutional racism/sexism in anthropology to see the prospect of teaching anthropology as a sure path to an early grave.

    A wise decision, I agree. So, if I may ask, how do you make a living? (As I have mentioned before, I got an academic job, failed to get tenure, followed my wife to Japan, and stumbled into a career in the Japanese advertising world. My sagacious spouse and I are now owner-partners in The Word Works, Ltd. ).

    I think one of the key points you are missing in answering my question as you have, which is itself a sign and effect of white privilege/power, is that I am most certainly *not* making a ‘woe is me, I have it worst, everyone needs to care about my problems as their number-one priority’ argument.

    I take you at your word. Just have to say, though, that is the way you came across to me. While unconscious prejudice may have something to do with that, I don’t, speaking as a communication professional, think that is the only reason.

    all the problems you listed as more pressing than my complaints, actually are also issues of racial inequality–from the racial/racist underpinnings of opposition to ‘ Obamacare’ (as Mitt Romney more than made clear this week in his sour grapes grumbling about Obama giving away ‘gifts’ to minorities so as to get votes, to the imbrication of race and class such that one should be cognizant of the racial demographics of the Hostess factory workers, to how racist US foreign policy (both historic and contemporary), which does not prioritize all lives equally, or as much as white lives, especially in previous generations) has contributed both to the social suffering in Afghanistan and the issue of global poverty.

    Of course. But that “of course” may, I believe, be at least a partial explanation for the reception your remarks have received on SM. Isn’t this sort of thing Anthro 101 these days?

    To say that is not to discount or dismiss what you have to say. It is to say that, while perfectly valid, it is also old hat, something that people here are likely to have heard many times before.

    You describe the AAA as hypocritical when it comes to race. I do not think you are wrong. Perhaps I have been in Japan too long or been too influenced by my engagements with Democratic Party politics. Whatever the cause, I regard hypocrisy as a social lubricant. Too much is a mess. Too little brings things grinding to a halt or, worse, destroys the social machinery in question. I believe that the colleagues who made race the theme of the AAA meetings were not being disingenuous. They were and are, however, faced with a fundamental contradiction. They do not wish to brush the issue under the carpet. They are also aware that they themselves occupy privileged positions for which, at least in recent years, they have had to work incredibly hard and take full advantage of every edge that came their way. They are naturally reluctant to give them up or change the system in whose terms they themselves have succeeded. Thus they have taken what is, at best, a partial step toward addressing racism in as well as outside of anthropology itself.

    Speaking now in terms of tactics (I did say that I would be annoying), I ask myself what is the best approach for building on what they have done and winning their support for further steps in the right direction? Is condemnation for failing to achieve the goals their rhetoric suggest the right approach? Or is it saying, “That was a great thing you did, making racism the theme of the association’s official meeting. What should be our next step? What can we do together?” Again, maybe I have been in Japan too long, but what works here in all sorts of situation’s confirms my southern steel magnolia grandmother’s folklore: “You catch more flies with honey than with lemon juice.”

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