Category Archives: Race and Ethnicity

Minority Reports: Asian Americans in Class and at Work

Sharp-eyed readers will recognize a well-known character from an acclaimed NBC 2006-10 drama in this TIME cover photo taken in 1987.

Regular Session on Asians and Asian Americans: Economic and Educational Processes. ‘Discrimination and Psychological Distress among Asian Americans: Exploring the Moderating Effect of Education’ (Wei Zhang, University of Hawaii; PhD, UT-Austin, 2008); ‘Are Asian American Women Advantaged? Labor Market Performances of College Educated Female Workers’ (ChangHwan Kim, University of Kansas; PhD, UT-Austin, 2006).

Zhang and Kim, respectively, revealed surprising findings about correlations between education level and psychological distress from discrimination, and between nationality and workplace inequality, among Asians and Asian Americans.

Zhang discovered that Asian Americans with higher levels of education experience more psychological distress from racial discrimination than those with lower levels of education. In addition, Asian Americans who received their education outside the US experience more distress from discrimination than those who received their education Stateside. One possible explanation is the disparity between others’ perception of the individual and the individual’s self-perception or expectation is exacerbated when the individual’s education level contributes negatively to his or her cognitive stress.

Wei Zhang (University of Hawaii; PhD 2008, UT-Austin) presenting during session.

Studying Asian and Asian American women in the workplace, Kim found that Asian American women do not hold an advantage over Asian-born women working Stateside in terms of employment, compensation and professional upward mobility, and both fare worse than white women in these aspects.

These results show the real discriminations and inequalities that Asians and Asian Americans face are often overlooked in favor of a model-minority stereotype that emphasizes only the positivity of educational attainment and cultural assimilation while ignoring their stress effects in context with other psychological and economic factors, and that, perhaps, it is still a ways to a racial and socioeconomic utopia realized.

The Obamas and the New Politics of Race

With the 2012 US presidential election campaign in full swing, the meaning and significance of Barack Obama and his presidency are once again in the spotlight. Has the election of Barack Obama served as the watershed moment for American politics and race relations that many predicted? A number of experts in the field of critical race theory attempt to answer this question in a special issue of Qualitative Sociology: The Obamas and the New Politics of Race, published by Springer and available to the general public. This series of six articles showcases the most recent critical sociological work on race, racism, and politics through the lens of Barack Obama’s presidency.

One article provides a timely examination of how the concept of “family” has been used to both address and mask social inequalities generally, and racial inequalities in particular. In her article entitled “Just another American story? The first Black First Family,” former American Sociological Association president Patricia Hill Collins shows—by highlighting their own “family stories” during the 2008 campaign and in the post-election years—how the Obamas have been able to reintroduce race, gender, labor and equality into public policy discussions in a time when such debates are often deemed risky.

Public debate over Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy as President is analyzed by Mississippi State University Professor Matthew Hughey, in his article, “Show me your papers! Obama’s birth and the whiteness of belonging.” Hughey identifies “birtherism” – the belief that by virtue of birthright, Obama is disqualified from presidential office – as a practice informed by the history of slavery. According to Hughey, much of what is “new” about the politics of race and racism is oriented around discussions of citizenship, belonging, authenticity and identity. Hughey concludes that while Obama may be a legal citizen, he is still viewed by some as an equivocal American, suggesting that the question of who is “the real” Obama will remain a factor in the 2012 election.

Wellesley College professor Michael Jeffries’s article “Mutts like me: multiracial students’ perceptions of Barack Obama,” explores how other multiracial US citizens understand Obama’s racial identity, race and “race relations.” In his interviews with multiracial students, Jefferies finds that respondents reject the concept of “post-racial idealism” and do not view Obama’s election as signaling an end to racism. Instead, Obama is viewed predominantly as black rather than multiracial, even though his multiracial origins are acknowledged. His findings suggest that racial schemas birthed by nineteenth century racial science continue to have a powerful effect in shaping popular perceptions of race today.

The election of Barack Obama—and his bid for re-election in November 2012—allow us to consider how race and race relations have, or have not, changed; both in and outside of the electoral sphere. With a synoptic essay on the multiple meanings of Barack Obama and the Obama family in a putative post-racial age by guest editors Simone Browne and Ben Carrington of The University of Texas at Austin, the June issue of Qualitative Sociology demonstrates the importance of critical sociological analyses for understanding contemporary racial speculation in US politics. This issue is essential reading for anyone interested in how the wider cultural politics of race shaped the 2008 US Presidential election, the current election, and the future of race in the US.

Qualitative Sociology, Special issue: The Obamas and the New Politics of Race, Vol. 35, No.2. The special issue is freely available online to the general public here.

UT Blackademics: Embracing New Media by Shantel G. Buggs

Last semester, I had the opportunity to join a steering committee to develop a new graduate-level “action research” course in UT’s African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) Department. In our weekly meetings, several other graduate students from various departments, myself, and our fearless leader, Dr. Kevin Foster, would break down our vision for “Black Studies in the Age of New Media,” always with an emphasis on how we could utilize various social media platforms within the course as well as to achieve the course’s ultimate goals: dissemination of scholarly work from Black faculty at UT beyond the 40 Acres and establishing a new way to engage with the community, both locally and nationally.

All of the work the steering committee put in during last semester came to fruition this spring, with the course culminating in its inaugural event — UT Blackademics — on Thursday night.

The event, consisting of an assortment of brief presentations by UT faculty, was recorded in the KLRU studios on campus (the event will be aired on KLRU in a series of several episodes). Faculty hailed from several UT departments (all of which hold partial appointments in AADS), including Educational Psychology, Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering, Curriculum & Instruction, and Theater & Dance. In true social media fashion, the audience was encouraged to “live tweet” the event using the hashtag #UTBlackademics (check out my Twitter feed here!)

The presentations began with Dr. Kevin Cokley’s assessment of the impact that racial identity has on the academic achievement of Black students. Challenging the rationale that Black students “fear” being perceived as “acting white” — which he labeled a gross oversimplification — Dr. Cokley noted that gender and the degree to which an individual’s racial identity was central to their self-concept seemed to have a strong relationship with academic success in college.

Following Dr. Cokley was Dr. Talia McCray, who discussed urban transportation planning and the benefits of active forms of transportation, like walking or biking. Dr. McCray noted that there are gender differences in how spaces (bus stops in this case) are perceived as “safe” or “unsafe,” and that these perceptions then have an influence on behavior. Considering that most of the traveling that people do is within a 20 minute radius of their home, walking or biking would be more sustainable forms of transportation — but how, she asked, do we “nudge” people, especially people living in low-income areas, into participating?

Dr. Foster returned to the stage to discuss the relationship between teaching, research and service in academia. Though it is often encouraged that the focus should be on teaching and research, Dr. Foster argued that engagement with the community can actually make academics better teachers and researchers. As he emphasized through his example of his community outreach work through ICUSP, “We are all thinkers. We are all teachers. We are all learners.”

Lastly, but surely not least, Dr. Omi Jones, aka “Sista Docta,” danced onto the stage accompanied by drums, encouraging the audience to think about what embodiment tells us about blackness. Performing/lecturing on the difficulties for persons of color in academia and the challenges of dealing with students who don’t feel that black feminist thought is for them, she had the audience repeat this refrain of “verbal self-defense”: be careful, your misunderstandings are dangerous.

The entire evening had a great energy about it and I was extremely proud to have played a small part in this event’s existence. As Dr. Foster stated during the brief Q&A session, it is important for events like Blackademics to eventually become normal — presenting Black scholarship and making it accessible shouldn’t be uncommon. Overall, the night was a great success and I can’t wait for the next Blackademics event!

KLRU will be airing episodes at some point in the future. I’ll be sure to post that info when it becomes available!

Shantel G. Buggs is a “Sista Docta in Training” in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include the lifecourse of multiracial individuals, interracial relationships and sexuality.

A response to Makode Linde’s ‘genital mutilation cake performance’ by Letisha Brown

On Sunday April 15th, “the Swedish minister of culture Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth cut in to a large cake shaped like a black woman as part of an art installation which was reportedly meant to highlight the issue of female circumcision” (Jorge Rivas 2012: p.1). Afro-Swedish artist Makode Linde, who acted as the head of the cake, and screamed as each person cut into the black female body created the live art installation. The artist commented on his piece on Facebook saying the following: “Documentation from my female genital mutilation cake performance earlier today at Stockholm moma. This is after getting my vagaga mutilated by the minister of culture, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth. Before cutting me up she whispered “Your life will be better after this” in my ear,” (Rivas 2012: p. 1).
Portraits and video images of the art piece are now circulating on Facebook and Youtube, and sparking much debate about the artistic nature of the piece in light of the blatant racial underpinnings. It is difficult to critique art when freedom of expression is something that is valued within the art world; nevertheless it is hard not to question the validity of Linde’s performance as art. Though the cake reportedly was created as a means of highlighting the controversial issue of female genital mutilation; the ways in which the spectators reacted to the piece, and the lack of critical analysis on the part of the artist give me pause.
What is presented to the public gaze is a naked and grotesque image of a black female body caricatured in a stereotypical manner; being cut into by laughing white faces while the head screams and moans with each stab. The image is one that is graphic in such as a way it is a vivid reminder of the ways in which black female bodies continued to be upheld as spectacles of race. Furthermore, there is much to think about in terms of Linde performing as the screaming head of a woman in the first place. While some have commented, on Facebook and other sites, that the Linde’s African heritage somehow erases the racist underpinning of the performance, I am not convinced.
Watching the video I see only a grotesque presentation that mocks the real suffering of black women, and women of color in general across the globe. Furthermore, the presentation of the cake itself, the blacked face actor screaming, the exaggerated red lips and naked body harken back to stereotypes of old: the blackface minstrel performer, black faced caricatures of black women and men that became collectors items. Taking all of this in with the limited explanation of what he is supposedly concerned with (female genital mutilation), being feed the cake himself, and the laughing smiling faces and constant photographs; it is difficult to view this piece as either art or protest.
Nevertheless, it is not my goal to dominant discussion of this piece, or this topic. Yet and still, I am tired of the black female form once again being taken up as a representation of grotesquierie and spectacle. Watch this video for yourself, comment on this display and the presentation of this as art, but beware of the graphic nature:

Letisha Brown is PhD student in the Department of Sociology at UT-Austin. She is the 2011 winner of the Barbara A. Brown Outstanding Student Paper Award awarded by the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport. She received this honor for her paper, “The Spectacle of Blackness: Race, Representation and the Black Female Athlete.”

Chicken & Soda: Power and Stereotypes in Advertisements

Recently, Burger King has been under fire due to a leaked commercial starring hip-hop singer Mary J. Blige promoting their new crispy chicken wraps.  In the commercial, a customer asks a Burger King cashier what’s in the new crispy chicken wrap, and before she can answer, Blige appears in the dining room and rhapsodizes about “crispy chicken, fresh lettuce, three cheeses, ranch dressing wrapped up in a tasty flour tortilla.”  During the performance, Blige’s vocals are backed by a hip-hop beat and the Burger King slowly transforms from a fast food eatery to a hazy night club, replete with flashing multi-colored lights and patrons getting their groove on.

The ad was quickly picked up as a topic of conversation by our ravenous cyberculture.  Unsurprisingly, most of the attention was focused on the ways in which the ad invokes and promotes black stereotypes in the service of appealing to a black demographic.  As a blogger on Madam Noire put it, “Having a black woman sing about chicken was no mistake. They’re trying to reach the “urban” (aka black) demographic. And God knows black folk, won’t buy anything unless there’s a song, and preferably a dance, attached to it.”  Even Forbes magazine contributed a piece showing how the ad has significantly decreased the standing of Burger King in the African-American population.

In the Burger King ad, racial stereotypes – black people love fried chicken and hip-hop! -are used to try and sell a product to a specific demographic.  By employing these stereotypes, Burger King left itself open to the critique that their representation of the black consumer is essentialist and offensive.  Yet this advertising strategy is not new, and in fact has been successfully employed as recently as last year:

In the ads run by Dr. Pepper in 2011, their new diet drink Dr. Pepper 10 was sold with the tagline “it’s not for women,” and used a variety of masculine stereotypes – Yay action, guns explosions!  Boo romantic comedies and “lady drinks”! – to pitch their product to a specific demographic: men.  In essence – and leaving aside the deeply problematic ways in which the commercial denigrates femininity – this advertisement was just as essentialist and offensive as the Burger King ad, only it drew on stereotypes of masculinity instead of black people.  And while this advertising campaign indeed did hurt Dr. Pepper’s standing in the eyes of consumers,  the commercials continue to run and you can still like Dr. Pepper 10 on Facebook for access to Dr. Pepper 10’s “Ten Manaments.”  So what’s going on here?  If both of these advertising campaigns are using stereotypes to sell products, why has the backlash against the Burger King ads caused such an uproar while the Dr. Pepper 10 campaign continues?

The largest difference in these two advertising campaigns is power.  I hope I’m not rocking anyone’s world when I say that men hold more power in our society than black people.  By this I mean to say that in our patriarchal society men, through their demographic weight at advertising firms, movie studios, and television channels, especially in terms of upper management and direction, are well situated structurally to define what a “real” man is.  If the exaggerated masculine identity in the Dr. Pepper 10 ad is a joke, the position of men in creating the ad means the joke is self-deprecating.  By contrast, black people have by and large very little say in the sort of images and identities that circulate depicting blackness and black culture.  If the stereotypical blackness in the Burger King ad is a joke, the joke is on them.  To put this sociologically, we might say that that the powerful position occupied by men in society allows them to choose, or assume the hypermasculine identity displayed in the Dr. Pepper 10 ad, but it also allows them to reject it.  For black people however, the lack of power means that the vision of blackness put forth by Burger King does not come from black people themselves but is imposed, or assigned by the dominant (white) culture.  Because the identity is assigned externally and because the identity lines up with dominant cultural stereotypes, there is no option to accept or reject the association made between themselves and the chicken loving, clubbing version of themselves offered by Burger King.

Another way this power imbalance shows up is in heterogeneity of representation in media.  Dr. Pepper 10 may play into a stereotypical version of masculinity, but there are a myriad of cultural productions that display different performances and embodiments of masculinity than shown in the ad.  We have Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jason Stratham, but we also have Jim Carrey or Adrian Brody.  We have Team Edward, but we also have Team Jacob.  But when it comes to portraying black people, the types of representations offered in popular media are much more stereotypical.  While there has been arguable progress on this point, representations showing black people as angry, violent, criminal, or hypersexual still dominate American movies, television, and advertisements.  In short, the Dr. Pepper 10 ad does not lead the average viewer to the conclusion that all men must be like that, because the idea that there are more diverse ways to “be a man” than those offered in the commercial is patently obvious to them.  In contrast, because the media shows us less ways to “be a black person,” the vision of blackness promoted by the commercial snugly fits into the limited identities popular culture puts forth, thereby helping to reify stereotypes about black people.  Furthermore, and unlike men, there are many places in the United States where the largest exposure people have to black people is through media representation, giving these representations added weight in shaping who black people are or should be in the eyes of the viewer.

Another factor that must be taken into consideration when sociologically thinking about the reasons for these disparate responses is history.  The association between black people and fried chicken has a long history, dating from the days of slavery where blacks ate fried chicken in the form of table scraps from slave owners.  Then in the early days of film, blacks were uniformly portrayed as chicken eating, dancing and jiving buffoons, willing to lie and commit crimes to get their chicken fix.  More recently, we might recall Fuzzy Zoeller’s line to Tiger Woods after winning his first Masters championship asking him not to order fried chicken and collard greens for the Champion Dinner.  The idea that all black people like fried chicken is obviously problematic, as its posits what one likes to eat as somehow derived from biology instead of being a personal predilection.  As Dave Chappelle facetiously put it, “All these years I thought I liked chicken because it was delicious.  It turns out I’m genetically predisposed to liking chicken.”  For black people, having Burger King assume they like fried chicken signals more than just culinary disposition.  It also aligns with a long cultural history which uses such apparently benign stereotypes to buttress more nefarious ones.  If the average white viewer believes that his “black people like fried chicken” view has been validated through the Burger King commercial, the leap to take more negative stereotypes about black people  as fact – criminality or hypersexuality, for example – is a much smaller one.  This process has been touched on by some commentators during the course of discussing the ad when they describe the ways in which they avoid eating foods traditionally associated with the black community in public, afraid that the impression they want to give (“I like this food”) is not the impression people get (“See?  Black people really do like that food!”).  This again points to the workings of power in the difference between assumed and assigned identity.

In conclusion, the disparate reactions to the Burger King and Dr. Pepper 10 commercials demonstrate that you can’t examine how stereotypes operate in society without paying attention to power and history.  As shown in this popular parody of the Mary J. Blige ad, Burger King failed to realize that when you deal in racialized generalizations, you’re bringing a lot more to the table than just a tasty wrap.


Amias Maldonado is a doctoral student at the University of Texas.  His research interests include gender, sexuality, and critical race theory.  He was born and raised in San Antonio and as such, he finds both fried chicken in a tortilla and Dr. Pepper without real sugary goodness completely ridiculous. 



A Foucauldian Critique of the Murder of Trayvon Martin by Lady Anima Adjepong

The recent murder of Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old black boy is an opportunity to explore the dimensions of disciplinary power as Michel Foucault characterizes them. On February 26, 2012, a white neighbourhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman murdered Martin in an Orlando, FL neighbourhood. According to news sources Martin was on his way home carrying a bag of Skittles he had purchased at a nearby 7-11. Zimmerman called police to say he had seen a “suspicious person.” He confronted Martin and shot him, claiming self-defence. Martin was unarmed. Florida State police have not arrested Zimmerman, stating that there is not enough evidence to disprove his claim of self-defence. I argue that Martin’s murder and the state police’s hesitance to arrest Zimmerman are exemplary of the success of disciplinary power.

The three instruments that ensure the success of disciplinary power are hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment and the examination. Each of these instruments worked together to result in Zimmerman’s overzealous trigger finger.

Euro-American civil society inscribes black bodies as criminal and outside of the social contract. This society consequently disciplines its members to police these bodies and defend the social contract. Zimmerman’s policing for civil society resulted in his shooting of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman’s suspicion of Martin can be understood as part of a relation of surveillance that enables the discreet functioning of disciplinary power.

When Zimmerman recognizes Martin as a “suspicious person” his response, shooting and killing him, aligns with the disciplinary mechanism of punishing non-conformity. Martin’s presence in the neighbourhood did not conform to acceptable socially prescribed locations for blacks. Zimmerman thus undertook the corrective of disciplinary punishment by confronting and shooting Martin, thereby correcting the infraction that Martin’s presence entailed. The norm in U.S. American society inscribes criminality on the black body; the norm also requires that black bodies be incarcerated or disappeared (whichever gets rid of them faster). The power of the norm (Foucault 184) and its attendant violence is very much at play in Zimmerman’s response to Martin. Martin’s black body, inscribed with criminality must be confronted and disappeared, in order to re-establish homogeneity in the neighbourhood.

Finally, by recognizing Martin as “suspicious,” calling the police, then shooting and killing him, Zimmerman passes the examination with flying colours; he acts on the knowledge that produces the reality of blackness as criminal. Zimmerman’s actions are evident of his constitution as “effect and object of power [and knowledge]” (Foucault 192). Martin’s murder, and the police’s refusal to arrest Zimmerman is evidence of the disciplinary power of civil society that constructs blackness as its prey.

Police defence of Zimmerman’s murderous shooting as self-defence against an unarmed 140-pound teenager confirms Frank Wilderson’s assessment that “there is something organic to civil society that makes it essential to the destruction of the black body” (Prison Slave, 18). Despite the public outrage about the handling of the case, and the incoherence of the logic that a 240-pound man needs to shoot a teenager half his size in self-defence, it appears that legal action cannot be taken against Zimmerman.


Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York, NY: Random House Publishing

Wilderson, FB. 2003. “The Prison Slave as Hegemony’s (Silent) Scandal.” Social Justice. Retrieved February 15, 2012 (

Lady Anima Adjepong is a doctoral student at the University of Texas. Her research interests are in gender, sports, race, and class. After receiving her bachelor’s in Comparative Literature at Princeton University, Lady worked in research consulting in Washington, DC. When the political climate in the nation’s capital got to be too intense for her, she moved to Austin, where the people are hippies and politics is on the back burner. In the rare moments when she has spare time, she tries to play rugby.

On the Sociology of Sport by Letisha Brown

The study of sport within sociology opens up new avenues for investigating several
things within the social world. Through sport scholarship, there is room for critical
examinations of sexuality, race, gender, class, age, health and more. For instance, Dr.
Ben Carrington’s Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora, offers a
detailed look into the creation of one of the most longstanding tropes of blackness—the
black athlete. Drawing upon scholars such as Fanon, and Hall, Carrington’s work offers
new insight to the ways in which the field of sport has been used to create, as well as
maintain conceptions of racial identity. Carrington’s work is an asset not only to sports
literature, but also within the context of cultural, diaspora and post/colonial studies as

The study of sport also offers new ways to think about representation, specifically
as it pertains to masculine and feminine identities. The realm of sport is one stage in
which western ideals of the masculine and feminine are (re)produced. The history of the
Olympic Games for instance offers up several examples of the ways ideas of sex/gender
in western culture has been rendered within the context of heteronormativity. Early forms of “gender verification” within the games called for female athletes to undergo a visual examination given by a panel of gynecologists as a means of verifying that only “true” women were involved in the competition (Vannini & Fornssler, 2011). Though there had been incidences of men infiltrating female competitions, such practices became a spring board for determining means of sex/gender not only within sport but within the context of society at larger. To put it another way, the measuring stick of femininity and masculinity during these practices was based upon physical characteristics as the “true markers” of sex/gender.

It is important to look at the history of sport with a critical eye in order to fully examine
the ways in which such practices have been (re)produced within the context of the post/
colonial. Out of these naked parades grew, not only the “gender verification” of today—
chromosomal testing, etc.—but also drug testing within sport. Both drug and sex/gender
testing exist as a means of weeding out athletes who were “unnatural.” Studying sport
within the context of sociology offers scholars and researchers the ability to critically
examine contemporary notions of race, sex/gender, class, age and more.

There are a multitude of questions that still exist within sports sociology; questions that
can be answered via various theoretical frames. For those interested in studies of culture,
media studies, the body and embodiment, health, politics, and more the sociology of sport can offer you an entry point into your deepest area of interest. Jump into discourse.


Carrington, B. (2010). Race, Sport and Politics: The Sporting Black Diaspora. London: Sage.

Vannini, A. & Fornssler, B. (2011). “Girl, Interrupted: Interpreting Semenya’s Body, Gender Verification Testing, and Public Discourse.” Cultural Studies and Critical Methodologies, 11 (3) 243-257.

Letisha Brown is PhD student in the Department of Sociology at UT-Austin. She is the 2011 winner of the Barbara A. Brown Outstanding Student Paper Award awarded by the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport. She received this honor for her paper, “The Spectacle of Blackness: Race, Representation and the Black Female Athlete.”


This post is Linsane!

Eric Borja on Jeremy Lin:

The focus of this post is the social phenomenon that is Linsanity in order to simply get people to think about politics, and race in currently trending sports topics.

For those of you who may not keep up with basketball or watch ESPN constantly, may not know what Linsanity is.

Linsanity is a term coined by ESPN correspondents referring to the phenomenon that is Jeremy Lin- a 6’3’’, Asian American point guard on the New York Knicks. In just two short weeks Jeremy Lin has become an overnight global sensation.  He has turned around a historical franchise (the New York Knicks) and has brought them out of obscurity, transforming them into a globally relevant team. His jersey has become the number one selling jersey of the NBA, his rookie card is estimated to sell for $20,000 to $25,000, and he is now covered 24/7 on ESPN.

Oh, and not to mention he is the first American born NBA player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent.

But the truth of the matter is, there have been a number of ‘Cinderella’ stories similar to Lin’s, present and past, throughout football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Yet their stories did not spark a global phenomenon, so why Lin?

Could it be because ‘Lin’ is a marketers dream? Spawning nicknames such as ‘Linsane,’ ‘Linsanity,’ and ‘Linderalla’? Or maybe it’s because he has taken his new fame and glory with humility? Or maybe because two weeks prior to all of this, he was sleeping on fellow teammate, Landry Fields, couch because he was so unsure of his future?

What really seems to be going on, is his race.

He is Asian American. He graduate from Harvard. He had a Xanga account with the username ChinkBalla88.

Jeremy Lin’s story is not just another story about an underdog, or a story about how hard work and perseverance leads to success, but is a story that brings to light sports, race, ethnic sensitivity in the media and politics.

A number of controversies surround Linsanity; one of the first being a tweet posted by Floyd Mayweather (a famous American boxer) on Febraury 13th, 2012. Mayweather wrote, “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise” (@FloydMayweather). This has sparked a number of public responses, ranging from UFC President Dana White calling Mayweather a racist, to prominent Knicks fan (and Director) Spike Lee replying on twitter, “I Hope You Watched Jeremy Hit The Gamewinning 3 Pointer With .005 Seconds Left.Our Guy Can BALL PLAIN AND SIMPLE.RECOGNIZE.”

Another, and most recent, controversy has been the uproar surrounding an article about Jeremy Lin titled “A Chink in the Armor,” which resulted in ESPN editor Anthony Federico’ termination. In a matter of two weeks Linsanity has brought race, ethnic sensitivity and politics to the forefront of the sports media.

The Huffington Post article, a segment on Jeremy Lin’s appeal in China, the segment aired on ESPN about ethnic sensitivity and the column responding to the article “A Chink in the Armor” can all be found at the end of this post. I strongly recommend you check them out.

I’ll end the post by just pointing to a couple things from the column responding to the article “A Chink in the Armor”.

The first thing I want to point out was the link embedded in the column to a 15 year old Jeremy Lin’s Xanga account. I point this out because it is such a great example of how technology has collapsed the space/time continuum. What I mean is that the photos were taken in a room (space) occupied by a 15-year-old Jeremy Lin (time), under the username ChinkBalla88.

A kid, who had no idea what was in store for him in the future, took some silly photos that are a reflection of what kids do. They play around with identities, and for this 15 year old Jeremy Lin, he was ChinkBall88.

But little did he know, that tho(e)se photos would/are (now) being conjured up 8 years later in an ESPN article about ethnic sensitivity in sports. Here we are, in an age where our past, present and future can be downloaded in an instant.

The final thing I want to point out is something the author of the column wrote referring to an Army Private by the name of Danny Chen. Danny Chen took his own life while on duty because a group of his superiors harassed him on a daily basis. They called him ‘gook,’ ‘chink’ and other racial slurs, threw rocks at him and just generally made his life a living hell. The author wrote, “Perhaps it’s a bit damning that four words about a basketball player sparked such outrage while a tragedy like the death of Private Danny Chen went largely unnoticed, but the fucked-up truth is that the story of Danny Chen might have received its proper respect had it come post-Linsanity.

Linsanity could have made the death of an individual relevant, but instead, the death of Danny Chen went largely unnoticed in the pre-Linsanity world.

Also be sure to check out sociology faculty member Dr. Ben Carrington on the show the Stream. The segment is incredible and insightful and Dr. Ben Carrington does an incredible job.


Video of the debate about Ethnic sensitivity on First Take:

Video of Jeremy Lin’s appeal in China:

Column in response to article titled “A Chink in the Armor”:

Huffington Post article about Floyd Mayweather’s tweet:

Dr. Ben Carrington on the Stream:

Research Questions with graduate students Pamela Neumann and Kate Henley Averett

Research Questions (RQ) is Q&A series profiling the faculty, graduate students, and alumni of the Sociology Department at the University of Texas at Austin. In brief conversations, this series looks at the diverse projects, interests, and sources of inspiration within the UT-Austin sociology community.

This week we check out the exciting projects of graduate students Pamela Neumann and Kate Henley Averett.

 Research Questions (RQ): Pamela, what brought you to the field of sociology?

Pamela Neumann: I’ve always been interested in social inequalities, but during undergrad I approached these problems mostly through the study of electoral politics and state institutions. Post-college, I had several formative experiences working for non-governmental organizations–first in San Antonio and later in Nicaragua–which ultimately led me back to graduate school, initially to UT’s Latin American Studies program. When I began my graduate work, I was fairly certain that I would eventually return to the development world, but that all changed after doing fieldwork in Nicaragua for my thesis. I realized that I had a passion for doing ethnographic research, and writing about the daily lives and struggles of women–so, with the encouragement of a couple faculty mentors in UT’s sociology department, I decided to dive in. And I’m so glad I did.

RQ: What’s your favorite thing to do in Austin?

PN: It’s hard to pick just one! Certainly the many warm and sunny days year round make it easy to spend a lot of time outdoors running or hiking. I also have a serious breakfast taco addiction, and there are more than a few great places to grab those around here.

RQ: What brought you to the field of sociology?

Kate Henley Averett: I took a somewhat winding road to get to sociology. When I began my MDiv program at Harvard in 2005, I was really interested in working with teens and young adults around issues of sexuality and spirituality, and was especially concerned about young queer people experiencing religious-based bullying due to their sexuality and/or gender expression. I grew frustrated during my program that I wasn’t able to find enough research about these issues to inform my career path, which was my first clue that maybe a research-based academic career was the logical next step for me. I spent a couple of years after finishing my masters doing a lot of reading and soul-searching, and when I realized that most of what I was reading were books written by sociologists, I decided to start researching sociology graduate programs.

RQ: Kate, do you have any exciting news in the works?

KHA: I’m currently working on a study that I’m really excited about, interviewing LGBTQ parents of young children about their parenting philosophies and experiences with a specific eye toward thinking through the intersections of gender expression, heteronormativity, and parental expectations in shaping the gendered lives of children. I’m doing a conference course this semester with my faculty mentor, Dr. Christine Williams, to work on preparing a paper for journal submission out of these interviews. Not only am I getting great on-the-ground research experience, I’m also getting tons of ideas for dissertation topics.


Pamela Neumann is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at UT-Austin. She earned her MA in Latin American Studies from UT-Austin and her BA in Politcal Science from Trinity University (San Antonio). Her master’s thesis focused on the trajectory and effects of women’s participation in community development in rural Nicaragua. She was particularly interested in how women’s involvement in the public sphere affected their own daily routines and household dynamics. Her broad areas of interest are gender, political sociology, poverty and development, and collective action, with a regional focus on Latin America.

Kate Henley Averett is a second year doctoral student studying gender, sexuality, and childhood. Originally from the Boston area, Kate has a BA in Religion from Mount Holyoke College and an MDiv from Harvard University.

The Lost Battalion: Sociology Professor Establishes New Scholarship in Honor of Father’s Legacy

Lost BatallionTexans proudly “remember the Alamo,” but few remember the importance of the Battle for the Lost Battalion. Arthur Sakamoto, professor of sociology and Population Research Center affiliate at The University of Texas at Austin, wants to change that.

In honor of the Japanese American soldiers of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who fought in the bloody World War II battle-including his own father-Sakamoto is starting an undergraduate scholarship called the Battle for the Lost Battalion Scholarship Fund.

The Lost Battalion, also known as the “Alamo” Regiment for its lineage that traces back to the Texas Revolution, was a battalion of 275 soldiers from Texas. Trapped behind enemy lines on a steep ridge in the forest east of Biffontaine, France, they were cut off from the rest of their regiment and completely surrounded by Germans.

The 442nd was charged with the mission to rescue the cut-off battalion, even though they had just spent the entire previous week fighting to free two nearby towns. Engaged in the heaviest fighting they had seen in the war, the soldiers battled the elements as well as the Germans; dense fog and very dark nights prevented the men from seeing even twenty feet ahead of them. Rainfall, snow, cold, mud, and fatigue, plagued them as they slowly crept closer to the German frontlines.

When they could inch no closer, there was nothing left to do but charge up steep slopes, shouting, firing from the hip, and lobbing hand grenades into enemy dugouts Finally, the 442 soldiers broke the German defenses, allowing them to reach the 141st, rescuing 211 Texas soldiers at the cost of 800 Japanese American casualties in just 5 days.

“Since I was young I have heard the battle mentioned by members of my family because my father fought in it,” Sakamoto says. “For its size and length of service, the 442nd is the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history.  [Yet] the 442nd does not seem to be as widely known as it once was.”

Lost BatallionSakamoto hopes this scholarship will once again raise awareness and respect for the Japanese American men who faithfully, and voluntarily served their country in a time when their family and friends were rounded up and placed in internment camps despite their American citizenship-their only crime being their physical likeness and extended familial ties to the enemy.

“We just wanted to join to prove that we are loyal Americans,” one veteran of the 442nd recently told NBC cameras during a recent news segment on the regiment, echoing a line from the Japanese American creed: Although some individuals may discriminate against me, I shall never become bitter or lose faith, for I know that such persons are not representative of the majority of the American people.

The bravery of the 442nd not only saved the lives of captured American soldiers, but as news of their heroism spread, it helped Japanese Americans to begin to gain acceptance as full-fledged Americans. In 1963, the soldiers of the 442nd were named “Honorary Texans” by the Texas state legislature for their actions.

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During a widely publicized ceremony in 1946, President Harry S. Truman stood outside in the rain to welcome the returning heroes of the 442nd, saying “You’ve fought not only the enemy, but you’ve fought prejudice, and you’ve won.  Keep up that fight, and we’ll continue to win to make this Great Republic stand for just what its Constitution says that it stands for, the welfare of all the people, all the time….”

“What the Battle for the Lost Battalion helped to do was to sear into the national psyche the enduring American truth that all U.S. citizens are equal under the law regardless of their race,” Sakamoto says.

In order to promote a greater awareness of this momentous battle in American history, Sakamoto and The University of Texas at Austin are seeking to honor the valor and sacrifices of the brave Japanese American soldiers of the 442nd through the establishment of the Battle for the Lost Battalion Scholarship Fund.

Sakamoto’s hope is that the scholarship will become operational by 2014, which will be the 70th anniversary of the battle. The goal is to raise $25,000 for an endowment, whose income will be used to support scholarships for deserving undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts.

To learn more about supporting the Battle for the Lost Battalion Scholarship Fund please contact Professor Arthur Sakamoto , (512) 232-6338 or Assistant Dean Kathleen Aronson , Office of Development at the College of Liberal Arts at  (512) 475-9763.

Top image: Army portrait of Arthur Sakamoto Sr.
MIddle image: Arthur Sakamoto Sr. in the foreground holding a book
Bottom image: 442nd Regimental Combat Team Patch

Courtesy of Molly Wahlberg