Thursday, February 08, 2007

Race, Gender

The Intersection of Race and Gender Relations: A Contemporary Perspective

by Paramendra Bhagat
May 5, 2000.

SOC 325 Gender and Sex Roles
Dr. Jill Bouma

Introduction: Racism and Sexism as Mirror Images of Each Other

The stubborn persistence of both racism and sexism as dominant worldviews that affect the minorities and women in all walks of their lives might be good reason to explore the unexplored common ground between these two groups. Since there is considerable intersection between race and gender relations almost to the point of overlap, it is in seeking common ground that these two groups can hope to effectively counter the debilitating effects of the ideologies of racism and sexim (Sidanius 1993). These two groups share several attributes like "stereotypes, discrimination and prejudice, and accommodating behaviors" (Kowalewski et al. 1995).

Put the two together with the rest of the ism family - classism, ageism, adultism, elitism, heterosexism, and physicalism - and you have a rainbow coalition and a blueprint for the liberation of the various oppressed groups that each of these terms represent. For the purposes of this paper I hope to focus primarily on the twin sisters of the ism family, racism and sexism, and explore the commonalties between the two and derive rays of hope for women and minorities, as political power, in the ultimate, is the game of numbers and alliances and political power can beget economic power.

Each of these ideologies that go with the ism family is constantly recreated and, hence, can be checked if a sufficient level of consciousness were to be achieved. "Marginality is … not simply a site of oppression, but of radical possibility and a site from where the creations and imaginings of alternatives and new worlds can be formulated" (hooks 1990 as quoted in Matthews 1997). Change for the better is possible if the mechanisms of oppression are better understood.

Literature Review

Allen (1995) suggests that a confrontation of patriarchy is the only sure way to fight racial oppression. Bhopal (1998) focuses on the interplay between racism and health care in the British context. Gewirtz (1991), on the other hand, explores the sociology of education to see how both racism and sexism alter conditions to the detriment of women and minorities. Kowalewski et al. (1995) explore the two explanations of racism and sexism, the structural and the cultural/psychological. They suggest that the former might be much more debilitating than the later. Sidanius (1993) found that "sexism and racism (were) not only strongly correlated but also related to education, academic competence, religious denomination, general conservatism, and anti-egalitarianism."

Racism and Sexism Defined as Tools of Political and Economic Power

The dominant thinking on racism and sexism in Sociology suggests that these ideologies are pathologies of the mind that will hopefully go away with time. Gradualist approaches are suggested to counter racist and sexist practices. The more compelling truth is they are ideologies that help certain groups of people move ahead at the expense of women and minorities in the competition for political and economic power (Kowalewski et al. 1995). It has been shown that the greater the concentration of political and economic power in an institution, the greater is its tendency towards both racism and sexism (Kowalewski et al. 1995). What are described as symptoms of the pathologies are merely the byproduct of these deeply entrenched racist and sexist practices in the corridors of power (Sidanius 1993).

The structural manifestations of racism and sexism are much more debilitating and hindering for the two affected groups than their cultural and psychological counterparts (Kowalewski et al. 1995). Structural racism and sexism deny women and minorities access to opportunities to bring forth the talent and abilities that are evenly distributed among all groups. "(S) elf-interested groups seek power and privilege via control over major institutions" (Kowalewski et al. 1995). That results in overt and covert practices of racism and sexism that have their institutional strains which have characteristics different from when they are practiced in non-institutional settings. Hiring, firing and promotion practices tend not be race and gender neutral.

All major institutions of society - family, school, church, government, military, and businesses - thus can be said to be infected in ways not always admitted in mainstream thinking (Sidanius 1993). The ideologies, values and socialization practices of some groups are adopted while those of other groups are systematically marginalized resulting in patterns of exclusion for such groups.

These major institutions tend to be interlocked with each other, further compounding the problem. At the macro level of mega corporations and big government, the interlocking is even more institutionalized, and that helps the groups in power to perpetuate their privileged conditions at the expense of the marginalized groups making it so much harder for progress to be made in terms of countering racist and sexist practices. "Production is organized in ways that engender racism and sexism" (Institute for Policy Studies/Transnational Institute, 1984, p. 52 as quoted in Kowalewski et al. 1995).

The Symbolic/Psychological/Cultural Manifestations of Racism/Sexism Described as Symptoms rather than the Cause

The psychological-cultural racism and sexism rob the oppressed groups of their true identities and, in so doing, put them at the receiving end of constant barrages on their sense of worth and the confidence that they too are worthy of success. Perhaps the larger disadvantage accrued from such unceasing attacks is that the oppressed groups become less willing to challenge the structural manifestations of oppression.

Science has been used in the past to "prove" the superiority of one race over the other and one sex over the other. For example, attempts have been made in the past to "prove" that African Americans are intellectually inferior to the whites for genetic reasons and that women are consituted weaker at the biological level. Suggestions have been made that social evolution has favored the white male for no fault of their own. Such "scientific" claims attempt to rationalize the persistent inequalities in society.

Thought patterns that exclude some groups from the mainstream discourse of society have concrete impacts: "racism underlies unexplained inequities in health care, including treatment for heart disease, renal failure, bladder cancer, and pneumonia," to look at just one sector of many (Bhopal 1998). Education is another sector that can be similarly described:

Women are required to take on men's definitions of the world, which enhance their image and increase the value of men, and in the process women are required to deny their own experience, to accept men's definitions of them as inferior, to believe that they are less valuable. (Spender 1982, p. 26 as quoted in Gewirtz 1991)

These two examples from the education and health sectors help us see how the psychological-cultural manifestations of racism and sexism can easily blend into having structural impact. When women and minorites for the first time enter in significant numbers institutions that have historically been the domain of the white males, they fnd themselves trying to fit into the straitjackets that were not designed for them. Often that requires that they be less respectful of the differences that make them stand out from the dominant group. That might be minority students who find their histories are denied mainstream attention or women who find that the contribution of women in the academic disciplines and other human endeavors end up marginalized over time (Gewirtz 1991).

The Intersection between Racism and Sexism: The Unrealized Common Ground

There is anything but realized common ground between women and minorities today as the two groups are juxtaposed in ways that hurt both groups. However that should not be a reason to forego efforts towards meaningful coalition building. White women who choose to act racist and minority men who choose to act sexist are dancing self-defeating tangos in that they are undermining whatever common ground could be established between the two groups to mutual macro-political advantages. Allen (1995) points out that for black men to subscribe to male supremacy is to prepare themselves to accept the larger, more dominant white supremacy. Allen supports Minister Louis Farrakhan's call to disavow "wife abuse, abuse of children, and the use of misogynist language" as acts of self-interest.

Internalized racism and sexism is when minorities and women themselves subscribe to the distorted identities that get ascribed to them by the dominant groups. That acceptance of the status quo on the part of the members of the two groups results in a basic disunity among women and minorities themselves. Such internalization and the associated acceptance of distortions bring forth a failure on the part of the two groups to seek common ground among them. Therein emerges the contradictory scenario of most women denying the very existence of sexism and most minorities lacking sufficient consciousness to challenge racism.

Such internal disintegration of the collective psyches of the two groups is compounded further by the constant hits they take from the oppressor groups. This makes the challenge of seeking common ground between the two groups twofold: one, to counter internalized forms of oppressive worldviews, and, two, to challenge the ideologies of the oppressor groups. Even so it is not easy to reach out across the barriers that so divide the women as a group and the various ethnic minorities as a group. The disintegration stems from the lack of pride these two groups might feel in their collective identities. But then the glimmer of hope is that it has been shown white men, across the spectrum, tend to be more prone to racism than white women (Sidanius 1993). It might be an odd hope to see in the mindset of white women the lesser evil, but at least that glimmer could be a starting point for coalition building and to confront racism itself.

Political Power: To do with Numbers and Alliances

Women and minorities might have the numbers but, as of now, both groups lack strong alliances within themselves and between them that would sow the seed of common purpose between the two groups. Any firm bridge between the two at the macro level can only be built by understanding racism and sexism as ideologies subscribed to by certain groups as leverages in the tussle for economic and political power. Any meaningful challenge of the twin ideologies of racism and sexism will be made possible only with a sophisticated understanding on the part of women and minorities of the way power, both political and economic, play out. Countering the "pathology" of the two oppressive worldviews, as manifested in stereotypes and distorted images of members of the two groups, might also be worthy goals, but they are secondary exhibitions and should be understood as such.

Kowalewski et al. (1995) suggest that "all four dimensions of establishmentism - wealth, monopoly, economic connections, and political involvement - proved to be related to racism and sexism."

This implies that a political platform stressing (a) decentralization of wealth into a greater number of smaller firms; (b) antitrust efforts to combat monopolistic markets; (c) restrictions on director interlocks and joint shareholdings; and (d) constraints on corporate political action committees, lobbying influence, and revolving doors may prove an effective strategy for undermining the twin discriminations.


The interplay between the law and the ongoing cultural conversation at any particular period in time will be the twin barometers that will measure our collective progress in terms of both race and gender relations. We might be able to put an end to racism and sexism as we know them today. On the other hand, continued dialogue on the two central relations can help us appreciate the diversity among us to deeper levels than can be imagined while we fear more than appreciate each other.


  • Allen, Robert L. "Racism, sexism and a million men." Black Scholar. 25.4 (1995): 24-27.
  • Bhopal, Raj. "Spectre of racism in health and health care: Lessons from history and the United States." British Medical Journal. 316.7149 (19980: 1970-1974.
  • Kandal, Terry R. "Revolution, racism and sexism: Challenges For World-System Analysis." Studies in Comparative International Development. 25.4 (1990): 86-103.
  • Kowalewski, David; Judith S. McIlwee and Robin Prunty. "Sexism, Racism, and Establishmentism." Journal of Black Studies. 26.2 (1995): 201-215.
  • Gewirtz, Deborah. "Analyses of racism and sexism in education and strategies for change." British Journal of Sociology of Education. 12.2 (1991): 183-202.
  • Matthews, Julie Mariko. "A Vietnamese flag and a bowl of Australian flowers: Recomposing racism and sexism." Gender Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography. 4.1 (1997): 5-19.
  • Sidanius, Jim. "The interface between racism and sexism." Journal of Psychology Interdisciplinary and Applied. 127.3 (1993): 311-323.
  • Tate, George A. "Structured Racism, Sexism, and Elitism: A Hound That 'Sure Can Hunt' (The Chronicity of Oppresssion)." Journal of Counseling & Development. 77.1 (1999): 18-21.

© 2000 Paramendra Bhagat

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server ..... Oracle customers can use those existing infrastructure products to deploy the blogs
and wikis. .... the default interface for Oracle's Fusion applications, a merger of its Oracle,
Siebel and PeopleSoft applications due in 2008. ...... WebCenter is essentially the opposite of a
portal: It allows developers to put portal elements into an application (or application interface),
rather than putting applications content into distinct portal product. ...... IBM also entered the
game this week, announcing plans to bring Web 2.0 capabilities to its Lotus Notes collaboration
software. ..... "Oracle WebCenter is the most ambitious attempt from a large established vendor
to enable IT and end users to create mashups from any applications and information sources,
not just Oracle's" ..... each of its applications suites -- the E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD
Edwards and Siebel.
Sun Microsystems swings to profit
The Brunei Times

Observers wonder how Wal-Mart will regain edge Columbus Dispatch
The world’s largest retailer is struggling ...... a disappointing 2006. The top question now is whether the company will continue an 18-month-old strategy of prying more money from affluent shoppers with trendier products or return to low-priced basics. ..... Efforts to improve its image with trendier fashion brands and home fashion accessories have fallen flat, although its push for higher-price electronics, such as flat-panel TVs, has done well. ...... Wal-Mart reported the worst holiday season on record even as the company started to reemphasize its low prices after months of playing down its discount strategy. That has left customers and observers confused about what Wal-Mart is trying to be. ....... They have to be crystal clear that they are a low-price leader ...... the retailer is starting a two-year effort to tailor its stores to local communities, offering different selections of merchandise to six target demographic groups, including Latinos and blacks. ....... Fleming, a veteran of fastergrowing rival Target Corp., will oversee the buyers who stock Wal-Mart in most of the categories the company considers key for growth: grocery, entertainment, apparel and home furnishings. ....... two new divisions, one aimed at improving the customer experience and the other focused on planning, pricing and replenishment. ....... "Conceptualizing is one thing, but executing is another thing"
Iran installing 3000 nuclear centrifuges, MP says
WTO ministers pledged to put Doha Round back on track Xinhua
'Rush' for Windows Vista is more like a stroll
Seattle Post Intelligencer
YouTubers to get ad money share
BBC News a mixture of adverts, including short clips shown ahead of the actual film. ..... The offer applies only to people who own the full copyright of the videos that they are uploading to the YouTube website. .... currently working on "audio fingerprinting" technologies to identify copyrighted material ..... YouTube was still working out the technology and processes involved - both for the rewards system and the video clip advertising system. ..... various features would be rolled out one by one over the next few months. ...... a clip of three seconds length was one of the options
YouTube co-founder says site will begin sharing revenue with users USA Today
YouTube to share revenue with users: AP MarketWatch
Intel, IBM separately reveal transistor breakthrough International Herald Tribune
What You Need To Know About Windows Vista
Is Fox Preparing to Fight YouTube?
Spitzer: Reform NY health care now BusinessWeek
State of the Union? Divided
The Japan Times
Freeways' tainted air harms children's lungs, experts say
Los Angeles Times