Friday, June 5, 2020

Recent Articles and Videos about American Society

Sometimes I'm asked by friends, colleagues, and reporters for my thoughts on "current events" and as part of my response I like to share with them what I'm reading. I'll be adding to this list.

It Really Is Different This Time - various authors, including Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Clayborne Carson

I'm a professor who studies protests and activism. Here's why the George Floyd protests are different. - Dana Fisher

Call It What It Is: Anti-Blackness - kihana miraya ross

How Western media would cover Minneapolis if it happened in another country - Karen Attiah

Remember, No One Is Coming to Save Us - Roxane Gay

3 Viral Videos Spark A Debate About Discrimination Black Men Face In Public Spaces - interview with Jelani Cobb and Karen Attiah

Stony Brook sociologist Crystal Fleming does a great job in this segment on CBS Sunday Morning.

How Do We Change America? - Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

I’m a Black American. I Had to Get Out. - Tiffanie Drayton

Sociologist Rashawn Ray appears in a segment on Andrea Mitchell's show on MSNBC.
Related article: Bad apples come from rotten trees in policing

How Black Lives Matter Reached Every Corner of America - Audra D. S. Burch, Weiyi Cai, Gabriel Gianordoli, Morrigan McCarthy and Jugal K. Patel

When the lions have cameras, we finally get to see how our society devalues black lives - Tyrone Forman

The First Step Is Figuring Out What Police Are For - TRACEY L. MEARES  and TOM R. TYLER

Who Gets to Be Afraid in America? - Ibram X. Kendi

What Is Owed: Without Economic Justice, There Can Be No True Equality - Nikole Hannah-Jones

Why the term “BIPOC” is so complicated, explained by linguists - Constance Grady

A Final Word On Karen - Tressie McMillan Cottom

Could Baby Bonds Help Reduce Wealth Inequality In America? - interview with Darrick Hamilton, Wendy Jones, and Sen. Cory Booker, with related reading list.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Immersed in Suburbia (Birthday Drive By Edition)

It still surprises me how quickly behavior catches on. Birthday parties come to a halt because of Coronavirus, but birthday celebrations get reinvented. I'm seeing a lot of caravans through neighborhoods with honking, signs, balloons, and hollering. It's a creative way to say Happy Birthday. I've participated in two of these so far. It's both nice and sad to me. Nice because you want a kid to have some feeling of a happy birthday, and sad because you know the kid would rather have a party and that a regular party with friends and family would be a thousand times more fun. But at least the kid gets to see friends and loved ones drive past their house with a show of love and support.

This birthday drive through phenomenon strikes me as hard to accomplish in a city. It's been years since I've lived in a city, but I imagine it's hard to pull off in a place with a lot of traffic, and without subdivisions. Here in suburbia it's easy to execute where car culture is king and big parking lots rule. You all gather in a parking lot until someone leads the way past the person's house to beep and yell out the window. It's been interesting to observe social interaction during the time that cars gather and wait for the procession to begin. A lot of people stay in their cars, windows up. Others are out in front of their cars chatting with other people. Sometimes it's with 6 feet distance, other times it appears to be fake social distancing where people aren't super close to each other but are clearly less than 6 feet apart. It sort of acknowledges the new norm of social distancing, yet skirts around the edges of it. It's a workaround.

Understandably, people are impatient and aren't enthusiastic about hunkering down. People want to talk and schmooze and laugh and be together. And if you've got a kid with a birthday you might like to get rowdy with your people for 30 minutes. When I'm driving around running errands, it's common now to see these caravans in progress. It's pretty easy to tell who the hosts are and you can see them wearing masks, being somewhat careful. On the other hand you can see people in close proximity to each other. In a way, it reminds me of a cheat day for someone who's dieting. "I've been watching what I eat most of the time, but on Sunday I'm going to have a sundae. That's my cheat day!" But there's a major difference. What you choose to eat can be a private issue, but when you take a day off from social distancing it becomes a public health matter.

People are craving social interaction. It's why a lot of people are practicing selective social distancing. It's hard to be away from each other, and I'm afraid it's not going to get easier. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Music Break: Chicano Batman - Color my life

The groove, the dance moves, the style.

Is the backwards jump onto the car real????

"With the feels I’m on, with the feels I’m on yeah,,,,,,"

Saturday, April 11, 2020

COVID-19 Sociological Readings

Links are in the article titles...

Who Has Enough Cash to Get Through the Coronavirus Crisis? (Alissa Quart and Yaryna Serkez)

How to reduce the racial gap in COVID-19 deaths (Rashawn Ray)

The US has a collective action problem that’s larger than the coronavirus crisis (Patrick Sharkey)

How our cities can reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic (Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo)

What the COVID-19 Pandemic Means for Black Americans (Uché Blackstock)

Food goes to waste amid coronavirus crisis (Adam Behsudi and Ryan McCrimmon)

Farmers Dump Milk, Break Eggs as Coronavirus Restaurant Closings Destroy Demand (Jesse Newman and Jacob Bunge)

Fast Foods Workers at 50 Restaurants Across California Are Going on Strike (Lauren Kaori Gurley)

Fear, Race and the “Yellow Peril” (Myron Strong)

Celebrity Culture Is Burning (Amanda Hess)

There’s No Such Thing As Unskilled Labor (Sarah Jones)

This Is Not a Recession. It’s an Ice Age. (Annie Lowrey)

We Need Social Solidarity, Not Just Social Distancing (Eric Klinenberg)

‘White-Collar Quarantine’ Over Virus Spotlights Class Divide (Noam Scheiber, Nelson D. Schwartz and Tiffany Hsu)

The Working Class and Service Industry Workers: The Front Lines of the COVID-19 Economy (Colby King)

Together, Alone in the COVID-19 Pandemic (Jonathan Wynn)

Ideology and the Grocery Store (Karen Sternheimer)

For domestic violence victims, stay-at-home orders do not offer safety (Grace Segers)

In the Horror Story, We Always Die First (Jamil Smith)

Official Counts Understate the U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll (Sarah Kliff and Julie Bosman)

When Asian-Americans Have to Prove We Belong (Jia Lynn Yang)

The Pandemic Will Cleave America in Two (Joe Pinsker)

There’s no equality in the Zoom home office (Kyle Chayka)

College Made Them Feel Equal. The Virus Exposed How Unequal Their Lives Are. (Nicholas Casey)

Keep the Parks Open (Zeynep Tufekci)

The Slur I Never Expected to Hear in 2020 (Cathy Park Hong)

The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy (Jason DeParle)

How Pandemics Shape Society (interview of Alexandre White)

Poverty, pollution and neglect: How the Bronx became a coronavirus 'formula for disaster' (Evan Simon and Stephanie Ebbs)

‘I lost him because of that horrible place’: Smithfield worker dies from COVID-19 - Makenzie Huber

The Coronavirus’s Unique Threat to the South - Vann R. Newkirk

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief - Scott Berinato

About Half of Lower-Income Americans Report Household Job or Wage Loss Due to COVID-19 - KIM PARKER, JULIANA MENASCE HOROWITZ AND ANNA BROWN

Special Report: A night on the New York subway - Homeless find shelter underground during pandemic (Maurice Tamman)

Inequities in COVID-19 are tragic but preventable (ELAINE HERNANDEZ, COURTNEY BOEN AND RICHARD M. CARPIANO)

‘My World Is Shattering’: Foreign Students Stranded by Coronavirus - Caitlin Dickerson

Parking Lots Have Become a Digital Lifeline - Cecilia Kang

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Canvas Discussion Topic: Social Interaction in a Time of Social Distancing

I'm teaching Social Psychology this semester. I set up a discussion in Canvas yesterday that's optional for students and isn't being graded. I want students to be able to share insights about their experiences in a time of social change. I'm hoping it provides a little feeling of community now that we're not in class together in person anymore. Here's what I posted on Canvas in case you want to borrow/adapt/improve it…


This is a totally optional discussion, it's not being graded. Because our course is all about social interaction, I want to give students opportunities to share insights and experiences about how social interactions have changed due to social distancing expectations. It's wild to me that the term "social distancing" wasn't even in the public's vocabulary until about a week ago. Even if we are closely following social distancing guidelines, we still have many ways to interact. So feel free to use this space as a place to mention examples about social interaction these days, and to share any insights or thoughts you have. I'll start....

I find myself texting people more than usual, and I'm using FaceTime to interact with my parents. At my house our family is playing board games, watching movies, and we even played Wii Bowling a few nights ago like we used to when our kids were little. We're also taking walks together to get exercise. My 9-year-old is obsessed with baseball and I love baseball too, so we're playing a lot of catch together and frankly it's good for my mental health. I actually came up with the idea of doing this discussion as a class when we were playing catch together an hour ago.

I wonder how social distancing is impacting our relationships, and I wonder if people will begin to be socially shamed if they aren't practicing social distancing. And I seriously wonder about our mental health as a society if our interactions are limited for an extended period of time. So many unknowns...

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Jettison Your Perfectionist Tendencies

My saying at the moment is "Not trying to break records during a pandemic." In touching base with students yesterday, this is part of what I posted in an announcement on Canvas:

"I remain focused on being flexible and doing my best to adapt to changing circumstances, and the goal remains to complete the course. Let's be honest: we don't know what may change and catch us by surprise, so let's stay flexible and manage our expectations. My saying at the moment is "Not trying to break records during the pandemic" which is my way of saying let's keep things simple and straightforward during these stressful and challenging times. I don't want to pile a ton of work onto my students and overwhelm them. I don't want to heighten anyone's stress or anxiety. And so the mission is to finish the course with integrity, but not trying to be special or "extra" about it."

I also wrote:

"I'll be flexible and lenient with due dates. These are stressful times; yes, I want us to learn, but I'm keeping things in perspective. I love sociology and our course work is valuable, but the much more important thing is our safety, health, and well-being."

I'm picturing my most overwhelmed student with the least amount of access to technology, and going from there.

This morning I recalled something I wrote with Peter Kaufman many years ago. It was a short piece about navigating the path from tenure-track to tenure. One of our tips was to "Jettison your perfectionist tendencies." Peter wrote that tip. I know that because "jettison" wasn't in my vocabulary, lol. I think the advice applies to teaching right now. I don't think we should feel pressure to be all-stars in this moment. I care deeply about teaching and learning but I'm fighting back my perfectionist inclinations and keeping things in perspective. We're all adjusting to rapidly changing circumstances and struggling to comprehend what's happening and wondering if in fact things might not "go back to normal." My plan is to not overdo it in the teaching realm, to make the workload very manageable for students, and to be extremely lenient and accommodating. I'd rather be known as someone who "went too easy on students" than someone who dumped work on them and added to their stress and anxiety.

Monday, February 3, 2020

During Discussions about Gender and Socially Constructed Ideas

When we're talking gender in the classroom (very often), occasionally color will be brought up as something that's socially constructed. I like to quote my nine-year-old, who claims that "pink is a girl color." I argue with him on the point until I realize I'm arguing with a child. But I get my two cents in by saying that people can like whatever color they want. Anyhow, celebrities push the boundaries on fashion and color, and I remain impressed with the pink cowboy outfit that Lil Nas X wore to the 2020 Grammys. It's something I mentioned in class last week when we talked about doing gender. [Source of pic is from the article I've linked to].

Also: check out the pink hat and pink and blue jacket worn by a member of Griselda (from Buffalo, my metro region!) during their recent performance on the Jimmy Fallon show. [Source of pic is from the article I've linked to].

Related reading: "When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?"

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Recommended - Alison Stewart's Interview of Jennifer Hirsch and Shamus Khan

Alison Stewart's Interview of Jennifer Hirsch and Shamus Khan is a conversation worth your time.

A few highlights:

Around the 13 minute mark of the interview, there's an insightful exchange about physical spaces. Think dorm rooms. As Hirsch points out, there are usually four furniture items in a dorm room: bed, desk, chair, bureau. "The only comfortable place to sit is a bed," she says, adding, "beds have meanings." Students need to learn not to make assumptions in a situation when someone sits on their bed. Maybe a person just wants to sit on the bed, and nothing else. In addition, she suggests that colleges create more spaces for students to hang out and socialize in the late hours. Khan then talks about power and control of spaces. For example, older students tend to have more control over spaces. He says: "Younger students are often propelled into spaces controlled by older students and that really can put them at risk."

Near the 18 minute mark, Stewart asks for a definition of "sexual citizens," and Khan answers: "Sexual citizenship is the idea that people have the right to say yes and the right to say no to sex, and that they need to recognize the equivalent rights in other people." A few minutes later, Khan emphasizes the importance of recognizing the humanity of other people (in contrast to, for example, seeing sex as a game or seeing a sexual experience as an accomplishment or triumph).

At 23 minutes, there's a great contribution to the conversation from a caller who works as a consent educator. She talks about the need to reframe sexual experiences to prioritize the safety and pleasure of one's partner. Hirsch responds by addressing the need to improve the way sex education is taught (she says sex ed should be more comprehensive, more inclusive, start earlier, and include teaching people to say no to sex they don't want to have).

On the subject of education, Khan brings up driver's ed as an analogy around the 27 minute mark. It takes a lot of work to learn how to safely drive! Sex ed, he says, is mainly about biology..."It's sort of like imagining that you can teach people to drive by talking to them about spark plugs, it's not particularly helpful!" He also talks about the importance of offering comprehensive sex education, one that empowers young people to talk about sex and to express themselves. And we need safer sexual environments. Back to the driving analogy--like he says, speed bumps help people drive safely!

There's much more in the interview, this is just a glimpse into it, I encourage listening to all of it!

Friday, January 17, 2020

First Day Jitters

20  years teaching and I still get nervous on the first day. That means I still care and I'm still shy. It takes a while to get my teaching voice in shape and to relax and show my personality. I pass out the syllabus on the first day and all that regular jazz and I normally have a set plan with notes and bullet points but on the first day of my Social Stratification class next week I'm going to try to be loose and get right into a conversation with students. Before introducing the subject matter I think I'll ask them to give their thoughts and rough definitions of social class and ask them what they think and know about inequality. And ask them what they see in media (all media, including social media) that informs their views about social class and inequality. I think that will start the course on a good note and establish an environment where we talk and listen to each other. Sure I'll cover the assignments and expectations for the course and other professor stuff a professor does but I think the really important thing is to get them talking and thinking on day 1. I think sometimes we look for fun "icebreakers" but if you think about it, when students are talking and listening to each other the ice is being broken.