442 posts categorized "Social Problems, Politics, and Social Change"

July 19, 2021

Who is Afraid of CRT?

Myron strong

By Myron Strong

Sociologists Rashawn Ray and Alexandra Gibbons recently wrote article for the Brookings Institution noting that the term “critical race theory” (CRT) has been mentioned 1,300 times in less than four months on Fox News. They attribute this to critical race theory becoming a new boogie man for people unwilling to acknowledge our country’s racist history and how it impacts the present.

This boogie man is getting bigger in some of the media and state governments who spread misinformation and propaganda. This plays on the fears of many whites who have not been given the tools to process change, and lack the proper understanding of the historical context for the circumstances of people of color.

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July 05, 2021

Emerging From the COVID Cocoon

Janis prince innissBy Janis Prince Inniss

Should I sit inside or pool side? Wear a mask or not? Hug people? Fist bump? Elbow bump? These are some of the questions I am mulling more than a week before attending a Fourth of July party. This is a significant event because it marks my return to visiting friends since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

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June 07, 2021

The Power of Religion: Christian Nationalism and Trump Support

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos, Sociology Doctoral Student, Rutgers University

Religion has always captivated sociologists. Émile Durkheim, who is often credited with being one of the “founders” of sociology, wrote extensively about religion in his 1912 book Elementary Forms of Religious Life in which he aimed to explain the role of religion in society. Writing from a functionalist perspective, Durkheim posited that religion served an important function.

Religion, he argued, serves the purpose of producing societal cohesion and expressing our “collective consciousness,” or our shared beliefs and ideas as a group. As such, societal participation in religion can have significant impacts on both social and individual life outcomes.

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May 26, 2021

Child Poverty: Past, Present, and Future

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Children in the U.S. have been more likely to be in poverty than any other age group since 1973. Before this time, those 65 and older experienced far higher rates of poverty than they do now. Today Americans aged 65 and older are the least likely to live below the poverty line, although their rates were similar to 18-64-year-olds in 2019 (the most recent year for which data are available).

Poverty rates by age

Source: https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/visualizations/2020/demo/p60-270/Figure11.pdf

Continue reading "Child Poverty: Past, Present, and Future" »

May 03, 2021

John Fetterman, Working Class Hero?

Todd Schoepflin Colby King author photoBy Todd Schoepflin & Colby King

John Fetterman is currently the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, and before that served as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, from 2005 to 2019. He is running for a Pennsylvania senate seat in 2022. His website describes him as “a different kind of Democrat,” one who “doesn’t look like a typical politician.” In media outlets, much is made of his size (he’s 6'8") and his tattoos (dates of homicides in Braddock when he was mayor are tattooed on his right arm). For example, one article about Fetterman is titled “Unconventional in his size and rise”. He’s twice appeared on The Colbert Report, been profiled in GQ, and had his clothing style analyzed in an article about the politics of workwear. His home (once an indoor Chevy car dealership) has received attention, and his family life has also been in the spotlight.

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March 15, 2021

Unions: Power Houses of Political Engagement

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

Sociology Doctoral Student, Rutgers University

It’s no secret that elections are heavily influenced by spending and donations from wealthy individuals, corporations, and various special interest groups. In the 2020 presidential election a less obvious key player in the political field garnered plenty of attention: labor unions. Given that many unions represent blue-collar workers – a key demographic for any presidential campaign – their endorsements of candidates are widely sought after among both Democrats and Republicans.

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March 08, 2021

Reflections on the Capitol Insurrection: Values, Symbols, and Contradictions

Myron strong author photoBy Myron Strong

Like most kids in the 1980s, part of my daily school routine each morning back then was to stand for the pledge of alliance. Images of my grade school teachers asking a class of snaggle-toothed, freshly groomed brown-skinned joyous third graders run across my mind. We all rose for the pledge, but none of us really knew what it meant. How could we, since we were children? 

I remember standing together, silent and thinking more about the impending morning chocolate milk more than the pledge. But the pledge has never felt right to me, even when I was just a kid. I stopped rising and standing for it about 30 years ago. Throughout the years various people have asked me why I don’t rise. I usually just respond with an answer based on the treatment of minorities (racial, sexual, religious) and women, and I explain that I do not feel like the United States its iconography represents justice, respect, acceptance, and freedom.

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January 18, 2021

Is Your Professor a Republican?

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

As I write, the 2020 presidential election is (almost) behind us. Perhaps you are wondering, "What’s the political affiliation of my professors?" It is not an unreasonable question. Some faculty are quite forthright about their political leaning. Some might be more discreet.

I suppose I can admit something here, among friends: I am quite liberal. I have toned down expressing political sentiments as I’ve gotten older but also out of a (perhaps unfounded) fear that some video of me might be taken out of context and uploaded on social media. The political leanings of our students at UMass Amherst reflect the state at large, politically, as being about 1/3 Republican, 2/3 Democrat. I say this knowing that tenure and academic freedom allows for great latitude in these matters. Still, people who are not professors might not realize this, but faculty aren’t exactly eager to have a media fiasco on their hands.

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January 08, 2021

Come Together: Applying Durkheim's Ideas to the Capitol Siege

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I am struck by one photo in particular from the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. It is a picture of members of the House of Representatives sheltering in place in the House chamber. Rep. Susan Wild lies on the floor, mask down, eyes closed, and appears in distress. Her left hand is on her chest; Rep. Jason Crow reaches out and holds her right hand. (You can see this image and the video of them recounting their experience here.) This picture reveals the fear members of Congress felt during these tense moments. Facial expressions range from apprehension to terror, with many members sitting and lying on the floor.

The most striking part of this picture highlights the connectedness between colleagues Wild and Crow. This is a very human image of one person reaching out to comfort another. But it also a very sociological image, one that highlights the interdependence we share (see Todd Schoepflin and Peter Kaufman’s previous posts for excellent discussions of interdependence).

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December 14, 2020

Risk, Crime, and The Military: How Risk-Taking May Impact Outcomes for Soldiers with Criminal Records

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

Sociology Doctoral Student, Rutgers University

Sociologists have long sought to understand what drives people to break rules or laws, both formally (breaking a law upheld by a particular governing structure), and informally (breaking unwritten rules of societies or groups ), or what we refer to as “norms.” Particularly since the 1980s, crime has also become an increasingly prominent issue in U.S. politics with multiple candidates – the latest example being Donald Trump – running on a platform of being “tough on crime.”

A major theoretical approach to understanding criminal behavior frames crime as a form of risk-taking. Under this framework, scholars have argued that people commit crimes in pursuit of excitement or as a way of escaping the mundaneness of everyday life. In an effort to explain why crime is often concentrated in lower-income and marginalized communities, some research taking such an approach reasons that working-class or impoverished individuals may have “boring” lives and little access to socially acceptable outlets for excitement. Of course, such arguments have been criticized for being class-biased and for lacking consideration of how middle-class and even wealthy individuals engage in criminal risk-taking behavior, too. Instead, criminal risk-taking is now mostly considered a personal orientation rather than a class-based characteristic, and risk remains a key component in the study of crime for many scholars.

Continue reading "Risk, Crime, and The Military: How Risk-Taking May Impact Outcomes for Soldiers with Criminal Records" »

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