Critical Race Theory

Link – History of White Privilege

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Link – History of White Privilege

The history of ‘white privilege’ makes social inequalities permanent – White society continues to work hard to create inequalities and subjugation

APA 8 (American Psychological Association—leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, Commemorating Brown: the Social Psychology of Racism and Discrimination Washington, DC 2008, page 84-85, cayla_)

This institutional perspective was pioneered by DuBois (1920/2003) and Cox (1948), but their view was not influential in White social science circles until the late 1960s. At that time, Black activist scholars, particularly Stokely Carmichael [later known as Kwame Ture] and Charles Hamilton (see Carmichael & Hamilton, 1967), brought the concept of institutional racism to the center of conceptual and research attention in their writings. The 1960s civil rights movements had pressed mainstream social science to consider an institutional perspective on racism, and by the 1970s a few White scholars (see, e.g., Blauner, 1972) were questioning the institutionally racist character of U.S. society. Even major government reports on the racial protests of the 1960s could now include analyses of a societal problem explicitly termed White racism. Since the 1960s, a growing body of empirical research clearly has indicated that contemporary racism is deeply imbedded in the foundation of U.S. society (see Feagin, 2000, 2006). Racism is far more than a matter of some scattered bigots, or even of an influential racist ideology, but rather is thoroughly institutionalized and systemic. By systemic racism, I mean the White attitudes, emotions, practices, and institutions that are integral to the long-term exploitation and domination of African Americans and other Americans of color in U.S. society. At systemic racism’s heart are the practices of Whites that deny Americans of color the dignity, opportunities, and privileges generally available to Whites. This system of racism was initially created by European Americans in the enslavement of African Americans and the genocidal taking of Native American lands in the 17th to the 19th centuries. For many generations, descendants of European immigrants have greatly benefited from the intergenerational transmission of this enrichment. Systemic racism was intentionally built into the U.S. Constitution and other political documents by the “founding fathers,” many of whom were slaveholders or benefited as merchants, lawyers, or bankers from a slavery-centered economy (Feagin, 2000, 2006). After the slavery provisions were voided by the Civil War constitutional amendments, White leaders created not only a system of legal segregation in southern and border states—a form of near-slavery that lasted until recently, the late 1960s—but also de facto segregation in the North, a form of racial oppression often only modestly less onerous than legal segregation. Today, Whites—most centrally, White men—remain critical to the perpetuation of a still pervasively racist system. They maintain it through the reinforcement of racist ideology and through large-scale discrimination in employment, education, housing, politics, and public accommodations. A majority of Whites still work aggressively to maintain their White privileges and the unjust enrichment garnered from past oppression by ancestors (see Feagin 2000, 2006; Feagin & McKinney, 2003; Picca & Feagin, 2007). Too often social scientists, especially social psychologists, pussyfoot [circumvent] around on racial matters and prefer to study them in their less controversial forms of individual “prejudice” or “bias” and not in terms of institutionalized racial discrimi- nation and systemic racism. Let us examine briefly two leading current textbooks. In one social psychology textbook, Aronson, Wilson, and Akert (2002) provided one major chapter dealing with racial and ethnic issues. They offered insightful discussions of affective and cognitive aspects of prejudice and stereotyping as well as of how people use social categories, make attributions, and develop interracial contacts that might reduce prejudice. There is also a brief discussion of how conformity to norms might be involved in prejudice and stereotyping. Apart from a cursory data-less paragraph describing institutional racism, racism is viewed only in terms of individual stereotyping and prejudice. There is no significant treatment of racial discrimination. Also missing is a serious discussion of the history of racial oppression and of contemporary institutionalized racism. Discussions of racism are mainly framed in terms of individual differences, and there is no serious coverage of the history or social structure that undergirds and generates racist stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Thus, there is little sense that individuals are heavily shaped by the vested (e.g., material) interests of the socioracial groups to which they belong. An introductory sociology textbook by John Macionis (2003) also focuses substantially on theories of prejudice and stereotyping, but this textbook does have a substantial discussion of U.S. immigration and of the demographic characteristics of racial and ethnic groups. It also provides short histories of Black, Latino, and Asian Americans with brief references to the discrimination they have historically faced. There is a brief paragraph on racism, which is interpreted solely in terms of individual attitudes. There is one page that briefly explores the relationship between prejudice and discrimination and briefly notes the idea of institutional discrimination developed by Carmichael and Hamilton (1967)—with the major example of institutional racism being in the past (legal segregation). As with the social psychology text, there is no sustained discussion of institutional or systemic racism today. Although there is more attention to the racialized history of U.S. racial groups than in the social psychology text, there is no significant discussion of the contemporary discrimination faced by Americans of color demonstrated in numerous field research studies (see Feagin, 2000; Feagin & Sikes, 1994). Both textbooks emphasize ideas and topics long characteristic of research on racial-ethnic issues: prejudice, stereotyping, assimilation, and sometimes individualized discrimination. Yet, they contain relatively little discussion of research on discrimination that is systematically webbed across mainstream institutions. The result is a mild analysis of U.S. racism that accents issues of individual prejudice or matters of assimilation rather than challenging readers about the systematically racist nature of U.S. society. Given that collective phenomena are considered the domain of sociology and much social psychology, the relative lack of attention to institutional and systemic racism by these social scientists is noteworthy and troubling. Why have they seemingly abdicated their concern with larger collectivities when researching racial matters? With regard to social psychologists, one might initially argue that this is less of a problem, for today most take as their mandate studying individual prejudice and stereotyping. However, the problem with this is that one cannot understand the full meaning of individual prejudices and stereotypes without examining the impact of the larger context of systemic racism on individual subjectivity. (Indeed, as the editors of this volume note in their opening and closing chapters, this neglect of social contexts is a general problem for much social psychology today.) Individuals pick up prejudices and stereotypes from the social networks in which they live, and these are still highly segregated and racialized (see Feagin & O’Brien, 2003). In the case of White Americans, these social networks maintain what I have termed a broad White racial framing of society, one that includes a strong racist ideology that was originally created in the 17th and 18th centuries (Feagin, 2006; see also chap. 3, this volume). Today, as in the past, this White racial frame encompasses an extensive array of racialized prejudices, stereotypes, images, emotions, and inclinations. It is largely within White-dominated networks and institutions that Whites learn, hone, test, and sometimes reject racial understandings and proclivities to discriminate. Researchers cannot understand racial prejudices and individual acts of discrimination well without examining closely their interactive and contextual settings.

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