297 posts categorized "Behind the Headlines"

March 26, 2018

Hurricane Maria and U.S. Failure

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

In September 2017, the Caribbean and southeastern parts of the United States experienced two devastating hurricanes: Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Irma – a category 5 storm with winds upwards of 175 mph – caused physical destruction, flooding, and loss of life (~134 total) throughout Barbuda (95% destruction), Puerto Rico (1 million without electricity), Florida (6.5 million homes without electricity), and elsewhere.

Two weeks later, on September 20, Hurricane Maria – a category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph – followed a similar trajectory through the Caribbean. Already reeling from the effects of Irma, Maria further devastated Puerto Rico, where it made landfall; the majority of phone lines (cell and landlines) and internet communication was down (85% inoperable), the agricultural sector was destroyed, 230,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and the Guajataca Dam, holding 11-billion gallons of water, failed. In addition, the entire island lost power.

The U.S. government’s limited and slow response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico highlight the second-class status of commonwealth entities. Although U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans have limited access to the rights of citizenship.

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March 23, 2018

It’s About Power, Not Privilege

Peter kaufman 2014 Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman and Todd Schoepflin

If you can’t tell by our profile pictures, we are both white male sociologists. We are also upper middle class, able-bodied, and heterosexual. With the exception of one of us being Jewish and the other being short (5’ 4”), we have enjoyed many privileges and advantages throughout our lives.

For the past few months, we have been closely following the #MeToo movement. It is clear that what started as a simple social media hashtag has blossomed into a potential bellwether of the changing gender landscape. We both feel strongly that sociologists should be lending their analytical insights to help understand and advance the efforts for gender equality. But what is the role for sociologists like us who approach the world though multiple positions of power and privilege? Should we weigh in and risk sounding clueless or stay quiet so that we can listen and learn from others?

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February 23, 2018

2018 Oscar Watch: Diversity in Hollywood

12_01446By Angelique Harris

The Academy Awards are one of the most revered of the award shows in Hollywood. Although the lack of diversity in who receives nominations and awards has been called into question various times in the past, there was little traction until 2015, when the #OscarsSoWhite movement was born.

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was created on Twitter by April Reign, the managing editor of BroadwayBlack.com, when the Oscar announcements were made and there were no contenders of color for best acting categories. In fact, adding fuel to the fire, even in films with Black leads, such as Creed and Straight Outta Compton, those nominated for Oscars (Sylvester Stallone for best supporting actor and Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff for screenwriting, respectively) were White. After this glaring lack of diversity, the same thing happened the following year, with no best actor nominees of color. As a result, many celebrities boycotted the event, such as Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Will Smith, who refused to attend while many others, including President Obama, spoke publically about this issue.

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February 19, 2018

What Would You Do?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Consider the following scenario: You are in a clothing store shopping for a new outfit. As you are browsing through the selections you notice that a black female customer is being targeted unfairly by a sales clerk. Instead of allowing this customer to shop freely as you are, the sales clerk is following her around, constantly asking her what she wants, making obnoxious comments to her, and eventually telling her that she should leave the store.

What would you do? Would you say something to the sales clerk or seek out a manager to complain? Would you say something to support the customer and voice your concern over the way she is being treated? Or would you continue on with your business and pretend to ignore the interaction you just witnessed?

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January 22, 2018

The Malfunction Heard Around the World: Cultural Appropriation, White Privilege, and Misogynoir

12_01446By Angelique Harris

Many college-aged students are too young to remember Super Bowl XXXIX. In fact, I doubt few people even remember the fact that the New England Patriots played the Carolina Panthers in this game (actually, no, maybe a lot of people know this). Nevertheless, it’s likely that this was one of the few Super Bowl games where the halftime show drew attention away from the game.

This was the game where the terms “wardrobe malfunction” and “nipplegate” entered into our popular cultural lexicon. I am not a huge sports fan, so back in grad school, when I was invited to my friend's Super Bowl party, I only went for the free food and to see Janet Jackson perform at the halftime show (these were the days before YouTube and readily available DVRs). Also, having grown up in a family that didn’t watch sports, I was actually looking forward to attending my first Super Bowl party and partaking in this uniquely American tradition.

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December 25, 2017

How Sociology Can Save the World

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

The title of this post comes from the name of a Lifelong Learning Institute class I taught recently. Lifelong Learning Institutes exit throughout the United States offering non-credit courses for adults 55 years and older. The class I volunteered to teach met once a week for four weeks. Here was the description of the course:

How Sociology Can Save the World: Let's face it: The world is pretty screwed up! The gap between the haves and the have-nots is skyrocketing, the earth is imperiled by human-caused climate change, and various acts of intolerance seem to be on the rise in many countries. Although there is no quick and easy remedy to all of the world's ills, we can take steps individually and collectively to get us back on track. In this class we will consider four sociological concepts that, if they were more widely understood and applied, could address many of the problems that threaten our collective existence. Each week, short readings that center around one of the four sociological concepts will be assigned.

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November 27, 2017

Opioids and the Social Construction of Social Problems

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths due to heroin and synthetic opioid overdoses quadrupled in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015, with a dramatic rise occurring between 2010 and 2015. In 2010 there were just over 3,000 deaths due to heroin overdose, rising to nearly 13,000 in 2015.

The authors attribute this increase to “increased heroin availability combined with high potency and relatively low price,” and note, “the strongest risk factor for heroin use and dependence is misuse of or dependence on prescription opioids.”

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October 30, 2017

Interpreting Numbers in Context

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In the age of big data, one of the most important—and overlooked—skills that training in sociology provides is the ability to interpret numerical data. Being statistically literate is important for so many reasons, not the least being that it ultimately can help you find a job. Even if you aren’t a statistician or data analyst, knowing how to understand numbers can give you a leg up among the math phobic in many professions.

You don’t have to fall in love with equations or mathematical theory to become skilled at interpreting data. The most important thing to keep in mind is that numbers tell a story, and your job as an interpreter of data is to figure out what story they are telling you, and share that story with others.

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October 23, 2017

Cats, Dogs, and #metoo

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

There seems to be an emerging awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault as more “open secrets” are exposed as some powerful men have recently been fired from their jobs.

The hashtag #metoo has recently been circulating on social media to encourage women to share if they have experienced sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. Alyssa Milano’s tweet suggesting it created this current wave of #metoo’s across the Internet. However, the term was first used by Tarana Burke to support and empower African American women and girls who experienced sexual assault and exploitation. The idea of the current Twitter and Facebook firestorm is to show highlight how many people have dealt with this issue.

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September 11, 2017

The Nuances of Naming

B Raskoffy Sally Raskoff

The alt-right. White nationalists. White supremacists. Nazis.

Naming groups is part of what we do so that we can know who is who and what they are about. It’s also important to identify who is included as “us” and who is considered “them.”

Knowing your in-groups and out-groups facilitates our social interactions in positive, neutral, and negative ways. Reference groups operate on a less personal scale than in-groups and out-groups, as they are typically large scale and operate on a national or international level.

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