ORIGINAL ARTICLE “Don’t Ever Forget Now, You’re a Black Man in America”: Intersections of Race, Class and Gender In Encounters with the Police Andrea L. Dottolo & Abigail J. Stewart Published online:...

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“Don’t Ever Forget Now, You’re a Black Man in America”:
Intersections of Race, Class and Gender In Encounters
with the Police
Andrea L. Dottolo & Abigail J. Stewart
Published online: 15 January 2008
# Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007
Abstract Middle-aged black and white graduates of a
Midwestern US high school responded to interview ques-
tions about race and racial identity. Their answers included
descriptions of police harassment and crime, and focused
on those considered to be criminal actors: most often
apparently poor, black men. Qualitative analysis of 38
interviews showed that questions about racial identity
tapped into a discourse that constructs and stereotypes
criminals as occupying social positions defined by race,
class and gender, particularly for African Americans. The
concept of intersectionality illuminates the cultural con-
struction of police encounters with citizens in terms of poo
lack men, and the specific nature of the stories of racial
identity told—and not told—by respondents with different
ace, class and gender identities.
Keywords Intersectionality . Race and gender .
Masculinity . Identity construction . Social class
Feminist scholars and activists have been writing about the
concept and lived experiences of intersectionality fo
several decades, notably in the Combahee River Collective
Statement (1977), which argued that our identities and
varied relationships to systems of power and privilege are
simultaneous and mutually constitutive. Other influential
feminist theorists followed, using intersectionality to illus-
trate that individuals exist at the “intersection” of many
identities and social realities, all informed and shaped by
the others (Crenshaw 1995; King 1997; Smith and Stewart
1983; Spelman XXXXXXXXXXCollins XXXXXXXXXXdescribed intersec-
tionality as an “interlocking matrix of relationships” (p. 20).
As discussed by Shields in the introduction to this special
issue, traditional psychological theory and empirical re-
search tend to homogenize gender, as well as other social
identities such as race, while often ignoring others such as
social class. The isolation of one identity as a unified o
monolithic category can result in essentializing across
multiple differences, overlooking important relationships
and distinctions based on other identities and dimensions of
Generally speaking, psychologists and social identity
theorists also tend to separate notions of the self from
political and institutional structures, viewing them as
distinct from each other. Sometimes psychology has
conceived of identities such as race, class, gender o
sexuality in terms of the language of individual differences
or personality traits, dissociated from context or social
structure. The connection between social identities and
institutional structures is an especially important component
of the notion of intersectionality. Social identities are not
only multiple and complicated, but result from social
locations that are situated within systems of oppression.
That is, social structures and institutions create, shape and
maintain social identities. Kitch XXXXXXXXXXemphasized the
elationship between individuals and structures, “All iden-
tities, even those conforming to mainstream or dominant
norms are...fa
icated by political structures and operations
that conceal the mechanisms through which they function”
(p. 88). Many feminist psychologists have discussed
intersectionality in terms of the relationship between
Sex Roles XXXXXXXXXX:350–364
A. L. Dottolo :A. J. Stewart (*)
Department of Psychology and Program in Women’s Studies,
University of Michigan,
204 S. State St.,
Ann A
or, MI 48109, USA
e-mail: a
identities and institutions, and incorporated that relationship
into their theory, method, and analyses (Deaux and Stewart
2001; Espin 1997; Marecek 1995; Stewart and McDermott
A point of intersection between identities and institutions
is clearly and vividly illuminated in encounters with the
police. Law enforcement officers embody an institutional-
ized regulating force, operating on those designated as
criminals or suspects. Perhaps because of the quantity and
ichness of detail in accounts of the police, some social
scientists have explored citizen–police encounters as an
example of the relationship between social identities and
institutional structures. For instance, Young XXXXXXXXXXshowed,
in his study of “marginalized Black men,” that nearly all of
them had been detained by the police at some time (p. 95),
often for being “in the wrong place at the wrong time”
(p XXXXXXXXXXEqually, Wilson et al XXXXXXXXXXexamined racial
prejudice in police profiling. The cu
ent project builds on
these studies, as well as the work of Fine and Weis
(1998), who asked working class adults in Jersey City and
Buffalo—areas hit hard by deindustrialization and econom-
ic instability—about their experience of crime, violence and
the police. Their results demonstrated that “even experi-
ences as seemingly clear cut as crime and fear are deeply
classed, raced, ethnicized, and gendered” (p. 437).
The cu
ent study examined the ways in which some
adult citizens’ responses to interview questions that asked
specifically about race and racial identity spontaneously
included descriptions of police harassment and crime,
especially those who are considered to be criminal actors,
those with “suspect” identities. Where Fine and Weis
(1998) began by asking questions about crime and the
police and discovered accounts grounded in race, we began
with questions about race that were sometimes answered
with accounts of encounters with the police. That is, when
asked general questions about racial identity, participants
esponded explicitly with descriptions of police encounters,
although they were not asked directly about law enforce-
ment at all. Both approaches tap into a specific discourse
that constructs and stereotypes criminals as occupying
intersectional marginalized social positions defined by race,
class and gender. Both studies examine interviews and
document responses that draw on a popular cultural
ative of criminality as it is experienced in everyday
lives. As Fine and Weis XXXXXXXXXXexplain, “In this land, the
story, not the logic and statistics, reigns supreme: the story
of what we have suffered, what we have heard about, what
we fear” (p XXXXXXXXXXIn assessing how participants understood
acial identities, we wanted their language and stories to
guide our analyses; therefore, our research questions were
somewhat open-ended. The research questions that guided
our research were: How did Black and White men and
women who attended a racially integrated high school
construct racial identities? Was the process different fo
Black and White participants? Specifically, how do both
Black graduates and Whites express awareness of institu-
tional power when discussing racial identities? Does gende
matter in the discussion of racial identity?
Through our analysis of the themes in the interviews, we
found that attention to intersectionality illuminated both the
cultural construction of police encounters with citizens in
terms of a certain intersectional location (working class o
poor Black men), and the specific nature of the stories
told—and not told—about their racial identities by
espondents with different race and gender positions. We
focus in this paper on analyzing responses in terms of
eferences to experiences of discrimination generally, and
then much more specifically—discriminatory encounters
with the police.
The present study includes analysis of themes in interviews
collected as part of a larger, collaborative project conducted
y Stewart, Winter, Henderson-King and Henderson-King
(see Stewart 2003 for details). The larger sample used fo
this thematic analysis includes 38 interviews with graduates
of a high school in the Midwest (refe
ed to as “Midwest
High School”) who had remained resident in the general
area of the city called Oak Valley (not the actual name of
the city) where they grew up. Interviewees were contacted
from a cu
ent list of alumni maintained by the class
eunion committee. Since resources permitted interviewing
40 individuals, and the goal was to have roughly equal
numbers of people in groups defined by race and gender,
the sample was stratified by race and gender and randomly
selected contacts among alumni who remained in Oak
Valley were made until the sample was completed. A total
of 82 individuals were contacted when sampling was
completed; thus, we interviewed 46% of those contacted.
About half of those 42 not included were actually neve
eached, so the rate of agreement among those reached was
considerably higher.
The interviews were conducted in 2001–2002 with
graduates of the classes of 1968; thus, participants were
all in their early 50s at the time of the interview. Because
the school was about half White and half Black when these
classes attended it, roughly equal numbers of groups
defined by race and gender were interviewed (7 Black
men, 9 Black women; 10 White men, 12 White women).
Interviews averaged well over an hour, and the interview
protocol consisted of open-ended questions about general
demographics, background questions, memories of high
school, their lives since high school, and various social
issues. Participants discussed the ways that Oak Valley has
een affected by social changes since high school. They
also discussed their own racial identities and race relations
associated with their high school experience. These
included a significant protest by Black students and thei
parents against a “dress code” that included a policy
perceived as racially motivated (prohibiting facial hair o
mustaches and beards), increasing tensions in the school,
and the eventual closure of the school as part of a school
desegregation plan. Because we assumed that same-race
discussions of race-related experiences are generally more
comfortable, we matched interviewees with interviewers on
ace; we were not able also to match on gender.
Most participants (36 of 38) had been ma
ied at some
time; 14 had also been divorced at some point. At the time
of the interview, 24 were ma
ied. Most participants had
children (4 did not); 20 had one or two children; 14 had
more. Most children were no longer living with partic-
ipants, but in 11 cases there were still children at home.
Most participants had not completed college (7 completed
high school only and 19 completed some post-high school
training, but not a college degree); six had graduated from
college, and six had completed master’s degrees. Five of
the participants were retired or on disability; the remaining
33 were employed full or part-time. Their jobs were
classified according to the standard Hollingshead and
Redlich XXXXXXXXXXoccupational status categories as follows:
six were in unskilled labor positions; nine in skilled labor;
seven in sales and clerical jobs; seven in administrative,
entrepreneurial and semi-professional positions, and nine
were minor professionals (mostly teachers and social
workers). There were no race differences on any of these
variables in this sample.
Coding Procedures
Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed, and edited to
emove identifying information about individuals and the
city. Interviewers then listened to the recordings again
while proofreading the accompanying transcript. The
authors analyzed the ve
atim transcripts using a grounded
theory approach to identifying themes arising in response to
interview questions (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Strauss
1987). Once themes were identified in the text, the authors
discussed and reread passages, organizing themes into
coding categories. Once the themes had stabilized into
categories that were understood clearly by both authors
(with inte
ater agreement on independently coded passages
above.85; see discussion of reliability below), they were
ecorded on the transcripts in NVIVO. Coding categories
were not mutually exclusive; thus, a given passage might be
coded for more than one category. For example
Answered 2 days AfterApr 03, 2022


P answered on Apr 06 2022
14 Votes
1. Type of the Research- Research study:
This is research study which was conducted by Andrea et.al to study about the race and race identity difference between the African Americans and White. A qualitative analysis study was conducted from 38 interviews by questionnaire about the racial identity to the graduates (both blacks and whites) of the Midwestern US high school.
2. Central Argument:
The central argument of this study is that the concept of Intersectionality illuminates the cultural encounters to the poor black people and the difference is Behaviour is observed by the social...

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