The Emotional Politics of Racism
How Feelings Trump Facts in an Era of Colorblindness
Paula Ioanide


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: Facts and Evidence Don't Matter Here
chapter abstract

The introduction theorizes how and why emotions play a central role in fostering people's investments in oppressive institutional practices in the United States and globally. It argues that hegemonic fears, resentments, and stigmas attached to criminality, terrorism, welfare dependency, and undocumented immigration make beliefs and stereotypes about Black, Latino/a, Arab and Muslim people intransigent. Psychoanalytic and social psychological frameworks help explain how affectively charged ideologies tend to diminish people's receptivity to facts and evidence that challenge their beliefs. The introduction argues that understanding gendered racism through purely cognitive frameworks of racist intent or ignorance limits our ability to account for people's unconscious, unintentional and embodied investments in oppression. Understanding how unconscious affects structure people's ideological fantasies, identities, and political purpose increases our ability to create counter-cultures of ethical witnessing and effective antiracist feminist strategies.

Part I: "Criminals" and "Terrorists": The Emotional Economies of Military-Carceral Expansion
chapter abstract

Part I offers a broad overview of the apparatuses that helped construct public desires for the unprecedented expansion of the military-carceral state since the 1980s. It outlines the national political discourses, media representations and state policies that helped construct emotional economies of fear and aggression about "criminality" and "terrorism." Color-blind and racially coded discourses and representations encouraged U.S. constituents to support forms of punishment and containment that targeted Black, Latino/a, Arab and Muslim people through the War on Drugs, immigrant detentions, and the War on Terror. Part I pays particular attention to socially shared emotional economies attached to the ideological fantasies of law and order and American exceptionalism. These hegemonic emotions reward people who identify with being law abiding (through racial appearance, behavior, style or speech) with an affective sense of superiority over those who are assumed to be criminals and terrorists.

1 New York, NY: The Raging Emotions of White Police Brutality
chapter abstract

Chapter 1 investigates the 1997 case of police brutality against Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant. It offers a localized reading of the ways dominant stereotypes and feelings about Haitian immigrants and Black "criminality" in New York City helped structure NYPD police officers' violence toward Louima and other Black residents. Officer Justin Volpe and the other white police officers involved in Louima's brutalization employed historically haunting scripts of anti-Black sexualized violence to recuperate their sense of patriarchal white dominance. This instance of brutality was part of a continuum of police violence and harassment encouraged by Mayor Rudolph Guiliani's "zero tolerance" measures, which popularized emotional fears that Black "criminality" and Haitian immigrant "contamination" posed threats to (implicitly white) property, bodies and space. The chapter explores multi-racial alliances that protested police brutality after Louima's case was publicized.

2 Abu Ghraib, Iraq: The Evasive Emotions of U.S. Exceptionalism
chapter abstract

Chapter 2 analyzes liberal and conservative responses to the tortures against Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The case examines the ways dominant stereotypes and feelings about "Arab terrorism" manifested in sanctioned expressions of sexualized racial violence in the U.S. military. Liberal frames of reception that expressed sympathy, shock, and shame generally continued to remain wedded to orientalist projections and the ideological fantasy of U.S. exceptionalism. Both liberal and conservative American publics expressed affective investments in notions of "justice" predicated on bodily punishment, incarceration and obliteration. The War on Terror extended the logics of domestic mass incarceration and U.S.-Mexico border militarization into the global arenas of the Middle East. The chapter considers how the Abu Ghraib tortures ruptured investments in U.S. exceptionalism and 'benevolent' U.S. imperialism, opening possibilities for ethical solidarities and affinities that challenge the expansion of U.S. militarism.

Part II: "Welfare Dependents" and "Illegal Aliens": The Emotional Economies of Social Wage Retrenchment
chapter abstract

Part II outlines the macro-political, economic and emotional processes that garnered public support for social wage divestment in the post-civil rights era. It outlines how political discourses, media representations, and institutional policies that worked together to popularize resentments and stigmas toward welfare recipients and undocumented immigrants. Colorblind, gendered and racially coded discourses and representations encouraged publics to invest in the ideological fantasy of economic self-reliance and to direct their anxieties about economic, demographic and cultural shifts toward poor Black people and Latino/a immigrants. Projecting these demographics as "taxpayer burdens" encouraged dominant majorities to invest in hostile privatism and defensive localism. Stereotypes about Black and Latina women's "hyper-fertility" and "sexual non-normativity" offered affective rewards to those invested in normative family ideals and sexuality. Such projections and emotional economies supported broader neoliberal privatization and divestment from public goods that worked against most American people's economic interests.

3 New Orleans, LA: The Demolishing Emotions of Neoliberal Removal
chapter abstract

Chapter 3 examines the emotional and property interests that led to the 2007 demolition of thousands of public housing units in New Orleans even though Hurricane Katrina had created a crisis in affordable housing. The circulation of racial stereotypes about Black "welfare dependence," "family and sexual deviance," and "criminality" amplified emotional economies that stigmatized and demonized impoverished people. Though liberals and conservatives in New Orleans expressed stereotypes and feelings about public housing differently, they shared affective attachments to white spatial, sexuality, familial, and property ideals. Both liberal and conservative public feelings resulted in housing policies that accelerated the organized abandonment of working and workless people in New Orleans and accelerated neoliberal privatization. Grassroots organizing challenged the paternalist and neoliberal logics that dominated discussions of spatial reconstruction in New Orleans through Africanist blues epistemologies that favored people over property.

4 Escondido, CA: The Exclusionary Emotions of Nativist Movements
chapter abstract

Chapter 4 interrogates a municipal ordinance in Escondido, California that sought to deny undocumented immigrants rental housing. It argues that nativist emotional economies encourage exclusionary measures and hostility toward Latino/a immigrants as a way to encourage Latino/a "self-deportation." Projecting Latino/a immigrants as "taxpayer burdens" that cause "overpopulation" in the U.S., nativist organizers reconfigure emotional stigmas attached to Black "welfare dependence" and "hyper-fertility" to Latino/a immigrants. The anti-Latino/a housing ordinances in Escondido and other locales were justified through color-blind arguments about "legality" as well as paleoconservative arguments about "mongrelization" and "Mexican reconquest." Mass pro-immigrant mobilizations in Escondido and across the nation asserted the significance of Latino/a immigrant labor and culture in the U.S. by foregrounding emotional economies that honored workers' dignity and human rights under the banner of "No One Is Illegal."