Black American cultural theorist bell hooks’ distinguished contribution to sociology has been to unearth the intersecting issues of cultural difference, race and knowledge within feminism. Starting out as a literature professor, hooks would go on to challenge cultural studies in the early 1980s with books such as Ain’t I A Woman?: Black Women and Feminism and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre. Her work shows how women of colour have been marginalised by power structures in society as well as by White feminists who purport to speak about the universal struggle of all women. hooks argued that mainstream feminism silences experiences of race, ethnicity and class.
For the past three decades, hooks has explored the representation of race in popular culture, and how this affects social relations and public education. In the seminal Cultural Transformation video series, from 1997, bell hooks explains the importance of critical thinking for women in general, as well as for racial justice. Her work has been adopted by feminists and cultural theorists around the world. Let’s take a look back at this work and its prevailing resonance two decades later.
Continue reading bell hooks on Critical Thinking
On the 8 August 2018, only four days after I published my last post on the social construction of migrant youth deviance in public spaces (Zevallos 2018a), there was an incident whipping up racist fear of ‘Sudanese gangs’ in the area where I went to school as a youngster. I had flown home for a workshop and then visited my family. They told me how the local gossip grapevine and local media were misreporting the event. Initial word-of-mouth said that between 200 to 300 Sudanese youth gathered at Watergardens Shopping Centre and were starting trouble, throwing rocks at police. While Nine News (2018) reported 20 to 30 kids vandalised property, ABC News (2018) reported up to 50 young people had come for a fight ‘over girlfriends.’ Riot police confronted the youth, and blocked the area. The next day, my family saw police on horses patrolling the Coles supermarket carpark (!).
All of this to stop Black children from gathering together in a public place.
In a week where we saw Nazi language used in the Australian Parliament, let’s delve into the use of scaremongering as a social control mechanism that reinforces political strategy.
Continue reading Racist Scaremongering as Social and Political Control
This cartoon below by Charles Barsotti is a good illustration of the social construction of group deviance in public spaces. This cartoon points out how some social groupings can be given negative labels, such as a “cult.” The beliefs or the practices of particular socio-economic groups can are treated with suspicion by a dominant group where they do not conform to society’s norms, values, behaviour or appearance. Non-conformity can lead to the creation of stereotypes; that is, labels that simplify specific qualities of some people as typical of the group they belong to (hence the cartoon, where one wolf says to another, “We’re a pack, not a cult.”).
In most circumstances crowds that “blend in” and meet society’s standards of “acceptability” escape the stigma of social deviance. Cases where “ordinary” groups might be negatively labelled by authorities might occur during times of civil unrest, such as during political protests, or due to other political cycles, such as the lead up to an election.
Racial minority youth are often labelled as deviant simply for being in public. In the case of Aboriginal youth, even something as routine as being in a shopping centre is mired by harassment by security (Perry 2018: Powell 2018). In another example, Muslim girls have been forced to leave a school excursion at a public exhibition centre because other visitors felt “uncomfortable” (Foster 2017).
Let’s take a look at this problem of stereotyping racial minority youth in public spaces, focusing specifically today on migrant minorities. We’ll examine how labelling these youth as “deviant” keeps society from paying attention to pressing social problems, such as structural inequality and interpersonal gender violence.
Continue reading The Social Construction of Migrant Youth Deviance in Public Spaces
In a new article defending Trevor Noah’s sexist and racist comedy about Aboriginal women, a White woman academic exemplifies how Whiteness is normalised in academia and in public life. In Talkin’ Up to the White Woman, Dr Aileen Moreton-Robinson chronicled how White women academics denigrade Aboriginal women’s contributions and knowledge. The case study that follows is an example of this dubious tradition. The sociology of humour can help to expose how a White woman’s minimisation of sexist racism is a strategy to retain power and dominance over Aboriginal women.
Continue reading Sociology of Humour and Whiteness in Academia
I was interviewed by SBS News on microaggressions. Below is an excerpt featuring my comments.
“When people point out the impact of microaggression they also hear ‘I didn’t mean it like that’ or ‘can’t you take a joke?’” says Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, an applied sociologist who has studied microaggressions in Australia. She says confrontation isn’t the best way out of these situations.
“There’s a lot of psychological stress when you’ve been injured by their comments and then they tell you what you experience is invalid.”
The best way is get the other person to be reflective. “Questions stop the other person because they have to think, rather than be defensive.”
“And you shouldn’t expect a minority to always speak for themselves, it’s on all of us to tackle together.”
Another effective way is to express disappointment if it was done by someone you know well.
“We know from research most people hold a positive view of themselves,” says Dr Zuleyka [sic].
“When you say “I always thought you were a reasonable person” or “I can’t believe I’m hearing this for you” it turns the mirror around.”
Read more on SBS News.
Learn more on racial microaggressions on my blog.
Let’s talk about the racism by “Vieno Vehko,” pseudonymous assistant prof from a USA Midwestern university. The author argues she, “finds it hard to respect a group that neither reads critically nor takes responsibility for its learning.” This article is not simply about “millennials.” It is about Whiteness and how White academics expect to teach students like themselves.
The piece is racially loaded in a way White academics and students have missed in their critiques of the article to date. The author explicitly takes swipe at young people—but not equally. Race and class feature heavily in the author’s generational gripe. Continue reading Whiteness in Academic Teaching
This past week, Australia celebrated NAIDOC Week (8-15 July), a time to recognise the leadership, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Originally standing for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, NAIDOC Week has historically reflected the ongoing resistance to genocide, assimilation and land dispossession, famously culminating in the annual Day of Mourning in 1938 (a protest against Australia Day on 26 January). The NAIDOC committee emerged in 1956, and has in recent decades coordinated local and national events and awards to promote Indigenous excellence. This year’s theme is Because of Her We Can, promoting the multiple leadership roles of Indigenous women for their families and communities, as they push for social justice and human rights at the local community and national levels.
I share with you two events I attended that highlight the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in academia, journalism, business, law and social policy. Continue reading Indigenous Women’s Leadership
I was one of the speakers at an internal corporate event for Harmony Day. This day recognises Australian multiculturalism, but in many workplace and community events, this usually focuses on migrants and not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Harmony Day actually coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (a commemoration which does include Indigenous people). The former is a celebration, the latter is a call for anti-racist action and social change. Myself and the other speakers took our cue from the latter. This is what I said.
I was born in Lima, Peru. My family migrated to Australia when I was young. My identity as a migrant-Australian woman has shaped much of my early research career and continues to drive my sense of social justice and my work to this day.
Today I’m going to give you a sociological context for racial diversity in Australia, and how to promote racial harmony in our communities and our workplace. Continue reading Harmony and Anti-Racism
Police brutality in Glen Innes, New South Wales, against a group of young Indigenous girls. You can hear one of the girls say she’ll comply with police but she wants to call her parents as they’re under 16. The policeman says no. It seems his partner, a woman’s voice off camera, tells the girls to comply: ‘Don’t make it worse for yourselves.’ Policeman says: ‘It already is worse for yourselves.’ Continue reading Police Brutality of Young Aboriginal Girls
The Ranger is a hark back to 80s horror films. A group of young punks run into trouble during a concert and retreat to an abandoned holiday cabin, inexplicably located deep in an isolated area of a national park. Will they be okay? Highly unlikely. The film was very silly, with plenty of hammy humour and over the top gore. It was fun. 6/10.
It was preceded by a short, The Shopper, directed by Dev Patel and story by Aussie Leigh Whannell. Another slasher flick with dark humour about a seemingly bored housewife who has an emotionally abusive husband. But maybe not for long. Also 6/10.