Berkeley Talks transcript: Why racial equity belongs in the study of economics – UC Berkeley

Posted: July 26, 2020 at 4:56 am

Suresh Naidu: Okay. Ill get us started. Thanks everyone for showing up. Thanks a lot to our panelists for agreeing to do this. Just as a few words of background, my name is Suresh Naidu, the co-organizer of Economist for Inclusive Prosperity, which is a project Gabriel Zucman and Dani Rodrik and I started kind of trying to explore what economics looks like after neo-liberalism and what kind of a more inclusive, more egalitarian kind of economics looks like.

And this is kind of our attempt to sort of help economics grapple with its current moment by acknowledging that economics doesnt necessarily already have all the answers and doesnt already have the necessary conceptual toolkit. So, theres lots to say about this, and lots of people here that have thought about it more than me, and so Im just going to hand it off to someone whos thought about it a lot, Sandy Darity, who is going to be moderating the panel. So, take it away, Sandy.

Sandy Darity: Thank you, and thank you to you Suresh and to Dani for organizing this event. I think its very, very important for us as economists to learn from the other disciplines. Weve had an imperializing tendency towards the other disciplines, and in the process I think we have failed to really recognize many of the important contributions that have been delivered from other disciplines using their perspective rather than the perspective that we normally bring to these issues.

In particular, Im struck by the fact that an important tool that Ive used in much of my research, the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition, really I believe was preceded by the Blau and Duncan decomposition in sociology, but I think frequently we have not been aware of that.

And similarly, when we talk about unobserved heterogeneity, it sometimes becomes a blockade for really understanding the phenomenon of discrimination. Or when we talk about the identification problem, it constitutes a blockade to thinking about some factors as being fundamental causes of phenomena rather than interactive causes of phenomena.

So, as a consequence, I think its really going to be valuable for us to hear from the scholars who are going to join us today. We have four speakers after they make their respective presentations, we will take questions from the floor, so to speak, and have an opportunity for the speakers to respond to those questions as well as engage with one another.

And our first speaker is going to be Daina Ramey Berry, who is the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Her superb book The Price for Their Pound of Flesh, recovers the humanity or persons, Black persons specifically, whose lives were comprehensively commodified.

There are two additional dimensions of her book that I think merit deep attention. First, the extended commodification of Black bodies after life ends into death; and second, the significance of the effects of markets, markets in human beings on U.S. economic development. Her most recent book is A Black Womens History of the United States, co-authored with Kali Nicole Gross.

And Im hopeful, time permitting, that shell have an opportunity to tell us what we can learn from that book also. Our second speaker is Arjumand Siddiqi, who is an epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Population Health Equity.

She has had brilliant insights about differences in social and policy structures across countries and how they affect not only health outcomes for the general population, but also the health disparities between ethnic and racial groups within those populations.

She also has recently published a critique of Case and Deatons perspective on deaths of despair, and in the interest of full disclosure, Im actually a co-author on that article. But she has a strong commitment to understanding the full play of what public health scholars refer to as the social determinants of health in contrast with genetic or behavioral or cultural factors.

Our third speaker is going to be Mario Luis Small, who is a deeply accomplished sociologist, urban sociologist at the interface between thinking about neighborhoods and communities as well as social networks. He is the Grafstein Family Professor of Sociology at Harvard.

And one of the things thats particularly impressive about his research productivity is that two of his books Villa Victoria and Unanticipated Gains both have received the C. Wright Mills Award. I think recently in some of his work, hes been most notably engaged in a nuanced reintroduction of cultural considerations in the analysis of race and sociology.

And then our final speaker is Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, one of my colleagues at Duke, also a deeply accomplished sociologist. Remarkably, he has recently served as president of the American Sociological Association and the Southern Sociological Society simultaneously. I think thats unprecedented.

He is the author of Racism Without Racists, among a number of books, but I want to mention Racism Without Racists because its now in its fourth edition. And it explores the difference between peoples attitudes about race thats expressed in short answer surveys versus in-depth interviews.

And what he demonstrates in that book is that if you rely upon short answer surveys to try to gauge variations in peoples attitudes on questions concerning race, youre going to miss the boat because theyre self-censored increasingly. And so, what you really want to do is engage them in long-term interviews, and in that environment you get much better information about what their beliefs really are. So, may we start. Daina Berry, please.

Daina Ramey Berry: All right, thank you so much for having me. Im going to start off my brief remarks to just talk a little bit about what the work looks like from an historians perspective. And as Dr. Darity said, my research is on enslaved people. And I was an economics major during undergrad, I dont know if Dr. Darity knew that, but I was a major in economics until my last year in undergrad, and I took an African American history class and decided thats what I wanted to change and do my work on.

But Ive always wanted to try to find a way to blend the work that I had done as an undergrad in economics. So, when I started doing this work on The Price for Their Pound of Flesh, my goal, maybe it was naive, but my goal was to allow the economists that are doing work on slavery, very big work on slavery, to have a more cohesive conversation with historians.

And one of the things that I was trying to do initially is I was trying to walk in the space that I thought economists do, and I was trying to find out whether or not I could show statistical significance in my findings. And as I was doing that and trying to search for that in the ways I was looking at how enslaved people are priced from the beginning, before theyre even conceived.

So, enslaved mothers were looked at for the fecundity to see what their value of their future laborers would cost, to see whether or not if they had given birth to children, did those children survive to age 5? Were they healthy? And if so, that particular woman received a higher valuation during pregnancy than other women. And so, I was doing research on that and trying to look at ways to bridge this gap between the two fields, and to make sure that my argument would be palatable in both spaces.

And what I learned in the process was that enslaved people spoke very loudly to me when I was looking at these records, and I was using datasets that Stanley Engerman and Robert Fogel created. Id also created my own dataset. Ive been doing research in Southern archives for about seven or eight years, and had this large data set of about 80,000 individuals enslaved peoples values, their prices, their monetary values and their appraised values.

But I realized as I was doing this work that enslaved people themselves had so much more to say about valuation and the values on their bodies. And that was really interesting to me, and I thought, Okay. Well, if I write this book that talks about it from the perspective, enslaved people participating in their thoughts about the value of their bodies, how will that change the way we talk about this in both economic and historical circles?

So, I dont know how its fully been received in economic circles. I have a very good economic historian friend who said to me, That is not the book I would have wrote, when I finished it, because theres a lot of testimony, theres a lot of stories of enslaved people saying, Oh, Im not worth $500, Im worth $200, or, Im not 40 years old, Im 20 years old.

So, this is an economic product thats put in a market space that has the ability to argue, to emote, to reject, to resist, and that is a very, very different product. And one of the things that Ive found, its a human product, right?

And when I was doing the research for the book, I saw that the work that Ive used from a number of economic historians did not acknowledge at all the humanity of enslaved people, and I thought, even if youre not writing about them as human beings, but youre putting them in formulas and they now become a person named John, now becomes an X with an exponential power and theres a formula to figure out how much that particular woman is worth or that particular man is worth, it doesnt take much.

And I think youll have more historians engaging this work if you acknowledge that this was a family, and this person lived on this particular plantation, and they were worth this much, and this is what they felt about their documentation or how they responded to that particular moment of sale. And that was really what the book, the purpose of the book for me. But what I found later, and I think Dr. Darity mentioned this, was that the valuation of enslaved bodies went beyond preconception, but also to the postmortem space.

And that there was an illegal trade in cadavers of enslaved people and whites and free Blacks, but I was mostly interested in the enslaved cadavers their bodies were sold to medical schools, and so they still made money off of their bodies after they had passed away. Some of them the values were much lower, anywhere from $5 to $30.

So, the market rate wasnt as much, theyre valued more when theyre living because theyre producing more, right? Theyre producing more and bringing more financial resources to the families that theyre enslaved by, but in the afterworld, Okay, Im going to dispose of this body. If I can make some money off of the disposal, Ill make $30, and thats it.

There were some cases where enslaved people were valued at the moment right before they were hanged, and then the surviving relatives of the plantar family or the enslavers would receive compensation for the valuation of that enslaved person. So, theres a lot of spaces where we talk about slavery and enslaved people, and we talk about them in monetary ways, but the humanity is often missing and theyre objectified theyre treated like a backpack or a book on a shelf.

And I just feel like if economists and historians can come together and have conversations about the deep meanings that you guys find when you create formulas, you can take us to places that we cant go, but we can also bring you to records that might inform what youre seeing and how you analyze this work and make it for a much deeper conversation.

So, I will leave it at that. I dont know if Ive done my five minutes, Im trying to stay on it. If I have a little more time, I could say a few more things. Im good? All right, thank you. Im looking forward to the conversation.

Sandy Darity: Thank you. Arjumand, youre on mute. Okay, youre off now.

Arjumand Siddiqi: Great. Thanks everyone. I feel like I should put out a disclaimer that says some of my best friends are economists before I start my talk. So, as Sandy mentioned, Im a social epidemiologist, and our discipline is really quite related to medicine and to the study of distributions of disease from a sort of clinical perspective.

And so, as social epidemiology kind of evolved, we were starting to find our empirical legs around how to use population surveys and different kinds of data than the clinical data our discipline tends to use, how to use different statistical methods.

And in the early 2000s when I was doing my Ph.D., I remember sort of looking enviously from Boston over to Cambridge at the economics department because it was considered so rigorous of all the disciplines related to our field.

And then, I had this moment of pretty big dissonance when in the mid 2000s, I encountered a paper by three economists whose main argument was that Black/white differences in hypertension could be attributed to genetic selection for genes associated with salt retention.

And the narrative was that this genetic selection occurred during this transatlantic slave because of the survival advantage conferred by salt retention, and that it occurred during cheap-looking tests for salty skin done by slave traders to further determine what Blacks would be able to the demands of plantation work.

And this economist team also suggested that this salt retention hypothesis was really the best way to explain the Black/white life-expectancy gap as well. Its been a lot of years, and I actually had trouble finding the paper online now, but I just remember thinking that the evolutionary geneticists just probably were passing out at the notion that genetic selection would occur at that pace.

Something that occurs over thousands of years was essentially being proposed to happen over one or 200. The human genome scientist who had carefully explained to us by then that race was not a genetic construct, there was no genetic basis for race, and just thinking to myself, Surely, there is a geneticist amongst the authors, or, Surely, some of the genetics work on race has been cited, and it hadnt, and it was just really difficult to understand how a hypothesis that had no premise could receive so much traction.

The paper also was a little bit alarming because it hadnt cited any of the work from social epidemiology on racial inequalities in hypertension. And Im not just sort of suggesting that my field is the field that should be cited, but we really are the central field on racial health inequalities. And there are people who have specialized their whole careers on racial disparities and hypertension, none of them were cited.

And if they had been, you might find a very different story about Black/white differences in hypertension and in life expectancy. So the body of literature in our field thats been built up is both based on what we know race is not, as well as what we know race is. And the idea is that weve built up sort of a conceptual and theoretical basis, but also a lot of empirical tests of the propositions that have been made.

And what the field has found is that racial inequalities in health manifest through processes of structural or institutional racism, as well as what is often called everyday discrimination. So Black people are systematically denied access to material resources and are subjected to chronically stressful experiences of daily life, and those things together put them at a higher risk of a wide range of illnesses and death.

So, social epidemiologists would and have told a very different story about Black/white inequalities and hypertension and life expectancy. Lately, my colleagues and I have been working on the noted rise in white mortality in the U.S., whats been called the deaths of despair phenomenon, the paper that Sandy mentioned earlier. There are a lot of teams working on this, including economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton, and youd better believe we take their work very seriously.

We have carefully looked at their hypotheses, we have carefully cited them and so on. And in some ways I think I live in fear of making facile arguments simply because Ive been both careless or dismissive of work from other disciplines. And Im increasingly of the mind that maybe this fear is a good way to approach scientific inquiry, and Im increasingly weary when I read work that sort of doesnt cite anyone else outside their own discipline, especially when its topics that are not central to their discipline and their expertise.

So, back to that deaths of despair work. So, in that piece we propose that status threat, group status threat, the sense from whites that they are losing relative status compared to Black and brown people is accounting for the rise in white mortality. And we use, in this paper, both theoretical and empirical findings from social psychology and from political science to suggest that at the population level we can actually measure, or proxy status threat by measuring the rise in the vote share going to Republicans in any given county.

So, our model essentially tested whether rise in Republican vote share at the county level as a proxy of status threat could predict the rise in white mortality accounting for about 17 social and economic indicators, fixed effects and so on that might also be involved in the processes. So, we received quite a bit of pushback on this paper in two ways, and the first was that it was just a bridge too far to equate Republican vote share with status threat.

And the other was that because of our statistical model again, 18 variables, county time, et cetera, fixed effects because the model did not account for unobserved confounding, that we couldnt interpret the association as being causal.

So, the fundamental problem I see with this argument is not that it suggests there might be an alternative explanation, I totally concur that there might be, but its the idea that an unknown alternative explanation that no one is proposing, its just the idea that there might be an alternative explanation is given equal weight to a model that tests basically everything we know about how the world works. And so, I worry a lot that this notion of unobserved confounding is actually overtaking or being weighted equally with the preponderance of evidence that we have, and Im not sure that thats a great way to go.

You also see it, as Sandy mentioned, in models where there are residuals and accounting for race-based differences and the implication given the preponderance of the evidence would be that these are discrimination effects. And yet, theres a reticence to think about that or at least to weight it equally with the idea that theres some unobserved confounding, theres this sort of unobserved confounding boogeyman out there that we think live by too closely.

A final anecdote about our field, and I think what it says about economics. So, I had a graduate student who wanted to work on racial differences in the distribution of birth weight. And in fact, she wanted to look at whether Canada and the U.S. have different inequalities in the distribution of birth weight. And the idea was that if we compare countries in their inequalities, we might start to point to some of the societal factors that are modifying inequalities, that are mitigating them or exacerbating them.

And I spoke to an economist colleague of mine, whos a lovely person, and he said, Im a little worried that were not going to get very far in terms of a causal association if we pursue this line of questioning, that youll really only be able to say associational things. Why dont we look at how prenatal care affects racial inequalities in birth weight? Which is a fine question, Im not disparaging the role of prenatal care. But imagine the difference in the size of the question and the focus of the question between something that talks about how societies produce, fundamentally produce, inequalities down to something that deals with a fairly circumscribed issue.

And so, my worry is that this chase after causal inference precludes us from looking at a lot of really important questions. Im not suggesting we go down the road of looking at those questions and imply causality when it isnt there, but I do think that we can pursue those questions and say something about what the causal inference issues are and how to push ourselves, but not to completely ignore what I think are really, really important questions for society. And Ill leave it there.

Sandy Darity: Thank you. Mario, please.

Mario Luis Small: Thank you very much. This has been very interesting so far. So, Ill tell you that the main reason that Im here is probably because a couple of months ago I published a paper along with Devah Pager and the Journal of Economic Perspectives titled Sociological Perspectives on Race Discrimination, and the point of the paper was to make a case for six ideas in our field, sociology, that economists havent, but probably should, take seriously. So, what Im going to do is give you three of these ideas and then after of course the last talk just open it up.

So, everybody here knows better than I do that traditionally economics, kind of two standard models are the taste discrimination and the statistical discrimination model when people study race discrimination, and I dont have to tell you what those models are. But one thing I will say is that from our perspective, there are a couple of quite important problems with those models.

And I guess you could sum them up with the idea that a model or a set of models that studies discrimination by focusing on the potentially racially motivated actions of an actor making decisions today, will probably understate a lot of the ways discrimination actually happens and has consequences for even the things that economists care about.

And this is the case for at least three reasons, the first Ill say is that it ignores the possibility of institutional discrimination. And Im going to use that term in a very narrow sense to refer to differential treatment by race that is either perpetrated by an organization or qualified into law.

And I am not using the term structural racism or institutional racism, or a lot of stuff that other sociologists have used and a lot of people in the media have used because theres sort of ambiguity in some of these uses of the terms, and they dont always mean what we were meaning, what were referring to, but just very narrow the idea that differential treatment by race can be perpetrated by the organizations recorded according to law.

And so, to give you a very simple example, sort of take an organization in which nobody, as Becker would say, nobody wants to pay a price to not associate with people of a different race, so nobody has a taste for discrimination. And in addition, nobody is willing to make statistical inferences about the behavior or likely performance of an employee on the basis of the employees group, so nobody statistically discriminates.

Now, lets assume that that firm, as many do, hires new employees on the basis of referrals, that they have an incentive system. For example, depending on the level at which youre hired, for entry-level employees, youll get a hundred if you refer somebody and they get hired. Now, lets assume we also know sociologists have shown that theres racial homophily.

I think in economics, this is called a sort of mating-by-race and friendship formation, but basically the idea that people tend to have friends of the same race. Now, if this firm is racially homogeneous, whats going to happen is all of the people who come in applying for jobs are going to be other people of the same race because of the pattern in the world, and we could see the strong incentives made for people to be hired on the basis of the people you already have.

In this model, no employer has to have a taste for discrimination or to discriminate, and yet a highly qualified person of a different race from outside the firm is going to have a very small chance of getting a job there. Thats a form of discrimination that we believe deserves attention.

The second point Ill make is that, again, the reason its a bad idea to just focus, or yeah, just a bad idea to only limit the story of discrimination to only the actions of our contemporary actor is that a lot of forms of historical discrimination, particularly forms that have been codified into law or become institutional parts of how organizations operate, continue to have effects today.

And therefore, even if today everybody stopped being discriminatory either by race or statistically or whatever the case may be, wed still have a lot of reason to study historic discrimination to understand the present. I wont go too much into this other than to say that a very clear example of this is redlining that many of you are familiar with. There have really been quite a few papers, including a couple by economists in recent years, showing that redlining practices back in the 30s can be shown to have likely had a causal impact on long-term homeownership rates among African Americans and segregation detectable even today.

And so, there have been papers that, for example, have looked at the boundary line for redlining and units on either side of it, theyve looked at federal policies that had cutoffs for the size of the town and looked at towns slightly older and slightly bigger and smaller than that through multiple indication strategies, such as quite a bit of evidence that it matters.

The last point Ill make is that, again, a different reason to not limit the study of the discrimination to sort of statistical and taste-based discrimination is that perception of discrimination matters, a lot. And what Ill say when Im saying this is that I am not saying that perception is an effective substitute for actual discrimination, and Im also not saying that we should not continue having a healthy skepticism for what people say over what they do, but what I am saying is that there are many contexts in which the perception that an employer or a doctor or take your pick, has or will or has had discriminated, this can affect your behavior in ways that matter for where you apply for jobs, how far you go in school and sort of what your health outcomes are, that we can not capture, again, by focusing on the employer or the banker as a prototypical racial or potentially racially motivated actor.

So, Ill just leave it at that. And Ill say, if youre interested in more of this, Ill refer you to the JEP Paper. But the bottom line is I appreciate, actually, I find quite interesting a lot of what economists have done in this. I think the issue is expanding beyond whats been done as opposed to remaining tied to these two very traditional ways of looking at discrimination. Thank you.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: Okay, its my turn. So, economists begin with this notion of the free market invisible hand, and we need to be clear that the hand has a color its a white hand, let me say white male hand. I will not address the gender components of the market, Ill leave that to others, so I will only talk about the racialized aspects of the market. Yeah?

And like Daina, I also will say that I was a major in sociology and economics, and that was the main thing I ended up choosing sociology, in part because of the foundation of economics is assumptions about the rational actor making decisions on a cost benefit basis in something called efficient market. And we all know that the homo sapiens theyre a complex animal shaped by multiple social forces and group divisions.

I do believe, I mean that my masters and my old magazine remains with me, so economic factors account for a lot of what happens in life, but cannot explain everything because the material component of life cannot be defined in these narrow economics way in which many of you sort of structure your analysis. So, the white homo economicus, for example, as we have learned, cares about access to parks, control of neighborhoods and schools, and their culture.

They are willing to fight tooth and nail to keep certain status in place. They like to feel good about themselves because Blacks, as Mara will argue a long time ago, have served as the symbolic index for whites, they can always say, At least I am not Black. And that element of feeling good about yourself is important in life. So, whites are so invested in whiteness that many are willing to die for it as Jonathan Metzl outlined in his recent book.

So, this is the stuff of history. Yeah? We have modernity, and modernity was not just driven by capitalism because in capitalism, as Eric Williams, Cedric Robinson and many others have argued, you cannot undo the connection between slavery, genocide, land theft and the economic model production.

In the case of the U.S., we had slavery, we had genocide, we had land theft, we had and we still have colonialism. As a Puerto Rican, I know that this person doesnt represent my interests, and two days ago we learned he was wondering about selling Puerto Rico. And of course, workers of color have allowed capitalism or capitalist to extract separate super profits from us.

So, that means that the society structure and culture were racialized on the get go, and I suggest not only produce systemic racism, but that system remains. So what is systemic racism? It used to be so easy: Its the bad guys. Its the new bad guys, its the rotten apple theory of life. This people having a taste for discrimination.

The trick is understanding that systemic racism ultimately cannot exist without the actions and inactions of the green apples, that is most whites participate consciously or unconsciously in the systemic racism stuff. And lately, literally two months ago, everybody seems to be talking about systemic racism, but I think most folks talking about it dont know what theyre talking about.

So, for example they say, Police departments have systemic racism, I mean, merely with the caveat, but most police officers are not racist, therefore reversing or reverting to the theory of life of the bad apples. In truth, the way that we select officers, the training, the culture, all these things shape the actions and beliefs of the officer.

So, even the good ones, and I put that in quotation marks, carry out race-based policing. And I wanted to give you a liminal example. So, this is a young African American college student who was brutalized in Atlanta recently by six police officers, and you can see only one of the officers was white.

So some of you may be thinking, But can Black people enforce white supremacy? And since slavery, many Blacks have been selected to participate in the enforcement of white supremacy. And although, historically, the main people in charge of enforcing boundaries happen to wear the white uniform, and not only white police officers, but regular white folks, in truth, thats the way that the system works.

And thankfully, because we humans, our subjectivity is shaped by multiple factors, there is always a space, a possibility for change. So, what we need is a historically specific view of racism that allows us to also understand that the systems share basic features. Whether theyre wearing Panama, Puerto Rico, Haiti, or the U.S., all the systems share basic features.

But we need to be specific about how racism is structured in a particular society. In a society, you can have regional variations, if you think about the U.S., the South, North, West, and we need to be also time specific. Dont assume that there is one racism throughout history racism can change.

The rules and regulations of the slavery regime were different than Jim Crow, and they are different from what we have today that Ive called in my work, the new racism. Secondly, the systemic racism forms a structure. Systemic, collective practice, behaviors and culture that reproduce disadvantage for some and advantages for others.

And here comes the hardest part, which is understanding that this system, as material foundation, it remains in place like capitalism, patriarchy, because systemic racism, because folks benefit from it. Again, I already showed or suggested that there are fractures in the white communities of possibilities for change, but we need to understand the big implication which is that racial domination depends on nice, good white people who participate in various ways and to different degrees in maintaining the racial order of things.

Borrowing the work from Marx and Poulantzas, the whites are personifications of systemic racism. So, they receive mostly in passive or neutral ways what David Roediger called the wages of whiteness. They follow the dominant racial script. So, contemporary whites, they live in white neighborhoods, they have only white friends, white schools, white ideas, white everything. Yeah? They even eat white bread. Thats a joke.

And lastly, they keep trucking along as if racism was a prerogative of the races. They input signs in their yard saying, We believe black lives matter, but we live in a totally segregated neighborhood. So, final out words. If racism is systemic, then as Mario was articulating, it cannot be just a taste or a matter of statistical discrimination. Its not an individual phenomenon, but a collective practice.

And I think that you also need to understand that the actors, and thats the reason why I moved from economics sociology because economics focus on the individual actor, sociology is more likely to see sort of collective behavior. So, actors belong to groups and experience life in group-structured condition. So, many of our explanation, for example, for the status of people of color, and Im doing what William Ryan called eons ago, blaming the victims, and by doing so they ignore the system. For example, they claim that Blacks dont do well in life because of their culture.

So, Oscar Lewis wrote one of his first books on Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans, La Vida, claiming that the reason why poor Puerto Ricans here in the world, actually why Puerto Ricans here in the world, he defines us, the population, was because we have the culture of poverty.

And that argument, the culture of poverty, is like Freddy Krueger. You think you have killed the culture of poverty and it comes back with a new attire. Or the claim, Youre not doing well because of female-headed households, or, Its class, or as Daina was talking about, it is They have salt in their bodies.

And a lot of people were using that little graph as evidence because presumably it shows a slave master tasting a Black person to see if they are salty. Alternatively, and we dont know what this person had in mind, but weve got to think that person was a pervert. And theres a lot of work showing that slavery included the abuse, sexual and otherwise, of both women and men.

So, it is anything but racism. I think its time for us to take racism seriously analytically, politically and morally as many folks are doing right now in the mean streets, to cite Piti Thomas, of America. So, thats it for me.

Suresh Naidu: Thanks.

Sandy Darity: Suresh, its in your hands now.

Suresh Naidu: Yeah, so thanks to all of our panelists, that was really interesting. So, now wed like to take questions from everyone. So, if you want to raise your hand, and I will do my best to keep up, we dont have the questions function here so its going to be a bit of a So Im clear I wont see everyone, but if you want to use the raise hand function in the tab and I can take questions and call on you. Peter.

Peter: Yeah. I just want to say thank you all so much for these really excellent presentations. And Mario, my students and I read your paper, and I think that we as economists certainly have to broaden our perspective. My own view is that we tend to rely a lot on models, and so the call to action really is to think about new models of discrimination as a way of trying to instantiate some of these ideas into the profession.

And then the second piece, too, is whenever we write models, they need to be historically accurate, right? Like for some reason, its like we write models with really terrible assumptions that have no basis in history, for example, that discrimination happens on the margin, when in fact you had signs saying No Blacks, regardless of your socioeconomic status.

So, thank you all for organizing this panel, thank you for your work. I look forward to continuing to read and to engage with your work, and I certainly hope that the ideas here really permeate our profession in a foundational way.

Suresh Naidu: Great. Okay. Does anyone want to respond, or I can keep taking questions? Felix.

Felix: Hey, everybody. Thank you everybody who is participating for your thoughtful words and for organizing. I guess I wanted to ask a little bit Im a Ph.D. student who does research on race and my training is in economics, my degree is in public policy. I have, as I think some people have mentioned, Ive faced pushback, right?

I think when you think about who is in economics, Ive had the experience of people being in that room who think differently about these things and dont sort of take the standard economic view as given and are looking at these other disciplines, thinking about those things.

Those things are not received well, right, which is I think why you dont see them published or sort of like being sort of the output that you see off the field, and some things that are on their face ridiculous, end up being received better because of sort of power.

I guess my question is, number one, is economics just weird or particularly, say Im white and its power structure or some other thing that makes us very susceptible to things, are these kinds of things in ways that you guys might not be in the disciplines that you sit in or do you guys have strategies that have allowed you to do this kind of courageous work that challenges power in important ways and still sort of make it out on the other side?

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Berkeley Talks transcript: Why racial equity belongs in the study of economics - UC Berkeley

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