Racial Divide


Kanazawa is Grounded for a Year by LSE

Flickr: indiekidsdontdance

The London School of Economics.

In May of this year, Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics penned a controversial blog post for Psychology Today asking, “Why are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” Kanazawa was widely condemned for his views and Psychology today removed his post from their site, then fired him.

Meanwhile, students at the London School of Economics called for Kanazawa’s dismissal. According to Racialicious, which published an update to Kanazawa’s situation, the students didn’t get the outcome for which they were hoping:

The LSE has now published the findings of an internal investigation into the affair, ruling that Dr Kanazawa had “brought the school into disrepute” and barring him from publishing in non-peer-reviewed outlets for a year.

The inquiry, details of which were released to staff on 15 September, also concludes that he had “ignored the basic responsibility of a scientific communicator to qualify claims made in proportion to the certainty of the evidence”.

It found that “some of the arguments used…were flawed and not supported by evidence, that an error was made in publishing the blog post” and that Dr Kanazawa had not given “due consideration to his approach or audience”.

In addition to the 12-month ban, he will not teach any compulsory courses this academic year.

Racialicious’ Andrea Plaid characterized this reaction as a “slap on the wrist.” What do you think?

In Your Words– Psychology Today on Black Women and Beauty

Psychology Today blogger and evolutionary scientist Satoshi Kanazawa set off a firestorm of tweets today with his post, “Why are black women less physically attractive than other women?”:

science also proved the earth was flat... so i can't be that mad that they "proved" black women less attractive...
David Meares

A collection of local reactions, below the jump.

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“A New Era of Polarizing Racial Politics in the District”

Flickr: dharmabumx

Adidas shoes, Chocolate City-edition

Now reading: “Will white identity politics come to post-post-racial D.C.?“, by Adam Serwer at the City Paper.

But just as the browning of America has awoken a novel white identity politics nationally, the demographic forces that framed D.C.’s last mayoral election may prove to be the prologue to a new era of polarizing racial politics in the District, one in which explicitly catering to its most affluent white residents is a path to victory rather than a route to an ignominious defeat.

The Census numbers released last week showed that D.C.’s black residents have been fleeing the city in even larger numbers than expected, leaving blacks with a bare 50 percent majority of the population. The raw racial and cultural divide exposed by the contest between Gray and Fenty is also exacerbated by which residents are leaving. In 2009, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute noted that “while incomes have risen for white households and those with the most advanced educations, incomes have been stagnant or falling for others.” The exodus of the city’s black middle class only exacerbates the trend. Playing to a base of black voters, now more than ever, also means playing to a base of poor voters.

Guardian Angel, Woman Assaulted in Racially-Motivated Metro Fight

Twitpic: @dcguardianangel

Guardian Angels handcuffing five assailants who attacked one of their members on an Anacostia-bound train, Saturday night.

Earlier today, I storified tweets about the Guardian Angels voluntarily patrolling D.C.’s Metro system. This weekend, one Angel on an Anacostia-bound train tried to break up a fight between a black youth and a white woman; that man was violently assaulted by five people (including the youth from the original altercation) for trying to intervene. Other nearby Angels rushed to the train and detained all five assailants until police could arrive and arrest them. That’s the bare outline of what went down. But there’s more:

Alex Kaufer, an Angel in training, stepped in when a black male youth allegedly assaulted a white woman on a train as it pulled into the Anacostia Station on the Green Line about 11 p.m. Saturday. The youth and his friends apparently were making racial comments to the woman and her friend.

“The youths were harassing the girls. They were making fun of them because they were white and because of the way they were dressed,” John Ayala, East Coast director of the Guardian Angels, tells WTOP. “The girl got up and told the youths, ‘We are not afraid of you.’”

That’s when the fight started…

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Why Ignoring Race Fails Everyone

Flickr: Susan NYC

Child playing in NYC.

Yesterday, the Motherlode blog from the New York Times featured a guest post called “Talking About Race (Etc.)” by Amanda Freeman, a white woman who parents two African-American step-kids along with her half-Asian biological daughter.

Freeman narrated two recent experiences which made her think critically about racism. In the first, a black cop rounds up “unattended” children at a playground, including–much to her shock and dismay–her step-children; the second anecdote is about a coffee date with another mother, who mentioned how Freeman’s African-American children had a better chance at being admitted to college than her half-Asian daughter.

Because we live in this new America that celebrates diversity, I have to remind myself not to forget these little happenings. The real danger lies in being lulled into complacency, erasing race from our national dialogue, checking off the completed box.  Racial stereotypes in America run deep; they are woven into our everyday expectations. And we can’t let them go unexamined.

What I do know is that ignoring the subtext of these situations fails everyone involved. The more we try to process our complicated feelings about race, the less likely they are to erupt in ugly ways.

Kate Masur’s “An Example for All the Land”

Kate Masur's "An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C."

The author of the first major study of Washington, D.C. during reconstruction in over fifty years spoke to DCentric recently.

Kate Masur, a history professor at Northwestern and author of “An Example for All the Land,” opined on racism, the Republican party and how D.C. developed a thriving African American middle class through good schools.

Why did you write this book?

I’ve been interested in D.C.’s history in part because it represented the juncture between the North and the South. I wanted to look at the period of emancipation and quintessential Northern/Southern issues, including the end of slavery, the meaning of emancipation and urban politics. In D.C., I could look at local and federal government in an interesting place that mixed both regions. That and there hadn’t been a good study of these issues in a really long time.

What were D.C. audiences most interested in?

D.C. was hungry for this sort of work. People have an episodic idea of history, so filling in the blanks and offering a narrative for this period is useful. Lots of people asked about African American politics and participation in a progressive coalition. This was a period of upheaval. You could really see what a difference it made that Congress had exclusive jurisdiction in Washington…the city was batted back and forth. It didn’t have control over its own destiny, this period really highlights that.

That sounds familiar. At the Portrait Gallery, when you read from the Reconstruction-era diary of a racist Washingtonian, I couldn’t get over how similar it sounded to certain anonymous comments I read on recent news articles.

Now, no one wants to own racism. You sort of wonder where all those comments come from if everyone is not racist…not to mention structural racism. In my book, white power brokers deliberately and repeatedly said that it wasn’t about race or problems with African Americans, it was just about good government. In fact, the policies they were seeking dramatically reduced the power of a newly biracial electorate. They made life more difficult for poor African Americans who had just become voters and found a certain amount of political power in D.C., so despite saying those policies weren’t racist, they had everything to do with reducing the power of black people.

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Morning Edition Chokes on Chocolate City

During today’s Morning Edition, NPR played a story called “D.C., Long ‘Chocolate City,’ Becoming More Vanilla” by Alex Kellogg. The piece covered the demographic changes that everyone loves to discuss– namely how Chocolate City is going from Dark to Milk– and it did it in Anacostia! So not only did it hit DCentric’s sweet spot, it hit a few local bloggers’ sore spots. One of them was profiled in the story:

David Garber, 27, owns one home in Anacostia and is about to buy two more that are now boarded up. Garber, who is white, says people were happy when he moved to the neighborhood several years ago, because he rehabbed a home that was a haven for drug dealers and addicts.

He left the neighborhood after a 2009 incident where 15 friends were robbed at gunpoint at a Christmas party at his home. He insists that wasn’t the primary reason he moved, and he refuses to say the area is less safe than other parts of town — even though its violent crime rate is the highest in the city. He also insists the neighborhood is still affordable to anyone and everyone who wants to live there.

After the piece aired, Garber tweeted this:

NPR segment this morning about changes in Anacostia, in which they skew facts to tell a worn-out, sensationalist story: http://bit.ly/fDgWjR
David Garber

…which inspired me to reach out to him, to learn more about what was skewed and sensational. I love learning about the stories behind stories, don’t you? I’ll keep you posted, trust.

Update: I spoke to David Garber yesterday. Find that interview, here.

Chocolate City gets Wealthier and Whiter

Flickr: Oblivious Dude

The Georgetown Waterfront. Lazy and uncreative shorthand for "wealthy" and "white"? Perhaps, but it's such a pretty photograph!

Loyal DCentric reader @BelmontMedina used Twitter to point us to this WaPo story from V. Dion Haynes. Haynes says that jobs are “changing D.C.’s income and racial makeup”. Or, to be blunter, the people of D.C. are becoming richer and whiter.

From 2000 to 2009, the District gained 39,000 households with incomes of $75,000 and higher, according to a Brookings analysis of Census data. During that same period, the city lost 37,600 households with incomes of $50,000 or less.

At the same time, the city’s proportion of black residents dropped to 52.7 percent from 59.4 percent, while its share of white residents rose to 33.3 percent from 27.8 percent.

Why such a stark change?

The loss of middle- and low-income residents is likely related to a growing mismatch between the people who calls the District home and the jobs available. A large number of the city’s unemployed may not be qualified for the jobs that are being created — mainly in the federal government and in professional and business services. Some experts say they believe those factors are driving minorities into suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia…

The problem is particularly acute for black D.C. residents, whose unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2010 was 18.9 percent, compared with 2.5 percent for whites, according to the Economic Policy Institute. A large proportion of blacks in the District are undereducated and do not qualify for the jobs most in demand.

And now, two things I want to point out:

1) When the City Paper included this story in their Loose Lips Daily roundup, they noted that the “District is becoming richer and whiter, says new Brookings report—just not on election day!” Zing! One D.C. resident had this to say about that snark wit. I mean, tweet.

Is @wcp trying to provoke? "District is becoming richer and whiter... just not on election day!" http://t.co/8EyAc6T
Eric Fidler

2) Speaking of tweets, please feel free to send similar tips or story ideas to us via Twitter. We’re @DCntrc and we are always grateful for the help.

Black and Transgendered? Double the Suffering.

Flickr: Serena Epstein

Tyra Hunter was a popular African American hair stylist in Washington, D.C. In 1995, she was in a serious car accident at 50th and C Streets SE. The emergency personnel who arrived on scene started to rescue her, but they stopped abruptly; instead of providing Hunter with aid, they mocked her. When she finally reached a hospital, Doctors didn’t help her, either.

Sounds outrageous, right? It was. Hunter’s mother sued the city for negligence and malpractice– and won $2.8 million.

At this point, you might be wondering– “Why would EMTs and Doctors withhold care from an accident victim?”

Well, Hunter was transgendered. According to Monica Roberts of The TransGriot, when firefighters discovered that fact after cutting through her clothing, they discontinued care and insulted her.

A firefighter) began joking with the other fire department personnel at the scene as the bystanders pleaded with them to resume working to save Tyra’s life. One bystander is quoted as saying, “It don’t make any difference, he’s [sic] a person, he’s a human being.”

Indeed. I first learned about this appalling case via Colorlines, which “has been building a home for journalism in service to racial justice since 1998″. In their recent article, “Still No Freedom Rainbow for Transgender People of Color”, Hunter’s memory was invoked to demonstrate how little progress has been made:
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Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in D.C.

Flickr: dcwriterdawn

National Portrait Gallery, the site of Wednesday's free event.

Here’s a neat Black History Month event I found via the City Paper. Did I mention that it’s free?

Beginning in 2004, Kate Masur kept stumbling across references to a 19th century Capitol employee and her refusal to leave a train departing from Alexandria…(Masur) eventually identified the employee as Kate Brown. Brown, a women’s room attendant, wanted to sit among the very people she served in the designated “ladies’ car”—implicitly for white women only. After a conductor instructed Brown to move and she refused, he and a police officer police pounded on her knuckles and twisted her arms before tossing her from the car and onto the platform. Masur includes Brown’s story in An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle Over Equality in Washington, D.C., an account of black Washingtonians’ efforts to gain equality in the wake of the Civil War…And in a story that will surely resonate with those of us dissatisfied with the District’s Congressional representation—or lack thereof—Masur tells of black and white Washingtonians bonding to cultivate a new Republican Party with big hopes for greater racial equality—only for Congress to abolish the local self-government they needed, all but destroying the progressive foundation they’d established.

Progressive black and white Washingtonians coming together to create a Republican party for racial equality? I’m there! Well, that and I’m always down to learn more about D.C. history. Tomorrow, Masur will speak at the National Archives (700 Constitution Ave NW). If you miss her there, you have a second chance to hear her– she’ll be at the National Portrait Gallery (800 F Street NW, pictured above) on Wednesday. Both events are at noon. More Black History Month events, here.