No, that could not be sexism. The men are of the same sex.
Then what are we to make of the following clip of a discussion about employment opportunities for ex-offenders? (It was broadcast by Rhode Island public television on November 18, 2005.)
And he called it racism.
At his Howard University commencement address on May 7, 2016, President Obama noted, “Black men are about six times likelier to be in prison right now than white men.” He made no mention of the fact that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Black men are about twenty-three times likelier to be in prison right now than black women.
An April 25, 2015 editorial in the New York Times noted that “there are only 83 black men living outside of jail for every 100 black women,” but noted only race as a salient characteristic of the situation.
In October 2011 a public lecture, “Talking About Race: Breaking Barriers: Helping Black Males Achieve Academic Success,” was offered in Baltimore. Here is how it was billed.
Female high school graduation rate:
Male high school graduation rate:
“Since reading The Corner and starting to watch The Wire, I am feeling more and more that Baltimore’s social decay is based at least as much on issues of gender as of race. I am thinking that we ought to be addressing the male denizens of the drug culture with social, correctional, educational, economic, preventive and rehabilitative programs that specifically, insightfully and relentlessly address what is going on with them as men. A man without money, after all, is a very different creature from a woman without money.
“Also, I’m thinking we need to do a better job of making sure that programs that ought to be gender-neutral are, in fact, not biased against and short-changing men.
“[Am I] being ridiculously naïve and idealistic to think that male-focused social work is going to make any difference with the kinds of men and boys you have chronicled so intimately?”
“I believe you are onto something. The drug culture has the power it does not just because it provides poor men with quick cash, but because it provides them with meaning in a world that has denied them such. Whatever else they do, they go to the corners to solve an existential crisis that we as a society have created by marginalizing a certain percentage of our population. I agree with that wholeheartedly.”
Sociologist Elijah Anderson gets it. He sees that gender must be recognized alongside race as a factor that causes problems for black men. In his classic ethnography of urban life, he wrote, “Incapable of making distinctions between law-abiding black males and others, [members of the community] rely for protection on broad stereotypes based on color and gender.” In telling how he, a black man, was treated by officials after reporting a crime, he says, “Notwithstanding that I was a victim of crime, my color and gender seemed to outweigh other claims.”
The U.S. Sentencing Commission gets it, too. In its 2004 report on federal sentencing guidelines, the panel noted, “Unlike race and ethnic discrimination, the evidence is more consistent that similar offenders are sometimes treated differently based on their gender. Gender effects are found in both drug and non-drug offenses and greatly exceed race and ethnic effects.” Similarly, a university researcher’s 2012 study of federal criminal justice disparities concluded that, “The especially high rate of incarceration of men of color is a serious social concern, and gender disparity is one of its key dimensions.”
The most perverse sexism of all is the belief that only one sex needs to be protected from sexism. To the extent that sexism perpetrates social injustices, social workers are ethically obliged to fight sexism—in a non-sexist way.