Category Archives: Race and Ethnicity

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).


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.


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.


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 ]


Using Monopoly to Teach Class Inequality


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…)

Connecting the Dots: The Politics of Race in Big Time Football’s 2013 Offseason

By A. Smith [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Football season is upon us, and there are plenty of reasons why this moment in big time football is very intriguing from a sociological perspective. More specifically, most of the major offseason storylines of both professional and collegiate football tell us much about the racial politics in big time football and the negotiations of race and sports in the media.

Update: Johnny Manziel makes the cover of Time Magazine.


“Where’s my place in a music that’s been taken by my race?”: Macklemore and Authentic White Hip-Hop

The audience of Macklemore’s November 28, 2012 concert in Toronto. (Source: thecomeupshow [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

The audience of Macklemore’s November 28, 2012 concert in Toronto. (Source: thecomeupshow [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

In his 2005 song “White Privilege,” white hip-hop artist Macklemore asked, “Where’s my place in a music that’s been taken by my race?”.  In the same song he acknowledges that “white rappers’ albums really get the most spins” and that “hip-hop started off on a block [he’s] never been to, to counteract a struggle that [he’s] never been through.”  This seemingly self-aware critique of his own whiteness in the context of hip-hop dropped 7 years before Macklemore’s meteoric rise to fame and now he is far from alone in considering the impact of his white skin on the genre.  In 2005 Macklemore was nearly unheard of, but as of the writing of this post in 2013 the duo of Macklemore and his collaborator, Ryan Lewis, have 3 songs that have made the Billboard Top 20 and two of those have hit #1.  In fact, just this past weekend he was awarded Best Hip-Hop Video in what may have been the whitest MTV Video Music Award ceremony in recent memory.

As his fame has increased, so too has the discourse regarding his role in hip-hop writ large.  Willamette Week asked if Macklemore is the “new face of hip-hop,” OUT hailed him as the writer of “hip-hop’s first gay anthem,” a Racialicious article critiquing Macklemore’s politics spurred an internet feud with Gawker, and a New York Times critic questioned the “authenticity” of Macklemore’s work as hip-hop.  Nearly all of this discourse surrounding Macklemore focuses on one thing, his whiteness.  So what, sociologically, does his white skin mean in hip-hop? (more…)