Trump Wins and Liberals Lose

And so, it begins. Donald J. Trump, the man, the myth, and soon to be the legend, has won the presidency of the United States of America. Certainly, many pollsters and media outlets have seen a serious turnover and loss of employment for not having a clue on how to predict this clear victory over Hillary Clinton (“Killary”“Killary” for those that voted for Trump).hillary-clinton-supporter-cry

Within a few days of his election, Trump has begun to assemble his Cabinet and Advisors, which looks to be an interesting mix of White Nationalists at worst. Or at least, a lot of inexperienced alt-right expats and media jockeys who finally have their day in the lime light of the federal government. Also, while Trump denies any problems with the transition, it looks to be that even the two disenfranchised political parties have no plans of questioning this transition. Moreover, and I keep hearing in the Media, “let’s give Trump a chance to settle down and see what happens.” Isn’t that what most Americans did for two years before the election? Please shut-up Media and actually cover some real news about world events and national suffering that continues beyond the “Donald.”

However, this isn’t the reason for this post. I want to talk about the fact that Liberals lost their footing last week. As reported across every major American news channel, the Democrats lost the vote from white women, working class white men, and 1/3 of the Latino vote.  Of course, it was the Democrat’s fault for losing these groups since they treated them as “shoe-ins” and not as free-thinking folks. For example, why think that Latinos would vote for Democrats when many of them are not immigrants and are worried about immigration too? Also, Former Secretary of State Clinton’s message of “hate the Trump,” didn’t resonate at all with Millennials or Gen Xers. So, what happened? Where did liberals go wrong and as a race scholar, I think it is abundantly clear, reverse racism is real!!

Yes, I said it. Reverse discrimination drove the vote to where white folks, regardless of gender and social class, turned out in droves to vote for change in a government that they say as corrupt and too politically correct. In fact, when Clinton called Trump supporters “deplorable,” she lost the White vote. I would even argue that Whites already had the shit scared out of them when the U.S. Census decided to release population projections for 2044 that suggested the White population will be the NUMERICAL minority.As any sociologist studying race will tell you, when you call the privileged the enemy and suggest they are stupid and outnumbered, you are bound to have some backlash (see Omi and Winant 2015). Or, as I heard from Trae Crowder on Bill Maher, who is a self-proclaimed “liberal redneck,” Democrats pissed off working class whites to the point of “fuck it!”

Now, let me explain my proclamation of “reverse racism” is real. I should state up front that I’m being facetious and there is no research that suggests that Whites are losing their economic or social advantages because Non-Whites have finally taken power and are now using said power to take revenge. No, what I am suggesting is the perception of reverse racism is real for White Americans and they have had enough! Now, this has been the message for the KKK, white nationalists, and white separatists for decades. However, those guys (and gals) have been long considered by moderate, God-fearing Whites as extreme nut-jobs, even though one of those folks might be the senior advisor to Trump for 4 years.

Anyway, Whites (regardless of social class status), and I hear it among my friends, family, and peers, are tired of immigrants taking their jobs, Muslims invading and terrorizing their communities, and big business has shipped out all jobs worth a shit in pay and benefits. Of course, research an real numbers suggest otherwise but we live in an age of anti-intellectualism and fake news; so, this can’t be true. Even in my research on immigration and affirmative action policies, the reverse racism rhetoric is prominent from the SB 1070 anti-immigrant laws of Arizona to the Affirmative Action case pushed for some time by Fischer. The point in all of this and by most Whites in fear is that Non-Whites get everything for nothing. They don’t work for it and White America is the only one that carries the country economically and follows the rules (aka Law and Order rhetoric). Of course, I could write about three volumes of how Whites haven’t followed the rules and Law and Order has often advantaged Whites in almost every turn but again, that is not the point in this post. The point here is that Democrats, Liberals, and Non-Whites have alienated Whites from what they see as their God-given and Constitutionally-sound rights. Again, as a race scholar, we would call this signs of historical and structural privileges being challenged for Whites but again, that’s not the point.

The point is, as suggested in the following article, that Liberals and others have lost their ability to talk and include Whites in the conversation. Excluding the majority (numerically and politically) is an awful mistake in the the world of cultural hegemony. Ignoring their cries of betrayal and shaming them for their privilege has only led to a clear backlash against not only supposedly Non-White “advantages”such as living in the country illegally, taking jobs, or not paying taxes (which based on research are not true statements), but also against liberal policies such as worker’s rights, abortion, same-sex marriage, transgender bathroom use, and clean energy. Clearly, while the Liberals thought these were all rational tasks for a democracy to condone, almost 50 percent of (mostly white but other) Americans screamed out, “Bullshit! You can’t tell me what to do and I will show you!”

Thus, welcome to the era of a Trump’s presidency. A president who has never run anything larger a 20-person company; who has fired more working class people than helped; who continues to show allegiance to white nationalists; who doesn’t mind a little grabbing and locker room talk about your mother, sister, or daughter; who wants to give his family members top-secret clearance (WTF??!!??); who wants to take away working class access to healthcare; who can’t make manufacturing jobs come back because that is bad business practice to pay more for labor; who will soon make an alliance with Russia that will lead to betraying decade’s old alliances, etc., etc., etc. However, I digress. Liberal America you’ve been poking the sleeping giant of White America since the 1960s and it finally woke and said, “Stop it or I’ll grand your bones into bread!”


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Mass Shootings: The Irrational Rationalization of Violence

It is October 1, 2015 and we have yet another mass shooting in the United States. As President Obama stated, the frequency of mass shootings have become routine and we have almost become “numb” to this horrible violence. Of course, the political pundits and lobbyists are out almost before the blood dries to point out the polarizing argument about gun control and stricter gun laws. However, I find even more interesting that we will not, in any way, note that the people who commit these crimes are very specific and predictable. We can stop them but it would mean challenging serious cherished views and values of Americans.

In 2012, I wrote a short piece about the James Holmes mass shooting in Colorado, suggesting that there are clear patterns to predict and control these senseless acts.  However, let me reiterate my points below with some updated comments:

1. The potential shooter will be White.Dr. Lippard, are you being a dick? Nope. Check your statistics on who is more likely to commit violent acts and murder (and not who is more likely to be arrested and convicted). Check your statistics on who is more likely to purchase large numbers of guns or have military training. Also, make sure to take a count of the number of convicted crazies who have climbed clock towers or walked into schools to mow down unsuspecting bystanders. Also, you might want to note who has been most likely to be a serial killer. I know what you’re going to say, what about Cho Seung-Hui from the Virginia Tech Shooting or the DC sniper?? Well, one or two racial or ethnic minorities does not negate the rule AND if you read any information on race theory, you would learn that Asian and mixed-race groups are often treated similarly to Whites (aka model minorities).

UPDATE: Since 2012, we have had over 300 mass shootings (more than four victims). The most notable mass shootings since then have included Sandyhook (Adam Lanze), Charleston, SC (Dylann Storm Roof), and the most recent in Oregon took from 9 to 20 lives. Over 80% of these mass shootings happened in white communities and schools and were committed by white folks. Of course, I should mention that when we discuss mass shootings there is a racialized slant. Black on black murder is not often placed in this category of mass shootings even though they do happen and have more fatalities due to guns being involved. However, it should be noted as well that we certainly label those crimes as “black violence” but we don’t label these as “white violence.”

2. The potential shooter will be Male. Can’t dispute this at all. Every person who has gone postal or sprayed bullets through a school hallway has been male. No women at all.

UPDATE: Same is true. No women involved at all.

3. The potential shooter will be middle class. What’s social class got to do with shooting folks? Well, to be honest, a lot more than we want to mention. First off and the most obvious, is that in order to shoot folks, you have to have the money to buy the weapons and ammunition. A typical semi-automatic rifle costs around $400 to $1000 and the bullets, well, they range in price but aren’t free. Second, these individuals have more leisure time. WTF? I know, that doesn’t seem to matter but how do you plan for years to massacre innocent folks if you are working three jobs to earn enough to pay your rent? These folks are often making enough money to support their habit OR they have folks that don’t mind their children spending their money and having it sent to their suburban homes by UPS (see Columbine Shooting). Finally, and unfortunately, being middle class means you are mostly off the radar of police investigations. If you go and read Reiman’s The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, then you would know that it is less likely for middle class folks to even face police on a regular basis or have to deal with the possibilities of being a suspect.

UPDATE: Same is true again. Do you ever wonder what it is the middle class that snaps and uses gun violence to resolve their problems? Why is it that folks in college (very middle class) or at school go after others who have no real connection to their problems or issues? Maybe there is a negative pathology with being middle class in America. We sure don’t see the extremely wealthy or poor solving their problems with mass shootings; AT ALL!

4. The Other factors to consider are?? The top three are pretty much all you need to find the next potential shooter; however, I will provide some other social characteristics for you to consider:

  • Are they between the ages of 18 and 35?
  • Do they own a gun?
  • Are they conservative?
  • Are they a part of a religious Christian conservative movement?
  • Have they been a member of the U.S. military (particularly the Marines or Army)?
  • Do they have a family history of abuse and violence?

UPDATE: I would probably suggest that the fourth item on this list should be changed to “religious conservative or fundamentalist.” However, this point is still clear in that those that have strong religious beliefs are more likely to pull the trigger. Could this be that they don’t fear human ridicule and now their maker is accepting of their trespasses? I’m not sure but it does seem to hold true.

5. The Not-so-important factors. Sorry NBC, CNN, and the rest of America, I don’t think that the PRIMARY reason someone becomes a mass killer is because they are crazy, introverted, highly intelligent, or fanatical. And, if you actually paid attention to the patterns, it looks like the profile of who is going to be the next shooter makes up about 70% of the population. Unfortunately, this is the point. We focus on attempting to pinpoint the psychological reasons and not the social reasons that America creates shooters. Why is it that white, middle class men want to hurt random folks? Why is that our society pushes these individuals (which is really a group of folks) to be the gunmen who mow down your families, friends, and presidents? Could it be that there is something more to this than just a single person acting alone because someone in their heads whispered, “Kill them all?” What if we actually stereotyped white men like we do other groups as a potential threat? Haven’t we done this with black men for decades as the most likely to be thugs out to rob or rape White Women (see the Travon Martin case or Black Lives Matter)? I know I’m not a special victim unit member with specialized training but DAMN, ain’t some of this quite obvious???

UPDATE: Okay, I will admit that there is something going on with mental stability and gun violence. However, we are certainly not looking for what causes this mental instability and why gun violence seems to be the “cure” for those affected by it. However, isn’t it interesting that this mental instability seems to be cropping up more and more among white, middle class men? Is it also odd that they believe that the only way to treat their issues is to kill several people and themselves? Folks, the point is that mass shootings is an epidemic and we need not focus on mental health to resolve the issue. We need to focus on the populations that feel that gun violence is the only way to resolve their socially constructed pain.

One final note before finishing this argument, I want everyone who might read this to realize that while you may be more likely to die in a car accident, the rate of mass shootings increases almost 100% every year in the U.S. From 2006 to 2011, there were 172 mass shootings/killings recorded by the FBI. In 2015, the Washington Post reported there has been 294 mass shootings out of 274 days in the year. Even more important is that there is another trend that no one is discussing; most of these mass shootings are not by random strangers but between family members. Using FBI crime reports, USA Today 53% of mass killings/shootings were between close family or relatives. More important, 57% of the victims in these mass shootings knew the shooter even if they weren’t the main target. Put simply, this trend may include you soon or at least be coming to a town or community near you.

UPDATE (10/4/2017):

So, in light of the most recent and horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, I would like to add some more sociological commentary to how we should approach this continuing social problem of mass shootings in America. Based on my first discussions, I pointed out some sociological ideas on how to “profile” the next shooter. However, I would point out that because of the privileged positions many of these identities have in our society (i.e., white, male and middle class), there will be little that Americans will be able to do to seek out and “lock up” the bad guys, decreasing our abilities to stymie this growing trend by narrowing our focus on these identities. To the contrary, we have to “subvert from within” and address this issue through ideological and institutional changes that unfortunately don’t make the gun lobbyists and special interest groups “nervous” about losing their livelihood. Let’s face the facts and think about what is really the problem here — Gun violence in America. More important, what encourages it to exist and what can we do on a structural level to address it.

First, we have to realize and accept that we live in a society that condones a culture of violence.  a World Health Organization report from 2009 suggests that a culture of violence is about a social groups support of values, beliefs, and norms that encourage violence as a solution to almost any frustration. Moreover, this culture of violence can be measured on a scale of intensity when we compare national rates of violent crimes including rape, murder, armed assault, domestic violence, and mass shootings. For example, the United States rate is 14th in the world for the highest rates of murder per capita, which seems good. However, when you see that the top 13 countries are mostly developing nations with corruption problems, it starts to make you wonder what is going on in the U.S. America also has some of the highest rates of rape and/or sexual assault of women, as well as tops the chart for mass shootings (aka 4 or more people killed/wounded during an altercation). I should also point out that the U.S. is number 11 in  in the rate of just gun-related violence in the world and we are again behind mostly developing countries that have severe economic and political problems. Be honest with yourself, 58 deaths and 200+ injuries is insane for America to allow to happen based on one man’s decision to kill others. Like any other addiction, we must own up to the fact that we have a problem and we must address it or we will continue to see more mass shootings.

Image result for ar-15

Second, we have a gun problem. Yes, I know that we have been given the right to bear arms but this has become a nightmare of misinterpretation. Certainly, we want to keep these guns, rifles, and grenade launchers just in case our government tries to take them away from us but we must be reasonable. A recent report of the shooting in Las Vegas by the Washington Post points out that all of the guns used were modified to be automatic rifles and included high capacity magazines (i.e., AR-15 type rifle, AK-47 type rifle). The shooter also have over 23 guns in his position during the rampage, as well as many others back at home. Of course, not all gun owners collect and store a cache of assault/machine/automatic weapons. In fact, many of them have either daddy’s or grandpa’s old hunting rifle or shot gun. However, the real problem is that gun lobbyists like the NRA persuades us all with the notion that owning any type of gun is our God-given right and it just isn’t. More important, by civilians (and criminals) owning guns that can do what mass shooters have done with them, it only escalates the violence necessary to take them down by the police. Thus, the question becomes while Americans aren’t going to lose their right to bear arms, do we think there should be limits to what you can carry and when you can use it? I believe Americans generally don’t agree that they want to live like it is the Wild West and even then, they had gun laws!! (see the OK Corral or even Dodge City, Kansas for examples).

Finally, we have a government problem. Our government is paralyzed with making any decisions about any issue. This started with Obama and has continued with President Trump. We must push for clear legal restrictions and ramifications to end gun violence in our country. Of course, it will not be easy and if we don’t do it right, there will be issues. However, we do have global neighbors who have been able to do something about gun violence and it has decreased it significantly. In fact, we are the ONLY country on the news for the last 10 years that has significant increases in gun deaths and casualties in comparison to our European, Asian, and African allies. The only other places that have such a significant rate of deaths due to guns  are in war-torn countries/provinces or in places where there is essentially no government. Americans are better than this and we must stand united against this continuing menace on our streets. The only other alternative narrative here is that the violence increases because now we are all going to go out and buy guns, dig in, and wait for the apocalypse.


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Obama and Immigration.

obamaCheck out this great piece inspired by my research with some colleagues across three disciplines about how Obama’s recent executive orders dealing with immigration might impact the United States.

Obama Shields 5 Million Undocumented. Should We Worry?


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Lynching…Violent Past or Continuing Future?

Lynching…Violent Past or Continuing Future?.

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Lynching…Violent Past or Continuing Future?

Just recently at a gathering, I had a person suggest that lynching in the American South (and the rest of the U.S.) was a violent past that we will never see again (I know, great party conversations, huh?). In fact, they even suggested that there have been no reports of lynchings since the early 1970s, which signaled for them that this horrible act had finally been eradicated by law enforcement and the shutting down of hate groups across America. I’ve thought about this and several questions come to mind:

  • Has “lynching” become less frequent in the late 20th and 21st centuries in America?
  • Did the American Legislature finally create laws and carry them out to effectively stop race-based murder?
  • What does “shutting down hate groups” have to do with it?

Starting with the first question, I would have to point out that lynching in America is a serious topic to consider in that it is an all but “hidden discussion” much like the genocide committed on American Indians by American colonists and citizens. More important, it is one of those historical facts of American racism that you only really hear about during Black history month or as a footnote to discussions about Jim Crow. Certainly, there are hundreds of research monographs and historical and first-person accounts of these atrocities but no real discourse on how much of an impact this genocidal tactic had on American race relations, its racial minorities, and whether it continues to this day (Here are two websites that reports statistics of lynchings in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, PBS, Lynching Statistics).

So, the natural follow up to this is what happened since the 1970s? Well, Associate Professor of History, Amy Wood, suggests that we just changed the way we identified lynchings. Professor Wood suggests that in the 1970s and 1980s we began to identify crimes against certain racial and ethnic groups as “hate crimes,” moving away from the abrasive term of lynching through judicial/law enforcement policies. As suggested by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate crimes, particularly murders predicated by race and racism, have continued to exist since the 1970s (see this report).

Professor Wood also argues that some scholars suggest that there is some forms of “legal lynching” today. For example, African American men face higher rates of incarceration, as well as facing the death penalty than White men. Some would also point to the Trayvon Martin case since the law protected George Zimmerman in shooting and killing Martin. Wood even argued that  the Jena Six incident in 2006 was “symbolic lynching,” because the whole point of lynching is to streak fear in the hearts of racial minorities and exert power.

I would also suggest that lynching today is often masked by who it impacts. For example, there have been several killings on the Mexican and U.S. border that could be considered lynching of Mexican immigrants by Whites. Here is a recent story about a number of “unexplained” murders involving Mexican immigrants and the U.S. Border Patrol (Wall  of Silence). With this incident, we see Mexican immigrants the target of possible lynching but call it a necessary evil of border protection/enforcement. Or, how about this recent incident recently in North Carolina where a Hispanic teen who was hand-cuffed (hands behind his back) in a patrol car supposedly pulled a hidden gun and shot himself in the head (see this News Clip). In short, legal counsel is suggesting that police shot him because he was possibly considered a “illegal threat.”

To address the second question, certainly there have been several legislative efforts to outlaw and end lynching but none of them were successful. From 1882 to 1968, over 200 different anti-lynching bills were presented to Congress. In 1922, the Dyer Bill was the first federal bill to successfully pass at least in the U.S. House of Representatives but never became law due to filibusters in the Senate. However, this law promised to make lynching a federal felony crime and presented punishments and sentencing guidelines for those found guilty of the crime.

The next big push to outlaw and punish lynching was with the Costigan-Wagner Bill presented during the 1930s. It largely used the Dyer Bill arguments but was defeated because it never gained any real support from President Franklin D. Roosevelt who thought he would lose support of his New Deal programs from Southern Democrats if he pursued it. Despite continuing efforts up into the 1950s, no clear federal laws were ever enacted to specifically end lynching.

Some scholars suggest that lynching was partially shuttered by the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which permits federal prosecution of anyone who commits a “hate crime” for several reasons including race, color, religion, or national origin. However, even after that, a number of  documented lynchings happened including  the murder of  Michael Donald  by Klansmen in Alabama in 1981 or the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr. by Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, and John King who beat him with a bat and dragged behind a truck in Texas. Interestingly, these incidents were not labeled as lynchings but a hate crimes by new FBI crime definition standards. In fact, the Byrd lynching in 1998 and with the Matthew Shepard murder helped to encourage the most recent legislation to address hate crimes (aka lynching), which was the “Matthew Shepard” Act signed into law in 2009 by President Barack Obama. Also, it should be noted that while the U.S. Congress and Senate never really enacted any legislation to address lynching specifically, the U.S. Senate in 2005 formally apologized for its failure of enacting a federal anti-lynching law. (As a side note: On the state level, a handful of states like Virginia passed their own anti-lynching laws (1928). Ironically, no one in the state of Virginia has ever been convicted of lynching).

Finally, I don’t have a way to correlate the relationship between decreases in hate groups and lynchings/hate crimes. I do know, however, that throughout American history race-based hate groups have ebbed and flowed based on economic and political conditions. For instance, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported a serious spike in membership from many race-based hate groups in 2008 when President Obama was elected, which also happened to coincide with the most recent economic recession in recent years. I also know that while several lynchings can be linked to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, a number of lynchings particularly in the American South were perpetrated by regular, non-affiliated white citizens. So, at this point, I cannot really determine if there is even a causal relationship between the two.

While I know that this post probably brings about more questions than answers, I believe it is important to uncover the raw truth about this type of violent group action in our history. More important, we must continue to consider that while we may call lynching something else in the 21st century, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that groups of people are still using murder as a way to exert power over entire communities. Maybe the reality is that as Americans we are still committing the oldest sins in the newest ways.

Think about this as you listen to Billie Holiday’s, “Strange Fruit.”

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Zimmerman verdict Signals a Continuing Problem in America

Last night, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter for his attack and killing of Trayvon Martin. Here’s the full story: George Zimmerman Not Guilty. As a sociologist who has studies race relations now for almost 15 years, I’m not surprised of the verdict. Of course, my surprise isn’t due to the evidence presented to the jury but because scholarly research has shown for decades that if you are white and your victim is black, then you are less likely to be convicted than blacks who have white victiems, In addition, if a white person is convicted, she/he is less likely to receive the death penalty in comparison to their black peers in the same situation (Here are some links to support my point: Florida Shows Racial Bias in SentencingJustice Blind? by M. RobinsonDeath Penalty Information Center, Blacks Convicted More Often with White Victims, Not Vice Versa).

Now, it may come as a surprise to you but I hypothesized, as my early post suggested in July of 2012 (check out this link), that Mr. Zimmerman would not be seen as of “Hispanic” origin but White. Here, I think we see that Zimmerman was counted as “White” in this trial partly because of a very “old west” law in Florida called, “Stand Your Ground.” As suggested by racism scholars, racism today is not as blatant as 1950’s lynchings or segregated bathrooms but as Omi and Winant (1997) suggested, racism will continue to be a central-organizing principle in which laws or institutional actions will not overtly call out to discriminate against one race over another but will subtlety prop up white supremacy. The Stand Your Ground law may be one of these institutional actions that have helped a “white-enough” George Zimmerman escape conviction and possibly the death penalty while other “not-so-white-enough” defendants find themselves convicted and punished to the fullest extent of the law (Here’s an example in Florida of a Woman Sentenced for 20 years for firing a gun in the air to defend herself from her abusive husband). In fact, would the same verdict came down if Trayvon had shot Zimmerman in their tussle? The research says, probably not. Trayvon would have been convicted of murder and received the death penalty.

While I understand that the jury has weighed and measured the evidence provided and found Zimmerman not guilty, the problem is that this verdict for many non-whites across America will signal another failure of the American Criminal Justice System to be fair, blind, and provide protection and justice for all of its citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity. Sometimes, we must think beyond the moment and consider the overwhelming evidence that some American institutions are broken.

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Is Making Fun of Rednecks and Hillbillies Racist?

A growing concern I hear from students and people I talk to about race relations is that white people face racism just as much as anyone else in the 21st century. Particularly, people often point out the recent proliferation of reality television shows like Duck Dynasty, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Moonshiners, Lizard Lick Towing, and Buckwild as evidence of white slander. Most of these shows depict low income white folks (and some of them rich as in Duck Dynasty) whooping it up and living on deer hunting, moonshine, and family feuds. They also bank on the various low income white stereotypes that many of the “participants” are undereducated, conservative, and traditionalists living in the rural and untamed hinterlands of America.

Of course, this is not a new categorization of low income whites. Some of the most prosperous and longest-running televisions shows in America have used the hillbilly or redneck stereotype to entertain us like The Beverly Hillbillies and The Dukes of Hazzard. Don’t forget Jeff Foxworthy and all his pards in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and the imfamous, “Git R Done!” Even my employer, Appalachian State University, uses a hillbilly as a mascot and has a football game every Fall with a rival university called, “The Battle for the Ole’ Mountain Jug” (moonshine that is). I also remember in the 1990s and early 2000s of a growing brand of clothing, Dixie Outfitters, capitalizing the “redneck” genre of dipping Skoal, owning shot guns, and having hunting dogs.

But, the question remains whether this is a racist depiction of white folks in America? As a sociologist, I will say yes and no. As suggested by a recent article on the subject (see this link), this may be more about social class warfare than racism. Truly, what continues to happen across America is middle and upper class folks getting a laugh out of stigmatizing the poor as backwards and simple. We also seem to want to hold on to these notions of rurality and rugged individualism to assure us that Americans are still Americans. These depictions of low income whites also continue to keep some whites “in their places” or stigmatize them so that when they do enter the job market with a southern draw or say “ain’t” that they are unemployable. Even the recent television show, Rocket City Rednecks, demonstrates this need to place keep white folks in check based on social class even if they do have advanced degrees in astrophysics and engineering.

However, what makes this not directly about race or racism is for two reasons. First, it is white folks making and perpetuating these stereotypes and enforcing them as human value markers on its low income white society, not other racial and ethnic minorities. This a primary function of racism in that one racial or ethnic group views themselves as superior to another and enforces it. Unfortunately, this whites calling out whites. Second, as suggested by Rebecca Scott in her article, “Appalachia and the Construction of Whiteness in the United States,” stigmatizing low income whites as redneck, hillbilly, or white trash does not take away their privilege as whites when in competition with non-whites in any social setting. In other words, while being a redneck may make you sit at the feet of some wealthy white counterpart like Warren Buffet or Donald Trump, it does not mean that you face the same racial oppression as a black or Latino neighbor in your trailer park. Or, maybe a better example is even though the nightly news and public discourse would tell you that racial and ethnic minorities are the sources of most poverty, drug abuse, and crime, we never really note that actually white folks are clearly the leaders in rates of poverty, drug abuse, and crime. Of course, a vulgar Marxist will tell you that really you do have something in common with your minority neighbors because let’s face it, you’re all still poor in a society that ONLY benefits wealthy whites.

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Does the South care more about Race than Religion??

I know that you are all tired of hearing about the latest presidential election but I wanted to point something out that, as a race scholar, makes my ears perk up bout the trend of voting in America as of 2012.

As any political scientist will explain, the American South has traditionally been a region that voted based on conservative values, which often reflects traditional Christian religious beliefs and morals. Therefore, it was really no surprise to the world that almost every southern state once proud members of the Confederacy (except Virginia and Florida) were drenched in red come election night and voted for Mitt Romney to be our next president – hands down. I should also note that almost every rural area in America and much of the Midwest, voted for ole’ Mitt and what really won the election for Obama was, as we’ve heard over and over, urban and suburban voters who were non-white and female. Of course, this also should be no real surprise since much of the Republican party is made up and targets older, wealthy white males (better change your strategy).

However, I noticed an interesting trend that really never bubbled to the surface with all of the slammin’ that when back and forth between Mitt and Obama – No ever questioned Mitt Romney’s tireless faith to the Mormon religion. Yes, I know, maybe I’m suggesting a prejudice view as well but let’s face it, the U.S. has overwhelmingly voted in clearly Christian and very much Protestant followers into the White House and only a few seemed a little different from that norm (aka JFK the Catholic). Now, I know that the Mormon faith is a Christian faith but do conservatives who live in the South see it as a legitimate denomination or a still in the realm of a “cult?” Interestingly, Gallup Polls pointed out that most Americans didn’t even know Romney was a Mormon and even more interesting is that they didn’t even care. Why? (And, here is where the race question comes in.)

As noted by Adia Wingfield and Joe Feagin’s book, Yes We Can?, race mattered in the 2008 election of Barack Obama. More important, it is what drove millions of white folks in the American South (and the Midwest) to vote against Obama and voted for McCain. The question still remains here, did that same trend show up in 2012? Right now, based on my view of how religion, particularly strong evangelical denominations, impact the thoughts of many Southerners, I would say absolutely yes. Why would any of these very devoted and faithful Southern Baptists or Pentecostals vote for Mitt Romney who, for them, belongs to a cult? Moreover, we have to remember that much of America still question Obama’s true faith and consider him a is a “secret” Muslim (Check out these Gallup Polls). Thus, if religion matters so much in the South why didn’t it impact the election rates or is there something else?

I would point out that the convictions of faith usually championed in the South and many rural areas of the U.S. were overshadowed by the question of racial allegiance. As suggested by a recent article focusing on the youth votes, those non-white youth who voted for Obama saw this as a personal challenge to KEEP a black man in the White House. However, throughout Romney’s campaign, issues of removing a black man (which has been disputed in so many ways as whether Obama is really black) kept bubbling to the surface, as can be seen in the picture below and the article it links to (By the way, this was in Ohio).

Interestingly though, we never heard anything about Romney’s faith from all of those Red states and regions. Did many of these citizens simply ignore the various differences in Christian faith  because having a black man in office was possibly worse? Of course, I understand that there were other reasons why people voted for Romney, he was “anything but,” or “he could get the country going in the right direction, again.” However, I think what may support my notion that race matters in the South falls to an event on election night. As you may have heard, college students at the University of Mississippi rioted when they heard about Obama’s victory. What makes this about race is the fact that it was white college students and they were screaming racial epithets to make their point (use your imagination). So, is this a sign of conservatives disregarding their religious convictions and acting out their racial frustrations to make sure a white Mormon man became president over a black man? And, I want to mention that for all those people who think liberal education makes college students liberal, you might want to think about that statement with this event. Anyway, it is for you decide but I wanted to make sure you at least pondered that race still matters even when the economy is tanking and religiosity is rising.

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The Case of the “Optional Ethnicity”

As a race scholar, I always tell my students, “I just can’t make this stuff up, it really happens.” Well, when we talk about whiteness in the classroom, many students like to pull out there “ethnic” card of being Irish, German, or Italian. Many of them suggest, as Gallagher (2003) noted in his research of white ethnicity, that their “troubled” ethnic history makes their past equal to the struggles of at least recent immigrants and sometimes, the strife that Blacks face. In this discussion, I often point out that I come from an ethnic heritage as well and even that I am 1/16 Cherokee. Of course, they all laugh because that’s hard to believe when I stand in front of them with my reddish hair, blue eyes, and pale, freckled skin. I also point out that my family never really claimed this mixed-blood past until recently since the marriage of “whites” to Native Americans was socially frowned upon and illegal in North Carolina until 1967 (Loving vs. Virginia).

Just recently, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (pictured above) has been called out for checking on college applications that she was Native American/Indian. This has caused some serious blow-back, particularly since her opponent, Senator Scott Brown, and his supporters have decided to use the “tomahawk chop” and “Indian chanting” to show their disapproval of this situation. In fact, Senator Brown stated that she is not a person of color, “as we can clearly see.” The Cherokee Nation has also strongly denounced the use of offensive language and symbols in this conversation.

So, I love when life intimates social theory and certainly does in the case of Elizabeth Warren. Here, we have a “white-looking” woman who claims to be have some mixed heritage. However, as Scott Brown and others have argued, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. In other words, you can’t have the supposedly double-advantage of being white and being Native American when applying to college. However, the real point here is that Senator Brown is a little misled to think that being a Native American is an advantage in any situation even in 21st century America. Sure, you may get preferential treatment for a college scholarship but let’s not forget that “whites” make up about 64% of all college enrollments and Native Americans are about 1%.

However, the real issue is this: Elizabeth gets to use her “ethnicity” as an option when it is to her advantage. As Mary Waters (1996) theorized, whites certainly cling on to some “ethnic” ties but can shed them in moments of social strain. Elizabeth, based on social definition, is white because, as Scott Brown suggested, she looks the part. This is, in fact, the most powerful identity she has in her line of ethnic heritage and is what will help her become a U.S. Senator (Of course, being a woman many not – see Patricia Hill Collins). So, in essence, it does not really matter that she checked the box to be Native American because let’s face it, she was applying to top elite universities and already had all the economic advantages of being white to attend these schools. More important, if she was actually Native American, she would have never really been given the opportunities to even get close to Harvard or University of Pennsylvania WITHOUT the “check the box” option.

In short, Elizabeth Warren can be any identity she wants but Americans want here to pick a side and stick with it. I guess Senator Brown would argue that either she lives in the burbs with him or stay on the “Res” with her ancestors. Nice One Drop Rule, huh?



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Racist Symbol or “Catchy” Political Spin?

If you haven’t been paying attention, there have been a number of folks playing off of Clint Eastwood’s lecture to the “empty chair” to express their political views. In a number of places across the U.S., people have been hanging empty chairs in their trees and there is some concern that this may be a veiled racist comment with Obama (a black man) being lynched. Here is a link to a news story about on of these displays in Michigan:

In my opinion, this is not a veiled display but a clear example of how white folks don’t think about the contexts of their decisions when it comes to a racialized issue like the American presidency. As Wingfield and Feagin’s book, Yes We Can? suggested,  since 2008, the American public has not been able to separate race from the presidential election when a Black man is clearly running for the office. More important, as Bonilla-Silva points out in his book, Racism with Racists, white folks who hang these chairs in the tree don’t even think it could have any context to Jim Crow lynchings because they don’t remember the U.S.’s racialized past or present. They also camouflage any racist slight with abstract liberalism, calling out their rights to freedom of speech without recognizing that their words and actions do have consequences. Or, they don’t recognize that this plays into a larger theme in which nooses are often hung in trees as a warning to blacks (remember Jena Six?). In fact, check out this report in the New York Times about the rash of noose incidents across the U.S. in 2006 to 2007. Also, consider why nooses or even hanging a chair in a tree might be seen as a “racist” action based on this SPLC article. I’m sorry but when symbols gather their various socio-historical meanings, these meanings aren’t lost just because you didn’t think about it. And, one final thought to all those non-believers in Facebook land, you are right, no one would get upset if had happened to Mitt because HE DOESN’T HAVE THE SOCIAL CONTEXT TO MAKE IT OFFENSIVE!! However, what if we hung Joseph Smith in a tree? Think about it (or maybe you don’t get the reference).

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