PERCEPTIONS OF PLACE: BLACK STUDENTS AT FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
(co-investigator with Willie J. Wright, Rutgers University)
Historians have noted the role that Black students and Black Student Unions (BSUs) have had on the birth of Black and Ethnic Studies programs and departments at universities directly following the civil rights era. The first of these programs were spurred at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and then spread to predominately white institutions (PWIs) where Black students were slowly growing in numbers. In recent years, geographers have turned their attention to the study of place names. In particularly, they have scrutinized the efforts made to name streets after prominent Black leaders, and more recently, student challenges towards the retitling of buildings and monuments named after confederates and other white supremacists. Despite the fact that many of the loudest calls to rename buildings and remove monuments in honor the Confederacy were made by college students, and that there have been equal calls for spaces in service of Black and other students of color, there has been few attempts to understand the significance of buildings that affirm the presence and history of Black students at PWIs.
This study will assess the relationship between race and place at Florida State University, a PWI in the Florida panhandle. Though situated in a state revered for its multicultural and Caribbean constituents, Florida State is located in the northern tip of the state, thirty minutes south of the Georgia-Florida state line. Thus, in many aspects, Tallahassee – the home city of Florida State – is an extension of Georgia, and the Deep South histories it represents. Given the fraught history of Florida State, that includes its controversial symbol (i.e. the Seminoles, Chief Osceola and Renegade), we seek to understand the perspective of past and present BSU members and non-members concerning the impact of the former BSU House (demolished Fall 2018) and the newly built BSU Building (completed Spring 2019) on Black students’ experiences and sense of belonging at Florida State University.
WOMEN/FEMMES OF COLOR AND THE ACADEMIC JOB MARKET
(co-investigator with Apryl A. Williams, Harvard University)
Though many colleges and universities have instituted trainings and an assortment of practices to reduce bias in hiring or in creating more equitable work environments, microaggressions and other forms of discrimination continue to occur at virtually every level in which marginalized scholars participate in academia. Our study assesses how women and femmes of color experience the gate-keeping process of the job market. We aim to engage in a critical and intersectionally-driven evaluation of implicit and explicit marginalization of women and femmes of color who are in pursuit of academic employment. A majority of the literature on discrimination in academia throughout education studies, sociology, women’s and gender studies, and ethnic studies focuses on the microaggressions and other forms of systemic inequality that are experienced by people already enrolled in graduate programs or already employed as faculty. We expand this body of knowledge by investigating the experiences of marginalized scholars who are trying to procure academic positions. Inspired by Patricia Hill Collins’ theorizing on the outsider-within, as well as our own journeys on the academic job market, we focus on the experiences of women and femmes of color to facilitate a critical examination of the systemic reproduction of inequality in contemporary universities. Through survey data of cis, trans, and nonbinary women and femmes of color, we assess the schemas of knowledge that are developed to better cope with, and succeed on, the academic job market.
This project is supported by the 2019 Natalie Allon Fund Research Award from Sociologists for Women in Society.
WHITENESS, RACIAL POLITICS, AND INTIMACY
This project focuses on the dating experiences and preferences of white men residing in Central Texas in an effort to unpack how broader racial, gender, and sexual politics in the United States are being understood, internalized, and perpetuated. Ultimately, my goal is to assess how politics influence everyday aspects of people’s intimate lives.
In the last few years, white men have been at the forefront of mainstream media coverage. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, political pundits and public intellectuals spent a great deal of time discussing the concerns of the so-called working class that had been “left behind” and the bubbling racial tensions that had been tied to issues like police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement for several years. Amidst then-candidate Donald Trump’s calls to “make America great again” were underlying threads of white nationalism, sexism, xenophobia (particularly toward Hispanic/Latinx immigrants and Muslims), and anti-blackness.
During Trump’s tenure as president, these sentiments have grown in strength. Alongside these broader political and cultural tensions, the U.S. has also seen an increase in interracial coupling over the last few decades. My research expands on the extensive literature on interracial coupling by talking to people in the process of dating. This allows for an assessment of factors that may play the strongest roles in the types of decision-making people engage in when selecting partners. Further, I am able to get a sense of how cultural context influences romantic and sexual choices, as evidenced in my findings from my research with mixed-race women.
MIXED-RACE, INTIMACY, AND THE ON-LINE DATING EXPERIENCE
Dating, cohabitating, and marriage processes aided by online dating are central topics of interest for researchers interested in modern modes of relationship formation. This qualitative multi-method project intervenes by assessing self-identified multiracial and multiethnic (mixed-race) women’s understandings of race, gender, and class, providing insight into the experiences that are obscured within analyses of large-scale online dating trends. Through digital ethnography, content analysis of 225 profiles from the online dating website, OkCupid, and 30 in-depth interviews with mixed-race women residing in Texas, this project presents the practices used to entice and select potential partners, centering the factors that frame the production and regulation of race within relationships.
For mixed-race women who are dating both on- and off-line, appearance and ethnic identity influence how they are racialized, how they racialize others, and therefore, how racial dynamics play out. Mixed-race women use vetting strategies, the specific ways of listening to, and prompting, potential partners on dates to determine their politics. In particular, women who are mixed with black inquire about current events, referencing mainstream issues related to blackness (e.g. police brutality). Women who have Arab or Middle Eastern backgrounds also try to screen for Islamophobia in these ways. I also present three narrative frames that mixed-race women use to frame racial boundaries in their committed relationships. These women rely on skin color and cultural differences to name what is and is not an interracial relationship; mixed-race women also actively avoid dating certain men who share racial and ethnic characteristics with male members of their families. Ultimately, mixed-race women are concerned with who they choose to date because they view their choices as reflections of how they racially identify themselves. By focusing on how mixed-race women describe and interpret their on- and off-line experiences, this research shows how the logics of colorblindness and anti-blackness extend into everyday life, demonstrating contemporary meanings of race and the post-racial in the United States.
Read more on my dissertation here.