All posts by CESWSU


The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than not, the frustration and the shutting down is about something else. It comes from the fact that nobody wants to be a racist. And the move “you only think that because you’re looking at this from the perspective of privilege” or the more terse and confrontational “check your privilege!” kind of sound like an accusation that someone is a racist (if they don’t already understand privilege). And the phrase “white privilege” kind of sounds like, “You are a racist and there’s nothing you can do about it because you were born that way.”

And if this were what “white privilege” meant—which it is not—defensiveness and frustration would be the appropriate response. But privilege talk is not intended to make a moral assessment or a moral claim about the privileged at all. It is about systemic imbalance. It is about injustices that have arisen because of the history of racism that birthed the way things are now. It’s not saying, “You’re a bad person because you’re white.” It’s saying, “The system is skewed in ways that you maybe haven’t realized or had to think about precisely because it’s skewed in YOUR favor.”

I am white. So I have not experienced racial privilege from the “under” side firsthand. But my children (and a lot of other people I love) are not white. And so I care about privilege and what it means for racial justice in our country. And one experience I have had firsthand, which has helped me to understand privilege and listen to privilege talk without feeling defensive, is riding my bike.


Now, I know, it sounds a little goofy at first. But stick with me. Because I think that this analogy might help some white people understand privilege talk without feeling like they’re having their character attacked.

About five years ago I decide to start riding my bike as my primary mode of transportation. As in, on the street, in traffic. Which is enjoyable for a number of reasons (exercise, wind in yer face, the cool feeling of going fast, etc.) But the thing is, I don’t live in Portland or Minneapolis. I live in the capital city of the epicenter of the auto industry: Lansing, MI. This is not, by any stretch, a bike-friendly town. And often, it is down-right dangerous to be a bike commuter here.

Now sometimes its dangerous for me because people in cars are just blatantly a**holes to me. If I am in the road—where I legally belong—people will yell at me to get on the sidewalk. If I am on the sidewalk—which is sometimes the safest place to be—people will yell at me to get on the road. People in cars think its funny to roll down their window and yell something right when they get beside me. Or to splash me on purpose. People I have never met are angry at me for just being on a bike in “their” road and they let me know with colorful language and other acts of aggression.

I can imagine that for people of color life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Experiencing this when I’m on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about.

Now most people in cars are not intentionally aggressive toward me. But even if all the jerks had their licenses revoked tomorrow, the road would still be a dangerous place for me. Because the whole transportation infrastructure privileges the automobile. It is born out of a history rooted in the auto industry that took for granted that everyone should use a car as their mode of transportation. It was not built to be convenient or economical or safe for me.

And so people in cars—nice, non-aggressive people—put me in danger all the time because they see the road from the privileged perspective of a car. E.g., I ride on the right side of the right lane. Some people fail to change lanes to pass me (as they would for another car) or even give me a wide berth. Some people fly by just inches from me not realizing how scary/dangerous that is for me (like if I were to swerve to miss some roadkill just as they pass). These folks aren’t aggressive or hostile toward me, but they don’t realize that a pothole or a build up of gravel or a broken bottle, which they haven’t given me enough room to avoid–because in a car they don’t need to be aware of these things–could send me flying from my bike or cost me a bent rim or a flat tire.

So the semi driver who rushes past throwing gravel in my face in his hot wake isn’t necessarily a bad guy. He could be sitting in his cab listening to Christian radio and thinking about nice things he can do for his wife. But the fact that “the system” allows him to do those things instead of being mindful of me is a privilege he has that I don’t. (I have to be hyper-aware of him).

This is what privilege is about.  Like drivers, nice, non-aggressive white people can move in the world without thinking about the  “potholes” or the “gravel” that people of color have to navigate, or how things that they do—not intending to hurt or endanger anyone—might actually be making life more difficult or more dangerous for a person of color.

Nice, non-aggressive drivers that don’t do anything at all to endanger me are still privileged to pull out of their driveway each morning and know that there are roads that go all the way to their destination. They don’t have to wonder if there are bike lanes and what route they will take to stay safe. In the winter, they can be certain that the snow will be plowed out of their lane into my lane and not the other way around.


And it’s not just the fact that the whole transportation infrastructure is built around the car. It’s the law, which is poorly enforced when cyclists are hit by cars, the fact that gas is subsidized by the government and bike tires aren’t, and just the general mindset of a culture that is in love with cars after a hundred years of propaganda and still thinks that bikes are toys for kids and triathletes.

So when I say the semi driver is privileged, it isn’t a way of calling him a bad person or a man-slaughterer or saying he didn’t really earn his truck, but just way of acknowledging all that–infrastructure, laws, gov’t, culture–and the fact that if he and I get in a collision, I will probably die and he will just have to clean the blood off of his bumper. In the same way, talking about racial privilege isn’t a way of telling white people they are bad people or racists or that they didn’t really earn what they have.

It’s a way of trying to make visible the fact that system is not neutral, it is not a level-playing field, it’s not the same experience for everyone. There are biases and imbalances and injustices built into the warp and woof of our culture. (The recent events in Ferguson, MO should be evidence enough of this–more thoughts on that here). Not because you personally are a racist, but because the system has a history and was built around this category “race” and that’s not going to go away overnight (or even in 100 years). To go back to my analogy: Bike lanes are relatively new, and still just kind of an appendage on a system that is inherently car-centric.

So–white readers–the next time someone drops the p-word, try to remember they aren’t calling you a racist or saying you didn’t really earn your college degree, they just want you to try empathize with how scary it is to be on a bike sometimes (metaphorically speaking).

One last thing: Now, I know what it is like to be a white person engaged in racial reconciliation or justice work and to feel like privilege language is being used to silence you or to feel frustrated that you are genuinely trying to be a part of the solution not the problem but every time you open your mouth someone says, “Check you privilege.” (I.e., even though privilege language doesn’t mean “You are one of the bad guys,” some people do use it that way). So if you’ll permit me to get a few more miles out of this bike analogy (ya see what I did there?), I think it can help encourage white folks  who have felt that frustration to stay engaged and stay humble.

I have a lot of “conversations” with drivers. Now, rationally, I know that most drivers are not jerks. But I have a long and consistent history of bad experiences with drivers and so, when I’ve already been honked at or yelled at that day, or when I’ve read a blog post about a fellow cyclist who’s been mowed down by a careless driver, it’s hard for me to stay civil.

But when I’m not so civil with a “privileged” driver, it’s not because I hate him/her, or think s/he is evil. It’s because it’s the third time that day I got some gravel in the face. So try to remember that even if you don’t feel like a “semi driver,” a person of color might be experiencing you the way a person on a bike experiences being passed by a semi. Even if you’re listening to Christian radio.

* The article is by jdowsett


Privilege is NOT what You Think It is! (Read. We will discuss in class)

Privilege is a process/system; not a thing to accept or reject.

But knowing how  this process/system of privilege works helps us all to understand, recognize, change and reconfigure the structure of privilege in which we are all more or less in. We cannot take ourselves outside privilege, but we can let other people come inside it. Our first step to this reconfiguration would be to see and acknowledge the privilege instead of outright denial of it.

The defensive and irritable feelings that whites often experience when they come across words like “white” and “racism”, “privilege”, etc. are based on a fundamental misconception of  our relationship with society. Our culture  makes us think that   individuals are just individuals and a collection of individuals is called society as if there is no dynamics between individuals and society.

To go beyond this individualistic model, our relationship with society can be thought with an analogy of bricks and building. Individuals as bricks constitute building but the plan of building also determines the size and shape of bricks it wants. So individuals and society have a dual relation: individuals shape society but society also influences or shapes individuals.

If we understand it, we  will also get the idea that no males/whites/heterosexuals are themselves responsible for male privilege, white privilege, and heterosexual privilege. It is the plan of a building or a vision of a society which makes all the difference.

The following Q & A list may help trigger some useful ideas about the reciprocal and dynamic relation we have as individuals with the society we live in. Some of the questions and answers require detail explanation and I will make it. But you can read and think for yourself first. Here we go.

  1. Are you saying that white people are responsible for white privilege?
  • Does ableism exist simply because able persons exist?
  1. Whites often think that racism is a problem that belongs to people of color. Racism doesn’t cause harm to any interests of whites.
  • Is gender discrimination a problem of women only? Doesn’t it affect the interests of society as a whole?
  1. Whites don’t want to look at racism. There are plenty of other interesting things to think about.
  • Do men want to think about sexism, heterosexuals about heterosexism, able bodied about ableism?
  1. Whites/nonwhites are just born that way.
  • Yes, then why/how does society attribute meaning on the color of skin?
  • Would you think that just because women are born that way should make men entitled to put them under oppression?
  1. Knowing about white privilege makes me feel bad as a white person.
  • Should knowing about male privilege make men feel bad as men or should men have something else to do?
  1. I didn’t want white privilege. It just happened to me. What can I do about it?
  • What can men do about male privilege, heterosexuals about heterosexual privilege, able bodied about ableism?
  1. I am a white person. But I don’t feel any privilege.
  • Can you measure your weight with a thermometer?
  1. I am a woman. But I did not face any discrimination. I am a black person. But I didn’t face any discrimination.
  • Would you say that just because you somehow didn’t get wet in the rain, the rain is a myth?
  1. Stop. What’s the point? Some whites/males/heterosexuals are also oppressed.
  • Does able bodied persons  get oppressed just because they are able bodied?

10. My male/white/heterosexual privilege doesn’t necessarily make me happy.

  • Wouldn’t you have other struggles to pursue even you were born a prince?

Note also that because oppression results  from relations between social categories, it is not possible to be oppressed by society alone without real humans as oppressors. Also, a society isn’t something than can have privilege. Only people can do this by belonging to privileged categories in relation to other categories that aren’t.

Finally, being in a privileged category that has an oppressive relationship with another isn’t the same as being an oppressive person who behaves in oppressive ways. That males as as a social category oppress females as social categories, for example, is a social fact. That doesn’t , however,  tell us how a particular man thinks or feels about particular women or behaves towards them. This can be a subtle distinction to hang on to, but hang on to it.

In fact, we must if we’re going to maintain a clear idea of what oppression is and how it works in defense of privilege!

Let’s end with some great observations by Harry Brod:

“We need to be clear that there is no such thing as giving up one’s privilege to be outside the system. One is always in the system. The only question is whether one is part of the system in a way which challenges or strengthens the status quo. Privilege is not something I take and which I therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me, and unless I change the institutions which give it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and egalitarian my intentions are.”

Study Questions BS Chapter 4

study questions

Read chapter 4. There’s no alternative. Before checking slide for chapter 4 (scroll to find), it is important to read the chapter yourself.
So, navigate to all key arguments and details using the following questions:

  1. What is ideology? What is racial ideology? [101, also chapter 1]
  2. What is the style of racial ideology? [102]
  3. Why did the style of racial ideology get changed after Civil Rights era? [102]
  4. Is BS saying whites are racist? When can one be racist? [102]
  5. How to understand that the problem of race is the problem of power and ideology? [102]
  6. How do whites talk about minorities in public? [103]
  7. Why didn’t old whites learn new style of racial ideology? [103]
  8. What is the sandwich style of post-civil rights ideology? [105]
  9. What are safe disclaimers? [105]
  10. I liked the interview at page 106 and I can tell why. Which one is your favorite? [106]
  11. Make a list of all semantic moves used to perform colorblindness. [106]
  12. What’s so problematic about Brian’s statement? [107]
  13. What’s so problematic about Liz’s statement? Does “quick reversal” help her? [107]
  14. How would you evaluate Emily’s stance on affirmative action? [108]
  15. How would you evaluate Mark’s stance on affirmative action? Is it “time-space-race-self” dilemma he is confronting? [109]
  16. How would you evaluate Brian’s stance of affirmative action? [109]
  17. What’s so problematic about Sandra’s stance on affirmative action? Is affirmative action as simple as giving one job over another or an attempt for redress? [110]
  18. How would you make Ray and Sonny understand that segregated neighborhoods, schools, and friendship networks are NOT nonracial outcomes but products of racialized history and racialized life? [111]
  19. What’s so problematic about “anything but race” style? [111]
  20. Would you agree with Marge on her stance about interracial marriage? Why/why not? [111]
  21. What is “projection”? Is it like blaming victims? [111]
  22. Would you agree with Janet on her view of interracial question? Is she projecting selfishness onto people who intermarry? Is she having “time-space-race-self” dilemma? [112]
  23. How does BS deconstruct Rachel’s concern that blacks would feel terrible about affirmative action as it would inferiorize them? [113]
  24. Would you agree with Ann’s view that blacks are more prejudiced against whites than whites are against blacks? Whose set of prejudice/stereotype determine blacks’ life chances? [113]
  25. Would you agree with Francine’s view that blacks see police and criminal justice system differently because of blacks’ prejudice against both? [113]
  26. What do you think of Pat’s allegation that blacks separate themselves and take specials in a program that is on blacks’ behalf to deal with effects of discrimination? [113]
  27. What’s so wrong about the statement: “Minorities are the problems, whites are not”? [114]
  28. What do you think of Andy’s concern that interracial marriage makes life a little more difficult? [114]
  29. Would you agree with Rita’s view that blacks are a little more aggressive and high tempered? [115]
  30. Do you have any explanation why Ray is more attracted to white girls than black girls? [116]
  31. Do you think minorities self-segregate? [117]
  32. What’s wrong with Dorothy’s statement that “they’re just as humans as we are”? [117]
  33. Why do younger and educated people use more resources of post-civil rights racial style than older and less educated people? [119]

From Stereotype to Discrimination (Participation on/before 10/6)

You will find two sets of videos below: (a) about stereotypes leading to humiliation (b) about stereotypes  leading to death. Also, you will find (c) an article about  our struggle to love black youth.

After watching and reading  them, respond to the following statement in the comment box:

Apparently, racial stereotypes are  so common  in people of all races, but  do racial stereotypes affect both white lives and nonwhite  lives with same impacts? Why not? Can you include more examples of (a) and (b)? 

(a) From Stereotype to Humiliation 

(i) Shopping While Black (SWB):

(ii) What would you do (social experiment): 

(B) From Stereotype to  Death: 

(i) Police violence:

(ii) Walking While Black: 

(c) Article:

America’s Persistent Struggle to Love Black Youth*

“America eats its babies. No matter what y’all think about me, I’m still your child.”
–Tupac Sakur

Black children are presently under continual assault by well-maintained practices of white racial domination and exclusion, resulting in the marginalization of Africans and African Americans into adulthood. These children are under attack physically, psychologically and emotionally from the classroom to the movie screen and everything in between. Black children are being unjustly singled out and tormented; while some are denigrated and crucified in the media, others are shot in cold blood for merely wearing a hoodie or listening to loud music. The most recent psychological offense against a black child occurred when the Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis was announced to play the lead role in the remake of the Broadway hit Annie. This time the popular character would be played by a young black actress, to the exasperation of many whites. Similar controversy has erupted over such fictional characters in Hollywood before. From the backlash against the decision to cast the black actor Michael B. Jordan in the role of Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Fourmovie to the white hysteria over casting Amandla Stenberg, a young black actress, as the character Rue in the first installment of The Hunger Games, white America regularly demonstrates its discomfort with the black presence in Hollywood and mass media in general.

Historically, black children were not exempt from white disenfranchisement, as they were anthropometrically measured and classified in the racist frameworks about the origins of humankind, which ranked persons in order of supposed “intelligence” and other imposed attributes, in much the way same as black adults. Early images of and writings about black children referring to them as “pickaninnies,” as they were once called, were well-established throughout the 19th and early 20th century and served to reinforce the psychology of white supremacy by reducing black children to caricatures and objects of amusement. It is no surprise, then, that the mere mention of black folk visually, geographically, professionally or otherwise in historically white institutions constitutes a threat to the established order of things for those white people who cannot imagine life beyond their own personal sense of self despite the presumption of a shared democracy. This is one reason that black youth are often portrayed as savages, animal-like menaces to society with a craving for mischief. Black children and other children of color, then, rarely find themselves in white media (film, TV) unless portrayed as less-than-productive members of society.

White children have abundant options and choices to see themselves broadly and positively represented in film, popular music, young-adult novels and other forms of media created by people who look like them. In particular, young white girls have an increasing number of affirming characters to witness, such as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Beatrice Prior in the Divergent series (whose film adaptation is coming soon). But black children are not so fortunate. A recent study by Nicole Martins and Kristen Harrison found that exposure to electronic media in long stretches can lower a child’s self-esteem, especially if the child is a white girl, a black girl or a black boy. This is especially concerning given that black children watch about 10 more hours of television per week than any other group. The amount of time exposed to the hegemonic forces of white media and its often-destructive content regarding black people and their children is toxic for their emotional health andphysical well-being, as blacks are made to internalize the deleterious messages that they receive daily, reminding them that they do not matter much in the world. Being rendered visible yet invisible induces “psychic violence” on black youth, limiting their ability and capacity to dream of life beyond the confines of white racial stereotypes about their life chances.

As black children grow into adulthood, they become potential competitors with the white status quo for jobs and other resource-generating opportunities, making it easier to justify their exclusion through violent and repressive means. The racist framing of black children by whites, blacks and others continues presently, informing school discipline policies that leave black youth vulnerable to the whims of the criminal justice system. Young black men are statistically more likely to be suspendedfrom school than their white classmates, setting them up for a catastrophic cycle of intergenerational poverty, despondency and a general lack of trust.

Guided by white racial knowledge and inheritance, many white teachers use what they have learned through intergenerational transmission of racist images, stories, conversations, and causal discourse about African Americans in society. If a schoolteachers are white and come from predominately middle-class enclaves, as research suggests that they do, then it can be assumed that many have very little contact or sustained interaction with the black community. Instead of operating from democratic impulses, they act from xenophobic inclinations, viewing black persons in enduringly hostile ways. It should be no surprise, then, that under these undemocratic and racist circumstances, black males are disciplined and harshly punished more for what they represent in the popular imagination than for what they actually do. It is no accident that African Americans (amongst other groups of color) occupy the lower rungs in society, given the legacy that white colonialism and oppression has had on the lives of black Americans over the last 350 years.

The frustration that most black Americans feel over everyday forms of racism can and often does cause emotional stress, anger and even self-hatred. We live in a racist society where black youth are routinely shamed by whites and other groups for their own inherited circumstances in life. Both Wallis and Stenberg are no strangers to racism, having been violently attacked through the media. During the Oscars in February 2013, satirical news outlet The Onion sent out a controversial tweet referring to Wallis as a “cunt.” Though this drew instant backlash and public ridicule, the very same public is now crazed over her recent casting in place of a redheaded, freckled-faced white girl to play a fictional character. Stenberg was called a “black bitch” and other horrifying epithets as an onslaught of fans expressed their regret for having cried over the death of what they later learned to be a black child.

Wounds like these are deeply etched in the collective memories of black people and have pernicious effects on health, which can linger for generations. The self-concept ofblack girls are uniformly shaped by what they glean from white U.S. media, which typically consists of debasing characterizations and unrealistic comparisons to white-female-normative standards of beauty and womanhood. In contrast, black boys and young men of color are typically depicted as the thug, the gang banger, the token black person, the comic relief, the ladies’ man, the athlete/dancer, the absentee father or, most damagingly, the violent and angry black man destined for a showdown with the criminal justice system.

America doesn’t care about black youth (especially boys and young men of color, whom they fear). This is evident in the way schooling is unequally funded, pushing poor black and brown children out. The most nefarious of abuses to blacks occurs in public education, as they are deprived of the opportunity to be educated on their terms in ways that foster success, which begins with healthy racial identity development and positive affirmation that blackness matters. White America has consistently put up the middle finger to black children through halfhearted policy measures that have done very little to alter the footprint of our nation’s past as it pertains to black children. To love black children means to embrace them as your own while recognizing their unique challenges — through no fault of their own — in a color-conscious society where racism remains foundational  to the American experience.

* by 

Taken from

Stereotype, Prejudice, Discrimination*


The terms stereotype, prejudice, discrimination, and racism are often used interchangeably in everyday conversation. But when discussing these terms from a sociological perspective, it is important to define them: stereotypes are oversimplified ideas about groups of people, prejudice refers to thoughts and feelings about those groups, while discrimination refers to actions toward them.Racism is a type of prejudice that involves set beliefs about a specific racial group.

As stated above, stereotypes are oversimplified ideas about groups of people. Stereotypes can be based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation—almost any characteristic. They may be positive (usually about one’s own group, such as when women suggest they are less likely to complain about physical pain) but are often negative (usually toward other groups, such as when members of a dominant racial group suggest that a subordinate racial group is stupid or lazy). In either case, the stereotype is a generalization that doesn’t take individual differences into account.

Where do stereotypes come from? In fact new stereotypes are rarely created; rather, they are recycled from subordinate groups that have assimilated into society and are reused to describe newly subordinate groups. For example, many stereotypes that are currently used to characterize black people were used earlier in American history to characterize Irish and Eastern European immigrants.

Prejudice and Racism

Prejudice refers to beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes that someone holds about a group. A prejudice is not based on experience; instead, it is a prejudgment, originating outside of actual experience. Racism is a type of prejudice that is used to justify the belief that one racial category is somehow superior or inferior to others. The Ku Klux Klan is an example of a racist organization; its members’ belief in white supremacy has encouraged over a century of hate crime and hate speech.

The sources of prejudice

Sociologists and psychologists hold that some of the emotionality in prejudice stems from subconscious attitudes that cause a person to ward off feelings of inadequacy by projecting them onto a target group. By using certain people as scapegoats—those without power who are unfairly blamed—anxiety and uncertainty are reduced by attributing complex problems to a simple cause: “Those people are the source of all my problems.” Social research across the globe has shown that prejudice is fundamentally related to low self‐esteem. By hating certain groups (in this case, minorities), people are able to enhance their sense of self‐worth and importance.

Social scientists have also identified some common social factors that may contribute to the presence of prejudice and discrimination:

  1. Socialization. Many prejudices seem to be passed along from parents to children. The media—including television, movies, and advertising—also perpetuate demeaning images and stereotypes about assorted groups, such as ethnic minorities, women, gays and lesbians, the disabled, and the elderly.
  2. Conforming behaviors. Prejudices may bring support from significant others, so rejecting prejudices may lead to losing social support. The pressures to conform to the views of families, friends, and associates can be formidable.
  3. Economic benefits. Social studies have confirmed that prejudice especially rises when groups are in direct competition for jobs. This may help to explain why prejudice increases dramatically during times of economic and social stress.
  4. Authoritarian personality. In response to early socialization, some people are especially prone to stereotypical thinking and projection based on unconscious fears. People with an authoritarian personality rigidly conform, submit without question to their superiors, reject those they consider to be inferiors, and express intolerant sexual and religious opinions. The authoritarian personality may have its roots in parents who are unloving and aloof disciplinarians. The child then learns to control his or her anxieties via rigid attitudes.
  5. Ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is the tendency to evaluate others’ cultures by one’s own cultural norms and values. It also includes a suspicion of outsiders. Most cultures have their ethnocentric tendencies, which usually involve stereotypical thinking.
  6. Group closure. Group closure is the process whereby groups keep clear boundaries between themselves and others. Refusing to marry outside an ethnic group is an example of how group closure is accomplished.
  7. Conflict theory. Under conflict theory, in order to hold onto their distinctive social status, power, and possessions, privileged groups are invested in seeing that no competition for resources arises from minority groups. The powerful may even be ready to resort to extreme acts of violence against others to protect their interests. As a result, members of underprivileged groups may retaliate with violence in an attempt to improve their circumstances.

Solutions to prejudice

For decades, sociologists have looked to ways of reducing and eliminating conflicts and prejudices between groups:

  • One theory, the self‐esteem hypothesis, is that when people have an appropriate education and higher self‐esteem, their prejudices will go away.
  • Another theory is the contact hypothesis, which states that the best answer to prejudice is to bring together members of different groups so they can learn to appreciate their common experiences and backgrounds.
  • A third theory, the cooperation hypothesis, holds that conflicting groups need to cooperate by laying aside their individual interests and learning to work together for shared goals.
  • A fourth theory, the legal hypothesis, is that prejudice can be eliminated by enforcing laws against discriminative behavior.

To date, solutions to prejudice that emphasize change at the individual level have not been successful. In contrast, research sadly shows that even unprejudiced people can, under specific conditions of war or economic competition, become highly prejudiced against their perceived “enemies.” Neither have attempts at desegregation in schools been successful. Instead, many integrated schools have witnessed the formation of ethnic cliques and gangs that battle other groups to defend their own identities.

Changes in the law have helped to alter some prejudiced attitudes. Without changes in the law, women might never have been allowed to vote, attend graduate school, or own property. And racial integration of public facilities in America might never have occurred. Still, laws do not necessarily change people’s attitudes. In some cases, new laws can increase antagonism toward minority groups.

Finally, cooperative learning, or learning that involves collaborative interactions between students, while surely of positive value to students, does not assure reduction of hostility between conflicting groups. Cooperation is usually too limited and too brief to surmount all the influences in a person’s life.

To conclude, most single efforts to eliminate prejudice are too simplistic to deal with such a complex phenomenon. Researchers, then, have focused on more holistic methods of reducing ethnocentrism and cultural conflicts. They have noted that certain conditions must be met before race relations will ever improve:

  • A desire to become better acquainted.
  • A desire to cooperate.
  • Equal economic standing and social status.
  • Equal support from society.

Sociologists speculate that one reason prejudice is still around is the fact that these conditions rarely coincide.


While prejudice refers to biased thinking, discrimination consists of actions against a group of people. Discrimination can be based on age, religion, health, and other indicators; race-based discrimination and antidiscrimination laws strive to address this set of social problems.

Discrimination based on race or ethnicity can take many forms, from unfair housing practices to biased hiring systems. Overt discrimination has long been part of U.S. history. In the late 19th century, it was not uncommon for business owners to hang signs that read, “Help Wanted: No Irish Need Apply.” And of course, southern Jim Crow laws, with their “Whites Only” signs, exemplified overt discrimination that is not tolerated today.

However, discrimination cannot be erased from our culture just by enacting laws to abolish it. Even if a magic pill managed to eradicate racism from each individual’s psyche, society itself would maintain it. Sociologist Émile Durkheim calls racism a social fact, meaning that it does not require the action of individuals to continue. The reasons for this are complex and relate to the educational, criminal, economic, and political systems that exist.

For example, when a newspaper prints the race of individuals accused of a crime, it may enhance stereotypes of a certain minority. Another example of racist practices is racial steering, in which real estate agents direct prospective homeowners toward or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race. Racist attitudes and beliefs are often more insidious and hard to pin down than specific racist practices.

Prejudice and discrimination can overlap and intersect in many ways. To illustrate, here are four examples of how prejudice and discrimination can occur. Unprejudiced nondiscriminators are open-minded, tolerant, and accepting individuals. Unprejudiced discriminators might be those who, unthinkingly, practice sexism in their workplace by not considering females for certain positions that have traditionally been held by men. Prejudiced nondiscriminators are those who hold racist beliefs but don’t act on them, such as a racist store owner who serves minority customers. Prejudiced discriminators include those who actively make disparaging remarks about others or who perpetuate hate crimes.

Discrimination also manifests in different ways. The illustrations above are examples of individual discrimination, but other types exist. Institutional discrimination is when a societal system has developed with an embedded disenfranchisement of a group, such as the U.S. military’s historical nonacceptance of minority sexualities as recently experienced surrounding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Institutional discrimination can also involve the promotion of a group’s status, such as occurs with white privilege. While most white people are willing to admit that non-white people live with a set of disadvantages due to the color of their skin, very few white people are willing to acknowledge the benefits they receive simply by being white. White privilege refers to the fact that dominant groups often accept their experience as the normative (and hence, superior) experience. Failure to recognize this “normality” as race-based is an example of a dominant group institutionalizing racism. Feminist sociologist Peggy McIntosh (1988) described several examples of “white privilege.” For instance, white women can easily find makeup that matches their skin tone. White people can be assured that, most of the time, they will be dealing with authority figures of their own race. How many other examples of white privilege can you think of?

The Confederate flag flying next to the dome of a building.
To some, the Confederate flag is a symbol of pride in Southern history. To others, it is a grim reminder of a degrading period of America’s past. (Photo courtesy of Eyeliam/flickr)

In January 2006, two girls walked into Burleson High School in Texas carrying purses that displayed large images of Confederate flags. School administrators told the girls that they were in violation of the dress code, which prohibited apparel with inappropriate symbolism or clothing that discriminated based on race. To stay in school, they’d have to have someone pick up their purses or leave them in the office. The girls chose to go home for the day, but proceeded on a path of challenging the action, appealing first to the principal, then to the district superintendent, then to the U.S. District Court, and finally to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Why did the school ban the purses, and why did they stand behind that ban, even when being sued? Why did the girls, identified anonymously in court documents as A.M. and A.T., pursue such strong legal measures for their right to carry the purses? The issue, of course, is not the purses: it is the Confederate flag that adorns them. This case, A.M. and A.T. v Burleson Independent School District et al. (2009), joins a long line of people and institutions that have fought for their right to display the Confederate flag. In the end, the court sided with the district and noted that the Confederate flag carried symbolism significant enough to disrupt normal school activities.

While many young Americans like to believe that racism is mostly in the country’s past, this case illustrates how racism and discrimination are quite alive today. If the Confederate flag is synonymous with slavery, is there any place for its display in modern society? Those who fight for their right to display the flag say that such a display should be covered by the First Amendment: the right to free speech. But others say that the flag is equivalent to hate speech, which is not covered by the First Amendment. Do you think that displaying the Confederate flag should considered free speech or hate speech?


Stereotypes are oversimplified ideas about groups of people. Prejudice refers to thoughts and feelings, while discrimination refers to actions. Racism refers to the belief that one race is inherently superior or inferior to other races.

*The article is taken from

Slides for BS ( No Replacements but help for Chapters Assigned)

The key to success in BS would be your actual reading of assigned chapters . Your reading  and your interaction in  the class will help you generate  outstanding  weekly REF-Qs!

Please make a productive use of the following slides as you will be reading BS chapters.I will keep updating this post as we get along in the course. It is your responsibility to check for updates.

First read a chapter assigned all by yourself and then compare your reading with  slides.

Also, check for some key concepts covered:

  1. Debunking Reverse-Racism:

White Privilege, Explained in One Simple Comic*

White privilege can be a tricky thing for people to wrap their heads around. If you’ve ever called out white privilege before, chances are you’ve heard responses like “But I’m didn’t ask to be born white!” or “You’re being reverse racist.”

The next time that happens, just show the nay-sayer this succinct comic by Jamie Kapp explaining what white privilege is — and what it isn’t.










*The article is taken from



Respond to the following:
How would you relate the comic strip above to your reading of Zinn and BS?


The image above is one of many anti-racism cartoons  by Barry Deutsch.

What’s interesting about the cartoon above is the irony in white Americans’ perception that they are somehow not participants in racism.  If we were to take the white male in this cartoon as representative of the “white race” and the black male as representative of the “black race”, we can see that whites have made their success as a race by standing on the backs of slaves…and this is a fact.  Slaves built much of our government, our economy, our way of life.  We whites milked millions of dollars (and perhaps more) off of the backs of slaves who were free labor for this country for hundreds of years, allowing white families to live in privilege, educate generations of their children in higher learning and accumulate enormous profits from the labor of their slaves, who obviously received no pay.

Not only that, but many families of color are still coping with the generations of abuse, discrimination and poverty that black Americans suffered at the hands of whites.

his 2

Those scars don’t heal as quickly as some would like to believe.  They are scars of inequality in education, scars of violence and abuse, scars of economic redlining and inadequate healthcare, of job insecurity and discrimination.  Generational poverty prevents numerous families of color from sending their children to college because of low incomes, limited access to mentors and community leaders and discriminatory blockades put up by whites who prefer to keep their communities and schools mono-racial and hoard money to their own neighborhoods.

For whites to say that they play no part in racism, simply because they are “nice” to people of color is as ridiculous as saying that racism no longer exists because we have a black president.

We all play a part in racism, ALL OF US.  And the only way to deconstruct the role we play is to take action AGAINST racism each and every day.  It’s not enough to say “equality,” we need to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

*The articles is taken from

What Textbooks Teach about Governments

What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It’s always right and never wrong. . . .
That’s what I learned in school.
—Song by Tom Paxton, 1963

Some of you will find it interesting to know that school history books  present sugarcoated version not only about Columbus, also about all historical events. How history books shape our view of government has a serious blind-spot:

Just as the story of Columbus-the-wise has as its flip side the archetype of the superstitious unruly crew, so the archetype of a wise and good government implies that the correct role for us citizens is to follow its leadership.

It seems that authors of school history books don’t think dissent as part of patriotism and citizenship. Let us know what Zinn thinks about what  the meaning of patriotism is.

Reading chapter 8 of another great book Lies MY Teacher Told Me: Everthing Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen can help us form a critical understanding of government.

You will find the chapter here:

You may also collect the book from WSU library to read it in full.

Finally, listen what Zinn says about governments:

Also,  to know more from Zinn about how a government can be unpatriotic, you may watch this ( just over  1 hr but worth reading an entire book!) :

Chapter 2 BS: Questions

In our Tuesday class (9/23) we will have discussion + Q & A
with questions like the following ones:

  1. “Rather than arguing about whether the significance of race has declined, increased, or not changed at all, the issue at hand is assessing if a transformation has occurred in the racial structure of the United States “(26). What transformed racial structure BS is talking about?
  2. What are the elements of new racial structure (26)?
  3. What are the four fields of racial structure (27)?
  4. Can you give examples of resurgence of Jim Crow racism (27)?
  5. Explain and exemplify racial structure in Jim Crow Racism (27-29).
  6. Comment on the contradiction between black soldiers fighting for freedom abroad and lacking it at home [29].
  7. Why did great migration (1910-1970) happen (30)?
  8. Explain: “neither urbanization nor industrialization was nonracial rational progressive forces in themselves” (30).
  9. What is progressive accommodation for Blacks? How is it racist? Does it still exist? [30-31]