Professor Talks Shifts in Racial Attitudes

New Racial Order
Zorigoo Tugsbayar

Jennifer Hochschild, Professor of Government, discussed the changing racial trends in the USA over the past decades. The talk was sponsored by Evelynn M. Hammonds, Dean of Harvard College, and the Undergraduate Council.

In a small discussion group that included Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds and consisted primarily of undergraduates, government and African American studies professor Jennifer L. Hochschild argued that racial attitudes change significantly decade to decade, but that these shifts often go unnoticed.

The event, which took place in the Widener Library rotunda on Wednesday as part of the Faculty Book Talk Series with Dean Evelynn Hammonds, centered around Hochschild’s book “Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America.”

Hochschild said that the book brings a statistical perspective to shifts in racial hierarchy over time in the United States, tracking the changing positions and opinions on race of different groups. She also said that genomics of race are discussed in the work, but to a lesser degree.

During the discussion, Hochschild argued that the studies presented in the book demonstrate that racial relations have evolved, even though laws pertaining to race relations have remained relatively unchanged since the end of segregation.

Hochschild said that these constantly evolving racial relations impacted her own writing process.

“The world changed an enormous amount in the decade it took to write this,” she said.

Hochschild also described the addition or expansion of recognized racial groups that she found in her research. She said that while America’s racial spectrum used to be defined by “a few exhaustive groups,” social divisions are blurred now more than ever in U.S. history.

With regard to a public shift in racial opinions and identities, Hothschild said that “there has been a huge reversal.”

Since 1958, the number of Americans that approve of interracial marriage has jumped from four to over 80 percent. She pointed to the election of President Obama as a symbol of changing cultural conceptions of racial identity.

Hochschild said that in a survey of 4000 college students asking about race or ethnic identity and family descent, 3200 different answers were received. She said that one of the most notable and telling responses included “Latino in some situations,” an answer which she said reflects the fact that racial identity has become a less fixed identifier.

Two more discussions in the Faculty Book Talk Series with Dean Evelynn Hammonds remain, one on March 5 and one on April 10, both of which will take place in the Widener Library rotunda.