This past weekend, I came across “Latinas blaze path to doctoral degrees” (12 May 2012), an article that tells the story of the three gorgeous Latinas pictured above, who are newly minted Ph.D.s in English from the University of Texas at San Antonio. First and foremost, I want to send out my congratulations to them and to wish them all the best as they continue their academic careers! I hope I will have the chance to meet these new colleagues in person one day. For now, I’ll just look forward to sharing their story with my students, who I know will be tremendously inspired by the challenges these women have overcome.
The nature of the challenges–and particularly the numbers and statistics behind them–are ones that I lose sight of all too easily, even though I myself was a first-generation doctoral graduate. The caption of the image above begins to hint at the rarity of what Dr.s Portales, Cantu-Sanchez and de Leon-Zepeda have achieved. Latina/os (note: the term “Latina/o” includes people whose origins extend to any Latin American country, not just Mexico) comprise 15% of the US population, yet according to the National Center for Education Statistics, we received only the following in 2009:
8% of bachelors degrees
6% of Master’s degrees
3% of Ph.D.s.
Moreover, Latina/os comprise just 4% of college faculty. (By way of comparison, whites received 71.% of bachelors degrees, 64% of Master’s and 63% of Ph.D.s. and make up 75% of faculty.) Continue reading →
When I went to college at the University of Utah, there was no box for me to check. There was no “Middle Eastern” and there was definitely no “bi- or multi-racial.” I’d like to think that the U of U has since updated their ethnicity data, but I can’t be sure.
When I applied to graduate school, I practically wet my pants when I saw “Middle Eastern” on the online application. I was overjoyed to think that my regional ethnicity was included. I happily checked “Middle Eastern”, ignoring the line for “Other,” where I could have specified “bi-racial.”
Currently, if you fill out an application on the Oregon State University’s website, there is a drop-down box of ethnicities, with an almost exhaustive list. They divided “Middle Eastern” and “North African” to make sure all ethnicities within these groups were covered, and the lists were fairly inclusive. Hazaras, Maronites, Baluchis, and other under-represented Middle Easterners were under “Middle Eastern.”
However, there is still no option for multi- or bi-racial.
Last March, several Middle Eastern UCLA student groups began a lobby to expand the University of California application ethnicity check boxes to include ethnicities such as Arab, Persian, Afghan, etc. It’s mind-boggling that the UC system would still not have up-to-date ethnicity representation on its applications, especially since California has high concentrations of West Asian diasporas in California (they don’t call it “Tehrangeles” for nothing).
The University of California system updated its ethnicity check boxes in 2007, when the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) started the “Count Me In!” campaign, intended to break down the different groups pushed together under the category “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The campaign successfully put 23 new ethnicities on the application, including Samoan, Pakistani, and Hmong, and aims to improve census and research data on these specific groups’ college attendance patterns, financial aid packages, and student representation.
The first thing I thought when I read about the previous campaign was, “Lots of West Asian ethnicities are technically Asian because regionally they are on Asian continent. Why weren’t any of them included in this campaign?” Erin Pangilinan, a member of the APC campaign, stated that the campaign’s ethnicity representations were based off California Assembly Bill 295 (which included a call for “state entities that currently collect demographic data regarding the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to also make a separate category and tabulation for specified Asian and Chamorro, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan”) and the 2000 U.S. Census, which stated that the aforementioned specific ethnicities have the largest populations in the United States. She stated that the campaign “was not intended to be exclusive, instead it is starting point to have a more inclusive and comprehensive admissions policy.”
The second issue that arose was that many of the “ethnicities” on the list were not actually ethnicities, but nationalities (Pakistani, Taiwanese, etc). Pangilinan explained that the campaign focused on ethnicities provided by the Census, which brings up more questions about ethnic representation in governmental processes. Constructing nationalities as synonymous with ethnicities creates troubling deficiencies in ethnic representation within nations, erringly homogenizing the ethnic populace.
This led me to question the inclusivity and strategy of the current campaign. I spoke with Faisal Attrache from UCLA’s United Arab Society. He said that the campaign is not aiming for a “Middle Eastern” designation: “We are attempting to gain representation of Middle Eastern minorities, but we do not want it to be under the heading of ‘Middle Eastern’ for many reasons. It is a term with an unclear meaning and sometimes excludes several groups that we would like to include in the campaign. Ideally, we would like all the categories to standalone and not be grouped under ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Near Eastern’, because after all, the region we represent stretches from Central Asia to Western Africa.”
The campaign’s aim at a designation other than “Middle Eastern” is a relief: “Middle Eastern” is a term that’s left over from the colonial period, and is fairly misleading ethnically. “West Asian” includes much of the Middle East, including Arabs, but leaves out North Africa, a region which is heavily ethnically Arab. But I do have a fair skepticism at the stand-alone designations: if every other group has overarching categories, these ethnicities will most likely have one, too.
While I’m overjoyed that we (meaning underrepresented West Asian groups) might finally be included on the applications, I still worry about all those who aren’t being represented, and won’t be unless they lobby (or someone lobbies for them). Attrache mentioned that student groups at UCLA representing these ethnicities coordinate the campaign, and so Arab, Persian, Afghan, Armenian, and Assyrian students will be included. But no conclusive list has been agreed upon at this time, and so it’s difficult to say whether ethnicities that don’t have a large student presence on campus will be represented accurately or at all, especially if they are a significant minority in their home region. Because of the numerous and varied ethnicities in these regions, it’s almost certain that someone will get left out, which feels wrong in the current “We’re here, we’re [insert ethnicity], get used to us!” climate.
There’s also the fact that the box system itself is flawed, not just because of any possible lacks in representation, but because it historically leaves out bi- and multi-racial individuals. While the bi- or multi-racial designation could appear with a line for clarification, universities that use a drop-down box format have no way of collecting data about bi- or multi-racial students because the students cannot specify their racial makeup.
A blank line would illustrate better how people define themselves through their ethnicities and would be less likely to pigeonhole respondents into a group they don’t feel they identify with. It would also be welcoming for bi- or multi-racial students (much better than check all that apply).
The difficult logistics aside, this is an important campaign, just like it was two years ago. Not only will it give university statisticians and financial aid operators a better idea of the population indicators, but it can help the community at large gauge where it is on the local university scale in terms of representation, participation, and inclusion. It may also lead to an overall overhaul of the ethnicity system, recognizing differences among ethnicities under other categories previously bunched together (“Hispanic”, anyone?) and inaccurately represented.
The Race & Ethnic Studies Institute at Texas A&M University convenes a symposium every other year, and the proposed theme for the 2008-2009 year is Shifting Terrains: Inequalities in the 21st Century, and the symposium itself is to focus on Race, Ethnicity, and (New) Media. The explosion of work on New Media (including the Internet, mobile devices, Web 2.0) and the juxtaposition and overlap between ‘old’ media (radio, television, film, and mass-print media) and New Media is a rich field of cultural production and scholarly research in which scholars of race and ethnicity have not been particularly well-represented. However, there are cutting edge scholars who do indeed explore various aspects of race/ethnicity and (New) Media (including audience/fan studies, representations of racial and ethnic identities in a variety of media, identity-focused online communities, etc.).
I’m here to present a keynote on “Talking About Race In Digital Space” and present an academic* paper titled “Eww, WTF?!?! You Got Your Social Justice In My Video Game.”
In the meantime, I’m here with some amazing people. Dr. Lisa Nakamura spoke last night, with a keynote titled: ʺDonʹt Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Virtual Labor in Virtual Worlds.ʺ
I’ve been really excited about this conference – you’ll see why when you read the program, after the jump. Continue reading →
by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man
Some racist news from abroad, spotted over at the Resist racism blog… In Wales, an Asian woman has accused a university of racism after she was apparently told that an accountancy course might not be suitable for “Oriental people”: University in ‘Oriental’ race row.
Odgerel Hatenboer, who is originally from Mongolia, attended an open day at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, with the hope of enrolling for an accountancy course. However, she was told my a staff member that the course might not be suitable for “people like you, Oriental people”:
She said: “The man said something like ‘I’m not saying you’re Chinese but people like you, Oriental people, tend to accept what is written in the books and what the lecturer says, whereas this kind of course is nothing like you have studied in the past, it requires more analytical skills, you will have to do more yourself.”
Right. Whatever the hell that means. The guy apparently didn’t even ask about her background or qualifications. Just one look at this Oriental lady and a quick judgment. Thanks for the advice, now kindly shut the hell up. By the way, she happens to have a masters in development economics from the University of Manchester and holds a diploma from the Association of Accounting Technicians. Oh snap!
Ms. Hatenboer completed the application form anyway. She was told it would be passed on to the relevant department and she’d hear from the university within a week… However, when she later checked on the status of her application, she found out it had never been received. Where did it go? It’s a mystery! That’s racist!
by Guest Contributor G.D., originally published at Post Bourgie
Okay, so we know we pick on The Root a lot around here. It’s not that it always sucks, just that it routinely offers up some real head-scratchers.
Por ejemplo. In today’s edition, Delece Smith-Barrow offers her rationale in deciding to go to a predominantly white university. Seems pretty innocuous, right? I mean, most black college students/grads claim ‘white schools’ as their alma maters. But just in case you don’t think so, Smith-Barrow has some some preemptive and completely unsolicited defensiveness for that ass.
At my private, predominantly white high school, I was one of eight African-American students in my graduating class. After that, the idea of being in an all-black academic setting seemed overwhelming. I would have to go from one end of the racial spectrum to the other, and after four years of all-white, all the time, I was tired of extremes. While the idea of going to school with more people who looked, acted and even sounded like me was definitely alluring, the idea of various shades of humanity co-existing within the parameters of one campus intrigued me much more. I wanted to be a part of that experience. I wanted to teach others about my race while also learning about theirs through everyday interactions, dynamic classroom discussions and events that promoted mixing and mingling across color lines.
Get it? See, she was ‘tired of extremes,’ and so opted for an environment that was most like the one she was leaving. Annoyed yet? No? Okay. Here’s more.
We could teach other races an important lesson on what it means to be black and nix some erroneous, preconceived notions about our race. For the white student whose only knowledge of black people has come from BET, we could show him that we don’t all aspire to be rappers. This learning experience could also go both ways and prove to blacks that not all white people are The Man.
Ah, there we go. That good problematic, served up piping hot. Now, one of the problems with debunking stereotypes is that, well, there’s no real way to do so. Whenever a white teacher told me I ’spoke well,’ I was never operating under any assumption that this ‘compliment’ would spur some reevaluation of her ideas regarding the intellectual capacities of Negros in general — in her mind, I was just not like the rest of them. If you’re a Jewish person who also happens to be a spendthrift, to the bigot who lazily clings to that stereotype, you’re just the exception to the rule. Continue reading →
In its current issue, Greater Good magazine ponders “Are we born racist?” and in the article “Look Twice,” Susan T. Fiske, Ph.D., Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, offers some bad news and good news:
Most people think they’re less biased than average. But just as we can’t all be better than average, we can’t all be less prejudiced than average. Although the message—and the success so far—of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign suggests an America that is moving past traditional racial divisions and prejudices, it’s probably safe to assume that all of us harbor more biases than we think.
Science suggests that most of us don’t even know the half of it. A 20-year eruption of research from the field of “social neuroscience” reveals exactly how automatically and unconsciously prejudice operates. As members of a society with egalitarian ideals, most Americans have good intentions. But new research suggests our brains and our impulses all too often betray us. That’s the bad news.
But here’s the good news: More recent research shows that our prejudices are not inevitable; they are actually quite malleable, shaped by an ever-changing mix of cultural beliefs and social circumstances. While we may be hardwired to harbor prejudices against those who seem different or unfamiliar to us, it’s possible to override our worst impulses and reduce these prejudices. Doing so requires more than just good intentions; it requires broad social efforts to challenge stereotypes and get people to work together across group lines. But a vital first step is learning about the biological and psychological roots of prejudice.
Here’s the first thing to understand: Modern prejudice is not your grandparents’ prejudice.
Old-fashioned racism and sexism were known quantities because people would mostly say what they thought. Blacks were lazy; Jews were sly; women were either dumb or bitchy. Modern equivalents continue, of course—look at current portrayals of Mexican immigrants as criminals (when, in fact, crime rates in Latino neighborhoods are lower than those of other ethnic groups at comparable socioeconomic levels). Most estimates suggest such blatant and wrongheaded bigotry persists among only 10 percent of citizens in modern democracies. Blatant bias does spawn hate crimes, but these are fortunately rare (though not rare enough). At the very least, we can identify the barefaced bigots.
Our own prejudice—and our children’s and grandchildren’s prejudice, if we don’t address it—takes a more subtle, unexamined form. Neuroscience has shown that people can identify another person’s apparent race, gender, and age in a matter of milliseconds. In this blink of an eye, a complex network of stereotypes, emotional prejudices, and behavioral impulses activates. These knee-jerk reactions do not require conscious bigotry, though they are worsened by it.
Mixed race people, step right up to be essentialized into neat little patterns of behavior!
In a recent paper I [Steven D. Levitt] co-authored with Roland Fryer, Lisa Kahn, and Jorg Spenkuch, we look at data to try to answer that question. Here is what we find:
1) Mixed-race kids grow up in households that are similar along many dimensions to those in which black children grow up: similar incomes, the father is much less likely to be around than in white households, etc.
2) In terms of academic performance, mixed-race kids fall in between blacks and whites.
3) Mixed-race kids do have one advantage over white and black kids: the mixed-race kids are much more attractive on average.
The really interesting result, though, is the next one.
4) There are some bad adolescent behaviors that whites do more than blacks (like drinking and smoking), and there are other bad adolescent behaviors that blacks do more than whites (watching TV, fighting, getting sexually transmitted diseases). Mixed-race kids manage to be as bad as whites on the white behaviors and as bad as blacks on the black behaviors. Mixed-race kids act out in almost every way measured in the data set.
Holy bucket of stereotypes, Batman! Number three is really killing me though – how the fuck did they measure that? By panel survey? Researchers opinion on hotness? Comparison to a eurocentric beauty standard? (According to the study, the person doing the at home interviews was the sole judge of hotness.)
I was wondering what economic theories they used to get to this point, but surprise – there ain’t none!
We try to use economic theory to explain this set of facts. I can’t say we are entirely successful. If we had to pick an explanation that best fits the facts, it would be the old sociology model of mixed-race individuals as the “marginal man”: not part of either racial group and therefore torn by inner conflict.