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.

Lessons from the juicy details of a protracted legal battle

This week in North Philly Notes, Jean Elson, author of Gross Misbehavior and Wickedness—about the notorious divorce between Nina and James Walker in early twentieth-century Rhode Island—provides some keen observations about the issues raised during the sensational trial. 

The events leading up to and taking place throughout the Walker divorce hearings raised issues that were not solely individual matters; they signified social changes evolving in American culture at the time. Acrimonious testimony often focused on incompatible views of gender, family, and class—ideas that characterized broader cultural debates of the Progressive Era. The trials raised many questions including the following:

§  Must a wife obey her husband’s orders?
James Walker viewed his opinion as the only one to be taken into consideration, and his wife, Nina, began to rebel against this.

§  Is a wife required to submit to her husband’s sexual desires?
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sex meant the risk of pregnancy for women, and pregnancy was a dangerous undertaking at the time, with a high mortality and morbidity rate.

§  Are children the property of their father?
During the early 20th century courts were just beginning to award custody to mothers in divorce cases. The judicial philosophy changed from viewing children (and wives) as property of the father and husband to considering a mother’s love and devotion to children as more important. Nina was fortunate that enlightened judges awarded her custody throughout the long divorce proceedings, as well as when the divorce became final.

§  Should fathers provide their children with emotional, as well as financial, support?
The new view of fathers at the time of the divorce was that they could provide love and companionship for children, rather than just moral education. This is currently taken for granted. Nina and James, as well as witnesses for each side disputed whether James was capable of providing emotional support.

§  Is corporal punishment of children to be condoned?
An important issue in the Walker case was Nina’s charge that James physically punished the children, a situation that would not have been as seriously questioned prior to the Progressive period.

Gross Misbehavior and Wickedness_sm§  Must a husband be faithful to his wife?
Nina charged James with adultery, as well as “gross misbehavior and wickedness” (a charge only acceptable in Rhode Island) with the children’s governess. Previous generations of upper class women may have been more likely to accept that their husbands had mistresses. The issue of whether James engaged in extra-marital sex was so important that James’s purported mistress was examined by doctors to determine whether she was a virgin.

§  Must a wife remain with her husband when doing so endangers her physical or mental health?
Nina claimed that her marriage endangered both of these. Whereas endangerment of physical health by a husband had long been an acceptable ground for divorce, it was only in the early 20th century that judges began to accept endangerment of mental health as a valid reason for divorce.

§  Is a wife obliged to be more loyal to her husband and his family than to her own?
James claimed that Nina’s family constantly influenced her in a way that was detrimental to the marriage, and Nina resented James’s family’s interference in their married life.

§  Should a feminist always support the woman when a husband and wife argue?
James’s sister Susan was a well-known feminist and suffragist, but took her brother’s side in the divorce dispute. She did not see the connection between the public rights of women she upheld and her own sister-in-law’s powerlessness in her own home. Nina did not make this connection between public and private rights either, and she was vehemently against giving women the right to vote, although she wanted more power in her marriage.

§  How involved should parents be in a grown child’s marriage?
Both Nina’s and James’s family were very involved in the couple’s married life, to the detriment of the couple’s relationship with each other.

§  Is it proper for a single working-class woman to befriend a married upper- class man?
Nina’s side claimed that it was completely inappropriate for James to be on friendly terms with the family governess and to correspond with her (their letters are a very interesting part of the story).

§  Is divorce the appropriate solution for a troubled marriage?
Divorce was probably the right solution for Nina and James Walker, but the Walker children were cut off forever from their father and his side of the family.

We continue to grapple with most of the above questions in contemporary American society.

University-Community Partnerships for the Public Good: A Democratic Imperative

This week in North Philly Notes, Ira Harkavy, John Puckett, Matthew Hartley, Rita A. Hodges, Francis E. Johnston, and Joann Weeks, the co-authors of Knowledge for Social Changediscuss the importance and mutual benefits of local partnerships involving the university and the community. 

Martin Luther King used the phrase “fierce urgency of now” and called for immediate “vigorous and positive action” to end segregation and the unequal treatment of African-Americans. Given the severe dysfunction of the American political system—as well as many political systems throughout the world—vigorous and positive action is also required  at this time. In particular, universities have an increased and increasing responsibility to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and improvement of the human condition.

Colleges and universities, as former Harvard University President Derek Bok and others have emphasized, have become the central societal institutions in the modern world. The path to power and success for the vast majority of leaders in science, health care, business, law—indeed, in nearly every area of American life—passes through colleges and universities. They have become the primary engines of growth for an increasingly knowledge-based global economy. Colleges and universities have also come to play a key role in their local environments as anchor institutions. They possess enormous resources (especially human resources), develop and transmit new knowledge, educate for careers and advancement, function as centers of artistic and cultural creativity, and have a powerful influence on the norms, values, and practices of the pre-K–12 schooling system. They are catalysts and hubs for local and regional economies as employers, real estate developers, clients for area vendors, and incubators for business and technology.

In the past several decades, enlightened self-interest has prompted many colleges and universities to respond to external pressures from government, foundations, and public opinion by partnering in local community economic development efforts to help solve pressing problems including poverty, crime, violence, and physical deterioration. These partnerships also manifest a renewed commitment to the historic civic and democratic purposes of higher education.

Knowledge for Social Change_smIn Knowledge for Social Change, we focus on significant contributions to learning made by Francis Bacon, Benjamin Franklin, Seth Low, Jane Addams, William Rainey Harper, and John Dewey—as well as our own work at Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships—to help create and sustain democratically engaged colleges and universities for the public good. We particularly highlight our model of university-assisted community schools to effect a thoroughgoing change of research universities that will contribute to more-democratic schools, communities, and societies.

We argue, however, that universities, including our own, have not fulfilled their promise.

What strategic step might help engage Penn, as well as other universities, to embrace that democratic vision actively as well as rhetorically? In one of his most important propositions, John Dewey stated, “Democracy must begin at home, and its home is the neighborly community.” Democracy, he emphasized, has to be built on face-to-face interactions in which human beings work together cooperatively to solve the ongoing problems of life. We are updating Dewey and advocating the following proposition: Democracy must begin at home, and its home is the engaged neighborly college or university and its local community partners. Neighborliness, we contend, is the primary indicator that an institution is working for the public good.

The benefits of a local community focus for college and university civic engagement programs are manifold. Ongoing, continuous interaction is facilitated through work in an easily accessible location. Relationships of trust, so essential for effective partnerships and effective learning, are also built through day-to-day work on problems and issues of mutual concern. In addition, the local community provides a convenient setting in which service learning courses, community-based research courses, and related courses in different disciplines can work together on a complex problem to produce substantive results. Work in a university’s local community, since it facilitates interaction across schools and disciplines, can also create interdisciplinary learning opportunities. Finally, the local community is a real-world learning site in which community members and academics can pragmatically determine whether the work is making a real difference and whether both the neighborhood and the institution are better as a result of common efforts.

For Dewey, knowledge and learning are most effectively advanced when human beings work collaboratively to solve specific, significant real-world problems in “a forked road situation, a situation that is ambiguous, that presents a dilemma, which poses alternatives.” Focusing on universal problems—for example, poverty, poor schooling, and inadequate healthcare—that are manifested locally is, in our judgment, the best way to apply Dewey’s brilliant proposition. A focus on local engagement is an extraordinarily promising strategy for realizing institutional mission and purpose.

“Only connect!” The powerful, evocative epigraph to E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End captures the essence of our argument—namely, that the necessary revolutionary transformation of research universities is most likely to occur in the crucible of significant, serious, sustained engagement with local public schools and their communities.

Knowledge for Social Change concludes by calling on democratic-minded academics to create and sustain a global movement dedicated to radically transforming research universities to realize Bacon’s goal of advancing knowledge for “the relief of man’s estate”—that is, the continuous improvement of humanity—as well as Dewey’s utopian vision of an organic “Great Community” composed of truly participatory, democratic, collaborative, and interdependent societies.

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