Genetic Determinism, Technology Optimism, and Race

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2017-04-10 00:44Z by Steven

Genetic Determinism, Technology Optimism, and Race

The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Volume 661, Issue 1, 2015
pages 160-180
DOI: 10.1177/0002716215587875

Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government; Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Maya Sen, Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Harvard University

We begin with a typology of Americans’ understanding of the links between genetic inheritance and racial or ethnic groups. The typology has two dimensions: one running from genetic determinism to social construction, and the other from technology optimism to technology pessimism. Construing each dimension as a dichotomy enables four distinct political perspectives on the possibilities for reducing racial inequality in the United States through genomics. We then use a new public opinion survey to analyze Americans’ use of the typology. Survey respondents who perceive that some phenotypes are more prevalent in one group than another due to genetic factors are disproportionately technology optimists. Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to hold that set of views, as are self-identified blacks, whites, and Latinos. The article discusses the findings and speculates about alternative interpretations of the fact that partisanship and group identity do not differentiate Americans in their views of the links between genetic inheritance and racial inequality.

Read the entire article here.

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Raceless Like Me: Students at Harvard Navigate their Way Beyond the Boundaries of Race

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-12 21:41Z by Steven

Raceless Like Me: Students at Harvard Navigate their Way Beyond the Boundaries of Race

The Harvard Crimson
Harvard University

Zoe A. Y. Weinberg, Crimson Staff Writer

One day last fall, Paula M. Maouyo ’14 sat in front of her laptop in Matthews trying to think of a topic for her Expos paper about racial identity.

When Maouyo was a child, she identified as biracial. Her father is black, originally from Chad and her mother is white and American. But by the time she was nine, she began to move away from a biracial identity.

“For a long time I just didn’t identify,” Maouyo said, though she acknowledges that when most people look at her, they immediately categorize her as black.

She had never articulated her non-identification in concrete terms. That is, until she began brainstorming for her Expos paper.

After floating around ideas and fiddling with labels and words, Maouyo suddenly conceived of a term she felt most accurately captured her own identity: araciality.

“People use apolitical and asexual,” Maouyo observed. “Why not aracial?”…


“Transcendent identity” was first described by Dr. Kerry Ann Rockquemore, a former sociology professor and author of Beyond Black: Biracial Identity in America. The current working definition of racial transcendence that she offers—and the one that will be used in this article—is the conscious rejection of racial identity altogether. Not “black,” “white,” or “both” —but rather, “none.”

“My journey has taken me past constructions of race, past constructions of mixed race, and into an understanding of human difference that does not include race as a meaningful category,” wrote Rainier Spencer, the founder and director of Afro-American Studies at the University of Nevada, who identifies as racially transcendent.

Spencer grew up in a black neighborhood in Queens in the 60s with a white mother and black father. Over the years, Spencer has identified as everything from Afro-German to New Yorker to academic to baby boomer. It was not until his thirties, when he was a philosophy teacher at a northeastern college, that he began to question racial identity itself.

During the 1990s, debates about the politics of multiracial identity began to emerge in academic circles. According to Spencer, most of the discussion at the time revolved around the relative importance of multiracial versus monoracial identity.

Spencer entered the debate as a racial skeptic. “A lot of the black scholars who are against multiracial identity are very invested in black identity,” Spencer said. “I think all racial identity is bogus, and that makes me kind of unique.”

Race transcendence should not be confused with color-blindness, which advocates ignoring race without confronting the inequality and discrimination it breeds. Color-blindness implies that racism can be solved passively. Racelessness is far more complex, because people who transcend race “are actually aware of how race negatively affects the daily existence of people of color. They have very likely experienced discrimination, yet they respond by understanding those situations as part of a broad societal problem; one in which they are deeply embedded, but not one that leads to their subscription to racial identity,” according to Rockquemore as cited on a website for race transcenders


A lot of people might claim not to have a race for one reason or another. According to professor Jennifer Hochschild, who teaches “Transformation of the American Racial Order?”, there are three groups of people that might refuse to identify by race: 1) disaffected (probably white) people who believe the world is post-racial and that we should all be color-blind; 2) recent immigrants for whom American racial categories simply do not resonate nor make any sense; and 3) bi-racial or multiracial people who do not identify with any particular racial category…

…White students might also check “none” for other reasons. Sometimes white students will check the “other” box is if they are uncomfortable with the social meaning of whiteness, said Natasha K. Warikoo, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Education who studies race, immigration, and inequality in educational contexts. “It signifies privilege and racial exploitation, a history that some white people are uncomfortable with,” she said. In the blank line, these students might write “Italian-American,” or “Jewish-American,” Warikoo said.

To solve this problem, Harvard could have two sections—one in which you identify for the purpose of statistics and civil rights compliance, and one in which you identify in the way that reflects your personal life. This would allow raceless students (and the perplexed white students) to identify by race, and by whatever else they like…

Read the entire article here.

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Has ‘Caucasian’ Lost Its Meaning?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2013-07-07 01:09Z by Steven

Has ‘Caucasian’ Lost Its Meaning?

The New York Times

Shaila Dewan, Economics Reporter


As a racial classification, the term Caucasian has many flaws, dating as it does from a time when the study of race was based on skull measurements and travel diaries. It has long been entirely unmoored from its geographical reference point, the Caucasus region. Its equivalents from that era are obsolete — nobody refers to Asians as “Mongolian” or blacks as “Negroid.”

And yet, there it was in the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. The plaintiff, noted Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in his majority opinion, was Caucasian.

To me, having covered the South for many years, the term seems like one of those polite euphemisms that hides more than it reveals. There is no legal reason to use it. It rarely appears in federal statutes, and the Census Bureau has never put a checkbox by the word Caucasian. (White is an option.)…

…The use of Caucasian to mean white was popularized in the late 18th century by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, a German anthropologist, who decreed that it encompassed Europeans and the inhabitants of a region reaching from the Obi River in Russia to the Ganges to the Caspian Sea, plus northern Africans. He chose it because the Caucasus was home to “the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgians,” and because among his collection of 245 human skulls, the Georgian one was his favorite wrote Nell Irvin Painter, a historian who explored the term’s origins in her book “The History of White People.”…

Susan Glisson, who as the executive director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in Oxford, Miss., regularly witnesses Southerners sorting through their racial vocabulary, said she rarely hears “Caucasian.” “Most of the folks who work in this field know that it’s a completely ridiculous term to assign to whites,” she said. “I think it’s a term of last resort for people who are really uncomfortable talking about race. They use the term that’s going to make them be as distant from it as possible.”

There is another reason to use it, said Jennifer L. Hochschild, a professor of government and African-American studies at Harvard. “The court, or some clever clerk, doesn’t really want to use the word white in part because roughly half of Hispanics consider themselves white.” She added, “White turns out to be a much more ambiguous term now than we used to think it was.”

There are a number of terms that refer to various degrees of blackness, both current and out of favor: African-American, mulatto, Negro, colored, octaroon. There are not a lot of options for whites. In Texas, they say Anglo. And there is the pejorative we were so pithily reminded of when a witness in the racially charged George Zimmerman trial said the victim, Trayvon Martin, had called Mr. Zimmerman a “creepy-ass cracker.”…

Read the entire article here.

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So, What Are You… Anyway?: 2013 Conference on Multiracial Identity

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-06 16:17Z by Steven

So, What Are You… Anyway?: 2013 Conference on Multiracial Identity

Hosted by the Harvard College Half-Asian People’s Association
Harvard University
2013-04-05 through 2013-04-06

The Harvard Half-Asian People’s Association will host its fifth annual conference on mixed-race politics and identity issues, “So…What Are You, Anyway?” (SWAYA) on Friday, April 5, 2013 and Saturday, April 6, 2013 on the Harvard University campus. The event is open to the public and will feature an array of exciting guest lecturers who will speak on issues involving multiracial identity.

The conference will include lectures given by author Pearl Fuyo Gaskins, Harvard professor Jennifer Hochschild, and Eric Hamako, as well as discussion groups led by experts on modern race relations. Last year, the event drew over one hundred students and other guests from colleges and cities around the US.

SWAYA will culminate in a special gala dinner* in honor of the 2013 recipient of the Cultural Pioneer Award, Pearl Gaskins, author of the book What are You?: Voices of Mixed-Race Young People

For more information, click here.

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Meet Your Cousin, the First Lady: A Family Story, Long Hidden

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2012-06-17 15:47Z by Steven

Meet Your Cousin, the First Lady: A Family Story, Long Hidden

The New York Times

Rachel L. Swarns

This article is adapted from “American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama” by Rachel L. Swarns, to be published by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, on Tuesday.

REX, Ga. — Joan Tribble held tightly to her cane as she ventured into the overgrown cemetery where her people were buried. There lay the pioneers who once populated north Georgia’s rugged frontier, where striving white men planted corn and cotton, fought for the Confederacy and owned slaves.

The settlers interred here were mostly forgotten over the decades as their progeny scattered across the South, embracing unassuming lives. But one line of her family took another path, heading north on a tumultuous, winding journey that ultimately led to the White House.

The white men and women buried here are the forebears of Mrs. Tribble, a retired bookkeeper who delights in her two grandchildren and her Sunday church mornings. They are also ancestors of Michelle Obama, the first lady.

The discovery of this unexpected family tie between the nation’s most prominent black woman and a white, silver-haired grandmother from the Atlanta suburbs underscores the entangled histories and racial intermingling that continue to bind countless American families more than 140 years after the Civil War.

The link was established through more than two years of research into Mrs. Obama’s roots, which included DNA tests of white and black relatives. Like many African-Americans, Mrs. Obama was aware that she had white ancestry, but knew little more.

Now, for the first time, the white forebears who have remained hidden in the first lady’s family tree can be identified. And her blood ties are not only to the dead. She has an entire constellation of white distant cousins who live in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas and beyond, who in turn are only now learning of their kinship to her…

…DNA Testing

The discovery comes as an increasing number of Americans, black and white, confront their own family histories, taking advantage of widespread access to DNA testing and online genealogical records. Jennifer L. Hochschild, a professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard who has studied the impact of DNA testing on racial identity, said this was uncharted territory.

“This is a whole new social arena,” Professor Hochschild said. “We don’t have an etiquette for this. We don’t have social norms.”

“More or less every white person knows that slave owners raped slaves,” she continued. “But my great-grandfather? People don’t know what they feel. They don’t know what they’re supposed to feel. I think it’s really hard.”

Read the entire article here.  Watch the video here.

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Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-01-21 19:51Z by Steven

Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America

Princeton University Press
March 2012
282 pages
6 x 9; 17 halftones. 14 line illus. 10 tables
Cloth ISBN: 9780691152998
eBook ISBN: 9781400841943

Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Vesla M. Weaver, Assistant Professor
The Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics
University of Virginia

Traci R. Burch, Assistant Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University

The American racial order—the beliefs, institutions, and practices that organize relationships among the nation’s races and ethnicities—is undergoing its greatest transformation since the 1960s. Creating a New Racial Order takes a groundbreaking look at the reasons behind this dramatic change, and considers how different groups of Americans are being affected. Through revealing narrative and striking research, the authors show that the personal and political choices of Americans will be critical to how, and how much, racial hierarchy is redefined in decades to come.

The authors outline the components that make up a racial order and examine the specific mechanisms influencing group dynamics in the United States: immigration, multiracialism, genomic science, and generational change. Cumulatively, these mechanisms increase heterogeneity within each racial or ethnic group, and decrease the distance separating groups from each other. The authors show that individuals are moving across group boundaries, that genomic science is challenging the whole concept of race, and that economic variation within groups is increasing. Above all, young adults understand and practice race differently from their elders: their formative memories are 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Obama’s election—not civil rights marches, riots, or the early stages of immigration. Blockages could stymie or distort these changes, however, so the authors point to essential policy and political choices.

Portraying a vision, not of a postracial America, but of a different racial America, Creating a New Racial Order examines how the structures of race and ethnicity are altering a nation.


  • List of Figures and Tables
  • Introduction
    • 1. Destabilizing the American Racial Order
    • 2. Immigration
    • 3. Multiracialism
    • 4. Genomics
    • 5. Cohort Change
    • 6. Blockages to Racial Transformation
    • 7. The Future of the American Racial Order
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index


A racial order—the set of beliefs, assumptions, rules, and practices that shape the way in which groups in a given society are connected with one another—may seem fixed. Racial orders do change, however. The change may be gradual, as when America evolved over two centuries from being a society with slaves to a slave society, or cataclysmic as when slavery or serfdom is abolished or apartheid instituted. A racial order can change for some groups but not others; the Immigration Act of 1924 denied all Asians and most Kuropcans and Africans, but not Latin Americans, the right of entry to the United States. Change in a racial order is most visible when it results from severe struggle, but it may also occur unintentionally through thousands of cumulative small acts and thoughts. And a racial order can change in some but not all dimensions; American Indians gained U.S. citizenship in 1924 but few have reacquired the land lost through centuries of conquest and appropriation.

Variation in pace, direction, activity, and object makes it difficult to see major change while it is occurring. Nevertheless, we argue that the racial order of the late twentieth century that emerged from the 1960’s civil rights movement, opening of immigration, and Great Society is undergoing a cumulative, wide-ranging, partly unintentional and partly deliberate transformation. The transformation is occurring in locations and laws, beliefs and practices. Its starting point was the abolition of institutional supports and public commitments of the pre-1960s racial order, such as intermarriage bans, legally mandated segregation, unembarrassed racism, and racial or ethnic discrimination. Once those props were removed, the changes broadly signaled by “the 1960s” could develop over the next forty years. They included a rise in immigration, Blacks’ assertion of pride and dignity, Whites’ rejection of racial supremacy (at least in public), a slow opening of schools, jobs, and suburbs to people previously excluded, and a shift in government policy from promoting segregation and hierarchy and restricting interracial unions to promoting (at least officially) integration and equality and allowing interracial unions.

As a consequence, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, new institutions and practices have been moving into place: official records permit people to identify with more than one race, anti-discrimination policies are well established in schools and workplaces, and some non-Whites hold influential political positions. At the same time, the late twentieth century’s understanding of the very meaning of race—a few exhaustive and mutually exclusive groups—is becoming less and less tenable as a consequence of new multiracial identities, immigrants’ rejection of conventional American categories, and genomic science. Social relations, particularly among young Americans, are less driven by stereotypes, more fluid and fragmented, and more susceptible to creation rather than acquiescence. Even deeply seated hierarchies of income, educational attainment and achievement, prestige, and political power are easing for some groups and in some dimensions of life. Race or ethnicity, though still important, is less likely to predict a young person’s life chances than at any previous point in American history; today’s young adults will move through adulthood with the knowledge that one need not be White in order to become the most powerful person in the world…

…Thus the late twentieth-century racial order captures less and less of the way in which race and ethnicity are practiced in the United States today and may be practiced in the foreseeable future. If transformative forces persist and prevail, the United States can finally move toward becoming the society that James Madison envisioned in Federalist #10, one in which no majority faction, not even native-born European Americans, dominates the political, economic, or social arena.

The Madisonian vision must not blind us to two concerns. If it persists, creation of a new racial order will not have only beneficial results. Some Americans are likely to be harmed by these changes and will thereby suffer relative or even absolute losses. Continuing the venerable American pattern, they will be disproportionately African American or Native American, supplemented by undocumented immigrants. All Americans are likely to lose some of the joys and advantages of a strong sense of group identity and rootedness. The greater concern, however, is that the newly created racial order will not persist and prevail. Black poverty and alienation may be too deep; White supremacy may be too tenacious; institutional change may be too shallow; undocumented immigrants may not attain a path to belonging; genomic research may usher in a new era of eugenic discrimination. In short, Americans may in the end lack the political will to finish what demographic change, scientific research, young adults’ worldviews, and the momentum of the past decade have

…Our exploration of transformative forces and their blockages is spread over three parts and seven chapters. Part 1, “The Argument,” has one chapter. Chapter 1 explicates the five components of a societal racial order and suggests what is at stake in the ongoing reinvention of the American racial order. Examples show how immigration, multiracialism, genomics, and cohort change are transforming each component of the late twentieth-century racial order. Chapter 1 also points to elements of American society that could distort or block transformation of the racial order. Perhaps most important, it provides analytic justification for our expectation that creative forces will outweigh blockages, so long as Americans take steps to incorporate those now in danger of exclusion and to improve the life chances of those at the bottom.

Part 2, “Creating a New Order,” consists of five chapters. Chapters 2 through 5 respectively analyze immigration, multiracialism, genomics, and cohort change, in each case using the five components of a racial order to organize the discussion. Despite variation in the content and process of change, a consistent pattern emerges: each transformative force independently (and all of them interactively) is changing how Americans understand what a race is, how individuals are classified, how groups are relatively positioned, how state actions affect people’s freedom of choice, and how people relate to one another in the society. Chapter 6 looks at the opposite side of the creative dynamic—that is, features of the American racial order that reinforce the late twentieth-century order of clear racial and ethnic boundaries, relatively fixed group positions, intermittently prohibitive state actions, and hostile social relations. Chapter 6 focuses on four issues that directly challenge the transformative forces—the costs of a loss in group identity, wealth disparities, unprecedented levels of Black and Latino incarceration, and the possibility that illegal immigrants or Muslims might become the new pariah group. It warns that effective creation of a new racial order can itself deepen the disadvantage of the worst off even while moving toward a more racially inclusive polity.

Finally, part 3, “Possibilities,” consists of one chapter. Chapter 7 concludes by considering the likelihood that the current American racial order will look very different by the time our children reach old age. It also sketches some political and policy directions necessary to promote transformation, expand its benefits, and reduce the proportion of Americans who arc left out or harmed…

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Race and Class in Political Science

Posted in Articles, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy on 2011-10-08 20:09Z by Steven

Race and Class in Political Science

Michigan Journal of Race and Law
Volume 11, Issue 1 (Fall 2005)
pages 99-114

Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

As a discipline, political science tends to have a split personality on the issue of whether the driving force behind political action is material or ideational. Put too crudely, White scholars tend to focus on structural conditions as the cause of group identity and action, whereas scholars of color tend to focus on group identity and conflict in order to explain structural conditions. More generally, the relevant debate within political science revolves less around Jacques Derrida versus Karl Marx (as in critical race studies) than around W. E. B. DuBois versus Thomas Hobbes—that is, whether “the problem of the twentieth [and other] centur[ies] is the problem of the color line” or whether people are fundamentally self-interested individualists whose social interaction is shaped by the opportunities presented in a given political structure.
This paper examines those propositions by discussing important recent work by political scientists in several arenas, including ethnic conflict, nationalism, and a belief in linked fate. I then briefly discuss my own research on the relationship between race and class, and on the possible malleability of racial and ethnic concepts and practices to show one way that identity-based and interest-based political analyses interact. I conclude that material forces drive most important political disputes and outcomes, but that politics is best understood through a combination of material and ideational lenses.

The discipline of political science tends to have a split personality on the issue of whether the underlying driving force behind political action is material or ideational. Put too crudely, mainstream (disproportionately White) scholars tend to focus on structural conditions such as laws or the economy, the self-interest of leaders or activists, political incentives, or even geography in order to explain ethnic identification and conflict. Conversely, scholars who study racial politics (disproportionately people of color), tend to start from racial or ethnic identity and conflict in order to explain structural conditions, understandings of self-interest, or political incentives. This generalization, like most, is indeed too crude, and one can immediately identify exceptions; but, it is arguably accurate enough to be a good starting point for further exploration. I develop this argument, with reference to the most prominent work of political scientists in several subfields, in the next two sections below.
Few political scientists, and even fewer in mainstream, high-status departments, focus on discourse analysis growing out of continental European philosophy. Most who do are political philosophers whose central mission does not include explaining empirical phenomena. As a result, the relevant debate within political science revolves less around Derrida versus Marx than around DuBois versus Hobbes—that is, whether “the problem of the twentieth [and other] centur[ies] is the problem of the color line” or whether people are fundamentally self-interested individualists whose social interaction is shaped by the opportunities offered in a given political structure.
This paper begins by examining and illuminating that proposition through discussion of important recent work by political scientists. I then briefly discuss my own prior work on the relationship between race and class, and use my current research to illuminate how tensions between identity-based politics and interest-based politics play out in academic political science as well as in actual political arenas. I conclude roughly where Richard Delgado does: that material forces and access to resources drive most significant political disputes and outcomes, but that politics is most fully understood through a combination of material and ideational lenses…

…Multiracialism shows some of the same effects. The values placed on multiracial identity are at present completely mixed, even contradictory and mutually hostile. Some people of color (and Whites) embrace the new politics and culture of multiracialism as a means of breaking down the old rigid color lines, as a way to enable people to recognize and identify with their full heritage, as a necessity for good medical care, or as a new frontier for civil rights advocacy. Others see the embrace of multiracialism as merely one more attempt by outsiders to undermine Black or Hispanic solidarity, as a strategy to disrupt litigation or legislation around civil rights, voting rights, and employment discrimination, or as an underhanded way to distance oneself from Blackness (or Latino identity). Still others see it as a pragmatic reality, given rates of immigration and intermarriage, that political actors must accommodate as well as they can. Regardless of how one feels about it, there is growing evidence that the fact of being multiracial has important consequences for one’s life chances. For example, the socioecononomic status of biracial children fall consistently between those of their lower status parent and those of their higher status parent. Thus, on the one hand, the fact of having mixed racial or ethnic ancestry has real, material, consequences for one’s life – independent of the language with which we understand that fact. But on the other hand, the growth of and contestation around a multiracial movement show that the mere fact of having parents of different races is politically and personally very different from the claim of a multiracial identity and community…

Read the entire essay here.

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Racial Reorganization and the United States Census 1850–1930: Mulattoes, Half-Breeds, Mixed Parentage, Hindoos, and the Mexican Race

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-01-20 05:39Z by Steven

Racial Reorganization and the United States Census 1850–1930: Mulattoes, Half-Breeds, Mixed Parentage, Hindoos, and the Mexican Race

Studies in American Political Development
Volume 22, Issue 1 (March 2008)
pages 59-96
DOI: 10.1017/S0898588X08000047

Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Brenna Marea Powell, Associate Director
Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation
Stanford University

Between 1850 and 1930, demographic upheaval in the United States was connected to reorganization of the racial order. Socially and politically recognized boundaries between groups shifted, new groups emerged, others disappeared, and notions of who belonged in which category changed. All recognized racial groups—blacks, whites, Indians, Asians, Mexicans and others—were affected. This article investigates how and why census racial classification policies changed during this period, only to stabilize abruptly before World War II. In the context of demographic transformations and their political consequences, we find that census policy in any given year was driven by a combination of scientific, political, and ideological motivations.

Based on this analysis, we rethink existing theoretical approaches to censuses and racial classification, arguing that a nation’s census is deeply implicated in and helps to construct its social and political order. Censuses provide the concepts, taxonomy, and substantive information by which a nation understands its component parts as well as the contours of the whole; censuses both create the image and provide the mirror of that image for a nation’s self-reflection. We conclude by outlining the meaning of this period in American history for current and future debates over race and classification.

Read the entire article here.

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Policies of Racial Classification and the Politics of Racial Inequality

Posted in Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-03-30 00:15Z by Steven

Policies of Racial Classification and the Politics of Racial Inequality

In Suzanne Mettler, Joe Soss, and Jacob Hacker (eds.). Remaking America: Democracy and Public Policy in an Age of Inequality
Russell Sage Foundation
November 2007
41 pages

Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Vesla Mae Weaver, Assistant Professor
The Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics
University of Virginia

Introduction: Policy, Politics, Inequality, and Race

In 1890, the United States census bureau reported that the nation contained 6,337,980 negroes, 956,989 “mulattoes,” 105,135 “quadroons,” and 69,936 “octoroons.” In the early twentieth century it also reported the number of whites of “mixed parentage,” the number of Indians with one-quarter, half, or three-quarters black or white “blood,” and the number of part-Hawaiians and part-Malays. The boundaries between racial and ethnic groups, and even the definition of race and ethnicity, were blurred and contested. By 1930, however, this ambiguity largely disappeared from the census. Anyone with any “Negro blood” was counted as a Negro; whites no longer had mixed parentage; Indians were mainly identified by tribe rather than ancestry; and a consistent treatment of Asians was slowly developing. In other work we examine how and why these classifications rose and fell; here we examine the consequences for contemporary American politics and policy.

Official governmental classification systems can create as well as reflect social, economic, and political inequality, just as policies of taxation, welfare, or social services can and do. Official classification defines groups, determines boundaries between them, and assigns individuals to groups; in “ranked ethnic systems” (Horowitz 2000), this process enshrines structurally the dominant group’s belief about who belongs where, which groups deserve what, and ultimately who gets what. Official racial categories have determined whether a person may enter the United States, attain citizenship, own a laundry, marry a loved one, become a firefighter, enter a medical school, attend an elementary school near home, avoid an internment camp, vote, run for office, annul a marriage, receive appropriate medical treatment for syphilis, join a tribe, sell handicrafts, or open a casino. Private racial categories have affected whether an employer offers a person a job, whether a criminal defendant gets lynched, whether a university admits an applicant, and whether a heart attack victim receives the proper therapy. In these and many more ways, racial classification helps to create and maintain poverty and political, social, and economic inequality. Thus systems of racial categorization are appropriate subjects for analysis through a policy-centered perspective because they are “strategies for achieving political goals, structures shaping political interchange, and symbolic objects conveying status and identity” (p. 2 of Intro). Race is also, not coincidentally, the pivot around which political contests about equality have been waged for most of this country’s history.

The same classification system that promotes inequality may also undermine it. Once categorization generates groups with sharply defined boundaries, the members of that group can draw on their shared identity within the boundary to mobilize against their subordinate position—what one set of authors call strategic essentialism (Omi and Winant 1994). Thus classification laws are recursive, containing the elements for both generating and challenging group-based inequality. For this reason—and also because demographic patterns and other social relations on which classification rests can change—categorizations are unstable and impermanent.

We explore these abstract claims by examining the past century of racial classification in the United States. That period encompassed significant change in systems of classification and their attendant hierarchies; thus we can see how classification and inequality are related, as well as tracing the political dynamics that reinforce or challenge inequality-sustaining policies. From the Civil War era through the 1920s, the Black population was partly deconstructed through official attention to mulattos (and sometimes quadroons and octoroons), then reconstructed through court decisions and state-level “one drop of blood” laws. As of 1930, a clear and simple racial hierarchy was inscribed in the American polity — with all the attendant horrors of Jim Crow segregation. However, the one-drop policy that reinforced racial inequality also undermined it. From the 1930s through the 1970s, that is, the Black population solidified though a growing sense of racial consciousness and shared fate, and developed the political capacity to contest their poverty and unequal status…

Read the entire chapter here.

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“There’s No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama”: The Policy and Politics of American Multiracialism

Posted in Census/Demographics, New Media, Papers/Presentations, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-03-04 04:16Z by Steven

“There’s No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama”: The Policy and Politics of American Multiracialism

Weatherhead Center for International Affairs
Harvard University
February 2010
Working Paper
68 pages

Jennifer Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies
Harvard University

Vesla Weaver, Assistant Professor
The Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics
University of Virginia

Forthcoming publication in Perspectives on Politics, June 2010.

For the first time in American history, the United States’ 2000 census allowed individuals to choose more than one race. That new policy sets up our exploration of whether and how multiracialism is entering Americans’ understanding and practice of race. By analyzing briefly earlier cases of racial construction, we uncover three factors important to understanding if and how intensely a feedback effect for racial classification will be generated. Using this framework, we find that multiracialism has been institutionalized in the federal government, and is moving toward institutionalization in the private sector and other governmental units. In addition, the small proportion of Americans who now define themselves as multiracial is growing absolutely and relatively, and evidence suggests a continued rise. Increasing multiracial identification is made more likely by racial mixture’s growing prominence in American society – demographically, culturally, economically, and psychologically. However, the politics side of the feedback loop is complicated by the fact that identification is not identity. Traditional racial or ethnic loyalties and understandings remain strong, including among potential multiracial identifiers. Therefore, if mixed race identification is to evolve into a multiracial identity, it may not be at the expense of existing group consciousness. Instead, we expect mixed race identity to be contextual, fluid, and additive, so that it can be layered onto rather than substituted for traditional monoracial commitments. If the multiracial movement successfully challenges the longstanding understanding and practice of “one drop of blood” racial groups, it has the potential to change much of the politics and policy of American race relations.

O’Leary, O’Riley, O’Hare, and O’Hara
There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama.
His mam’s daddy’s grandaddy was one Fulmuth Kearney
He’s as Irish as any from the lakes of Killarney
His mam’s from a long line of great Irish mamas;
There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama.

–“There’s No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama“, Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys (Corrigan Brothers)

Read the entire paper here.

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