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.
California law requires that managers and supervisors receive anti-harassment training every other year. As a faculty member, I am considered a supervisor so I have taken this online training course several times now. I actually find it useful and interesting each time and always learn something new about workplace issues in the process.
The course teaches us how to recognize harassment based on state-designated protected categories, such as race, color, religion, national origin, age, health and disability status, gender, gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. Through a number of scenarios, we see what constitutes illegal behavior, what we should avoid doing and what to do if we observe violations. As of this year, the course also provides a very useful number of vignettes about reporting sexual assault if students bring an incident to our attention.
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?
The more you learn about sociology, the more opportunities you might notice to use it. In our personal and professional lives, this can get tricky.
How you share it may be important. When you learn something and try to share that information, sometimes our loved ones don’t want to hear it, so they don’t listen, or they discount what you said, so they reject it in whole or in part.
This may happen more often for first-generation college students. Personal conflicts with family and other loved ones may arise for students from households with no college experience.
In response to the recent murders of unarmed black men by local police officers in Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island, and Oakland, to name a few, the Obama Administration created a task force to improve community policing. The idea is that if police officers are embedded within the communities they serve, instances of racial profiling, and excessive use of violent force would be less likely to happen. The task force also hopes that community policing will help to facilitate greater conversation, interaction, and friendliness between police officers and residents.
With a title like Kung Fu Sociology you are probably wondering what this post is about. Here are some possibilities to consider:
- The contributions of sociologists from Asia and the Far East
- An analysis of the sociological dimensions of martial arts training
- A sociological review of the Kung Fu Panda movies
- A reflection of a quote from a recently deceased French sociologist
Are you angry about the legal system’s decisions about the cases in which have police killed unarmed black boys or men? Or are you angry that people are angry about that?
It is not clear whether the rates of unarmed black man being killed by police are increasing, but we are seeing more media coverage when it happens. It’s about time.
Is this a problem of individuals? Yes, on the one hand. It’s a problem for them personally if it happens to them or someone in their life. But it’s also a problem for society. One of the key tenets in sociology is that the personal isn’t just personal, it’s societal, and it’s political. The things that we experience are linked to larger social structures.
Department of Sociology, Baker University
A couple of weeks ago, Ben Affleck called out Bill Maher for being a racist because of his views of Muslims. In a world still healing from the racism of the pre-civil rights era, in a world of Ferguson and Michigan, being called a racist is no laughing matter. Sadly, we live in a society where more Americans sit up and take notice when a Hollywood actor makes a statement than when the president of the United States does. What is Islamophobia? Is it related to racism? How does Islamophobia relate to sociology?
Have you seen any murals in your community? If so, do you know what they depict? Do you know the history behind them? Finding such murals can be a good exercise for your sociological imagination.
There is one mural right next door to my college: The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is a half-mile long, located along the interior wall of the Los Angeles River – yes, our river runs within a concrete channel, built to control the unruly flow of water. With our current state of drought, however, we don’t have much water flowing so we can see the entire mural!
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