Posts Tagged 'race'

How to start dismantling white privilege in higher education

Racism is still alive and well in US and UK academia, writes Kalwant Bhopal, author of White privilege. She argues that to dismantle it, there is a need for radical action from universities, which must start by acknowledging the existence of institutional racism and white privilege.

Originally published by the LSE British Politics and Policy blog on 28th November 2017. 

Kalwant Bhopal

Despite many claims to the contrary, racism is alive and well and robustly shaping the educational experiences of black and minority ethnic students in the United Kingdom and the United States. The evidence that this is happening in schools, when accessing elite (and non-elite) universities and later when applying for better paid or higher status jobs is scrutinised in my new book, White Privilege: The myth of a post-racial society. I argue that in neoliberal contexts, policy-making ensures covert and overt forms of racism, and exclusion continues to operate at all levels in society in which white identities are privileged. The talk may be all about a ‘post-racial society’, but in reality the status quo remains unchallenged.

Black and minority ethnic academics working in universities remain marginalised and regularly describe experiencing subtle, covert, and nuanced racism. At senior levels, they are less likely than their white colleagues to be professors or occupy decision-making roles. The white space of the academy perpetuates and reinforces white middle class privilege; consequently our higher education continues to be dominated by a white elite. I have researched educational inequalities for 30 years and it often feels like we are going around in circles: the more things change, the more they stay the same. A radical shift is needed from universities to acknowledge their long-standing role in privileging whiteness and implement change that addresses the inequalities this has fostered.

Credits: pxhere (CC0 Public Domain).

Higher education must firstly acknowledge institutional racism and white privilege; a failure to acknowledge racism results in a failure to act upon it. Institutional frameworks to facilitate change at local and national levels include universities monitoring racist incidents, identifying measures to address racism, and action plans with specific outcomes. Such action plans need to be characterised by their ‘clarity’; they need to demonstrate a clear link between identifying a problem, providing solutions, and measuring outcomes. Additionally, they need the ‘clarity’ we might associate with being ‘out in the open’, in which racism is publically acknowledged and addressed. Such clarity would ensure that it is the outcome of change that is assessed, rather than the rhetoric of what should happen.

Secondly, universities should be held to account for their lack of representation of black and minority ethnic groups in senior decision-making roles through monitoring and reviewing their staff profiles on a regular basis. A greater visibility of black and minority ethnic staff is needed in senior decision-making roles so that there is a specific recognition and valuing of diversity in staff representation. Unconscious bias training should be mandatory for all staff: at the very least, this training should be a requirement for individuals who are involved in promotion and recruitment panels. Simple measures such as the introduction of name-blind job applications to avoid the ample evidence that non-Eurocentric names are disadvantaged in recruitment processes are easy to implement and immediately signal a willingness to tackle issues of diversity. To support black and minority ethnic staff to reach their full potential, all universities should be expected to provide formal mentoring and training to staff who wish to progress in their careers.

Thirdly, universities must address the racial makeup of their student bodies. Oxford University was recently accused of ‘social apartheid’ for not admitting a single Black British student in nearly one in three of its colleges. Too often institutions that fail to recruit Black British students talk about their commitment to diversity by highlighting the numbers of international students they have recruited. These are discourses that demonstrate a lack of clarity. The value of international students for universities is closely tied to their greater economic contribution compared to home students. When the playing field is level, when white home students and black home students are paying the same fees, it seems remarkable that diversity is suddenly not accounted for.

Universities must be held accountable for failing to admit a diverse body of home students. I suggest a quota system should be introduced for selective universities, as well as elite universities, such as Oxbridge and the Russell Group in particular. The persistent failures of these publically-funded universities to address their inability to recruit the brightest students if they have the ‘wrong’ skin colour is, in the language of civil servants and policy-makers, not delivering value for money. Measures such as outreach programmes targeting poor areas, underperforming schools and underrepresented schools; offering support packages to pupils to develop their university applications; training for interviews; bursaries and scholarships to Oxbridge, are in no way about lowering standards. They are simple, necessary steps to move towards an inclusive approach for students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who are not currently finding they have access to the same opportunities afforded their white, more wealthy, privately-schooled peers.

White privilege is awarded to those who are already privileged. This reinforces and perpetuates a system in which white elites are able to maintain and reinforce their position of power at all levels. Within a neoliberal context, policymaking is legitimised through a rhetoric that reinforces the benefits of neoliberalism as a universal value. I argue, however, that it reinforces whiteness and white privilege. It fails to acknowledge the role that race and inequality play in perpetuating advantage over disadvantage and that neoliberalism does not benefit all members of society equally.

Furthermore, to argue that the aftermath of the Macpherson report on institutional racism in the UK police has resulted in a post-racial society is utterly absurd (as I highlight with Martin Myers in a recent paper). Such discourses only serve to further marginalise black and minority ethnic communities. Racism exists at every level of society: it permeates our schools, our colleges and our universities. It is alive in all elements of society, our popular culture, our media and the social spaces that we occupy. We do not live in a post-racial society. What you look like – if you are black or from a minority ethnic group determines how you will be judged. Race acts as a marker of difference in a society poisoned by fear, insecurity, and instability. If we continue as we are, then whiteness and white privilege will continue to dominate in higher education institutions, with white groups doing whatever they can to protect and perpetuate their own positions of power.

 

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Understanding the Trump Moment: Reality TV, Birtherism, the Alt Right and the White Women’s Vote

Jessie Daniels

Jessie Daniels

Policy Press author Jessie Daniels on understanding the Trump moment, and what led to it. Originally posted on Racism Review.

Many of us woke up to a November 9 that we never could have imagined. Donald J. Trump, real estate developer and reality TV celebrity, is president-elect of the United States.

Over the last 18 months of his campaign, he has engaged in explicitly racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim language that has both shocked and frightened people. The implications of what a Trump presidency could mean for ginning up racial and ethnic hatred are chilling.

trump-1

But first, it’s important to understand the Trump moment, and what led to it. This is an election that will spawn a thousand hot-takes and reams of academic papers, but here’s a first draft on making sense of this victory. Continue reading ‘Understanding the Trump Moment: Reality TV, Birtherism, the Alt Right and the White Women’s Vote’

Do racial divides in the US explain support for Trump?

 

headshot-korgen

Kathleen Odell Korgen

We need to prove that government can work for all Americans, despite racial and ideological divides. Kathleen Odell Korgen, editor of Race policy and multiracial Americans, looks at why we must listen to Trump supporters. 

“As the news of sexual harassment charges… emerged last week, many conservatives blasted the accusations as anonymous sniping against [the] Republican contender and blamed the ‘liberal media’.” Washington Post

“Many white conservatives continue to embrace [him] — even in the face of recent sexual harassment allegations — while black voters steer clear.” NPR.org

These quotes may sound familiar but they are not about Donald Trump. They refer to Herman Cain, the wealthy businessman who, at one point in the 2012 election, was the leading candidate in the Republican party’s presidential primary.

Cain, a Black man, was attractive to many White voters because of the combination of his own race and his views on poor Black people. As Jack E. White put it in 2011, “Cain tells [conservative White voters] what they want to hear about blacks, and in turn, they embrace him and say, ‘See? That proves we’re not racist'”.
Continue reading ‘Do racial divides in the US explain support for Trump?’

Racism, anti-racism and social work

by Iain Ferguson and Michael Lavalette

A spectre is haunting Europe. It is the spectre of racism, xenophobia, and in some countries, outright Nazism. For Golden Dawn in Greece and the Jobbik Party in Hungary, there is little attempt to hide the associations with 1930s German National Socialism. These include overt anti-semitism, paramilitary marches, and the encouragement of violence against asylum seekers, immigrants and left-wing activists. At the time of writing, a member of Golden Dawn is being held in custody for the murder in September 2013 of Pavlos Fyssas, a rap singer and well-known anti-fascist activist in Greece. Elsewhere in Europe, racism wears a more respectable face. Parties such as the UK Independence Party in Britain or the various People’s Parties in Scandinavia have gained a degree of electoral support by playing on popular fears about waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe coming to the West solely in order to live off the benefits system. It is a rhetoric which, shamefully, is increasingly echoed by the leaders of mainstream political parties, both Conservative and social democratic.

In reality of course, the vast majority of immigrants are young, hard-working, ambitious, make less use of health services than the rest of the population and do the jobs that the local population refuse to do. The residential social care sector in Britain, for example, would collapse without the labour of people from the Philippines, South Africa and Poland. But that truth is lost in the deluge of anti-Roma, anti-Muslim and anti-asylum seeker propaganda pumped out on a daily basis by the tabloid press. In early October 2013, the bitter fruits of that propaganda, and of the increasingly restrictive immigration policies adopted by governments across Europe, were only too graphically demonstrated. Then, some 274 refugees from Eritrea and Somalia drowned when their overcrowded boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa. These were ordinary men, women and children fleeing war, torture and hunger in search of a better life for themselves and their families. But as a letter in the Guardian newspaper in the UK pointed out, responsibility for their deaths lies not just with the people smugglers but also with the exclusionary policies of Fortress Europe: ‘People-smuggling is the symptom and not the cause of migration. Tougher border controls, higher fences and more expensive surveillance systems won’t deal with the causes either. They will make things worse by driving more people into the perilous embrace of the smugglers. The causes of migration are overwhelmingly poverty, inequality and conflict’.

The main challenge to racism and fascism has come, and will continue to come, from parties of the Left, social movements and trade unions. In Greece, for example, following the murder of Pavlos, some ten thousand people demonstrated against Golden Dawn in the streets of Athens. In Britain, the anti-Muslim English Defence League is currently in crisis following the resignation of its two founders, a crisis provoked in large part by the fact that every time its supporters appeared on the streets they were physically challenged by much larger anti-fascist protests.

As individuals, social workers from Glasgow to Athens and all points between have participated in many of these demonstrations. But we also need to explore the implications of the growth of these new forms of racism for our social work practice. And here, it is important to learn the lessons of the past, both negative and positive.

Discussing the role of social work during the Nazi period, Walter Lorenz has commented on the use of social workers’ diagnostic skills to sort out the ‘deserving’ from the unworthy, the latter referring to those with mental illness or learning disabilities who would then be deemed eligible for compulsory sterilisation or worse. As Lorenz (2006) describes it:

Sticking to their professional task with the air of value neutrality and scientific detachment (especially after the ‘non-conforming’, ‘politically active’ social workers had been sacked or imprisoned) they did not feel responsible for the consequences of their assessments and may indeed not have been conscious of the full implications their work had in the national context (pp 34-35).

As Lorenz argues, the issue here was not only State coercion or lack of discretion but rather the understanding of their role which informed the practice of these workers:

The evil of a fascist approach to welfare had not emanated primarily from its collectivism and from the imposition of ideologically determined forms of practice (which social workers usually knew how to get round) but rather from the disjuncture of the political and professional discourse that prevented the ‘ordinary welfare workers’ from fully facing up to the consequences of their actions (p35).

If there is a lesson for today, it is surely that social work cannot respond to the growing tide of racism and xenophobia by hiding behind a mask of ‘professionalism’ which seeks to deny the political nature of our profession or pretend that somehow we are above the struggle.

A very different response to racism developed in the late 1980s. In that period, social workers and social work academics in the UK and elsewhere sought to develop forms of anti-racist theory and practice which challenged the ways in which racism shaped the mind-set of many white social workers on the one hand and blighted the lives of black and minority ethnic clients and communities on the other. The limitations of these approaches, above all their focus on personal racism at the expense of State and institutional racism, have been well-documented. Nevertheless, they were important in putting issues of racism and anti-racism on the social work education agenda in a way they had not been previously.

Race, racism and social work

Race, racism and social work

Recent publications have sought to develop new forms of social work theory and practice that can challenge the forms of racism that have emerged over the past decade and can defend multiculturalism (Lavalette and Penketh, 2013; see also Mahamdallie, 2011; Richardson, 2013). This is a very positive development. Critical and Radical Social Work welcomes papers on all aspects of racism and anti-racism in social work. These can include both analyses of current developments and also historical pieces which critically evaluate the role of mainstream social work in oppressive and racist regimes such as Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa as well as those highlighting examples of social work resistance which have until now been’ hidden from history’.

References
Lavalette, M. and Penketh, L. (eds.) (2013) Race, Racism and Social Work: Contemporary Issues and Debates, Bristol: Policy Press
Lorenz, W. (1993) Social Work in a Changing Europe, London: Routledge
Mahamdallie, H. (ed.) (2011) Defending Multiculturalism: a guide for the movement, London: Bookmarks
Richardson, B. (ed.) (2013) Say It Loud: Marxism and the Fight Against Racism, London: Bookmarks

Race, racism and social work, edited by Michael Lavalette and Laura Penketh, is available to buy with 20% discount from www.policypress.co.uk.

Race & Politics: Critical Thoughts on the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election

Romney supporter t-shirt

T-shirt worn by a Romney supporter at a rally last month

by Andrew Jolivette, author of Obama and the biracial factor

There are now just days to go before the U.S. decides on its next commander-in- chief. As with the 2008 election, race continues to be a central theme although it is seldom discussed in the mainstream media. Perhaps the overwhelming salience of race and politics in this cycle’s campaign can best be exemplified by the first presidential debate that found news commentators obsessing over why President Obama did not go after Republican challenger Mitt Romney with more force and aggression. But what was true in 2008 is true in 2012. As a man of mixed African descent the President has to be careful in his calculation of how he is perceived and being the “angry black man” simply won’t help his favourability or likeability at this crucial moment.

Obama’s presidency has ironically shifted race relations in a somewhat negative way as it relates to policy, particularly education and immigration policies. This is not due to his own policies per se, but as a result of the negative backlash he experienced from more conservative groups in the U.S as he entered office. If we look at Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known as SB 1070, or the Texas State Education Board’s attempt to erase slavery from their history textbooks, we can see a retrenchment from race in education and immigration policy in the U.S. since President Obama took office. Because U.S. ethnic and racial demographics are changing toward a white racial minority, there have been several conservative attacks on gains from the 1960s Civil Rights movement. Because Obama is the first person of color, biracial person, and African American president, he is caught in the difficult position of trying not to appear biased when it comes to national policies. Since 2009 he has suggested that education and economic reforms along with immigration would help all Americans and in the process help ‘minority’ communities. He has also stated that he is the President of the entire United States, not just one particular demographic. However as I note in my recent book, Obama and the biracial factor (Policy Press, 2012):

“Since taking office many have argued that President Obama has not done ‘enough’ for people of color. I argue that his approach to race policy is not only intentional but deliberate. Mr. Obama, not only during the 2008 campaign but throughout his first two years of office, has taken a more ‘hands-off’ approach for two reasons. First, any action seen as a direct benefit to African Americans, Latinos, American Indians, Asian Americans, Arab Americans or LGBT Americans will not only be read as arrogant liberalism and favoritism, but it will weaken his credibility with independent voters. This isn’t to say that he does not intend to slowly and institutionally expose racism and white supremacy. In his silence on some issues, he is allowing neoliberal and conservative racism to expose itself. Not unlike other people of color his legitimacy and qualifications for his current job have been thoroughly questioned. Thus the second reason for what seems to be a ‘hands-off’ approach to race is to maintain the diverse new American majority that he built. Mr. Obama understands that ‘playing the game’ involves having a stronger hand and in the end without at least two terms in office he will not be able to have any lasting impact on the status quo.

Consider, then, candidate Obama’s response to former President Clinton’s comments about having the ‘race-card‘ played against him by the Obama campaign:

“So, former President Clinton dismissed my victory in South Carolina as being similar to Jesse Jackson and he is suggesting that somehow I had something to do with it,” Obama said laughing. “Ok, well, you better ask him what he meant by that. I have no idea what he meant. These are words that came out of his mouth, not out of mine.”

Here again, having lived with both working-class white grandparents and having attended Ivy League majority white universities, Obama knew full well that he was up against a very popular former President, and to openly call him a ‘racist‘ would have quickly led to his own downfall as a candidate. Instead, Obama (as he is currently doing with the Tea Party and other anti-Obama individuals and groups) allowed Clinton to expose his own deep-seated sense of superiority not only to Obama, but to any African-American candidate who would dare to think s/he could do more for ‘his people‘ than Clinton himself had done.” (from the introduction to, Obama and the biracial factor).

What President Obama has done is highlight and open up a national dialogue about where the USA is as a nation when it comes to race. It is  clearly not a ‘post-racial’ society, despite his election as President in 2008. A silent scab has been pulled off and, while at times painful to watch, it is clear that the nation is talking more about race. If re-elected I believe we can anticipate an even more aggressive policy agenda from Mr. Obama that will more critically and qualitatively impact the lives of people of colour including African Americans. His election in 2008 and current re-election campaign are in and of themselves an indication of a shifting political majority. He has been successful because, unlike Kerry and Gore before him, he brought together the most diverse coalition of supporters in U.S. history. This is directly related to his biracial background which continues to allow him to navigate policy compromises and see the commonality between two different sides of the same issue. In other words, his duality racially and his duality politically are both his greatest assets and his biggest challenges.

Obama and the biracial factor is on offer for the month of November for just £10. Order your copy here.


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