1 Key points of Political Economy of Racism and Racial Inequality 10 13 06 Pete Boh

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Key points of Political Economy of Racism and Racial Inequality
10/13/06 Pete Bohmer

I.       Introduction
         A. ―Race‖ and racism central to understanding the U.S. past and present,      .
         B. ―Race‖ as a social not biological construct, but socially relevant
         C. Changing forms of racism, easier to criticize past than present

II.     Data-see tables on pages 4-7, Tony will deal with in economics workshop
         A. Significant and persistent differences, what stands out? (see tables)
         B. Growing inequality within groups.
         C. Educational differences is not explanation for disparities.
         D. Cannot argue that whites as a group are discriminated against--claim of               reverse
              racism is absurd on a societal level

III. Racism
     A. What is Racism—all of below
         1. Individual prejudice (stereotypes)is he or she prejudiced, stereotypes
          2. As a racist ideology, set of principles, views, ideas that embody basic interests of a social
             group shape relations; that rationalize racial oppression, reflected in daily life and actions—
             ―white as the norm‖, see Roediger, Colored White
          3. Unequal power --access to resources shaped along racial lines--schools, health, jobs, law
             and criminal justice , housing; all institutions—systemic, pervades society

Shapes all people's lives, whites as well as people of color, whites often unconscious of this. Key on 2 and
3 is systemic nature of racism, hence term institutionalized racism

      B. Relation to capitalism--racism is a direct result of the development of capitalism and European
          colonialism on a global scale--oppression and the justification of it, and their close link.
          Systemic nature absent before European expansion . (See Ted Allen, Invention of the White

Centrality of slavery and racist oppression to historical development of U.S. and European capitalist

      C. Systems of Racism, Black, white as a central determinant of racial system
           1. Slavery and Dispossession of Native People, 1497-1865
              Slavery as cause of racist ideology not other way around
              ―The General Strike‖—DuBois, Black Reconstruction
               Reconstruction—attempt at interracial democracy-key period, different
               from stereotyped, official view—public schools set up, tax for public infrastructure,
               Counter revolution although contested until 1890’s
               a. Stealing of Native land-dispossession of land, land base for much of cotton
                   production—slave labor on Native land—cotton key to U.S. capitalist
                   development—exploitation (enslavement) and theft—cotton--main U.S. export,
                   import of capital goods, fueled Northern textile industry

                 b. Conquest of close to ½ of Mexico: Texas, War of 1846-1848
                    Texas plantations—spread of cotton

           2. Jim Crow—U.S apartheid, Segregation of African-Americans, 1896-1964

           Plessy vs Ferguson –1896 legalized ―separate but equal‖—Homer Plessy, jailed for sitting
           in white car of train, wanted to challenge segregation—separate but unequal-
           South—Jim Crow legislation—separate and unequal, schools, jobs, violence
           Economically—sharecropping, very strong racial division of labor
           in North—far fewer blacks until large migration to North beginning around WWI, de facto
           segregation-less in laws, more permeable
           Employers usually preferred immigrants to African-Americans in late 19th, 20th early
           century –period of development of corporate capitalism
            Dominant ideology of biological, scientific racism.
           Resistance but organized labor with few exceptions before 1930’s did not challenge racial
           division of labor, AFL, limits of Socialist Party; IWW better.

           a. Imperialism—fear of Depression, promoted open markets in China; intervention, war—
              Puerto Rico, Philippines, Cuba-- white man’s burden
           b. Dawes Act, 1887-attempted destruction of Native American sovereignty
              Assimilation and allotment–see Zoltan, take land, although also happened with black
              farmers although less for minerals.
              Racist ideology and practice but different towards Indians; different from anti-black
           c. Immigration laws—1920’s—quotas; favor Northern European, excluded almost all
              Exclusion of Japanese and Chinese in 19th and early 20th century

               Latter part of this period—challenges and changes—Indian Reorganization Act,
               Growing civil rights movement, mechanization of cotton

       3. Formal Equality, Substantive racial inequality, “color-blind racism”1964-
           present (Gains of Civil Rights Movement but less than demands of movement)

   D. Formal Equality, Color Blindness—but substantive racial inequality (system is less
       rigid, more permeable than past racist systems)—The Current Racist System in the U.S.
       (Changing nature of racism and of capitalist economy)
      1. Laws for the most part no longer discriminate although certainly discrimination, e.g.
          Jobs, criminal ―injustice system‖, etc.
      2. Capitalism reproduces racial inequality-particularly neoliberal capitalism, more below
           Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans are disproportionately poor although whites are
           largest group of poor.
       3. Social reproduction of racism, e.g., housing segregation and home ownership
       4. The persistence of whiteness, informal networks, ―white‖ interests as
           overrepresented, people of color as underrepresented in policy, because of whiteness
           (doesn’t mean interests of whites are identical)
       5. Denying systemic racism, trivializes racism and reproduces racial inequality

E. Persistent Racial Inequality Today-changing political economy, neoliberalism, and conservative
   social policy—redistribution upwards, furthers racial and income inequality. Role of immigration,
   Latino/as, Asians, Caribbean, African, other immigrants into low paying jobs.—more next week

   Neglect of cities, poverty—see Democrats, 1992-2006, focus--to white suburbanites

 Decline in industries significant for Black employment—e.g., manufacturing, public sector
 employment; Decline of unions—very important for Black incomes;

  Racial inequality may or may not be intent of threes changes but certainly effect- and maybe easier to
  sell-similarly cutbacks in social programs if identified as Black, Latino, Black women, (welfare).

 F. Persistent discrimination, racism
   1a. audit studies-Urban Institute and Fair Employment Council. 1989-1992, Chicago, D.C., similar
qualifications, Whites more likely to be interviewed, 47% of whites got job offers, 11% of blacks-(as
reported in Feagin, Racist America, pp. 160); see Patrick Mason, ―Persistent Discrimination in the Labor
Market‖ in African Americans in the U.S. Economy, pp. 147-148.
   b. Blacks and Latinos are paid less, more likely to be unemployed, have less wealth for
    similar years of education, experience, see Patrick Mason, (ibid). pp. 145
  c. Name studies, Job seekers with black sounding names are less likely to be interviewed than
     job candidates with white sounding names, credentials mean less. pp. 364, 365 of
     Bowles, Edwards, Roosevelt, Understanding Capitalism.
    2. Racism as central unstated aspect of Republican appeal: anti-affirmative action,
       anti poverty, anti-welfare, law and order, states rights, anti-immigrant, English only.
       Voting, fear the other—Muslim, Arab.—coded but there

G. Whiteness, need to make it visible, Social construction of whiteness, Roediger, Allen
    Race and ethnicity, challenging whiteness, joining the human race--
H. Are whites the only racists—partly semantic, which is the significant form of racism

I. Growing inequality among blacks, Latinos, Asians and whites—Income is more unequal among blacks
than among whites—also true for latino/as, Asian-Americans, race and class—changing nature of both.
(also rapidly growing inequality among income of women)
(Note; various measures of inequality, future presentation, Tony today)

J. Alternative positions (if time permits)
 A. Capitalism overcomes racism—firms that discriminate lose out, demand for discriminated
     against labor equals pay over time—one factor but not dominant: racial division of labor.
     Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell.
  B. Discrimination is consistent with U.S. capitalism—anti-discrimination laws have led to
     significant declines of racism, racial inequality—inequality is huge, systemic nature
      continues. institutional racism, although major changes—today’s presentation
  C. Past racism leads to lower income for blacks, Native Americans compared to whites—today
     it is only class discrimination—look at voting, police behavior, housing—it is both although
    note growing inequality within groups. William Wilson, Declining Significance of Race
  D. Education is the solution—Yet: At every level of education, blacks earn less than whites, are more
        likely to be unemployed, have less wealth, education system discriminates
  E. Is non-racist capitalism possible? theoretically—yes but racism is totally woven into U.S. society-not
F. Do whites benefit from racism—how do we define privilege, benefit? Certainly better off but in areas
    of biggest racial inequality, e.g., black to white income, white workers are worse off—(Reich, Racial
    Inequality) Concept of relative advantage
IV. Anti-racism
    A. For whites, listen carefully to people of color-story, TESC
    B. Unity through solidarity—story-Josina
    C. Challenge friends, family, coworkers, speak up-take risks-aim is anti-racism, not non-racism,
           challenge path of least resistance
    D. Anti-racist multiculturalism, diversity is not enough
    E. Color blindness is not enough, abstracts from institutionalized racism
    F. Coalition politics-- Principled unity, begin with needs of most oppressed.

  G. Anti-racist policy and practice
    1. Does it further racial equality, e.g. oppose three strikes and you’re out. Support living wage
       campaigns, increasing the social wage;
     2. Race and class and gender interact to shape people’s lives, experiences
        cannot reduce problems to one, e.g., health and medical care
     3. Affirmative Action—necessary but not sufficient
         a. Has led to real gains in higher education, skilled trades, many occupations
          b. Weakened and under attack since mid 1970’s, e.g., CA, Washington
          c. University of Michigan case, only limited use of it is acceptable
          D.. Need to explain it
     4. Support self-determination—community control, treaty rights, Mecha, UMOJA,
        Native Student Alliance, APALA, etc
     5. Reparations—yes, process and outcome,
         a. Complexities—see Randall Robinson, The Debt
         b. Objective is racial equality and societal responsibility, e.g., community          reparations,
              such as free college education, smaller classes, stronger affirmative action.
     6. Struggle for racial equality is not necessarily a zero sum game—e.g., better
        health care, for Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos does not mean less health care for
        whites unless resources for health are fixed. Similarly employment, education.
     7. Anti-racist whites as allies of Black, Latino, Asian-American and American Indian movements
              and people
  G. Long run vision—reform and revolution (non-capitalist)
     Multicultural, democratic and equal, not assimilation—equality and diversity

                                       Data on Racial Inequality
Table 1. Household Income
Households            20 05               2000               1990                1973               1967

               Number    Median           Median             Median Income       Median             Median
               Thousands Income           Income             (2005 dollars)      Income             Income
                         (dollars)        (2005 dollars)                         (2005 dollars)     (2005 dollars)
All ―races‖    114 384   46, 326          47,599            43,366               40,008             35,379
White           93, 588  48, 554          49,782            43,919               41, 929            36,895
―White, Non-    82,003   50,784           51,717            46,266               42,299             na
Black             14,002      30, 858     33,630            27,048             24,681               21,422
Asian,            4,273       61,094      63,205            55,687             Na                   na
Hispanic         12,519       35,967      37,598            32,340             30,995
American         692                      31,799            24,100
Indian           (2000)
na-not available
Source: US..Census Bureau., Income in the United States, 2005, P60-231
Note: means are much higher, e.g. for whites, 2005, $68,600; for Blacks, $42, 500
Table 2. 2003 Median Annual Earnings by Race and Sex
Race/gender          Earnings         Wage ratio (group to white men)
White men             $41,211            100.0%
Black men             $32,241             78.2

White women       $31,169                      75.6
Black women       $26,965                      65.4
Latino men         $26,083                     63.3
Latina women       $22,363                     54.3
Native Amer men    $23,711                     57.5%
Native Amer women $19,269                       46.8%
All men          $40,668
All women        $30,724
Median women to men                           75.5%

NOTE: Includes full-time, year-round workers ages 15 and above. ―White‖ and ―Black‖ exclude those
who reported more than one race category. Latina/o includes all those who so identified, regardless of
race. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2004 Annual Social and Economic
Supplement. Native American data is for 2000, from 2000 census

                                     Table 3. Poverty (official definitions)
                  2005 Below Poverty    2000 Below Poverty 1991 Below Poverty 1973 Below       Poverty
                 Number (000s) Per Cent    Number Per Cent    Number Per Cent    Number        Per Cent
All                36,950     12.6%      31,581 11.3%       35,708     14.2%     22,973        11.1%
White              24,872     10.6%      21,645   9.5%      23,747     11.3%     15,142         8.4

Non-Hispanic* 16,227           8.3         14,366     7.4    17,741       9.4        12,864     7.5

Black               9,168     24.9          7,982   22.5      10,242      32.7        7,388    31.4

Asian-              1,402     11.1          1,258     9.9      996        13.8            na
Pacific Island

Latino/a          9,122      21.9          7,747 21.5            6,339       28.7         2,366 21.9
Native-American 827                                  29.8                   349 !990)
Poverty Line in 2005, approximate- family size: 1-$10000; 2-$13,000; 3-$15,500; 4-$20,000; 5-$23,600
Source:, Poverty in the United States 2005, P60-231 Indian Health Service
*see note at end on the category of ―White, Non-Hispanic‖

Table 4. Health Insurance             2005
                             % with no health insurance, all year
All,                             15.9% = 46.6 0 million
White, Non-Hispanic--            11.3%
Black,                           19.6%
Asian and Pacific Island,        17.9%
Latino/a (Hispanic)              32.7%
American Indian(Native American) n/a

Household Income less than $25,000 24.4% don’t have health insurance
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United
 States, 2005, P 60-231
Note: If you are insured for part of year, you are considered to have insurance
Other Data.
 A. Wealth,
1. 1998 (Net worth of households, Includes housing), 2001 dollars
Top 1%, average net worth,               $11,086,000

Median wealth of Black households--        $10,900;
Median wealth of Latino/a households--       $7,300
Median wealth of non-Latino white-         $88,700
Median worth of all households              $66,000
Source: Mishel, et. al. State of Working America, pp.285;Collins et al, Shifting Fortunes, p9, 57

2. 2001 (Net worth (NW) of households)
Top 1%, average net worth =                 $12, 692,000 (2001 dollars)
Median net worth of Black households--           $10,700 (average (mean) is $66,300)
Median Net worth of Latino households--           $7,932
Median Net worth of white, Non-Hispa nic-- $108,700 (average is $465,800)
Median Net worth of all households--             $73,500 (average nw =$380,100)
(Note: Substantial decline in median black to white wealth ratio from 1996 to 2002)

B. Imprisonment in State and Federal Prison and Jails as of June 30, 2004
   Total, 2,131,000 on June 30, 2004,
          For men/100, 000               For women/100,000
All,           1348/100,000              All           123/100,000
Black,         4919100,000               Black,        359/100,000
Latino,        1717/100,000               Latina        143/100,000
non-Hispanic,                             non-Hispanic,
 white          649/100,000              white            81/100,000

        Latino men are almost three times as likely to be imprisoned as white men; black men are more
than seven times as likely to be imprisoned than white men. For women, there are also great disparities
by ―race‖. Including country and city jails, 2.2 million by June 30, 2005.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prison and Jail Inmates, June 30, 2004, NCJ 208801

C. Health
Infant Mortality/1000 births, 1999                             Life Expectancy at Birth,2001
Black--                14.1                                       White Female—80.2 years
American Indian--       9.3                                        Black Female—75.5 years
Latino/a                5.7                                        White Male-- 75.0 years
White (non-hispanic) 5.8                                           Black Male-- 68.6 years
Asian-American          4.8                                 American Indian (1998)-- 70.6 years
Source: National Center for Health Statistics               Source: Indian Health Service

D. Occupation
Managers, Executives--private sector, some inroads by women, but overwhelmingly white male.
According to Glass Ceiling Commission Report, 1995, 97% of top executives at corporations are white
men. There has been some improvement but 95% of top executives are white men today).

E. Unemployment Rates (official, underestimates rates more for Blacks than whites) Sept. 2006
Unemployment Rate—Overall 4.6, Non-Latino whites—3.8%
            Overall (%)      Adult Men(%) Adult Women(%)            16-19 Years(%)
White        4.0                  3.3                 3.7             13.6

Black          9.2             8.3                 7.7             32.2
Latino/a       5.4              3.9                6.4              17.5
Asian          3.0
Native American—7.2% in 2000; Black = 7.6% in 2000; white, 3.5%, Latino/a, 5.7% in 2000.

Sept 2006: Unemployment rate by years, education: less than 12 years, 6.4%;
high school grad, 4.1%; some college, 3.6%; 16 and more years of education, 2.0%
 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,

*Note: Non-Hispanic White is a census category that subtracts from the census category White, those
who identify as Hispanic in the separate question asking for ethnicity. There is no category, Latino or
Hispanic in the question asking for ―race‖. I use the term Latino/a rather than Hispanic.

Some Suggested Readings:
Robert Allen, Reluctant Reformer (excellent on need for principled anti-racist strategy in all
Theodore Allen, The Invention of the White Race (volume I, particularly) (excellent on whiteness)
Alastair Bonnett, Anti-Racism (different anti-racist strategies)
Teresa Ammott and Julie Matthaei, Race, Gender and Work (good economic history)
Cecilia Conrad, Whitehead, Mason and Stewart, ed., African Americans in the U.S. Economy (good and
up to date anthology on political economy of racism, African-Americans)
W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction (central to understanding racism, civil war, reconstruction, a must
Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (classic book on anti colonialism and racism)
Joe Feagin, Racist America (good on history of U.S. racism and white benefits)
Juan Gonzales, Harvest of Empire, A History of Latinos in America (self-explanatory)
Vincent Harding, There is a River (beautifully written book on Black resistance)
Ainnette James ed., The State of Native America (Native American oppression and resistance)
Allan Johnson, Privilege, Power and Difference(on privilege)
Winona LaDuke, All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (current Native activism)
Wahneema Lubiano ed., The House That Race Built (essays—critical race theory)
Manning Marable, How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America (political economy of
                     racism, past and present)
Elizabeth Martinez, De Colores Means All of Us (good on moving beyond a black and white paradigm,
       incorporating gender into the analysis)
Marc Mauer, Race to Incarcerate (data on racism in the criminal justice system)
Lawrence Mishel, Bernstein, Allegretto, State of Working America, 2004-2005 (good data)
Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: from the 1960’s to the 1990’s
         (develops useful concept of racial formation)
Christian Parenti, Lockdown America (Political economy of criminal justice system)
Randall Robinson, The Debt (Key book on call for reparations)
David Roediger, Wages of Whiteness (complement to Ted Allen’s book above)
Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror (multicultural history)
Becky Thompson, A Promise and a Way of Life: White Antiracist Activism (interviews with white
        anti-racist activists)
Victor Valle and Rodolfo Torres, Latino Metropolis (Political economy of race and class in
        21st century Los Angeles)
David Wellman, Portraits of White Racism (different forms of racism among different groups of
        whites, e.g., working class, upper class, hippies)
William Julius Wilson, Declining Significance of Race (argues racial inequality caused by past
          not present racism, downplays current discrimination)

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