Category Archives: Race and Ethnicity

Holding Up the Women Who Hold Up Half the Sky

Source: www.halftheskymovement.org

Source: www.halftheskymovement.org

 

Recently, Netflix added the widely acclaimed documentary Half the Sky to its online streaming library.  The film, inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn book of the same name, follows six American celebrities as they travel throughout Asia and Africa addressing some of the health care, educational, and economic issues that oppress women and girls across the globe. Throughout the film, the viewer clearly sees the impact women and girls of the developing world have on both Kristof and the celebrity activists who join him in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Vietnam, Somaliland, India, and Kenya.

What is even more striking is the difference between the lives of the women featured in film and the actresses visiting from the West.  At one point Kristof and actress Olivia Wilde are interviewing a former sex worker living in Kenya who is struggling to come up with the money needed to pay for her son’s tuition.  When Kristof asks her what she will do if she cannot raise the money needed the woman simply relies that she will not eat.  The conversation moves forward to other issues in the woman’s life and the viewer never finds out if the woman was able to pay her son’s tuition.

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Going Out of My Mind in Jandiayacu

 

The Airstrip in Jandiayacu

This is a photo I took in July, 2014, during my fieldwork in Jandiayacu. Jandiayacu is a Sapara community in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. It is accessible only by plane or a difficult journey on foot and by canoe, which takes several days.  (click for full size image)

 

So often we talk about being rational, making decisions based on established facts and existing knowledge, as if it is, and should be, the aim of all people at all times. Ways of being or knowing that sit outside of accepted knowledge can open a person up to being dismissed, discredited or ridiculed, particularly in the academic world. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a somewhat methodical and ‘rational’ person (most of the time). I love questions and puzzles and finding answers, and I struggle with things being disorganised, chaotic or inefficient. This is probably why I have found beginning my research with the Sapara nation, an Indigenous people here in Ecuador, so difficult. (more…)

Becoming Respectable in Northwest England and Kathmandu Nepal

Source: SAGE

Source: SAGE

 

In working with survivors of human trafficking over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to have a number of very personal conversations with women who are in the process of becoming empowered and rebuilding their self-esteem.  One topic that continues to emerge in almost every discussion is being respectable.  As I have been reflecting on what it means to be respectable in the context of surviving gender violence, I recalled a remarkable text I read a number of years ago and the similarities in understanding respectability among people of different races, ethnicities, classes, and histories. (more…)

Alternative to the school-to-prison pipeline

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…)

Avery Gordon’s “Ghostly Matters” and the Haunting of Sociological Research

 

Source: Ghostly Matters by Avery F. Gordon

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).

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Obama’s Initiative for Young Men of Color & the Rhetoric of Individual Responsibility

[By Pete Souza (White House Flickr Account) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

A few weeks ago, President Obama announced a new initiative designed to increase opportunities for young Black and Latino men. Acknowledging that Black and Latino men lag behind other groups in educational achievement and employment, while outnumbering white men in jails and prisons, at first glance, the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper” campaign seems like a much needed and timely project. However, when examining Obama’s rhetoric more closely, the initiative falls short of addressing the root causes and structural reasons for racial disparities in the US and instead perpetuates a neoliberal language of individual responsibility.

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Fatherhood and Black Fatherhood

Source: Wikimedia Commons

You may have noticed that a photo of a Black man doing his daughter’s hair was plastered all over Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds last month. That man, Doyin Richards, runs a blog, Daddy Doin’ Work, about his experiences raising his two daughters. But, unlike most of the posts from his blog, this photo went viral. When the photo appeared all over social media, it was paired with a quote from his blog. “I have a dream that people will view a picture like this and not think it’s such a big deal.” Despite his desire for the photo to be seen as not a big deal, Richards continues to receive a great deal of attention simply for being a Black father. (more…)

Heavy Metal Music and Sociological Imagination

Iron Maiden. Somewhere Back in Time Tour, 2008. Source: Anne Varak

Iron Maiden. Somewhere Back in Time Tour, 2008.
Source: Anne Varak

As a kid I loved heavy metal.  The overly bright, distorted anthem-like electric guitar solo.  The accompanying rhythmic pulse was reminiscent of a battle snare drum, a hallucination of a military march.  The drum roll and the introduction of the power chord, a series of musical intervals of a perfect fourth repeated over and over again.  When the vocalist entered the picture, singing at the lower end of his range and producing clear tones that were such a deep contrast to the tainted electric guitar chords that the emotional intensity of the song would be turned up a notch.  And just when I’d adjust to the cacophony of sounds, the singer would burst into a virtuosity of vocal jumps, which at times produced pitches so high in the vocalist’s falsetto that it is unclear if he is singing or screaming.

Despite my parents’ critiques, the emergence of heavy metal did more than produce a vehicle for headbanging; it changed popular music.  The lyrics of heavy metal addressed social problems such as discrimination and inequality. Youth crime was also connected to heavy metal.  For example, in the 1994 three teen boys were convicted of murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.  During the trials, prosecutors highlighted the boys’ interest in the occult and heavy metal music.

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Want to Help Marginalized Students Improve in Schools? Stop “Stop and Frisk” (and other punitive practices, too).

Protest against police brutality

Source: Fibonacci Blue (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a previous ruling that had determined that New York City’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” practice constituted a civil rights violation, thereby placing any reforms (or the outright abolition of “Stop and Frisk”) on hold. In addition to being a highly ineffective police strategy, extremely questionable from a civil liberties perspective and undeniably a case of racial profiling, this policy might also impact marginalized students’ educational outcomes. Sociological research suggests that the interplay between constructions of masculinity and punitive criminal justice (and school) policies ends up harming marginalized boys’ educational prospects and channels them into crime – and ultimately the criminal justice system.

[ This article was originally published at Masculinities 101 ]

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Using Monopoly to Teach Class Inequality

800px-Monopoly_board_on_white_bg

The recent contention over the United States budget has pitted the Democrats against Republicans and in doing so has hardened political ideologies for many but has also opened the minds of many to the hypocrisy of Congress. One central narrative in this battle is whether citizens should continue to receive entitlement programs such as Social Security or be allowed to get health care under the Affordable Care Act. The right considers anyone in poverty as lazy and handouts as a disincentive to work. Narratives were abound regarding individuals who are perceived as undeserving of healthcare and that people need to work for a living in order to receive healthcare.  Fox News went so far as too post a horrifically misrepresented graph suggesting that more Americans receive benefits than work. Of course the graph is extremely flawed with contradictory measures for those that receive benefits and those that work, and the Y axis makes the difference appear greater than what it is. The notion that Americans can pick themselves up by the boot straps and make something for themselves is a sensationalized myth at this point in time. The reality is that it is difficult to win the economic race when you are not even allowed on the track.  The 99% moniker of the Occupy movement is indicative of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the difference between the rich and the poor cannot be whittled down to work ethic. Rather, income inequality is a product of social structures that exploit the working class. (more…)