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5 Percent of White People Don’t Have Any Nonwhite Friends

David Leonard
David Leonard

A collective gasp of surprise went up this week after the Public Religion Research Institute released new survey data that found that 75 percent of white Americans have “entirely white social networks.” Yet our popular culture, the 800-percent rise in hate groups, the woefully homogenous workplaces at companies such as Google, an ever-widening wealth gap, and neighborhoods still segregated along racial lines should make it obvious that the postracial promised land heralded when President Obama was first elected does not exist.

“The data does not surprise me at all,” says David J. Leonard, an associate professor of critical culture, gender, and race at WSU. “Implicit biases and stereotypes shape friendships, and if we look at media, if we look at popular culture, if we look at education, we see a persistence in the circulation of stereotypes that recycle prejudices. Those assumptions about difference shape friendships and invariably impact how white people interact with African Americans,” he says.

Socializing in homogenous networks and communities affects white people’s ability to be empathetic to the struggles their contemporaries of another color face. It also increases the likelihood that white Americans will view their minority counterparts through a stereotypical lens.

To begin bridging the gap that may lead to more cross-cultural friendships down the line, Leonard argues the route is simple: People have to talk to each other, and white folks have to own their privilege.

“Whites rarely have the opportunity to talk about race, to be held accountable for privilege, and to have important conversations,” he says. “Lacking the language to talk about race and to engage cross-racially will impact white people’s ability and willingness to develop these friendships.”

Read more about the research in TakePart

Controversy over “Washington Redskins” team name remains unresolved

C. Richard King
C. Richard King

With the new National Football League season poised to kick off in early September, the Washington, D.C., franchise went to federal court Aug. 14 in an attempt to stem the hemorrhage of bad publicity and legal calamities the team encountered over the summer as it holds onto its racist nickname and logo which have been found to be offensive to Native Americans.

The team ownership and some of its fans insist they are “honoring” the bravery of Native Americans by imitating tribal dress and customs which for the most part they don’t understand. But C. Richard King, co-editor of Encyclopedia of Native Americans in Sports and professor of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at WSU, says those who believe that the name is an “honor” are simply holding onto a “sincere fiction.”

Read more about diverging perspectives of the name

Representation in video games still falls short

David Leonard
David Leonard

When it comes to women, the video game industry still hasn’t quite figured it out.

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo or “E3,” the annual video game industry trade show, just wrapped up with its fair share of controversy. Ubisoft’s creative director, Alex Amancio, drew harsh criticism after stating that their latest “Assassin’s Creed” title’s co-op mode would not feature female assassins.

This is but one example of a much bigger problem in the industry as a whole.

A study of video games referenced by David Leonard, professor and chair of the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at WSU, found that 64 percent of game characters were male, while 17 percent were female, fewer than even non-human characters, who came in at 19 percent. The majority of characters were white, and, of the black men seen, more than 80 percent of them showed up as competitors in sports-oriented games. Leonard found black women had an even narrower role: 90 percent of black female characters were props, bystanders or victims.

Some may argue that games are overwhelmingly white and male because studios are simply appealing to their target demographics; white males buy their games, so they need to target white male gamers. Except the demographics aren’t nearly as skewed in one particular direction.

Learn more about video game imbalance

Why are so many pro basketball owners Jewish (like Donald Sterling)?

Tribe lured to hoops by economics, history, and love of game

American Jews’ overwhelming dominance of the business side of professional basketball slipped awkwardly into the spotlight April 29, when National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver announced harsh sanctions against Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, at a press conference in New York. Silver levied fines and a lifetime ban against Sterling, who had been caught on tape expressing racist attitudes toward black people.

During the question-and-answer session, a sportswriter named Howard Megdal (who once wrote a book called The Baseball Talmud) asked whether the fact that both Silver and Sterling were Jewish had affected Silver’s response to Sterling’s racist tirade.

“I think my response was as a human being,” Silver said.

David Leonard
David Leonard

The interaction highlighted not only the predominance of Jewish ownership in the NBA but also the near-lack of African-American owners (Michael Jordan famously owns the Charlotte Bobcats). “People have difficulty talking about [the] conflicts, tensions, the differential privileges,” said David Leonard, associate professor and chair of the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at WSU and author of the 2012 book After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness. “I think moments like this become a moment of anxiety for many in the Jewish community,” Leonard said.

“For much of the first half of the 20th century, Jews were very involved in basketball as players,” he said. “Especially among second-generation Jewish immigrants, this became a means of asserting one’s American identity, one’s physical prowess.”

Read more in The Jewish Daily Forward

‘Clicktivism’ moves civil rights forward in a new generation

Experts say Black activism today takes place in digital spaces where young African Americans share stories and invoke conversation about their struggles with friends and strangers. According to David J. Leonard, associate professor and chair of the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies, social media has its place in activism just as traditional forms of activism commonly associated with the Civil Rights movement.

“Activism and organizing are the basis of change; change comes through what [W.E.B.] DuBois described as ceaseless agitation. There are many different tools that are used to engage in this work,” Leonard said. He points to the information shared in social media about Trayvon Martin, the “online mobilization” to Jena 6, and the execution of Troy Davis, as examples of when Black youth use social media to create conversation.

Read more about social media in activism