Quick History of Education in the United States
In this unit we will see how educational inequality has persisted despite efforts to end formal discrimination. As was discussed in previous units, in our nation’s early history minorities were often banned from either learning (prohibitions on slaves learning to read and write) or attending schools. After the Civil War, public schools became segregated. The way that minorities were educated in the United States underwent a huge change with the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Topeka Education. This was the Supreme Court ruling that nullified the practice of “separate but equal” in our nation’s schools and mandated that public schools begin the process of desegregation.
There was strong resistance in the South to the requirement of desegregating schools. Resistance took many forms, from attempts to avoid the jurisdiction of courts that ordered desegregation, to providing students with “tuition grants” to attend private schools, to blocking the entrance of black students to public schools like Little Rock High School in 1957. Some school districts closed their schools entirely. Despite such resistance, legal segregation in schools disappeared by the late 1960’s.
One of the biggest criticisms against formal education is how schooling benefits some groups over others. As an institution, schools seem to function to maintain and reinforce the existing social-class hierarchy. Educational institutions can not bring about equality when the larger social and economic system is based on inequality. In other words, making everyone a high school or college graduate is not going to end economic inequality. Some social scientists believe the true purpose of education is not to provide social mobility but rather to “channel” students into roles and statuses similar to those of their parents.
If it’s true that educational institutions reinforce patterns of social class inequality, then the next question that must be asked is, “in what form does this take place?” The next two topic headings examine how schools can perpetuate inequality.
Funding of Schools
There is evidence that schools in which many of the students are black, Hispanic, or Native American are underfunded in comparison to schools in which most of the students are white. Conflict theorists stress that schools sort students according to social class and racial and ethnic backgrounds. Money contributes to the disparity. Schools in the United States are funded primarily from the property tax. Wealthier school districts can therefore offer more courses, purchase better equipment, and recruit the best teachers. This gives them a distinct advantage over poorer school districts. In wealthy communities, where property is worth a lot, people can be taxed at a lower rate than in poor communities and still generate more school funding per pupil. For example, taxing $100,000 of property at 3% yields $3,000, while taxing $50,000 at 5% yields only $2,500. In his book Savage Inequalities, Jonathan Kozol compared average spending in Chicago city schools with spending in an upper-middle class, suburban Chicago school and found that spending per pupil at the suburban school to be 78% higher. Unequal funding of districts also benefits white students over minority students. Because minorities have lower incomes on the average than whites, there is less money spent per student on the education of minorities than on the education of whites. The lowest levels of spending are in districts with 20 to 49 percent minority school-age children. In some states efforts have been made to eliminate some of the funding inequities. There has been some modest success in some states, but the main problem encountered is that wealthy districts simply raised taxes to make up any differences. For more information on the consequences of unequal funding, click on the links below.
Cultural Factors in the Education of Minorities
Although better funding and better facilities are needed by some schools, they alone will not solve the problems in our schools. Attention also needs to be paid to cultural factors and their role in the learning process. The problem of cultural factors can be seen in two ways. For some sociologists, the problem is in the “dysfunctional” attitudes and beliefs among poor people and racial and ethnic minorities. The Coleman Report which came out in 1966 was a comprehensive study which looked at the disparities in American schools. Although it found unequal funding to be a factor to explain differences in black and white schools, it was not the most important factor. Coleman stated that children from certain kinds of homes entered school at a disadvantage. The disadvantage was due to some children not receiving learning opportunities at home that other children were enjoying. These underachieving children tended to: 1) have a poor self-image, 2) be relatively uninterested in school, and 3) believed that success came from “good luck” instead of “hard work”. Coleman’s research indicated that academic achievement was less related to the quality of a student’s school, and more related to the social composition of the school, the student’s sense of control of his environment and future, the verbal skills of teachers, and the student’s family background. Coleman suggested that the lack of proper school facilities and the lack of encouragement at home, when combined with the attitudes that minority students brought to school, placed those students at a substantial disadvantage to whites. These disadvantaged minority children were then being “culturally deprived“. The solution was to try to place minority students in schools that had a majority of white students. This would allow minority students to adopt the attitudes and study habits of their peer group.
Some social scientists disagree with the perspective presented above of “cultural deprivation” which places blame on minority groups and instead places blame on the schools. According to these theorists, low achievement occurs among minority students because the school emphasizes the values, attitudes, and habits of the dominant class, and punishes those who don’t conform to these patterns. One complaint by this school of thought is that there exists a “cultural bias” in schools, where information about, and values of the dominant group are emphasized, while information about and values of minority groups are glossed over. For example, history classes are often taught from a “Eurocentric” viewpoint, instead of “world” perspective, which emphasizes the contributions of other cultures. The absence or distortion of minority groups in educational materials can have serious consequences on children. For white children, prejudices and stereotypes of minority groups can be created or reinforced. Among minority students, the result can be damaging to their self-image. This has important implications because self-esteem seems to influence achievement.
Teacher Expectations and Tracking
According to one sociological school of thought, people create meaning out of labels. Such labels can lead to the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. With the self-fulfilling prophecy teachers expect more form some students and less from others. their expectations affect how they interact with the students. If a child is labeled a troublemaker often enough, he or she may begin viewing themselves as troublemakers and act accordingly. Students from particular racial and ethnic groups, or students from low-income neighborhoods may receive different treatment at school. Administrators and teachers may have lower expectations of members from these groups. What teachers expect of students influences how much those students learn and their progress in the school system. Research shows that when teachers expect more from their students they tend to get it, and when they expect less, they get less.
Another related issue is tracking and ability grouping. Tracking occurs when evaluations are made early in a child’s education that determine what educational program the child will be encouraged to follow. Often students are “tracked” into a “fast learner” track or a “slow learner” track. These tracks can set students on a path to either attending college or dropping out of school. The idea behind tracking is to enable students to proceed at a pace consistent with their abilities. However, critics claim that tracking holds down the educational attainment of poor, minority and working class students because teachers frequently place minority students in slower tracks. Once students are placed in a low track, their future educational experiences are largely determined. A “detracking” movement has gained momentum in response to the problems associated with tracking. Most research on detracking shows that it raises the achievement of students formerly in lower tracks.
Blacks are not the only minority group in the United States facing linguistic issues in the schools. Bilingual education has become an issue for Hispanic and some Asian American students. Bilingual education programs teach children in both English and their native language. Since the mid 1990’s bilingual education programs have become increasingly controversial. On one side of the debate are people who are opposed to bilingual education because they favor cultural assimilation and believe all students should learn English and become American. On the other side are people who believe bilingual education helps increase educational achievement. This clash of values has led both sides to conduct research which sets out to prove that either bilingual education or its opposite- English immersion, works. A number of studies have shown that bilingual education works, and a number have shown that English immersion works. What this tells us is that there appears to be good and bad bilingual education programs, and good and bad immersion programs. Opposition to bilingual education has been growing. In 1998 California voters passed Proposition 227, which eliminated bilingual education in state schools. Voters have approved similar measures in other states.
However, in recent years that has been a call to bring back bilingual education. The California Multilingual Education Act passed in November 2016 will give California public schools more control over dual language acquisition programs. Proposition 58 effectively repeals the English-only requirement of Proposition 227 — the initiative approved by voters in 1998 that requires English learners to be taught in English immersion classrooms. Under the new law, students can learn English through multiple programs outside of English immersion classes. The old law required parents to sign waivers to enroll their children in bilingual or dual immersion programs; the new law does not.
One of the more controversial issues in recent years concerns the differences in ability and achievement test scores between whites and various minority groups in the United States. There is no dispute that test scores on average are lower for African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans than for whites. The dispute lies in trying to answer the question, “why are average scores lower?”
Some people have argued that the difference in test and achievement scores is due to genetics. The 1994 book, The Bell Curve, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray argued that the racial gap in test scores was genetic. Their conclusion goes against the large volume of research that the problem lies not in genetics, but in the tests themselves, the testing situations, and the wider environment. The list below explores some of the problems related to test bias:
1) Culture-Specific Content. Although IQ tests are designed to measure ability (something which they can not do) they instead measure is knowledge or task performance. What IQ tests in fact seem to measure is the knowledge, habits, skills, and modes of thinking (learned characteristics) that are valued by the dominant cultural group in any society. The test questions themselves can contain cultural bias. If questions are geared towards upper middle-class whites, then upper-middle class whites will score higher than minority students. If questions are geared towards blacks, then blacks will do better than upper middle-class whites. The Dove Counterbalance General Intelligence Test (1968), known as the Chitling Test, was developed to show that blacks and whites are fundamentally opposed in their manner of speech. An example of a question from the Chitling test is : “Bo Diddley is an? A) game for children, B) down-home cheap wine, C) a down-home singer, D) a new dance E) a moejoe call (Dove, 1968).” Another test developed to measure the intelligence of blacks was the Black Intelligence Test of Cultural Homogeneity (BITCH) (Robert L. Williams, 1972). This test is composed entirely of words, terms, and expressions which are particular to black culture. Consider the following question from the BITCH: “If a judge finds you holding wood (in California), what’s the most he can give you? A) indeterminate (life), B) a nickel, C) a dime, D) a year in county, E) $100 (Jensen, 1980).” A third test aimed at measuring black intelligence is the S.O.B. test. This test continued in the tradition of the BITCH test and thus was coined the Son of a Bitch Test. A sample question from this test is: “Running a game? A) writing a bad check, B) looking at something, C) directing a contest, D) getting what one wants from another person or thing (Psychology Today, May 1974).” Not surprisingly, blacks scored significantly better on all three of these tests than did whites. These questions might appear ludicrous if you are not familiar with black culture. However, test questions on the SAT may appear equally irrelevant to African-Americans. An example of a culturally biased question from the SAT is: “Runner:Marathon A) envoy:embassy B) martyr:massacre C) oarsman:regatta D) referee:tournament E) horse:stable. (Herrnstein and Murray, 1994)” This question seems more likely to be answered correctly by upper class children (who are predominantly white) because they are more likely to know what a regatta is. Of course, not all questions on the SAT or IQ tests are biased. Indeed, the tests are composed of mostly neutral questions. Yet, very few questions are geared toward black culture and more questions are biased toward mainstream culture. Therefore, it seems blacks are at a clear disadvantage when taking the same SAT and IQ tests that whites do.2
2) Test Situation. Research has shown that the formality of the test situation tends to lower the scores for poor and minority group children. When tests are given in informal, and supportive settings, the test scores go up.
3) Health and Nutrition Factors. Health and nutrition can affect IQ scores. Because minority groups have higher percentages living below the poverty level and impoverished, they are more likely than others to suffer from prenatal and childhood deficiencies in nutrition that can later inhibit their ability to do well on tests.
4) Perceived Usefulness of High Test Performance. Research indicates that white parents teach their children to excel in school even if they don’t like it because they will be rewarded in the future with good paying jobs. Minority children may not be so encouraged because their parent’s experience is that education doesn’t bring the same desired social and job rewards.
One approach to deal with the inequities in the minority education experience was to desegregate schools through busing. Much of the philosophical support for desegregation comes from the Coleman Report mentioned earlier which stated that minority students do better in schools in a school where the majority of the student body is white. But because schools are located in neighborhoods with defined districts, the only way to bring about desegregation was to either bus minority students to white schools or vise versa. In the 1970’s and 1980’s busing for school desegregation was initiated in many cities. Opposition to desegregation began almost immediately. Lawsuits were initiated, and many court-ordered busing plans were ended by the courts in the 1990’s.
Have minority students benefited from desegregation? It appears desegregation has some benefits, but only to limited degree. In 1997 a city-suburb voluntary transfer program in St. Louis which involved 14,000 African American students was instituted. The study found that black students transferring to the suburbs were twice as likely to graduate as those who stayed in city schools and the difference in going to college was even bigger. Of 100 African Americans entering St. Louis public high schools as freshmen, just 13 graduated and went to college. But of 100 African Americans who transferred to the suburbs as freshmen, 40 percent graduated and went to college. This difference is likely due to teacher expectations and peer pressure. 3
There are many factors that influence how effective desegregation is. In general, desegregation tends to provide the largest benefits to student achievement when it occurs in the early grades. Also, the more grades that are covered, the better desegregation works. In general, Metropolitan-wide plans are more effective than plans that only involve inner city children. Desegregation is also more effective if schools don’t use tracking and classes are mixed. The research seems to indicate that school desegregation provides the greatest benefits when the minority population is somewhere in the general range of 20 to 55 percent. There is still resistance to the desegregating of schools. White flight (white residents leaving the city to live in suburbs) has also made desegregation less effective.
Multiculturalism and Cultural Immersion
Some social scientists and educators were critical of desegregation. They felt that desegregation did nothing to alter the Eurocentric approach to education present in many schools which disregards the contributions of minorities and fails to examine history from a non-white perspective. Beginning in the 1970’s, two perspectives which challenged the primarily Eurocentric approach gained popularity. It is to these two perspectives that we now turn.
Multiculturalism can be defined as an approach that recognizes and values cultural differences and attempts to include all racial, ethnic, and cultural groups in classroom content, not just that of the dominant group. Multiculturalism is different from traditional education in that is focuses on pluralism rather than assimilation. Those who support multiculturalism have made the point that many minorities in the United States were colonized and have never sought to assimilate to the extent that the larger society expected them to. Multiculturalism then, legitimizes the values and experiences of groups that have been historically devalued in American society. Opponents of multiculturalism say that it goes too far when it questions the idea that the United States is “one nation, many peoples” or when it questions the traditional view of American history.
A second perspective is cultural immersion. Cultural immersion is an educational approach that directly promotes positive role models of the students’ own racial or ethnic background and asks students to value their cultural heritage. This approach has been used in particular with black males in large urban cities. In this type of educational approach, black male teachers serve as role models and teach of variety of topics from self-control to personal appearance. Class lessons emphasize achievements by African Americans and use an Afrocentric curriculum. Have immersion programs been successful? There is some research that says they are. Attendance and achievement scores have increased. The success of such schools may be due in part because the administrators and teachers have faith in the abilities of their students and expect higher levels of achievement. Critics of cultural immersion programs say these type of schools promote racial and sexual segregation.
Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Education
Pervasive ethnic and racial disparities in education follow a pattern in which African American, American Indian, Latinos, and Southeast Asian groups underperform academically, relative to Whites and other Asian Americans. The information provided below is taken from a 2012 study conducted by the American Psychological Association.
These educational disparities (1) mirror ethnic and racial disparities in socioeconomic status as well as health outcomes and healthcare, (2) are evident early in childhood and persist through the K-12 education, and (3) are reflected in test scores assessing academic achievement, such as reading and mathematics, percentages of repeating one or more grades, drop-out and graduation rates, proportions of students involved in gifted and talented programs, enrollment in higher education, as well as in behavioral markers of adjustment, including rates of being disciplined, suspended, and expelled from schools. Ethnic and racial disparities in education are evident prior to children’s entry into K-12 schooling. Many children of foreign-born parents have an immigrant advantage relative to academic achievement in U.S. schools. Racial disparities are evident not only in the outcome or endpoint in students’ educational careers, but are reflected at every level of the educational system. At four years of age, between 18.8% and 28.3% of Black, Latino, and American Indian children—compared to between 36.8% and 49.4% of White and Asian children—are proficient in letter recognition. In mathematics achievement, 8% – 9% of fourth grade White and Asian children scored at the below basic proficiency levels, but 29% to 36% of Black, Latino, and American Indian children scored below basic. On Advanced Placement (AP) tests, where a score of 3 or above is considered “successful,” 62 – 64% of White and Asian students’ scores are considered successful, whereas approximately 43% of Latino and American Indian students are successful, and only 26% of Black students who take the AP test have scores considered successful.
The Role of Religion in Dominant-Minority Relations
As in all societies, religion has played an important role in race relations. Both religion and race have played important – and sometimes deeply interconnected – roles in American history. Religion was used to justify both slavery and abolition; likewise it was used to justify both segregation and desegregation. The influence of religion had an early impact on race relations. The first European settlers to North America believed they were on a religious mission to bring Christianity to the Indian “savages”. Religion has played an important role in maintaining ideologies of racial prejudice and discrimination.
Religious privilege refers to how citizens of a society who belong to the dominant religion receive benefits for being a member of that religion, while conversely, withholding benefits from citizens who do not belong to that religion or belong to no religion at all. Social and legal policies in such countries make it easier for Jewish people to thrive in Israel, for Muslims to succeed in Saudi Arabia, and for Christians to prosper in the United States. The United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus. What this means is that although the United States is a religiously pluralistic society and offers many legal protections for the practice of a large variety of religions, or no religion at all, there are still benefits derived from being Christian in the United States. It should be noted that in the United States religious privilege is not the same as other forms of privilege such as white privilege or male privilege, where there are forms of violence or discrimination that affect group members. People who belong to non-Christian or no religion at all are not prevented on a large scale from advancing economically or politically. But there does exist some benefits for those who are religious and especially for those who are Christian. One example would be in surveys where Americans indicate that they have very low support to vote for someone who is Muslim and least of all for someone who is an atheist.
Race, Religion, and Slavery
For a few centuries, American whites used the Bible to justify the enslavement of Africans. That slavery was not merely tolerated, but actively endorsed and defended by Christians in the American South is a matter of public record. Few people are willing to think much about this, but it’s a historical fact. Less well known is why defending slavery was so critical in the minds of Christians. According to at least some, slavery was a vital component of social order. It kept whites in a position of privilege, and blacks in a subordinate position. It didn’t happen immediately, but over time slaveholders in the South allowed their slaves to be evangelized and convert to Christianity. At no point, though, did it seem to occur to most slave owners that perhaps owning slaves – including Christian slaves – might be contrary to Christian principles. Instead, they simply modified their Christianity to suit their social situation. Slave preachers might emphasize the need for obedience to the master while whites were present, but among other slaves they reformulated their teachings, emphasizing themes of suffering and redemption.
Religion was also used to end slavery. As with much of the events of the period (the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century), the anti-slavery movement was largely propelled by religious influences. Religion permeated most aspects of life and so when large denominations began to preach against (or condone) slavery, their voices were heard. Many abolitionists were either active members in the religious community or had strong religious backgrounds while growing up. The basic beliefs that they held concerning man and God helped to build the foundation for the anti-slavery movement.
Religion has often been used to maintain social control. Religion has often been used to maintain social order. At the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, many mainline church leaders refused to side with the Civil Rights Movement. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” in response to a public statement by eight prominent local church leaders (including the bishops of the Catholic, Episcopal, and Methodist churches), who had denounced him as an “extremist” and “outsider.” In the letter, King expressed his deep disappointment with the white church and its leadership. He accused it of being content “to stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.” King’s appeal finally had some effect in awakening significant segments of the white Protestant and Catholic churches. The strongest expression of that belated support was the 1965 Selma March in which many priests, religious, and ministers participated. Once the Civil Rights Movement gained in popularity, religion became an agent for social change.
Race, Religion and Native Americans
From forced to voluntary religious conversion, Christianity had an enormous impact upon Native Americans. From charismatic leaders and sympathetic missionaries to other forms of missionary activity that were brutal and coercive, Native Americans were involved with multiple types of Christianity. In response, they adopted a wide variety of response strategies that ranged from conversion to mixtures of Christianity and Native American religious beliefs, to non-adherence.
It was the Catholic Church through the issuing of Papal Bulls (Christian Declarations), granting European-Christians the rights to invade, enslave, and plunder the lands of non-Christians that most affected relations with Native Americans. This tradition of Church-sanctioned crime led to the Doctrine of Discovery, which stated that Europeans have the right to invade, steal, rape, enslave, and colonize worldwide people and lands in the name of Jesus Christ and “salvation”. This doctrine was perhaps nowhere more blatant than in the Spanish-colonial tradition of reading aloud document called The Requirement, just before invading Indigenous lands. An excerpt from The Requirement is as follows:
“But if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their highnesses; we shall take you, and your wives, and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him: and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us “.
Religion and Racial and Ethnic Identity
Religious institutions are among the most segregated organizations in American society. This segregation has long been a troubling issue among scholars and religious leaders alike. As with social class, each religion draws membership from the various racial and ethnic groups in the United States. However, some religions have a disproportionate share of its members from a particular ethnic group. For example, African-Americans are more likely to be Baptists, and Irish and Hispanics more likely to be Roman Catholics. Local churches are among the most segregated organizations in society. They tend to be exclusively made up of one race or ethnic group. This segregation is the result of: 1) A reflection of residential segregation patterns; 2) Past and present discrimination; and 3) Denomination loyalty. It is important to note that for African Americans their local churches are one of the few organizations over which they have control. Churches have been a key component of the Black community and our nation’s history.
The question of religious identification among the different racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. is of considerable importance because of the way religion and ethnic culture affect each other. In addition, the American religious scene has historically been shaped by continuous waves of immigration. The last two decades in particular have seen an unusually large influx of immigrants, especially from Asia and Latin America. The changing composition of the Asian population has been one of the signal features of U.S. immigration. It has drawn newcomers from a wide variety of countries and cultures. As a result, between 1990-2001 the proportion of the newly enlarged Asian American population who are Christian has fallen from 63% to 43%, while those professing Asian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc) has risen from 15% to 28%. Thus, for example, there are more than three times as many Hindus in the U.S. today as there were in 1990. The religious preferences of Native Americans is very similar to white, non-Hispanic Americans: 20% self-identified as Baptist, 17% as Catholic and 17% indicated no religious preference. Only 3% indicated their primary religious identification as an “Indian” or tribal religion. Research indicates that about 57% of adults who identified themselves as being of Hispanic origins indicated their religion as Catholic. However, about 22% indicated their religion as one of the Protestant denominations, 5% indicated some other religious identification and 12% indicated that they have no religion. 4
Religious Diversity and Pluralism in the United States
Before the arrival of Europeans to the North American continent there existed a diversity of religious beliefs among Native Americans. That religious diversity continued with the arrival of Europeans. According to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, religious diversity in the United States continues. The American population self-identifies as predominately Christian but Americans are slowly becoming less Christian. 86% of American adults identified as Christians in 1990, while 76% did so in 2008. Members of evangelical Protestant churches constitute the largest religious tradition in the United States (26% of the population), followed by Catholics (24%) and mainline Protestants (18%).
Immigration is contributing to major changes in the religious landscape. Nearly three-fourths of Mexican immigrants and nearly half of other immigrants from Latin America are Catholic. However, new immigrants bring other religious beliefs to the United States as well. Muslims, of whom two-thirds are immigrants, account for roughly 0.6% of the U.S. adult population. Hindus are 0.4% of the population, with 86 % born elsewhere. Buddhists, which constitute 0.7% of the population differ in that three-fourths of Buddhists are native born, many converts from other faiths.
There is also a growing segment (16%) of Americans who do not identify with any religious group. In this group are people who consider themselves atheists, agnostics and people who say religion is not important in their lives. http://www.america.gov/st/diversity-english/2008/March/20080313140042xlrennef0.357403.html#ixzz0yNMCGrgv
Minorities and the Media
Over the past few decades, academics and activists have reproached mainstream media for their discriminatory, unbalanced, and inaccurate coverage of minority groups. When not stereotyped, caricatured and misrepresented, minorities have been rendered invisible through under-representation and selective depiction in programming, and under-representation in media employment and decision-making. This section briefly examines how people of color fit into the fabric of America and how the media tell them and others how they fit. In a previous unit there was a discussion on stereotypes. The focus of this section will be on media representation and media ownership.
Media Representation of Minorities
Minority representation in the media is not a problem limited to stereotypes. It is also a problem of just how often does the media portray minorities. If we look at television news, the results of a 2002 FAIR ( Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) report, concerning news sources (people asked for their opinion on camera) whites made up 92 percent of the total, blacks 7 percent, Latinos and Arab-Americans 0.6 percent each, and Asian-Americans 0.2 percent. Racial minorities were disproportionately presented as ordinary citizens rather than as authorities or experts. Non-white U.S. sources made up 16 percent of average citizens and 11 percent of expert sources. When race, gender and nationality are considered together, white American men clearly dominated the evening news, making up 62 percent of all sources, far ahead of the next most commonly quoted sources: white American women (12 percent), Middle Eastern men (6 percent), black American men (4 percent) and Northern European men (2 percent). A 2008 study by Media Matters found similar results. Within the newspaper industry, the percentage of ethnic minorities in American newsrooms has stagnated at between 12 and 13 percent for more than a decade, according to the annual census released in June 2013 by the American Society of News Editors. The census found that minorities made up 12.37 percent of newsrooms in 2013, down from a high of 13.73 percent in 2006. Slightly more than 60 percent of daily newspapers have no minority staffers. 14 A Media Matters study of evening cable news shows found that white men were hosted 58 percent of the time in April 2013, a figure nearly unchanged from a similar study conducted in May 2008.
- Lack of Racial Diversity in the Media Affects Social Justice and Policy
- Only 1.38% of Fox Viewers are African-American
- Does the Media Portray Blacks as Rioters and Whites as Just Rowdy?
- National Public Radio Commentary Dominated by White Men
The problem of a lack of representation is also noticed in the television and film industries. According to the Screen Actor’s Guild, minority performers have decreased in roles from 29.3% in 2007 to 27.5% in 2008. Women, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, accounted for 41 percent of all characters on prime-time broadcast television in 2010-11, down from 43 percent in 2007-08. Other areas, such as age diversity and the representation of people with disabilities, have been on the decline as well. The Director’s Guild of America (DGA) analyzed more than 3,300 episodes produced in the 2012-2013 network television season and the 2012 cable television season from more than 200 scripted television series. The report showed that Caucasian males directed 72% of all episodes; Caucasian females directed 12% of all episodes; minority males directed 14% of all episodes and minority females directed 2% of all episodes. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has bestowed few awards to black artists at Oscar time, with blacks, as of 2014, having won only 15 acting Oscars since the first awards in 1929, excluding honorary awards. No minority has won the award for best director, and no movie with an overwhelming minority caste has won best picture. Hattie McDaniel was the first black to win an acting Oscar – for supporting actress in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. The second was not until Sidney Poitier received the Best Actor nod for 1963’s Lilies of the Field, and the third took almost another two decades – Louis Gossett Jr.’s supporting actor nod for 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman. Just a handful of supporting actor and actress nods followed, until 2002, when Denzel Washington won Best Actor for Training Day and Halle Berry was named Best Actress for Monster’s Ball. Only three Oscars have ever been awarded to Latinos for acting roles (Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quinn and Benico del Toro). The majority of voters for Awards ceremonies like the Oscars are even less diverse than the winners list. In the highly secretive roster of 5,765 voting members of the Academy, 94% are Caucasian and 77% are male. Only 2% of the voters are black and less than 2 % are Hispanic. In 2016, for the second year in a row, there were zero nominations for actors of color.
In 2014 the UCLA’s Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies released its Hollywood Diversity Report — for women and minorities, the results were dismal. The report analyzes 172 films that came out in 2011, as well as 1061 television shows that aired between 2011 and 2012 for the race and gender breakdowns of Lead Talent, Overall Cast, Show Creators, Writers, and Directors. Minorities and women were significantly underrepresented in each category. For example, in terms of Lead Talent, minorities in film are underrepresented by a factor of 3 to 1 while women are underrepresented by a factor of 2 to 1. For Broadcast comedies and dramas, that number jumps to 7 to 1 for minorities. The full results can be read here.
For women in Hollywood, the news is not getting better. “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2016″ was authored by Martha M. Lauzen. For the past 19 years, it has tracked the top-grossing movies and bills itself as “the longest-running and most comprehensive study of women’s behind-the scenes employment in film available.” According to the study, only 7 percent of directors among the year’s top 250 grossing films were women, down from 9 percent in 2015. All told, women made up 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the year’s top films — a 2 percent drop from 2015.
Minority Media Ownership
With the proliferation of media mergers and buyouts of minority-owned broadcast stations, the plight of minority media is more discouraging now than it was a generation ago. “Minority ownership” has generally been defined as any media facility in which minorities possess more than 50 percent of a firm’s equity interests or stock, and/or exercise actual control of the facility. The Federal Communications Commission released a report on the ownership of commercial broadcast stations which reveals that as of 2011, whites own 69.4% of the nation’s 1,348 television stations. That’s up from 63.4% in 2009, when there were 1,187 stations. While white ownership increased, most minority ownership decreased. Blacks went from owning 1% of all commercial TV stations in 2009 to just 0.7% in 2011. Asian ownership slipped from 0.8% in 2009 to 0.5% last year. Latino ownership increased slightly from 2.5% to 2.9%. Females owned 6.8% of all commercial TV stations in 2011, compared to 5.6% in 2009. It is a similar story in radio. Whites own almost 80% of all AM and FM radio stations, with more than 70% being owned by men. 16
The FCC is now attempting to drastically increase media concentration, by allowing one company to own multiple television and radio stations, as well as a major daily newspaper in a single market. This rule change would hasten the disappearance of the few minority–controlled stations that remain. The biggest losers would be people of color — the very groups that the FCC has been specifically tasked by Congress to assist.
Out of the Picture, a study done by Free Press found that:
- Minority station owners often own just a single station and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of media consolidation.
- Minority-owners thrive in more competitive markets.
- Minority production of local news is far more likely to occur in a competitive market than in markets with less competition.
Below are a list of movies that exhibit sociological concepts learned in this unit.
1. Stand and Deliver. A dedicated teacher inspires his dropout prone students to learn calculus to build up their self-esteem and do so well that they are accused of cheating.
2. Dangerous Minds. An ex-marine teacher struggles to connect with her students in an inner city schools.
3. The Mission. 18th century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American Indian tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal.
4. The Great Debators. Drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school’s first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship
Below are a list of books that exhibit sociological concepts learned in this unit.
1. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Jonathan Kozol
2. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson
3. The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial by Susan Eaton
5. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Jonathan Kozol
6.Media & Minorities: The Politics of Race in News and Entertainment by Stephanie Greco Larson
7.The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America by Robert M. Entman
Farley, John E. 2005 Majority-Minority Relations (5th Edition) Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education
Healey, Joseph F. 1998 Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class (2nd Edition) Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press
1 Simpkins, G and C. Simpkins (1981) “Cross-Cultural Approach to Curriculum Development.” Black English and the Education of Black Children and Youth. Detroit: Wayne State University Center for Black Studies.
3 Wells, Amy Stuart and Crain, Robert L. (1997) Stepping Over the Color Line: African American Students in White Suburban Schools. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p. 198
Copyright ©2006, 2014 Glenn Hoffarth All Rights Reserved