guest post: new census race classifications are about civil rights, not discrimination

The following is a post by Emily Klancher Merchant.

In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed, Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, warns that two changes to the 2020 census, recently proposed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will “aggravate the volatile social frictions that created today’s poisonous political climate in the first place”. One change would combine the currently-separate questions on race and Hispanic origin. The second would add “Middle East or North Africa” as a potential answer to that combined question. Gonzalez disingenuously claims that these changes – along with existing efforts by the Census Bureau and other statistical agencies to classify the U.S. population by race, ethnicity, or national origins – will undermine the unity of the American people. Certainly, in its nearly 230-year history, the U.S. Census has participated in racist projects from slavery to Jim Crow to the 1924 National Origins Act to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Today, however, the census is the government’s primary statistical tool for the enforcement of civil rights legislation and the administration of programs aimed at redressing our country’s long history of race-based discrimination, oppression, and plunder. The proposed changes are an attempt by the demographers of the Census Bureau to make our statistical system better reflect the complex categories of identity in the United States that continue to structure inclusion and exclusion, oppression and privilege. Efforts to block the reporting of race, ethnicity, or national origins in the census aim to undermine scientific analysis of discrimination and policy measures that promote equity. Understanding the changes proposed by OMB and Gonzalez’s opposition requires understanding the history of race in the census both before and after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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guest post: safety pins, awareness ribbons, and the challenges of new symbols

The following is a guest post by Terence E. McDonnell. 

640px-safety_pin

For many Americans, safety pins have suddenly appeared everywhere: Pinned to shirts, posted to Facebook, or worn by celebrities. When I started wearing one a handful of strangers asked “what the heck are these safety pins all about?” This is the challenge of new symbols. Before they can work people need to know what they mean.

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review: “postcolonial thought and social theory” by julian go

Last week, my graduate theory students read Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America. Next week, we’re reading The Souls of Black Folk. When I took graduate social theory (twice!), I didn’t read Du Bois. I didn’t even know I wasn’t reading him; that is, his absence from the syllabus went unremarked. Fast forward a decade or so and, thanks especially to the efforts of Aldon Morris, Du Bois is increasingly treated as a central social theorist, worthy of inclusion on equal terms with the old big three (Marx, Weber, and Durkheim). Reading Julian Go’s new book Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory in the middle of our Du Bois unit proved to be both useful and provocative. If you or someone you know is pondering how to broaden the canon in your theory class – to include Du Bois and then to go beyond his work – Go’s book makes for an interesting call to arms.

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structure beats culture; culture roars back

In American Democracy, I argued that there are times in American politics when culture beats structure: when the popular will—the democratic culture, as Tocqueville imagined it—is represented even though political and electoral structures seem to interfere with or prevent such representation.

This was not such a case.

Earlier, colleagues and I wrote about four cases of what we called postmodern electoral crises. These events are characterized by actors strategically deploying structural tactics designed for unusual situations in the service of normal politics. Thus tools designed to represent the demos are used to shape or distort it.

This was closer to such a case.

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the “not-all-manosphere”: masculinity and the online alt-right

 

The following is a guest post by John Bailey.

Donald Trump will enter office in 2017, in large part, due to the votes of white men. While the dismissal of his candidacy was a constant refrain for most commentators, Trump’s ascendancy was always treated as inevitable in one space in particular: online communities of far-right white guys.

Trump’s startling victory has provoked some soul-searching about what the internet means for white guys, often using the word radicalization. It’s an apt term, given that Trump’s campaign was built through radical posturing on race (explicitly) and gender (in ways only slightly more coded). But this didn’t start with Trump. The diffuse architecture of identities, communities, and digital techniques that bolstered his campaign has been floating around the untrammeled internet long before they became embodied in the president-elect’s chief strategist. What explains the emergence of this specific form of alt-right masculinity, and why has it become so durable?

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normalization of extremism: steve bannon edition

Here’s NPR story about Steve Bannon’s appointment as Chief Strategist. It’s just one of many that fails to note how extreme Bannon is, or downplays his extremism. Here’s how NPR describes him:

“Meanwhile, the inclusion of Bannon, the former head of the far-right outlet Breitbart News, suggests another direction entirely. Rumored to be have been considered for chief of staff himself, Bannon “would have been the insurgent choice” for the top aide job, Eyder says. He is “known for his no-holds-barred approach to politics and his popularity among the alt-right,” as NPR’s Sarah McCammon reported last week.”

Here’s how they could have described him:

Steve Bannon is a white supremacist, anti-semite, and a domestic abuser.

Not saying those things – instead saying that he’s “far-right” and “insurgent” – is what normalization looks like.

the polls are alright

I am going to take Dan’s invitation to consider one aspect of the polls that I don’t see getting a lot of attention right now, but that I think could be important: undecided voters could explain much of the polling error being discussed.

Oliver Tacke, FlickrIn other words, I don’t think that the polls were that wrong. I know that this view puts me in the minority, even among people who think about these things for a living. What we have, I think, is a failure to really consider how we should interpret polls given two very unpopular candidates and a possible “Shy Tory” effect where Trump supporters reported being undecided to pollsters.

Let’s break down the vote share by breaking it into its component parts: Continue reading “the polls are alright”