Skip to main content
×
×
Home

RACIAL APATHY AND HURRICANE KATRINA: The Social Anatomy of Prejudice in the Post-Civil Rights Era

  • Tyrone A. Forman (a1) and Amanda E. Lewis (a2)
Abstract

During the crisis that followed Hurricane Katrina, many Americans expressed surprise at the dramatic levels of racial inequality captured in the images of large numbers of poor Black people left behind in devastated New Orleans. In this article we argue that, to better understand both the parameters of contemporary racial inequality reflected in the hurricane's aftermath and why so many were surprised about the social realities of racial inequality that social scientists have known about for decades, it is essential to recognize the shifting nature of Whites' racial attitudes and understandings. There is widespread evidence that in the post-civil rights era the expression of White racial prejudice has changed. In fact, during the post-civil rights era subtle and indirect forms of prejudice have become more central to the sustenance and perpetuation of racial inequality than are overt forms of prejudice. We draw on both survey and qualitative data to investigate current manifestations of White racial attitudes and prejudices. Our results indicate that racial apathy, indifference towards racial and ethnic inequality, is a relatively new but expanding form of racial prejudice. We further show that Whites' systematic “not knowing” about racial inequality (White ignorance), which was manifest in the reaction to the crises after Hurricane Katrina, is related to this racial indifference. Racial apathy and White ignorance (i.e., not caring and not knowing) are extensions of hegemonic color-blind discourses (i.e., not seeing race). These phenomena serve as pillars of contemporary racial inequality that have until now received little attention. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical and the practical implications of our results for understanding racial dynamics in the post-Katrina United States.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Tyrone A. Forman, Institute of Government and Public Affairs (M/C 191), 815 W. Van Buren Street, Suite 525, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60607. E-mail: tyforman@uic.edu
Footnotes
Hide All
This research was partially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES-0317740). We gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of several seminar participants at Brown University and Duke University.
Footnotes
References
Hide All

REFERENCES

Almaguer, Tomas (1994). Racial Fault Lines: The Historical Origins of White Supremacy in California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Alter, Jonathan (2005). The Other America. Newsweek, September 19. 〈http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9287641/site/newsweek〉 (accessed February 18, 2006).
AAPOR (2004). Standard Definitions: Final dispositions of case codes and outcome rates for surveys. 3ed. Lenexa, KS: American Association for Public Opinion Research.
Bachman, Jerald, Johnston Lloyd, and Patrick O'Malley (1996). The Monitoring the Future Project after Twenty-two Years: Design and Procedures. Monitoring the Future Occasional Paper 38. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research.
Bar-Tal, Daniel (1990). Causes and consequences of delegitimization: Models of conflict and ethnocentrism. Journal of Social Issues, 46(1): 6581.
Bartky, Sandra Lee (2002). Sympathy and Solidarity and Other Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Berinsky, Adam (1999). The two faces of public opinion. American Journal of Political Science, 43(4): 12091230.
Berinsky, Adam (2002). Political context and the survey response: The dynamics of racial policy opinion. Journal of Politics, 64(2): 567584.
Billiet, Jaak, Michael Philippens, Rory Fitzgerald, and Ineke Stoop (2006). Estimation of response bias in the European Social Survey: Using information from reluctant respondents in round one. Unpublished Manuscript, Department of Sociology, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.
Blumer, Herbert (1958). Race Prejudice as a Sense of Group Position. Pacific Sociological Review, 1: 37.
Bobo, Lawrence (1999). Prejudice as group position: Microfoundations of a sociological approach to racism and race relations. Journal of Social Issues, 55(3): 445472.
Bobo, Lawrence (2004). Inequalities that Endure? Racial Ideology, American Politics, and the Peculiar Role of the Social Sciences. In Maria Krysan and Amanda E. Lewis (Eds.), Changing Terrain of Race & Ethnicity, pp. 1342. New York: Russell Sage.
Bobo, Lawrence, James Kluegel, and Ryan Smith (1997). Laissez-Faire Racism: The Crystallization of a Kinder, Gentler, Antiblack Ideology. In Stephen Tuch and Jack Martin (Eds.), Racial Attitudes in the 1990s: Continuity and Change, pp. 1544. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Bobo, Lawrence and Mia Tuan (2006). Prejudice in Politics: Group Position, Public Opinion, and the Wisconsin Treaty Rights Dispute. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (2001). White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo (2003). Racism without Racists. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo and Tyrone Forman (2000). I'm not a racist, but … : Mapping white college students' racial ideology in the USA. Discourse & Society, 11(1): 5085.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo, Tyrone A. Forman, Amanda E. Lewis, and David Embrick (2003). It wasn't me!: How will Race and Racism work in 21st Century America. Research in Political Sociology, 12: 111134.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo, Amanda E. Lewis, and David Embrick (2004). “I did not get that job because of a black man…”: Storylines and Testimonies of Color Blind Racism. Sociological Forum, 19(4): 555581.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). 347 U.S. 483.
Brown, Rupert (1995). Prejudice: Its Social Psychology. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
Butler, Judith (1997). The Psychic Life of Power. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Carr, Leslie (1997). Color-Blind Racism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Chesler, Mark (1976). Contemporary Sociological Theories of Racism. In Phyllis Katz (Ed.), Towards the Elimination of Racism, pp. 2171. New York, NY: Pergamon Press.
Dollard, John (1937). Caste and Class in a Southern Town. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Dovidio, John (2001). On the Nature of Contemporary Prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 57(4): 829849.
Dovidio, John and Samuel Gaertner (2000). Aversive racism and selection decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11(4): 319323.
Feagin, Joe R. (2001). Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations. New York: Routledge.
Fine, Michelle and Lois Weis (1998). Unknown City. Boston, MA: Beacon Books.
Forman, Tyrone A. (2001). Social Determinants of White Youths' Racial Attitudes. Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, 8: 173207.
Forman, Tyrone A. (2004). Color-Blind Racism and Racial Indifference: The role of Racial Apathy in Facilitating Enduring Inequalities. In Maria Krysan and Amanda E. Lewis (Eds.), Changing Terrain of Race & Ethnicity, pp. 4366. New York: Russell Sage.
Fredrickson, George (2002). Racism: A short history. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Gabe, Thomas, Gene Falk, Maggie McCarty, and Virgina Mason (2005). Hurricane Katrina: Social-Demographic Characteristics of Impacted Areas. November 4. Congressional Research Service. Washington, DC: The Library of Congress.
Gallagher, Charles (2003). Color-blind Privilege: The social and political functions of erasing the color line in Post Race America. Race, Gender, and Class, 10(4): 117.
Goldberg, David Theo (2006a). Racial Europeanization. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 29(2): 331364.
Goldberg, David Theo (2006b). The Global Reach of Raceless States. In Donaldo Macedo and Panayota Gounari (Eds.), The Globalization of Racism, pp. 4567. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
Gonzalez, David (2005). From Margins of Society to Center of the Tragedy. New York Times, September 2, A1. 〈http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/02/national/nationalspecial/〉 (accessed September 2, 2005).
Harding, John, Harold Proshansky, Bernard Kutner, and Isidor Chein (1969). Prejudice and Ethnic Relations. In Gardner Lindzey and Elliot Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, Volume 5, pp. 176. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
Hodson, Gordon, John Dovidio, and Samuel Gaertner (2002). Processes in racial discrimination: Differential weighting of conflicting information. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(4): 460471.
Katz, Daniel (1960). The functional approach to the study of attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 24(2): 163204.
Katz, Michael (1990). The Undeserving Poor. New York: Pantheon.
Katznelson, Ira (2005). When Affirmative Action was White. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.
Kelley, Robin D. G. (1998). Yo' Mama's Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Kenny, Lorraine D. (2000). Daughters of Suburbia: Growing up white, middle class, and female. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. (1963). Why we can't wait. New York, NY: Mentor Book.
Kingsley, G. Thomas and Kathryn L. S. Pettit (2003). Concentrated Poverty: A Change in Course. Neighborhood Change in Urban America Series, Paper No. 2. Washington, DC: Urban Institute. 〈http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=310790〉 (accessed January 20, 2006).
Kish, Leslie (1965). Survey Sampling. New York, NY: Wiley.
Kozol, Jonathon (1991). Savage Inequalities. New York: Harper Perennial.
Lehtonen, Risto and Erkki J. Pahkinen (1995). Practical methods for design and analysis of complex surveys. New York, NY: Wiley.
Lewis, Amanda E. (2001). There is No “Race” in the Schoolyard: Color-blind Ideology in an (Almost) All White School. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4): 781812.
Lewis, Amanda E. (2003). Race in the Schoolyard: Negotiating the color line in classrooms and communities. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Lewis, Amanda E. (2004). What Group?: Studying Whites and Whiteness in the Era of Colorblindness. Sociological Theory, 22(4): 623646.
Lewis, Amanda E., Mark Chesler, and Tyrone Forman (2000). The impact of color-blind ideologies on students of color: Intergroup relations at a predominantly white university. Journal of Negro Education, 69(1/2): 7491.
Lippman, Walter (1922). Public opinion. New York, NY: Macmillan Company.
Loewen, James (1996). Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Touchstone.
Loury, Glenn (2002). The Anatomy of Racial Inequality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Massey, Douglas and Nancy Denton (1994). American Apartheid. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
McKinney, Karyn D. (2004). Being White. New York, NY: Routledge.
Mills, Charles (1997). The Racial Contract. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Mills, Charles (2000). Race and the social contract tradition. Social Identities, 6(4): 441462.
Mills, Charles (2006). White Ignorance. Unpublished Manuscript, Department of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Chicago.
Myers, Kristen and Passion Williamson (2001). Race talk: The perpetuation of racism through private discourse. Race & Society, 4(1): 326.
Myrdal, Gunnar (1944). An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. New York and London: Harper and Brothers Publishers.
New Orleans Times Picayune (2002). Washing Away. Five-Part Series published June 23–27, 2002. 〈http://www.nola.com/hurricane/?/washingaway/〉 (accessed February 16, 2006).
Obama, Barack (2005). Statement of Senator Barack Obama on Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts. 〈http://obama.senate.gov/statement/050906statement_of_senator_barack_obama_on_hurricane_katrina_relief_efforts〉 (accessed October 15, 2005).
Omi, Michael and Howard Winant (1994). Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960's to the 1990's, 2ed. New York: Routledge.
Orfield, Gary and Nora Gordon (2001). Schools More Separate: Consequences of a Decade of Resegregation. The Civil Rights Project. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Orfield, Gary and John T Yun (1999). Resegregation in American Schools. The Civil Rights Project. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.
Payne, Charles (1984). Getting What We Ask For. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Perry, Pamela (2002). Shades of White. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Pettigrew, Thomas (1979). The ultimate attribution error: Extending Allport's cognitive analysis of prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 5(4): 461476.
Pettigrew, Thomas (1980). Prejudice. In Stephen Thernstrom, Ann Orlov, and Oscar Handlin (Eds.), Dimensions of ethnicity: Prejudice, pp. 129. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Pettigrew, Thomas and Roel Meertens (1995). Subtle and blatant prejudice in Western Europe. European Journal of Social Psychology, 25: 5775.
Rieder, Jonathan (1985). Canarsie. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Saenz, Rogelio (2005). Beyond New Orleans: The social and economic isolation of urban African Americans. Population Reference Bureau. 〈http://www.prb.org/Template.cfm?Section=PRB&template≠Content/ContentGroups/05_Articles/The_Social_and_Economic_Isolation_of_Urban_African_Americans.htm〉 (accessed October 26, 2005).
Sears, David and P. J. Henry (2003). The origins of symbolic racism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(2): 259275.
Shenkman, Richard (1992). Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History. New York: Harper.
Sue, Derald Wing (2005). Racism and the conspiracy of silence. The Counseling Psychologist, 33(1): 100114.
Sugrue, Thomas (1996). The Origins of the Urban Crisis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Takaki, Ronald (1993). A Different Mirror. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.
U.S. Bureau of the Census (2006). Statistical Abstract of the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed