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Title: Expanding Opportunity for All: Responding to the Situatedness of Marginalized Populations

Expanding Opportunity for All Responding to the
Situatedness of Marginalized Populations
  • john a. powell
  • Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race
    and Ethnicity
  • Williams Chair in Civil Rights Civil Liberties,
    Moritz College of Law

Massachusetts Legal Assistance CorporationSymposi
um on RaceApril 14, 2009
Presentation Overview
  • Race as a dimension of diversity
  • Race is a social space
  • How people are situated
  • Introduction to structural racialization
  • Understanding the connections between race,
    place, and poverty
  • The intersection of race and class
  • Analyzing policies and perspectives
  • Targeted Universalism
  • Systems Thinking
  • Serving clients
  • Building on your great work and momentum
  • Acknowledging implicit biases
  • Strategies for addressing the needs of
    marginalized communities

Race as a Dimension of Diversity
  • Race is a social space

Social Space
  • Race is a social space.
  • We have fluidity in terms of our racial identity
    (or, in reality, racial identities.)
  • Situations affect who you are and how you
  • For example, it may not be until youre in a room
    with full of people of a different race that you
    become truly aware of your own race.
  • The British did not become white until Africans
    became black.
  • In order to notice race, society has to create
    this category/idea of race. After it is created,
    individuals can negotiate it using the social
    tools created by society.

Racial Diversity
  • Racial inclusion, racial diversity, and racial
    fairness are not the same thing.
  • We can talk about diversity in terms of
    individuals or groups.
  • Adding individuals can increase diversity, but
    their true impact on the larger group depends on
    whether they are trying to fit into a pre-made
    space or whether they are allowed to alter the
    group space.
  • Analogy immigrant country space into which
    one assimilates vs. settler country being
    able to re-make society
  • Racial groups are not monolithic.
  • Divisions class, gender, age, etc.

Valuing Diversity
  • Why do organizations value diversity?
  • Many would not be able to explain this.
  • Questions to ask
  • Do we view diversity in terms of settlers or
  • Are we still adhering to old norms?
  • Are we open to re-making our group/organization?

A Post-Racial Society? (or Not?)
  • The value placed on racial diversity may reflect
    a larger societal perception of the relevance of
  • A popular discourse following President Obamas
    victory was that his win heralded a post-racial
  • This conclusion is deeply mistaken.

A Post-Racial Society? No.
  • Obamas victory does not change the facts
  • Black and Latino children are much more likely
    than white children to attend high-poverty
  • A white man with a criminal record is three times
    more likely than a black man with a record to
    receive consideration for a job
  • Minority home-seekers, many with good credit
    scores, are steered disproportionately to
    high-cost, sub-prime mortgages, thus devastating
    their communities in light of the foreclosure

By prematurely proclaiming a post-racial status,
we ignore the distance we have yet to travel to
make this country truly a land of equal
opportunity for all, regardless of racial
Understanding How People are Situated
  • Structural Racialization
  • Understanding the connections between race,
    place, and poverty
  • The intersection of race and class

Contrasting Perspectives
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (1997)
Structural Racialization
  • Structural racialization addresses
    inter-institutional arrangements and
  • It refers to the ways in which the joint
    operation of institutions produce racialized
  • Structural racialization analysis allows for a
    view of the cumulative effects of institutional
  • How we arrange structures matters
  • The order of the structures
  • The timing of the interaction between them
  • The relationships that exist between them

The Web of Opportunity
  • Opportunities in our society are geographically
    distributed and often clustered throughout
    metropolitan areas.
  • This creates winner and loser communities, or
    high and low opportunity communities.
  • Fair access to these opportunity structures is
    limited by various spatial arrangements and

Opportunity is Racialized
  • Structures and policies are not neutral. They
    unevenly distribute benefits and burdens.
  • Institutions can operate jointly to produce
    racialized outcomes.
  • This institutional uneven distribution racial
    marking has negative consequences for all of us.

Place and Life Outcomes
  • Housing, in particular its location, is the
    primary mechanism for accessing opportunity in
    our society
  • For those living in high poverty neighborhoods,
    these factors can significantly inhibit life
  • Individual characteristics still matter but so
    does environment
  • Environment can impact individual decision making

Opportunity Matters Neighborhoods Access to
  • Your environment has a profound impact on your
    access to opportunity and likelihood of success
  • High poverty areas with poor employment,
    underperforming schools, distressed housing and
    public health/safety risks depress life outcomes
  • A system of disadvantage
  • Many manifestations
  • Urban, rural, suburban
  • People of color are far more likely to live in
    opportunity deprived neighborhoods and communities

What are the costs of opportunity isolation?
  • Individual/family costs
  • Living in concentrated disadvantage reduces
    student IQ by 4 points, roughly the equivalent to
    missing one year of school (Sampson 2007)
  • Societal cost
  • Neighborhoods of concentrated poverty suppress
    property values by nearly 400 billion nationwide
    (Galster et al 2007)

Poverty and Race in the U.S.
  • Poverty and race -- 2006
  • White (non-Hispanic) 17.9 million in poverty,
    9.3 poverty rate
  • Black 9.0 million in poverty, 25.3 poverty rate
  • Asian 1.4 million in poverty, 10.7 poverty rate
  • Latino (all Latinos) 9.3 million in poverty,
    21.5 poverty rate

Poverty Data
Jargowsky, Paul A.  "Stunning Progress, Hidden
Problems  The Dramatic Decline of Concentrated
Poverty in the 1990s."  Center on Urban and
Metropolitan Policy.  The Brookings Institution. 
May 2003. 
Source Brown University Lewis Mumford Center
The Spatialization of Poverty
  • Structural racialization involves a series of
    exclusions, often anchored in (and perpetuating)
    spatial segregation.
  • Historically marginalized people of color and the
    very poor have been spatially isolated from
    economic, political, educational and
    technological power via reservations, Jim Crow,
    Appalachian mountains, ghettos, barrios, and the
    culture of incarceration.

Poverty Map Boston Metro Area African
Americans in poverty and high poverty census
Racialization of Poverty
  • African Americans are disproportionately
    concentrated in low-opportunity neighborhoods
  • The racial composition of neighborhoods
    determines the racial balance in schools, hence
  • School segregation has been steadily increasing
    in the 90s1
  • Half of all African American students attend a
    central city district
  • Only 1 in 6 white students does

Source 1 David Rusk. Trends in School
Segregation in Divided we Fail Coming Together
through Public School Choice. The Report of the
Century Foundation Task Force on the Common
School. 2002.
Is it getting better?
  • Many feel that this racialization of concentrated
    poverty has improved in recent years.
  • In 1960, African-American families in poverty
    were 3.8 times more likely to be concentrated in
    high-poverty neighborhoods than poor whites.
  • In 2000, they were 7.3 times more likely.

Fact Sheet from the Opportunity Agenda, Housing
Neighborhoods and Opportunity. http//www.opportun
The Cumulative Impacts of Spatial, Racial and
Opportunity Segregation
Segregation impacts a number of life-opportunities
Impacts on Health
School Segregation
Impacts on Educational Achievement
Exposure to crime arrest
Transportation limitations and other inequitable
public services
Neighborhood Segregation
Job segregation
Racial stigma, other psychological impacts
Impacts on community power and individual assets
Adapted from figure by Barbara Reskin at
Barriers to Fair HousingThe Web of Housing
Housing Challenges
Application of SR ModelThompson v. HUD
  • In 1995, six families living in Baltimore public
    housing filed suit on behalf of 14,000 other
    low-income families.
  • In 2005, a federal court ruled that HUD had
    violated Title VIII of the Fair Housing Act by
    failing to affirmatively further fair housing.
  • HUD had effectively restricted low-income
    minority families to segregated neighborhoods in
    the central city.
  • During the 1990s, 89 of public housing units
    developed with HUDs support in the Baltimore
    Region were in Baltimore City.
  • The majority more than 67 of the Citys
    Section 8 voucher holders live in census tracts
    that are 70 - 100 Black.

SR and the Law
  • Title VII
  • Prohibits employment discrimination based on
    race, color, religion, sex and national origin
  • Disparate impacts
  • Even where an employer is not motivated by
    discriminatory intent, Title VII prohibits an the
    employer from using a facially neutral employment
    practice that has an unjustified adverse impact
    on members of a protected class.

Integration Into Opportunity
  • Rethink fair housing
  • Segregation is more than just physical isolation
    its also isolation from opportunity structures
  • Not just integration but integration into
  • Inclusive fair housing means access to good
    schools, jobs, doctors, child care,
    transportation, parks, and the civic fabric

Communities of Opportunity Model
  • Everyone should have fair access to critical
    opportunity structures
  • Physical infrastructure
  • Environmental health
  • Educational opportunities
  • Civic engagement
  • A Community of Opportunity analysis can develop
    pathways to increase social and economic health,
    benefiting everyone

Opening Pathways to Opportunity
  • What happens when we affirmatively connect people
    to opportunity?
  • After implementing economically diverse magnets
    schools in Wake County, NC, African American
    student test scores doubled
  • Children in public housing who moved to the
    suburbs as part of Chicagos Gautreaux program
    were twice as likely to attend college (in
    comparison to their urban peers) (Rosenbaum)
  • Despite the flaws in the implementation of MTO,
    many participants experienced substantial
    psychological benefits
  • Moving to opportunity for boys resulted in a 25
    decline in depressive/anxiety or dependency
    problems (2005)

The Role of Housing Policy
  • How does housing policy segregate people from
  • Failure to affirm Race often maps onto
    opportunity. Subsidized housing programs often
    put families into racially isolated,
    low-opportunity areas
  • Failure to enforce the Fair Housing Act
  • How might it integrate people into opportunity
  • Targeted Section 8 vouchers
  • Connect LIHTC to NCLB
  • Incentivize the siting of affordable housing in
    high-opportunity areas
  • FHA enforcement changing times call for changing
    methods (failure to avert the subprime debacle)

Adapted from analysis of the 2000 HUD Picture of
Subsidized Housing
Greater Boston Area Opportunity Map with
Subsidized Housing Overlay
The Intersection of Race and Class
  • Another part of understanding how people are
    situated involves reflecting on the intersection
    of race and class.
  • Class is often used as a proxy for race.
  • Less controversial less divisive
  • Among the problems with using class as a proxy
  • Using a class lens is too narrow.
  • Class is used to evade the race issue rather than
    address it.

The Intersection of Race and Class
  • Race left a lasting imprint on how we perceive
  • For example, the white face on the suburban
    middle class allowed for stereotyping of the
    Black welfare queen
  • Racial associations and assumptions are made with
    certain occupations an example of class and
    race interacting.
  • Both race and class are composites.
  • Multidimensional
  • Race and class give meaning socially and

Intersectionality v. Intrasectionality
  • In intersectionality, the components (race,
    gender, etc.) are seemingly external and static.
  • With intrasectionality, the components are being
    remade and changed by their interactions.
  • Essentially, the interactions are interacting.

Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007)
  • The self is an intersubjective viewpoint.
  • Our own understandings of ourselves interact with
    the views that others hold about us.
  • Multiple selves
  • We are all androgynous, not only because we
    are all born of a woman impregnated by the seed
    of a man but because each of us, helplessly and
    forever, contains the other -- male in female,
    female in male, white in black and black in
    white. We are a part of each other. Many of my
    countrymen appear to find this fact exceedingly
    inconvenient and even unfair, and so, very often,
    do I. But none of us can do anything about it.
  • James Baldwin
  • 1924-1987

Analyzing Policies and Perspectives
  • Targeted Universalism
  • Systems Theory

Uneven Effects of the Current Recession
  • The current recession has affected everyone but
    not all to the same degree.
  • Although the U.S. has been in a recession for
    more than a year, people of color have been in a
    recession for nearly five years and have entered
    a depression during the current economic crisis.
  • Although the black poverty rate fell 8.5 from
    1989 to 2000, the African American family poverty
    rate increased 2.8 from 2000 to 2007.
  • Poverty rates for Hispanic families grew .5 from
    2000 to 2007. The Hispanic family poverty rate
    (19.7) is roughly twice that of the overall
    poverty rate (9.8).

This ratio was at a record high of 63.5 in 2000.
Once the 2001 recession and weak economic
recovery hit, these gains were lost and have yet
to be recovered.
Austin, Algernon. What a Recession Means for
Black America. EPI Issue Brief 241. 18 Jan.
Learning From Our Mistakes?
  • If we fail to pay attention to populations and
    the resources that communities possess, we are
    likely to repeat the mistakes of the New Deal.
  • White Americans may benefit disproportionately
  • How do we avoid the New Deal mistakes?
  • We must be intentional.
  • Policies should be targeted and programs should
    be structured so that they reach certain
    populations and communities.

We Need A New Paradigm
  • Targeted policies alone are not desirable because
    they appear to show favoritism toward a certain
    group, thus stigmatizing them.
  • Universal policies alone are not useful.
  • They fail to account for the fact that people are
    situated differently in the economic and social
    landscape of society
  • Universal policies are often based on a
    non-universal standard
  • Ex Social Security able-bodied white males
    working outside the home full-time for pay
  • Thus Targeted Universalism

Universal Program
Group A
Group B
If the universal program affects those in red,
Group B would seemingly benefit more than Group
Universal Program
Group A
Group B
The universal program affected everyone in red,
but Group B is still constrained by the boxes.
Targeted Universalism
  • This approach supports the needs of the
    particular while reminding us that we are all
    part of the same social fabric.
  • Universal, yet captures how people are
    differently situated
  • Inclusive, yet targets those who are most
  • Example goal Every school as a performing school
  • What does each school need to get there?
  • What does each student, family, teacher,
    community need?
  • What are their strengths and constraints?

Targeted Universalism
  • Targeted Universalism recognizes racial
    disparities and the importance of eradicating
    them, while acknowledging their presence within a
    larger inequitable, institutional framework
  • Targeted universalism is a common framework
    through which to pursue justice
  • A model which recognizes our linked fate
  • A model where we all grow together
  • A model where we embrace collective solutions

Ex Economic Stimulus Package
  • The economic stimulus package fails to directly
    account for race.
  • Yet, race is a key component of many major
    economic issues.
  • Ex Subprime/Foreclosure crisis
  • People of color are more than three times as
    likely as whites to have subprime mortgages.
  • Borrowers of color were more than 30 percent more
    likely to receive a higher-rate loan than white
    borrowers, even after accounting for differences
    in risk.
  • Besides considering race-sensitive design,
  • we must be concerned about the impacts.

Rogers, Christy. Subprime Loans, Foreclosure,
and the Credit Crisis A Primer. Dec. 2008.
Seeing the Connections
  • Attempts to address singular issues in isolated
    ways will ultimately fail
  • Targeted interventions must recognize the
    interconnected nature of our structures
  • While many policy areas can appear distinct, we
    must think of them collectively.
  • Ex Transportation
  • Is this an urban policy issue?
  • An environmental issue?
  • A jobs/economic issue?

Visualizing Systems Theory
System Interactions
We must pay attention to how people are situated
by looking at multiple indicators and the
relationships that exist between those indicators.
Source Barbara Reskin. http//faculty.uwashingto
Structural Racialization Systems Thinking
  • Courts have used a systems perspective.
  • Gaston County v. United States North Carolina
    sought to reinstate a literacy test as a
    qualification for voting.   The Court found a
    violation of the Voting Rights Act because
    segregated schools "deprived its black residents
    of equal educational opportunities, which in turn
    deprived them of an equal chance to pass a
    literacy test." 
  • An apparently impartial literacy test was found
    to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act when
    one examined the institutional relationship
    between segregated education and voting

Serving MLACs Clients
  • Building on your great work and momentum
  • Acknowledging the role of implicit bias
  • Working collaboratively on strategies for
    addressing the needs of marginalized communities


The recently completed opportunity mapping
project in Massachusetts highlights the unique
challenges facing MLACs clients. These maps
provide the context for analyzing fair housing
policies and a variety of other social issues.
People, Places, and Linkages
Why It Is Difficult to Talk About Race?
  • U.S. history of violence, repression, and
    injustice toward people of color
  • Feelings of resentment, guilt, and hostility
  • Fear of stigmatizing groups and creating
    self-fulfilling prophecies
  • Lack of information about consequences of racial
  • Failure to actively envision a true Democracy
  • Fear of being labeled a racist
  • Lack of practice!
  • Implicit bias (unconscious)

Talking About Race - (Dont)
  • Techniques to avoid
  • Present disparities only
  • Frame action as robbing Peter to pay Paul
  • Separate out people in need from everybody else
  • Glide over real fears, shared suffering, or the
    fact that people are often internally divided
  • Dismiss the importance of individual efforts

Talking About Race - (Do)
  • Frame the discussion using the norms values of
    the audience anchor to their narratives
  • All Gods Children video Click Here
  • In the story you tell, make sure everyone can see
    themselves in the story (us, not just those
  • Emphasize shared, deep values
  • Team USA video Click Here
  • Acknowledge that individualism is important but
    that the healthiest individual is nurtured by a
    community invested in everyones success
  • Propose policies that are universal and targeted

Perceiving Race
  • Racial categorization occurs automatically,
    regardless of any efforts to divert attention
    from race.
  • Within moments of perceiving someone, we
    automatically judge that person in terms of
    in-group favoritism
  • Is that person is an us or a them?
  • We unconsciously think about race even when we do
    not explicitly discuss it.
  • Elephant in the room video Click here
  • Drew Westens The Political Brain
  • Implicit Association Test
  • Implicit thoughts can overpower our explicit

Implicit Association Test
Implicit Bias
  • We unconsciously think about race even when we do
    not explicitly discuss it.
  • Implicit thoughts can overpower our explicit
  • People have multiple networks that may be
    activated without our awareness.
  • Depending on the situation, one network becomes
    dominant over the others.
  • Even though we may fight them, implicit biases
    reside within us.

A Transformative Dialogue Around
Our Linked Fate
  • Too often, we envision race as a system that
    separates groups from each other with durable
    boundaries around each group.
  • This view supports the notion that disparities
    impacting one group have no impact on other
  • Talking about race creates an opportunity to
    expose and illuminate the linked fate that is
    shared by all Americans - how inequality for some
    groups impacts the entire society.

Inequality in educational opportunity
Low-performing inner-city schools
Reduced competitiveness in the global economy
Negative economic consequences for ALL AMERICANS
A Transformative Dialogue Bring Everyone to
the Table
  • Too often, issues that touch on race and social
    justice are perceived as Black issues or White
  • In the U.S., issues about racial equality,
    opportunity, and social justice are fundamentally
    issues about Democracy.
  • Everyone has a stake in guaranteeing that
    Democratic principles are fully implemented in
    the society.
  • So, everyone is a stakeholder in the
    transformative dialogue on race.

Client Relationships
  • We need to craft an appropriate set of
    relationships and conditions and avoid
    romanticizing the other.
  • Slave/master relationship never fully human
    relationship because there would always be a
    power imbalance between the two
  • The Bigger Thomas story (Richard Wright)

Encouraging Full Democratic Membership
  • How do we engage others with dignity?
  • What is freedom?
  • What characterizes an active member of a
    democratic society?
  • How do you measure social inclusion?
  • What blocks membership?
  • Who makes meaning?
  • What are the everyday politics?

You know, even if 40 percent of the people in a
community are poor, it means 60 percent are not.
So we have to ask ourselves, what are those 60
percent doing and thinking? And in the case of
these chronically-poor places, my experience and
others' is that they're distancing themselves
from the poor rather than looking for ways to
bring them into the Boy Scouts or into the
after-school program or into the same church as
the more middle-class folks
Quote from Why Poverty Persists in Appalachia,
PBS interview with Cynthia Duncan (author of
Worlds Apart Why Poverty Persists in Rural
America) http//www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/c
Exclusion From Decision Making
  • Bringing people into structures that formerly
    excluded them may not be enough
  • Message is individual is not properly
    negotiating the ladder when the ladder is too
    narrow or long and were climbing alone
  • Insensitive, perhaps hostile structural
  • Need to re-think structures themselves

The Margin the Center
  • Whats the relationship between the margin and
    the center? How do we change this relationship?
  • We cant change the role of women without
    changing the role of men. They co-constitute
    each other.
  • In Legal Services, theres a power dynamic in
    which the powerless may be expected to make
    changes. We need to talk about changing the
    center, not just changing the margin.

What can Legal Services do?
  • Engage in diversity training
  • Not just typical trainings, but deep discussions
    in which personal viewpoints are openly addressed
    and critical feedback is provided by colleagues
  • Fully understand how race really works
  • Truly comprehend why diversity matters rather
    than running the risk of only paying it
  • Work to create community change
  • Beyond zealously advocating for your client,
    think about how each case can produce community
  • Let this influence how you articulate the case,
    how you utilize the media, etc.

Intervention Strategies for Building Opportunity
Section 5
  • Adopt an opportunity-based approach to housing
  • Support both in-place and mobility-based
    strategies to affirmatively provide access to
  • Adopt a multi-disciplinary, collaborative
    approach to advocacy
  • Address not only personal and institutional
    racism, but also structural racism and
  • Reflect on the unique challenges and
    opportunities each community presents

Work Toward Transformative Change
Linked FatesTransformative Change
  • Our fates are linked, yet our fates have been
    socially constructed as disconnected, especially
    through the categories of race, class, gender,
    nationality, region

Questions or Comments? For More Information,
Visit Us On-Linewww.KirwanInstitute.org
  • White Privilege

  • Privilege comes in many different forms race,
    class, status, etc.
  • It is possible to have some kinds of privilege
    and not others
  • i.e., Someone may lack race privilege but still
    possess educational and class privilege
  • How we use that privilege is important

Privilege and Institutional Arrangements
  • Privilege is sorted through institutional
  • Institutional arrangements are never neutral
  • There is a tendency to favor one group over
  • Examples
  • Holidays in the United States are arranged in a
    way that is sensitive to Christian beliefs, but
    not necessarily inclusive of other religions
  • Daycare is structured in a gendered way that
    creates advantages and disadvantages to certain
  • Which parent usually has to take off of work to
    care for a sick child?

White Privilege and the Organization of Structures
  • Without critical examination, the system can
    appear to be just and fair, perhaps even neutral
    towards race.
  • Often unbeknownst to them, whites inherit and
    possess many benefits that are often
    unacknowledged and/or taken for granted.
  • Interestingly, the norm of whiteness is strong
    enough that the privilege of whiteness may not
    even be perceived by people of color.

Recognizing White Privilege
  • In my class and place, I did not see myself as a
    racist because I was taught to recognize racism
    only in individual acts of meanness by members of
    my group, never in invisible systems conferring
    unsought racial dominance on my group from
  • Peggy McIntosh White Privilege Unpacking the
    Invisible Knapsack

Defining White Privilege
  • White privilege refers to special advantages,
    rights, or unearned benefits that whites enjoy
    simply due to the color of their skin that other
    groups do not receive
  • A white person does not need to be a racist to
    benefit from white privilege
  • The recipient of white privilege may not even be
    aware that s/he received it
  • These privileges are passively acquired
  • Is one persons privilege predicated on others
    lack of privilege?

A Few Manifestations of White Privilege
  • Spatial and residential segregation
  • The appearance, demeanor, and choices of a
    non-white being considered representative of
    his/her race
  • Minority students are less likely to be placed in
    advanced or accelerated classes
  • Flesh color Band-Aids are typically light beige
    in color, thus reflecting a norm of white skin

White Privilege and the Organization of Structures
  • "The reality is in every aspect of life --
    economic, social, political -- white people
    benefit from the way the system is organized and
    black people experience deficiency.
  • Paula Rothenberg, author of White Privilege
    Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism

Privilege and Institutions
  • The dynamics of privilege are not static they
    change by situation and across time
  • We need a literacy of institutions and cultural
  • We also need to understand how these meanings are
  • Institutions may not be neutral, but they can be
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