Tag Archives: race

Race, Gender, and the Study of Far Right Social Movements: An Interview with Kathleen Blee

Professor Kathleen Blee is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. She is author of four books and recipient of numerous awards for her research and teaching. Much of her research focuses on right-wing social movements, specifically gender in organized racism.

Pundits and scholars alike have pointed to what appears to be increasing visibility of far right figures and ideas in mainstream media and popular culture. Below is an edited transcript of an interview I conducted with Blee in December about what her research can tell us about the results of the November election, how organized racism is changing in the 21st century, and what this means for social movement scholars going forward. Continue reading

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The Radical Sixties and the Militant Asian Americans

Fifty years ago, on March 8, 1965, the U.S. Marines landed in Da Nang, marking the beginning of the American ground war in Vietnam. Protests erupted all over the U.S., with the largest anti-war demonstration in the U.S.—the March Against the War organized by the Students for Democratic Society—taking place in April 17. Radicalism in the 60s has been the subject of social movement theories that set the direction of contemporary scholarship. But scholars in the field were remiss in examining a contentious group in American society: Asian Americans.

While Sid Tarrow was visiting Pittsburgh early this month, we had a conversation about the dearth of studies on Asian American mobilization, especially in the 1960s. In recent years, we have noticed a rise in scholarship on the Asian American movement (AAM). But based on a cursory look of undergraduate and graduate courses in social movements, Asian Americans remain invisible in mainstream discussions about the “turbulent 60s.” Continue reading

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Do the Right Thing

Last night in our Post-Ferguson Film Series we screened Do the Right Thing (1989) by director Spike Lee. Having not seen it since I was an undergrad in a sociology course, it struck me how incredibly relevant the film remains today. Even 26 years later, it is still a great resource for teaching about race and protest tactics.

do the right thing

The film begins slowly, following various different characters on a hot summer day in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The film documents the numerous subtle and explicit forms of inequality and racial tensions in this neighborhood. As the day goes on, and the heat increases, tensions build over a series of seemingly small, but symbolically laden, events between members of different racial groups. The film ends with an altercation between several black youth and Sal, the Italian owner of a pizzeria. This leads to the arrest and murder of one of the young black men in the altercation, Radio Raheem, by a police officer. In response to the unnecessary tragic death, the pizzeria’s delivery boy, Mookie (portrayed by Spike Lee) who is friends with Raheem, throws a garbage can through the window of the pizzeria. This leads to the complete destruction of the pizzeria and a riot in the neighborhood.

Do the Right Thing depicts, and holds in complexity, the many layers and forms of racial tension and inequality in American society, raising questions of how one can “do the right thing” in a society with such vast, entrenched, and diverse forms of inequality and injustice. It is a brilliant film, showing how a sense of hurt and injustice from a series of slights, degradations, and inequalities can slowly compound under difficult conditions (such as the symbolic summer heat), and combust in violent collective action. Continue reading

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Discussing Ferguson

I left the ASAs feeling inspired by all the amazing work people in our field are doing. On leaving, I stopped for dinner in a bar in D.C. during my layover. During my dinner, CNN reported another young black man was killed in Ferguson, MO who had wielded a knife against a police officer.

Watching the coverage, a law enforcement agent at the bar began a public conversation about how the unrest in Ferguson is outrageous and uncalled for. He said how based on his experiences, this whole conflict over the Michael Brown murder is about class not race. I vociferously disagreed, yet I was clearly the minority voice (in terms of numbers and my own racial identity) in the conversation.

I was surprised when, in raising the complexities of the Ferguson case such as issues of racial profiling, discrimination in legal processes, militarization of police forces, and systematic economic and spatial inequality, the police officer responded by strongly supporting racial profiling in law enforcement. He immediately dismissed many of the underlying complexities of the situation which I raised. Others supported his position. I left the conversation frustrated by how difficult these issues are to discuss with non-sociologists and in general. I was frustrated with my own inefficacy in explaining the many complexities of the issue which I am acutely aware of due to my background in sociology.

As the semester looms, I wonder how we can draw upon the literature we know about race, protest, and collective uprisings to sociologically unpack this case and discuss it with students and broader audiences in a more effective way.

Yet as the police officer was leaving, he went out of his way to come by and thank me for sharing my opinions. He said he hoped I would not hold his perspective against him.

I left the situation horrified by how nearly everyone in the bar viewed the situation in quite simplistic, and I believed deeply racist, ways yet was encouraged by how this man went out of his way to support raising these issues in public spaces.

As sociologists, educators, and movement scholars, how can we use what we know to open broader conversations and dissect such emotionally fraught, tense, and complex issues in more nuanced and insightful ways—in which people from a wide array of backgrounds can participate in and learn from? Although it is easy to always talk to each other about these issues, we have an important voice to contribute to broader public discussions.

I’ve been thinking of hosting a teach-in at Hamilton College and am lucky to have a department that supports the idea.  I’d love to hear others’ thoughts or insights on this issue.

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What’s needed at this political moment? 5 well-known leftists, 5 strong opinions

At the Working-Class Studies conference last weekend, I heard an amazing dialogue about class, race and movement-building by five progressive journalists and activist scholars: Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now!, Frances Fox Piven, Bill Fletcher Jr. of Blackcommentator.com, and former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert of Demos, with conference organizer Michael Zweig, author of The Working Class Majority moderating.

I was struck by how openly they disagreed with each other in front of us 200 listeners, by how passionate all five of them are about creating a more just society, and by what vast depth of experience they brought to the panel. Here are some highlights: Continue reading

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Black and Blue vs. Whites and their Crew

This will be the first of  a few posts on the interesting things Will Moore and I observed in Chicago this past weekend while conducting an observational study of the G8/NATO protests that builds on, and extends, Clark McPhail’s approach.  Our goal was to systematically evaluate the variation and escalatory dynamics present within contentious state-dissident interactions.  For a description of the project, see Matt Baggetta’s post or visit our site: http://tinyurl.com/protpol.  We will update that site later with  additional information regarding this project.

Last year I ran some embedded survey experiments with Rose McDermott and Dave Armstrong regarding protest-protest policing.  At one point, we sought to determine if responses would vary according to the race/ethnicity of the protestors and police.  One dyad concerned black police and white protestors.  To this, several readers questioned whether black cops “policed” white protesters.

While there were a large number of white officers and protestors at the event, there were also specific moments when the police force was almost exclusively African American with a predominately white protestor presence.

Below are some of the images that I shot.

Black police on both sides of the predominately white protest.

Continue reading

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Anouncement: Reconciliation Symposium in Tulsa

I received an announcement some social movement scholars and activists interested in issues of racial equality and cross-racial coalitions may want to check out. May 30-June 1, 2010 the John Hope Franklin Center will host the 3rd Annual Reconciliation in America conference, which is meant to “Combine Academic Discussions with Real-World Solutions” at the Hyatt Regency, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can preview the entire program here or register for this event here. Details from their email are below:

In light of recent tragic events, Tulsa has become center stage in a national dialogue of racial tensions within our society. Yet, in all the talk of violence and justice, the idea of long-term reconciliation is often lost.

We all have a part to play in bringing racial reconciliation to our communities. But what are we doing about it today?

The John Hope Franklin Center’s 3rd Annual Reconciliation in America symposium will bring together the nation’s top thinkers, community leaders and activists to Tulsa to generate concrete solutions.

This year’s program includes:

  • Dr. Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi and an internationally known scholar and humanitarian, will speak on “Reconciliation and the American Dream: Pointers from Gandhi & King.”
  • Town Hall: “Cityscape – Former Mayors Reflect on Reconciliation Efforts,” a panel of innovative, forward-thinking American mayors with Tulsa’s dynamic former mayors Kathy Taylor and Susan Savage, plus former Denver mayor Wellington Webb.
  • Governor William Winter, former Governor of Mississippi.
  • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College.
  • Dr. George Henderson, creator of the Human Relations Program at the University of Oklahoma.
  • Dr. Donald W. Shriver, Jr., an ethicist and President Emeritus of Union Seminary in New York City.
  • Reverend Doug Tanner, Senior Advisor of the Faith & Politics Institute in Washington, D.C.

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