Coloring a Movement: Revealing Hegemony and Definition of “People of Color” from the Perspective of POC

Coloring a Movement: 
Revealing Hegemony and Definition of “People of Color”
from the Perspective of POC

Photo: Raymond Haddad/

Group 3: Alvin Chang, Conor Knowles, Scott Lozano, Fumiko Nishioka, & Tzu-lin Wu

I. Introduction

Our group is focusing on the element of identity from the perspectives of People of Color (POC,) a subgroup of the 99% Movement. The obscure nature of race and differences comes into play in the self-identification of the group through social media. We specifically focus on how the movement defines the term, “color.” Having a better understanding about the definition of “color” can help us reveal the figure of hegemony hidden in our society.Texts are taken from the official blogs and micro-blogs of the POC movement. These sources reflect the most contemporary views which directly represent the movement from within. People of Color is a sub-unit group of the Occupy movement and a group devoted to “developing critical consciousness” within the 99% movement ( and to equalize the imbalance of representation. By looking closely at how “people of color” are defined, we can gain a closer glimpse of how classical formations of race and differences are presented through discourse in American society. POC’s efforts to bring greater representation to people of color offer an underlying understanding to the tensions found in economic inequality and the overall 99% Movement. The movement’s efforts in challenging the power differences ultimately reveal a socially constructed hegemonic relation between those of distinct social classes and races. Identifying these groups lends an actionable framework around which groups can organize. These are similar premises to those around which sports teams operate. Essentially, in-group members of a socio-economic minority group self-characterize by reproducing hegemonic structures of social and race-based stratification. The POC differentiates in-group and out-group through broad self-representation as vicitimized and a specific representation of the out-group through stereotype.

This analysis will take a qualitative approach at analyzing discourse, reviewing first the methods used to extrapolate upon the aforementioned theories and hypothesis. Then a detailed analysis will be presented that draws upon key patterns and findings which led to the formation of this social theory.

II. Method

The corpus that is the subject of this analysis is comprised of messages and discussions, or posts, taken from the official social media web-sites of the People of Color Occupy movement. These include the POC Tumblr blog, the POC Working Group Twitter micro-blog and the POC Working Group Facebook page. Additionally, articles from outside sources posted by activists to their social media web-sites were included as representing activist discourse. The posts from these respective sites are organized in chronological order. Posts are taken from within the dates of October 3, 2011 and December 31, 2011. These dates reflect a time when activist organizers were generating texts most vigorously. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr play a vital role in how we gain access and view events in the world, and the occupy movement has been vastly portrayed through social media sites.  It has made the movement easier to follow and it can help people collaborate with people across the nation and the world. The social media genre is one of the only ways of studying a minority in-group perspective on the Occupy movement, though it is perhaps the best and most representative of the direct voices of all activists in the movement as discourse in such media is generated by all members of the group regardless of leadership status. Texts are compiled in a 33,28-token corpus with a Token/Type ratio of ~.16. Roughly 160 posts or articles combined comprise the corpus.

Several strategies were employed to derive the social theory mentioned earlier. The practices outlined by Svenja Adolphs are particularly helpful in preliminary identification and formation of this theory of exclusionary motivation (Svenja, 2006). Specifically, techniques such as generating frequency lists and then using collocation tables and analyzing concordance data for semantic prosody illuminates relationships between various words and phrases to similar lexical units surrounding them. In our corpus, we were able to see the rate in which words like “movement”, “justice”, “color”, or “race” occurred.  Looking to see how many times these words appeared helped us see just how the POC wanted to define themselves, and how often they decided to use a word.Tools such as KWIC, an electronic corpus analysis program, is significant for identifying patterns amongst lexical items and forming initial theories based on semantic prosody. For example, the word “white” was commonly found near the word “racist” or “racism.” The readings on Kelle and coding similarly helped identify patterns and key words that are relevant to the definition of color (Udo, 2000). Analysis methods such as those mentioned earlier (collocation tables, ect.) helped extrapolate on these codes. In this analysis some items proved irrelevant and could thus be discarded while unexpected patterns and meanings appeared. Also, Fairclough’s ideas surrounding clausal and sentence structure are also useful in deriving meaning from the POC corpus (Fairclough, 2003). Analysis of agency reveals in the case of POC one of the more basic ways in which group identity is formed. Understanding narrative structure and methods for analyzing race-based discourse taken from Van Dijk is similarly useful to understanding discourse construction by groups and race-group identity (Van Dijk, 2011).

III. Analysis

1. First Pattern

The POC represents group identity by re-creating itself as a minority. It does this in three ways; narration, specific out-group representation, and vague in-group representation.

The POC discourse as taken from the texts they create via social media offers a perspective which presents the assumption that the reader and the narrator of the text are in-group members. From both a syntagmatic and paradigmatic perspective this holds true. Pronoun usage such as “we” and “us” positions readers as in-group members.

“We spoke out about Racism in the 99 percent…”
“We spoke out about how nobody was talking about the racist….”
“Those of us in the POC spoke shared the deep concern…”
“Join us to help OWS….”

Cook’s Triangle of Communication highlights the positions of activist narrators and those spoken too in the text, by the text. For example, what is absent from the texts are narrator definition and indeed most forms of adjectives describing the group, revealing both in-group definition by defining what the group is not.

“When we wanted to address the people….”
“…so we know that Wall Street…”
“…reminds us that we must look…”

Contrast of actions and how groups are affected by each other/ will be affected (binaries)
Representation of Social actors (inclusion/exclusion, activated = victimizing, impersonal= institution, generic yet specific= institution/distinct attributes, classified= institution)

<Specific out-group definition>
Descriptors applying to out-group members generally took on a negative connotation, as proved by binary contrast analysis. Specific institutions, races or classes such as banker, corporation, government and white were common underlying thematic paradigms characterizing the out-group. These definitions are often paired with negative adjectives or actions, creating a binary of action against the in-group which legitimizes reactions by the group. For instance, the phrase “corporate greed” 68% of the times the word was found using a key-word analysis, where the other times “corporate” was paired with benefactor, profiteering, and occupation.

“white dominated movement…”
“Neither approach needs to be treated by whites as a threat…”
“…organized by upper-middle class, educated white…”
“oppressive ideas of whiteness…”
“whites need to acknowledge…”
“The capitalist class has historically used racism to divide…”
“…our government no longer represents us…”
“…government has been slashing away …”

Analysis establishes that out-group characteristics are most prominently socio-economic, and particularly racial. The word “white” is predominantly used to describe the out-group. Discourse thus centers on racial identity much of the time to define group character. Out of 90 samples of the word taken from the group 3 corpus all 90 uses of the word pertained to race. Compared to a random sample of 90 contexts surrounding the word “white” in the British National Corpus, it was 90% more likely to be used as a racial marker.

“being an anti-racist white…”
“white people haaaaate…”
“White kids whining that it’s unfair…”

<Vague in-group definition>
Group actions or concerns were also used to describe in-group members, rather than specific racial markers, which was decidedly vaguer than how the out-group was defined. In-group definition of the POC uses several referential strategies. The in-group is represented in a classical power struggle between those in power and those lacking power. Victimization is typically used to represent the in-group as well, as people who have been “oppressed” or subject to “social injustice.” In our Dedoose code section, we had a lot of sentences tagged with codes such as “group categorization,” “group characteristics,” and “identity” as you can see in the excerpts below;

“our movement against corporate…”
“…protests against banks and insurance…”
“we would like to see the nationalization of banks…”

Also, a lack of descriptors applying to in-group as denoted by token figures for the few instances of descriptors such as “black, Hispanic, Latino, LGBT, etc. are negligible. Speakers and those spoken too are back grounded while statements broadly include in-group members through general pronoun use and unspecific group actions.

“ We will protest…”
“We will stand in solidarity…”
“We should not forget…”
“We were called racist…”
“…they have evicted us…”
“…To help us face…”

We need to be aware of the fact that there are numbers of people who are not categorized in neither in-group nor out-group; in another word, 99% nor 1%. In critical analysis, it is a fallacy to claim that “if you are not 1%, you are 99%.” It syllogism has not been well established and can be considered enthymeme. This is the case of Modus Tollens. For example, the middle-class people, which we believe majority of us who go to UW are also categorized in this section, receive education, have enough food and drink, basic health care, and some luxuries that satisfies their life to some extent. These people seem quite different from those who participate in POC movement such as long-term unemployed workers or homeless people.

2. Second Pattern: 

Internal and emotional stimulants used as a motive for gaining support and spreading representation.

We could observe many cases of usage of internal and emotional stimulants as a motive for encouraging POC blogs viewers to support their actions and will within the movement and spreading its representation widely. POC approaches to people using pathos, an appeal to audiences or viewers’ emotion. Use of pathos is very effective way to gain more power and representation for this POC’s 99% movement. It helps not only convincing people to support POC by victimizing their representation, but also it builds stronger interaction and bonds between POC and followers of their movement. For example, you can observe the pathological approach in a sentence below;

“Within an emotional justice framework, someone is able to bring up their pain.”

In the example, emotional justice is referred to as a framework, where pain is experienced. The form that this example is presented in is through a collective identity, which shows plurality, complexity, and involves the identity of a community (Dijk, 2006). As this shows, the use of the ‘justice pattern’ brings the issues into an internal form where individuals are identifying themselves. This is how this ‘justice pattern’ plays a part in exploring the claim in using identity as a driving force in equalizing the social and economic inequality.

IV. Conclusion

Throughout the analysis, a close association is taken to how the text uses the theme of creating an environment where identity is chosen by splitting up in and out-groups to oppose the social and economic power imbalances in terms of the People of Color Working Group and the 99% Movement. Through the essay, the methods of corpus linguistics and qualitative coding allowed us to extract the meaning found underneath the text and within the genre of social media. Unlike the OWS movement, the smaller POC is not so broadly inclusive in terms of members. Although there are times in POC generated discourse where definitions of membership still represent individuals with out-group-like characteristics, there seems to be fairly specific criteria for those presented as POC members. Typically, as in the case of the POC, in-group members of the socio-economic minority group self-characterize by reproducing hegemonic structures of social and race-based stratification. The POC wants to differentiate itself from other groups. The more branched out they can be, the more unique they will seem, and perhaps they will garner more attention as a group.  However, at the same time, they want to include as many as possible, by leaving the definition of “color” completely open.  These people of color tend to associate themselves as a subset group of the 99%–a 1% of the 99% if you will. As can be seen in analysis of both the sub-division undertaken by POC discourse generators within OWS and more broadly in society, out-group and in-group characterization is motivational. Negative qualities attributed to out-group characteristics are paired with actionable perspectives similar to how pronouns both define and are paired with phrases to define groups and promote group action. Overall this generates a better understanding of how classical struggles such as those undertaken to fight inequality by the POC can reveal a broader understanding of race-based power relations in a society (Means, 1992).

One particular interesting finding of our research was that counter-hegemonic power try to fight against hegemony using a classical stereotypical hegemonic imageries. As we have mentioned many times with various examples, victimizing in-group and making out-group look like an evil enemy has used in POC’s discourse. We found their representation of both have created with hegemonic stereotypes. It is a very unique and interesting to see the ironic relationship between hegemonic power and counter-hegemony. Even though subordinated groups of people challenge hegemony, their claim to discredit hegemony does not even exist without the figure of hegemony in their appeal and discourse.

Finally, in context of the greater 99% Movement, we have discussed how this form of support-gathering executed by the People of Color Working Group helped us understand the forces behind the supporters of the 99% movement in raising awareness, gaining support, and struggling to create a counterbalance to the nation-wide social, racial, and economic hegemonic power imbalances. Social inequality remains in our society for too long time in our history producing anger, sadness, misery, grief, hopelessness, fear, and other diverse negative feelings that can not be described only with visual words here. Yet, now, with the power of today’s high technology, more and more people are enabled to speak up their ideas in public and gather with those who share the same ideas to claim it in the entire world across the nation and the world. Many underrepresented people started to shout their voice to counter hegemony today. However, we must emphasize that each one of us including these counter-hegemonic people must consider what the “real meaning of equality” is in terms of being active in movements to seek the true equal society in this world.

V. References

Dijk, T. A. (2006). Discourse studies. (2 ed., pp. 268-273). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Fairclough, N. (2003). Representation of social events (134-155). In Analyzing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.

Means, R. (October 23, 1992). Acting against racism. Entertainment Weekly, 102392, 141.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Frequencies in Texts: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 3 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 37-50.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Exploring Words and Phrases in Use: Basic Techniques.” Chapter 4 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 51-63.

Adolphs, Svenja. “Electronic Text Analysis, Language and Ideology.” Chapter 6 in Introducing Electronic Text Analysis. London ; New York : Routledge, 2006. 80-96.

Van Dijk, T. (2011). Discourse studies: A multidisciplinary introduction. (2nd Ed.) London, UK: Sage.Ch. 12,14,15.

Kelle, Udo. “Computer-Assisted Analysis: Coding and Indexing.” Chapter 16 in Qualitative Researching with Text, Image, and Sound. Eds. Martin Bauer & George Gaskell. London : SAGE, 2000. 282-298.


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