Tagged: race

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...

Nature AND Nurture: Undermining Inequalities with Sociology and Biology

In the most recent issue of Sociology Compass, Lisa Wade contributed an article, “The New Science of Sex Difference,” about the relationship between biology and social identities and inequalities. The debate about socialization usually boils down to two seemingly opposed positions: nature versus nurture. Historically, biologists, and other fans of the life sciences, contended that natural forces in the body, like hormones, genes, and brains, determine the development of an individual. On the other hand, sociologists refute the claim that...

More Musings on Evil: Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality in Media Villains

In a recent post, I discussed a longstanding trend in American (and Western) media of using racial Others to embody evil.  From adult action films to children’s animated features, we can find examples of villains whose malevolent nature is clear from the racial/ethnic stereotypes used to characterize them. But racial stereotypes are not the only stereotypes used to denote wickedness; we can also find many examples of non-normative sexualities and gender performances associated with evil. Importantly, this sexual Otherness is...

The Color of Evil: How American Media Racializes Villains

The History Channel’s miniseries, The Bible, has been lauded by some and scrutinized by others. Recently, some have raised questions about the show’s portrayal of the Satan, specifically the striking resemblance between the character and President Barack Obama (you can read a commentary at the HuffPost). The show’s producers have called the claims “utter nonsense” and insisted that actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni’s long record working on religious film sets made him an obvious choice for the role. I’m no mind-reader...

The Gender, Race, and Class Dynamics of “Effortless Perfection”

In the two weeks since I wrote about Secret’s “stress sweat” ad campaign, I’ve been thinking a lot about American society’s beauty standards for women. The prevailing model of female beauty (especially for young women, say 16-35 y/o) is best described by a term coined at Duke University: “effortless perfection.” As the Duke researchers explained, their interviewees felt they “had to be not only academically successful, but also successful by all the traditionally female markers — thin, pretty, well-dressed, nice...

Addressing Issues of Masculinity in the Wake of the Newtown Tragedy

After the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, many people have asked, “how do we prevent this from happening again?” We have heard propositions for increased gun control and for better mental health care in the United States. These are both important goals, but neither of these policy initiatives completely addresses the problems around the cultural construction of violent masculinity, problems which are central to understanding mass shootings in the United States. Two weeks before the Newtown tragedy, my sociology of gender...

The Ethnicity of White Americans: Hidden or All-Pervading?

In the U.S., whites are the dominant ethno-racial group. Interestingly, however, Doane (1997) and Nayak (2007) point out that this group has often been ignored in the race and ethnicity literature. As a result, Doane argues that the study of the dominant ethnic group in the United States has been underdeveloped, the ethnic hierarchy has not been adequately researched, the strategic use of the dominant role has lacked attention, and the evolution of this group has not been fully examined....

“Life Isn’t Always Fair”: Mayor Bloomberg on Alleged Racial Discrimination in NYC Elite Schools

New York City is a city characterized by its diversity and multiculturalism. Some of the U.S.’s largest populations of racial and ethnic minorities live within the city limits. And yet, in many ways, NYC continues to drop the ball when it comes to truly integrating its diverse population. A recent example illustrates this problem. The NAACP recently filed a federal civil rights complaint, stating that the city’s elite public schools, like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, have accepted far too few...

Gender Bias in Mentoring Practices

In a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, a group of scholars reported on the continued gender discrimination in the hard sciences. The researchers asked 127 male and female professors in biology, chemistry, and physics to rate male and female job candidates for a position in their labs. The portfolios of the candidates were exactly the same, but half used the name, “Jennifer,” and the other half, “John.” The professors rated...

The Political Value of Welfare

One of the latest Romney ads attacks President Obama for removing work provisions from Welfare Reform.  In the ad, disappointed-in-himself Obama (pictured left) sneakily gutted welfare reform by dropping the work requirements, so that as the ad states, “They just send you your welfare check.”  The ad’s claims are false or, as the fact-checking website Politifact put it, pants-on-fire.  What Obama has actually done is allow states to develop their own welfare-to-work programs.  The changes provide states with some flexibility regarding...

Colorblind Racial Bias and the Courts

After a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling, jurors in the state of New Jersey will now be asked to consider problems regarding the reliability of eyewitness identifications.  The new court-mandated jury instructions warn jurors, among other things, that, “research has shown that people may have greater difficulty in accurately identifying members of a different race.”  Judges must now ask jurors to “consider whether the fact that the witness and the defendant are not of the same race may have influenced...

Gender and Race Politics in the Discourse of Mothering

Mothering has been in the news lately. TIME Magazine’s cover story on breastfeeding in May caused quite a stir; so did Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece for the Atlantic, which discussed the difficulty women face when trying to balance work and family. TIME’s piece points to the increasing pressure on women to do everything right when it comes to being a mom: The rise in attachment parenting (even in a watered-down form) places great responsibility on women to do all they can,...

Black Complaints / White Denials: The Trayvon Martin Case

In my last post, I mentioned the larger discussion about blame for racism that cases like Trayvon Martin produce.  One consistent meme that arises every time black people protest the killing of a black person by a white person is: Why don’t black people protest when blacks kill other blacks?  After all, statistically black homicide victims are more likely to be killed by blacks than any other race.  Black on black homicide certainly happens at a far greater rate than...

Disembodied Racism and the Search for Racist Intent: The Trayvon Martin Case

  The Trayvon Martin case has become a national media event complete with competing individual evaluations, competing definitions of racism and competing blame narratives.  In these “racial events,” Americans propensity for individualistic analysis coalesces with America’s racialized culture in order to produce a mix of individual evaluations and sweeping claims about racial groups and the institutional privileges and disadvantages of different racial groups.  In my experience, this process reinforces many of the flawed ideas about race that sociologists regularly debunk...

Social Class: Income, Wealth, and Race

Lately there has been a lot of talk about class, and not just the vague election year pandering to the vague demographic of the “middle class.”  Instead, the very concept of class has become a subject of debate.  Last time, I focused on Mitt Romney’s comment’s about “people who have fallen out of the middle class.”  This time I focus on fellow candidate Rick Santorum’s criticism of Romney for using the word class.  Here’s what Santorum said: “There are no...

Why College Educators Who Care about Critical Thinking Need to Pay Attention to White Privilege and the Tucson Unified School District

“I don’t know if I should be saying this right now,” sophomore Allie stated, her eyes making a cautionary sweep of the room, even though except for us it was empty, and the door had long been shut. White and well-off, she held a prestigious academic scholarship and took many of her courses through a selective honors program. But not this course: “[The professor] was a nice lady, but she felt like she had to tie every single thing she...