GLBT Families

Brian Frank’s discussion raised awareness about LGBT families and he shared his personal story about the challenges he and his partner, Steven faced in adopting a child. Brian knew he always wanted to be a father, but during the time Brain and Steven wished to start a family, there were very few options for LGBT families. Brian and Steven, having faced discrimination for their sexual orientation, decided that they would adopt a “hard to place child” in the foster care system. Brian and Steven cared for many children through the foster care system, and Brian spoke of the emotional pain he felt, as the foster children would eventually leave. This made me emotional, because I cannot even imagine how difficult it would be to care for a child and hope to adopt them, only for them to be moved through the system. Brian and Steven were eventually able to adopt their son, Darius, and became the first male gay couple to successfully adopt in Albany.

“The Throwaways”

“The Throwaways” is a documentary film by Bhawin Suchak that tells the story of social activist Ira McKinley’s efforts to create positive changes to his community of Albany, New York. Ira describes his struggles of trying to rebuild his life after his release from prison and attempt to overcome the social stigma that surrounds his prior incarceration. After Ira left prison, he went to various homeless shelters while trying to find a job and establish a more stable lifestyle. From Ira’s description of his struggles, it became evident that society demonizes individuals who have served prison time, making it difficult for them to find jobs or even receive aid, such as food stamps that will help them recover. By limiting opportunities for them to succeed, the cycle of poverty and crime only continues. Ira went to a local community center where he was able to learn how to produce and edit film. He used his camera to document his activist work in Albany. The city of Albany is in a state of disinvestment, and the community and population are suffering from high poverty rates, violence, abandoned homes, high incarceration rates and homelessness         .albany1

The people who live in Albany feel like they are ignored by their local government and are victims of police brutality. In December 2011, the community was outraged over the death of Nahcream Moore, who was shot and killed by an Albany police officer. The members of the community feel that Moore was another victim of unbridled police brutality in the city of Albany. The novel The New Jim Crow which argues that the United States criminal justice system oppresses young black men by labeling them as felons in society to support the incarceration system, inspired Ira and helped him to lead the community in demanding responsibility from the Albany police force.

Police brutality is a serious issue that needs to addressed throughout the entire country. The purpose of the study, “Community Accountability, Minority Threat and Police Brutality: An Examination of Civil Rights Criminal Complaints,” was to “examine the effects of community accountability and minority threat variables on the incidence of police brutality civil rights criminal complaints” (Smith and Holmes, 2006, 1053). The study found that there is a minority disadvantage in the police force that increased police brutality because urban blacks are segregated and impoverished, resulting in crime and social disorder. These social conditions are the reason that the police perceive minorities as a threat and use excessive violence. The findings in the study suggest that the cause of police brutality is due to the race and class divisions in American society. Police brutality is not simply an issue that can be resolved between a community and their police force, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed within American society itself.

Police brutality and the marginalization of impoverished communities like Albany, are serious problems that require long term efforts of community activists like Ira to bring attention to them to create the necessary social changes. Discrimination remains a major part of American society, but acknowledgement through social activism is a major step towards identifying and hopefully solving this issue in communities and American society.

 

Sources:

Holmes, Malcolm D.. “Community Accountability, Minority Threat, And Police Brutality: An Examination Of Civil Rights Criminal Complaints*.” Criminology 41 (): 1035-1064.

Sociology Symposium

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In this post, I will be focusing on the issue of race and ethnicity in the media. I attended panels on “How Television Advertisements May Reinforce Stereotypes,” the “Portrayal of Women in Rap Music” and “Black Criminality as Portrayed in American Comedies.” These panels all discussed issues in the media in regards to stereotypes and how prevalent they are in our society’s culture.

The panel ““How Television Advertisements May Reinforce Stereotypes” examined the role of minorities in television advertisements. Their findings concluded that minorities are left out of television advertisements. Latino and Asian Americans are underrepresented overall and African Americans are underrepresented specifically in romantic and family advertisements. Asian Americans were found to have more background roles than other minorities. The investigators found that racist themes may be unintentionally included in the advertisements because of the white power structure of advertisement firms. Due to the briefness of television advertisements, people are unable to consciously think about them, so they remain in the subconscious, which reinforces the stereotypes of minority groups. The conclusions found in this research also correlate to the findings done during a 1993 and 1994 study examining magazine advertising portrayals of African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. The results indicated that “Hispanic Americans are significantly underrepresented in magazine advertising,” “portrayals of Asian Americans reflect societal stereotypes,” and “portrayals of African Americans have become less stereotyped over the years, but nonetheless remain sufficiently stereotyped to raise societal concerns.” I thought it was really thought provoking to consider the effect that advertisements can have on stereotypes. They have a much bigger role on stereotypes than I had previously thought. I think that advertisements are not something that many people pay much attention too, which is where their danger lies, so there needs to be more awareness on how they can shape society and stereotypes towards minorities.

The panel “Black Criminality as Portrayed in American Comedies” explored the stereotypical representation of black criminality to create comedy using three recent films, “Bad Boys II,” “Horrible Bosses” and “The Heat.” The film “Bad Boys II” demonstrated how racial tensions and discrimination are reinforced to create comedic situations. “Horrible Bosses” showed how stereotypical speech patterns and terminology demonstrate different lifestyle assumptions between whites and blacks, such as blacks possessing “street smarts” that whites lack. “The Heat,” used the character of a black, drug dealer from an inner city for comedic effect. This character was used as a punch line and exploited by the cops he is arrested by for information through violent means. The panel concluded by finding that there are common stereotypes, such as violence or a manner of speech that is used as common source of comedy in regard to black characters in film. Although these stereotypes are not meant to be racist, they contribute to racial issues by encouraging stereotypes. The article “Black Criminal Stereotypes and Racial Profiling” found that because the stereotypes of blacks as criminals are an enduring feature in American society, it has led to the “rationale for the unofficial policy and practice of racial profiling by criminal justice practitioners.” Even though the use of these stereotypes in movies is not meant to be racist, they still perpetrate stereotypes in real life and have serious consequences. These stereotypes are widespread across American comedic films and I think they are used too heavily. If people stopped accepting stereotypes as a form of humor, the movie industry would be forced to create new and more interesting forms of humor.

 

The panel “Portrayal of Women in Rap Music” focused on the role of women in rap lyrics and rap music videos. They found that women are typically viewed as passive, sexual objects in rap music videos. Rap music videos influence social interactions between men and women, because women believe this is how they should behave and men believe it is acceptable to treat women in an aggressive, sexual manner. Rap lyrics, such as by artists Eminem, promote violence against women. Misogyny is a current theme in rap music and lyrics, which degrade women and makes them feel reduced to unimportance. I was shocked to hear that 1/4 black women will be raped and they are seven times more likely to be raped than white women. This is a huge statistic and the researchers believe that it is due, in part, to the effect of rap music lyrics and music videos. I really was horrified to learn that 1/4 black women will be raped, but I was also upset that this was the first time I was hearing about it, because I believe it is an issue that should receive far more attention in society. A 1995-1996 study conducted in the United States and the District of Columbia found that nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime (Thaden and Thoennes, 2000). More research should be conducted to determine the influence that the rap genre has on encouraging violence and there should be more awareness about the degrading nature towards women in rap music.

 

 

Sources:

Taylor, Charles, Ju Yung Lee, and Barbara Stern. “Portrayals of African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans in Magazine Advertising.” American Behavioral Science. no. 4 (1995): 608-621.

Tjaden Patricia & Nancy Thoennes. “Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate PartnerViolence.” U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 181867,  (2000) 

Welch, Kelly. “Black Criminal Stereotypes and Racial Profiling.” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice . no. 3 (2007): 276-288.

Inequality: Commentary on “Inequality for All”

The film “Inequality for All” offered a fascinating insight to the income disparities in the United States. I was surprised to learn that the United States has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income in any nation. The top 400 earning individuals in the United States earn more than half of the remaining population, which seems very extreme to me. Prior to the film, I had assumed that wealth distribution in the United States was more equal. I found Mr. Reich’s explanation of the economy very helpful. He stated that in 1928 and 2007, the market reached its height based on housing and gold, which is dangerous because they are speculative assets. These assets have no intrinsic value, so once the market tops off, it plummets dramatically. These gains in the market were accompanied by stagnation in the middle class. The middle class suffers the most, because they have to work increasingly harder, for little to no gains. The inequality gap has widened, because wages have not increase since 1970. Company CEO’s take in more profit, rather than paying their workers fair wages. This has led to societal problems, such as a lack of upward mobility in American society. Various studies have found that “[R]elative to many other advanced countries, the United States remains a highly stratified society, and most poor kids still have few prospects of making big strides.” In today’s society with so much wealth accumulated with relative few, it is hard to increase wealth and easier to remain at the bottom. American society and economics must realize the importance of the middle class and must invest in their well being to protect our economic structure.

 

This article further discusses the lack of social mobility and its implications in the United States:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2014/01/social-mobility-hasnt-fallen-what-it-means-and-doesnt-mean.html

Source:

Cassidy , John . “Social Mobility Hasn’t Fallen: What It Means And Doesn’t Mean.” New Yorker.com, 01 23, 2013.

Visualizing Social Theory

Positivism is a theory developed by August Compte that believes that empirical research can be applied to the study of social life and interaction. This theory maintains that society, like the physical world operates on a system of laws and rejects abstract explanations(Bourdeau). Antipositivism is the opposing view, and the belief that social sciences should not be held to the same standard of empiricism used in the natural sciences. Antipositivists believe that research should understand the social actions between people. Jurgen Habermas is a German sociologist who is best known for his theories on communicative reason and disagrees with Compte’s strict beliefs on positivism. 

Compte believed that the only valid scientific knowledge came from empirical methods and “rejects the cognitive value of philosophical study.” (Marxists.org) Positivism emerged due to the inability of philosophy to solve problems that had arisen as a result of scientific development. (Marisxt.org) “Positivism declared false and senseless all problems, concepts and propositions of traditional philosophy that could not be solved or verified by experience due to a high degree of abstract nature”(Marixst.org ).Compte thought that all knowledge should be limited to what could be measured methodologically; positivism rejects theoretical ideas to obtain knowledge. 

Habermas’ is a pragmatist, who believes in a practical approach to solving problems based on specific situations instead of theories and ideas. Habermas’ has studied communications in an attempt to put meanings into language. He uses a method known as rational reconstructions, which transforms intuitive knowledge into logical thought (Bohman, James and Rehg, William). While the natural sciences generate theoretical knowledge, rational reconstructions generate a theoretical knowledge through interpretation(Bohman, James and Rehg, William)  Due to his work in rational reconstruction, Habermas provides a modern view on Compte’s strict positivism. Habermas sees value in using rational, logical support, but combined with the benefits of intuitive thought.

Compte and Habermas would disagree with each other, because Compte would reject any findings of Habermas that are not empirically tested. Compte believes that the laws found in the natural sciences that dictate the cosmos can be applied to social sciences. Habermas however, would believe that only using a logical approach to explanations would severely limit his understanding of communications between people and hinder the overall understanding of knowledge of communications.  Habermas acknowledges the need for logic in research, but his findings of communications between people also relies on abstract data gained from social relations that cannot be empirically measured.

positivism1

This image describes how knowledge achieved through positivism is gained solely by fact. This image shows that the man searching for happiness does consider any alternative approaches to finding the meaning of happiness other than fact. This image shows how positivism can be drawback to discovery, because the man is limited from finding the meaning of happiness based on his on experiences. His concern with fact limits him from finding any alternative ways to find the definition of happiness.  A singular focus on methodology can be a drawback, because it excludes valuable qualitative data that may be abstract and stifles creativity.

confusion

This picture represents why we need order and logic. Empirical research is important for testing and confirming data. Without logic, there would be chaos and it is necessary in research to have verifiable data. Theories and ideas should have a concrete foundation, and empirical data provides this foundation.

Sources:

Bourdeau, Michel, “Auguste Comte”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

Marxist.org, “Positivism Reference.” Accessed February 24, 2014.

Bohman, James and Rehg, William, “Jürgen Habermas”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),