How Structural Racism Works
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How Structural Racism Works


TRICIA ROSE: All right,
good morning, everyone. How are we? Yes, this is bright
and early, isn’t it? I was worried when they said,
well, we have the 9 o’clock slot left. And I thought, oh my goodness. And then I thought, who’s
going to get up at 9 o’clock after a campus dance. So I see who that
is, and I’m grateful. Thank you, really, for coming
out so early in the morning. My name is Tricia Rose, and
I’m the Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies
here at Brown. I’ve been at Brown as a
professor for 11 years. And I actually– I didn’t put this here. It should say class
of 1993, which was not my undergraduate
years, which I wish it was my undergrad. It was my graduate degree. I did my PhD here at Brown. And I’m really, really
excited to see you all here so I can share
some of my research and what I’ve been up to
for the last couple of years but also because this research
and a lot of the thinking behind it dovetails with
my role at the Center for the Study of
Race and Ethnicity, which I have both a banner and
a description of because our job and my interest in directing
that center is to help bring to the public ideas about race
and inequality and research about these issues– immigration policy,
racial discrimination, indigenous issues– to bring that kind of knowledge
to the everyday public and create more informed
conversations because frankly it appears that we’re moving in
the opposite direction in terms of complexity and deep
knowledge about these issues. And it’s extremely
important for us to have a relatively
peaceful and just society. In order to do so, we
need to know these things. So this project is
really exciting to me. It’s a tough project
intellectually and materially. But it’s also tough emotionally. So it’s tough on
a lot of fronts. I hope you all
brought your coffee. Did everyone
bring– or are you– or are you fully caffeinated? You sort of mainlined
before you got here, OK? So this is going to be
a two part presentation. Normally, I do all
of the presenting when I do these things. But I have a key researcher
Sam Rosen, class of 2014, who also did a thesis
with me on colorblindness and its relationship to
structural racism pretty much. And he’s also– I’ll
give you his bio when I introduce him more fully. But he’s really done
a tremendous job over the last couple
of years with me, thinking through the project. So we’re going to
do two parts today. I’m going to lay out
for the first, say, almost 2/3 but a little
bit less– maybe half– of our time the big
bones of the project– what are we doing,
why have we structured it the way we’ve structured
it, what are my main concerns, what are the issues at
stake, sort of big picture. And then we’re
going to drill down to a very specific case study,
which Sam is going to present. So the goal here is to say,
here’s this big picture. Well, how does it play
out on the ground? How does it play
out in a way that helps us understand actually how
it’s impacting everyday lives in our own perception? OK? You with me? OK, if I go too fast,
which I am known to do because I am from New
York and we do everything fast because you have
to please holler. I tell students just
like frantically wave, and it works fine for families
and parents and friends as well. So feel free to do that. OK, I’m going to start
with the definition because of course
you can’t really talk about structural
racism if you’re not sure what you’re talking about. So what is structural racism? Before we can figure
out how it works. So this is my
operative definition. They share many of these traits. And the basic definition is that
structural racism in the United States is the normalization
and legitimization of an array of dynamics– historical, cultural
institutional and interpersonal– that routinely advantage
whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse
outcomes for people of color. Now, these words are long and
the definition may seem long. But it’s important
because they’re key. If you look at just
a couple of key words before we move along– normalization. Normalization means that
structural racism is built into the everyday practice. We’re not talking about
exceptional behavior, individual bad attitudes. We’re not talking about
the occasional negatively intentional policy. We’re really talking
about a process that happens in a normal,
everyday way, that goes on as part of our
air that we breathe, but that is often
quite invisible to us– not all of us,
but to some of us. But it’s important
that it can go on while we’re sleeping, while
we’re fighting for justice, while we’re doing
whatever we’re doing. Legitimisation is important
because we legitimize institutions– and I’m going
to talk later about how this happens– that are actually functioning
in structurally racist ways. The outcomes are
clearly producing dramatic cumulative and
chronic adverse outcomes. And they nonetheless
have quite legitimacy. They have a lot of legitimacy. This is not something that is
marginal again and on the side. The second piece
of the definition that’s really important is
that structural racism is not just the past that has a legacy
that’s waning in the present. It has a present formulation. So it’s historical, yes. But it’s also present tense. There are cultural
elements to it. That means it has to do with
the way we talk about race that help produce it. It’s not just policies. But it is institutions
and policies. We see it in government policy. We see it in corporations
in their policies. We see it in educational
institutions. And of course, it is
also interpersonal. And by interpersonal,
I don’t just mean sort of screaming
people at the Wal-mart, which seems to be a new problem we’re
having in the United States. But it does mean that
because that’s part of it, but it also means the
ways in which we interact and the ways in which we create
relationships with one another. So our project,
it started as you know as many things in
my life academically have started, which
is something that seems like I should be
able to do it quickly and then takes forever. So this is one of
those, oh, I can just explain structural racism
to everyday people doing a multimedia project
with a couple of videos, put them online on YouTube, pull
up a website, do some research, bam. We’ll be all set. Six months. OK, two years later,
we’re standing here in front of you really
still working it out for a lot of different reasons. But we feel more
and more convinced about the importance
of the project and the importance
of these areas. So what’s happened for
us is that all we’re trying to focus on these
five critical areas where structural
racism is highly dynamic and consequential. There are others. So don’t even worry
about asking me that. There are definitely
others than these five. But these five really
apply to all of us in here. Hopefully, not criminal
justice, but if not, then that may itself
be part of the puzzle if you’ve never had
a brush with the law. But there are others for sure. Housing, education, mass
media, wealth, and jobs are just critical
fundamental anchors. The outcomes in these areas
determine fundamentally the quality of life, the
sense of safety and security, and the opportunity that our
citizens in this country have. So I want to lay it out
this way for a moment because this is usually
how we talk about it. We talk about wealth. We talk about housing. We talk about media, whether
it’s representation and images of people of color or
African-Americans– which is the group we’re
going to mainly focus on– whether it’s
educational outcomes or the criminal
justice system, we tend to look at these things
in isolation from one another. And this is not a
bad idea when we want to drill down
because, if you want to look at the significance
of, say, racialized wealth inequality, which is dramatic
and I’ll point that out in a moment, you want to
figure out why and how. So you have to go
down and into it. You have to keep
moving in more deeply. But at the same time,
it’s extremely important to think about how these gears,
as we’re thinking of them, work together. And they are actually not
operating in a single sphere way, that there are
interlocking effects. And this is key to our argument. This is key to our
approach– that we think about how various
aspects of society produce structural
inequalities in ways that are interdependent,
interactive, and compounding. And this is extremely
important because, again, if we find a disparity in,
say, job discrimination or unemployment,
there’s a tendency to say, well, if we just
fix that, we’re good, right? But if you look at the
interlocking effects and you come to the realization
that, in any one sphere, you have discrimination and
inequality past, present and in policy and in
thinking and it’s really driving inequality
in other areas, you can’t possibly think
in a single sphere way to solve any given problem
that we’re dealing with. So we’re making an
argument that it’s not just structural in the big
picture sense in isolated ways, but it’s interlocking
and interdependent. So this whole talk could
be statistics of data, and we’re not going to do that. I’m going to give you
just a thimbleful of it. But I’m going to
assume that many of you have been paying
attention to these issues, otherwise you wouldn’t have
roused yourself probably at 7:30 in the
morning to come here to listen to me talk about
it if it was completely unfamiliar to you. So just very quickly– black unemployment today is
worse than it was in 1964, but more importantly it hovers
at twice the white unemployment rate pretty much all the time. And I want to draw your
attention very quickly to the Great Recession when
unemployment rates for whites was around 9% or
10% sometimes 11%, and it was a national
catastrophe crisis. How can we survive 10% or 11%? Well, black unemployment hovers
at 12% to 15% all the time. It was 19% during
that recession. So if you want to figure out
how to survive that crisis, we have people to talk to. Schools segregation,
school segregation has gotten worse
since the early 1990s. And that segregation is driven
really by housing segregation, partially which I’m going
to talk about in a moment. But what’s important,
too, is that due to a variety of
structural conditions largely in housing and
elsewhere the more homogeneous a black school gets and
the less white it gets, the poorer it gets. So race is an indicator also
of economic disadvantage as it plays out in
schools and elsewhere. Now, criminal justice
is a huge sphere, and we can talk
about many things. But there are a
couple of key things. One is that for
the past 30 years we have quadrupled the
number of people in prison mostly from drug arrests. Number one, blacks are jailed
at six times the rates of whites despite the fact that
whites use and sell drugs at a higher rate. I know you may find
that hard to believe. If you follow mass media and
news reports in the sense, you’d think that all
African-Americans do is sell, buy, and consume
drugs in the United States. So if you actually think about
the consequences of this, this would mean that
we couldn’t have– if we followed who’s
actually doing the drugs, we couldn’t possibly have
the disparity that we have. But we have a policing process
that confirms and looks for and seeks out and
finds the drugs that we’re looking for in
segregated neighborhoods. And then another key
point is that we do not sentence blacks and whites
for the same crimes equally. Blacks receive longer
sentences for the same crimes, and this is on top of the
fact that whites are not likely to be charged with
crimes in the first place. So that longer sentence plays
out even more significantly. Wealth is a massively
significant component of the process of
structural racism, but just since the 1980s
the black white wealth gap has quadrupled. And the gap at this
point is roughly $11,000 in wealth for
African-Americans to $142,000 on average the median
wealth for white families. That is a staggering gap
that no amount of hard work will breach. It just simply will not
be closed with hard work. Key points to keep in mind about
structural racism overall– one is that we do not
have to be aware of it or any of these factors in
order for the system to work. Two, it’s fueled by and relies
on racial ideas and stereotypes to perpetuate outcomes. And this is
important because I’m going to show how the
way we think about race and those stereotypes
we activate and the unconscious bias
we activate actually produces the outcomes
in the material world. And this is important because
changing policy by itself won’t change necessarily
what’s going on unless we tackle ideas. And they matter because they
really hide structural racism right in front of us. And I’m going to
give you an example. And the most important
thing, though, is that we can know
ourselves to be unracist in every bone in our body and
still be functionally, deeply advantaged by this system and
participate in it all the time. This is a difficult
thing to really confront because we’ve talked about
ourselves as Americans as having transcended this
kind of racial outcome and investment since the 1960s. That’s been our main story,
that we’re now a meritocracy, that we’ve ended structural
barriers, that were post-race. I know right now this seems
like a weird old school fantasy that we thought– ah, I know. I know, I didn’t believe
it when it was said. I saw this kind of thing coming. It was like, oh, no, this
isn’t going to be pretty. But what did most people think? Oh my gosh, we’ve got one
African-American sort of. We have half an African-American
in the White House. How exciting. And this month, everything’s
gone structural racism. Poof. Magic. So discriminatory
outcomes do not have to rely on racist or
discriminatory intentions. So how is structural
racism made invisible? The first is this obsession with
the illusion of meritocracy. Now, let me first say that
the fact that we do not have a meritocracy,
in my opinion, does not mean that people
don’t deserve good jobs, that they haven’t worked
hard, that they’re not smart. It means that the system is
structured for some people’s work to matter a lot more
than other people’s hard work, and therefore it’s not a
functional meritocracy. If a meritocracy is
that rewards in society go naturally to those who
are the best performers and that positions or
achievements of individuals depend on their
abilities and effort and does not depend on class
race or other group advantages, then obviously we’re not
a functional meritocracy. We have lots of merit. We try, but we do
functionally fail. And this is very
important to confront because it is the myth of
this meritocracy that actually helps drive our misguided
thinking about race in the first place. So inside of the
meritocracy myth is the belief that
we ended racism with the civil rights movement. Lawrence Bobo, a political
scientist at Harvard, has done lots of
attitude studies. And one of them shows
that over 60% of whites think that we’ve reached
racial equality now. That would be like right now. Tick-tock still right now. And 20% say it’s coming soon. So that’s 80%– well,
actually a little higher. I actually brought it
down to an even number. It’s more like 83%. 16% of blacks think that
we’ve reached racial equality, but a 32% think we’re going to
get there, which just speaks to the hopefulness of
people of African descent because there’s not
a ton of evidence of us getting there soon. I told you you needed to have
caffeine for this situation. I did warn you. I gave you a heads up. It’s not pretty data. But this perception
really matters because if we believe
that racism ended with the civil rights movement
and we’re mostly just cleaning up a few of leftover
vestiges of these problems, then when we find
deep disparity, it contributes to
alternative explanations. We don’t say, oh, structural
racism because it’s not in our parlance. It’s not our understanding. We come up with various types
of mechanisms to compensate. One of my favorites
is the anomalies. Well, yes over here. But I know a guy who hired
five African-Americans. I’m like, oh, that’s fantastic. Are we going to solve this
one man’s job hiring program at a time? I don’t think so. Or one bad apple thesis. This comes up a lot with
police, that one bad cop, some evil bad cop,
as if he could function without a whole
culture around him to enable it. So what remains? If it’s the case–
this is not the case, but this is a false
proof I’m setting up– if no or few structural
impediments exist, then why do we have
such disparate outcomes? The answer becomes
behavior, and this idea that individual behavior or
collective black cultural practices produce
disparate outcomes like this across all
major aspects of society. This activates and
relies on a deep well of stereotypes and bias. You guys following me? Am I going too fast? Excellent. You guys are perfect
Brown students. All right, so let me give
you a quick example– unemployment rates, labor
force, Census Bureau, 2010. I told you before
it’s often twice. Here’s your evidence– 8.7%
for non-Hispanic whites unemployment, 12.5%
for Hispanics, 16% percent for blacks. It was 2010. That was a little bit
higher than your average because it was 2010. If you recall, that
was not a pretty time. But it’s pretty much double
as I said it always is. How do we explain it? If you’re giving us
structural analysis, you’re going to
explain this by looking at housing
discrimination, which is there are many, many studies. And if we were approaching
this as my own 50 minute talk, I would go into some of these. But there’s tremendous
evidence for significant hiring discrimination even
at entry level jobs. There is a profoundly limited
accessible opportunities based on distance,
transportation, and housing, segregation and isolation,
and social networks. Almost all jobs are
social networks. I know a guy, which is
a Rhode Island thing. But everybody uses it. I know a guy who can do that. Oh, yeah? Well, you trust me. So you trust the guy I say. So what percentage of
white social networks constitute black people? If you’re white, what percentage
of your social networks is black? Shout it out like the kids. AUDIENCE: 5%. TRICIA ROSE: 5%. Give me one more number? 30%. That’s very optimistic. AUDIENCE: 1%. TRICIA ROSE: Amen. That’s the number. Do you do math because
that came out as perf– well, you have what I
call intuitive math, which is what I have. I don’t have real math either. 1%. 1%. OK, that’s rather significant. But what do we hear all
the time in the news? Now, a lot of these
stereotypes apply not just to African-Americans. We’re way– we’re just
going to have to– OK. All right, not just
to African-Americans, but they specifically get
reinforced around black people in black culture. They’re lazy. They don’t want to work hard– lacks discipline, lacks proper
values, prefer handouts. Paul Ryan’s report on
poverty made this argument consistently and
all over the place. It didn’t say that there was
any kind of discrimination, only behavior. So I want to move to
the question of crime because it’s important to
understand how pivotal and what a linchpin that idea
of African-Americans as fundamentally criminal
drives a variety of spaces and circumstances. A report by the
Sentencing Project was specifically looking
at perceptions of crime and the ways in
which it produces not only criminal
justice outcomes, but other kinds of outcomes. And I want to just draw
your attention to the fact that I’m talking here about
conscious stereotypes and unconscious bias. These are two different spaces,
but they’re both important. So there’s things people say
that they think to be true, and then there are things
that we don’t even know about. 80% of our brain is
completely inaccessible to us. Well, I don’t know what’s going
on down there in that basement. But it’s pretty heavy. One of the things going
on is a deep belief that black people
are more criminal. And this starts really with
the moment of emancipation. As soon as slavery
ends– during slavery, black people are not criminal. But magically, as
soon as they’re free, they’re pretty dangerous
and problematic. Well, recent
studies, though, show that whites overestimate the
actual share of burglaries, illegal drug sales, and
juvenile crime committed by African-Americans
by 20% to 30%. If this pattern is confirmed
in widespread implicit bias research, media crime
coverage reinforces this bias. There’s many, many
reports that show that the way black
criminals are portrayed, the emphasis on crimes that
are more likely to be done by blacks but not
by others produce a reinforced relationship
between black people and crime in the psyche. It’s reinforced by higher sales
and status for movies, music, and art that revolves
around African-Americans’ criminal behavior and character. My own work on hip hop– I talk a lot about this– that artists that don’t
talk about being a gangster do not sell as well. And it’s not just because those
stories are more exciting. It’s because they fulfill a
conscious and unconscious sense of authenticity about what
black people are really supposed to be. And it justifies draconian
policing policies, and most important for what
I want to do next, it drives housing and
schooling decisions. So I don’t have time to
go into this at the depth that I wanted to. But this is– if you
take the housing gear, you will see that there are lots
of policies, past and present, that have had a deep impact
on what we have always seen in the housing
arena, which is significant segregation
and significant economic disempowerment. And I would love to give you
an hour long lecture on all of these, but I want to
just very quickly focus on, for the moment, the pivotal
nature of a process called redlining. How many of you know
what redlining is? Excellent. I don’t need to spent
a lot of time on it. So just for the sake of
just a couple of key factors here– one, it was a
government policy New Deal. So democratic, so
don’t get all grumpy if you’re a Democrat trying
to blame somebody else. Democratic policy meant
to help communities be funded for housing
was racially specific and was a corporate
collaboration because this was a homeowner
loan corporation founded by the government. Color coded– created a system. Why we call it redlining
is that neighborhoods that were considered red and
a red perimeter around them were neighborhoods where any
black people lived even only one were marked in red given
the lowest rating on the system and ruled completely ineligible
for home or business loans. This goes on– I’m born not too long
before ’77 but long enough to say that this is actually
going on consistently across the country
uninterrupted, and this is just one piece
of the puzzle creating a number of factors that
are extremely important. Not only is it starving
black communities of economic resources. It’s elevating the
wider the community is. It’s creating a
financial incentive for white homogeneity. You following me? This is very important
because it itself produces thinking about race
because you’re like, well, whiteness has value. Oh, that’s right
here’s my white house. Basically, in my
white neighborhood and my white school,
it’s more valuable. Of course, it’s more valuable. It’s more important. It’s more valuable. And you’ve got a
reciprocal process. So let me just very– this
is the most important thing I want to have us think about
today is this relationship. So redlining and other
strategies that maintain segregation. They choked off the value of any
investing in black communities and suppressed the
value of property. And in fact,
gentrification as we know it today is impossible
without the history of redlining and the destruction
of value in poor communities that they themselves should
have been able to access but can’t, and now others
find the prices to be so cheap because this
process been going on. So it created black ghettos
by redlining and constraining and segregating neighborhoods
and creating asset reduction in those communities. It reinforced
associations of blackness with poverty and
struggling community, artificially raised the value of
white neighborhoods in a higher market value,
which in turn fuels educational inequality
and segregation. As we all know, we fund– for those of us who still send
our kids to public schools, that’s another racial and class
effort to create segregation. But taxes fund our
educational units, and therefore if you have higher
property values for your house, you have more money
for your schools. So there’s an
incentive to pass this on intergenerational wealth
through education alone, not to mention passing on these
homes to our children. Which does what? Funds their college. Weather financial crisis,
weather health crises. If you don’t have excellent
health coverage for some reason and your child is doing
some entrepreneurship, you can cover their health. You can pay for it with second
mortgages with that wealth gap that we talked about– remember, $11,000 in assets
to $142,000 on average. So it rationalizes– I’m
moving down to this one. It rationalizers
white protectionism, protecting white neighborhoods
as safer and profitable. It makes fear of black people
financially reasonable. It stigmatizes
neighborhoods that are diverse no matter how
safe, friendly, or stable. It fuels white self-segregation
and white flight. So I want to talk for a moment
about white flight because– I’m going to skip that slide– because it plays out
over and over again. It’s not just the past
and fixed creation. It’s a pattern that we
find reproducing itself. So this is going to come
up in Sam’s presentation. So I want to just
very quickly show you that this whole logic– the perception, the bias,
the history, the structures, the investments in
whiteness– have created a context in which
20% functions as a tipping point that initiates the
process of white flight. If you’re living in
a neighborhood that’s less than 20% black, whites will
move into that neighborhood, fewer than 20%. So that’s a good thing. But any more than 20%, and
the first thing that happens is whites stop moving in. So it could be 22% to 25%. They did a tremendous study. This comes from a book
called American Apartheid by Massey and Denton– two very distinguished
sociologists, won many awards. If it’s more than 30%, whites
sell their homes and move out. As you can see, if
you think about this, this process creates
segregation in and of itself. So it doesn’t take long that,
when whites stop moving in, other people have to. Somebody moves in. It ends up being nonwhites. The neighborhood eventually
becomes all people of color. So this process can
happen individually. People make their
individual choice. But what happens? They actually produce it. And that means there’s a deep
investment in not being caught in this bigger than
30% neighborhood because we know what the
economic consequences that the market
produces will be. So as you can see here, just
in this brief schematic sense that this is a normalized,
legitimized project that happens historically
and interpersonally and institutionally, that
routinely advantages whites by providing a cumulative
and chronic adverse outcomes. Now, what Sam is
going to do today is share a specific case
that we worked on together to explain how this plays out
on the ground more specifically. And because we’re
running out of time, I won’t tell you his
fantastic pedigree. But I’ll tell you in
the Q&A. Please join me in welcoming Sam Rosen. [APPLAUSE] SAM ROSEN: OK. Hi, everyone. Good morning. And thank you, Professor Rose. Oh, thank you. So Professor Rose
just gave an overview of the theoretical
framework for this project. What I’m going to
do now is show how structural racism
works in the context of a life and a community. And for this, we’ve
chosen a well-known case– the story of Trayvon Martin. Let’s briefly review
what happened. Trayvon Martin was
a black 17-year-old who was killed by a man named
George Zimmerman on a Sunday night in February of 2012 while
walking back to his father’s house in Florida. Trayvon’s death and
Zimmerman’s murder trial both received extensive media
attention, most of which centered around Zimmerman’s
possible motivations and Trayvon’s character. Most media focused
on the micro details to explain what happened
instead of focusing on the larger
structural forces that set the stage for this tragedy. Behind me is a cover
that People Magazine ran after Trayvon’s
death, and I want to direct your attention
to the subtitle in the bottom left, which I’ve
reprinted next to the cover. It reads, quote “an unarmed
17-year-old is killed in a Florida neighborhood. How a chance encounter turned
deadly, leaving a family devastated and a
country outraged.” Now, that caption may seem
totally innocuous to you, but we actually think that it’s
hugely significant because it captures the core framing, the
nearly universal common sense thinking about this case
and recent others like it. People Magazine called
the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and
George Zimmerman a chance encounter. And in some ways, this is true. But on another level, this
encounter wasn’t random at all. What I want to
illuminate for you today is that, despite
widespread media framing that
suggested otherwise, the deadly encounter between
Trayvon and Zimmerman was significantly shaped
by structural racism. I want to talk in particular
about how structural racism and the ideas
about black people that justify it shape their
encounter in three key areas– in housing, in criminal
justice, and in schools. In each of these areas,
evidence of structural racism was largely ignored
or misinterpreted through the lens of
racial stereotypes and individual behavior. And I also want to show
that the factors that shaped Trayvon Martin’s life and
death are by no means specific only to him or to his community. They’re, instead, key components
of how structural racism works in the United States. Trayvon was shot
while walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s
home at the retreat at Twin Lakes, a
lower middle class gated community in
Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman lived at
Twin Lakes, and he was the captain of the
community’s neighborhood watch program. So what kind of neighborhood
was Zimmerman watching? And why was he watching it? Sanford is a city of about
50,000 in northern Florida, about 30 minutes from Orlando. Both the city of Sanford and
the retreat at Twin Lakes are fairly diverse places. Sanford is about 60%
white and 30% black, and Twin Lakes is about
50% white, 20% latinx, and 20% black. And Sanford has a
median household income of about $38,000. So we’re talking about
a lower middle class area, which is
significant in part because Twin Lakes was built as
an aspirational luxury oasis. These are still frames
from a promotional video for Twin Lakes. This secluded gated
community, the video says, is like living in a resort,
the perfect choice for those looking for space and comfort. In 2004, when Twin
Lakes was built, a 4,500 square foot
townhouse went for $250,000. But in retrospect,
2004 was part of what we would now call
the housing bubble and was a very bad time
to build a gated community of aspirational
luxury townhouses. A few years later, the
Great Recession hit. The housing market collapsed,
and many residents as well as new investors in
Twin Lakes started renting their properties
to cover their mortgages. By 2012, in a pattern
that repeated itself around the country, the same
townhouse that was worth $250,000 eight years earlier
was now worth under $100,000. So in 2012, the
retreat at Twin Lakes is a community on
an emotional edge. But it was also on
another kind of edge. In her presentation,
Professor Rose explained that, due to whites’
negative racial perceptions of black people, whites stop
moving into a neighborhood once it’s above 20% black
and move out of neighborhoods that are over 30% black. So the retreat at
Twin Lakes, which is 20% black and located in
Sanford, which is 30% black sat right on the
threshold where whites have decided a neighborhood
is becoming too black or not white enough. And this racial tipping
point, as you recall, has economic consequences. Because of the
higher market value attached to white
neighborhoods, white flight accelerates declines in property
values, which in turn leads to more white flight. White flight stems
in part from whites unfounded, yet widespread,
hyper-association with black people as criminals. And Twin Lakes demonstrated this
ideology in textbook fashion. In the 14 months before
Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, there were an estimated
45 burglaries or attempted burglaries at Twin Lakes. Reuters reported
that, of those 45, only three were known to
be carried out or attempted by black men. In the summer of
2011, the summer before Zimmerman
killed Trayvon, there was a small wave of
burglaries at Twin Lakes, including a particularly
well publicized one where a mother and her child
had to lock themselves in a room while two burglars
ransacked their home. Without any statistical evidence
to back up their claims, residents talking to reporters
in the aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin
described a community besieged by black criminals. One neighbor said quote, “there
were black boys robbing houses in the neighborhood.” That’s why George was
suspicious of Trayvon Martin. Another resident told
a different reporter that neighborhood burglaries
were being committed primarily by quote “young black males.” in the fall of 2011, just after
this small wave of robberies, Twin Lakes decided to
form a neighborhood watch. And George Zimmerman
volunteered to be the captain. In many ways, though,
George Zimmerman had already been the
unofficial watchdog of this gated community. He moved into Twin
Lakes in 2009. And in the two plus years
between when he moved in and when he killed
Trayvon, Zimmerman called the police incessantly
to report all sorts of things. But during the summer
of 2011, the focus of Zimmerman’s calls to
police narrowed significantly, specifically, the Tampa
Bay Times reported, “He started to
fixate on black men he thought looked suspicious.” Often this was reported
as an individual fixation of Zimmerman’s. And it may really have been
one, but Zimmerman’s behavior embodied an irrational
racial paranoia that appeared to be
widespread at Twin Lakes and is certainly widespread
around the country. So you have a neighborhood
which has been made fragile by the financial
housing sector, and one that is made additionally
fragile because of the market penalties attached to
a diverse neighborhood, sitting right on what, for
whites, is that crucial 20% racial tipping
point, a point that activates white racial anxiety. And in Zimmerman,
you have a resident who has been operationalizing
this racial anxiety, who also has an intimate knowledge of
the racial dimensions of housing values thanks to a career
spent in real estate and working for a mortgage
company, who then volunteers to be the captain of
the neighborhood watch and sees a black
teenager walking through the gated community
alone on a Sunday night. Zimmerman pursues
Trayvon in his car, and then eventually gets
out and confronts him even though the police
dispatch he called specifically instructed him not to
approach Trayvon at all. Zimmerman chases Trayvon. And when he catches him,
the two of them struggle. And then Zimmerman shoots
and kills Trayvon Martin. He admits this to police
immediately when they arrive. Trayvon was unarmed, and it’s
clear from the 911 transcripts that Zimmerman
instigated the encounter. And yet Zimmerman isn’t
charged with any crime. Police take a statement,
and they let him go home. And it’s during the six weeks
that Zimmerman goes uncharged that this killing
becomes national news. It wasn’t just that
Zimmerman shot Trayvon. It was that he had done
it, admitted to it, and then been
allowed to walk free. Why did Zimmerman go uncharged
for a month and a half? Well, there are a lot
of ways that the killing of black people has been
excused and legitimized. But one reason
was that Zimmerman was able to invoke a new Florida
law called Stand Your Ground, a law that was created in 2005
with the support of the NRA and gun retailers and is now
law in some form in 33 states. Stand Your Ground
basically extends what’s called the castle doctrine. Since basically the
beginning of its existence, the United States has
had the castle doctrine, as in a man’s home
is his castle, which is adapted from
English Common Law. It essentially
says that, if there is an intruder in
your home, you’re allowed to kill that person
even if it’s possible for you to escape. A century ago, Judge
Benjamin Cardozo, who later became a
Supreme Court Justice, described the castle
doctrine like this– a man quote “if assailed at
home, may stand his ground and resist the attack. He is under no duty to take to
the fields and the highways, a fugitive in his own home.” What Stand Your
Ground did was widely expand the castle doctrine. Under Stand Your Ground,
anyone who’s attacked, anywhere he or she is lawfully
present has quote “no duty to retreat and has the right
to stand his or her ground and meet force with
force, including deadly force, if he
or she reasonably believes that it’s necessary
to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm.” So before, the castle
doctrine allowed lethal force to protect people
inside their own homes. Now, in states that have
passed Stand Your Ground, we allow it wherever
someone is legally present. Your castle is now
anywhere you happen to be and your reasonable
belief in your own danger can justify killing
another person. But is this reasonable
belief standard race neutral? Let’s look at some of the data. This chart shows
how likely it is that a killing will be
deemed justified based on the race of the
shooter and the victim, using white on white killings
as the zero baseline. So a black person killing
a black person on the left is less likely to be
seen as justified. And a black person
killing a white person is far less likely to be
seen as justified compared to a white person who
kills a white person. But as you can see from
the data on the far right, when whites kill black people,
they are 2 and 1/2 times more likely to be
seen as justified. And in Stand Your Ground states,
which is this tall purple bar, that number is even bigger. Whites are 3 and 1/2 times more
likely to be found justified if they kill a black person
instead of a white one. Put in the language
of the law itself, white on black killings in
Stand Your Ground states are significantly
more likely to be seen as stemming from a
reasonable fear, the kind of fear that George Zimmerman
invoked when he chased, confronted, and killed an
unarmed Trayvon Martin. Now legally, Stand
Your Ground was not supposed to be part of
Zimmerman’s defense trial because both sides
agreed that the details of the physical struggle
between him and Trayvon made the law inapplicable. But it didn’t need to be in
order to serve its purpose. The media talked so much
about Stand Your Ground as a mitigating
factor, and the defense used the phrase stand
your ground repeatedly during argument. And so it appears that
jurors, whose racial bias were no different than anyone else’s,
were confused and apparently used the racially
inflicted logic of Stand Your Ground anyway. After the verdict,
one juror told CNN that the jury did
acquit Zimmerman in part because of Stand
Your Ground which exposed a shocking
misunderstanding of the law’s role in the case, but a
keen sense of its role in our society. And one of the tragic
ironies of this killing is that, while Trayvon
fell victim in Sanford to one kind of
criminalization, he was actually there in part
to escape another kind of criminalization. Trayvon didn’t live
primarily in Sanford. He lived and went to school
in Miami four hours south. The night he was killed
was a school night, but Trayvon was in
Sanford with his father because he had been
suspended from school and didn’t need to be back
in Miami the next morning. The suspension that led Trayvon
to stay in Sanford with his dad was his third of the year. His first was for tardiness. His second was for writing
the acronym WTF on a walker, and his third was for
possessing a bag that had marijuana residue on it. Now, this might seem to
you to be cut and dry. Trayvon broke the rules,
and so he was suspended. And his suspension was
often cited in the media as proof of troubled behavior. But it’s quite a bit
more ambiguous than that. Krop High, Trayvon’s school,
has detailed guidelines for which offenses warrant
which types of punishment. Now, these guidelines
themselves are quite draconian, but even if we set
that aside for now, it’s clear from the details
of Trayvon’s suspensions that he was treated unfairly
even by his school’s zone standards. On the table behind me
there are three columns. The left is Trayvon’s offense. In the center is the punishment
that offense warrants according to his
school zone guidelines. And on the right
is the punishment that Trayvon actually got. As you can see, Trayvon’s
first two offenses shouldn’t have resulted
in suspensions at all. For his third, he got
the maximum suspension for an offense that appears
to be one of the least serious drug offenses possible. So by punishing
him excessively and against the established
rules, his school created a pattern
of offenses which then snowballed and justified
a stiff penalty for the one actual offense. Now, the tricky thing about
looking at structural racism through the lens of one
student’s suspensions is that there is obviously
a lot of ambiguity and subjectivity involved. We can say for sure that
Trayvon’s first two suspensions weren’t warranted, but there may
be additional context we simply don’t know about. But when we put Trayvon
in a larger context, we see some worrisome patterns. Since the 1970s, the percentage
of students suspended from school has doubled,
and black students have been suspended
disproportionately. Today, black students
are suspended at three times the
rate of white students and twice as often
as latinx students. The most heavily suspended
students are black, male, and disabled. And black students aren’t
just over suspended. They’re also judged
more punitively for the same exact
behavior when compared to their peers of other races. In Okaloosa County, where
Krop is located, roughly 50% of school arrests
involve black students, even though they make up only
12% of the school population. At Krop High, Trayvon’s
school specifically, the data is similar. Nearly 50% of Krop
suspensions are given to black
students who account for only under a quarter of the
student population as a whole. Trayvon’s suspensions
were discussed ad nauseum in the media. but
almost always as legitimate and an examination
of his character, not an examination of
the school, its policies, and his treatment by
the adults around him. This is one of the key ways
structural racism works. It posits that racial
disparities are the product not of systems, but of black
individuals’ behavior and then primes people to
search for evidence of behavior that can account
for the disparity. This erasure of the workings
of structural racism and the use of behaviorally
focused racial stereotyping was present in all of the other
issues I’ve talked about today. Let’s take a quick look
at some of the headlines from stories about the case
to get a sense of the pattern. NBC says, Trayvon Martin
suspended from school three times. New York Magazine
says, FBI sources say George Zimmerman
isn’t racist. USA Today– Trayvon Martin
typical teen or troublemaker? CBS, George Zimmerman used
a racial slur in a bar. And the New York Times says,
defense in the Trayvon Martin case raises questions about
the victim’s character. All of these headlines
draw our attention to questions of
individual behavior as a way of explaining
what happened, and they draw our attention
away from important racially discriminatory forces
and perceptions. What I hope I’ve conveyed today
is that Trayvon Martin’s death was the product of much more
than what People Magazine Called a chance encounter. It was the product of structural
racism in three key areas– in housing, it was the product
of racialized fears about crime and neighborhood prosperity. In criminal justice,
it was the product of a legal logic which
legitimize the killing and demonized the victim. And in schools,
it was the product of the racially targeted
application of draconian school policy. The microlevel,
interpersonal details of these cases of
course do matter. But the way we’ve explained
what happened to Trayvon Martin hides how structural racism
works and the damage it does. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] TRICIA ROSE: We have
just a few minutes. And I took a little
bit too much time. Forgive me, but I
want to make sure we give a chance
for conversation. Yes. AUDIENCE: This has been
[INAUDIBLE] everything that’s happening right now
today, being put in the context of
[INAUDIBLE] of that’s been going on for hundreds of years. But it feels almost like
there was a reversal. Oh, sorry. TRICIA ROSE: That’s OK. I think they’re taping it. So I’m just trying to– AUDIENCE: It feels
like there was a reversal in the 60s or 70s. Am I just imagining that? That things were at least
heading in the right direction? It felt like things
were heading– to me, it felt like things were
heading in the right direction until a couple of years ago. But now it feels like
maybe things were heading in the right direction
until the 60s or 70s, and then got reversed. Or is that just my
imagination and it’s never been heading in
the right direction? TRICIA ROSE: Well,
it’s been a struggle. People have worked
very hard to try to make significant changes
in this anti-housing discrimination. We have had affirmative action
for quite a while there, trying to make head roads. But there’s also always
been tremendous resistance. And that hasn’t been just
by rabid right wingers, but by people who
can’t distinguish between their privilege and
the myth of meritocracy. And because of
that, there’s a lot of resentment and frustration. That’s part of the
point of this project, is to really explain that– to really recalibrate
that perception. The 60s were a profound, radical
moment in American history and Civil Rights
Movement was critical, Women’s Rights Movement, etc. But I don’t want us
to romanticize it because it was one of
many radical periods in which change was made– I mean, Emancipation
Proclamation would certainly count
among my many highlights. And yet there’s always been
resistance– the black codes and the undermining over time. So that’s how I would think
about that if that helps. But thank you very much. AUDIENCE: This is [INAUDIBLE]. TRICIA ROSE: Oh thank you. I really appreciate it. Yes, go ahead,
keep, and then I’ll get you to bring
you the mic, sir. Go ahead. AUDIENCE: Hi, Professor Rosen. I’m sorry, I’m Sam– Sam. And thank you so much for a
very, very, very enriching presentation. I have a question about
the potential for Americans in this moment to acknowledge
their prejudices– not necessarily a time to
shift their ideologies, but see how dismantling
structural racism can strengthen our
nation economically and in terms of infrastructure. What are your
thoughts about that? TRICIA ROSE: Well, my husband
is a philosopher of religion. He’s been working
on the idea of hope. And so I have been forced
to think about these things because, I mean, ultimately
this is a project with us with a kind of
hope at the bottom. I don’t think the
chances are super high. But I know that if we
don’t make an effort, it will definitely be worse. So– AUDIENCE: Do you think
that our minds potentially in terms of the logic
that says that perhas if you don’t basically– AUDIENCE: Yeah, that
the self-interest will– it’s very hard to undo the short
term advantages of whiteness in the consciousness. It’s like climate change. It’s hard to see the
long term consequences. And then frankly, if
you have a society in which certain structures
keep privileges operative, it’s not guaranteed that
their outcomes will personally be worse. Societies will be worse. So we really need to
help ourselves see our interconnection as human
beings in a fundamental way so that we can separate that
from what might be private advantages– the top, top,
top 1% doesn’t really– it doesn’t have any
relationship to any of this. And I think that’s
important to undo. But thank you. That’s a great question. This gentleman has the mic. He’s next, and I’ll
bring it to you. AUDIENCE: I have a
question about white flight and the percentages. If I were thinking of moving
into a new neighborhood, how would I know what
the percentages were? What do the researchers say? Is it from the real estate
community saying that or so on. TRICIA ROSE: That’s
a great question. AUDIENCE: Second thing, I
have an alternative, perhaps, explanation. You mentioned that
people feel less safe the blacker community is. But when we did this little
survey here and found the social networks of
predominantly white people here with blacks,
1% was the number. So if I were a young parent
moving into a new community and I knew that the
percentage of blacks was a lot higher than
what I’m used to, and if I myself have very
few blacks in my network, wouldn’t I say,
well, there are going to be fewer friends for
my kids to be around with or for me to make friends
because my friends are mostly white and I want a
wider community to move into? TRICIA ROSE: Yeah, so what
you’re saying is that– nice, thank you. What you’re saying
is that the existence of a kind of expectation
of homogeneity that’s reinforced
in social networks also builds discomfort
with those numbers. It’s not all by itself because
other groups don’t produce that same level of response. So for example Asian-Americans
don’t elicit that response. And they don’t say, oh, I
have no friends for my kids. It’s about the way a particular
response to blackness generates that. But part of it is just the
texture and the feeling. It’s really about how many
black people do you run into. I mean, if you’re of
color, you know when you’re in an all white world. You wander around most of
the time thinking, huh, I’m the only black
person for like miles. Or, huh, let me
look around the room before I say the
black thing– is there another black person in here? I mean, I guarantee you. There’s nobody of
color here who has not done the head swivel,
like, OK, got it. I’m just going to
lay low about this. So the point I’m saying here
is that you get a feeling, you get a sense,
and that that has been justified by the numbers. And the data would take
too long to explain. But it’s an accessible book
called American Apartheid. So it’s an easy
title to remember. I’d recommend you check it out. Yeah, thank you. Yes. AUDIENCE: If we only seem
to be making progress through radical movements or
proclamations for example, what do you see is
the next opportunity? Do you think that the
current president might be able to precipitate something
so awful that– [laughter] TRICIA ROSE: Yeah, I know. I like– I like– AUDIENCE: And we can
make some progress. TRICIA ROSE: Yeah,
you’re hopeful. It’s a hopeful spirit there. Thank you, Jamal. He’s another one of
my great students who’s doing great things now. That’s fantastic. Anyway, I think you’re the
most hopeful guy in the room. You’re like,
destruction could lead to success, which I kind of like
because we don’t have a choice. We might as well try to
look for opportunities while we have them. It’s not that I think
success is impossible. I think the downside
of this project is that, because
it illuminates just how profound the
system is, it can be hard to see opportunities. So one of the things that,
if we had another hour and what the book and maybe
this website these videos and– I don’t know– a
dance performance. I mean, I’m adding too
many things as we go here. But one of the advantages– one
of the things the project will look at is what are
the linchpins, what are the places
between these gears that we might be able
to really have leverage, and what are the
successful responses. But we also think
that why Sam did this terrific research
on how Trayvon happened is that we have a lot of power
to change the public stories we tell. Every time you see that
story, because you’ve seen it 100 times since
Trayvon was murdered, don’t let it happen. Social media is very powerful. So our other media response that
we can have to basically refuse this individualistic narrative. And if we can transform
people’s comfort with that– what was this anomaly,
this one bad apple, one crazy crackpot guy
named George Zimmerman, which he might well
also be, but he’s channeling a set of ideas and
values that are widely held and that are acted
out institutionally. So that’s where my hope lies,
is in conveying this enough to people who are smart and
well-meaning and invested and to help them see how
their own position is related to this process. And we have power that
isn’t just governmental, that we can actually change
our collective attitudes. Does that help? Yes. Any other last–
yes, go ahead, hun. AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. And this was really important
to me and educational. I learned a lot. I thought I knew something,
but I guess I didn’t. [laughs] I am from Georgia
originally, but I’ve lived here in Rhode
Island a lot of my life. And I’ve seen
neighborhoods in Georgia go from all white
to all black a lot. And this is a tough
question to deal with, but there is that
thing out there that says blacks destroy
the neighborhood. And so I’m trying to come
to some understanding in my own heart and my
head about, is that true, and if it is, is it because
black are uneducated in terms of taking care of properties– this is a difficult
one, but I’d like to hear some thoughts on it. TRICIA ROSE: Yeah, I
can– first, let me say, I do not have adequate time to
address this question properly. So if you hear of major gaps,
guaranteed I agree with you. So let me just try to
do a one minute version. Both things can be held
true at the same time– that the turnover
of neighborhood can reduce the property values
for structural reasons that have nothing to do with the
behaviors of individuals, but it can also have
to do with the fact that histories of
economic strangling can really reduce the
ability of black communities to keep up their property. So for example, higher– I didn’t even get
into the question of penalties around mortgages. Subprime lending to people who
are qualified for proper loans means they don’t
have adequate equity to improve their property. So even if they knew how to
do it and wanted to do it, they don’t have the resources. Then when the market crashes,
which it continually does and the people at the
bottom who are fragile have to take in tenants. That produces transients. And so structured into these
processes are fragilities, but it is also true
that some black people, like poor white people, like
people of all backgrounds, are not perfect. This is not some noble
African-American story. Of course there are
people who do crime. There are people who don’t
take care of their property. But I guarantee
you, when you really look at that from a
much more critical mind, you will see that, first of all,
whites do it about just as much and they don’t get a
group penalty for it. They’re understood as in
need of our assistance to give them opportunities. So I’m not here in
the business of saying that this is the noble group
and they’re just so perfect. Of course there are flaws. And I guarantee
you, if any group of people who faced what
black Americans have faced since the transatlantic
slave trade, would have as many crises
as black people have, some of which are eventually
partially of their own making. That may very well be true. But you can’t tell me that 350
years of this kind of process is not something we’re
collectively responsible for. And it will make us all better
if we own that up and fix it. We better go. I know you’ve got
other fora to go to. Thank you so much. And thanks, Sam, for
doing a great job. [APPLAUSE]

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