A Call to Focus on Racial Domination and Oppression: A Response to “Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Poverty and Affluence, 1959–2015″

“Sociology is a science that seeks to measure the limits of chance in human action, or if you will excuse the paradox, it is the science of free will.” W.E.B. DuBois (1904).

Abstract

In this essay, I respond to Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Poverty and Affluence, 19592015 (hereafter Racial and Ethnic Inequality). I argue that Racial and Ethnic Inequality does not fully explain racial inequality in poverty and affluence—particularly among black Americans and American Indians compared to white Americans—because the manuscript follows conventional approaches to the study of racial inequality that obscure racial domination and oppression in the US. These conventional approaches include (1) highlighting the racial gap in a given outcome without conceptualizing and historicizing the social construction of race, (2) theorizing human capital as race-neutral to account for racial inequality, and (3) employing data analyses that reflect analytic bifurcation, which treat racial groups as real essences, monolithic, and position white Americans as the standard against which people of color are measured. These conventional approaches are not unique to Racial and Ethnic Inequality. My goal is to use Racial and Ethnic Inequality as an illustrative example of how conventional approaches address the idea of “race” in sociological research, and whether these approaches provide readers with the most optimal ways to understand racial inequality in the US. I make several recommendations to move research on racial inequality forward. My intention is to spark a conversation about what can be considered “best practices” in addressing the role of race in racial inequality research.

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Correspondence to Deadric T. Williams.

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Williams, D.T. A Call to Focus on Racial Domination and Oppression: A Response to “Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Poverty and Affluence, 1959–2015″. Popul Res Policy Rev 38, 655–663 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-019-09538-x

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Keywords

  • Racial oppression
  • Racial domination
  • Racial inequality
  • Racial ideologies
  • Poverty
  • Affluence