Sociology Focus

I’m not Racist, I’m Colorblind!

In a recent post, Sarah Nell declared that if you are white, you are racist. People – whites in particular – have learned to say (and believe), “I don’t see color when I look at people.” Here, Sarah tells us why we should see color, and how pretending we don’t see color perpetuates racism rather than eliminating or reducing it.

Since the Civil Rights Movement’s slogan “Jim Crow Must Go” became a reality, overt racism has become socially unacceptable. The freedom fighters of the 1950s-1970s challenged that hierarchy of white domination and demanded changes in both law and attitude (though they weren’t the first or the last of such fighters). Some changes were granted, but to think that changing a few laws dismantled the entire centuries-long system of advantage based on race is naïve. As Timothy Tyson remarked in his book Blood Done Sign My Name, it is foolish to think that Southern bar owners and the like said to their black neighbors, “Well, integration done come. Y’all can come on in.” It did not happen this way. In fact, the backlash to these changes was horrifically violent, but that’s another story.

A group of students

With overt and in your face racism largely a thing of the past, many whites think racism and racial discrimination are behind us too. Sociologists call this the colorblind ideology. The idea of colorblindness supposedly brings Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous Dream to fruition: for people to be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. This ideology is based on the belief that the successes of the Civil Rights Movement have removed all racial barriers to success – that race does not matter anymore. Continue reading

The Sociology of MMA: Do “Real” Men Have Emotions?

Does a “real” man cry? Does he get scared? All of us, regardless of our gender, experience the entire range of human emotions, but where do they go if we don’t show them? In this post David Mayeda explores what emotions the men of MMA can express publicly and how they manage emotions they cannot.

Back in September of 2011, Sociology In Focus’s Alex Megna examined the rigid ways that masculinity is constructed in our society through music. Sports are another venue where men learn to become so-called real men, and women, so-called real women. So do “real” men, even professional male athletes, express emotion? Aren’t “real” men supposed to be emotionless, standing tall, calm, and bravely in the face of danger and uncertainty? Let’s return to the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) to see how men engaged in fight sport cope with their emotions.

A fairly common perception of masculinity is that men, well “real” men, keep their emotions in check, in contrast to women, who are not policed so heavily by society in expressing their emotional states. But the reality is, men do have emotions, even those who try to repress them in the face of public scrutiny. Perhaps one of the few emotions men are allowed to express publicly, in particular when in confrontation with one another, is anger. Hence, confrontational interactions like that seen below between MMA fighters Nate Diaz and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone prior to their December 2011 fight, are not terribly uncommon (see this video). Continue reading

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Movie Made Stereotypes

Did you go see Red Tails this weekend? The film is a depiction of the Tuskegee Airmen an African American unit of fighter pilots that served during WWII. The film is both a testament to “how far we’ve come” and how far we’ve yet to go in bringing racial equality to the movies. In this piece Nathan Palmer asks us to examine how racial ethnic groups are portrayed in action films and think about the consequences these stereotypical portrayals may have on society.

Have you ever noticed that the villains in almost every action movie are either Russians, Middle Eastern terrorists, or gang members? Over and over again the villains in Hollywood action movies are either foreigners or people of color or both.

On the other side, the heroes are most often white men. Over the last few years we’ve seen actors like Denzil Washington, Zoe Saldana, Jet Li, and Kate Beckinsale take the lead in action movies, so it’s unfair to say there are no non-white non-male action heroes, but there aren’t many.

Hollywood action movies, more than other genres, are a loaded with stereotypes and they can teach us a lot about who holds social power. I bring this up today because over the weekend Hollywood released Red Tails a big budget action flick about the brave African American men who served as fighter pilots in WWII. The film is both an affirmation of “how far we’ve come” and how far we’ve yet to go.

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Cruise Ship Tragedy a “Normal Accident”?

This week the Costa Concordia, a luxury cruise ship carrying 4,200 passengers, hit a rock and capsized off the coast of Italy killing at least 6 with 29 still missing. This is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a terrible accident, but should it and other accidents like it be unexpected? In this post Nathan Palmer examines the Costa Concordia incident using Perrow’s theory of “Normal Accidents” to suggest that as the world becomes more technologically complex, accidents like this will becoming increasingly common.

Costa Concordia 2012

These are precarious times, my friend. Just this week a cruise ship capsized, a major online retailer got hacked, and burning space junk will fall from the sky this weekend. Last year at this time the world watched in horror as the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted down after an earthquake and tsunami. Weeks later a nuclear power plant in Omaha, NE was at risk of a meltdown due to flood waters from the Missouri River. All of these incidents were referred to as “accidents”, but should they be?

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What New Year’s Resolutions Teach Us about American Values

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Were they along the lines of losing weight, being healthier, saving money, getting organized, or learning something new? What can popular New Year’s resolutions teach us about American Values? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how popular New Year’s resolutions reflect American values.

New Year 2012

In the exciting world of a parenting a toddler, New Year’s Eve for me involves staying up just late enough to watch the ball in Times Square. It aired live, so I watched it drop at 11 p.m. Central Standard Time and then went to bed. By the time the clock struck midnight at my house, I was asleep.

Before the ball in Times Square had even dropped the diet and exercise equipment advertisements were already airing. Many Americans declare New Year resolutions revolving around bodily self-improvement. We resolve to lose weight, get in shape, eat healthy, drink less alcohol, and quit smoking in the New Year. We might even get really specific. I’ve resolved to run 500 miles in 2012. 1 Bodily self-improvement may benefit a person’s health and add years to a person’s life. Regardless, these resolutions conform to American values of achievement and success.

Bodily Self-Improvement in the Name of Health

Values are a society’s ideas about what is good or bad. Smoking is bad and will kill us. Most Americans are ok with high taxes on cigarettes and there is rather minor resistance to most public smoking bans. Too much alcohol is considered unhealthy, but the right amount of red wine (whatever “right” means) can be good for our heart. We live in the era of an obesity epidemic and everyone is afraid of catching this disease 2. We see smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity as bad. Limiting or better yet eliminating these things as good. In other words, Americans value health. The classic list of core American values identified by Robin Williams in 1970does not include health, but it does include achievement and success and activity and work. Most health-related resolutions would fit under one or both of these American values. Continue reading

Haters Gonna Hate: Tebow & Sub-Culture Identity Theory

This past Sunday Tim Tebow led the Denver Broncos to an improbable playoff victory after leading them through and improbable regular season. All the while Tebow vocally attributed his success to his evangelical Christian faith which drew him equally vocal supporters and critics. In this post Nathan Palmer uses sub-culture identity theory to suggest that both the hate and the love Tebow garners reaffirms and strengthens his faith and that of his fellow evangelical Christians.

Tim Tebow

Osama Bin Laden didn’t stand a chance. When Denver Bronco’s wide receiver Demaryius Thomas caught Tim Tebow’s pass on the first play of overtime in NFL playoff history for the game winning touchdown, Twitter exploded with over 9,000 tweets per second; a mark that well surpassed the previous Twitter traffic record generated by the death of Bin Laden.

But don’t be mistaken, the flood of tweets were not all showering Tebow with love. To some Tim Tebow is a legend on the field and a hero off it. To others he is self-righteous, pompous, and pretentious. Love him or hate him, right now, it’s likely you are talking about him.

The Hoopla Surrounding Tebow

In case you’ve been saying to yourself, “who is this Tebow guy everyone keeps talking about,” the last few weeks, let me fill you in. Tim Tebow is best known for winning multiple NCAA national championships with the Florida Gators, but despite his success his quarterbacking style was not expected to translate well in the NFL. Despite the numerous and vocal critics of his ability to play QB at the professional level, Tebow was drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010. This year Tebow took the starting QB position away from Kyle Orton (the Broncos record was 1–4 with Orton) and led them on an unlikely win streak and into the playoffs. The Broncos were huge underdogs in the game they won Sunday versus Pittsburg (who had the number one rated defense in the NFL). You can say a lot about Tebow, but you have to acknowledge that he’s a winner. Continue reading

Posted by Nathan Palmer

Got Whiteness? Scholars say You’re Racist

Are you racist? Do you have white privilege? Are you a beneficiary of systemic racism? If you are white, some sociologists argue you should answer yes to all of these questions. In this post, Sarah Nell asks you to reimagine racism as a system of advantages and disadvantages that benefits Whites whether they like it or not.

If you’re white, chances are you don’t think you’re racist. Perhaps you found this title unsettling. I’m not here to tell that you are a bad person, but I am here to show you how to think differently about what racism really is. Racism – from the point of view of many sociologists– is not a set of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors held or committed by individuals. Racism is a system of advantage based on race. And if you’re white, you are racist because you benefit from that system. Even if you don’t want to.

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Same as it Ever Was: Institutional Discrimination in Housing

As a result of our current economic downturn, the wealth gap between Whites and African Americans is larger today then any time in the past 25 years. In this post, Bridget Welch explores how historical housing practices and current predatory lending practices combine to reinforce institutional discrimination.

Unless you have been living under a rock, or work on Wall Street, you may have noticed that the economy is not doing so well. Just in case you are unaware of how that statement should win “The Most Understated Statement of the Year” award, please watch this short video that shows the spread of unemployment across the United States. Yet, as hideous as the current unemployment rate is, there is a group of people who live on this razors edge constantly.

You see, African Americans’ unemployment rate is always at the recession rate. In other words, what makes this current economic downturn so notable is that Whites are now at the unemployment rate that African Americans normally are at. And, of course, African Americans are disproportionately hurt by the current downturn – meaning their unemployment rates (particularly men’s)[1] have soared. Don’t believe me? Go play with this fun NYT infographic. The truth is that minorities in our country act as the canary in the coal mine – falling to the poisonous atmosphere before it reaches the rest of us. Continue reading

By Hitting Up Those Post Holiday Sales, Are You Supporting Contemporary Slavery?

Do you support slavery? Don’t be so quick to answer no. Conservative estimates show that in a given year, 27 million people are enslaved across our global society. Yes, our current society! While you may find different forms of contemporary slavery reprehensible, our ties to the ongoing slave trade are often times closer than you think. In this post, David Mayeda questions our consumer culture and its ties to worker exploitation.

I admit, I love my iPad. I utilize it so much and so often that one of my colleagues calls it my best friend. I also own a laptop, a cell phone and a number of other gadgets that I find extremely useful in our contemporary techy society. I’ve also been tempted to hit up those post-holiday sales that emerge every December 26, but thus far I have resisted. My modicum of resistance stems from a moral consciousness. Remember, in a capitalist society, the objective is to profit. Rendering a profit means cutting costs, and this happens most effectively by cutting labour costs. Too often, labour costs are cut entirely by enslaving people.

Kevin Bales – the foremost scholar on contemporary slavery – defines slavery as the total control of one person by another for the purpose of economic exploitation. Why is it that those of us in high-income countries can go into stores and pay $5-$10 for clothing items? It is likely because the stores you’re buying those items from, purchased the items for substantially less than the relatively small amount you’re paying. Does $5 even cover the cost of the materials used to make a T-shirt? Continue reading

Posted by David Mayeda

Ron Paul Can’t Be Racist?

Ron Paul, a Republican presidential candidate has been drawing a lot of fire recently over newsletters published in the 1980s that make racist statements. Paul defends himself by saying he simply can’t be a racist because he is a Libertarian and Libertarianism doesn’t acknowledge social aspects of life such as race/racism. In this piece Nathan Palmer probes the logic behind Paul’s argument and draws comparisons to colorblind racism

“I don’t see gender. I am gender-blind. I only see the content of a person’s character.” Would you believe me if I told you that? That would sure make for some awkward dating moments, amirite? Of course I see gender, because I have eyes. And yet a common response to racism is, “I don’t see race. I am colorblind. I only see the content of a person’s character.” Continue reading

Posted by Nathan Palmer