In designing solutions to youth disconnection—young people who are both out of school and out of work—the issue of transportation may not immediately come to mind. Yet, a new report by the SSRC’s Measure of America program, Making the Connection: Transportation and Youth Disconnection, investigates the role lack of transportation infrastructure and services play in the lives of disconnected youth. Here, Kristen Lewis, the report’s author and Measure of America’s director, and Clare McGranahan summarize the report’s findings. While disconnection continues to decline post-recession, the pace is slow and youths of color are disproportionally affected. The report provides suggestions for how greater access to public transportation can improve youth reconnection.
Aliza Luft tackles a question essential for social science and for human rights work—how, and how much, does dehumanizing propaganda spread by planners of genocide affect the “foot soldiers” of mass killings? Drawing on her own research on Rwanda as well as the Holocaust and other cases, Luft argues that the effects of pronouncements that describe potential victims as nonhuman or animals needs to be considered alongside other potential factors that motivate ordinary people to kill, and that the impact of such language is rarely straightforward. Luft concludes that “dehumanizing discourse can pave the way for violence to occur, but violence does not require it.”
Deborah Cameron traces how issues related to gender (and sexuality), largely ignored in the early development of sociolinguistics, have emerged as a cornerstone of the field. Spurred on by the feminist movement and new generations of engaged scholars addressing how language use both reveals and embeds gender inequalities, scholarship on such questions is now “mainstream” across a range of disciplines. Cameron argues that the primary focus in recent decades on social identity and performance, while path-breaking in many ways, has had the unintended consequence of drawing attention away from core issues of power and patriarchy in terms of gender relations.
Mark Golub contributes a new essay to the “Race & Capitalism” series through a critical examination of the concept of the “rule of law.” Golub argues that, in the United States, the seemingly neutral and objective status of law masks a deep set of class and racial biases that are underpinned by state violence. He calls attention to two key approaches to understanding and ultimately confronting the injustices of such a legal order—critical legal studies and critical race theory. According to Golub, bringing the strengths of these two intellectual currents together is necessary for a robust critique of a system in which racial domination and capitalist exploitation reinforce each other.
Ashleigh Campi’s essay for the “Race & Capitalism” series explores the intersection of these two forces through recent transformations in US public education. Campi discuss preemptive criminalization—how schools as social spaces have increasingly become sites of surveillance and punishment for students of color. Neoliberal policies, evident in the push for privatization, augment this process as many charter schools’ disciplinary policies are especially punitive regarding black youth.
John Robinson III’s contribution to the “Race & Capitalism” series provides a historical perspective on what he calls American capitalism’s “selective democratization,” especially with regards to race. The myth of a self-regulating market, argues Robinson, obscures the political underpinnings of economic inclusion, which has consistently favored the “self-reliance” of white workers while excluding blacks. He draws on W. E. B. Du Bois’s analysis of the post–Civil War Freedmen’s Bureau and attempts to democratize housing assets in the 1970s through the Community Reinvestment Act as examples of policy efforts to increase inclusion that have been thwarted by racial politics.
In an essay that continues the Democracy Papers’ current focus on welfare states, Lea Elsässer explores unequal representation in the context of welfare state reforms. Focusing on Germany since the 1980s, she shows that welfare state reforms are more responsive to the preferences of citizens in the upper socioeconomic classes, compared to those in lower socioeconomic classes. These findings contribute to the recent literature on problems of representation in modern democracies.
Hannah Appel’s contribution to the “Race & Capitalism” series explores the intersection of these two forces in global labor markets. Based on research on the transnational oil industry in Equatorial Guinea, Appel analyzes the dramatic wage differential among employees and contractors based on nationality, which can often be seen as a proxy for race. Below the surface of market rationales for such distinctions, Appel argues, is the centrality of racialized difference in the structuring of transnational labor.
Michael Dawson, curator of the new series on “Race & Capitalism,” kicks things off with a reflection on how the contemporary intersection between racialization and the capitalist political economy is taking democracy to the brink. Building on a key insight from W. E. B. Du Bois (discussed in detail by Ella Myers in an earlier Items essay), Dawson links the breakdown in upward mobility for many working-class whites to a reinvigoration of the public face of white supremacy. Tracing the nexus of capitalism, racial domination, and patriarchy in the United States, Dawson engages the question of emancipatory movements, and the possibilities of their emergence, in a political moment he sees as a full-blown legitimacy crisis.
In this essay, Hanna Garth reflects on how her several years of fieldwork in eastern Cuba and Los Angeles, California, inform her critiques of the ways scholars and practitioners look at issues of food access and food security. She argues policymakers should focus more on food acquisition practices to better understand and address a community’s dietary needs and its food preferences. Based on her research, Garth questions the current focus on only dietary needs, and demonstrates the importance of tracing people’s actual pathways for acquiring food.