Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism

Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism
Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism

Dehumanisation and “super-humanisation” are two sides of the same coin serving a racist agenda. Dehumanisation is the process by which conscious and unconscious bias leads people to see a racial minority as less human – less worthy of respect, dignity, love, peace and protection. Psychology research finds that White police officers and young White students are more likely to see Black children as young as 10 years of age as being less worthy of protection and inviting violence in comparison to White children. Super-humanisation is on the other end of the dehumanisation continuum. It is when majority groups harbour latent ideas that minorities have special qualities or powers that make them less deserving of bodily consideration and pain relief. Research finds that White people have a tendency to see Black people as being stronger and therefore more able to withstand pain. These two twin processes, that place Black people outside of humanity, are steeped in colonial practices and they contribute to excessive policing and violence aimed at Black bodies. There are implications of dehumanisation and super-humanisation on the ongoing events in Ferguson. This social science research speaks to the issues raised by the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Continue reading Dehumanisation, Superhumanisation and Racism

How to be An Ally Post-Ferguson

How to be An Ally Post-Ferguson

White people who want to be allies to people of colour in the American and international protests beyond Ferguson should do so in ways that don’t hurt or minimise the actions and reactions of people of colour. Good ways include listening to people of colour, protesting, speaking up when you hear racism, and being accountable.

Another useful way is not to police how people of colour express their anger or grief. Scientist Joseph Osmundson and Professor of Gender and Race Studies, David J. Leonard, write:

“It is not really our place to call for peaceful responses, or to call out looting as irresponsible or counterproductive. Loss of life is tragic, anger is justified, not all protests by black bodies are riots. The same state forces that violently end black life every 28 hours are condemning theft as irresponsible. The same system that denies justice, that kills with impunity, that denies the innocence of Black men and women, young and old, isn’t the basis of justice. Stay woke.”

Quote: http://buff.ly/1qcI4CA Image: http://buff. ly/1rtcEZj #ferguson #blacklivesmatter

Poverty and the Local Justice System

Police in riot gear stand outdoors

Racial segregation, poverty and criminal prosecutions don’t just happen by accident; nor do they do not reflect some natural, unavoidable social pattern. On Google+, Yonatan Zunger reshared a great Washington Post article on how local government revenue in poor Black neighbourhoods operates through racist practices. In the excellent linked article from Washington Post, the author writes: “Ferguson and Michael Brown and may have obscured the larger issues that affect tens of thousands of people across the entire St. Louis area.” The author makes the point that everyday harassment by police and the functioning of the municipal justice system is entrenching poverty for Black communities. I would make the connection stronger.

The criminal justice system is set up as state revenue, where the poor are jailed for petty issues like not paying fines they can’t afford. Police are encouraged to pursue fines and warrants, and it’s easier to target Black Americans who have fewer resources to contest. Humiliation is part of routine policing in these areas: As one person puts it in the article, “You can only take so much.” Police brutality is therefore an extension of this economic model.

Yonatan is currently reading Slavery by Another Name, and I also recommend Cop in the Hood, by sociologist Peter Moskos. Moskos underwent police training and wrote about his first year as a police officer in Baltimore. Race dynamics are similarly explored: how racial profiling is built-into police business, given that police departments are under pressure to increase arrests to supplement their budgets. It also shows how distrust builds up between poor and disadvantaged communities and the police. People don’t come forward for help because they’ve learned the system won’t treat them fairly. If you want to delve deeper, I recommend, The New Jim Crow by civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander.  It’s focused on national incarceration patterns and race in the USA.

In Australia, the local fines also disproportionately impact Black Australians, resulting from the broader ‘racist, offensive and degrading police behaviour.’ For example:

White People’s Friendships are Racially Limited

White People’s Friendships are Racially Limited

While the average Black American has eight White friends, White Americans only have one Black friend. Research by the Public Religion Research Institute finds that 75% of White people have “entirely white social networks without any minority presence.” Researcher Robert Jones argues the lack of diversity amongst White social networks has a negative impact on civil society. White people lack a personal connection to Black history and culture because they don’t receive adequate formal education on these issues, and because they do not know many Black people. As a result, they are not forced to see and recognise the marginalisation that Black people go through. As such, Jones argues, White people are not “socially positioned” to understand the significance of events at Ferguson and other civil disputes.

This data is backed up by a recent Pew Research study which finds that only 37% of White Americans think Michael Brown’s death and subsequent events in Ferguson raise important issues about race, in contrast to 80% of Black people who do see the connection to racism.

In sociology, we use the concept of homophily to explain the structure of social networks. This word literally means “love of the same.” In sociology, this concept measures how little people mix outside their groups, and the consequences of this lack of intermingling. On the outside, friendship groups seem diverse because we tend to think of relationships in reference to individuals. For example: I have a friend who is outgoing and likes horror films and manga comics; I have another friend who’s quiet and likes 70s rock music; another friend likes going to the art gallery and reading Margaret Atwood books; and so on. The fact is, that most people tend to know people similar to themselves where it really counts: along racial and socio-economic lines.

Research shows that lack of diversity in White people’s friendship circles has a societal impact, in that it stagnates social change. White people share the balance of social power, whether they like to admit to it or not. People of colour find ways to connect with White people, but the reverse is not true of the majority of White people. Friendships don’t just “naturally” happen; they aren’t even the strict outcome of personalities or personal preferences. Social relationships are one clear way that power and the status quo are maintained.

Credits & Learn More

Information on race in social networks and graphic via Washington Post: http://buff.ly/XUw3oz

Pew study: http://buff.ly/XUw3oA

On homophili:

A classic study: http://buff.ly/XUw5wS

Broader impact on social organisation: http://buff.ly/XUw5wT

Race & impact on elite structures in society: http://buff.ly/XUw5wU

#sociology #socialscience #ferguson #michaelbrown #racism

Sociologists please share widely

Sociologists please share widely

Consider adding your voice by signing the open letter by Sociologists for Justice. Use the tag #socforjustice

From my blog: http://goo.gl/qUKNHk

Originally shared by Zuleyka Zevallos

Social Justice in Ferguson

Over 1,400 sociologists have signed an open letter protesting police brutality in Ferguson, USA. The letter includes practical measures to address the killing of Michael Brown and mistreatment of protesters in Ferguson. Coordinated by Sociologists for Justice, the letter shows that systemic racism needs to be addressed as well as wider socio-economic and political issues to ensure effective change is enacted.

The book The New Jim Crow outlines how the criminal justice system in America is affected by systemic racism (http://goo.gl/WUp7mx). Additionally, decades of sociological research shows that police officers’ decision-making is affected by racial stereotypes and that better training can address this bias. Effective change in community policing begins by understanding the effects of the victimisation of people of colour and by addressing the institutional practices that lead to excessive policing of people of colour.

Below are the suggestions outlined in the open letter, but I urge you to read the letter in full as it summarises sociological research on race bias in policing. Links on where sociologists can add their name to the open letter are below. 

Practical Measures to Address Justice in Ferguson – by Sociologists for Justice

There are no short cuts to addressing systemic problems. However, as our nation again confronts the reality of race within the criminal justice system, we urge the following actions to facilitate an appropriate response to the death of Michael Brown, and to begin moving toward addressing the systemic racialised police practices that devalue and threaten Black lives.

1. Immediate assurance from law enforcement authorities in Missouri and the federal government that constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of the press will be protected.

2. A civil rights investigation into the incidents related to the death of Michael Brown and general police practices in Ferguson.

3. The establishment of an independent committee to study and analyse the failures of the policing efforts during the week following Michael Brown’s death. 4. Ferguson residents, including leaders of grassroots organizations, should be included on the committee throughout this process. The committee must provide a clear roadmap for resetting community-police relations in a way that grants oversight power to residents.

5. An independent comprehensive national study of the role of implicit bias and systemic racism in policing. Federal funding should be allocated to support police departments in implementing the recommendations from the study and ongoing monitoring and public reporting of key benchmarks (e.g., use of force, arrests by race) and improvements in police practices.

6. Legislation requiring the use of dash and body-worn cameras to record all police interactions. Data from these devices should be immediately stored in tamper-proof databases, and there should be clear procedures for public access to any such recordings.

7. Increased transparency of public law enforcement, including independent oversight agencies with guaranteed full access to law enforcement policies and on-the-ground operations; and more streamlined, transparent and efficient procedures for the processing of complaints and FOIA requests.

8. Federal legislation, currently being developed by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), to halt the transfer of military equipment to local police departments, and additional legislation to curtail the use of such equipment against domestic civilian populations.

9. Establishment of a ‘Ferguson Fund’ that will support long term strategies grounded in the principles of social justice, systems reform and racial equity to bring about substantial and sustained change in Ferguson and other communities facing similar challenges.

– Sociologists for Justice.

Open letter & where sociologists can sign: http://sociologistsforjustice.wordpress.com/public-statement/

Learn More

#OpenAccess research on racial bias in policing: 

*How racial stereotypes affect police shooting decisions: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/psp-9261006.pdf 

*How better training mediates this bias: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/ps/racialbias.pdf?origin=publication_detail 

*How policing and stereotype threat affects Black communities: http://indigo.uic.edu/bitstream/handle/10027/8336/Stereotype%20Threat%20in%20Interrogations%20-%20Najdowski%20-%20In%20Press.pdf?sequence=1

*Reflections on Trayvon Martin & how social science interventions can help: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3718570/

Image: by me.

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[Image text] We are troubled by the killing of Michael Brown. We are troubled by the excessive show of force and militarised response to protesters who rightfully seek justice and demand a change in the treatment of people of colour by law enforcement. – Sociologists for Justice.

#socforjustice #sociology #socialscience #michaelbrown #ferguson #police #community #socialjustice #trayvonmartin #racism #peopleofcolor #poc #peopleofcolour   #stereotypes   #stereotypethreat   #psychology  

Social Justice in Ferguson

Over 1,400 sociologists have signed an open letter protesting police brutality in Ferguson, USA. The letter includes practical measures to address the killing of Michael Brown and mistreatment of protesters in Ferguson. Coordinated by Sociologists for Justice, the letter shows that systemic racism needs to be addressed as well as wider socio-economic and political issues to ensure effective change is enacted.

The book The New Jim Crow outlines how the criminal justice system in America is affected by systemic racism. Additionally, decades of sociological research shows that police officers’ decision-making is affected by racial stereotypes and that better training can address this bias (more links below). Effective change in community policing begins by understanding the effects of the victimisation of people of colour and by addressing the institutional practices that lead to excessive policing of people of colour. Below are the suggestions outlined in the open letter, but I urge you to read the letter in full as it summarises sociological research on race bias in policing. You can also add your name to the open letter, as I have done.

Social Justice for Michael Brown and Ferguson
We are troubled by the killing of Michael Brown. We are troubled by the excessive show of force and militarised response to protesters who rightfully seek justice and demand a change in the treatment of people of colour by law enforcement. – Sociologists for Justice.

Continue reading Social Justice in Ferguson

Police Control Over Black Bodies in the USA

Police Control Over Black Bodies in the USA

“This summer in Ferguson and Staten Island we have seen that dominion [the police] employed to the maximum ends—destruction of the body. This is neither new nor extraordinary. It does not matter if the destruction of your body was an overreaction. It does not matter if the destruction of your body resulted from a misunderstanding. It does not matter if the destruction of your body springs from foolish policy. …The destroyers of your body will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.

It will not do to point out the rarity of the destruction of your body by the people whom you pay to protect it. As Gene Demby has noted, destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. All of this is old for black people. No one is held accountable. The body of Michael Brown was left in the middle of the street for four hours. It can not be expected that anyone will be held accountable…

the body count that led us to our present tenuous democratic moment does not elevate us above the community of nations, but installs us uncomfortably within its ranks.” Ta-Nehisi Coates.

The Atantic: http://buff.ly/VGW2Ok #sociology #socialscience #ferguson #michaelbrown

Taylor Swift Having Fun With White Privilege: Racism and Sexism in Pop Culture

While people rush to defend Taylor Swift’s racist appropriation of Black female bodies in her latest video, Shake it Off, because it’s presented as “fun,” it’s worth remembering that “satire” is no excuse for whitewashing of racism. First, satire requires cultural context to be clever; it matters who is delivering the joke to whom, when, and for what purpose. Second, racism is not simply about interpersonal insults. Racism describes a system of domination where White people benefit directly and indirectly from the status quo.

Taylor Swift has positioned herself publicly as a feminist, though her enactment of these ideals was already not without problems. This video shows she has little understanding of the history of feminism and the cultural struggles faced by women of colour. Not coincidentally, White feminism is still largely resistant to racial issues. As sociologist Jessie Daniels notes, it matters that White women are at the centre of both pop culture and the feminist movement:

White feminism, without attention to racial justice, makes an easy partnership with White supremacy.

From Miley Cyrus to Iggy Azalea who profit from brandishing certain aspects of Black culture, to Lily Allen who similarly used Black women in a video to critique White women pop stars, Swift has added her name to an ever-growing list of rich White women in pop music who use the exploitation of women of colour to make “feminist” statements. This stands in contrast, but along a similar continuum, of White pop stars such as Gwen Stefani, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne who commodify the culture and sexuality of “Asian” women. Asian femininity is sexy in a “cute,” clean and submissive way; while Black and Brown women’s sexuality is dangerous, dirty and untamed. Either way, White women’s cultural appropriation of minority cultures conforms to familiar tropes where White champions dominate the uncivilised Other.

The fact that White celebrities do not set out to be “intentionally racist” is beside the point. Racism does not require your intent, as racial bias often goes unexamined. In fact, the way Whiteness works is to place White people at the centre of culture so that they are protected from the everyday consequences of race relations. (And no, there is no such thing as reverse racism.) Not recognising how racism works, such as failing to understand how and why cultural appropriation and stereotypes are damaging, is an outcome of White privilege.

Taylor Swift Racism and Sexism
That racialised fear of black female hyper-sexuality also transfers onto the sexualised white female body and the criminalized black male body. – Prof. Janell Hobson.

Continue reading Taylor Swift Having Fun With White Privilege: Racism and Sexism in Pop Culture