Abstract: The graduate student experience, for many, can be a time of great stress, insecurity, and uncertainty. Overwhelmingly, studies verify that good mentoring is one of the best indicators of graduate student success. In this literature review, we outline in detail previous research that attest to these experiences, and pay specific attention to the experiences of students of color. In general, our read of the literature suggests that academia, in general, and sociology, in particular, does not do a good job of mentoring graduate students of color. We begin our essay with an overview of graduate student experiences. Next, we discuss the mentoring side of the equation, addressing reasons that might explain variations in how students are mentored in higher education. Finally, we end with some thoughts on what faculty and departments can do to address the inadequate mentoring of graduate students of color.
Abstract: Survey research has documented the extent to which whites misperceive the size of the nonwhite population in the United States. However, the sociological reasons for this and the implications for race relations has yet to be adequately explored. This study uses individual interviews, focus groups, and opened-ended surveys to examine the explanations white respondents offer for inflating the size of U.S. minority populations. My findings suggest that the media, residential segregation, racial stereotypes, and perception of group threat each contribute to whites’ underestimation of the size of the white population and the inflation of group size among racial minorities. How misperceptions of racial group size may inform race relations research is examined.
Whitney Laster Pirtle
Laster Pirtle, Whitney N. and Tony N. Brown. 2015. "Inconsistency within Expressed and Observed Racial Identifications: Implications for Mental Health Status." Sociological Perspectives. 59(3): 582-603.
Abstract: The present study extends previous work on distress that arises from discrepancy between self and interviewer racial identifications. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) data, we examine mental health consequences of inconsistency over time within expressed (self) and observed (interviewer) racial identifications among American Indians. Given that phenotype signals race, we also contribute to prior research by examining whether skin color moderates inconsistency’s mental health consequences. Analyses show that observed racial inconsistency increased American Indians’ depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. That is, when interviewers labeled a respondent “American Indian” at one wave of data but not another, there were deleterious implications for mental health status. In addition, an interaction between observed inconsistency and skin color demonstrated that observed inconsistency tended to be harmful when respondents were observed as having light skin. We argue observed inconsistency captures the distressing experience of being not readily classifiable.
Verna M. Keith
Keith, Verna M., Ann W. Nguyen, Robert Joseph Taylor, Linda M. Chatters, Dawne M. Mouzon. 2017. "Microaggressions, Discrimination, and Phenotype among African Americans: A Latent Class Analysis of the Impact of Skin Tone and BMI*" Sociological Inquiry 87(2):233–255.
Abstract: Data from the 2001–2003 National Survey of American Life are used to investigate the effects of phenotype on everyday experiences with discrimination among African Americans (N = 3343). Latent class analysis is used to identify four classes of discriminatory treatment: (1) low levels of discrimination, (2) disrespect and condescension, (3) character-based discrimination, and (4) high levels of discrimination. We then employ latent class multinomial logistic regression to evaluate the association between skin tone and body weight and these four classes of discrimination. Designating the low-level discrimination class as the reference group, findings revealed that respondents with darker skin were more likely to be classified into the disrespect/condescension and the high-level microaggression types. BMI was unrelated to the discrimination type, although there was a significant interaction effect between gender and BMI. BMI was strongly and positively associated with membership in the disrespect and condescension type among men but not among women. These findings indicate that skin tone and body weight are two phenotypic characteristics that influence the type and frequency of discrimination experienced by African Americans.
Jennifer C. Mueller
Abstract: Many analysts argue colorblindness as the reigning ideological buttress of a historically distinct form of structural white supremacy, color-blind racism. In contrast to slavery and legal segregation, color-blind racism is theorized as covert and highly institutionalized. As such, analyses of contemporary racial reproduction often emphasize the structure of colorblindness, particularly the habitual routines and discursive patterns of everyday white actors. Though invaluable, this work may conceal whites’ innovation in reproducing, revising, and at times resisting white supremacy and corresponding logics. As opposed to focusing on the structural elements of colorblindness, I elevate colorblindness as a culturally recursive accomplishment grounded in an epistemology of ignorance—that is a process of knowing designed to produce not knowing surrounding white privilege and structural white supremacy. Qualitatively analyzing 105 family wealth analyses produced by white college undergraduates researching racial inequality and the wealth gap, I identify four epistemic maneuvers by which students creatively repaired a breach in normative colorblindness. Demonstrating innovative means by which ordinary whites bypass and mystify racial learning highlights their vested commitment to maintaining and creatively defending the ideologies that buttress racial domination and white supremacy. As such, this research additionally advises updating strategies for challenging whites’ colorblindness in efforts to advance racial justice.
López, Nancy, Erwin Christopher, Binder Melissa, & Chavez M. Javier. 2018. “Making the invisible visible: advancing quantitative methods in higher education using critical race theory and intersectionality,” Race Ethnicity and Education 21(2):180–207.
Abstract: We appeal to critical race theory and intersectionality to examine achievement gaps at a large public university in the American southwest from 2000 to 2015. Using white, high-income women as our reference group, we report linear combinations of marginal effects for six-year graduation rates and developmental course taking across 20 distinct social locations varying according to race-ethnicity, gender, and class. We find substantial achievement gaps that remain unseen in conventional models treating such characteristics as independent. Nearly every group has a significantly lower likelihood of graduation compared to the reference group, and there is substantial variation in estimated achievement gaps. Low-income, American Indian men are approximately 45 percent less likely to graduate within six years relative to the reference group. For high income, black men this gap is approximately 30 percent. Our paper proposes a method and praxis for exploring the complex, interdependent relationship between race- ethnicity, gender, and class.
Abstract: This article explores the connections between white institutional spaces, emotional labor, and resistance by illuminating the shared experiences of people of color in elite law schools and the commercial aviation industry. Based on in-depth qualitative data combined from two individual studies, we illustrate the processes by which white institutional spaces create a complex environment where people of color must navigate racial narratives, ideologies, and discourses, while simultaneously attempting to achieve institutional success to reap the material rewards of these elite institutional settings. In these distinct environments, people of color experience an unequal distribution of emotional labor as a result of negotiating both everyday racial micro-aggressions and dismissive dominant ideologies that deny the relevance of race and racism. As a result they must actively seek ways to engage in forms of resistance that promote counter narratives and protect themselves from denigration while minimizing the risk of severe consequence. Our data suggest that a more nuanced conceptualization of resistance and the context in which resistance occurs is needed in order to understand the everyday experiences of people of color.
Abstract: White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This paper explicates the dynamics of White Fragility.
Pérez, Raúl. 2013. “Learning to Make Racism Funny in the ‘color-Blind’ Era: Stand-up Comedy Students, Performance Strategies, and the (Re)production of Racist Jokes in Public.” Discourse & Society 24(4):478–503.
Abstract: This article contends performance comedy serves as a mechanism for expressing ethnic and racial stereotypes in public and presents a challenge to studies of contemporary racial discourse which suggest overt racetalk in public is on the decline. In this ethnographic study on the training of stand-up comedians, I probe how comedy students learn to use rhetorical performance strategies to couch ethnic and racial stereotypes in more palatable ways, in order to be ‘funny’ rather than ‘offensive’ in public. Using critical discourse analysis (CDA), this study illustrates the role elites play in managing racial discourse. It is found that white versus non-white comedy students are taught to engage in racial discourse in different ways. Whites are taught distance and denial strategies which allow them to engage in overt racial commentary and deny racism or racist intent, while non-whites are often encouraged to engage in racial stereotypes uncritically. This study shows how strategic use of humor allows the ‘constraints’ on current racial discourse, on whites in particular, to be broken, suggesting a new phase of color-blind racism may be underway.
Glenn E. Bracey
Abstract: Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a broad theoretical framework created by synthesizing the main themes of scholars who have challenged dominant contemporary understandings of race and the law. Although a theory of state tacitly undergirds much critical race scholarship, no one has yet aggregated the literature’s disparate assertions into a unified theory of state. This article represents an initial contribution toward that effort. Through comparison with Omi and Winant’s (1994) Racial State Theory (RST), I identify six central tenets – racialization of the state; state as white institutional space; instrumentalism; interest-convergence; fluid boundaries; and permanent racist orientation – that characterize the CRT of State for the United States. I close by entertaining three questions Omi and Winant (2012) argue demonstrate the utility of RST and use them to illustrate where the CRT of State I outline achieves greater analytical purchase than RST.
Abstract: In this article, I theorize “complicit masculinity” to examine how access to capital, in other words, making or spending money, mediates masculine identity for un- and underemployed black men. Arguing that hegemony operates around producer-provider norms of masculinity and through tropes of blackness within a system of racial capitalism, I show how complicity underscores the reality of differential aspirational models in the context of severe un- and underemployment and the failure of the classic breadwinner model for black men globally. I draw on participant observation fieldwork and interviews with men from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s informal sector from 2008 to 2009. I investigate two groups of men: political propagandists (orators) for former President Laurent Gbagbo and mobile street vendors. Rejecting racialized colonial narratives that positioned salaried workers as “evolved,” orators used anti-French rhetoric and ties to the political regime to pursue entrepreneurial identities. Vendors, positioned as illegitimate workers and non-citizens, asserted consumerist models of masculinity from global black popular culture. I show how entrepreneurialism and consumerism, the two paradigmatic neoliberal identities, have become ways for black men to assert economic participation as alternatives to the producer-provider ideal.