Category: Race & Ethnicity Studies

Avery Gordon's "Ghostly Matters" and the Haunting of Sociological Research

  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...

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

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...

Fatherhood and Black Fatherhood

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...

Heavy Metal Music and Sociological Imagination

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...

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

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...

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...

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

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

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...

Racially Profiling the Victims of Murder. Colorblindness, Racism and the Selective Silence on Race in the US and Germany

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...

Dream Defenders Stand THEIR Ground

  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”...

The George Zimmerman Case: What Role Did Race Play?

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...

Breadwinning Mothers and the Importance of Intersectional Thinking

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...

Harvard University Students Take a Stand Against Controverisal Dissertation

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...

Why I Won't Shop at Abercrombie and Fitch (and the reason is not the loud and obnoxious music)

  The CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jeffries, is up-front about his marketing and sales strategy: appeal to “cool” and “popular” kids to make the brand distinctive and desirable. While anybody can wear other brands, only those who fit an ideal body type can have the privilege of sporting Abercrombie and Fitch tees and jeans. How does Jeffries achieve this goal? The Abercrombie and Fitch advertisements use models who are “all American” (white and skinny), the stores employ similarly small...

Part II: The Effects of School Criminalization

A few weeks back, I contributed a post highlighting possible explanations for the rise of criminal justice based practices within schools.  Although these strategies have become popular for managing school crime, growing evidence suggests they are often overly excessive and may produce a host of unintended consequences. Serving as a sort of a Part II, this essay outlines the effects of what has been termed the “criminalization of school discipline” (Hirschfield & Celinscka 2011). As discussed below, the evidence stands...

Racism is on (in?) my mind…

  Last Wednesday, Cheryl posted an interesting analysis of the nature vs. nurture debate that has plagued the social and biological sciences since their emergence. More and more research, from both disciplinary areas, is accumulating to overturn this simplistic dichotomy. Rather than thinking of ourselves as purely determined by our body chemistry and structure OR by our social environment, it is useful to think of ourselves as what Donna Haraway terms “material-semiotic” entities—that is, as unique combinations of natural and...