Talking About Race: Moving Toward a Transformative Dialogue

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  • 1. Talking About Race:Moving Toward a Transformative Dialogue Tom Rudd, Senior Researcher Student-Faculty-Staff Brown Bag Michael E. Moritz College of Law February 5, 2009

2. Presentation Overview

  • What is race?
  • Why should we talk about race?
  • Why is it difficult to talk about race in a transformative way?
  • What are the consequences if we do nottalk about race?
  • Energizing a transformative dialogue
  • Strategies for effective inter-racial dialogue

3. What Is Race

  • Biology?
    • All humans today are 99.9% genetically identical, and most of the variation that does occur is in the difference between males and females and our unique personal traits.
  • Anatomical Traits?
    • Anatomical traits that are thought to identify a particular race are often found extensively in other populations.
  • Self-Identification?
    • When asked to provide personal family information for the 2000 census, about 7 million people reported that their ancestry included two or more races.
  • Social Construction
    • Social scientists generally agree that race is a socially constructed phenomenon. The American Anthropological Associations statement on race states that physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them. *

*Social Constructs - Definitions of Key Race Relations Terms.Accessed at 4. Why We Should Talk About Race

  • Research suggests that even when we are not talking about race, we are thinking about it.
  • Race has been, and continues to be a strong force in determining how opportunity and resources are distributed in our society.
  • Race influences many of the important decisions we make in our personal, professional, and social lives: where we live, who our friends are, which political candidates we vote for, which social programs we support

5. Why We Should Talk About Race:Challenging Implicit Bias

  • Implicit Bias
    • Research suggests that most of us are guided by a set of very subtle symbolic attitudes that develop over time from our earliest experiencesattitudes like racial prejudice or liberal/conservative political ideology.
    • These attitudes, operating in our unconscious (also called subconscious) mind are usually invisible to us and can control our position on critical issues like affirmative action and school integration.
    • Negative unconscious attitudes about race are called implicit bias or symbolic racism.

6. Why We Should Talk About Race:Challenging Implicit Bias

    • Very often, unconscious attitudes about race are in conflict with attitudes located in our conscious mindwhat we believe we think about race.
    • Drew Westen*writes that our unconscious attitudes are less egalitarian than our conscious attitudes and thatmost White Americansincluding many who hold consciously progressive values and attitudesharbor negative associations toward people of color.
    • When we talk about race, we have the opportunityto examine and challenge our implicit biasand reinforce our conscious beliefs.

* The Political Brain: TheRole of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation , 7. Why It Is Difficult to Talk About Race in a Transformative Way

  • Implicit bias
  • U.S. history of violence, repression, and injustice toward people of color
  • Feelings of resentment, guilt, and hostility
  • Color blind racism
  • Strategiccolor blindness fear of beinglabeled a racist
  • Lack of information about consequences of racial inequality
  • Failure to actively envision how a true Democracy should look

8. Consequences of Not Talking About Race

  • Colorblind racism is reinforced.
  • Race-based social & economic inequality is trivialized.
  • Prevailing notions of group privilege and social hierarchy are strengthened.
  • A post racial attitude gains salience.

9. Colorblind Racism

  • Since the civil rights acts of the 1960s, racism is a thing of the past.
  • There is full equality in the society now that all people have rights under the law.
  • All Americans have an equal opportunity to achieve successPresident Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Tiger Woods are proof
  • Our cities are hyper-segregated not because of structural racialization but because people of color choose to live only with other people of color no matter how negative the environment might be.

10. Ignoring Racial Disparities

    • Poverty rates for African Americans and Native Americans are nearly double the national poverty rate.
  • Across the country, the high school drop out rate for White students was 6.0% in 2005 while the rates for African American and Latino students were 10.4% and 22.4% respectively.
  • In Columbus (Ohio) the 2003-2004 high school graduation rate in city schools was40.9%compared to 82.9 percent in the suburbs.Roughly 60% of students in Columbus city schools are African American compared to some 12% in Columbus suburban schools.
  • In 2007, 31.8% of Whites had attained four or more years of college compared to 18.7% for Blacks and 12.7% for Latinos.
  • Native Americans die from tuberculosis at a rate 650% higher than the general population and are four times more likely to die of diabetes.

Data Sources:Ohio Department of Education; U.S. Bureau of the Census; 11. Emerging Post Racialism

  • No more excuses.
  • Race doesnt matter any more.
  • An African American president proves that race doesnt matter.
  • Now, everybody has an equal chance.
  • There are no more racial barriers.

12. Moving TowardA Transformative Dialogue:What We Need to Do

  • Reassess the importance of Individual racism.
  • Understand and illuminate structural racialization.
  • Rethink the current connection betweenmerit and Democratic values.
  • Promote targeted universalism.
  • Expose the linked fate of all Americans.
  • Reject false dichotomies.
  • Create space for everyone in the dialogue.
  • Understand the work that race is doing inthe society.

13. A Transformative Dialogue:Reassess the Importance of Individual Racism

  • The word racism is commonly understood to refer to instances in which an individual intentionally or unintentionally targets others for negative treatment because of their skin color.
  • This individual view of racism is too limited.
  • Our society is a complex system of organizations, institutions, individuals, processes, and policies.
  • Racialized outcomes are created and perpetuated by interactions and arrangements within this system.

RACIALIZED OUTCOMES DO NOT REQUIRE RACIST ACTORS. 14. A Transformative Dialogue:Understand Structural Racialization

  • A structural racialization perspective helps us to see the connections between seemingly independent opportunity structures.For example:
    • The federal government acceleratedWhite migration to the suburbs by subsidizing home mortgages for Whites through the National Housing Act of 1934.
    • As Whites left the cities, the quality of housing and schools declined.
    • Today, hyper-segregation in metropolitan regions leads to low performing schools.
    • Low performing schoolsare linked tohigh drop out rates and lowrates of educational attainment.
    • Low educational attainmentis linked to poor diet.
    • Poor diet is linked to poor health.
    • Poor health is linked to lowered life expectancy.

15. A Transformative Dialogue:Understand the Importance of Framing

  • Framing is the way that messages about race are presented to their audiences.
  • Framing is also the way that these messages are actuallyseen and interpreted by audiences.
  • Frames appeal to both conscious and unconsciousattitudes. If information does not fit an individualsinternal frame, it will probably be rejected.
  • Labels are important:
    • Affirmative ActionSpecial privilege & Reverse Discrimination
    • Equal OpportunityFundamental American Value

16. A Transformative Dialogue:Challenge The Conventional Meaning ofMerit

  • Merit is traditionally used to award opportunity and resources to privileged populations.
  • Merit reinforces feelings of entitlement and social hierarchy.
  • Traditionally, merit measures what individuals have done, not what they might do.
  • Merit can be usedcreatively to energize Democratic values. Forexample:
    • In college admissions, merit is measured on the basis of past academic achievement and performance on standardized tests
    • This practice leads to an unbalanced distribution of opportunity and a lack of substantive diversity in the academy
    • Democratic Meritchallenges the academy to operationalize merit in a way that promotes the conditions necessary for a thriving democracy and to define and use merit as an incentive system to reward those actions that a society values.

17. A Transformative Dialogue:Promote Targeted Universalism

  • Universal policies that are race-neutral do not address the multiple opportunity barriers that impact populations of color.
  • Targeted universalism is a strategy that addresses the needs of marginalized groups while also addressing the needs of the larger population.
  • Targeted universalism recognizes that different groups are situated differently relative to the institutions, opportunities, and resources available in the society.
  • Targeted universalism requires policies that proactively connect all people in a geographic region to jobs, stable housing, and good schools while recognizing the unique spatial situatedness of African American and Latino communities. *

*powell, john a.Race, Place, and Opportunity.The American ProspectSept. 22, 2008.Accessed at 18. A Transformative Dialogue:Expose Our Linked Fate

  • Too often, we envision race as a system that separates groups from each other with durable boundaries around each group.
  • This view supports the notion that disparities impacting one group have no impact on other groups.
  • Talking about race creates an opportunity to expose and illuminate the linked fate that is shared by all Americanshow inequality for some groups impacts the entire society.

Inequality in educational opportunity Low-performing inner-city schools Reduced competitivenessin the global economy Negative economic consequences for ALL AMERICANS 19. A Transformative Dialogue:Reject False Dichotomies

  • Too often, we polarize what we believe to be true.
  • Honestor Dishonest
  • Hard Working or Lazy
  • Liberal or Conservative
  • Republican orDemocrat
  • These false dichotomies distort our view of the world, obscure a more nuanced assessment of reality (some conservatives have liberal ideas), and create barriers to a transformative dialogue on race.

20. A Transformative Dialogue:Bring Everyone to the Table

  • Too often, issues that touch on race and social justice are perceived as Black issues or White issues.
  • In the U.S., issues about racial equality, opportunity, and social justice are fundamentally issues aboutDemocracy .
  • Everyone has a stake in guaranteeing that Democratic principles are fully implemented in the society.
  • So, everyone is a stakeholder in the transformative dialogue on race

21. A Transformative Dialogue:Understand the Work That Race Does

  • Although race is an abstract social construction, it continues to be a dominant force in American society.
  • Investigating and understanding the work that race does in the society can assist in bringing about a true Democracy where:
    • opportunity is not limited by race, ethnicity or class
    • democratic ideals inform social policy
    • all people recognize and embrace the universal responsibility that each person has for the welfare of every other person.
  • The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity is deeply engaged in this investigation

22. Strategies for Effective Inter-Racial Dialogue About Race STRATEGY RATIONALE Dont hold individuals or groups accountable for institutionalized racialized outcomes Finger pointing stimulates anger, guilt, and resentment Reject false dichotomies The world is not simply black orwhite Dont make assumptions about the racial attitudes or political ideology of others Focusing on individual attitudes obscures an understanding of the structural nature of racial inequality Look for commonalities across groups Our common humanity transcends political ideology Stress the importance of structural racialization and consider how racialized outcomes affect everyone, not just people of color People care more about issues when they can see how they are impacted 23. Strategies for Effective Inter-Racial Dialogue About Race STRATEGY RATIONALE Stress equal opportunity as a common goal for all Americans Frame the conversation so that everyone is a stakeholder Avoid exceptionalism There have always been some highly successful people in every group; this fact does not mitigate racial inequality When discussing race-based inequality, focus on desired outcomes, not just on present disparities Information about racialized disparities can actually reinforce racial stereotypes Challenge people to acknowledge that we allharbor some degree of implicit bias Left unchallenged, unconscious negative attitudes gain power Avoid stereotypes Stereotypes are almost always false 24. Strategies for Effective Inter-Racial Dialogue About Race STRATEGY RATIONALE Acknowledge that while we must work for a time when race does not affect opportunity, right now, it does Despite the fact the we have elected an African American President, race still matters in America Use narratives over numbers Personal narratives can have greater impact than hard data on stimulating attitudes shiftsAvoid framing issues around whats fairuse equal opportunity instead Fairness has different meanings to different people In group discussions, set guidelinesthat ensure mutual respect and civility Even the most contentious conversation can be civil 25. Suggested Readings

  • Blanding, Michael.Can We Talk?Ed.magazineFall (2007) .
  • Datum, Beverly Daniel. Talking about Race, Learning about Racism: The Application of Racial Identity Development Theory in the Classroom. Harvard Educational Review 62.1(1992).
  • Eliasoph, Nina. Everyday Racism in a Culture of Political Avoidance: Civil Society, Speech, and Taboo.Social Problems46 (1999): 479502.
  • Grant-Thomas, Andrew and Gary Orfield, eds.Twenty-First Century Color Lines: Multiracial Change in Contemporary America.Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.
  • Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.Talking About Race Resource Notebook . Columbus, Ohio: 2008.
  • Mazzocco, Philip. The Dangers of Not Speaking About Race: A Summary of Research Affirming the Merits of a ColorConscious Approach to Racial Communication and Equity. Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, May 2006.
  • Morrison, Toni. On the Backs of Blacks.Time 2Dec. 1993: 57.,9171,979736,00.html
  • powell, john a.Race, Place, and Opportunity.The American Prospect Sept. 22, 2008.
  • Thinking Change: Race, Framing and the Public Conversation on Diversity What Social Science Tells Advocates About Winning Support for Racial Justice Policies.Prepared by the Center for Social Inclusion for the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, The Ohio State University(August 2005). ( )
  • White, Ismail K. When Race Matters and When It Doesnt: Racial Group Differences in Response to Racial Cues. American Political Science Review 101(2007): 339354 .

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