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.
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 ]
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…)
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.
The audience of Macklemore’s November 28, 2012 concert in Toronto. (Source: thecomeupshow [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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…)
Memorial for the victims of the NSU murders in Dortmund, Germany.
Source: Reclus [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Germany is currently witnessing one of its most anticipated criminal cases in recent history
, as Beate Zschäpe, the sole surviving member of the three-person white supremacist group National Socialist Underground (NSU),
is being tried for membership in a terrorist cell and conspiracy to commit ten murders. In addition to highlighting the continued danger of white supremacist groups, this case and its handling by the police and the media not only speaks to the lingering racism in Germany but also to the perils of post-racial and colorblind ideology. In this latter sense, I would argue, it shares some parallels with a high profile murder case that recently grabbed the public attention here in the US, namely the trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
On July 13th, George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman shot Martin during a scuffle—the details of which we will never truly know—and claimed that he had done so only in self-defense. The jury believed him; much of the viewing public did not. In the weeks since the verdict, the nation has been reeling. The shooting itself, the failure of the police department, the vigilantism encouraged by “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws, the racial tensions—all of it brought to light deep seated issues in the US. Clearly, we are not a post-racial society. (more…)
George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin
Last Saturday, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all state charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin. This marks the latest development in a saga that began on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. On that night, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, fatally shot Martin after an altercation. Before shooting the teenager, Zimmerman had called the Sanford Police Department from his car to report that Martin was acting suspiciously. While speaking to 911 dispatchers, Zimmerman left his vehicle and got into a physical fight with Martin before shooting him in the chest from close range. In the days after the shooting, a media storm began to develop. Opponents of the shooting alleged that racial discrimination had played a role in the killing while supporters of Zimmerman insisted that he had merely acted in self-defense. Going along with this latter belief, the Sanford Police Department did not initially charge Zimmerman with any type of crime. Public outrage soon led to a special prosecutor being assigned to the case and, in April of 2012, Zimmerman was charged with murder in the second degree. (more…)
It is hard to imagine that only several decades ago, many women in the United States did not work outside the home. If they did work, their income was a supplement to the household, not the primary share. In fact, in 1960, census reports found that mothers were the primary breadwinner in only 11% of households. A new Pew Research Center study shows us how much times have changed. Not only are women working and making more money than ever before in history, the Pew Center is now reporting that mothers bring in the primary income for 40% of U.S. households. This is a dramatic shift in the politics of gender, work, and family in a relatively short amount of time.
Yet, not all women benefit equally. It turns out that there are two types of breadwinning mothers: married women who out earn their husbands and single mothers who are the only source of income for the family. The married women constitute 37% of the breadwinning mothers. They are well educated, better paid, older, and disproportionately white. The single mothers constitute the majority of breadwinning mothers, or 67%. They are less educated, poorer, younger, and usually women of color. (more…)
This week, Harvard University students are taking a stand against a controversial 2009 dissertation, “IQ and Immigration Policy,” which argues that Hispanics have lower IQs and develops contentious suggestions for U.S. immigration reform based on this assumption. Jason Richwine, the author of the dissertation and currently a research contributor for The Heritage Foundation, ultimately recommends that U.S. immigration policy should be based on intelligence, excluding individuals with lower IQ scores and including individuals with higher scores. Though Richwine claims that he does not endorse ethnicity-based immigration reform, his use of IQs disaggregated by race and ethnicity raises questions about the intent of his work. (more…)