Source: AP Photos
I have been reading the most recent posts on Sociology Lens and I was surprised to see that there has not been a post on the recent grand jury decision in not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. For weeks, a large portion of news coverage has been on the death of the unarmed 18-year-old black teen. Then Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict another white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the death of unarmed Eric Garner. There seemed to be so much to discuss but many of us remained silent.
Many bloggers, reporters, scholars, and writers will tell you there is an obvious problem in our society; a society where black men and boys are perceived as such a treat that they are being handled with deadly force by our police department. However, I feel there is another epidemic that is equally problematic in our culture, white men and women disengaging from this topic and failing to understand how race relations impact everyone of our daily lives, albeit in different ways.
Photo by: Gabriel Flores Romero
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
“You put me in charge of Medicaid…”, the vice president of Arizona’s Republican Party and former state senator, Russell Pearce quipped on his weekly radio broadcast The Russell Pearce Show “the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants or tubal ligations”. Medicaid is a program designed to provide health-related services for people who cannot afford healthcare in the private sector. As Amanda Kennedy of Sociology Lens points out vividly here, “being valued as a parent is a white privilege…” and I would add, class privilege. (more…)
Photo by: Howard Gees aka. Cyberslayer
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
If you operate in a world of “market forces” well, then you should probably leave the social research to the social scientists. An August 23rd commentary in the Science and Technology section of the Economist magazine anonymously summarized an elegantly designed longitudinal quasi-experimental study in less than 500 words. Their summary concluded with two very basic possibilities (because as we know the range of human possibility is exactly two!) to explain the correlation between criminality and socio-economic status: either 1) the environment traps people in a culture of crime or 2) there is a genetic predisposition to being both poor and criminal. That is, the criminal gene prefers to hang around in the bottom 20% of income earners. Apparently, the “journalists” at The Economist are trying to revive the long dead nature vs. nurture debate as Sociology Lens addresses here and here. (more…)
In my last posting, I wrote about my concerns as I prepared to travel abroad to volunteer for a NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal. Today, I have settled in and completed three days of my volunteer assignment. In the past few days, I have learned about trafficking in one of the most powerful ways possible, through day-to-day interaction with survivors of the human trafficking trade. (more…)
The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman triggered a national awareness that heroin had cycled back as a prominent drug in the United States. His death brought forth questions that challenged many people’s notions of a drug user—poor and unsuccessful. Many people asked how a person who had so much could get addicted to heroin. The reality is that Hoffman was one of many people throughout the United States using heroin. According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, 335,000 people used heroin in 2012 up from 239,000 people in 2010. (more…)
Police departments across the country are rapidly increasing their technological capacity to become a more efficient and effective force. These technologies vary from new weapons, wide-area surveillance, facial recognition software, closed caption television cameras, and crime mapping software. Each of these technologies is oriented towards identifying offenders and preventing or intervening in crime incidents. The technology has become a multi-billion dollar industry with vendors regularly contacting departments attempting to sell them the next great technology. One technology becoming increasingly popular with the police is body-cameras. The police are beginning to wear small cameras on their shirt, hat, or sunglasses in order to capture interactions with citizens. The body-cameras are one of the few technologies adopted by the police that focus on limiting police behavior. Body cameras are thought to reduce police deviance and increase police professionalism by monitoring police actions (Ariel & Farrar, 2014). The movement towards police wearing body cameras causes the police to be more aware of their behaviors and acts as a deterrent for the police committing crimes. Multiple research studies indicate video technology alters the behavior of offenders (Chartrand, & Bargh, 1999; IACP, 2004). (more…)
The White House. Source: Wikimedia Commons
On Tuesday the White House launched its new campaign to address and prevent the epidemic of sexual violence against women on college campuses in the US. The campaign, 1 is 2 Many, includes a blog, an informational website with a major report, Not Alone, and a PSA aimed at men and boys. The launch of the campaign has been largely celebrated among the numerous sexual and domestic violence agencies across the country as a much needed step toward creating real change on college campuses. For those of us in the social sciences, the campaign, and the report in particular, reveals just how much we don’t yet know about sexual violence on college campuses. (more…)
The New York City Rescue Mission recently posted a video on their website of a social experiment examining whether or not a person would recognize his/her own family member dressed to appear homeless. To no surprise, the test subjects did not recognize their family member as they walked past them on the street. Watching the powerful video not only puts homelessness into perspective for those individuals who did not recognize their own family, but also raises questions for all of us as to whether we pay attention to the homeless. In the United States the homeless are often associated with negative connotations. Our constructed realities of the homeless consist of dirty, lazy individuals who are likely drunk, on drugs, and/or mentally ill who commits crime to survive. These negative meanings attached to have serious consequences for how we should respond to the homeless, typically guiding punitive policies that interweave narratives of homeless persons and public health issues (Amster, 2003). The associated negative connotations with the homeless provide the public with a basis to remove the homeless from public space in the name of safety. (more…)
In my last post I discussed the role the school-to-prison pipeline plays in increasing the gap in minority education. The consequences of zero tolerance school policies are many including stigmatization, dropping out of school, and/or getting a juvenile record. Some schools have begun to change their responses to deviance in schools by going away from zero tolerance policies and towards restorative justice models. Restorative justice is a proactive approach requiring wholesale cultural change in the punishment orientation of the school system based on improved responsibility and communication. The restorative justice program provides long-term change that emphasizes building relationships, improve behavior, reduce violence, and build community (Zehr, 2002). (more…)
Source: Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon
I recently stumbled upon a unique analysis of the construction of social reality. In Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters, haunting is a method of sociological research. She argues, “To study social life one must confront the ghostly aspects of it” (7). Ghostly Matters is her attempt to understand the complexities of social life through an analysis of the hauntings surrounding Sabina Spielrein, the desaparecido of Argentina and the lingering impact of racial slavery during the Reconstruction period in the United States. Her book might be a conceptual call within the field of sociology to understand that which it represses, but her approach is truly interdisciplinary, in that she seeks to create a something “that belongs to no one” (ibid).