Daria Roithmayr spent nearly a decade conducting research for her book, Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock in White Advantage, which was published this year.
On Oct. 24, the USC Gould School of Law professor is inviting the public to take part in a discussion about race and structural inequality — with an open-ended request to deconstruct arguments in her book.
Leading scholars in history, sociology, political theory and economics will critically assess the arguments from the perspective of their disciplines at “Reproducing Racism,” a gathering to be held at 6 p.m. at Fisher Museum.
Glenn Loury, professor of economics at Brown University; Jed Purdy, law professor at Duke University; and Thomas Sugrue, professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, will appear on the panel with Roithmayr. The audience will be encouraged to address persistent structural inequality and come up with solutions.
The answers we come up with might not be understandable from a single discipline.
“This is an interdisciplinary project,” Roithmayr said. “The answers we come up with might not be understandable from a single discipline. We need to understand where the connections are. I’m looking forward to a great discussion from leaders in the field as well as hearing from community members and students. These are important voices we need for a broader perspective.”
Gaps in housing, education, jobs
Roithmayr’s book focuses on racial gaps in housing, education and jobs — for example, Latino and black poverty rates are between 2.5 and four times the rate for whites, and black unemployment is double that of whites. Drawing on work in social network theory and other disciplines, Roithmayr shows that everyday choices recreate these racial gaps from one generation to the next.
“It’s really a racial ‘rich get richer’ story,” Roithmayr said. “It’s all about the power of networks.”
For example, whites in well-paid jobs refer their friends for jobs, who in turn refer their friends and so on. White networks have more high-paid jobs; black and brown network contacts are more likely to be under- or unemployed. Likewise, affluent white neighborhoods finance schools with their property taxes, providing students with richer learning experiences and opportunities. Those graduates go on to live in the same or equally affluent neighborhoods.
“It turns out that racial inequality persists because the old clichés are true: It does take money to make money, and it really isn’t what you know but who you know. Because racial disparities now run on automatic pilot, these gaps will continue even in the absence of intentional discrimination,” Roithmayr said.
Without structural change, racial disparity will persist, according to Roithmayr. “We have to change how we think about race,” she said. “We will make no real progress as long as racial inequality keeps reproducing itself automatically.”
Members of the USC community and the public are invited to Roithmayr’s book celebration, but an RSVP is required. A reception will follow the discussion. For more information, call (213) 821-1239.