American Sociological Association

Understanding Race After Charlottesville


Anthony Crider

Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate, and Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" flags.

September 14, 2017

Race and white supremacy - topics many sociologists devote a great deal of research to and know well - have, again, become front page topics after violence broke out in Charlottesville last month. On Monday, September 18, the American Sociological Association, American Historical Association, American Anthropological Association, and Society for Applied Anthropology are joining together in sharing resources on understanding, discussing, and teaching about race. Using the hashtag #UnderstandingRace, our associations will share informative resources with ASA focusing on white supremacy through a sociological lens. We encourage sociologists to also share any materials they have on the topic via this hashtag. The purpose of this joint endeavor is to promote how our various disciplines can contribute to the conversation sparked by Charlottesville.


Immediately after the events in Charlottesville, Contexts - an ASA publication - organized a group of writers who specialize in research on race, racism, whiteness, nationalism, and immigration to provide sociological insights about how the public, politicians, and academics should process and understand the broader sociohistorical implications of the events in Charlottesville.

After Charlottesville: A Contexts Symposium

Contexts Symposium: After Charlottesville, part two


New York Times: American Racism in the ‘White Frame’
In an interview, A&M sociologist Joe Feagin, a former ASA president and author of more than 60 books including “Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations,” says that racism and white supremacy has not abated as much in recent years as people seem to think. “The in-depth data my colleagues and I have collected over the last few decades strongly indicate that the anti-black and pro-white framing of most whites has changed much less than is often asserted."

Rolling Stone: The Battle Over White Nationalism at Texas A&M
Feagin tells Rolling Stone that modern white supremacy stems from a long history of slavery and racism and shows no signs of abating unless stronger educational measures are taken. "The white racial frame – this extensive frame to legitimate the racial system we have – is deep and still very much with us, because most whites have never had any serious de-racism training."

'White supremacists by default': How ordinary people made Charlottesville possible
Erik Love, a sociologist at Dickinson College, tells CNN that Charlottesville was partly the result of avoiding discussions about race. "When a police officer shoots an unarmed black person, even then it's controversial to say racism is a factor," he says. "We say, 'Why don't we talk about these other issues. What about the crime rate, what police officers need to protect themselves.' And suddenly we're not talking about race anymore."

Harvard Gazette:  The focal point: White supremacy
Charlottesville violence gives a movement the attention it wanted, says Bart Bonikowski, an associate professor in Harvard’s Sociology Department and a faculty affiliate at the Center for European Studies and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. "It would be a mistake to say that these movements have been purely fringe prior to the Charlottesville rally. They’ve certainly been sidelined in mainstream politics in recent decades, but they’ve been very active on the ground in various parts of the country — not just the South.

Huffington Post: They Left White Power Behind. Now, They’re Haunted By Its Resurgence
Pete Simi, sociology professor at Chapman University and an expert on political extremist movements, has interviewed dozens of former hate group members and found that many use the language of addiction and relapse to describe what’s going on in their lives. The study participants said that after indoctrination by extremist groups, hearing certain music, seeing Nazi insignias and even reading Bible verses sometimes trigger memories of white supremacist pride even after they had transformed their lives and cut ties with their hate group friends.

The Atlantic: When DNA evidence challenges ideas of a person’s racial purity
Researchers Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan of UCLA looked at the way members of the white supremacist website Stormfront handled finding out the results of their DNA tests. Panofsky explained that due to the potential for conflict over their very identity, these test takers were often supported in several ways that showed justification for their beliefs were more important than information that counters them.

Newsweek: Is 'mass nonviolent action’ needed to fight white supremacists? Civil rights hero John Lewis speaks out
In an interview with Newsweek, Stanislav Vysotsky, assistant professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, who has studied the conflicts between fascists and anti-fascists for the past 15 years, says that Charlottesville shouldn’t come as a surprise. “There was this belief that these groups went away sometime in the mid- to late 1960s, that there are pockets of hate here and there. The thing is, those pockets were the tip of an iceberg floating, waiting for the moment to surface.”

Swaay Magazine: Charlottesville:  Where were the women?
Sociologists Alondra Nelson of Columbia University and Matthew Hughey of the University of Connecticut discuss why white supremacy is mostly for men.

Why neo-NAZI propaganda can be hard to spot and tough to remove online
CUNY sociologist Jessie Daniels writes that the internet has become an organizing tool for white supremancy groups. "A band of tiki-torch-carrying white nationalists gathered first online, and then at the site of a Jim Crow-era Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virginia."

HuffPo Interview With Professor Who Extensively Studied Alleged Wisconsin Mass Killer
Criminology Professor Pete Simi talks about his extensive long term contact with Wade Michael Page, the alleged shooter in a Wisconsin Sikh gurdwara attack that left seven people dead including the shooter. Simi was conducting a multi-year study of the hate rock music scene in Southern California when he met Page, a prominent figure in the hate rock world who had links to different hate groups.

Chronicle of Higher Education: Professors See Charlottesville as a Starting Point for Discussions on Race
Wendy Christensen, an associate professor of sociology at William Paterson University talks about starting off her course by tackling racism head-on with a discussion about the violent weekend in Charlottesville. "Students are always afraid of offending each other, and my school is incredibly diverse,” she says.

Christian Science Monitor: In cities that vote blue, no immunity from racism
From Minneapolis to Portland, the moral equivocation of President Trump on the deadly violence in Charlottesville is, thus, highlighting “the hypocrisy of white people around our activism,” says Jessie Daniels. She argues that the places where every coffee shop is plastered with “All Are Welcome” posters tend to be the very ones where many white residents display “a kind of ignorance, an inability to see and understand the world that we have created. It is where we get this shock, this amazement, at overt white supremacy.”

The Root: To Be Clear, White Supremacy Is the Foundation of Our Country. We Won’t Destroy It by Toppling Statues
Crystal Marie Fleming, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at Stony Brook University, writes that “From the inception of this nation, white supremacist ideology was used to justify genocide and slavery.”


White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era
Assessing the major perspectives that social analysts have relied on to explain race and racial relations, Duke sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva labels the post-civil rights ideology as color-blind racism: a system of social arrangements that maintain white privilege at all levels. His analysis of racial politics in the United States makes a compelling argument for a new civil rights movement rooted in the race-class needs of minority masses, multiracial in character - and focused on attaining substantive rather than formal equality.

Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations
Sociologist Joe Feagin uses more than two hundred recent research studies to explain modern racism including white supremacy and also offers a historical account of its importation from Europe and use as a political tool . (Excerpt)

Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California
This book unravels the ethnic history of California since the late nineteenth-century Anglo-American conquest and the institutionalization of "white supremacy" in the state. Drawing from an array of primary and secondary sources, sociologist Tomás Almaguer weaves a detailed, disturbing portrait of ethnic, racial, and class relationships during this tumultuous time. A new preface looks at the invaluable contribution the book has made to our understanding of ethnicity and class in America and of the social construction of "race" in the Far West.

Cyber Racism White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights
CUNY sociologist Jessie Daniels explores the way racism is translated from the print-only era to the cyber era the author takes the reader through a devastatingly informative tour of white supremacy online. The book examines how white supremacist organizations have translated their printed publications onto the Internet.

Beneath the Surface of White Supremacy: Denaturalizing U.S. Racisms Past and Present
From the birth of the United States to the contemporary police shooting death of an unarmed Black youth, University of Massachusetts sociologist Moon-Kie Jung investigates ingrained practices of racism, as well as unquestioned assumptions in the study of racism, to upend and deepen our understanding and challenge the dominant common sense and develop new concepts and theory for radically rethinking and resisting racisms. 


Addicted to Hate: Identity Residual among Former White Supremacists
Pete Simi, Kathleen Blee, Matthew DeMichele, and Steven Windisch; American Sociological Review
Using data derived from a unique set of in-depth life history interviews with 89 former U.S. white supremacists, as well as theories derived from recent advances in cognitive sociology, this article examines how a rejected identity can persist despite a desire to change.

"More Than a Knapsack: The White Supremacy Flower as a New Model for Teaching Racism"
Hephzibah V. Strmic-Pawl, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, vol. 1, 1. pp. 192-197 (2016)

"More than Prejudice: Restatement, Reflections, and New Directions in Critical Race Theory"
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva; Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, vol. 1, 1: pp. 73-87. (2016)

"Other People's Racism: Race, Rednecks, and Riots in a Southern High School"
Jessica Halliday Hardie and Karolyn Tyson; Sociology of Education, vol. 86, 1: pp. 83-102. (2013)

"Contemporary Hate Crimes, Law Enforcement, and the Legacy of Racial Violence"
Ryan D. King, Steven F. Messner, Robert D. Baller; American Sociological Review, vol. 74, 2: pp. 291-315. (2015)

"Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship"
Kirk Miller; Contemporary Sociology, vol. 45, 2: 170-172. (2016)

"The [Un]Surprising Alt-Right"
Robert Futrell, Pete Simi; Contexts, vol. 16, 2: pp. 76. (2017).

"Understanding Racial-ethnic Disparities in Health: Sociological Contributions"
David R. Williams, Michelle Sternthal; Journal of Health and Social Behavior, vol. 51, 1_suppl: pp. S15-S27. (2010)

"Stigma Allure and White Antiracist Identity Management"
Matthew W. Hughey; Social Psychology Quarterly, vol. 75, 3: pp. 219-241. (2012)

"A Critical and Comprehensive Sociological Theory of Race and Racism"
Tanya Golash-Boza; Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, vol. 2, 2: pp. 129-141. (2016)

"Relational Understanding and White Antiracist Praxis"
Pamela Perry, Alexis Shotwell: Sociological Theory, vol. 27, 1: pp. 33-50. (2009)

"Teaching Race as a Social Construction: Two Interactive Class Exercises"
Nikki Khanna and Cherise A. Harris; Teaching Sociology: vol. 37, 4: pp. 369-378. (2009)

"The Social Construction of Social Facts: Using the U.S. Census to Examine Race as a Scientific and Moral Category"
Eleanor Townsley; Teaching Sociology, vol. 35, 3: pp. 223-238. (2007)

"Recognizing Dignity: Young Black Men Growing Up in an Era of Surveillance."
Freeden Oeur, Socius: First Published March 2, 2016. (Open Access)


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