Deirdre Royster

Associated Associate Professor of Public Service, NYU Wagner; Associate Professor, NYU Department of Sociology

Not Pictured

Deirdre A. Royster joins the Department of Sociology and Wagner Graduate School of Public Service as an Associate Professor. She earned her B.S. in Sociology and Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (1987) and her M.A. and Ph. D. from Johns Hopkins University (1991, 1996). Previously, she taught at UMass-Amherst (1996-2001), where she was an award-winning teacher, and most recently at the College of William and Mary, where she chaired the Department of Sociology (2003-06) and directed the Center for the Study of Inequality (2004-08) and the Black Studies Program (2007-08).

Dr. Royster's first book, Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude Black Men from Blue Collar Jobs (University of California Press, 2003) received the 2004 Oliver Cromwell Cox Best Book Award. Her research interests cross-cut sociological areas including Racism and Racial Stratification, Economic Sociology/Urban Political Economy, Public Policy, Race/Class/Gender Studies, and Work/Labor/Labor Markets



This chapter uses critical race theories to interpret Obama-related content and changing discourse patterns on discussion boards maintained by a pro-gun, overwhelmingly white, male, and conservative virtual community. Beginning during the 2008 presidential primary season and continuing through Barack Obama's election as president, our analysis focused on the proliferation of negative “nicknames” (“Obamathets”) that were posted in race-oriented discussion threads over 16 months. We identified three types of frequently voiced Obamathets: those indicating general dislike, political disdain, or racial derision, and we analyzed usage patterns – which types of Obamathets appeared and at which times. Our results revealed a changing state of mind – annoyance to extreme anger – among posters whose sense of racial threat seemed increasingly palpable as Obama approached, and eventually won, the presidency. Over time, posts increasingly included racially derisive terms whose incidence intensified after the election and remained high; racially derisive terms overtook terms of general dislike (that had been more popular) as well as terms of political disdain several months into our analysis. Because posters tended to be more openly libertarian in orientation, we doubt our findings would generalize to the majority of conservative whites; however, our findings probably shed considerable light on activist elements among conservatives, including the “Tea Party” movement. Moreover, capturing sentiments expressed in a semiprivate venue – virtual community discussion boards – probably allowed us to uncover less censored racial sentiment (or racetalk) than is typical when social scientists solicit racial opinions from whites in face-to-face interviews, when many may omit racially hostile thoughts to appear more racially sensitive to researchers.



Though less affluent black and white boys and men adhere to similar gendered norms and aspirations and begin with similar labor market potential, they are often sorted into very different and unequal educational and labor market trajectories. Using national-level descriptive data and key qualitative studies of institutional processes, this article contrasts less affluent black and white men’s educational, labor market, and criminal justice system experiences and elucidates the processes of differentiation that reproduce those unequal patterns. In each institutional arena, less affluent black males pay a disproportionate price for enacting masculinity norms in comparison to white males. White boys and men are also presented with more desirable labor market options (and second-chance opportunities when they need help) that are denied their black male counterparts. This article suggests that only a complex strategy, which requires less affluent black men to resist more constructively while citizen groups hold institutions more publicly accountable, can enhance the labor market trajectories of black men.



From the time of Booker T. Washington to today, and William Julius Wilson, the advice dispensed to young black men has invariably been, "Get a trade." Deirdre Royster has put this folk wisdom to an empirical test—and, in Race and the Invisible Hand, exposes the subtleties and discrepancies of a workplace that favors the white job-seeker over the black. At the heart of this study is the question: Is there something about young black men that makes them less desirable as workers than their white peers? And if not, then why do black men trail white men in earnings and employment rates? Royster seeks an answer in the experiences of 25 black and 25 white men who graduated from the same vocational school and sought jobs in the same blue-collar labor market in the early 1990s. After seriously examining the educational performances, work ethics, and values of the black men for unique deficiencies, her study reveals the greatest difference between young black and white men—access to the kinds of contacts that really help in the job search and entry process.


Racial and Ethnic Minorites Section Oliver Cromwell Cox Award, American Sociological Association

C. Wright Mills Award Finalist, Society for the Study of Social Problems