Black Studies

Race, Gender, and Politics: Dangerous Frames

March 17, 2008
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Race, Gender, and Politics: Dangerous Frames

Nicholas J. G. Winter is publishing his book, Dangerous Frames: How Ideas about Race and Gender Shape Public Opinion at the perfect time, just as these issues are getting their most concrete expression in the political sphere. We asked him to reflect on the the Democratic presidential race in light of the ideas he explores in his book. The historic presence in the Democratic primary race of both the first woman and the first African American with serious shots at a major party nomination has understandably brought lots of media attention to the roles of gender and race in Americans’ political thinking and voting. Much of this coverage obscures rather than clarifies those roles. On the one hand, commentators ask whether black and female voters support “one of their own.” Do black voters support Obama? Do women support Clinton? On the other hand, others ask some version of the question “Are Americans more racist or more sexist?” Is gender more fundamental to American social structure, or is racism more centrally embedded in American politics. More concretely, will white male swing voters be more disinclined to vote for a woman or an African American man in the general election? . . .

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Press Release: Rowley, Richard Wright

February 13, 2008
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Press Release: Rowley, Richard Wright

Consistently an outsider—a child of the fundamentalist South with an eighth-grade education, a self-taught intellectual, a black man married to a white woman—Richard Wright nonetheless became the unparalleled voice of his time. The first full-scale biography of the author best known for his searing novels Black Boy and Native Son, Richard Wright: The Life and Times brings the man and his work—in all their complexity and distinction—to vibrant life. Acclaimed biographer Hazel Rowley chronicles Wright’s unprecedented journey from a sharecropper’s shack in Mississippi to Chicago’s South Side to international renown as a writer and outspoken critic of racism. Drawing on journals, letters, and eyewitness accounts, Richard Wright probes the author’s relationships with Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison, his attraction to Communism, and his so-called exile in France. Skillfully interweaving quotes from Wright’s own writings, Rowley deftly portrays a passionate, courageous, and flawed man who would become one of our most enduring literary figures. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Pager, Marked

October 1, 2007
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Review: Pager, Marked

The online e-zine PopMatters is running an interesting review of Devah Pager’s new book Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Like much of the other press this book has been receiving lately, the review focuses on Pager’s revealing analysis of the links between the U. S. penal system and the deep rooted racial and economic inequalities in the U. S. job market. PopMatters reviewer Steve Horowitz writes: Most Americans find the idea of serving two punishments for the one crime unfair, yet according to Princeton Professor of Sociology Devah Pager, this happens all the time. A person spends time in jail, and then suffers from the stigma of incarceration after being released.… This isn’t news to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the justice system. However, Pager extends her analysis one step further through an experimental field study in metropolitan Milwaukee. She sends out pairs of young men with matched resumes on job searches for employment and makes some startling discoveries. The Princeton professor shows that employers regularly exclude ex-offenders from consideration for entry-level, low-paying jobs, and provides strong evidence that the situation for young black men is significantly worse than for their . . .

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Press Release: Pager, Marked

September 28, 2007
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Press Release: Pager, Marked

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Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

September 27, 2007
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Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

The Boston Globe‘s Christopher Shea wrote an interesting piece for last Sunday’s paper on America’s growing prison system and its formative impact on American society. In his article, Shea details the revealing social experiment in Devah Pager’s new book, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration, to show how the American penal system has become an “engine of inequality … actively the gap between the poor—especially poor black men—and everyone else.” Shea continues: In an ideal penal system, prisoners might exit the system having paid their debt to society and be more or less restored to their previous status as free men and women. But Pager’s book demonstrates just how detached from reality that view is. She had four college students, two black and two white, pose as applicants for low-level jobs in Milwaukee.… They used résumés that were nearly identical—high school degrees, steady progress from entry-level work to a supervisory position—except that in some cases the applicant had a drug conviction in his past… for which he served an 18-month sentence and then behaved perfectly on parole.… In her field study, Pager found that her black applicants with criminal records got called for . . .

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Review: Pager, Marked

August 29, 2007
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Review: Pager, Marked

Daniel Lazare has written a fascinating review of several books on America’s growing prison crisis for Monday’s edition of the Nation. According to Lazare, the U.S. prison system currently incarcerates about a quarter of the world’s prisoners with “about 3.2 percent of the adult population under some form of criminal-justice supervision.” And for African Americans, Lazare writes, “the numbers are even more astonishing. By the mid-1990s, 7 percent of black males were behind bars, while the rate of imprisonment for black males between the ages of 25 and 29 now stands at one in eight.” But according to Lazare this is only half the problem; what happens after this large, racially disparate prison population is released to face the prospects of finding a job and living without crime? Lazare turns to Devah Pager’s new book, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration for the answer: In Marked, Devah Pager, who also teaches sociology at Princeton, uses a simple technique to show how mass incarceration has undone the small amount of racial progress achieved in the 1960s and ’70s. Working with two pairs of male college students in Milwaukee, one white and the other black, she . . .

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The South Side as Sociological Specimen

August 6, 2007
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The South Side as Sociological Specimen

In a recent article for the Chicago Tribune staff reporter Ron Grossman delivers a fascinating account of the long legacy of sociological study that has used Chicago’s South Side as its laboratory. Grossman begins his article by mentioning one of the latest additions to this legacy, Mary Pattillo’s Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City. Her book, like those of the many other sociologists who have chosen to study the South Side’s unique black urban communities, focuses on the sharp divides in race, class, and culture that can be found in the area’s neighborhoods. But it also explores a growing phenomena in Chicago’s South Side communities, the black urban middle class. Examining the social impact of the gentrification of neighborhoods that have for years been home to some of the city’s poorest residents, Pattillo’s book continues to break new ground in one of the most often studied urban neighborhoods in America. You can read Grossman’s article online at the Tribune website, or navigate to the press’s site to find out more about Pattillo’s fascinating new book, as well as read an excerpt. . . .

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Mary Pattillo on the future of Chicago’s black urban communties

July 24, 2007
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Mary Pattillo on the future of Chicago’s black urban communties

Mary Pattillo, author of the recently published Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City, penned a fascinating op-ed piece for Sunday’s Chicago Tribune on the rapidly changing face of Chicago’s black urban communities. Pattillo’s article begins: “No more blacks.” That was the forecast of a resident of the Oakland community when asked about the future of her South Side neighborhood. “No more blacks?” I responded, worried in no small part because my research is about black gentrification. “ couple of blacks” would be left, the woman then allowed. “They got money. This simple prediction is rich with meaning. For one thing, it helps establish the players in the widespread upscaling of Chicago: The little man. The middleman. And then, The Man. The prediction also lays out what’s at stake, not just in Oakland and North Kenwood on the South Side, but in various Chicago neighborhoods. In the process of “building, breaking, rebuilding” the City of the Big Shoulders, as Chicago’s poet Carl Sandburg so eloquently put it, who is going to keep the little man from being left behind? Are Chicago’s shoulders big enough to serve, include and celebrate everyone? Pattillo’s article seems to . . .

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Review: Pattillo, Black on the Block

June 26, 2007
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Review: Pattillo, Black on the Block

The Chicago Reader recently ran an insightful analysis of Mary Pattillo’s new book, Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City. Reviewer Harold Henderson reflects on how Pattillo’s participant-observer study of Chicago’s North Kenwood—Oakland neighborhood reveals a tangled network of competing interests, even within the community itself, that if left unresolved make any predictions as to the future of the neighborhood and its inhabitants uncertain at best. Henderson writes: Mayor Daley’s brave new Chicago doesn’t work for everyone. Eric Klinenberg tried to make this point five years ago with Heat Wave, his examination of who suffered and how during a 1995 natural disaster. Now Northwestern University sociologist Mary Pattillo nails it with Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City … She traces North Kenwood—Oakland’s fortunes from late-19th-century prosperity to 1970s poverty and back to relative prosperity, then focuses on the uneasy position of the growing population of middle-class black professionals, who often find themselves acting as brokers between “the Man” downtown and the “littlemen” back in the hood.… After two decades of gentrification the neighborhood has three new schools, less public housing, less crime, and a booming real-estate market. . . .

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Mary Patillo on Eight Forty-Eight

May 17, 2007
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Mary Patillo on Eight Forty-Eight

Author Mary Pattillo was featured Tuesday on Chicago Public Radio’s daily news-radio talk show Eight Forty-Eight. Pattillo speaks with host Richard Steele about her new book Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City and the revitalization of Chicago’s North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood. Their conversation explores the problems facing this rapidly gentrifying black community to touch on broader issues of race and class in contemporary urban America. You can find archived audio of the show on the Chicago Public Radio website. Pattillo will also be at 57th Street Books today at 7pm to read from her book. In the meantime, you can check out an excerpt on our website. . . .

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