176 posts categorized "Race and Ethnicity"

March 25, 2024

How the Moynihan Report Birthed Parental Engagement Policy in Schools

Alyssa Lyons author photoBy Alyssa Lyons

While parental engagement has become a popular buzzword in political circles in recent years, the language of “parental involvement” didn’t appear in U.S. federal educational policy until 1965 with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Not without coincidence, this was the same year that academic and social scientist Daniel Patrick Moynihan published the Moynihan Report: The Negro Family, the Case for National Action. An incendiary racist, classist, homophobic, and sexist document, the Moynihan Report claimed that racial inequalities in wealth and education between Blacks and whites were the result of a broken and fractured Black family structure where Black matriarchs managed the household. Moynihan further suggested that establishing a stable Black family structure was central in alleviating poverty and inequalities.

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March 18, 2024

Let’s Talk Parental Engagement in Schools: Parental Engagement as a Social Construct

Alyssa Lyons author photoBy Alyssa Lyons

What does it mean to be an engaged parent in schools?

As both a sociologist and the mother of an eleven-year-old in the New York City public school system, I’ve often wrestled with this question. Whenever I attend school-based events, principals, teachers, and staff tell me, along with other parents, that being engaged in the school and in my child’s education is instrumental to their academic success. 

And it isn’t just educators and social science researchers singing the praises of parental engagement. Politicians and policymakers suggest that parental engagement can function as either a buffer or mitigator in addressing educational inequality on both a state and federal level.  In March 2022, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona implored schools to reconsider their relationship with parents and families, suggesting “parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers.”

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March 14, 2024

"Fast Car" and Country Music

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Perhaps the highlight of the 2024 Grammys was Luke Combs’ duet with famously limelight-averse Tracy Chapman, singing Chapman’s “Fast Car.” While I had been pondering this song for over a year, it took the Grammy performance to really get a sense of what was going on here, especially with Beyoncé’s new songs promising to spark new controversy over what “country music” should be.

Combs’ version of the song is likely the one that most college-aged Everyday Sociology Blog readers know, but when most of your older professors (like me) were of a similar age, Chapman’s song was a big deal. These days, most hit songs come and go but, in 1988, the song was in heavy rotation. It was on the radio; it was in the mall.

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March 11, 2024

Embracing the Icon, Debating the Message

Bossick Headshot

By Mike Bossick, Professor of Sociology, Central Piedmont Community College

I was asked to give a presentation on Martin Luther King Jr. Day about racism and poverty. The more I thought about Dr. King’s message of racial and economic justice in the context of recent backlash to the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I wondered whether most people support the sanitized folk hero version of MLK, or his message of radical racial and economic justice? Keep in mind that anyone under the age of 55 wasn’t even alive when MLK was assassinated in April, 1968; much of our culture’s collective memory comes from soundbites, summaries, or short excerpts of his work.

While MLK, the famous Morehouse alumni and sociology major is revered today, that wasn’t always the case. The Pew Research Center compiled public opinion data originally collected by Gallup showing MLK’s favorability rating between 1963-1966 as ranging between 33-45%. In addition, National Public Radio (NPR) discusses evidence in the MLK/FBI documentary stating that the FBI under director J Edgar Hoover feverishly sought to discredit King. Keeping him under heavy surveillance, they sent him compromising tapes they recorded and even created and sent an anonymous letter suggesting he should kill himself. Clearly, the former sentiment from the public and the FBI does not align with MLK’s 2011 favorability rating of 94% when the MLK Memorial opened in Washington, DC.

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December 04, 2023

There are No Heroes Here: Killers of the Flower Moon and the Treatment of Indigenous Peoples

Rob Eschmann author photoBy Rob Eschmann, Associate Professor of Social Work, Columbia University

[email protected]

This post contains spoilers for the 2023 film, Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon is as good as you expect it to be, directed by Martin Scorsese and featuring spectacular performances from Robert De Niro as Bill “King” Hale, Leonardo DiCaprio as Hale’s easily influenced nephew Ernest Burkhart, and Lily Gladstone as Molly Burkhart, a beleaguered yet resolute Osage woman married to Ernest. Even the story behind the film is inspiring, as Scorsese worked with the Osage Tribe leadership, employed over one hundred Osage as extras, and was intentional about avoiding the Hollywood trope of Indigenous folks in trouble, White man to the rescue.

But don’t expect to like this film. Expect unease. For three and a half uncomfortable hours my heart broke for the Osage community as I held my breath, waiting for some respite, for the calvary to show up and save the day.

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July 12, 2023

Social Media and Digital Resistance

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s not hard to find stories decrying social media. From concerns about mental health, bullying and eating disorders, wasting time, and spreading misinformation, the presumptive “harm” of social media has become taken for granted, especially where young people are concerned.

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May 31, 2023

Creating Downtown LA

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Last summer, the American Sociological Association (ASA) held its annual meeting in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). “We’re right in your backyard!” an out-of-town colleague said, and while only about 20 miles away, this area is in many ways a world away from where I live in Los Angeles. I seldom go downtown, despite it being a mere 2 miles from my workplace, mostly because I prefer open spaces to commercialized zones. (Yeah, traffic and parking issues are a deterrent too).

The conference took place at the city’s Convention Center, near the crypto.com Arena (formerly known as Staples Center) and LA Live, a complex of sports-themed restaurants, hotels, and performance spaces. My colleague, Leland Saito, studied the development of this area in his book, Building Downtown Los Angeles: The Politics of Race and Place in Urban America. He explores how low-income people of color were systematically displaced over the last five decades—mostly within the last twenty-five years—to create this commercial area. He argues that the meanings of race are intertwined with geographical spaces, and that displacement isn’t just an effect of race, but creates meanings of race itself (pp. 3-4).

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November 21, 2022

Branding Racism

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

In Sociology, we often talk about how race is a social construct. Rather than being a fixed system of classification rooted in biological difference, racial difference is (and has always been) created through social interactions, policy, and cultural meaning-making. Who is included in specific racial categories is fluid and context-dependent, constantly shifting over time. Medical and biological scientists are increasingly beginning to agree with this sociological understanding of race.  For something allegedly rooted so firmly in genetics, there is surprisingly little evidence to suggest that race is a good measure for genetic heterogeneity.

When we contend that race is a social construct, we can start noticing the ways in which race and racial difference are constantly being negotiated, (re)defined, and solidified by social processes and institutions. How corporations brand and advertise their products is a particularly interesting way in which meaning-making happens around racial difference. As they market their products to consumers through advertising, corporations attach social meanings to their products. For example, a shoe brand doesn’t sell shoes just because people need shoes; rather, the brand sells shoes because they convince consumers that there is a desirable lifestyle associated with the shoes (e.g., a life of being active, free, “cool”, or rebellious). In this sense, brands both reflect our cultural marketplace and influence what we think is desirable and how we create meaning.

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June 06, 2022

Urban Barricades and Reconnecting Segregated Communities

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

When I discuss segregation in my classes, a key element I work to cover with students is the idea that the segregation we see today is the result of policies, preferences, and more to the point, choices that people made. This is a consensus view among urban sociologists, and something my co-authors and I explain in the most recent edition of The New Urban Sociology. Segregation does not just happen, but instead is the result of the accumulation of choices, individual and institutional, that have built inequality into the places we live.

In June of 2020, sociologist Patrick Sharkey published this essay in The Atlantic titled “To Avoid Integration, Americans Built Barricades in Urban Space.” In the piece, Sharkey illuminates this critical idea in detail, explaining how racial segregation has been exacerbated by the construction of literal barricades in urban space. These barricades, as he explains, separate neighborhoods, communities, and social groups, and heighten inequality across cities.

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May 09, 2022

“Dream Big!”: Inequality in Dreams of the Future

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Most children and teenagers are asked this question countless of times by well-meaning parents, teachers, and friends. They are often told that anything is possible, and that they can be absolutely anything they want to be.

Some may dream of becoming the next Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or just some nebulous kind of “celebrity”; others may dream of becoming a doctor, veterinarian, or zookeeper. “Dream big!” is the mantra espoused by many parents who, often aware of the low likelihood of the outcome, nonetheless feel pressure to encourage their children’s dreams. Parenting guides even tell parents to fight the urge to fact-check or reality-check what their children dream of.

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