Exposing Bias: Race and Racism in America

A candid interview between journalist Robert Fieseler and anthropologists Dr. Michael Baran and Dr. James Herron, who teach the Harvard Extension School course Race in the Americas.

Back in 2000, in Ann Arbor, journalist Robert Fieseler was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, during a time when the university was fighting to preserve affirmative action.

On the same campus PhD candidates in the globally ranked anthropology department were publishing breakthrough dissertations on race as a cultural construct—in the United States and around the world. Among that cohort were names like James Herron and Michael Baran, future scholars in the field and current instructors at Harvard University.

Sixteen years later, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, during a time when racial tensions in the United States are high, the three Michigan alumni gathered to discuss the concept of race, the value of affirmative action, and the ways future generations should be taught about race.

The Origins of Race in America

Why does the racial conversation continue to bedevil our nation?

Dr. James Herron

Dr. James Herron

Dr. Herron: Race or racial ideology runs deep in our history and culture. In certain ways, it's at the core of our political culture. Our identities are shaped by race. So, given its centrality in our history, it's not surprising that it continues to be relevant.

If you think about it, what is race? What is racism? At its most basic level, racism is a lens through which people interpret, naturalize, and reproduce inequality.

Dr. Baran: That’s right. Race developed at a very particular point in time as our nation was forming.

We had, on the one hand, these national ideals of freedom and equality. And, on the other hand, we had this economic reality of a slavery system that was part of the transatlantic slave trade. So, basically, this ideology developed to justify how slaves weren't equal biologically.

Dr. Michael Baran

Dr. Michael Baran

And then, unfortunately, you had anthropologists and scientists of that era who went about “proving” this—poor scholarship that has been invalidated many times over.

A great book by Steven J. Gould called The Mismeasure of Man exposes the bad science. But we still have this ideology persisting today.

Dr. Herron: These pseudo-scientific forms of racism purported to show that there were natural, biological differences between human groups. In fact, that's what anthropology was for 100 years— a sort of "racial science." The discipline classified various racial groups in a hierarchy of moral/intellectual capacity.

Dr. Baran: Our culture has shown through countless examples that people's potentials are not based on these racial groups. Up until this election cycle, I would have said that we were living in a time when explicit racism has been on the decline.

But current political discourse aside, implicit, unconscious bias is still everywhere, with large, concrete consequences for people's lives—voting rights, access to education, employment, treatment by law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

So then I find myself asking, why do we continue to think racially? Why do these groups persist, and why do we still have bias against certain groups?

The Social Construction of Racism

Dr. Herron: There’s another way to understand the role of racism in our society: as a way of managing relations among whites.

A prominent historian named C. Vann Woodward wrote a book called The Strange Career of Jim Crow in an attempt to explain the roots of racial segregation in the American South. Why did this system of formal segregation in public venues exist in the American South? Was it really about exploiting the labor of blacks, as in slavery? Or was it something else altogether?

Woodward argues that Jim Crow arose to cement a class alliance between poor whites, working class whites, and elite whites. The white southern elite greatly feared the possibility that poor blacks and poor whites would join together around a common cause.

Before the advent of Jim Crow, there were stories of such alliances. One example, Virginia’s Readjuster Party, was a sort of interracial populist movement.

We can see then how Jim Crow laws were deployed to create a black and white divide among the working class. I find that argument quite persuasive, and you can even observe it today.

You certainly see that in the 2016 presidential campaign. An elite person, like Donald Trump, attempts to forge a link with working class whites. But his interests and their interests are quite different, right? What's good for Donald Trump is not what's good for a working class person in Iowa.

But one can ask: Why the demonizing of immigrants? Why the subtle/not so subtle racial appeals that can seem quite pervasive in this discourse? It's sort of saying, look at what we have in common—our interests and values and “traditions” as white people.

I’m no politician, but it seems to me there's a great deal of continuity between current discourse and past racial ideology.

Dr. Baran: When we talk about race as anthropologists, we’re not just sitting around and speculating. We are doing solid research on this topic, and so are researchers in other disciplines.

We need the general public to understand that racial attitudes can be researched, and we can take the findings and learn from them. That's going to inform how we move forward as a country.

So that's one of my missions actually: to get people to understand race and reduce bias.

How Children Process Race

How do children today perceive race?

Dr. Baran: Children come into the world prepared to learn certain things. And they actively learn them. You don't have to teach it to them.

Children learn language effortlessly, even though language is incredibly complex. They’re learning language at one year old just by listening to people talk. A developing child also tries to determine which social groups will be important.

Graphic from Dr. Michael Baran's interactive digital program (Don't) Guess My Race

Dr. Baran developed the interactive digital program (Don’t) Guess My Race, used in colleges and universities to make learning about the social science of race engaging and fun but also deep and lasting.

Let’s say a mother is in a conversation with another adult at the playground, and her child overhears her say, “It's so great that we have a black president.”

The child just learned a lot about the world from this remark. She learned that there's a category called “black.” Every other time she heard the word “president,” it didn't have the word “black” in front of it. She learned that this new term is really important. And she learned that her mother is excited or angry or sarcastic about it, depending on the tone of voice.

As a result, the child forms what’s called a cognitive placeholder, and she goes about actively trying to figure out what that category of people is like and using that placeholder in social situations.

Children’s brains are picking out these groups in the world. Their brains are trying to understand power dynamics.

But you've also got adults—and here, I'm mostly talking about white adults—who won't talk to their children about race. And it's often for good intentions. They want their kids to be “colorblind,” and they want to protect them from the ugliness of racism.

But, if you're that kid trying to figure things out, and adults won't talk to you about it, you learn that it's taboo. So you go about learning from other sources, some of which are less thoughtful, like the media, movies, the proverbial uncle at Thanksgiving, and friends your own age. And also you learn from subtle behaviors, like parents locking their car door in certain neighborhoods.

That’s how these essentialist, naturalized ways of thinking about race, these associations, can be perpetuated across generations. Explicitly, parents teach kids the basic lessons: Treat everyone equally. Don't discriminate. Everyone is the same. We're all good.

But kids end up developing these implicit or unconscious associations that have numerous effects: in school and at work and at home and in the court system.

Admission and Affirmative Action

Why does the subject of race seem to continually arise in admission to areas of opportunity in our society: admission to colleges, admission to workplaces and executive boardrooms, admission to communities through home ownership and positive police relations?

Dr. Herron: Racial ideologies are fundamentally judgments about who is worthy, who is decent, who belongs, and who doesn't. Inclusion and exclusion.

The contexts you mention with admissions, those are areas where people are called to make judgments of other people. So it's inevitable that racial issues come up in those contexts.

Dr. Baran: When there’s evaluation of people, all those biases we talked about are going to come into play, whether explicitly or implicitly. For most of our history, those biases explicitly excluded people who were not considered white. Today it still happens, but more implicitly. Just look at that recent Yale Child Study Center study showing that even preschool teachers expect and watch for problem behavior more from black boys. This leads to more discipline, more suspensions and expulsions, and exclusion from all the benefits of education.

Racial ideologies are fundamentally judgments about who is worthy, who is decent, who belongs, and who doesn't. Inclusion and exclusion." — Dr. James Herron

Because of the history and what happens today, it’s no surprise that when we try to counteract bias, we use the same essentialized categories of race. It’s good to have policies that mitigate against bias at the same time that we work toward actually reducing bias in the long term.

What are your thoughts on affirmative action?

Dr. Herron: I think that people who say affirmative action is unjust lack any structural understanding of race. They simply don't understand how racism works.

Opponents of affirmative action are often individualistic in how they think about the topic. They just think, there are two individuals: a white person and a black person. And, hypothetically, the white person in this case is more qualified than the black person. Therefore, the white person should be admitted. But that's a myopic viewpoint.

If you understand that we live in a society that systematically channels resources toward white people at the expense of black people, then you realize something: the fact that this white person is more qualified might itself be unfair.

So it is certainly no solution say, “OK, we'll just be colorblind and admit the person who's more qualified.” The fact that one individual might appear more qualified than the other could be the result of racism.

Expanding Perspectives on Race

You teach the course Race in the Americas at Harvard Extension School. The course takes a deliberately international bent. Why do you feel that is important?

Dr. Herron: In some ways, we take this approach to stay focused on the future.

Many commentators and anthropologists are arguing that a majority–minority United States is going to function more like Latin America in terms of race.

To put it crudely, in Latin America race and racial ideas are generally more fluid. Color and social status are more loosely linked than they are in America. Race is less definitive of people’s identity.

For instance, in Brazil, knowing someone's color is a clue about his or her social status, but it's not the only piece of information that you need to know. Are they wealthy? Are they educated? What kind of job do they have? Color is part of what determines social status, but it's just one part.

But for a long time in the United States, someone's race was actually a strong clue to their social status—at least people thought it was. If you knew someone was white or black or Asian or Hispanic, you thought you knew more about that person in terms of where they stood in society.

Do these cultural comparisons come as a surprise to your students?

Dr. Herron: Yes. I think it surprises and even shocks them to learn that race can behave and function differently. The material does what any good anthropology course should do: it forces students to relativize their own worldview.

They come to understand that race isn't a natural, universal way of perceiving the world. They learn that how we perceive the world in terms of race is quite particular to where we are from—and in a certain sense it’s arbitrary.

Dr. Baran: Race is so interesting because it's probably the best case of opening people's eyes to the whole field of cultural anthropology in general.

Race underlies things that are often just considered natural and normal. People believe that there are these different racial groups in the world, and that's just the way it is.

If I can inspire deep critical thinking on some of these issues, if I can get people to think more like a social scientist or an anthropologist, then I think we all will see things differently. And change will follow." — Dr. Michael Baran

But, if we can take that assumption and spin it on its head and show people how race is actually historically and culturally and socially constructed, then you've just opened their eyes to this whole way of looking at the world.

It’s not about attacking individual people and labeling people as racist or not. It’s about understanding the larger systems of oppression and reducing the bias that everyone has. With a social science approach, we attempt to challenge the fundamental ways we all think about this issue, which is more helpful.

If I can inspire deep critical thinking on some of these issues, if I can get people to think more like a social scientist or an anthropologist, then I think we all will see things differently. And change will follow.

—Interview by Robert Fieseler

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Lala (not verified) replied:

I am happy to see these Professors offer this course. One of the biggest challenges to helping people learn how to view race accurately is the guilt, shame, anger, and denial that many feel when reevaluating the validity of their prior erroneous beliefs and perhaps reckoning with the fact that they themselves or even their families have indeed oppressed others on accident since they all were not cognizant of the true nature of the concept of race; it is merely a social construct and a political weapon wielded by the Elite for solely the advantage of the Elite.

October 28, 20162:30pm

A Latino Extens... (not verified) replied:

Good Day Dr. Baran and Dr. Herron, I find your respective positions simultaneously contradictory and inflammatory. Perhaps you can enlighten me further to avoid any misunderstanding I may have on your positions regarding race and racism. No rational person may sincerely argue to the contrary that racism is alive and prospering throughout all societies across the globe, or that it remains a cancer within American society. However, to state that, "Race developed at a very particular point in time as our nation was forming" is to imply that race or racism did not exist before the advent of the United States, or that the issue of race and racism is unique and endemic to the United States. Neither position could be further from the truth. Similar incongruities exist throughout this article. For example, chastising the "elite person" Donald Trump for his, "attempts to forge a link with working class whites" infers, at the very minimum, a different if not greater form of racism juxtaposed with the "elite person" president Barack Obama attempts to forge a link with working class blacks when he made the comments, "And after we have achieved historic turnout in 2008 and 2012, especially in the African-American community, I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy, if this community lets down it's guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good send off? Go vote!" in a recent speech before the Congressional Black Caucus. How is one "elite person" comments targeting a specific race any more or less racist than any other “elite person” targeting a different race in his comments? I agree with your position regarding the [not so subtle] bias created when a young child, "learned that there's a category called 'black.' Every other time she heard the word 'president,' it didn't have the word 'black' in front of it." Yes, the child has learned that somehow president Obama is diminished every time he is referred as a "black" president. Your eloquent articulation of this form of racism notwithstanding, why not call out the racism when we speak of the Congressional Black Caucus or the NAACP? Clearly we would not tolerate a "Congressional White Caucus" or an organization named NAACP if the acronym stood for the "National Association for the Advancement of Caucasian People" so why do accept it when it is a group we presently label "minority?" Speaking for myself only, as a member of the Hispanic community I am offended whenever I hear “Hispanic Heritage Month” for the very reason you intimated. Am I a member of a select group of individuals that are so deficient in some regard that any achievement must be singled out for lauding? Is the inference that when a white person pilots a space shuttle that is to be expected and not worthy of mention for there is no “White Heritage Month”, but when a Latino pilots a space shuttle that somehow I had to overcome some greater cluster of innate deficiencies compared to the white astronaut beside me? Of all the troubling aspects to this article, the position I have the greatest concern over is your position on Affirmative Action. I cannot imagine of a greater, institutionalized evil in American society than Affirmative Action and I take umbrage over your assertion that my position implies a, “lack of structural understanding of race” and that I , "simply don't understand how racism works."" What is the justification for addressing systemic problems fostered by morally deficient and deplorable racial considerations through equally morally deficient and deplorable racial considerations? I would argue that we systematically and institutionally channel resources (by way of taxes and financial support) towards affluent people – irrespective of color – not, as you assert, “towards white people at the expense of black people.” A child growing up in The Gold Coast is apt to receive greater (hence “better”) educational resources than a child growing up in The South Side regardless of whether either child is black or white. Moreover, neither child had resources deprived of one to benefit the other even when one factors into consideration how convoluted educational funding is at the regional and state level. Even if I were to exercise extreme charity towards your position I am still left with a perplexing quandary: If you sincerely believe that American society is predicated on systemically channeling resources towards white people at the expense of black people, why not just tear down the institutions that engender such atrocities? I understand it is far easier to feign support towards the handful of students who benefit from the evil racism deceptively clothed in Affirmative Action than it is to reform the very beast that perpetuates the cycle of poverty for all students. Further, how would you counter that Utah, perhaps our least diverse and most conservative state, systematically channels more funding to school districts with a greater incidence of poverty? If I accept the commonly held, but thoroughly contrived, belief that poverty is a special property of being black in American and that wealth is a special property of being white in America, then this is a clear contradiction to your position. Utah would then be guilty in systematically depriving resource from white people for the exclusive benefits of blacks. We can all agree that there is racism in American society. I just read the latest example this morning when a group of black students at Berkeley actively blocked white students from attending class while simultaneously demanding white students be segregated from blacks. Our educational system has truly failed America when a group of college students on any campus today never learned that the premise, “separate but equal” was argued, and lost, long ago.

October 28, 20162:38pm

James Herron (not verified) replied:

Thank you for you comments and for your detailed engagement with our views. I respectfully suggest that your arguments involve a few basic confusions. First, while you acknowledge that racism “remains a cancer on American society,” you seem to be skeptical of the claim that our society channels resources to whites at the expense of blacks and other minorities. However, such disparities in access to resources are one of the principle manifestations of racism in our society. This is a fact, and I don’t see how you can have it both ways: that you can acknowledge that racism is prevalent in our society yet also claim that such racism has no effect on the distribution of resources. Racial inequalities in income, wealth, educational access, etc., are well-documented empirical facts. Second, your arguments fail to understand the structural character of racism or racial discrimination. This shortcoming is clear in your claim that race-based organizations (such as the NAACP) or programs (such as affirmative action) reproduced racial distinctions and racism. You suggest, for instance, that to endorse the NAACP and yet to condemn a “National Association for the Advancement of Caucasian People" involves a contradiction: we would condemn the association of white people presumably because it a race-based organization and as such involves “racism.” Would not the same objection apply to the NAACP, which is also a race-based organization? When we take into account the structural nature of racism in our society, the answer to this question is no. Let me explain. Ours can be characterized as a white supremacist society. I fear you will not agree with this characterization, but it should not be controversial. Consider this: surely during the period of slavery and then Jim Crow our society could be fairly labeled as white supremacist. So perhaps we can agree that white supremacy was a fact from, say, the 17th century until the 1960s. While it is true that the Civil Rights Movement significantly eroded white supremacy after the 1960s, it’s clear that whites maintain a dominant position in our economy and polity through to the present day. For these reasons I characterize our society as white supremacist. I believe that white supremacy is immoral. And so insofar as the NAACP works to dismantle white supremacy, I support its work. Presumably a “National Association for the Advancement of Caucasian People” would, as the name implies, reinforce white supremacy. I would therefore oppose such an organization. The matter is straightforward. But my point here is that we can’t ignore the structural context in which an organization like the NAACP operates. We can’t ignore the structural fact of white supremacy. Your critique of Affirmative Action likewise suffers from the lack of a structural understanding of racism. In particular, echoing Chief Justice Roberts, you write: “What is the justification for addressing systemic problems fostered by morally deficient and deplorable racial considerations through equally morally deficient and deplorable racial considerations?” Your basic idea here seems to be that Affirmative Action is illegitimate because it takes race into account in the distribution of opportunities and resources. Race, in your view, ought not to be taken into account when allocating resources and opportunities. Regarding the last point, we are in agreement: all else being equal, I agree that race ought not to be taken into account when allocating resources and opportunities. But I also recognize that, in the absence of Affirmative Action, race is generally already being taken into account in the allocation of resources and opportunities. This is a structural fact about how our white supremacist society operates. It’s foolish to pretend otherwise. With a structural understanding of racism, we can see how discrimination is in fact perpetuated by abandoning Affirmative Action and by pursuing “color-blind” policies. Suppose, for instance, that we adopt a “color-blind” procedure for hiring someone to fill a job opening. Suppose that we have two finalists for the job, one black and one white. Suppose that the white candidate is more qualified because she posses a stronger educational background. Since we are color-blind, we hire the white candidate. By following this “color-blind” procedure, we will have very likely reproduced or reinforced racial inequality. We will have done so because we live in a white supremacist society that systematically channels resources, including educational resources, to whites at the expense of blacks. So our white candidate was likely more qualified than the black candidate at least in part because of past racial discrimination. By hiring her, we will have in effect transmitted or reproduced that past racial discrimination. From this perspective, Affirmative Action does not reproduce racial inequality; Affirmative Action reduces racial inequality. Finally, in a few spots your posting implies the idea of “anti-white racism.” But the idea of “anti-white racism” doesn’t make any sense. Or rather, we can speak of “anti-white racism” only by willfully ignoring centuries of history. Look at it this way. Racism arose in order to justify the enslavement of Africans — not whites — in the context of the Atlantic Slave trade. Later, racism served to justify the legally-sanctioned second-class citizenship of American blacks — not whites. Today, racism underwrites extra-legal discrimination against minorities — not whites — in a variety of contexts: the job market, credit markets, etc. For centuries, racism has meant anti-black racism. Racism has never justified the enslavement or second class-citizenship of whites. For this reason, to speak of “anti-white racism” makes no sense unless one ignores centuries of history and our contemporary social structure. It would be the same to speak of “anti-male patriarchy,” which, I hope you will agree, is nonsensical. At the very least “anti-white racism” is a breathtakingly ahistorical notion.

January 23, 201712:38pm

Van (not verified) replied:

Fascinating article. I come from a country in the West Indies where race is less important in everyday life and has less power to exclude people, so having immigrated to this country, I have often failed to understand rhe plight of African Americans here. I have a few more books and articles to read as a result of the references in this interview. I plan to share it on my facebook page and hopefully get more people thinking about possible solutions to rhis institutionalized problem.

October 28, 20163:28pm

Samuel Tibo (not verified) replied:

JUST THINKING OUT LOUD [from a personal philosophical point of view] I agree; and I think one of the most effective ways to see [positive and lasting] change is to walk in love and in truth. Come to think of it, is there any such thing as being "racist" to one's self or kindred? I don't think so. So if kids are taught in basic schools how to see themselves and relate with others as they would themselves, I believe it's just a matter of time... racism will be no more. Racism, even though it is the result of a lack of a special kind of understanding or even the absence of that knowledge required to enhance the course of peace and prosperity [collectively in the earth], it, however, in summary, is the ultimate enemy of the human-race... and the only way, in my view, to eradicate it is to demonstrate true love: because, frankly, it is absolutely impossible to see lasting peace and prosperity where there's no love and unity. So racism among humans, also being the refusal to treat another human being [either in thought, speech or in action] as yourself, is the curse/side effect of ignorance that can only be remedied by love and justice in truth. IGNORANCE Ignoring the fact about who you could or could've been just by looking at others: others whose "self and personalities" were shaped either by their birth, experiences, education, location, beliefs, circumstances, ideologies etc. just as yours did you; and the fact that you could've become them had you gone through and experienced their thoughts and life. So racism, to me, is simply immaturity. It doesn't matter how old one is: "the aged are not always wise," says the students of knowledge.

October 28, 20166:40pm

Casandra Xavier (not verified) replied:

I would like to check further into this. Thanks for posting.

October 29, 20161:11pm

Sonja Grulich (not verified) replied:

As a parent I hear you saying that it's important to address racism with children. I also hear you saying seemingly innocuous statements about race to/around children can have unintended consequences. I don't hear examples of proactive conversation starters though. Any suggestions?

October 30, 20169:50am

Michael Baran (not verified) replied:

Hi Sonja, Apologies for the delay in responding. One place to start might be a free iPhone, iPad, iPod app I developed called "Who Am I? Race Awareness Game." You can download it in the App Store. It's a fun game for adults to play with children but also provides a context for starting conversations (and some tips too). Let me know what you think! Best, Michael

January 23, 201711:01am

Amira (not verified) replied:

skimming of material causes exclamation mark in my mind

October 30, 201612:22pm

Maria Krug (not verified) replied:

I have reviewed your article, "Exposing Bias: Race and Racism in America" with great interest. As a child I, too, had parents that instructed me to lock the doors when we rode through the projects in Baltimore City. I did not feel threatened, but I remember feeling quite sad. I was 7 at the time. The projects of the day were high-rise facilities that had fencing stretched across the entire face of the building. I remember asking my parents, "Why are they locked up in cages like that? I thought it was horrible. It felt, to me, that they were being caged to protect them from committing suicide because they were forced to live in such squalor. When I was 10, I was on my way to my Catholic church. I was in the church choir, and I sang 2 masses before I started my school day every day. I was walking alone, and I observed a Black man who began running after me. I made it to the church steps before he put a knife to my throat. I began praying and, miraculously, he walked away. Even though my experience was incredibly frightening, I did not let it deter me. As I grew up, I realized my personal feelings about race were much different than when I was taught as a child. Increasingly, I discovered that what I was taught (and what, I believe, most White children were taught) was a result of ignorance, prejudice, and fear. It challenged me to learn more. As I proceeded through college, many of the students were Black, and they were the hardest working students in my classes. I talked to several students them about their goals in life. One woman told me, "I am hell bent on getting off of welfare." Another student told me, "I want to realize my dreams of being a teacher." I felt we had something in common and, for me, race quickly disappeared from the equation. When I entered the world of work at the Social Security Administration, I observed that the women who were the top performers in my area were all Black. I sought them out as role models. The women were warm, receptive, and inclusive. They shared information with me, helped me through challenges, and encouraged me to pursue my dreams with passion. As I moved on to NOAA, I became a member of its Diversity Office. I learned a lot about the difference between requirements v. preferences when people were seeking employment and trying to ensure a level playing field for all. I remember that the Director stressed the differences between Diversity and EEO, and her strong desire to keep them separated because EEO attempted to remedy discrimination, while Diversity stressed celebration and inclusion. I have internalized the Diversity principles I have learned, and they serve as the very cornerstone of my life. None of us truly know where our lives will lead or when we will be called to make a stand for what we truly believe. That day came for me when one of my Black coworkers was continually harassed for her appearance, discriminated against despite being the most knowledgeable IT Specialist in our office, referred to (behind her back) with racial epithets such as, "You wouldn't get her to make a presentation for you, with those pickaninny pigtails." She wore casual clothing to work to be comfortable because she was recovering from breast cancer, yet she was criticized for not looking professional. She was a bit stocky, and her White boss, a fitness guru, tried to coerce her to join a fitness club so she could "take more pride in herself." When she filed an EEO complaint because of rampant discrimination and retaliation, there was no question how I would proceed. I stood steadfastly beside her. I didn't care about her race, and it did not matter what it cost me professionally. What was happening to her was wrong and, from the depths of my soul, I felt driven to stop it. Happily, she has won a 6-figure court settlement, but money can never heal her scars. She said to me, "No one has never stood up for me like that in my whole life." Even though you grow up among others who are racist, it does not mean you have to choose that path for yourself. It means challenging the stereotypes, expanding your imagination, seeking greater education, exposing yourself to unfounded fears, and being proud of what you become. I achieved a Bronze Medal for helping to develop a Diversity curriculum for all NOAA's National Weather Service employees, but it was not the recognition that drew me. I sincerely love the work. Combating racism at every corner may be a challenging vision for some, but truly striving to heal the divide, building the bridge, and celebrating the equality that results is the greatest honor on earth. -Maria Krug, Management Analyst Maria.C.Krug@noaa.gov (301) 665-3766

December 6, 20163:15pm

Jamel Sharif (not verified) replied:

I generally agree with what Dr. Baran and Dr. Herron have described. It is certainly illuminating to get to a point where people understand the social construct that is race and racism, as the focus on individual acts of discrimination limits our understanding of racial oppression. I must disagree, however, with the notion that race behaves and functions differently in societies like Brazil. Yes, Latin societies have been more fluid with race, but they have all maintained a social hierarchy with Whites primarily at the top, and Blacks and indigenous people primarily at the bottom of the social construct. Every modern society in the western hemisphere began as a White settler colony that seized indigenous lands, marginalized (or eliminated) the original peoples, and forcibly imported Black slave labor. These societies unfortunately, still have the broad outlines of that arrangement as indicated by most group social indicators, i.e. political power, education level, wealth accumulation, health, collective economic power, incarceration rates, etc. An honest assessment of such persistent inequality, which is greatly informed by historical racial constructs, forces us to come to terms with the global implications of racial oppression, which often gets subsumed in conversations simply about race and racism.

December 14, 20163:07pm


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