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Nicki Lisa Cole

Sociology Blog


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"Hood Disease" is a Racist Myth, But PTSD Among Inner City Youth is Real

Thursday May 29, 2014
Recently social media have been abuzz with news of "hood disease," a condition plaguing inner city youth who live amidst poverty and violence. The conversation was sparked by CBS San Francisco news anchor Wendy Tokuda, who used the term to describe the mental state of kids living in East Oakland. She attributed the term to Harvard doctors who found that children in inner cities suffer from PTSD at rates greater than combat veterans. The trouble is, while PTSD and other mental health problems do plague these kids, no doctor has ever used this term. The use of the term, "hood disease," continues a troubling trend of pathologizing the poor, and demonizing their communities. Click here to learn why the Sociology Expert believes this term is racist, and, why doctors and public health researchers consider poverty a public health problem.

The Intersecting Nature of Privileges and Oppression

Friday May 23, 2014
There are some who believe that racism is the greatest scourge on society, while others contest that economic inequality trumps all else. Some assert that sexism is the pressing problem of our age; others rally around heterosexism and homophobia. But, truth be told, sociologists believe that all of these forms of privilege and oppression are mutually dependent and co-constitutive, and that you can't tackle one form of inequality without simultaneously addressing them all. Intersectionality is a theoretical concept developed by Patricia Hill Collins that sociologists use to understand how each of us experiences simultaneously a variety of social forces that shape our everyday lives, and that work together to situate us within the hierarchies of society. Click here to learn why sociologists believe that racism has everything to do with gender, for starters.

Part 2 of the Biography & Intellectual History of Patricia Hill Collins

Wednesday May 21, 2014
In Part 2 of this discussion of the life, intellectual development, and contributions of acclaimed sociologist, Patricia Hill Collins, the Sociology Expert examines how Collins' working class upbringing and experiences of racism as a child, adolescent, and throughout her academic career shaped her intellectual development and scholarship. We review her groundbreaking article, "Learning from the Outsider Within," published in 1986, and some of her major works, including Black Feminist Thought and Black Sexual Politics. Click here to learn more about the intellectual contributions of one of the most important sociologists alive today.

A Bio & Intellectual History of Patricia Hill Collins

Wednesday May 21, 2014
Patricia Hill Collins, Distinguished University Professor in Sociology at the University of Maryland, has had a long and deeply significant career as a sociologist. Known for her research and theory that sits at the intersection of the sociology of knowledge, race and ethnic studies, feminist studies, and black studies, Collins has crafted groundbreaking theoretical concepts. She has also produced extensive research that has debunked myths about race, gender, class, and the system of oppression that surrounds them. Click here to read about her intellectual contributions, including the theory of intersectionality, the concept of the "outsider within," and her advocacy for community based approaches to social change.

I Am a Climate Change Denier, and So Are You

Saturday May 17, 2014
You, like most Americans, likely believe that climate change is a problem and needs to be addressed. But also like most Americans, myself included, you are likely not doing much about it beyond making modest lifestyle adjustments. However, the meaningful address of climate change and its effects requires radical, large-scale changes to our social, cultural, economic, and political systems. The Sociology Expert suggests that until we recognize our individual and collective responsibility to act, we are all climate change deniers. Read more here, and let us know if you agree or disagree.

What's the Deal with White Privilege?

Thursday May 15, 2014
Recently Princeton student Tal Fortgang made national headlines after penning an online essay about why he refused to "check his privilege." Tal asserted that despite his white skin, he had nothing to apologize for because some of his ancestors were Holocaust survivors, and thus, he didn't come from a privileged background. This claim raises some important questions about white privilege: What is it, exactly? Do white people need to apologize for it? Sociologists understand white privilege to be a wide variety of unearned advantages that white people enjoy, often unknowingly, in U.S. society. And, while white people do not need to apologize for it, it is important that we understand it. Click here to learn more about how white privilege operates in our globalized world.

The Cultural Marxism of Antonio Gramsci

Tuesday May 13, 2014
Karl Marx notoriously predicted a revolution of workers in his writings on capitalism and the exploitation of workers by the ruling class. His prediction was followed by a loud silence, wherein no large-scale, meaningful revolution occurred. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian intellectual and political activist, picked up the thread of Marx's failed theory of revolution, and wrote prolifically on the role played by culture, education, religion, politics, and the state in inhibiting revolution. Imprisoned by Mussolini's fascist regime as a political dissident, Gramsci penned most of his social theoretical contributions while incarcerated. He died in poor health at a young age, but left a lasting sociological legacy. Click here to learn more about this foundational sociologist.

The Political Power of Common Sense

Tuesday May 13, 2014
Most Americans revel in the idea that we live in a democracy and enjoy political freedom. But, Italian social theorist, Antonio Gramsci, would have us believe that we are far from free in our democratic context. Instead, Gramsci would argue that society is ruled through social institutions like education, religion, and church, among others, that cultivate common sense ideas that reproduce the power of the ruling class. Gramsci believed that rather than exercising free will and thought, we spend our days learning to obey authority figures, and being socialized into the norms that foster social order, thus preserving the hierarchies and power structure of society. He called this process "cultural hegemony." Click here to learn more about Gramsci's theory.

Human Agency in Social Context

Monday May 12, 2014
Within sociology there is an age-old debate about the ability of people to express free will and individual agency. This debate exists because sociologists recognize the immense power of social structure, and all its components, to shape our thoughts, identities, actions, and lives. Institutions like education and media exert immense pressure on us as social forces, as do troubling aspects of the social structure, like racism, classism, and sexism. With so much seemingly pre-determined by the circumstances into which we are born, is there such thing as agency? Click here to read the Sociology Expert's take on the relationship between structure and agency.

A Sociological Definition of Racism

Wednesday April 30, 2014
Racism in today's world is much more than overt discrimination, prejudice, and hate. While some like to think that racism is a thing of the past, sociologists see that it continues to plague society in a variety of forms, both overt and covert. From beliefs, to how we talk to and about others, how we interact with others, to the rules and regulations that govern society, racism thrives. The Sociology Expert explains the many forms that racism takes, and how a sociological understanding of it helps us to see it, and respond to it.

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