Friday, January 30, 2009

The New eUpdate: News From the Kirwan Institute

Welcome to the first edition of Kirwan eUpdate, an electronic newsletter published by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. eUpdate will be published three times annually, alternating with the print newsletter, UPdate. The Kirwan Institute provides leadership in how to think about, talk about, and act on race in ways that create and expand opportunity for all.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Reflection on Rice and Race

By Philip J. Kim, Assistant Editor at the Kirwan Institute

Here are two facts about me:

(1.) I am Korean-American.
(2.) I am allergic to rice.

Oftentimes, when the second fact comes up in a conversation, reactions are not too surprising: shock, confusion, disbelief, denial, all accompanied by an uncertain laughter. Surely, it is quite a funny prospect, even seems quite contradictory. How can I, an Asian, be allergic to rice? Even I have started to doubt the fact recently; Am I really allergic to rice? I ask myself, even immediately after jovially stating it in conversation.

But this doubt makes me question why I am even concerned with being allergic to rice in the first place. Why don’t my other allergies, to dog dander or ragweed, prompt the same doubt in the story of who I am? Deep down, I know the real reason why I doubt the fact. It’s not because the allergy has little physical effect on me, or that I conjured up the memory from some other experience; rather, it is the fact I believe that rice is an inherent part of the Asian culture, and my being allergic to rice suggests that I am somehow not Asian.

Simply, this thought reflects how race and culture not only have to do with how individuals conceive of other cultures, identities, and races, but also how each person views themselves in relation to their own culture, identity and race. For me, my allergic deviance to the norm left me with a mix of thoughts and emotions. It made me question not just the definition of what being Asian meant, but more importantly, how I defined and constructed the term, and my own relation to it. All in all, I think it was a worthwhile activity – I saw my own self with the same lens I viewed others.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Indexing Race in the US at the Dawn of the “Age of Obama”

By Andrew Grant-Thomas, Deputy Director at the Kirwan Institute

Date on which Ireland’s largest bookmaker started paying off bets on Barack Obama as the next president of the United States: October 16, 2008.(1)

Percentage of South Koreans who told Gallup in 2008 that who won the US presidential election would matter to their country: 79%. (2)
Percentage of Mexicans who said this: 35%.

Estimated amount of wealth that people of color could lose as a result of being disproportionately targeted for subprime housing loans: $200 billion.

Number of years it will take for the black-white homeownership gap to close if recent trends continue: 1,664. (3)

Child poverty rates of non-Hispanic whites, African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Latinos, respectively, in 2007: 11, 35, 33, 12 and 27 percent. (4)

Year in which the Supreme Court declared bans on “interracial” marriage unconstitutional: 1967.

Percentage growth in the number of interracial marriages between 1960 and 2000: +832%. (5)

Percent of whites, according to a recent ABC News Poll, who think of themselves
first as Americans, rather than as members of a racial group: 87%. (6)

Percent of African Americans who do: 51%.

Rise in the percent of African Americans who think of themselves first as Americans in the last four months: +5%

Percent of Democrats who think Obama will help race relations in the United States: 75%. (7)

Percent of Republicans who think so: 43%.

Proportion of the US population that is non-Hispanic and white: 65 in 100.

Proportion of the last 100 million additions to the US population who are non-Hispanic and white: 34 in 100. (8)
Number of US Senators who are non-Hispanic white men: 78 in 100.

Number of US presidents: 44.

Number of US presidents who have not been white men: 1.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Africom: the militarization of a continent

By Elsadig Elsheikh, Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

On February 6, 2007, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the creation of U.S. Africa Command or AFRICOM, with the objective to “better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place [in Africa].” Nonetheless, most African governments refused to host Africom – with exception of Liberia – and many civil society leaders uttered strong opposition to Africom. In fact, it has been called the new “scramble for Africa”.

The U.S. government insists that AFRICOM “will in no way infringe on the sovereignty of any African nation,” and had nothing to do with militarization of the continent. But looking at the records of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and other Military Programs that the U.S. engages in with more than 45 African countries – in which 9 of them involve in warfare – tells a different reality. The U.S. FMS revenue almost tripled in the last six years (from $ 12 billion in 2002 to $ 32 billion in 2008) where weapons have been sold to 174 states and territories during the 2006/2007 fiscal years. According to Williams Hartung and Frida Berrigan of the New America Foundation, “U.S. arms and military training played a role in 20 of the world’s 27 major wars in 2006/07” by militarizing aid and development, creating military bases, and increasing weapons sales to African countries. The United States is not serving the continent; rather, it destabilizes it. Undeniably, the experience of the last five decades illustrates that the militaristic approach to development neither contributed to sustainable growth nor supported rule of law. Thus, to presume that Africom’s focus is “on war prevention rather than war-fighting” is disingenuous.

Africa does not need to be a testing playground for new “toys” from the Pentagon nor a charity to feed itself. Instead, the continent needs the following: complete cancelation of the unjustifiable foreign debts, removal of unfair trade exchange barriers enforced by the World Trade Organization that is worsening the food crisis, and support of the peoples’ struggle for democratization, human rights, and social justice. The new administration needs to know that Africom and militarization of aid discounts its admirable goal of ending foreign wars. Such militarization will increase warfare and lead to disastrous outcomes not only in Africa but for the rest of the world.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Where is this post-racialism?

By Rajeev Ravisankar, Research Assistant at the Kirwan Institute

A recent study released by Northeastern University shows a disturbing rise in the number of young African-Americans involved in fatal violence. From 2002 to 2007, “the number of homicides involving black male juveniles as victims rose by 31% and as perpetrators by 43%.” (footnote #1) A cursory glance at the responses by news readers and bloggers indicates that some believe this trend is a result of the inability of families and community institutions to address the situation. The study’s authors James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt identify contributing factors such as availability of firearms, attraction to gangs, and lack of funding by the Bush administration for crime prevention and policing. Fortunately, they also consider the dire socioeconomic realities faced by communities and call for reinvestment and an “at-risk youth bailout.”

Another development receiving media attention is the fate of prominent Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These institutions played a critical role in providing higher education opportunities for African-Americans when they were denied access due to Jim Crow era segregation. For example, the 127 year old Morris Brown College had its water supply cut off by the city of Atlanta, and needed a community fundraiser to pay the bill. Administrators at the college are in negotiations to prevent one of its buildings from being auctioned. Facing financial difficulties, a Republican state senator in Georgia introduced a controversial proposal suggesting that historically black Albany State University and Savannah State University merge with predominately white universities. (footnote #2)

These two seemingly unrelated stories are connected in some way when considered in the context of the school to prison pipeline. Many factors reinforce the pipeline such as poverty, discipline oriented education, lack of access to mental healthcare, early entry into the criminal justice system, the oppressive nature of policing, and the conditioning of youths in a patriarchal society that fetishizes violence. Education is essential in disrupting the pipeline, but without independently functioning higher education institutions that serve minorities the adverse impact is both real and symbolic.

In a sociopolitical environment that is widely (and incorrectly) viewed as post-racial, attacking such intractable problems comes with a new set of challenges. While the celebration around Barack Obama’s victory is understandable, the real work has to happen now at the grassroots level. The amount of sacrifice and effort required during the Presidential election must be sustained with the same intensity in order to alleviate the issues that continue to persist in communities across the country.

#1. Fox, James Alan and Marc Swatt. “The Recent Surge in Homicides involving Young Black Males and Guns: Time to Reinvest in Prevention and Crime Control”
Ludden, Jennifer. “Bucking Trend, Homicides Among Black Youths Rise”
#2. Green, Sadiq. “Will Black Colleges Survive Era of Obama?”