On the Market: Robert W. Ressler

Our “On the Market” series is back, featuring UT-Austin graduate students who are on the job market! This series provides sociology graduate students a space to share their research and exchange advice and insights about the job search process.

This installment features Robert W. Ressler, a 5th-year doctoral candidate and Population Research Center Trainee:

Tell us about your research. What are you working on?

My mixed-methods research focuses on the intersection of community organizations and educational inequalities. With an attention to race/ethnicity and immigration, I investigate questions that ask how nonprofit organizations influence community dynamics and educational opportunities. One project I’m working on uses Twitter data to evaluate the nonprofit sector impact on community well-being.

How did you prepare for the process of going on the market (preparing materials, selecting the right job openings, sending out applications, etc.)?

The department supports a job market group. Each week over the summer professors volunteered their time to meet with ABDs about the different parts of the job market process. It was sort of a demystification process that answered questions like “What is a good research statement,” helped us to write our materials in a timely manner, and to get feedback on things before using them.

How do you stay organized when it comes to the job market?

For me this was not a huge deal. I structure my productivity around a normal work day, so that requires keeping up with deadlines, meetings, and concerted times of productivity. I just substituted the amount of time for about one project and dedicated it to the job market. Practically this means that I work on market stuff as much as I need to on Mondays to prep to apply to a few jobs a day throughout the week leading up to major deadlines (September 15th, September 30th, October 15th, etc.). I also have a spreadsheet with job requirements for myself and information that my letter writers requested. I’ve been updating this frequently along the same deadline schedule, and because new jobs are posted throughout the fall.

What is it like being on the market at ASA? What are the keys to success?

The job market is one of the only times in my life I find myself openly saying something like this, but it’s a miserable experience. Especially at ASA. You can get so bogged down by the anxiety and tension that is palpable every time you’re in a situation to talk about your research. So, the best thing to do is to practice your elevator pitch (something we did in the workgroup and Mary Rose helped us with—thanks Mary!), and just remember to breathe. When you tell people you’re on the market they will genuinely listen to what you have to say, showing a level of interest in your work that you might not have experienced from people before. Everybody in my experience was very encouraging and that sustained my enthusiasm for pursuing a career in this discipline.

What is the highlight experience of your research during your time at UT?

My mentors have been phenomenal. I have been lucky to work with both Rob Crosnoe and Pam Paxton and that has led to innumerable learning experiences. In terms of actual research, just the other week a woman I was recruiting into my dissertation study looked me in the eyes and sincerely thanked me for the work I was doing because it was important to her; that was pretty great.

What is the highlight experience of your teaching during your time at UT?

I’ve really enjoyed all of the opportunities the college provides for learning about the teaching process. I TA’d for one semester so I have great memories of those classes, but the highlight would have to be things like the “difficult dialogues” symposium I attended. Not only can these things spruce up the teaching experience section of your C.V., but they provide real opportunities to develop your teaching skills, and ways to talk about those skills.

How are you practicing self-care?

I go to the gym, schedule a mental health visit once a year as a check-in, ride my bike into work, eat a vegetarian diet, sleep in when I’m tired, attend events in the department, and try not to work on the weekends. We really do not make enough money over these five to eight years of graduate school to overwork ourselves. You have to be productive, but you’re going to have to be productive through tenure, and even later on when you’re busy with the added pressure of departmental business, so it’s okay to purposefully keep some “you” time in your schedule.

What is your biggest piece(s) of advice for those going on the market next year or in the next few years?

Seriously evaluate where you are in your timeline and make a decision based on what you think you could be successful doing. Take a look at your C.V.: do you have a first authored publication? A co-authored one? It’s pretty much a requirement to have something published. The next thing is to think about whether you have articles under review or articles that have an R&R. These demonstrate the ability to remain productive for the near future. You also should consider how far along you are on your dissertation. Can you finish it in a year? You won’t have a lot of time to work on it, because you’ll be busy, so make sure you’re confident in your ability to finish it if you get a job. If you think you’re competitive, go for it! It’s just another part of the game. Once you’ve made the decision, take on major hurdles as they arrive, and try not to spend too much time (or emotional energy) dedicated to job market stuff.

Power, History and Society Kicks Off the New Year

by Andrew Messamore

The Power, History and Society (PHS) network held its Fall Social last week on September 20th  to network and have fun in the field of political, historical and comparative sociology at UT Austin. Founded in 2006, PHS is now entering its 11th year in the Department of Sociology and continuing to foster a space for intellectual exchange around both classic themes in sociology and new subjects including revolutions in the Middle East, environmental issues and land rights in Latin America, call-out culture in queer activist movements and the global politics of disease and epidemics.

With a full room, drinks and pizza in the Glickman Center, PHS coordinators described opportunities for involvement from first-year students in coordinating events and our successful speaker series. Past speakers PHS has brought include Randall Collins, Theda Skocpol and Ann Swidler, to name a few. Interested students and PHS coordinators also considered resurrecting the Middle East Working Group and Social Movement and Collective Behavior Working Group (SMCB), co-sponsoring events with other Sociology working groups and working towards a workshop on applying for funding in historical and political sociology.

For the fall, PHS is preparing to host a workshop with Dr. Rita Stephan, a UT Austin Sociology alumnus and PHS founder in the U.S. State Department on applied political sociology. Stay tuned for another PHS meet and greet off campus in October!

If you are interested in learning more about PHS, make sure to sign up for the listserv with Mario Venegas at Mario.venegas@utexas.edu


Andrew Messamore is ​a first-year doctoral student in Department of Sociology. His research interests center on welfare states, credit markets and political sociology. 

A Fond Farewell to my Beloved Community

I am truly grateful to reflect on almost 14 years as part of the creative and impactful community of Sociologists at the University of Texas at Austin. We have made a difference in each others’ lives, upheld the university’s mission to change the world and embodied Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  vision of the Beloved Community as members of a diverse and passionate body of citizen scholars. I have had the pleasure and privilege of learning from you, collaborating on programs and enjoying some of the best conversations of my life. Thank you so much for supporting my creativity, enduring the prickly and the heartfelt moments and for taking the opportunity to be playful. My camera and I are on to new adventures, but please take a moment to enjoy the brief retrospective below.  I want to say special thanks to Sheldon Ekland-Olson and Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez, my partners in programs.  You have enriched my life immeasurably.  To Rob Crosnoe and Julie Kniseley, thanks so much for your real and practical support. And Kevin, you are my brother.  To the many wonderful graduate students who are also friends, much love to you and yours.  It has been an honor to share your journey.

 

Graduate Student Minority Liaison Initiative Celebrates Students of Color

With generous support from the College of Liberal Arts, the Depart of Sociology piloted a new program aimed at diversity and inclusion.

This program, the Student Minority Liaison initiative, is an effort led by Carmen Gutierrez, Shannon Malone, and Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez (our faculty Minority Liaison), with support from Rob Crosnoe, Becky Pettit, Christine Williams, and with assistance from Evelyn Porter and Julie Kniseley.

The Student Minority Liaison initiative is designed to enhance inclusion by making diversity and the experiences of underrepresented minorities a priority in all areas of the department.

As part of the Student Minority Liaison initiative, we launched a Brown Bag Series focused on underrepresented minority scholars and their research. We kicked off this Brown Bag Series by honoring four of our department’s graduate students who are all making successful transitions into academic jobs in the fall of 2017. These scholars include Anima Adjepong, Shantel Buggs, Hyung Jeong Ha, and Cristian Paredes.

The Brown Bag presentation consisted of each one of these students sharing their experiences on the academic job market and offering their advice for other students navigating this process in the future. Below summarizes each person’s unique background, academic position, experience on the job market, and advice to fellow graduate students.

ANIMA ADJEPONG, PhD (@amankrado)

Anima is joining the faculty in the Sociology Department at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. During graduate school, Anima conducted research on a range of social issues related to race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and migration. Anima’s dissertation is a study of a black immigrant community, their political and cultural formations, and how they relate to and shape the discourse in both the United States and their African country of origin.

While conducting this work and navigating the academic job market, Anima decided not to conform to the expectations of others, but instead marched to the beat of her own drum. This decision was also strategic to Anima in that the process of staying true to herself ensured the work she could expect to take on as a tenure-track professor would be consistent with the work she was committed to conducting.

This way of navigating the academic job market also ensured Anima with a great deal of self care. By checking in with herself and her well-being throughout the dissertation-writing process, Anima was able to uphold both the commitment she made to her work and the style of working that best suited her strengths. This strategy helped her fulfill her basic needs, including finding joy throughout a year filled with job applications and dissertation writing.

Anima also worked with a small group of people on the academic job market who helped her in multiple ways. This group helped members organize deadlines to prepare materials for the job market. People in the group provided feedback for one another, offered accountability, and shared announcements for jobs. Working in this collective space also provided Anima with important emotional support during a time filled with uncertainty and anxiety.

SHANTEL BUGGS, PhD (@sgbuggs)

Shantel is joining the faculty at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida with an appointment in the Department of Sociology as well as an affiliated appointment in Program in African American Studies. Throughout graduate school, Shantel’s research has centered on the ways race and ethnicity and gender and sexuality shape family and romantic relationships. Shantel’s dissertation investigated how mixed-race women navigate race as well as form and maintain relationships in the context of online dating.

Through the process of applying for academic jobs, Shantel juggled a number of responsibilities given her involvement in external teaching positions, service work, and planning committees. Because of her multiple commitments, Shantel emphasized the ways she was kind to herself by being realistic with her work—sometimes extending deadlines associated with getting grades out for students needed throughout the semester.

Despite her heavy workload, Shantel applied for academic positions widely and broadly. Shantel emphasized the way this practice reflects a common fear among graduate students of not getting an academic job. If this is a decision made my other graduate students, Shantel recommends making strategic choices along the way. For example, Shantel advises to be sure to make double use of the work required from both the job market and the dissertation. Publishing should represent work from your dissertation. A job talk should serve as an outline for your next dissertation chapter.

Shantel also recommends that graduate students use deadlines for conferences or other events to push work required for the job market and the completion of the dissertation. Doing so helps you make progress in your daily tasks associated with graduate student life during the process of getting a job.

HYUNG JEONG HA, PhD

Hyung Jeong will join the Sociology Department at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana as a postdoctoral research fellow through the Global Religion Research Initiative—a program designed to advance social science research on religions around the world. Hyung Jeong’s dissertation studied ethnic and religious minorities in the Middle East and North Africa, and the way that these personal features interact within political and geographical boundaries to shape minority identities. Her dissertation draws on ethnographic work conducted in Cairo, Egypt.

As an international student from Korea studying issues pertaining to the Middle East, Hyung Jeong anticipated others asking her to explain why she was studying a place she was not from—a question not generally imposed on white majority students.

This type of additional work disproportionately experienced by people of color reflects the nature of advice Hyung Jeong provided in preparing for the job market. Hyung Jeong emphasized that although there are many aspects of the job market outside of our personal control, there are still many features of it that we can control. For example, Hyung Jeong encourages graduate students to get in touch with their dissertation chair, dissertation committee members, and other mentors to discuss the types of jobs they want. In doing so, graduate students inform these individuals on the best ways they can support us in our experiences on the academic job market.

Graduate students should give information to their committee members as early as possible—sometime during the semester before sending out job applications—to ensure they receive the support needed throughout the tiresome process of navigating the job market. That way, professors can help you focus on the strengths related to your work that best fit with the skills needed for your job after graduate school, whether you want to work as a professor at a research or a teaching institute.

CRISTIAN PAREDES, PhD

Cristian is joining the faculty in the Sociology Department at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois. Cristian’s work is shaped by his personal experiences living in the United States after growing up in Lima, Peru. During graduate school, Cristian’s investigated the influence of immigration on several social dynamics in U.S. cities.

Cristian encouraged students to also take on work that fit their personal experiences. This strategy helped Cristian explain the motivation for his research and also demonstrate his unique position in conducting this work. Cristian mentioned, however, that the process of choosing your work should also reflect the needs of the job market.

For example, Christian recommended that graduate students find research topics suitable for the academic job market by adjusting their interests to correspond with the social relevance of the field. In this way, graduate students should consider balancing a topic that is realistic to their skills and ability, but also attractive to the market.

In terms of long-term preparation for the job market, graduate students should consider what jobs are announced and what areas of interest in are often hiring for positions. Graduate students often enter the PhD program with set ideas of the work they expect to take on, but Christian advises that it is important to be open and flexible to the needs of the job market. Graduate students should consider tailoring their work to best situate themselves as competitive applicants, even if it means making temporary changes to their anticipated research agenda. Landing a job allows people to expand their work in their own personalized ways that are first constrained by the job market.

Christian also encouraged graduate students to think about alternative career paths. The job market and the process of landing an academic position involves a great deal of circumstances that are outside of our control. We also must accept that there are simply not enough tenure-track positions for every graduate student. Some students earning their PhD inevitably work outside of academia.

Rethinking Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom

by Karen Lee

 

On March 30, 2017, President Gregory L. Fenves released the University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (UDIAP). Within it, he describes the crystallization of policies that his administration has already put into action to promote diversity and inclusion at The University of Texas, as well as the inclusion of new initiatives outlined in the plan.

In March, I had the opportunity to participate in one particular ongoing initiative designed to train teaching assistants on cultivating inclusive classrooms. This essay offers my thoughts of the Inclusive Classroom Seminar in the context of a broader university-wide effort to live up to professed ideals of equality and inclusion.

The tables were positioned in a roundabout fashion so that graduate student participants from all divisions of the university could face one another as we talked about why we had decided to attend the two-day seminar. The atmosphere was serious as aspiring engineers, educational psychologists, physicists, microbiologists, historians, and sociologists spoke honestly about goals such as better facilitating difficult discussions, acquiring empowering language to engage our students, reflecting upon our biases, and setting inclusive classroom tones. More often than not, our own experiences with discrimination and bigotry were woven into our motivations for being at this seminar. Some spoke about their ordeals with sexism, others about their experiences with micro-aggressions, while other students talked about the continuous questioning of their knowledge and ability.

An activity from a 2015 Inclusive Classrooms seminar. SOURCE: Division of Diversity and Engagement (DDCE)

The facilitators came equipped with carefully prepared and theoretically informative material and led a two-day seminar designed to educate and facilitate discussions on identities, classroom climate, micro-aggressions, and self-awareness. During the seminar, we also participated in scenario reflections where we considered potential solutions and responses to a variety of situations. Situations ranged from leading classes in the aftermath of a bomb threat to grouping students in gender binary categories. They provided important information on cultivating inclusivity in our roles as teaching assistants across a number of dimensions including racial, LGBTQ, disability, veteran, and gender diversity. They also placed particular emphasis on reflecting upon our own biases, prejudices, and assumptions because as they said, “we may not be experts on all our students, but we are able to be experts on ourselves.” Overall, it was clear to me that the seminar was thoughtfully designed to provide participants with knowledge of diversity and inclusivity concepts and to have us reflect on our role as teaching assistants in building safe spaces for our students.

Though the seminar was helpful, it also exemplified a nagging concern of mine, which is that in this seminar and in other situations, conversations about diversity and inclusivity are stunted. Sometimes the conversations feel like everyone is stepping on egg shells. Other times it sounds like an orchestra of impressive rhetoric with no productive meaning. Then there are times when outrage and cynicism seem to exist simply to exist. That is not to say that feelings of outrage and cynicism are unwarranted. However, we also cannot expect to have productive conversations about equality and social justice when outrage and cynicism dominate the room.

It’s clear that the university must continue to ask the hard questions about discrimination and intolerance, refrain from a politics of appeasement, and decidedly move from their masterful grasp of diversity and inclusivity rhetoric and theory into real, substantive institutional change. However, I also recognize that in our position as students and citizens, we must constantly reflect on what diversity and inclusion truly are, how change can be achieved, and continuously articulate these ideas with sharp precision, clarity, and determination. Otherwise, institutional leaders and their constituents have unproductive conversations and change becomes befuddled in a sticky web of outrage and appeasement. Reflections about change are futile without action, but action is futile without reflection. Our collaborative efforts must not merely skim the surfaces of the problems. They must be given the appropriate resources and depth in attention to materialize into bold steps that powerfully advance our ideals of equality and social justice.

 


Karen Lee is a rising second-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests center around race and ethnicity, inequality, and political sociology. She is currently conducting an analysis on the effects of race on public perception of protest.

Celebrating Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Dr. Mark Warr, Dr. Ben Carrington and Evelyn Porter

Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, former University Provost, Dean and celebrated author and teacher is retiring after 47 years of service. His accomplishments are too many to list, his friends include many campus luminaries and people from all walks of life.  He has been an inspiration and wonderful colleague as Graduate Advisor to the Sociology program in which I am the Graduate Administrator.  Named one of the 10 hottest classes in the US, his sociological insight spans issues of life, death, morality and the law. We will miss your sunny smile and generous spirit.  All the best, Sheldon.

Dr. E. Mark Warr

Dr. Mark Warr, an award winning teacher and author has enthralled Criminology students at UT since 1992 and retires this year after 25 years in the department.  Mark’s other passion as a jazz pianist will finally get the attention it deserves. Thanks for your service and your scholarship, Mark.

Art beckons as well to Evelyn Porter, who will saunter on to new horizons in September.

Dr. Ben Carrington

Dr. Ben Carrington is west coast bound, to  become an associate professor in the Department of Journalism in the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.  We will miss Ben mightily, but wish him the best in his new endeavor.

Dr. Carrington with Dr. Buggs

Dr. Shantel Gabrieal Buggs, shown here with her mentor, Dr. Ben Carrington gets a special shout out as the captain of the blog, our editor in chief for the last two years.  Shantel will begin her tenure at Florida Sate in the fall as an Assistant Professor.  Shantel has managed to transform the blog into a student led publication with submissions from many graduate students who responded to her call to public sociology.  Thanks for all the work you have done mentoring, teaching, peer reviewing, blogging and tweeting, Shantel.

We work hard and we play hard, Hook Em!

 

 

UT-Austin’s Urban Ethnography Lab attends Tulane University’s City, Culture, and Community Symposium

by Paula Benavides

On March 9-10, Tulane University’s City, Culture, and Community (CCC) program hosted their 2017 symposium entitled, “Sites of Resistance: From Local to Global.” For their keynote speaker, the conference organizers invited UT-Austin Sociology’s own Professor Harel Shapira, and extended the invitation to a group of graduate student members of the Urban Ethnography Lab to participate in the concluding remarks.

UT-Austin professor, Harel Shapira, presenting his research on NRA training courses and gun culture in the U.S.

In his presentation, “The Culture of Justifiable Violence in America”, Professor Shapira dove into a brief yet riveting account of some of his fieldwork in National Rifle Association (NRA) firearm training classes. Through his ethnographic analysis, he revealed the ins and outs of the mentality of such classes, how individuals get habitualized into shooting guns, and the subtle “double-coding” that enabled participants to see firearms not as weapons but instead as tools. During the Q&A section, the audience raised critical questions regarding the moral and ethical repercussions of shooting guns, to which Shapira shared a set of fascinating observations regarding the gun culture in America.

Moderated by Professor Shapira, the concluding panel, “Ethnographies and Time”, included three UT-Austin’s sociology graduate students – Riad Azar, Alejandro Márquez, and Alejandro Ponce de Leon – who discussed the relationship between time and space. Each panelist focused on his respective field site, inviting the audience to think how “time” is an intervening variable within ethnography. In this panel, the audience was left to question how does time play a role in the way we analyze data, how do we know when we have reached data saturation, what does data do to our ways of thinking, and how does time affect our research subjects?

Doctoral students, Alejandro Ponce de Léon (L), Riad Azar, and Alejandro Marquez, and Dr. Harel Shapira (R) discussing the impact of time and space on ethnographic work.

In his presentation, “What does it mean to go into the field?” third-year doctoral student Alejandro Márquez discussed the idea of urgency in regards to undocumented migrant populations and the perils they face on their journeys to the United States. Alejandro had volunteered at a migrant shelter in the past year; during his fieldwork, the director of the shelter did not see academic research as a viable way of conveying the urgency and the imperative need for assistance from the community. From the director’s perspective, academics study migrant groups and the shelter but rarely do anything to truly help them through their plights, and therefore their participation is fruitless and ineffective. Alejandro unpacked the potential to translate the urgency of the situation into academic work by questioning how much solidarity can be shown to these groups through the academic research. Without this translation of the urgent need for help, can academics show any kind of real solidarity? Can this conundrum help academics arrive at a better definition of solidarity?

Second-year doctoral student Alejandro Ponce de León concluded the panel with his presentation, “Revisiting spaces: Affective Geographies amidst a Civil War.” Alejandro discussed revisitation and its implications for social theory, using the field notes and transcripts from a research project on Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs) in Colombia’s civil war that he conducted in 2011 – 2012 as his evidence. Through a set of interviews with shantytown dwellers in Medellín, Alejandro dove into a space that only existed in memories. The no-longer existent space is quite difficult to understand or analyze if the ethnographer has to rely on the recall of such a space in time; in response to this, he asked the audience to consider how accounts are perceived differently when re-addressed by the ethnographer after mulling over the data later in time. He also argued that sociologists need to “slow down” their theories in order to offer other kinds of accounts that more closely resemble the web of meaning of everyday life, rather than the solid edifices where our vocation is rooted.

Each of the panelists provided unique and relevant examples that introduced the intricate relationship between time and space in regards to ethnography. By discussing their various methods and obstacles they invited the audience to contemplate how ethnographers address these kinds of questions and how that can affect or be implemented into the research.


Paula Benavides is a third year Anthropology and Latin American Studies undergraduate student. She is in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) Pre-Graduate Internship program, which allows her to participate in the conferences and classes of her graduate mentor, Alejandro Ponce de León. Her research interests include race, gender, and sociopolitical conflict and resolution.

What Disney’s Andi Mack Reveals about Asian Americans – Kara Takasaki’s blog post in Racism Review

Andi Mack, a television show that features three generations of Asian American women, premiered on the Disney Channel earlier this month.  The lead character “Andi” is a thirteen-year-old, mixed-race girl, who lives with her barely-middle-aged grandmother, and—spoiler alert if you haven’t watched the first episode—her mother, “Bex”, short for Rebecca, who looks and dresses, as if she could be in her early thirties.

The premiere of Andi Mack is noteworthy because Asian Americans in mainstream American entertainment are so rare. When they do appear, Asian Americans are usually “white-washed,” replaced by white actors or actors of mixed-ethnicity, most recently in ‘Doctor Strange,’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell.  In the few American films where there are Asian American protagonists, like “Better Luck Tomorrow,” “21 and Over,” and “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,”Asian American women are veritably absent and silent; they exist to develop men’s characters.   Click here for full post.

 

Police Compliance, Body Cams, and Black Lives: Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System

by Carmen Gutierrez

Inspired to contribute to our sociological understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement and of racial angst in the U.S., Dr. Rashawn Ray, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland at College Park, began investigating police killings, the social psychological dimensions of why police kill Black males with impunity, and the collective action responses to these events.

Dr. Ray recently shared some of this work in an invited lecture sponsored by the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Ray’s presentation provided a glimpse of his current research on a variety of timely, important social issues, summarized in the title, “Police Compliance, Body Cams, and Black Lives: Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System.”

Dr. Ray and his work motivates us to continue working toward an equal society where all people experience fairness and justice. We believe Dr. Ray’s research makes a necessary contribution to the current social and political climate as a growing number of Black men and women suffer the harmful consequences of discriminatory policing. As we recently passed the day marking the fifth year when the world learned of the life and death of Trayvon Martin, we write this review in his honor and in celebration of the wonderful work of Dr. Ray.

Here are 10 points inspired by Dr. Ray’s recent presentation:

  1. PEOPLE OF COLOR HAVE WORSE EXPERIENCE WITH THE POLICE

Dr. Ray explained that people of color have long suffered from disproportionate surveillance and violence from the police. According to a recent study using data on the “stop-and-frisk” practices by the NYPD, Blacks and Latinos are stopped by the police 23% and 39% more often than Whites. More specifically, when police officers suspect individuals of violent crimes and weapons offenses—the most common suspected charges, representing more than two-thirds of stops by police—Blacks and Latinos are stopped by the police twice as often as Whites.[i]

  1. DISPROPORTIONATE POLICING OF MINORITIES IS NOT BASED ON UNEQUAL CRIMINAL ACTIVITY

Despite their overwhelming suspicion of people of color, stop-and-frisk procedures by the police more often lead to arrests among Whites than among Blacks and Latinos. In other words, White people are more likely to be found guilty of suspected charges, and yet they encounter significantly fewer threats of police encounters than their minority counterparts. Most individuals across all racial and ethnic groups who have been stopped-and-frisked by the police, however, have been completely innocent of suspected charges. Only about 1 in 10 stop-and-frisk events leads to an arrest.

  1. OFFICERS COMMIT RACIAL BIAS IN POLICING

In an effort to describe the etiology of such racialized policing practices, Dr. Ray worked with Maryland colleague, Dr. Kris Marsh, to collect data on implicit bias among police officers. Results from this ongoing work show that officers admit to having racist preferences that affect the way they do their jobs. For example, officers reported preferences for the association of Blacks with weapons and Whites with harmless objects.

  1. RACIAL BIAS BY LAW ENFORCEMENT FUELS NEGATIVE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN THE POLICE AND PEOPLE OF COLOR

The implications for the work of Dr. Ray and Dr. Marsh on racial bias among law enforcement officials reflect the reality of police encounters among Blacks in the United States. Because they have strong expectations that the Black individuals they encounter will be in possession of deadly weapons, police officers impose a perceived threat from Blacks during their shared interactions. In turn, these irrational views from the police are used to justify their use of force against Blacks in cases involving violence.

  1. BLACK FAMILIES ATTEMPT TO PROTECT THEIR CHILDREN FROM POLICE VIOLENCE BY TEACHING THEM COMPLIANCE

In response to protecting themselves from police violence embedded within police perceptions of their presence as threatening, Black families commonly begin teaching their children at very young ages to comply with the police. Several studies describe the socialization of Black children as it relates to their relationship with police.[ii] These studies describe the way parents “armor” their children to survive and function in a racist culture. Parents are especially concerned for the safety of their Black sons as they fear the historical, structural, and institutional relationship between Black masculinity and suspected criminality.

Dr. Ray invokes this narrative in his op-ed featured on Public Radio International responding to why Freddie Gray ran from the cops. Although some people might have asked why a person would run from the police if they are not committing a crime, Dr. Ray instead asks “why wouldn’t he run?”[iii] He goes on to explain that “People run because they are tired of being accosted and harassed by the police every time they walk out of school or leave the subway…People run simply because they realize that even if they are not committing a crime, they can end up with a broken spine, choked to death, or shot dead for simply having the wrong skin color.”

  1. BODY CAMERAS MIGHT HELP REDUCE POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST MINORITIES

Recognizing the danger of their implicit bias, some police departments have implemented the use of body-worn cameras (BWC) to be attached to their officers during their time on duty. BWC initiatives are intended to improve the objectivity of police reporting for criminal investigations, and to capture the perspectives of citizens and multiple individuals during police encounters.

As part of a longitudinal study with the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland, Dr. Ray and others are working with local residents and police to compare outcomes from their encounters as they relate to the use of BWC. Preliminary results from this work show that Blacks report more mistreatment by the police than Whites, but believe that BWCs will help reduce harassment and use of force they experience.

  1. RACIST POLICING DIVIDES VIEWS OF THE POLICE

The unequal distribution of surveillance, harassment, and use of force by the police among people of color has significant implications for the ways people across racial and ethnic groups differentially view the police.

According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, only 31% of Blacks reported that the police in their community do a good job when it comes to holding officers accountable when misconduct occurs. By contrast, these positive views of the police were reported among 75% of Whites in the sample.

In the same study, the Pew Research Center showed that Blacks’ fatal encounters with police have different meanings for Blacks and Whites. Just over half (54%) of White respondents reported that they believed fatal encounters between police and Blacks are signs of a broader social problem (rather than signs of isolated incidents), whereas the same was true for 79% of Blacks.

  1. #BLACKLIVESMATTER IS CREATING COLLECTIVE ACTION TO GENERATE AWARENESS OF AND TO PUT AN END TO ANTI-BLACK RACISM IN OUR SOCIETY

Since it began in 2012, the Black Lives Matter movement has heightened awareness of many structural and institutional acts of racism, including justifiable homicide[iv] against Black victims like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, to name a few. Like in those instances, these events often involve the killing of Black males by police officers whose actions are regularly deemed justified by the state.[v]

Awareness of and attitudes toward issues related to racism in the criminal justice system is thus evolving as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to successfully mobilize support and solidarity through its organization on social media.

The use of social media for promoting the Black Lives Matter movement has been so effective, in fact, that the development and growth of the Black Lives Matter movement offline is directly linked with the conversation occurring online. Understanding the presence of the Black Lives Matter movement has thus become an important centerpiece for our knowledge on social movements and collective action more broadly.

  1. RESEARCH ON #BLACKLIVESMATTER SHOWS ITS GROWING INFLUENCE

In response to its historical and social significance, Dr. Ray and colleagues turned to Twitter data to analyze the process behind the evolution of Black Lives Matter. With over 30 million tweets, Ray and others investigated the way Black Lives Matter transformed from a hashtag to a social movement.

In their analysis, Ray and his colleagues found that tweets about Ferguson corresponded to actual protests on the ground, male activists were viewed as more credible sources compared to female activists, and the names of male victims of police brutality were used as hashtags more often than the names of female victims. These findings are inspiring work specific to female victims of police brutality (e.g., Sandra Bland).

  1. THE FUTURE OF #BLACKLIVESMATTER

On their 10-year university, Twitter published a list of the most used hashtags related to social causes. According to Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter was ranked as the 3rd most used social-issue hashtag in the 10-year history of the platform. #Ferguson was the top used hashtag.

Dr. Ray is currently working to develop a special issue and edited volume on sociological research using social media data. We look forward to this and other projects of his future work.

For more on Dr. Ray’s presentation, listen to the audio of his talk here, watch his #DailyThought video blogs here, and follow him on Twitter.

References

[i] Gelman, Andrew, Jeffrey Fagan, and Alex Kiss. 2007. “An Analysis of the New York City Department’s “Stop-and-Frisk” Policy in the Context of Claims of Racial Bias.” Journal of the American Statistical Association, 102(479): 813-823. DOI: 10.1198/016214506000001040

[ii] Fine, Michelle and Lois Weis. 1998. “Crime Stores: A Critical Look through Race, Ethnicity, and Gender.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(3): 435-459.

Meeks, Kenneth. 2000. Driving while Black, Highways, Shopping Malls, Taxicabs, Sidewalks: What to Do If You Are A Victim of Racial Profiling. New York: Broadway.

Bell, Ella, L.J. Edmonson, and Stella Nikomo. 1998. “Armoring: Learning to withstand racial oppression.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 29(1): 285-295.

Green, Beverly. 1992. “Racial Socialization: A Tool in Psychotherapy with African American Children.” In L. Vargas, & J. Koss-Chioino (Eds.) Working with Culture: Psychotherapeutic Intervention with Ethnic Minority Youth (pp. 63-81). San Francisco, CA, USA: Jossey Bass.

Peters, Marie. 1985. “Racial Socialization of Young Black Children.” In H. P. McAdoo, & J. L. McAdoo (Eds.) Black Children: Social Educational and Parental Environments (pp. 159-173). Newbury Park, CA, USA: Sage.

Hale-Benson, Janice. 1986. Black Children: Their Roots, Culture, and Learning Styles. Baltimore, MD: USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.

[iii] Emphasis added

[iv] Homicide is the willful killing of one human being by another. Under the law, people may be justified in the act of killing another person if doing so is a necessary matter of protection from imminent and serious danger. Justifiable homicide is defined as and limited to: The killing of a felon by a peace officer in the line of duty, or the killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen. Because these killings are determined through law enforcement investigation to be justifiable, they are tabulated separately from murder and non-negligent manslaughter (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2014/crime-in-the-u.s.-2014/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide).

[v] Due to legal policies protecting the use of violence by the police


Carmen Gutierrez is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology and a research trainee in the Population Research Center (PRC). Her research explores topics within crime, law, and deviance through a demographic lens. She is currently conducting a comprehensive analysis of health and healthcare among individuals with prior involvement in the criminal justice system.

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