Marsh, Kris, William A. Darity Jr., Philip N. Cohen, Lynne M. Casper, and Danielle Salters. 2007. "The Emerging Black Middle Class: Single and Living Alone." Social Forces 82(2):1-28.
Abstract: The literature on the black middle class has focused predominantly on married-couple families with children, reflecting a conception of the black middle class as principally composed of this family type. If that conception is correct, then declining rates of marriage and childrearing would imply a decline in the presence and vitality of the black middle class. Indeed, this is the implication that researchers typically draw from the decline in black marriage rates. However, an alternative view suggests that the decline in marriage and childrearing is producing a shift in the types of households comprising the black middle class. This paper assesses – and affirms – that alternative view. This research shows that, indeed, never-married singles who live alone (Love Jones Cohort) constitute a rapidly growing segment of the black middle class, a development which requires rethinking how the black middle class is conceptualized and studied.
Cassi Pittman Claytor
Claytor, Cassi Pittman. 2021. "Dreaming in Black: Middle-Class Blacks' Aspirational Consumption." Journal of Consumer Affairs 55(2):483-503.
Abstract: When Blacks think about making it big, do they wish for the same types of things as other Americans? How does their race affect what makes it onto their wish lists? Drawing on interviews with 54 middle-class Black New Yorkers this paper investigates their imagined future consumption. The findings reveal that for most middle-class Blacks their combined race and class status influenced how they envisioned their aspirational consumption. By analyzing their aspirational consumption, it became clear that they were embedded in a materialistic society that links the achievement of the American Dream with the acquisition of specific things. Yet for many middle-class Blacks their aspirational consumption also departed from traditional individualist goals, as their commitment to racial uplift was evident in their aspirational consumption. However, there was a small group for whom the pleasure and status that comes from the acquisition of material possessions weighted heavily in their consumption fantasies.
Erigha, Maryann. 2021. “Racial Valuation: Cultural Gatekeepers, Race, Risk, and Institutional Expectations of Success and Failure.” Social Problems 68(2):393-408.
Abstract: Racial inequality persists in culture industries, despite increases in representation. Focusing on the Hollywood film industry, this research analyzes written correspondence to understand how, in their discourses, cultural workers as intermediaries or gatekeepers construct ideas about race to make predictions about economic value, success, and failure of cultural products. Findings demonstrate that cultural workers make racial valuations, or race-based judgments about the economic worth of cultural products—in this case by associating white actors with low economic risk, increased chances of profitability, and the expectation of success and linking black actors to high economic risk, decreased chances of profitability, and the expectation of failure. This practice of racial valuation disrupts conventional logics that emphasize the financial ambiguity of cultural markets to advance white institutional logics that invoke raced-based projections about a cultural product’s expected performance. Ultimately, these racially biased assessments affect people, products, and processes along the film production, distribution, and consumption spectrum, especially privileging white workers and limiting Black workers in foreign markets, thereby creating and reinforcing unequal racial outcomes within culture industries.
Sadé L. Lindsay
Lindsay, Sadé and Mike Vuolo. 2021. "Criminalized or Medicalized? Examining the Role of Race in Response to Drug Use." Social Problems 68(4):942-963.
Abstract: Drug policy has shifted from intense criminalization toward reforms that prioritize decarceration and treatment. Despite this shift, little is known about whether support for recent treatment-oriented drug policy is equitable by users’ race and the drug type. Using the opiate and crack cocaine crises as cases, we analyze 400 articles from the New York Times and Washington Post to assess the degree to which the two crises were racialized, criminalized, and medicalized. We find that media coverage medicalized and humanized White people who use opiates, while coverage of crack cocaine focused on criminalization, vilifying Black people who use drugs. We then conduct two vignette experiments (N=308; N=630) to examine whether these racialized frames shape public support for treatment or criminalization. We find the public more likely to support criminalization for Black people, while supporting drug treatment for White people. Respondents are more likely to support drug treatment for heroin use than for crack cocaine. Our findings suggest that support for medicalized approaches to drug use is more likely to occur for White people and drugs linked to White people, while Black people and drugs associated with Black people continue to be perceived as largely amenable to punitive options.
Mosi Adesina Ifatunji
Ifatunji, Mosi Adesina. 2021. "White Managers, Ethnoracism, and the Production of Black Ethnic Labor Market Disparities." Sociological Perspectives doi:10.1177/07311214211010842
Abstract: Few have considered the role of White managers in longstanding Black ethnic labor market disparities. Drawing on ethnoracism theory, I conceptualize the previously documented White manager preference for Afro Caribbeans as a form of prejudice that contributes to the relative success of Afro Caribbeans. White managers say they prefer Afro Caribbeans because they work harder and are less racially antagonistic than African Americans. However, using the National Survey of American Life, I show that these populations are virtually indistinguishable in terms of labor quality and racial attitudes. Moreover, net labor quality and racial attitudes, the incomes of English and non-English speaking Afro Caribbeans are greater when working for White managers, but African Americans with White managers receive no greater income than those without a White manager. I conclude with a call for the formal development of a new ontological framework for the study of these kinds of ethnoracially dynamic relationships.
García, Rocío R. 2020. "Latinx Feminist Politicmaking: On the Necessity of Messiness in Collective Action." Mobilization: An International Journal 25(4): 441-460.
Abstract: There is an ongoing debate in the sociology of collective action on the function of difference—often measured as group diversity—in mobilization. While some scholarship suggests that difference is often an impediment to collective action, other research finds that activisms attuned to difference can produce more flexible mobilization capable of tackling converging oppressions. To understand the meanings and negotiations of difference in collective action, this article examines how Latinx feminists do intersectionality in the movement for reproductive justice (RJ). Drawing on three years of ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews with a Latina/x reproductive justice organization in California, I argue that staff of the organization engage in contextual, relational, and cultural shift practices that together create a fluid sensibility, what I term “politicmaking,” focused on negotiating difference as a necessarily fraught and messy endeavor. The “politicmaking” of movement actors suggests the need to reexamine the role of difference in collective action.
Huante, Alfredo. 2021. "A Lighter Shade of Brown? Racial Formation and Gentrification in Latino Los Angeles." Social Problems 68(1): 63–79.
Abstract: Conventional gentrification literature has meaningfully demonstrated how economic inequality is perpetuated in urban settings, but there has been a limited understanding of how racial inequality is maintained. Drawing from participant observation, interviews, and digital ethnography in the barrio of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles that were collected over five years, this study examines how gentrification functions as a racial project and supports new forms of racialization to maintain uneven development along racial lines. Examining the ways that racial formation processes unfurl at the local scale expands conventional understanding of racial formation theory and practice while, simultaneously, illustrating the centrality of place in race-making. This study finds new race and class formations are developed by casting the barrio itself and significant portions of the Mexican American population as “honorary white.” Despite colorblind and post-racial ideologies espoused in majority-minority cities like Los Angeles, this landscape fostered emerging racial formations alongside gentrification processes which have increased racial, political, and economic inequality.
Gurusami, Susila. 2017. "Working for Redemption: Formerly Incarcerated Black Women and Punishment in the Labor Market." New Media & Society 31(4):60-76.
Abstract: This article uses 18 months of ethnographic observations with formerly incarcerated black women to contend that they are subjected to what I term rehabilitation labor—a series of unwritten state practices that seek to govern the transformation of formerly incarcerated people from criminals to workers. I reveal that employment is subjectively policed by state agents and must meet three conditions to count as work: reliable, recognizable, and redemptive. I find that women who are unable to meet these employment conditions are framed by state agents as failing to demonstrate an appropriate commitment to their moral—and therefore criminal—rehabilitation, and consequently experience perceived threats of reincarceration. Building a theory of intersectional capitalism, I argue that rehabilitation labor is situated within a broader historical project of making black women legible to the state through the labor market.
Barnes, S.L. 2020. "Applying the Structure Versus Agency Discourse to the Challenges of Black Men Who Have Sex with Men." Sexuality & Culture.
Abstract: Studies on the experiences of Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) often focus on HIV-related topics rather than other dimensions of their lives such as how they endeavor to be agentic as they navigate systemic forces. The Structure versus Agency discourse is used here as a theoretical backdrop to examine the challenges and reflections of BMSM. Based on a mixed-methodological analyses and 168 BMSM who reside in the South of the United States, the study considers whether and how they identify and respond to problems and tensions. Results show that BMSM emphasize personal challenges linked to economics, bullying, stereotypes, and intra-group tensions, often under the specter of racism, that result in greater salience of their racial and/or sexual identities. Moreover, despite references to structural impediments, BMSM are more apt to offer agency-based strategies for redress. Findings inform existing literature to better understand both the nuanced lives and varied needs of this population.
Brandi T. Summers
Summers, B.T. and Howell, K. 2019. "Fear and Loathing (of others): Race, Class and Contestation of Space in Washington, DC." Int. J. Urban Reg. Res. 43: 1085-1105.
Abstract: Our article explores the cultural politics of public space and the placemaking politics of urban redevelopment in the Atlas District of Washington, DC, a popular commercial district undergoing rapid gentrification. The major questions we address are, how do race and class impact the ways public space is controlled and/or managed in the context of rapid changes in the built, economic and social environments of the neighborhood? What role do those narratives play in justifying changes in and management of public space? We focus on uses of public space and describe how various forms of power are linked to the control of space in the context of gentrification. Our analysis focuses on designated public space in the Atlas District the Starburst Plaza. By analyzing everyday practices around community control at the Starburst Plaza, this case study focuses on the discrete methods by which the symbolic and material inequities promulgated by the neoliberal state are reconfigured through struggles to define and manage contested public spaces.
Ray, Victor. 2019. “A Theory of Racialized Organizations.” American Sociological Review 84(1): 26–53.
Abstract: Organizational theory scholars typically see organizations as race-neutral bureaucratic structures, while race and ethnicity scholars have largely neglected the role of organizations in the social construction of race. The theory developed in this article bridges these subfields, arguing that organizations are racial structures—cognitive schemas connecting organizational rules to social and material resources. I begin with the proposition that race is constitutive of organizational foundations, hierarchies, and processes. Next, I develop four tenets: (1) racialized organizations enhance or diminish the agency of racial groups; (2) racialized organizations legitimate the unequal distribution of resources; (3) Whiteness is a credential; and (4) the decoupling of formal rules from organizational practice is often racialized. I argue that racialization theory must account for how both state policy and individual attitudes are filtered through—and changed by—organizations. Seeing race as constitutive of organizations helps us better understand the formation and everyday functioning of organizations. Incorporating organizations into a structural theory of racial inequality can help us better understand stability, change, and the institutionalization of racial inequality. I conclude with an overview of internal and external sources of organizational change and a discussion of how the theory of racialized organizations may set the agenda for future research.
Vilna Bashi Treitler
Treitler, Vilna Bashi. 2015. "Social Agency and White Supremacy in Immigration Studies." Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1):153-165.
Abstract: Assimilation scholarship is rooted in the race relations framework that has been critiqued for providing legitimacy to the prevailing racial order, not least because it credits ethno-racial group agency as the mechanism that causes inequities among groups’ socioeconomic outcomes and the degrees to which they are socially accepted. To explain socioeconomic inequities, alternative frames centering on racialization and structural racism look to white supremacy and the unequal ends it engenders, but the sociological theory developed in these alternatives is largely tangential to assimilation theory. That the assimilationist model still dominates leaves a key part of the discipline vulnerable to supporting white supremacist ideologies about societies falsely believed to be colorblindly meritocratic. For this reason I call upon sociologists to work together to dethrone assimilationism from its exalted status in the sociology of immigration and scholars of race knowledgeable in these alternative approaches to actively reenter the arena of immigration studies and take the ground that has been ceded to the assimilationist frame. I suggest these as next steps in a campaign to overturn the dominance of the race relations model in sociology as a whole.
David L. Brunsma and David G. Embrick
Brunsma, David L., David G. Embrick, and Jean H. Shin. 2016. "Graduate Students of Color: Race, Racism, and Mentoring in the White Waters of Academia." Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1):1-13.
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.
Gallagher, Charles A. 2003. "Miscounting Race: Explaining Whites' Misperceptions of Racial Group Size." Sociological Perspectives. 46 (3): 381-396.
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
Mueller, Jennifer C. 2017. "Producing Colorblindness: Everyday Mechanisms of White Ignorance." Social Problems. 64(2):219–238.
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.
Evans, Louwanda. 2015. "Impossible Burdens: White Institutions, Emotional Labor, and Micro-Resistance." Social Problems 62(3):439–454
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.
DiAngelo, Robin. 2011. “White Fragility.” The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3(3):54–70.
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.
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
Bracey, Glenn E. 2015. “Toward a Critical Race Theory of State.” Critical Sociology 41(3):553–72.
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.
Matlon, Jordanna. 2016. "Racial Capitalism and the Crisis of Black Masculinity." American Sociological Review 81(5): 1014–1038.
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.