Michèle Lamont is Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Her books include How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment and the recently released Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel. From her Q&A with Michelle Nicholasen for the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs' blog:
Q: What inspired you and your colleagues to write Getting Respect, and how does it connect to your past scholarship?The Page 99 Test: How Professors Think.
A: Back in 2000, I published a book called The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration. It was based on interviews with African American and white workers in New York, and native white workers and North African workers in France. I asked questions about what makes people equal and was surprised to discover that in France workers never talked about money making people equal, whereas many white and black American workers believe that “if I can buy a house, and you can buy a house, we're equal.” There is very little in the literature about “everyday” conceptions of racial inequality. We wanted to get at how people in different parts of the world understand similarities and differences and to learn about what kind of thinking racism is based on.
Q: In writing Getting Respect, what new insights have you learned about racism in the United States?
A: One of the main findings is that African Americans use confrontation (speaking up or calling out someone’s behavior) in response to...[read on]