Theorizing America’s Killing of Black Men and Boys: A Black Male Studies Paradigm

This week in North Philly Notes, Tommy Curry, author of The Man-Notaddresses issues of racism and the seemingly unending deaths of Black males in American society. 

Over the last several years, there has been a much needed focus on police violence and incarceration in the Black community. Drawing much of its impetus from the increased visibility of police shootings of young Black men, the criticisms of the police has shown that the death of Black males is inextricably wed America’s desire for law and order. The external violence we witness through our seeing of the gore, the bloodied concrete surrounding the corpse of the Black male is but a small part of the death and dying of Black men within the United States. Death haunts Black males in America. Since the dawn of the 20th century, homicide has been the number one killer of Black males ages 15-34 in this country. Black men have the shortest life expectancy of all race/sex groups in the United States, and are more likely to be killed by a spouse or intimate than any other group of men. In this sense, far too many Black males are confined by death and existentially defined as death bound.

Our current intersectional theories of Black masculinity reside in a tenuous contradiction of sorts that interpret Black males as a privileged disadvantaged group. This assertion is primarily analytic. By this I mean that the concept of a privileged disadvantaged group emerges abstractly as a combination of a disadvantaged racial category like Blackness and the allegedly privileged gender category of maleness rather than an empirical account of the actual disparities found between Black men and Black women comparatively.  Inspired by conceptualizing discrimination as applying to the multiple identities possessed by specific bodies, the levels of lethal violence and economic disadvantage historically directed at Black males are often overshadowed by the presumed privilege Black men inherit as males within patriarchal societies.

Man-Not_smThe Man-Not: Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black Manhood engages in a radically different paradigm of analysis which draws from social dominance theory, genocide studies, and various social science literatures. Imagine if you will that racism is in fact a technology of death. It is an ideology that creates and sustain low-level warfare against a specific outgroup in a given society. In Social Dominance: An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression, Jim Sidanius and Felicia Pratto offer an account of Western capitalist and patriarchal societies that see outgroup males as threats to the dominant group’s endogamy. Said differently in patriarchal societies in-group males and females see outgroup males as cultural and biological threats to their group. These subordinate males then become targets of the most extreme forms of lethal violence and discrimination because their oppression is linked to extermination rather than merely coercion or control. Sidanius and Pratto named this dynamic the subordinate male target hypothesis, or the idea that arbitrary set discrimination (those categories in a society that are socially constructed by the dominant group) are marked by extraordinary levels of lethal violence targeting subordinate males, not subordinate females as traditionally theorized by intersectionality.

The findings of Sidanius and Pratto are actually quite similar to the well-established observation found in the works of genocide studies concerning males of targeted groups. For example, Adam Jones’s “Gendercide and Genocide” argues that it is a well-established fact that “the gender-selective mass killing and ‘disappearance’ of males, especially ‘battle-age’ males, remains a pervasive feature of contemporary conflict.” If racism is in fact a genocidal logic, then it should be possible to analyze racist violence as the propensities and targets of the violence found in actual genocides. These studies overwhelmingly show that the while the dehumanization of racism is applied to all within the subordinate group, the primary and initial targets of genocidal violence are the out-group males, so one could theorize that the precarious position of Black men in America can be accounted for as a consequence of the tendency for racial or ethnic regimes to target non-combatant battle aged males in the United States as well.

The Man-Not attempts to apply what has already been demonstrated in various empirical fields like psychology, sociology, and history to what has been primarily isolated to theorization dealing with race and gender fields in liberal arts. It seems incontrovertible that Black males are constructed as terrors in white patriarchal societies, and that these stereotypes (such as the rapist, deviant, and criminal) are used rationalize their deaths amongst white individuals and manufacture consensus about the levels of violence imposed upon them by the larger white society. The idea of Black men as rapists dissuades white women from desiring to reproduce with Black men because they are socialized to see Black males as dangerous, while white men are able to justify the death of Black men to protect white women. Said differently, the death of Black men and boys serves an endogamic function. This peculiar negating of Black males in the United States is part of a larger historically established practice of racially repressive patriarchal regimes the world over.

Throughout various genocides we find the construction of racialized males as being outside the boundaries of humanity. The men and women of these dominant racial or ethnic groups have historically endorsed the use of lethal violence against these racialized male groups because they are believed to threaten the endogamy of the dominant racial group. Despite the construction of racialized males as rapists, we find throughout various genocidal contexts like the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, and American slavery and Jim Crow, the practice of rape and other sexual assaults against outgroup males. This confirms that within racialized patriarchal societies we find an erotics of subjugation that peculiarly targets outgroup males. The Man-Not argues that once interrogated with an eye to the sexual and lethal violence directed against racialized males historically, Black men emerge as one of the greatest victims of white patriarchy not its benefactor.

Examining institutional responses to campus sexual violence

This week in North Philly Notes, the co-editors of Addressing Violence Against Women on College Campuses address the state of rape accusations on college campuses under the current administration, and why we need to redouble our efforts to eliminate sexual violence.

As the editors of Addressing Violence Against Women on College Campuses, we thought we were prepared for what a new White House and Federal administration would mean for institutional responses to sexual violence against college students. The progress over the last several years has been palpable, especially given the confluence of student and survivor activism, policy enactments, expanding assessment and etiology research, as well as institutions of higher education’s significant efforts to improve their responses to victims and innovative prevention efforts. Given indicators that the new administration would not maintain the course of the previous one, in the months after the election we discussed with each other what the possible impact could be. Perhaps reduced funding for the Department of Education, a contraction of the number of investigations by the Office for Civil Rights, and/or a redefinition of the current interpretation of Title IX. All of these situations would remove the burden and promise of institutional Title IX responses to campus violence. These concerns led us to wonder in the Preface of our book, that if Title IX was redefined via a new “Dear Colleague” letter, what could be the future of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Clery Act, and the Campus SaVE Act—repeal, strip funding, or fail to enforce? If any of these changes occurred, we posited, the corresponding effects on institutions of higher education, and more importantly their students, would be substantial.

Addressing Violence on College Campuses_smWe are now on the brink of the changes we feared, when the progress anti-violence scholars, activists and legislators have made might begin to crumble under the weight of the new, shifting narrative created by the Department of Education. As the stage is set for sweeping policy dismantling, there emerges a narrative of women as falsely accusing men, rape as “drunken sex,” and the reporting of sexual violence as women changing their minds about “our last sleeping together was not quite right.” This rhetoric, along with the narrative that presumes that only women are raped, is disheartening as it negates all of the work survivors, activists, and academics have done to address violence against all genders. We are dismayed—nay, angered—that those responsible for enforcing regulations on violence on college campuses, such as Candice Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, would assert, publicly, a victim-blaming discourse. She not only discounts victims’ voices but also endorses an understanding of offenders as victims too, making survivors and the schools that try to hold the offenders accountable the “real” perpetrators. Bringing “claims” of rape or adjudicating such claims is to discriminate, the logic goes.

This shift in defining who our government must protect in cases of sexual assault is possible because rape itself—at least according to Ms. Jackson—is no longer the rape that activists defined and legislators later codified in sexual assault legislation, but rather the mere imaginings of a college woman recovering from drunken sex. Though Ms. Jackson later apologized for what she termed a “flippant” remark, the problem is that this remark reifies the victim-blaming culture within which survivors already must try to seek justice. Now, though, they must do so under official federal endorsement of a narrative in which women have regrettable sex and then men are falsely accused. The data, as presented in Addressing Violence Against Women on College Campuses, does not support this narrative. But of course there has long been rape deniers and widespread endorsement of rape myths (including the oft-repeated belief that rape victims lie) in our society. We did not imagine, however, that our government officials appointed to address sexual violence would publicly endorse such beliefs in this day and age.

We therefore join the call of the 50 organizations who recently demanded that Ms. Jackson reject her own comments publicly and consistently, as Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz wrote about in The Chronicle of Higher Education, on July 20, 2017. And, in the face of Ms. Jackson’s comments, we need college administrators to continue to push their campuses to “do the right thing.” They must do everything that have been striving to do to prevent, respond to, and adjudicate violence, which may involve rejecting a call from the administration for reduced enforcement in the future. We also call upon college students to accelerate their incredible efforts to change the social climate on college campuses and directly confront and reject victim-blaming narratives.

Our concern for what will happen under this current administration—as researchers and women—is growing.  But we also believe in the power of many to eliminate violence against women. Historically, legislation about violence against women has followed from the tireless efforts of activists. We encourage students, faculty, and officials of institutions of higher education to be those activists that refuse to see harm done to college students on college campuses.

Exploring the nuances of race and racialization in the United States

This week in North Philly Notes, Diana Pan, author of Incidental Racialization writes about race, inequality, and professional socialization of Asian Americans and Latinos in law school.

Mention “race” in a conversation, and two things often come to mind: the history and current social experiences of black Americans, and the image of poor, urban communities. With regard to the first imagery, common topics might include the black Civil Rights Movement (there were in fact, other race-based civil rights movements as well), residential segregation, Black Lives Matter, and a host of topics perhaps learned in high school classrooms, or gleaned from mainstream media. Rarely do we consider how race matters for nonwhite racialized groups whose histories are not represented in standard curricula, and who are rendered invisible in conversations about race in America. Further, many Americans assume that if nonwhite individuals enter mainstream professions and interact with more white Americans, race would no longer be a heightened concern. The experiences of nonwhite Americans, across the socioeconomic spectrum, do not support this assumption.

Incidental Racialization engages the nuances of race and racialization in the United States. The purpose of this book is to:

  • explore how race matters in professional socialization
  • give voice to those racialized groups – Asian Americans and Latinos – who are often underrepresented in discourse on racial inequality
  • complicate understandings of inequalities that are sustained among elites.

I contend that we, as a society, cannot truly understand inequalities if we do not interrogate how they differ within and between social strata. Studying “up” (i.e. elites) then provides an opportunity to disrupt the “one size fits all” trope of economic success diminishing racial inequality. It also permits a lens to understand the various ways that racialization happens alongside professional socialization.

Incidental Racialization_smPerhaps not surprising, but certainly revealing, law school rank appears to influence how students talk about their racialized experiences. While students at the two law schools studied shared stories of race-based discrimination, or race-based interactions, the rhetoric used was different. For example, students from the lower-ranked law school frequently recount particular discrete treatment that made them feel like second class citizens or racial “others.” Yet, these lower-tier law students provide excuses for this same treatment. In a way, they appeared to rationalize race-based experiences in law school. This differed from the narrative provided by students at the elite law school. They were more affirmative about race-based discrimination, and recounted their experiences in the context of institutionalized cultures and norms. Privilege, in the relative prestige of the law school attended, seems to equip nonwhite law students with stratified language to convey and navigate their own racialization.

Studying social inequalities can take many forms, and Incidental Racialization demonstrates just one axis of intersection. The next step is to understand how racialization translates into the world of work. In other words, how does race matter for lawyers? In what ways is racialization sustained? And, what are the implications? Perhaps of note are the findings in a recently released report, A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law, that while Asian Americans are the largest nonwhite group in major law firms, they have the highest attrition rates, and attain partnership at the lowest rate. There is a clear leak in the pipeline, and the question begs: how might racialization be a part of the problem?

Tricia Wachtendorf at Resilient Calgary

This week in North Philly Notes, as the film Dunkirk opens, we post a video presentation by American Dunkirk coauthor Tricia Wachtendorf.

On May 16, American Dunkirk coauthor Tricia Wachtendorf, participated in Resilient Calgary, a public event to showcase cutting edge research on disasters and community resilience. Invited by the Center for Community Disaster Research at Canada’s Mount Royal University, Wachtendorf’s presentation took the audience through consideration of the importance of improvisation alongside disaster planning, highlighting the tremendous success of the 9/11 boat evacuation of almost a half million people.

 

Reflections on the 2016 Library Publishing Forum

This week in North Philly Notes,  we re-post an article from the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication by Temple University Press’ editorial assistant and rights and contracts coordinator,  Nikki Miller.

As one of two recipients of the first annual AAUP-LPC Cross Pollination Grant, I had the
opportunity to attend the 2016 Library Publishing Forum and the OER Pre-Conference
in Denton, TX. As this was my first time interacting with library voices on the subject of
library publishing, and as I am a relative newcomer to the publishing industry, I was worried that my inexperience in library publishing and library and press collaboration would hinder my experience—and my impact—at the Forum. I was afraid I would appear an amateur and feel that I did not belong. However, I quickly learned that the LPC’s goal isn’t all that different from ours at Temple University Press, and that of other academic publishers. The LPC’s mission statement reads:

The Library Publishing Coalition promotes the development of innovative, sustainable publishing services in academic and research libraries to support scholars as they create, advance, and disseminate knowledge.

The similarities appear in the support for scholars to create, advance, and disseminate
knowledge, and this goal was a constant refrain throughout the conference. My fears
proved baseless. Even as someone with very little previous knowledge about open access, I never felt like an outsider; I was welcomed and included into the group, and so many were eager to explain the goals of the Library Publishing Coalition and their respective institutions’ open access platforms and goals. By the time I left Texas, I collected an array of knowledge about library publishing, open access, the relationship between the two, and the relationship between them and university presses. I also gathered general takeaways that perhaps impacted me more. Those takeaways are shared below.

INCLUSIVITY

Not surprisingly, an intense sense of community and collaboration was prevalent
throughout the weekend. Panels were preceded with chatter among the audience members and followed with discussion between panelists and attendees. In fact, one of the plenary sessions, “Librarian Engagement and Social Justice in Publishing”, focused on the diversity of the field and what we can do to have a wider and more diverse community.

Not only was community discussed within library publishing, but it was also apparent
that community is encouraged between librarians and publishers. As we checked in
to registration, we were given an option of choosing one of two tote bags: one labeled
“pubrarian,” and the other labeled “liblisher”. I welcomed this as a strong symbol of
community and collaboration between university press publishers and library publishers, as it suggests that there is already unity between the two. Right from the beginning, I felt included as an outsider to library publishing. Many times throughout the conference, LPC members approached me for discussion and the social events were packed with conversation. I felt included in every aspect of the experience and was pleasantly surprised by how many people I met and with whom I developed working relationships.

SUSPENSE

A lot of discussion surrounded the topic of sustainability and how to ensure open access
products will remain self-sustaining. Not only is there a question of how to make publishing platforms financially self-sustaining, but also how to ensure the longevity of the scholarship published. The latter, I think, is the reason for an unknown future in open access. No one at the conference had an answer as to the future of open access, which left us in a state of suspense—just like any movie, this suspense is exciting. Publishing is in a state of transformation, and the effect open access will have in the future is not certain. Academia is going to experience the effects of open access as it continues to increase in popularity and gains credibility. This state of growth allows for collaboration and experimentation by a wide range of participants. It was reassuring to learn that I was not alone in being unsure of the future of open access and the effect it will—or will not—have on academia and traditional academic publishers. Many conversations are happening within the field and I am excited to participate in them, specifically between an institution’s library and its home press.

OVERALL

Not only did I leave Texas with a much better understanding of open access, but I also left with validation that I belonged at the conference as a voice from a university press. I felt that I had gained the network and tools that would allow me to facilitate further collaboration between the LPC and AAUP, which is a goal of the Cross-Pollination Grant. I believe that it has made me much better equipped to collaborate with our own library, and it affirmed my choice of a career. Overall, my attendance at the LPC taught me much more than the ins-and-outs of open access. With it, I gained confidence, validation, and affirmation that will continue to resonate with me as I continue my career in academic publishing.

On the Future of Animals

This week in North Philly Notes, Wayne Gabardi, author of The Next Social Contract, argues that we need to adopt a more post-humanist and co-evolutionary outlook and relate to animals on more equal terms.

Like many people, I’ve been an animal lover my entire life. Yet it’s one thing to be involved with animals in a conventional sense and another to systematically research and reflect on how we understand other species of life, relate to them, and treat them. The academic field of animal studies and the animal advocacy movement have grown dramatically in the past few decades. This is due to the tragic plight of so many animals around the world today as well as to major advances in animal research and our knowledge of animals.

When I set out to write The Next Social Contract my goals were ambitious:

  • To develop a big picture approach to understanding animals;
  • To expand the scope of animal studies and focus on a broader range of human-animal relationships;
  • To devel
    op an ethical framework and political theory of how we should relate to and treat animals that goes beyond the animal welfare-animal rights debate; and
  • To explore some practical, community-level applications of what I refer to as a posthumanist and coevolutionary ethical-political philosophy.

I believe we have entered a new era in the history of planet Earth and humanity – the Anthropocene, or new human age – where modern civilization is radically altering the biosphere to such an extent that many animals are in big trouble. I identify four major battlegrounds that I believe are defining and will continue to define animal ethics and politics in this century and beyond:

  • Wild animals on the fast track to extinction;
  • Industrialized farm animals and the future of animal agriculture;
  • The crisis of our oceans and ocean life; and
  • The status of contact zone animals increasingly moving into human-occupied habitats.

One trend I discovered in my research is that most people relate to and evaluate animals through an anthropocentric mindset, even strong animal welfare and animal rights The Next Social Contract_smadvocates. The worthiness of animals are measured in human terms in relation to our attributes and capacities. The more human-like animals behave the more we value them. This is a major flaw in my view. We need to adopt a more posthumanist and coevolutionary outlook and relate to animals on more equal terms. Although they are different from us in many ways, they are also the same as us in many ways, and deserving of equal consideration as integral members of our community. We therefore need to negotiate a new social contract in human-animal relations. At the heart of this new compact is a rejection of the outdated belief that humans are categorically different from and superior to all other species of life and that this entitles us to use animals as instrumental means for our ends. We need to think of animals as members of our communities who we need to coexist with, not as fashionable accessories, alien invaders, objects of consumption, or less-than-human impediments to our unending colonial expansion.

As for the future of animals, I unfortunately am as pessimistic as I am hopeful. The modernization and human colonization of the planet will only intensify in the twenty-first century. As I conclude in the book, “the task before us is nothing less than a labor of Sisyphus.”

Making and Remaking Philadelphia: From William Penn to Jim Kenney

This week in North Philly Notes, Roger Simon, author of Philadelphia: A Brief Historyexplains how the decisions of the past are linked to the issues of today

Last week City Council approved the first phase of Mayor Jim Kenney’s Rebuilding Community Infrastructure program to repair and rebuild the city’s parks, playgrounds, recreation facilities, and libraries.  One might ask:  Why is this initiative necessary? Why have those facilities been allowed to deteriorate in the first place? Has this effort been tried before? The starting point to answering those questions is to understand the city’s past. Philadelphia: A Brief History explains how the Quaker city evolved over three-and-a third centuries in a compact and an eminently readable format.

Philadelphia_A Brief History_smThe book is built around two important themes: First is the recurring tensions between communal needs and private and personal gain. This is a particularly salient tension in Philadelphia’s history because William Penn himself articulated the goal of a harmonious and holy community, but one that would also be a prosperous settlement for the residents and for Penn himself. The tension is embodied in the name itself: Philadelphia was a city in ancient Greece, and the word does mean one who loves his brother, but it was also a prosperous port, and a place to which Saint John the Divine addressed a message in the Book of Revelations. So it embodied the ideas of prosperity, brotherhood, and holiness.

The second major theme of the book is the role that the economy has played in shaping the city. The book is structured around the major economic and technological eras: the pre-industrial age, coinciding largely with the colonial period; early industrialism in the decades before the Civil War; industrial colossus, from the Civil War to World War II; and deindustrialization and the post-industrial age since the 1950s. Throughout the book, there is considerable emphasis on the physical city, the built environment, with three dozen illustrations and maps.

Philadelphia’s history is written all over its landscape. To know how to read that landscape, not just City Hall and Independence Hall, but the public spaces, transportation lines, public institutions, and those facilities that Mayor Kenney wants to repair requires a sense of the past. This volume is an excellent place to start.

Philadelphia: A Brief History is part of the Pennsylvania History series, short monographs on topics in the history of Pennsylvania published jointly by the Pennsylvania Historical Association and Temple University Press. These volumes are intended for a general audience as well as for high school and college classrooms.

 

 

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