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Exploring Race at a Suburban School
This intriguing volume focuses on a “racially friendly” suburban charter school called Excellence Academy, highlighting the ways that students and teachers think about race and act out racial identity. Modica finds that even in an environment where students of all racial backgrounds work and play together harmoniously, race affects the daily experiences of students and teachers in profound but unexamined ways. Some teachers, she notes, feared that talking about race in the classroom would open them to charges of racism, so they avoided the topic. And rather than generate honest and constructive conversations about race, student friendships opened the door for insensitive racial comments by whites, resentment and silence by blacks, and racially biased administrative practices. In the end, the school’s friendly environment did not promote—and may have hindered—serious discussion of race and racial inequity.
The desire to ignore race in favor of a “colorblind society,” Modica writes, has become an entrenched part of American culture. But as Race Among Friends shows, when race becomes a taboo subject, it has serious ramifications for students and teachers of all ethnic origins.
What really happened when citizens were asked to participate in their community’s poverty programs? In this revealing new book, the authors provide an answer to this question through a systematic empirical analysis of a single public policy issue—citizen participation in the Community Action Program of the Johnson Administration’s “War on Poverty.” Beginning with a brief case study description and analysis of the politics of community action in each of America’s five largest cities—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Philadelphia—the authors move on to a fascinating examination of race and authority structures in our urban life.
In a series of lively chapters, Professors Greenstone and Peterson show how the coalitions that formed around the community action question developed not out of electoral or organizational interests alone, but were strongly influenced by our conceptions of the nature of authority in America. They discuss the factors that affected the development of the action program and they note that democratic elections of low-income representatives, however much preferred by democratic reformers, were an ineffective way of representing the interests of the poor.
The book stresses the way in which both machine and reform structures affected the ability of minority groups to organize effectively and to form alliances in urban politics. It considers the wide-ranging critiques made of the Community Action Program by conservative, liberal, and radical analysts and finds that all of them fail to appreciate the significance and intensity of the racial cleavage in American politics.
One of the British Empire’s most isolated and poorest colonies, the Bahamas has never quite seen itself as part of the British West Indies nor vice versa. Although the Bahamas had class tensions similar to those found in other British colonial lands, Gail Saunders shows that racial tensions did not necessarily parallel those across the West Indies so much as they mirrored those occurring in the United States--with political power and money consolidated in the hands of the white minority.
Saunders argues that proximity to the United States and geographic isolation from the rest of the British colonies created a uniquely Bahamian interaction among racial groups. Focusing on the period from the 1880s to the 1960s, Saunders trains her lens on the nature of relations among groups including whites, people who identified as creole or mixed race, and liberated Africans.
In Race and Class Matters at an Elite College, Elizabeth Aries provides a rare glimpse into the challenges faced by black and white college students from widely different class backgrounds as they come to live together as freshmen. Based on an intensive study Aries conducted with 58 students at Amherst College during the 2005-2006 academic year, this book offers a uniquely personal look at the day-to-day thoughts and feelings of students as they experience racial and economic diversity firsthand, some for the first time.
Through online questionnaires and face-to-face interviews, Aries followed four groups of students throughout their first year of college: affluent whites, affluent blacks, less financially advantaged whites from families with more limited education, and less financially advantaged blacks from the same background. Drawing heavily on the voices of these freshmen, Aries chronicles what they learned from racial and class diversity—and what colleges might do to help their students learn more.
Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and George Washington Cable
Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories is a study of four volumes of interrelated short stories set in New Orleans and the surrounding Louisiana bayous: Kate Chopin’s Bayou Folk; George Washington Cable’s Old Creole Days; Grace King’s Balcony Stories; and Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories. James Nagel argues that the conflicts and themes in these stories cannot be understood without a knowledge of the unique historical context of the founding of Louisiana, its four decades of rule by the Spanish, the Louisiana Purchase and the resulting cultural transformations across the region, Napoleonic law, the Code Noir, the plaçage tradition, the immigration of various ethnic and natural groups into the city, and the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction. All of these historical factors energize and enrich the fiction of this important region.
The literary context of these volumes is also central to understanding their place in literary history. They are short-story cycles—collections of short fiction that contain unifying settings, recurring characters or character types, and central themes and motifs. They are also examples of the “local color” tradition in fiction, a movement that has been much misunderstood. Nagel maintains that regional literature was meant to be the highest form of American writing, not the lowest, and its objective was to capture the locations, folkways, values, dialects, conflicts, and ways of life in the various regions of the country in order to show that the lives of common citizens were sufficiently important to be the subject of serious literature.
Finally, Nagel shows that New Orleans provided a profoundly rich and complex setting for the literary exploration of some of the most crucial social problems in America, including racial stratification, social caste, economic exploitation, and gender roles, all of which were undergoing rapid transformation at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth.
Nation, Migration, and Identity in the Twenty-First Century
From Segregation to Desegregation
The separation of white and black schools remained largely unquestioned and unchallenged in North Carolina for the first half of the twentieth century, yet by the end of the 1970s, the Tar Heel State operated the most thoroughly desegregated school system in the nation. In Race and Education in North Carolina, John E. Batchelor, a former North Carolina school superintendent, offers a robust analysis of this sea change and the initiatives that comprised the gradual, and often reluctant, desegregation of the state’s public schools.
In a state known for relative racial moderation, North Carolina government officials generally steered clear of fiery rhetorical rejections of Brown v. Board of Education, in contrast to the position of leaders in most other parts of the South. Instead, they played for time, staving off influential legislators who wanted to close public schools and provide vouchers to support segregated private schools, instituting policies that would admit a few black students into white schools, and continuing to sanction segregation throughout most of the public education system. Litigation—primarily initiated by the NAACP—and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created stronger mandates for progress and forced government officials to accelerate the pace of desegregation. Batchelor sheds light on the way local school districts pursued this goal while community leaders, school board members, administrators, and teachers struggled to balance new policy demands with deeply entrenched racial prejudice and widespread support for continued segregation.
Drawing from case law, newspapers, interviews with policy makers, civil rights leaders, and attorneys involved in school desegregation, as well as previously unused archival material, Race and Education in North Carolina presents a richly textured history of the legal and political factors that informed, obstructed, and finally cleared the way for desegregation in the North Carolina public education system.
Offering a wide variety of philosophical approaches to the neglected philosophical problem of ignorance, this groundbreaking collection builds on Charles Mills’s claim that racism involves an inverted epistemology, an epistemology of ignorance. Contributors explore how different forms of ignorance linked to race are produced and sustained and what role they play in promoting racism and white privilege. They argue that the ignorance that underpins racism is not a simple gap in knowledge, the accidental result of an epistemological oversight. In the case of racial oppression, ignorance often is actively produced for purposes of domination and exploitation. But as these essays demonstrate, ignorance is not simply a tool of oppression wielded by the powerful. It can also be a strategy for survival, an important tool for people of color to wield against white privilege and white supremacy. The book concludes that understanding ignorance and the politics of such ignorance should be a key element of epistemological and social/political analyses, for it has the potential to reveal the role of power in the construction of what is known and provide a lens for the political values at work in knowledge practices.