Author and journalist Daniel Hernandez and professor Eric Avila explored the Latin history, features and identity of Los Angeles at a March 14, 2019, forum hosted by the Latin American Cities Initiative at UCLA Luskin. Initiative director Paavo Monkkonen, an associate professor of urban planning and public policy, moderated the forum on “Los Angeles as a Latin American City.” Hernandez, editor and host of L.A. Taco and the author of “Down & Delirious in Mexico City,” commented on corruption and infrastructure in Los Angeles, explaining that “there are things from Latin America that we should not import, [such as] the way political offices are doled out.” He noted that Los Angeles “is developing in a way that only benefits the people who already have money,” a pattern that is all too familiar in Latin American cities like Buenos Aires, Argentina. Avila, professor of Chicano studies and urban planning, researches the intersection of racial identity, urban space and cultural representation in 20th century America. According to Avila, Los Angeles is a Latin American city “in terms of population, the built environment, present-day demography, and the regional design and infrastructure.” However, he said, “Los Angeles is not a Latin American city in regard to the historically sustained efforts to whitewash and erase Spanish and Mexican past, including informal and formal practices of racial segregation, the creation of a subordinate labor force, racial hierarchies and white supremacy as a principle of urban development.” — Zoe Day
Gary Orfield, distinguished research professor of urban planning, told the ThinkProgress news site that President Donald Trump’s attempt to honor Martin Luther King Jr. was ironic because he “was elected in a racist campaign.” Trump posted a tweet praising the civil rights leader and made a quick trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. “Trump often tries to spin reality, but his tweet suggesting he affirms the ideals of Martin Luther King is truly incredible,” said Orfield, who co-directs the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. “[Trump’s] administration has attacked civil rights in appointments, in regulation changes, in attacking affirmative action, in creating unspeakable conditions for refugee families, and turning the Supreme Court to the hard right.” Orfield concluded, “Those who believe in Dr. King’s vision of the ‘beloved community’ should be marching now because this administration is the most hostile we’ve experienced in a century.”
By Stan Paul
A new study by UCLA researchers reveals the range of reactions — from rejection to reinterpretation to acceptance — after white nationalists learn that DNA ancestry test results indicate they may not be as white or European as they previously thought.
The study, “When Genetics Challenges a Racist’s Identity: Genetic Ancestry Testing among White Nationalists,” is the work of UCLA researchers Aaron Panofsky and Joan Donovan, who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association held Aug. 14, 2017, in Montreal, Canada.
Upon receiving genetic evidence of non-white or non-European ancestry, those posting online “expend considerable energy to repair identities by rejecting or reinterpreting GAT results,” said the researchers, who studied discussion threads on the topic posted on the white nationalist online forum Stormfront.
In their qualitative study, Panofsky and Donovan looked at more than 3,000 posts in 70 discussion threads on topics related to “test reveals.” These included posts by individuals who revealed results of non-white/non-European ancestry on Stormfront, a website that requires members to be white or European with non-Jewish ancestry. Responses also included the comments on those test results.
Panofsky, an associate professor with appointments in Public Policy at UCLA Luskin and the Institute for Society and Genetics, and Sociology; and Donovan, a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA’s Institute for Society and Genetics, report that while GATs promote “the capacity to reveal one’s genetic ties to ethnic groups, ancient populations and historical migrations, and even famous historical figures … this opportunity to ‘know thyself’ can come with significant risks.”
Panofsky points out that based on white nationalists’ responses to genetic information, upon learning their test results, there is no reason to believe that they would give up their racial ideology, and, more importantly, that genetic information cannot be relied on to change the views of white nationalists.
In addition, Panofsky said that, as a group, white nationalists appear to have a combination of sophisticated and unsophisticated methods of interpreting the data from statistical and genetic viewpoints, as well as on their own historical reasoning or reinterpretation.
“In this framework, the repair strategy is not to reject scientific or historical knowledge, but to educate oneself to understand the construction of GAT results and to explain those results in alternate terms,” the researchers conclude.
In parsing responses to GAT results posted on Stormfront, Panofsky and Donovan created a “decision tree” consisting of “good news” responses, or confirmation of white identity, or “bad news,” revealing results of non-white or non-European ancestry.
“Good news” served a confirming purpose and was well-received, but “bad news” elicited responses of rejection of the GAT. The alternatives to the rejected responses included championing of traditional methods, citing family history or using a “mirror test,” whereby individuals evaluated their outward appearance as a gauge of racial identity.
When appealing to the online community for more information about confusing results, “Many of the responses to bad news are about how to repair the damage, rather than latching onto the ideology of Stormfront,” Panofsky said. “Even though they have that idea of purity, they help people explain away or dismiss the result.”
The researchers also found that some who reject unfavorable GAT results interpret them as the product of companies with an anti-white bias, or Jewish ownership “invested in sowing racial doubt and confusion among whites.” They also attribute a small percentage of non-white or non-European markers as being “part of a multicultural conspiracy,” according to the study.
Another way the online community dealt with bad news, Panofsky and Edwards reported, was to discount indications of “non-white” ancestry as a statistical error, or “noise” to engage in “scientific reinterpretation of the results.”
The findings also indicate that white nationalists are using GAT results to rethink “the boundaries of whiteness.” Panofsky and Donovan point out that a great deal of discussion on Stormfront focuses on “what are the genetic markers of legitimate whiteness or European-ness,” and how to think about white nationalism in the era of GAT.
“They are doing so based not on wild misinterpretations or anti-scientific conceptualizations, but rather by processing through a racist cognition the materials that geneticists and genetic ancestry companies churn into the public,” Panofsky said.
My friends in the Luskin community,
For the kind of work that we do here at Luskin, the tragic and horrific events in Charlottesville last weekend cut very close to home. The forces of division are strong and, for the first time in a generation, they are being legitimized, and endorsed by the highest powers in the country. Our nation is in mourning, as adherents of the abhorrent ideology of white supremacy murdered a woman (and injured dozens) in broad daylight in a university town. Heather Heyer is among the most recent and visible casualties of racism, but she is not the first and I am sadly certain she will not be the last.
That racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy kill is hardly news. Their effects are everywhere, if only you are willing to look. Racial disparities in political representation, educational opportunity, net wealth, access to affordable health care, home ownership, and contact with the carceral state are manifest and written into institutional arrangements that preserve social inequalities rather than disrupt them.
Women face wage and health care discrimination, mosques burned as Muslims are banned, Jews denounced by white men wearing swastikas, gays and lesbians beaten and murdered, transsexual persons demonized and legislated against, and undocumented immigrants who do some of the hardest jobs in the society described as rapists and drug mules by the President of the United States and deported at an accelerating pace.
All of these things were true on the day before the Charlottesville marches and murder last weekend. These affronts to human dignity and well-being are what makes our work so important. At Luskin we train scholars, policymakers and community leaders who work hard—together—every day to alleviate and transform these social injustices. We must continue to produce state of the art research in the service of all of our communities. In Los Angeles, we know that our diversity is not a weakness; in fact, it is our strength.
It is my fervent hope that these tragic events become a tipping point. We should be more motivated than we have ever been. We should be more fully mobilized than we have ever been. And we should work even harder to bring the tools of our professions, our training as applied social scientists, our insights, our skills at distilling fact from propaganda to this struggle.
In a spirit of hope and action, we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future for all communities. And we must fight like hell to achieve that goal.
Best wishes to you all,