Racial Identity’s Gray Area

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-08 04:40Z by Steven

Racial Identity’s Gray Area

The Wall Street Journal

June Kronholz

The Definition of Whiteness Continues to Shift

When Barack Obama, whose mother was white, identifies himself as black, and when Bill Richardson, whose father was white, identifies himself as Hispanic, who is white?

The U.S. Census Bureau says the country will be majority-minority in 2050—that is, the combined number of blacks, Asians, American Indians and Hispanics will put whites in the minority. Texas and California are already there.

But the definition of white keeps shifting. Groups have been welcomed in or booted out; people opt out, sue to get in or change their minds and jump back and forth.

The deepest racial divide, between blacks and nonblacks, endures. But there also are identity shifts among African-Americans, as Sen. Obama’s success suggests. Some make it into the middle class, where education and social mobility may help shape their identities as much as race does. Others are left behind in increasingly segregated schools and neighborhoods.

The U.S. has never found it easy to assign race, although it certainly has tried. A century ago, the people who did the counting—demographers, sociologists, policy thinkers—divided whites into three strata. They considered Nordic whites, from England, Scandinavia and Germany, the most ethnically desirable and elite, followed by the Alpine whites, from eastern and central Europe, and finally the Mediterraneans. Everyone else was identified as black, red, yellow or brown, which included South Asians.

Whiteness and the privileges that came with it were so closely guarded that in 1912, a House committee held hearings on whether Italians were really Caucasian, says Thomas Guglielmo, a historian at George Washington University. The idea was picked up from Italy, where northern, lighter-skinned Italians, were asking the same questions about the southern, darker-skinned Italians, he says. No one argued seriously that Jews and Greeks, or Irish and Poles—light-skinned but poor—weren’t white, but whether they were ethnically Caucasian was up for debate, he adds…

…”Who’s white [won’t] mean that much, but when someone is partly black, that will still be noticed by a large part of society,” says Bill Butz of the Population Reference Bureau, a Washington research group. He sees today’s black-white divide becoming a “black/nonblack” gulf…

…Opting Out of Whiteness

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, there was “some sentiment” among non-Arabs for counting Arab-Americans as nonwhite, says David Roediger, a University of Illinois race historian. Since then, the Arab-American Institute in Washington has unsuccessfully lobbied the government for a separate “Middle East and North African” category on the census. The institute puts the Arab-American population at three times larger than the Census estimates, which limits its political power and claims on government programs…

…The Melting-Pot Effect

That doesn’t mean race won’t matter, even as it becomes harder to define. Blacks still cannot jump back and forth across those shifting racial lines, which explains why Sen. Obama calls himself black even while he singled out his white grandmother in his speech claiming the Democratic nomination.

That’s not likely to change soon. Some demographers predict that within a century, there will be as many Americans who are mixed-race as there will be those whose parents are both of the same race, further blurring color lines. But that “hybridity,” as demographers call it, will be concentrated among Hispanics and Asians who marry whites and each other, not among blacks…

Read the entire article here.

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Critical Whiteness Studies Symposium: Call for Papers

Posted in Live Events, New Media, Social Science, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2010-01-12 14:56Z by Steven

Critical Whiteness Studies Symposium: Call for Papers

Critical Whiteness Studies Symposium
University of Iowa
2010-09-23 through 2010-09-24
Abstract Deadline: 2010-03-12

Keynote Speakers:

David Roediger, Kendrick C. Babcock Professor of History
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Karyn McKinney, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Education, Human Development, & Social Sciences
Penn State University, Altoona

Abstract deadline March 12, 2010.

This two-day symposium examines the social, cultural and historical production of whiteness, particularly in the age of Obama. The symposium takes up a critical race theory paradigm to engage whiteness and whiteness studies in conversation with the humanities and social sciences. Questions of importance include: How can we interrogate and employ whiteness studies in ways that do not re-center or reify whiteness? Should whiteness studies take an increasingly critical stand in the wake of an Obama Presidency? In other words, how do we maintain a focus on social justice in the face of complacency around institutionalized oppression? We are particularly interested in engaging these and other questions about whiteness in an historical context, thinking through the particular shapes of whiteness, privilege and oppression in the contemporary moment while debunking the ideological lure of a “postracial” America.

We seek abstract submissions that address but are not limited to:

  • Whiteness and sexualities
  • Whiteness, class and labor struggle
  • Whiteness, Orientalism and the Occidental Gaze
  • Social movements
  • Postracism, postfeminism and post-identity formations
  • Homonormativity
  • American exceptionalism and Homonationalism
  • Mixed race whiteness and white ethnicity
  • Whiteness, food culture and “eating the Other”
  • Whiteness and regionalism; Midwestern critical whiteness
  • Neoliberalism, whiteness and global capitalism
  • Representing and consuming whiteness (e.g., visually, aurally, performatively)
  • Whiteness and digital culture
  • Whiteness, critical pedagogies and the classroom

Panel submissions, as well as submissions of individual papers and creative performances are welcome.

Critical Whiteness Studies is organized by the Project On Rhetoric of Inquiry (POROI) at the University of Iowa. The symposium will consist of two public lectures featuring David Roediger and Karyn McKinney, performances, visual installations and scholarly panels that critically examine whiteness. POROI is an interdisciplinary program dedicated to the exploration of how scholarship and professional discourses are conducted through argument, how paradigms of knowledge are sensitive to social-political contexts, and how the presentation of scholarly and professional findings involve the recognition and negotiation of audiences.

Please submit abstracts for papers, panels, or roundtables, accompanied by one-page vitas. Include any AV needs you may have. Submit materials by March 12, 2010.

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