242 posts categorized "Behind the Headlines"

October 08, 2015

Water and the Tragedy of Extra Credit

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

This summer, entering the fourth year of drought conditions in California, ordinary residents followed Governor Jerry Brown’s call to cut their water usage by a quarter. All cities met their water conservation targets. The Los Angeles Times, however, cites a UCLA study finding that wealthier communities actually used more water than usual during the water restriction.

One of the study’s authors notes that “…[t]he problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich.” Richer areas consume three times as much as poorer ones. “This disparity,” the report notes, “reflects different land uses, built densities, climates, and the vast differences in wealth.... [T]he top 5% earns over twelve times more than the bottom 20%.” (Here is a great article on golf courses in the desert areas of Southern California.) It is a wonderful portrait of how housing and spatial segregation shapes the perspectives of residents, not unlike Georg Simmel’s seminal "The Metropolis and Mental Life."

Continue reading "Water and the Tragedy of Extra Credit" »

September 25, 2015

To Live and Die in L.A.

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

When I was a graduate student, I worked as a research assistant on several projects for criminologists. Perhaps the most interesting and challenging project I participated in was a study of homicides in Los Angeles.

This was a comprehensive, multi-faceted study. I was given a great deal of responsibility for collecting data from police homicide files. The senior researchers had gained a court order that enabled us to have access to hundreds of files from 1993 and 1994, peak years in homicides for the city and county. I led the team that went to police and sheriff’s headquarters, reading files along with a team of students that I supervised who would read the files and then use a coding sheet to note key details about the incident. Over the course of the study I personally read hundreds of police murder files.

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September 03, 2015

Black and White Understandings of Urban Uprising

120 Howell_ABy Aaron J. Howell

Assistant Professor of Sociology SUNY-Farmingdale

Racial politics have come to the forefront of political and social debates in the United States (U.S.) over the last year. The Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray (just to name a few) cases have caused many communities to rethink police-community relations and begin to have some honest conversations about race.

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August 28, 2015

The Horror of Race in the United States

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

I’m not a big fan of horror stories. I’ve never read Dracula, Frankenstein or even a Stephen King novel, and I don’t regularly watch movies full of chainsaws, ghostly figures, or creepy twins. But recently, I read a sociological horror story that I couldn’t put down. I was engrossed with it. It was beautifully written, painstakingly told, and depressingly disturbing.  Although it did offer details of death and destruction, these were not the scariest passages. What made this story so frightening and unsettling was the plain, unadulterated sociological truth it told.

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July 10, 2015

Social (Re)Construction of Place in Columbia, South Carolina

Colby kingBy Colby King

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Bridgewater State University

The ongoing debate about the confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina State House reminds us of the power of the symbols we put in our places, and the way we talk about those symbols and those places.

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July 08, 2015

Racial Construction and Appropriation

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you heard about the woman in Spokane, Washington, the former head of the local NAACP chapter who resigned when people discovered that her identified race did not match her ancestry?

I’m talking about the case of Rachel Dolezal. With white ancestry but a strong identification with African American realities, she maintains that her racial identity is black. She passed as black by changing her appearance until her parents spoke to the media about their confusion with her mismatched self-identity.

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July 01, 2015

Water and Inequality

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

All living beings need water; it is perhaps the most universal of all needs. Water is also one of the key markers of inequality, locally and globally. It may be easily taken for granted, but when there is too little or too much water, it usually impacts people disproportionally based on wealth.

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June 26, 2015

Religion, Climate Change, and Poverty

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

There is a new sociologist on the block: he does not have a Ph.D., does not teach at a university, and as far as I know, may have never even taken a sociology course. In fact, he attended a technical secondary school where he graduated with a chemical technician’s diploma and worked for a time in a chemistry lab (as well as working temporarily as a bouncer). Who is this new sociologist?  He’s an Argentinian named Jorge Mario Bergogli or, as he is commonly referred to, Pope Francis.

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June 16, 2015

Police Killings by the Numbers

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

If there has been one dominant, sociologically-relevant story in the news lately, it has arguably been the treatment of African Americans by the police. From Michael Brown in Missouri to Eric Garner in Staten Island to the McKinney, Texas, swimming pool incident, there is a heightened awareness, an ongoing conversation, and a growing sentiment of anger about how race influences policing.

As increasing attention has been devoted to this social problem, and more questions have been raised about it, there have been calls for greater accountability from law enforcement. In particular, many people want to know how many citizens are killed each year by police officers. Unfortunately, because the United States government does not keep a systematic record of these deaths, this data has been either unavailable or unreliable. That is, until now.

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May 05, 2015

How Can Sociology Help Explain the Civil Unrest in Baltimore?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

On our last day of class for the spring semester, I asked my classes this question, in order to apply what they learned during the semester to help understand the civil unrest in Baltimore in late April.

The events were triggered by the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody on April 12, leading many citizens to public protests. After his funeral on April 27, demonstrations took place, and not all of remained peaceful. The news filled with vivid imagery of clashes with police, destruction of property, fire, and looting. In a video that went viral, a mother shown hitting her son and dragging him away from the crowds received praise nationwide.

What was this all about?

Continue reading "How Can Sociology Help Explain the Civil Unrest in Baltimore?" »

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