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Sociology Spotlight10

Racial Formation: A Sociological Theory of Race by Omi & Winant

Wednesday April 16, 2014
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." This oft-repeated old adage is taught to children to encourage them to let insults roll of their backs, instead of allowing them to cause pain and make one upset. However, when it comes to race, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant demonstrate, with their theory of racial formation, just how much words, and the ideas they represent, can hurt people. This theory, which frames how we understand race and how it organizes society as an ever-unfolding process, helps us see how common sense notions of race and about racial categories have very real connections to things like access to rights and resources. How we understand and represent race in language, images, and in media for example, has an impact on who gets which jobs or any job at all, who gets into college, and who goes to prison, among other things. Click here to learn more about this influential theory of race.

Systemic Racism: A Theory of Racism in Today's World

Monday April 14, 2014
Today, many in the United States like to believe that we are "beyond" race and our country's racist past. Some might point to the election of President Barack Obama, to the artistic and financial success of musicians and entertainers like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez, the recent accolades heaped upon actor Lupita N'yongo, or to rising high school graduation and college matriculation rates of Latin@ Americans as proof that racism is a thing of the past. But despite the success of some, sociologists today document patterns of unequal access to rights, resources, and privileges on the basis of race, as well as harsh penalties paid on the basis of race. These include the mass incarceration of black and Latino boys and men (and increasingly, women), the disproportionate losses suffered by black and Latino home owners during the recent foreclosure crisis, and lower life expectancy and higher rates of chronic disease among the same populations. Theorist Joe R. Feagin helps us see and understand the connections between our country's racist roots and the realities of racism today with his theory of "systemic racism." Click here to learn more.

What's the Difference Between Prejudice and Racism?

Wednesday April 9, 2014
Not all forms of prejudice are equal. While some might think that referring to a black person with the n-word is no different than assuming a blond person to be dumb, sociologists see important differences between prejudice--holding preconceived notions about a group of people--and racism. While many forms of prejudice are negative, not all forms result in the kinds of structural inequalities that define racism. So what exactly is racism? It's much more than insults and prejudices. Click here to learn more.

The Sociology of Consumption

Wednesday April 9, 2014
What sort of identities, group affiliations, and values are fostered by shopping in the Apple Store? Is it possible to be an ethical consumer in today's world? Is there a connection between consumption and racial profiling? What happens to a neighborhood and its inhabitants when it suddenly becomes cool and hip? At what age does advertising begin seeping into human consciousness?

These are the kinds of questions that researchers pursue within the subfield of the sociology of consumption. A prominent aspect of sociology in North America, Europe, Australia, and the UK, and now growing in China and India, the sociology of consumption builds on the theoretical foundation of sociology to examine the central role that consumption plays in social life today, and to tease out the social, economic, political, and environmental implications that follow it. Learn more here.

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