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These changes were not random, as one might expect if the interviewers were just hurrying to finish up or if the data-entry clerks were making mistakes. The racial classifications changed systematically, in response to what had happened to the respondent since the previous interview.

All else being equal, including how they had been racially classified before, respondents who were unemployed, had children outside of marriage, or lived in the inner city were less likely to be classified as white and more likely to be classified as black. Having been incarcerated, unemployed, divorced, or impoverished each reduced the chances by a percentage point or two that someone who was recorded as white by an interviewer one year would be seen as white again the next year.

Race is a way of distinguishing between different types of bodies, and how societies locate them relative to one another.

Some people are naturally understood to be poor and marginalized; other types of bodies and peoples, are through common sense, understood to be dominant, "middle class," or "normal."

As featured in The Boston Review, new research from Aliya Saperstein and Andrew Penner would seem to support how race is a type of cognitive map that people then use to determine their social location relative to others. Apparently, for all of the fictions about "post racial" America, race--and by implication other markers such as gender, class, and ethnicity--are useful heuristics for deciding who has power in the country.

How do we parse out causality in thinking through the finding that white folks who have fallen down the class hierarchy are then perceived to be "black?" Which way do the causal arrows go?

Race is a social construct and a fiction. Yet, it does powerful work in determining life chances and opportunities. Race is a lie, a type of property, protection, and resource that individuals, communities, and to which the State, assigns meaning and value.

Thus, is it that white people who fall down the class and status hierarchy are channeling some type of "blackness" because they associate and have internalized certain behaviors with poverty and diminished life chances?

The Boston Review continues:

The studies we have conducted show that while race shapes our life experiences, our life experiences also shape our race. Race and perceptions of difference are not only a cause of inequality, they also result from inequality. Americans’ racial stereotypes have become self-fulfilling prophecies: the mental images Americans have of criminals and welfare queens, or college grads and suburbanites, can literally affect how we see each other.
Or are outside observers drawing conclusions based on how people of color--blacks and Latinos specifically--are more likely to be poor and economically disadvantaged, and then making an error in inference?

Habitus is real. Race and class intersect. People of color are increasingly becoming less hopeful about their futures in the Age of Obama and The Great Recession. White folks are also feeling an even greater sense of diminished hopes, dreams, and possibilities.

What does it mean then that those white folks who have suffered diminished life chances are then perceived to be "black" by researchers? Is this a hopeful possibility for the potential of productive alliances across the color line?

Or alternatively, are these findings about the "blackening" of unemployed white people a powder keg ready to erupt, as the wages of whiteness when handed a check labeled insufficient funds and "black" erupt in defiance and rage?

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Comment Preferences

  •  A bit confusing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Buckeye Nut Schell, cks175

    to start with an out of context block quote but an interesting diary nonetheless.

    looking forward to when your "walking dead" diaries return.

    If you aren't outraged, you are an idiot

    by indefinitelee on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 12:48:25 PM PDT

  •  I'm confused (0+ / 0-)

    about how this study worked, even after reading the Boston Review article.

    Interviewed how? Telephone, in person, email, surveys?
    This info was recorded from 1979 to 1998 - is there no data from '98 until now? Why are the results based on a 15 year old study?
    Was the purpose of that study to see how interviewers identified race based on other characteristics or were different interviewers shown the '79-98 results and asked to identify the subject?

    If you aren't outraged, you are an idiot

    by indefinitelee on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 01:01:28 PM PDT

  •  Disturbing. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cassandracarolina, mommyof3, Praxical

    The implication is that the only way to achieve a "post-racial" society is to fashion a "post-hope" economy.

    Which makes a sad sort of sense. As the USSR was falling apart, the government sent a team of researchers to Southwest Louisiana to study the society there, in hopes of finding the key to peaceful co-existence among diverse ethnic groups.

    And find it they did. As Zachary Richard put it, people got along because everybody was equally poor and nobody had anything for others to be jealous of.

    Republicans represent both sides: the insanely rich and vice versa.

    by Crashing Vor on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 01:23:02 PM PDT

  •  Sliding perceptions of race based on other (0+ / 0-)

    factors.  Even if the study seems confusing, we only need to look to the perceptions of BHO since his introduction to the national scene.

    An Ivy Leaguer raised in a white household, for some he was seen as basically a white guy who looks black.  "Safe" for many white folk.

    For some blacks, initially, that wasn't a reason to see him as "safe".  It brought out distrust.  Not "really" black.  Not "black enough".

    But as the chance of him actually winning the election in 2008 began to increase, blacks began to perceive him as black, and one of their own.  And the blacker he became, lo and behold, the perception of whites towards BHO began to change too.  Desperate Clintonites started to play the race card, and the Repugs have picked up it and used it incessantly since his inaguration, with no signs of letting up.

    If one of the most powerful men on the planet has to deal with this racial classification, one can only imagine how difficult it must be for those who fight to exist on the fringes of society.

    Dont Mourn, Organize !#konisurrender

    by cks175 on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 01:41:57 PM PDT

  •  OT: (0+ / 0-)

    Chaucey, you know I love your content, but I really do wish you would employ the more standard practice for formatting hyperlinks and blockquotes - putting the hyperlink to the blockquoted text immediately above the blockquote (example). That way it's clear what the source of the quote is, and would make it much easier on your readers.

    Not in this particular post, but in several of your other posts I've had to click around trying to figure out which quote went to what link. While it's absolutely clear to you while you're composing, it's not always that clear to the reader.

    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

    by Oaktown Girl on Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 02:07:02 PM PDT

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