The events in Charlottesville this past weekend drew international attention to the increasing number of hate groups in the United States, and left many wondering: what draws people into white extremist groups? What ideologies motivate these recruits? And finally, is there hope that people will leave these groups?
Michael Kimmel, the SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University, is one of the world’s leading experts on men and masculinities. In his forthcoming book, Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism, Dr. Kimmel examines young recruits of violent extremist groups, and unveils how white extremist groups wield masculinity to recruit and retain members—and also prevent members from exiting the movement. Watch an interview with Dr. Kimmel and hear his response to the tragic events in Virginia.
Based on in-depth interviews with ex-white nationalists and neo-Nazis in the United States, as well as ex-skinhead and neo-Nazis in Germany and Sweden, Kimmel sheds light on these young white men’s feelings—yet clearly make no excuses for their actions. Healing From Hate reminds us of their efforts to exit the movement and reintegrate themselves into society, and is a call to action to help others to turn around and to do the same.
My book emerged from a simple observation. The Iran I experienced in person looked very different from the Iran I read about in journalism and scholarship.
In 2009, I visited Iran to conduct a year-long study of the country’s welfare system. My plane landed a day after the June 12th presidential election in which the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was controversially declared the winner in the first round of voting. After highly charged pre-election campaigns had led supporters of opposition candidates to believe that they would at least push the election into another round, many skeptical voters did not give credence to the results. Protests shook the city that evening and the next day. Over the next several weeks, Iran experienced the largest public demonstrations since the 1979 revolution. Participants labeled themselves the Green Movement. Millions of Iranians marched in the streets, chanted slogans, made demands on the state, and captivated the attention of the world media.
On my second day in Tehran, I stepped onto the subway and got out at a scheduled demonstration, not knowing what would occur. I was swept up the train-station stairs with thousands of other metro passengers. Emerging into daylight, I saw hundreds of thousands of individuals gathered in a north-central square of the capital. They marched in silence, exhibiting high levels of self-discipline even though the movement was apparently leaderless. In a sense, the protestors were following in the tradition of not just the 1979 Iranian revolution but a hundred years of bottom-up protest in Iran that has been relatively peaceful and nonviolent. As the protesters mobilized during the months of June and July, and then demobilized through the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010, I watched the unfolding of what sociologists call the “dynamics of contention.” The protests directed a surge of youthful emotional energy at the state’s hypocritical public rhetoric about democratic fairness. The demonstrations, initially in response to a perceived fraudulent election, transcended the original demands of the opposition. Protestors drew on and reformulated the symbols and slogans of Iran’s 1979 revolutionary repertoire. Nationalist calls for unity emanating from the state were matched with an equally forceful nationalism from below, which questioned the legitimacy of politicians who claimed to act in the national interest. Both sides of the struggle changed tactics in response to new opportunities, appealed to the population for support, and polarized their temperaments in relation to each other.
The effervescence of the 2009 Green Movement in the initial post-election period peaked in a multimillion-person march in Tehran on June 15th. The excitement, however, concealed weaknesses, which soon became apparent. The movement lacked any extensive autonomous organizations that could strategically coordinate a limited number of participants for maximum effect. The rallies also lacked strong connections with provincial towns across Iran, not to mention the countryside. Indeed, as I learned during travels to other provinces over the next year, the 2009 Green Movement was largely a Tehran-based event. This made the 2009 protests quite dissimilar to the 1979 Iranian revolution as well as the subsequent 2011 Egyptian revolution, both of which powerfully connected the provinces with the capital.
Trump’s administration considers “inner city” violence, drug use, and teen pregnancy to be major issues in perpetuating the cycle of poverty in black and brown communities. Those who embrace this rhetoric consider black and brown residents of this country as responsible for their own socio-economic marginalization. This rhetoric is embedded within racist ideologies that construct black and brown communities as culturally depraved. However, the assumption that various “risk behaviors” such as drug use, violence, and teen pregnancy are overwhelmingly responsible for economic marginalization of black and brown communities is regrettably not unique to the current administration.
Many progressive liberals including academics consider risk behaviors as one of the central stories of poverty, although they offer structural explanations that are vastly different than the cultural deficiency (of economically marginalized black and brown communities) arguments. Many liberals consider it important to make visible how and why poverty causes black and brown youth to become teen parents, drug users, and gang members.
While drug use and violence are arguably issues we need to tackle, they are hardly unique to economically marginalized black and brown communities. For example, rate of drug use is fairly consistent across all communities, police violence killed 991 civilians in the year 2015, and postponing pregnancy does not benefit economically marginalized women the way in benefits middle-class women. Moreover, overwhelming majority of economically marginalized black and brown U.S. Americans do not use drugs or join gangs, and they do not become teen parents.
Why then do we write about drugs, gangs, violence, and teen parenthood as the central stories of poverty? Why do government and non-profit organizations, schools, and communities focus on preventing risk behaviors among black and brown youth as the key to breaking the cycle of poverty? What are the consequences of this overwhelming focus on risk behaviors? These are some of the questions I tackle in my book The Making of A Teenage Service Class.
I spent three years among sixteen young economically marginalized black and brown youth, who denounce drugs, gangs and early parenthood, and pursue higher education and white-collar work, to find out if they are able to go beyond their families’ class positions. Their families, teachers, communities, and the youth themselves had to navigate the rhetoric that they were at risk of teen pregnancy, drugs, gangs, and violence by virtue of their membership in a particular socio-economic group. They were told that avoiding these risk behaviors should be their priority, and that should they be successful in avoiding them and pursuing higher education, they could lead the middle-class American dream. The young people were adamant on avoiding these risk behaviors, imagined that they are indeed socially mobile on counts of not engaging in risk behaviors, and stigmatized their friends, neighbors and family members who did not play by the “mobility rules.” On one hand, the young people struggled with hunger, subpar transportation, untreated illnesses, and lack of access to computers, Internet and college support programs while balancing school with minimum wage jobs. On the other hand, the community spent its resources and time in “preventing” risk behaviors.
This overwhelming focus on risk behaviors overshadows structural shortcomings and it reinforces race and class hierarchies by feeding the stereotypes that black and brown youth are at risk and that their behaviors are in need for modification. While there is a difference in how those in different ends of the political spectrum understand the causes of risk behaviors, what is dangerously similar is how risk behaviors are ubiquitously constructed as the central story of poverty around which policies ought to be built.
What we should ask ourselves—irrespective of our location on the political spectrum—is, how can we support all youth and their dreams and desires instead of focusing on risk behaviors? We know that avoiding early parenthood does not increase chances of mobility among poor black and brown youth, drug use is not unique to black and brown youth, and violence is related to mass incarceration in the U.S.—why are we preoccupied with these issues among economically marginalized black and brown youth at the cost of supporting their educational and occupational goals, and fostering larger structural changes?
Ranita Ray is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
France has been under a state of emergency since the November 2015 terrorist attacks in several sites in the Parisian metropolitan region, including the Stade de France stadium and the Bataclan theater. Originally put into place by then-President Francois Hollande, it has since been extended about six times. Current president Emmanuel Macron has proposed extending the state of emergency until November of this year—two years after the November terrorist attacks.
Why does this matter? Under the state of emergency, police officers are allowed to conduct searches without warrants, among other measures. And such measures have disproportionately affected black and North African-origin individuals. According to a recent Amnesty International Report, French authorities are increasing using emergency powers to restrict protests and demonstrations. This is the longest state of emergency in France since the Algerian War of Independence.
But France has another state of emergency – how it treats its racial and ethnic minorities. In my forthcoming book, Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France, I show how the North African second-generation is constantly treated as if they were not French even though they are, as revealed by the marginalization and racism they experience. The individuals I discuss were born and raised in France, are educated, and have achieved a middle-class status and upward mobility relative to their immigrant parents. Yet, they are still treated like second-class citizens, or denied cultural citizenship, because of they are non-white. France therefore has a growing of citizens who despite adhering to Republican ideology and doing everything “right” cannot be seen as fully French or be fully included in mainstream society. Much like second-generation Latinos in the U.S., they are continually asked, “Where are from?” and the answer, France, is never satisfactory.
Despite the defeat of Marine le Pen in the recent presidential election, racism and xenophobia have not gone away. President Macron was under controversy this past June for a joke he made about the boats that transport Comorian migrants to Mayotte, a French department off the coast of Eastern Africa. And police violence against black and North African-origin individuals is a growing problem, including the summer 2016 death of Adama Traoré in the banlieue of Beaumont-sur-Oise and the February 2017 beating and rape of Theo L in the banlieue of Aulnay-sous-Bois. Despite France’s emphasis on a cohesive national community, it remains uncomfortable and unsettled with the multicultural nature of its population.
Jean Beaman Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue University.
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This season of The Bachelorette introduced social class into the story line, when Eric revealed to Rachel that he had grown up in the city of Baltimore, home of The Wire. Would Eric be able to persuade Rachel that he was the one? And if so, would marriage be on the horizon? Over the past few decades there has been a growing bifurcation in marriage. People with college degrees are now considerably more likely to “jump the broom” than are couples where one or both partners lack a bachelors degree.
What is it about social class and marriage that is so inextricably linked? Shows like The Bachelorette portray marriage as an opportunity for social mobility (for women) or class closure (for men). Glossed over are the challenges differentiating the family formation opportunities of adults from more and less educated backgrounds. Americans with less than college degrees are as likely to aspire to romantic, long-term relationships as the college educated. But barriers to the success of long-term relationships are high. Housing often eats up well more than a third of their income, good paying stable jobs with benefits are hard to find, pregnancies often ensue even when not intended, and debt decreases one’s attractiveness on the partner market.
So, is a college degree now a prerequisite for marriage, along with a professional job? Data show that people with college degrees are now more likely than non-college educated people to get (and stay) married. But how does that come about? In our book, Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships, we spent two years talking to young adult cohabitors, exploring what contributed to this growing class divide.
While two generally can live as cheaply as one, we found that the less educated frequently moved in together more quickly than they would have liked, often due to economic need rather than the intensification of their relationship. Further, pregnancies experienced early on in their relationships habitually added additional stress to the situation. And, while many women, regardless of social class, aspire to egalitarian relationships, college educated women were better able to achieve their desired end – greater sharing in household chores, and more agreement regarding important things like contraceptive use and where the relationship was heading (engagement). They are also more comfortable with asking for what they want and their college educated male partners are more amenable to sharing and communication than are less educated men. This sets middle class cohabiting couples on the road to marital success. Economic strain and dissonance in expectations and gender roles, in contrast, challenge the relationships of less educated couples, making marriage far less desirable.
While Eric win over Rachel in the end? If her goal is marriage, our results suggest that the final answer will be “No.” It’s not that the less educated eschew marriage. But the expectations of what should be in place for a marriage to occur, expressed by both women and men, increasingly puts the ability to “tie the knot” beyond the means for many of the less advantaged.
Sharon Sassler is Professor of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University.
Amanda Miller is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Indianapolis.
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I grew up a Yankees fan. My mother, who couldn’t tell a home run from a quarterback sneak, gamely took 10 year old me and my pals to Yankee Stadium. Now I’m a Red Sox fan. I still love major league baseball. Today, though, I’m far more conscious of the insinuation of militarized patriotism into the game, and, more discomforting, the likelihood that as a fan, I am complicit in that risky process.
Last week I was among the 36,000 fans soaking up Fenway Park’s special beauty on a glorious July afternoon. The stands were full, the grass green, and the bases white. Red Sox fans are a boisterously friendly lot, so I felt I had to stand up with everyone else when a teenage girl sang the national anthem. I cringed when a mammoth stars and stripes was unfurled in the outfield down the beloved Green Monster wall. I kept my cringes to myself.
Around the 6th inning, during a lull in the action, the Fenway announcer drew our attention to the Jumbotron, where we saw a giant version of a middle-aged white man who, in human proportions, was with us in the stands. He was identified as a veteran of recent U.S. wars. Invited to give him a hero’s welcome, a wave of grateful applause erupted. I sat stingily on my hands, still saying nothing.
I love singing at Fenway. Joining thousands of other fans in “Take Me out to the Ball Game” and Boston’s own “Sweet Caroline” is to experience sheer joy. But when at the bottom of the 8th came “America the Beautiful” and everyone around me stood, I sat quietly. My friends smiled down at me sympathetically.
Patriotism, especially militarized, masculinity-heroicizing patriotism, is escalating at American sporting events. It may be most prominent at NFL games and NASCAR races, but it is in full bloom at most major league baseball games—not just the national anthem, but also the ubiquitous lauding of military personnel, and additional patriotic songs in the middle of the game.
Complicity. I have become more interested in complicity, and aware of its subtleties, but I’m not sure how to research it. Feminists in other countries might be our tutors. Japanese feminists today track the singing of their nation’s anthem and displays of the national flag. Bosnian feminists chart ethnicized patriotic symbols as they dominate masculinized soccer games in all parts of the now-rival states of the former Yugoslavia.
I think we need to explore how exactly ordinary women and men—and girls and boys—get personally drawn into militarized masculinized patriotism. To do that, we need to investigate the gendered responses of individuals to both pressures and the allures. I suspect that complicity in militarized masculinized patriotism is camouflaged as mere entertainment or sentimentalism, as well as collective appreciation and gratitude. Gratitude is so often feminized. It becomes an extension of dependency. Women, therefore, are popularly expected to be grateful to men and to the masculinized state for offering them militarized protection. In a militarized society, a woman who refuses to express that gratitude (staying seated when the male veteran is being cheered) risks being deemed unfeminine.
Appreciation can be either masculinized or feminized. In its militarized masculinized form, appreciation is imagined by many men to be an expression of their own special understanding of what it takes to be a manly soldier. By contrast, when feminized, that militarized appreciation is an expression of recognizing that an ordinary woman would be unable to perform these soldiering feats.
Sentimentality, entertainment, appreciation and gratitude—each are routinely gendered. To the extent that all four can be mobilized to serve masculinized militarized patriotism, patriarchy will be perpetuated. It will take researchers and analysts with patience, imagination, stamina and feminist curiosity to understand the myriad deep social processes being entrenched today at a baseball game on a sunny summertime afternoon.
Why did I sit during “God Bless America,” but say nothing?
Other titles from Cynthia Enloe:
Cynthia Enloe is Research Professor at Clark University specializing in critical studies of militarism and transnational feminism. She has appeared on the BBC, Al Jazeera, and NPR and has written for Ms. and the Village Voice. She is the author of more than fifteen books and was awarded the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement in Peace Studies Award from the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA).