...Is founder and director of the Mourning the Creation of Racial Categories Project. She is a professor of sociology at Northern Kentucky University. Joan is the author of Sociology: A Global Perspective (9th edition) and Seeing Sociology (3rd edition). She also co-authored/edited The Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity in the United States with Prince Brown, Jr (2nd edition). Her most recent works are Places That Matter: Knowing Your Neighborhood Through Data (University of California, forthcoming 2018) and How Race Has Estranged US: An Invitation to Talk (in progress).
Joan is especially interested in the social construction of race in the United States. Specifically, she is interested in the U.S. system of racial classification and how that system of classification came to be. It is a system founded on trauma, loss, separation and abandonment. And it is a system that requires Americans to acknowledge some ancestors and silence others. To grasp this idea, think about President Obama who is considered the first black president of the United States. For Obama to be considered black, he had to be part of a society that decided certain ancestors (those from the continent of Africa) are much more important to his identity than the Kansas-born white-appearing ancestors. To call President Obama black we must look past the fact that his skin shade is significantly lighter than his biological father’s and closer in shade to that of his mother. Finally, we must treat the African or black historical experience/influence as exponentially more important than the European or white historical experience/influence in shaping his life. Joan is interested in how this way of seeing race has shaped race relations and dynamics in the United States. She believes, as does Carlos Fernández, that the separation of biologically related peoples into racial categories “is at the heart of an unresolved American identity crisis, a dilemma that perpetuates ethnic and racial disunion and makes the resolution of the general race problem virtually impossible.”