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Part A

Length of original posts: 250-300 words. Please include word count at bottom.

As an alternative, you can also post 2-3 minutes of audio/video for your original post, and 1-2 minutes for response posts.


Please address both of these questions:

1. Using this mapping tool, (链接到外部网站。) determine the racial composition of the zip code in which you grew up. Compare the makeup of your zip code to that of the entire U.S. population. Using your sociological imagination and what you learned in Chapter 5 of RIM, explain the disparities you notice.

2. What is your ideal living arrangement? Urban, rural, or suburban? House, condo, apartment, or something else? What kind of neighborhood? Reflect on these questions with an eye toward racial dynamics. Have you thought about the racial composition of your dream neighborhood? Why/why not? How might racial dynamics in housing have affected your ideas?

Part B

he purpose of this assignment is to give you a structure for completing the readings in a thoughtful and timely fashion. Reading logs are required only for readings that are NOT in Race in America. Log entries can also be completed for any assigned films listed. Every two weeks, you will submit your log with three entries total — you can choose any three from the list at the bottom of each reading log prompt. Please note that you are still expected to complete all of the readings, even the ones you do not opt to use for your log.

You will find this assignment to be not terribly time consuming if you complete your logs as you are going along; if you wait until the last minute, it will be quite a lot of work.

Logs will be graded on effort and completion: clear evidence of having meaningfully engaged with the assignment will earn you 80-100%; incomplete or inadequate work with some effort still in evidence will earn you 50-70%; low quality or missing work will earn you 0-40%, depending on the level of completion. If you are not earning scores you are happy with and are not sure why, please check in with me to find out my specific recommendations for improvement.

You must use the chart provided above. To add a line in a Word chart, click on the “Tables” menu, then “Insert,” then “Rows Below.” Please begin a fresh chart for each bi-weekly submission.

Required Readings/Films for Reading Log Modules 5 and 6

  • Dow
  • Hoang
  • Oliver and Shapiro (link in Module 6 Overview)
  • Race: the Power of an Illusion (link in Module 6 Overview)

  • Module 5 Written Lecture

    Race and Work

    Employment – both its presence and absence – figures prominently in our experience of adulthood. As both a singular social world that we inhabit, and as a force that mediates our experience of the world outside of our places of paid and unpaid employment, work represents a significant part of what defines us as social beings. Because work is so central to our experience of life, I’m going to use this lecture to review some classical and contemporary theory about race and work.What is particularly interesting about occupations is that it is the occupations themselves – rather than the people who fill the positions – that create the privilege associated with them. In 1945, Sociologist Joseph Schumpeter likened occupational segregation to “a hotel…(that) is always occupied, but always by different persons.” In order to maintain structures of domination and inequality for members of social in-groups, the people who currently occupy “rooms” in the occupational hotel must work – and not necessarily consciously – to ensure that members of out-groups remain unable to move into those rooms. This happens via institutional and social processes through which occupations – and therefore, economic power – are allocated on the basis of gender and race.It is worth mentioning that inequality has generally decreased over time with regard to standard measures like the wage gap, education, and workforce participation. Certainly, some progress has been made in the United States since the abolition of slavery; various pieces of legislation – the Equal Pay Act (1963) and the Civil Rights Act (1964) have outlawed discriminatory practices on the parts of employers and have largely broken down legal barriers to equality.Much like gendered inequality, however, racial and ethnic inequality are still social problems despite progress on the legal front. Race-based income gaps were about the same in 2003 as they were in 1980, with Black and Latino families three times more likely than white families to be living in poverty. The wages of African-American men average only 74% of white men’s, and Latino men lag even further behind at 65 cents on the dollar.African Americans, despite having the lengthiest tenure in the U.S. of any group of non-white immigrants, still struggle with one of the widest discrepancies in pay and occupational power of any oppressed group in the United States. William Julius Wilson (The Declining Significance of Race, 1978) argues that race no longer matters as much as it once did because increased access to education has placed some African Americans on fairer footing with educated members of other racial/ethnic minorities; nonetheless, African Americans and Latinos remain underrepresented among the ranks of four-year degree recipients by a ratio of about 1:3 in comparison with white Americans, and have a high school dropout rate of 2:1 over white Americans.Education is clearly a central determinant of employability; while African American college graduates trailed white college graduates only slightly in 2010 for raw per capita rates of employment (at 73.2 % and 76.5% respectively), the unemployment rate for African Americans who never finished high school is nearly double that of white American dropouts.Wilson is technically correct in asserting that race does not “matter” as much as it once did, but given African Americans’ obstacle-filled path to higher education, it’s clear that Wilson may have been overambitious in his optimism.Oliver and Shapiro (1995) note the institutionalized inequities to which African American families have been subjected and which have compromised their post-slavery financial power: laws barring property ownership prevented any amassing of wealth during the Reconstruction; they made disproportionate payments into new Deal programs like Social Security for which, as low wage, non-union, non-veteran workers, they were largely ineligible; the Federal Housing Authority’s policy of investing money in suburbs created urban residential ghettos; they were forced by eligibility requirements to actively avoid accumulating any savings in order to receive welfare assistance; and the federal tax code doles out tax breaks designed to protect the sorts of capital assets – houses, stocks, investments – to which African Americans typically have less access.Exacerbated as this situation is by the inner-city joblessness described in Wilson’s When Work Disappears (1996), the complex and intergenerational nature of African-Americans’ profound disadvantage in the labor market becomes more apparent: urban school districts left grossly underfunded by low rates of home ownership cannot offer the curricula – AP and honors courses, for example – that give college applicants a competitive edge; the absence of work opportunities within feasible travel distance of inner-city communities – a phenomenon precipitated by white flight and the disappearance of urban factory jobs – deprives many undereducated African Americans of the work experience that would otherwise provide the cultural capital required to progress beyond low-wage occupations in the job market. Possession of wealth, then, is directly linked to one’s ability to obtain a high-quality education, and thus, employment.Like people of color born in the United States, immigrant workers also experience significant racialized inequality at work, although the causal mechanisms are not always identical. U.S. history has clearly been mediated through immigration processes; those processes, however, have brutalized people in unequal ways: for example, a progression of immigrant populations with light-colored skin – Irish, Poles, Italians – have transitioned from reviled newcomer Others to nearly fully assimilated members of the white masses.Immigrants from Asia were subjected to such a barrage of legislation restricting their immigration – from the Naturalization Act of 1870 to the Exclusion Act of 1924 – that the ratio of Asian American men and Asian American women did not balance out until 1980. Many legal Asian immigrants arrive in the U.S. with education, giving them a head start vis à vis U.S.-born African Americans and many Mexican immigrants; indeed, Asian Americans’ median income now surpasses the median white income, as does their representation among college graduates.The targets of most anti-immigration movements today are Mexican immigrants and migrant workers, who suffer under a high degree of racialized discrimination including accusations of job theft (“taking jobs away” from white Americans) and freeloading (taking advantage of educational, medical, and other state benefits). In fact, these accusations turn out not to hold up under scrutiny: many Mexican immigrants pay taxes but are restricted from using the social safety nets they pay for; white Americans’ unwillingness to perform certain jobs has resulted, somewhat ironically, in labor shortages and subsequent calls by large-scale agribusiness (among others) for the government to alleviate such shortages by easing immigration restrictions.Immigrants’ potential for finding “good” jobs rests in large part on the education level they have upon entering the U.S. For example, many South Asian and Western European immigrants arrive with Bachelor’s or advanced degrees that funnel them directly into professional occupations. By contrast, people who emigrate from nations in the Global South – particularly Mexico and other parts of Latin America – are less likely to have had access to education, and are therefore far more likely to end up working in the informal sector under grossly exploitative conditions. These immigrants – some of whom are rendered exceptionally vulnerable by virtue of their undocumented status – are also subject to the same racial and ethnic discrimination that plagues U.S.-born workers of color.

    At the intersection of education and work: the “capital” theories

    The lower one’s educational attainment, the more salient race (and gender) become. Functional models tend to justify people’s place in social hierarchies by arguing that their privilege is evidence of their abilities. Davis (1945), for example, offers a model of social stratification in which the highest rewards go to the hardest jobs. By this rationale, the fact that white men enjoy the most power in the workplace is de facto evidence that they should enjoy the most power in the workplace. This type of analysis is clearly unsociological; we might, in fact, forgive it, given its predating of Mills’ 1959 classic The Sociological Imagination. Nonetheless, meritocratic assumptions fail to account for the social forces that earmark better jobs for some people and worse jobs for others.A number of theories exist that attempt to explain how racial and ethnic inequality operate in the job market. High on the list is Human Capital Theorywhat you know – which suggests that those with more technical skill, education, and work experience are able to secure the “best” jobs, i.e. relatively high-paying positions that imbue occupational prestige, social status, responsibility, and authority over other workers. There is considerable evidence in support of Human Capital Theory; educational attainment is statistically linked with access to good jobs.However, Human Capital Theory does not account for the complexity of on-the-job skill acquisition; much of the technical knowledge required to advance in the workplace is also obtained in the workplace, proffered both formally and informally by co-workers and superiors. A worker’s inability to secure an entry-level position represents a Catch-22 that effectively excludes her from this process or limits her movement beyond a racialized glass ceiling; unions representing workers in the manual trades – who often accept and train apprentices – also engage techniques of social closure by depriving job training and union membership to immigrants and workers of color.Social Capital Theorywho you know – uses the existence of social networks to explain how some people are able to move up in the job market while others remain trapped in low-wage work. Sociologist Bill Domhoff describes how the wealthy elite benefit from insular social networks, which serve to reinforce their power and privilege.Like Human Capital Theory, Social Capital Theory requires that one get a “foot in the door” – except in this case, getting one’s foot in the door is primarily an accident of birth. The interplay being the forces described by these theories should not be underestimated: the networks that lead the children of the wealthy elite to their first job often contribute to their acceptance at prestigious universities. The path to prestigious universities, in turn, is often forged through childhoods spent in private schools. Private schooling is quite expensive and typically unaffordable unless a family has access to systems of wealth accumulation – which is often not the case for the most vulnerable members of the U.S. workforce.Social capital on the job is enhanced through the construction of social ties with the employer (fraternizing outside of work hours, homogamous in-group alliance building). Workers of color are often excluded from such opportunities. Social networks do operate on behalf of immigrants and workers of color, but they do so in a manner quite distinct from networks of power and privilege: “ethnic enclaves” form as a result of informal job-seeking, wherein immigrant workers are able to secure employment by learning about work opportunities from others who share their ethnic background, or are recommended to employers by the same. Clearly, the benefits of ethnic enclaves – namely, the accessibility of jobs – are tempered by their inevitable reproduction of social inequality.Perhaps the most nebulous of the three theories, Cultural Capital Theory posits that knowledge about how to behave enhances occupational segregation. Cultural capital, originally articulated by Pierre Bourdieu in La Distinction (1979), consists of general cultural orientations from which one can expect to draw material benefit. Bourdieu focused on aesthetic and “taste;” in the labor market, cultural capital may include spoken accents, style of dress, mannerisms, bodily practices, deference, conversational style, interaction with others, and unconscious knowledge of “appropriateness” as it pertains to the workplace.Like the self-fulfilling prophecy of educational attainment (or lack thereof), employers’ preference for workers with cultural capital reinforces widespread intergenerational economic segregation and reproduces the cultural differences on which they are based. Cultural Capital Theory also operates during the search for work: knowledge of how to job-seek, how to interview, and how to obtain requisite training are forms of cultural capital that redistribute jobs across racial and ethnic lines. The theories of Social, Human, and Cultural Capital – and in particular, the agglutinative effects of privilege that seem to emerge when they operate in conjunction with one another – are compelling despite their shortcomings, and yet they are mainly concerned with explaining how certain people manage to corner the market on the best work opportunities. What they do not address are the active obstacles – in the form of discrimination – that the less fortunate encounter when they enter the job market.

    Work and discrimination

    Despite their status as legally outlawed for the last half-century, racial and ethnic discrimination continue to affect hiring processes in very visible ways. Workers of color are far more likely to be asked to perform stigmatizing jobs such as scrubbing floors on their hands and knees and washing sheets and underclothes.Employers also make a host of judgments and assumptions about workers based on race and/or ethnic identity. Some of them – laziness, for example, or inadequate “soft” skills (interpersonal, linguistic, cultural, etc.) – have predictably negative effects on employers’ general willingness to hire workers who are identified as belonging to such a denigrated group. Other assumptions are couched in more positive terms: workers may be stereotyped as hardworking, passive/easy to control, or willing to perform undesirable work.These “stories employers tell” may help workers of color secure employment, but they also ensure the continuity of ethnic enclaves, which in turn tend to trap workers with little power in dead-end, poorly paying jobs. This cycle of inequality is reinforced by formal and informal employment networks used by employers and workers alike.

    Employment and affirmative action

    The passage of the Equal Rights and Equal Pay Acts in the early 1960s did not produce an immediate, unqualified end to racial and ethnic discrimination. On the contrary, they simply sent much of it underground, where it was more difficult to prove or dismantle. The primary legal battlefield on which covert discrimination has thus been fought is via policies of affirmative action. The first sweeping affirmative action plan was implemented by President Lyndon Johnson through Executive Order 11246 in 1965. It required that contractors receiving federal funds in excess of $50,000 per annum and employing more than fifty people take “affirmative action” to ensure equal access to employment for racial and ethnic minorities and women.

    Measurement of success under the plan was based on a system of quotas more or less proportional to those workers’ level of representation in the general population. Affirmative action policies were subsequently implemented in educational settings – university and professional school admissions, for example – and in non-federal government jobs. Affirmative action, despite its success at increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups across previously insular employment sectors, remains hotly contested by both those who believe they have lost out on opportunities they “deserved” to have and by those who have ostensibly benefitted from it.

  • Module 6 Overview

    Learning Objectives

    This week, our institution of focus is housing. Housing seems to many people like a rather isolated facet of race, but it is anything but. Housing intersects in significant ways with all of the other institutions that are central to our work in this class: wealth (or lack of it) affects one’s ability to access housing, as do racial policies like redlining that limit both housing and wealth acquisition. Housing also constrains one’s educational opportunities, since segregation in housing naturally leads to segregation in education – and since most states (other than California) use property taxes to fund education, wealthier neighborhoods nearly always have much better school funding than poorer neighborhoods. Be looking at the interplay between these two institutions as we move from housing into education in Module 9.

    Readings and Films

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