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Sociology Spotlight10

Racial Projects and the Process of Racial Formation

Monday April 21, 2014
What is the meaning and significance of race in today's society? Does racism still exist, and if so, in what ways does it operate? What are its implications? Should state policies account for race and racism? If so, how? Questions like these are debated everyday by individuals, groups, communities, and within institutions like media, education, law, and politics. Sociologists and scholars of race, Michael Omi and Howard Winant suggest in their theory of racial formation that "racial projects" do the work of representing what race is and means, and of explaining how race connects to social structure. It is they that engage in the ongoing competition to define what race is and whether or not it matters. A racial project can be anything from a word, image, common sense idea, to a media portrayal or public policy. Learn more about racial projects and how they manifest in society here.

Racial Formation: A Sociological Theory of Race by Omi & Winant

Wednesday April 16, 2014
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This oft-repeated old adage is taught to children to encourage them to let insults roll of their backs, instead of allowing them to cause pain and make one upset. However, when it comes to race, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant demonstrate, with their theory of racial formation, just how much words, and the ideas they represent, can hurt people. This theory, which frames how we understand race and how it organizes society as an ever-unfolding process, helps us see how common sense notions of race and about racial categories have very real connections to things like access to rights and resources. How we understand and represent race in language, images, and in media for example, has an impact on who gets which jobs or any job at all, who gets into college, and who goes to prison, among other things. Click here to learn more about this influential theory of race.

Systemic Racism: A Theory of Racism in Today's World

Monday April 14, 2014
Today, many in the United States like to believe that we are "beyond" race and our country's racist past. Some might point to the election of President Barack Obama, to the artistic and financial success of musicians and entertainers like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez, the recent accolades heaped upon actor Lupita N'yongo, or to rising high school graduation and college matriculation rates of Latin@ Americans as proof that racism is a thing of the past. But despite the success of some, sociologists today document patterns of unequal access to rights, resources, and privileges on the basis of race, as well as harsh penalties paid on the basis of race. These include the mass incarceration of black and Latino boys and men (and increasingly, women), the disproportionate losses suffered by black and Latino home owners during the recent foreclosure crisis, and lower life expectancy and higher rates of chronic disease among the same populations. Theorist Joe R. Feagin helps us see and understand the connections between our country's racist roots and the realities of racism today with his theory of "systemic racism." Click here to learn more.

What's the Difference Between Prejudice and Racism?

Wednesday April 9, 2014
Not all forms of prejudice are equal. While some might think that referring to a black person with the n-word is no different than assuming a blond person to be dumb, sociologists see important differences between prejudice--holding preconceived notions about a group of people--and racism. While many forms of prejudice are negative, not all forms result in the kinds of structural inequalities that define racism. So what exactly is racism? It's much more than insults and prejudices. Click here to learn more.

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