Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel

Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel


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Racism is a common occurrence for members of marginalized groups around the world. Getting Respect illuminates their experiences by comparing three countries with enduring group boundaries: the United States, Brazil and Israel. The authors delve into what kinds of stigmatizing or discriminatory incidents individuals encounter in each country, how they respond to these occurrences, and what they view as the best strategy—whether individually, collectively, through confrontation, or through self-improvement—for dealing with such events.

This deeply collaborative and integrated study draws on more than four hundred in-depth interviews with middle- and working-class men and women residing in and around multiethnic cities—New York City, Rio de Janeiro, and Tel Aviv—to compare the discriminatory experiences of African Americans, black Brazilians, and Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, as well as Israeli Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahi (Sephardic) Jews. Detailed analysis reveals significant differences in group behavior: Arab Palestinians frequently remain silent due to resignation and cynicism while black Brazilians see more stigmatization by class than by race, and African Americans confront situations with less hesitation than do Ethiopian Jews and Mizrahim, who tend to downplay their exclusion. The authors account for these patterns by considering the extent to which each group is actually a group, the sociohistorical context of intergroup conflict, and the national ideologies and other cultural repertoires that group members rely on.

Getting Respect is a rich and daring book that opens many new perspectives into, and sets a new global agenda for, the comparative analysis of race and ethnicity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691183404
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/27/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,208,254
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Michèle Lamont is the director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, and professor of sociology and African and African American studies at Harvard University. Graziella Moraes Silva is professor of sociology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. Jessica S. Welburn is assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of Iowa. Joshua Guetzkow is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and in the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Nissim Mizrachi is professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University. Hanna Herzog is professor emerita of sociology at Tel Aviv University. Elisa Reis is distinguished professor of political sociology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Read an Excerpt

Getting Respect

Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel

By Michèle Lamont, Graziella Moraes Silva, Jessica S. Welburn, Joshua Guetzkow, Nissim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog, Elisa Reis


Copyright © 2016 Princeton University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4008-8377-6




In this chapter, we develop a multidimensional framework to help account for experiences and responses to ethnoracial exclusion. Our analytical strategy is meant to be suggestive of how patterns are set in place rather than to provide a parsimonious causal analysis of patterns sensu stricto. At the most abstract level, our approach resembles that used by historical institutionalists interested in configurational explanations, by sociologists of immigration, and by social movement scholars who pursue discursive opportunity structure explanations. The latter group has analyzed emotions and the availability of religious and human rights frameworks and their impact on mobilization (e.g., Williams 2004; Bröer and Duyvendak 2009), while scholars of immigration have argued that discursive opportunity structures influence the claims-making of minorities (e.g., Koopmans and Statham 2000). Similarly, we zoom in on a few dimensions to account for the patterns of experiences, responses, and groupness that we identify in the evidence we have collected.


Our explanatory framework analytically distinguishes between three dimensions to make sense of how they influence experiences and responses (see also Falleti and Lynch 2009). More specifically, we focus on the dimensions listed in Table 1.1 that pertain to (1) history and the socioeconomic and institutional context (which we capture by the notion of background factors); (2) the strength and mode of groupness (i.e., the extent to which individuals conceive of themselves as part of a group, which itself includes several dimensions, e.g., self-identification and group boundaries); and (3) available cultural repertoires (themselves the product of history). In the three country chapters (Chapters 2–4), we detail how these various elements are more or less salient as broad contextual factors, how they are connected, and how they may help explain aspects of the puzzle. We also spell out the configuration of groupness for each of the five groups being studied. Although this approach could be criticized for having too many explanatory dimensions for too few cases — what Stanley Lieberson (1992) termed the "small N, big conclusion" problem — again, our goal is not to offer a parsimonious explanation but to improve our understanding of why and how patterns contrast across groups, in line with the classical Weberian tradition in comparative sociology. Each of the three dimensions we focus on has several components that define in important ways the context in which the lives or our five groups evolve. We argue that these components need to be considered when trying to account for individuals' experiences of and responses to ethnoracial exclusion.

Historical, Socioeconomic, and Institutional Elements. Among the main background elements shaping experiences and responses, one has to consider the history of the country, particularly as it pertains to ethnoracial relationships. Other relevant factors (see Table 1.1, column 1) include the level of inequality in the country and whether it and the economy are growing or contracting; the size of the group under consideration and its salience; the ethnoracial diversity of the country's population; the concentration of the stigmatized group in low-income categories; the extent to which the middle class is diversified racially; the extent of spatial and institutional segregation each group experiences; and the historical transformation of politics, which brings about conservative and progressive changes, as well as neoliberal moments (e.g., Phillips-Fein 2009 and Waterhouse 2013 for the United States). Finally, we also include the institutional and legal structures and reforms of the society, particularly those that bear on race, ethnicity, and nationality. The explanatory dimensions under this heading are the mainstay of background explanations for contemporary forms of American racism (e.g., in the analysis of laissez-faire racism by Bobo and Smith 1998). They are also the main focus of most macro-historical comparisons of race relations (e.g., Marx 1998; Winant 2001).

Cultural Repertoires. Individuals do not develop narratives in isolation; instead they construct narratives from historically constituted, culturally available narrative templates, public narratives, or meta-narratives and in conversation with other narratives (Somers 1994; Ewick and Silbey 2003). Although many terms are used to describe these sources of meaning (scripts or frames, among others) and there are nuances in what each of them highlights (Lamont and Small 2008), we favor the term "repertoires," defined as a set of tools available to individuals to make sense of the reality they experience. Table 1.1, column 2 lists the explanatory elements that pertain to such cultural repertoires. Some repertoires may be more readily available in one national context than in another. The cultural repertoires considered include national myths of incorporation in the polity (e.g., the American Dream, Zionism, and racial democracy). There are also models of incorporation (Portes and Borocz 1989) or philosophies of integration (Favell 1998) that speak to the principles by which the polity holds together (e.g., multiculturalism, diversity, and Republicanism). Cultural myths of belonging as defined by collective memory are often related to these two broad categories. Other significant repertoires include transnational anti-racist repertoires ranging from human rights to social justice and the Black Pride promoted by members of the black diaspora during the Civil Rights Movement. Such repertoires may be widely available to group members as cultural resources as they are looking for scripts to make sense of experiences of exclusion and group stereotypes. Also relevant are class-related cultural repertoires (e.g., the self-actualization so crucial in the middle classes), as well as broader cultural repertoires, such as those pertaining to therapeutic culture and individualism. Repertoires pertaining to the relative standing of various classes (the cultural hegemony of the upper middle class) also matter. References to neoliberal repertoires are most prominent in our analysis of the United States and are least prominent in Brazil: in some contexts, neoliberal narratives have resulted in an increased emphasis on the privatization of risk, competitiveness, and hard work and have intensified demands on stigmatized groups to be more self-reliant (Moraes Silva 2012; Hall and Lamont 2013; Sharone 2014). After the Civil Rights Act, blacks have the de jure right to confront, and self-reliance places de facto the burden of overcoming racism on their individual shoulders. This has important effects on the decline of collective responses among African Americans, one of the main themes developed in Chapter 2 on the United States (see also Harris 2014).

Of course, other authors consider the impact of repertoires on identity. For instance, Dawson (2009) focuses on media exposure, Essed (1991) is concerned with public narratives, and Lipsitz (2011) factors in national myths of belonging, while racial formation and systemic racism approaches also consider the impact of frames.

Our approach takes into consideration a broader range of cultural repertoires than most. We look toward not only repertoires that feed into racialization but also those tied to specific class cultures and positions, national ideologies and myths, and economic transformation. We also consider how such repertoires interact with one another to enable subjective experiences and responses.

Groupness. The third column of Table 1.1 isolates groupness as a distinct explanatory dimension. For our purpose, groupness is a function of self-identification and perceptions of out-groups (symbolic boundaries). But it is conditioned by background conditions that include network composition and homophily (spatial and social boundaries), as well as the size and visibility of the group and the multiracial character of the national context (which are discussed as part of the background against which the group stands, with more or less contrast; Zerubavel 1991; Alba 2005). Because groupness is a less familiar concept than that of repertoire, we discuss it in some detail below and explain how we went about operationalizing this notion already present in the contemporary literature (Brubaker 2009). The configuration of groupness for each of our five cases is revisited in greater detail in the second section of each country chapter.

Brubaker and Cooper (2000: 20, 7) define groupness as "the sense of belonging to a distinctive, bounded, solidarity group" and a "fundamental and consequential sameness among members of a group or category" (see also Brubaker 2009). In our case, we focus on groupness as experienced by our interviewees. While previous accounts have tended to treat groupness as a one-dimensional category that varies from weak to strong (Bailey 2009a), we operationalize it as multidimensional, so as to capture both the symbolic bases according to which groupness is defined and its potentially contradictory character when relevant (i.e., the fact that groupness can be considered weak on certain dimensions and strong on others).

For the groups we consider, we draw a detailed picture of their degree of groupness. Contrary to dualistic images of group identity that oppose in-group and out-group, this picture combines:

1. The self-identification of our interviewees, as captured by questions concerning self-definition and self-labeling, the perceived cultural distinctiveness of the group, and the use of distinctive referents when defining the meanings of racial, ethnic, religious, or national identity (cultural symbols such as Kwanza, African-American history, expressions of pride and honor, etc.); and

2. The strength of group boundaries, as revealed by perceived closeness to in-group members, including friendship, dating, and marriage, and by boundary work toward out-groups (toward whites in particular in the United States and Brazil), including concerning white privilege.

We also consider perceived background conditions that could be identified (spatial separation, network structures, etc.). We put particular weight on the availability and institutionalization of public narratives in shaping the experience of and responses to stigmatization and discrimination. This dimension of groupness has often been overlooked by dominant approaches to racial inequality and racism, which are typically overwhelmingly descriptive and when explanatory, mostly focus on macro-level explanations of racism in the US context (as argued by Emirbayer and Desmond 2015).

Also relevant to groupness are the demographic weight of the group and the diversity of the environment in which it is located. That Black Brazilians make up roughly 50 percent of the Brazilian population — including those who identify as browns (pardos) and as blacks (pretos) — and evolve in a highly multiracial landscape certainly influence how prominent they are as a group. Similarly, it matters that Ethiopian Jews began immigrating relatively recently and make up only 2 percent of Israel's population in a relatively homogeneous racial context and that Mizrahi Jews constitute a narrow majority of the Jewish population of Israel. The extent to which any group stands out against a background of greater or lesser ethnoracial demographic diversity matters not only for the definition ("brightness") of the boundaries and thus groupness, but also as a dimension of the context in which that group operates. Nor does the size of a group mechanistically translate into weak or strong groupness. One also needs to take into consideration historically constituted racial classification systems, how diversity and other policies influence group formation, political strategies of political parties and minority social movements, and much more (e.g., Loveman 2014; Paschel 2016).

The three country chapters (Chapters 2–4) show variations in the groupness of the five groups under consideration. As shown in Table 1.2, these variations can be broken into two dimensions: self-identification and group boundaries. Table 1.2 provides details on the characterization of groupness for each dimension. It shows that our approach to groupness is multidimensional: it considers both internal (self-identification) and external (toward out-groups) boundaries, which can be characterized as strongly policed, blurred, fuzzy, ambiguous, and the like.

African Americans, Ethiopian Jews, and Palestinian Arabs are at the high end of the spectrum on the strength of groupness, whereas Black Brazilians and Mizrahim are at the low end. While again, we acknowledge that referring to the strength of groupness may flatten out what is after all a multidimensional reality, in Table 1.2 we use strength as a heuristic device to aid comparison across cases. We consider the very different configurations of identification (including national and class identifications) in which these groups find themselves. Patterns of groupness figure prominently in the arguments deployed in each of our country chapters. The construction of this explanatory dimension is also an empirical contribution of the study, as this dimension could not be captured without the mediation of clear conceptualization and operationalization. Thus, the empirical analyses of groupness figure prominently in each country chapter and are revisited in the Conclusion to the book.

In the United States, the strong racial groupness of African-Americans manifests as a combination of strong group identification; strong social boundaries based on perceived high spatial segregation; strong racial homophily (despite our interviewees' valuing friendship with people of diverse backgrounds); and high awareness of racial stigmatization and discrimination, which are perceived as existing independently of class stigma. There are also few differences in self-identification or experiences of stigmatization/discrimination across classes, as if being black overrides class-specific experiences. Respondents also identify slightly more with their racial group than with the nation. Their strong racial groupness coexists with a pro-universalist orientation: they proclaimed universalism or openness to out-group members despite their awareness of discrimination. This is why we described their groupness as strong but contradictory.

In Brazil, our interviewees display blurred racial groupness, with racial identification, as they largely identify as black but do not view themselves as sharing a culture distinct from the majority culture. They make up 51 percent of the Brazilian population according to the 2010 census, and their expressive culture largely defines the majority culture. Also, they identify racially as black and nationally as Brazilian (i.e., they combine both national and racial identification). They experience less perceived spatial segregation than African Americans do, based mostly on class rather than race. They also experience low salience of racial preference in personal relationships and a conflation of race and class in experiences of stigmatization and discrimination. But they are aware of being racially stigmatized (especially among those who have strong racial identification — although we do not make a causal claim here). Here our analysis resembles Sansone (1997), who describes Black Brazilians as having "blackness without ethnicity." However, while Sansone focuses on cultural distinctiveness captured by the notion of ethnicity (equating the latter with having a shared culture), our approach is to examine the nuances of the boundedness of groups.

In Israel, ethno-national identity based on religious identification is at the center of Israeli life and organizes the formation of the polity, which shapes how different types of stigma are framed and experienced. The three Israeli groups experience groupness in highly differentiated ways. The first two groups are categorized by the majority group as "other," one because of its local political history (Palestinians) and the other because of skin color and ties to Africa (Ethiopians). The third group (Mizrahim) largely perceives itself as unmarked, yet its members face social boundaries (mostly class-based spatial segregation and discrimination in education and the workplace) and Orientalist stereotypes (i.e., a patronizing attitude toward non-Western cultures; Said 1978). We describe Mizrahi Jews as demonstrating weak ethnic groupness, which we contrast with the strong national groupness of Arab Palestinians and the dissonant racial groupness of Ethiopian Jews. These three groups connect in diverse ways to the Zionist national polity (with Arab Palestinians symbolically and institutionally excluded from the polity despite full citizenship, while Ethiopian and Mizrahi Jews feel fully identified with the nation-state of Israel despite varying degrees of ethnoracial exclusion).


Excerpted from Getting Respect by Michèle Lamont, Graziella Moraes Silva, Jessica S. Welburn, Joshua Guetzkow, Nissim Mizrachi, Hanna Herzog, Elisa Reis. Copyright © 2016 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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Table of Contents


NOTES, 311,
INDEX, 371,

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