Short Sociological Analysis of Black Lives Matter.

Lewis A Coser’s version of Conflict theory provides a suitable and appropriate framework for understanding the development of the Black Lives Matter movement that have gain prominence in recent years. Lewis A Crosser was a German Sociologist that sought to bring balance to what he viewed as the short comings of Conflict theory and of functionalism. He felt that Conflict theory did not speak much to the “integrative” aspects of conflict nor did functionalism highlight the “disintegrative” side of conflict.

            Coser’s version of Conflict theory hinges on certain assumptions: 1) There are super ordinates and subordinates in a system of inequality. 2) Conflict happens when the legitimacy of the super ordinates is withdrawn by the subordinates. 3) Chances of Conflict increases when there are few are no avenues of redress (and no upward mobility for subordinates). And 4) the chance of conflict increases when the sense of the degree of deprivation increases. Coser’s goes on to explain that the violence levels of conflict increase over “nonrealistic” issues involving culture and values and is is likely to be mitigated over issues that allow for common ground and compromise.

            Viewed in this manner, the social phenomenon of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement shares several parallels to Coser’s framing. The First parallel is the fact BLM was instituted to address the problem of police officers disproportionate use of violence against Black people. In this scenario, the police officers are the super ordinates and the Black civilians they interact with of the subordinates. This is by virtue of the authority, deference and respect that is almost unilaterally afforded law enforcement personnel. This satisfies the first point.

            The second point lies in the fact that given the longstanding racist history of law enforcement particularly in the United States and the inherent contradiction in the precept of equal treatment under the law for all citizens regardless of race and the application thereof, the legitimacy of police departments is questioned by those that are oppressed and mistreated by them.

Third, due to advantages such as qualified immunity and a close, biased relation with prosecutors’ offices there is often little to no accountability of police officers when they do violate the rights and lives of Black people. This increases the chance of conflict.

Fourth and finally, because of the prevalence of cell phone cameras in the general population, the heinousness and vile nature of these interaction are capture and shared widely, thus increasing the sense of deprivation contributing to the likelihood of conflict.

Black Lives Matter has, in my opinion, largely been successful in its efforts because compromise can be found between civilians and police (according to the stated ideals of equal treatment) and is evidenced by the increased accountability of the police. The conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin is a prime example of this small but important progress.


Juneteenth Quick Macro Level Analysis

​The article I chose for this news item is from the New York Times and is entitled Biden Signs law Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday by Annie Karin and Luke Broadwater.( The article talks about the fact that on Thursday June 17th ,2021, U.S President Joseph R Biden sign into law a bill designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Of particular note is that 14 House of Representatives members objected to the law while in the Senate the measure passed with unanimous support. 

​Juneteenth celebrates June 19,1865 when “Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston,Texas issued General Order No.3,which announced that in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, ‘all slaves are free’.”(insert reference). The President recognized Opal Lee, an 89 year for her role in supporting Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The President, while discussing the significance of the new holiday is quoted as saying “ The promise of equality is not going to be fulfilled until we become real, it becomes real in our schools and on our Main Streets and in our neighborhoods.”

​A couple of concepts that I think applies to this article is Pierre Bourdieu’s Constructivist Structuralism and Emile Durkheim’s Theory of Differentiation-Integration. I believe these two frameworks captures the zeitgeist of the moment. 

​In applying Bourdieu’s Constructivist Structuralism, it is important to understand that he essentially believes that “structures constrain action, but this constraint is not absolute”He discusses this from the context of social phenomenon. The United States is comprised of many differentiated groups and institutions that have competing interest and different levels of power and influence that create inequalities within the society. The social glue that keeps these disparate groups together in an integrated fashion is culture. One manifestation of American culture is the celebration of holidays. Given that the most import cultural holidays celebrated in the United States derives from the normative, hegemonic ideals of White Male European influence . Part of changing the lived outcomes of marginalized people, aside from policy and legislation , involves changing societal messaging and narratives. Working within established institutions(institutions that constrains actions, though not absolutely) such as the United States Congress, and the Office of the President has allowed the Juneteenth celebration to become a federal holiday. This acknowledgment goes a small way into changing the narrative of the U.S( a White focus accounting of history) and thus promotes a level of change in the very institutions that systematically perpetuates inequality. 

Success at the previous discussed mechanism leads to an application of Durkheim’s Theory of Differentiation-Integration. Durkheim postulates about social pathologies that would “disappear as the new bases of integration began to evolve.” As suggested before, those pathologies are the structural mediated social injustices and resulting social ills. Establishing a Juneteenth Holiday could have a manifest effect of unifying the cultural commonality of different groups in the U.S. This theoretically could change the fight for social justice into a moral argument shared among the populist that just might move the moral arc of justice towards all Americans regardless of race.

America’s Endgame?

On the whole, I am not given to the belief that societies are on some inevitable and purposeful march towards an end game. I tend to think that the changes we see in societies over time are emergent properties mediated by certain technologies within those societies. One of the most important technologies (of a sort) is the development of written words and languages. The ability to abstract ideas and distribute those ideas across time and geographical space, to store and pass down information and knowledge to succeeding generations is in my opinion the most important catalyst pushing societies to further complexity. Talcott Parson’s Stage Model of Evolution notes that a written language system is absent in Primitive Societies and that the expansion of written languages moves societies from Intermediate Archaic societies to Advanced Intermediate societies. Parson’s theories resonates the most with me.

I believe that ultimately a society’s ability to persist is going to be limited to its population. As populations grow, differentiate, and specializes into different social institutions it becomes increasingly difficult to find a cohesive glue to keep all the disparate groups together(culturally, socially). This is especially true in the presence of competing interests and social inequalities. I believe there is always a danger of any society of getting too big but as our technology grows more advanced, enabling us to better and more cheaply provide for more people’s needs…maybe we won’t have to suffer a societal collapse.

Critical Race Theory Under Attack

There is an article entitled What is Critical Race Theory and Why Are People So Upset About It? ( (Camera, 2021). The article is written by Lauren Camera and it appears in the June 1st, 2021 edition of U.S News. The article primarily focuses on the controversial subject of Critical Race Theory and the opposition it is facing from White people on both local and national levels.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is defined in the article as being used by scholars to “ to describe how racism is embedded in all aspects of American life, from health care to housing, economics to education, clean water to the criminal justice system and more. (Camera, 2021)” The article makes the point that contrary to what many White people believe, racism is not necessarily “obvious and deliberately insidious”. The article explains that even though Critical Race Theory began primarily as an academic endeavor in the 1980s, it gained National notoriety with the New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project, orchestrated by Nicole Hannah-Jones. The 1619 Project is a series of articles that details American History in the context of slavery and the generational impact that institution has had on the nation in the succeeding years.

According to the article, opposition to CRT has manifested itself in many ways. Among them are: Former President Trump’s establishment of the 1776 commission (a direct challenge to the narrative presented by the 1619 Project, political conservatives’ assertions that CRT undercuts American patriotism and is divisive, and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell’s accusation that CRT is “spoon feeding a slanted story.” Opposition to CRT has also become a likely campaign rallying cry for republicans in the upcoming midterm elections.

In reading this article, it became clear to me that two sociological concepts applies to the situation detailed here. These two aspects operate on both the micro and macro levels of interactions. The first involves the idea of Identity and the second involves the concept of Attribution.

Inspired by George Herbert Mead’s Synthesis formation of Mind and of Identity, author Jonathan H Turner describes a hierarchy of four basic identities that people operate with. At the top is the Core-Identity, followed by the Social-Identity, the Group-Identity, and finally the ROLE-Identity (Turner, 2014). In this situation, I believe that people’s social identity (membership in socially salient categories) (Turner, 2014, p. 101) feel threatened and under attack. Someone that identifies as White, male, hardworking and patriotic may have feelings of anger or shame if it is publicly promoted that they are inherently racists and that their accomplishments came at the expense of others bloodshed and degradation. One defense mechanism that can be employed to counter those feeling is to attribute the genesis of them to distal institutions. In this case the Distal Bias (Turner, 2014, p. 113), would be against the federal government as headed by President Joe Biden. President Biden’s movements of social issues (with racial reconciliation being among them), coupled with the fact that his Vice-President, Kamala Harris, is a Black Woman may present a threat to some White people’s social identity resulting in them blaming the liberals and big government as being responsible.

Somehow we as a people have got to find a way to come to a common understanding of what is true and factual. This idealized version of American history isn’t just some benign choice. Ignoring the real, damaging and lasting legacy of slavery and all the social ills resulting from it does a disservice to the countless individuals that fought, bled, and died for the stated ideals of the nation’s founding. Critical Race Theory is not some attempt at indoctrinating White children into believing that they are evil. Critical Race Theory teaches the ENTIRE landscape of American history, not just the parts we find palatable. It’s high time we fight for truth and justice just as hard as the misguided right wing is fighting for lies and deceptions.


Camera, L. (2021, June 1). Retrieved from -why-are-people-so-upset-about-it

Turner, J. H. (2014). Theoretical Sociology. Thousand Oaks , California: SAGE.

The Republican’s Dance With the Devil.

            On Tuesday November 3rd, 2020 Joseph R Biden of Scranton, Pennsylvania was elected the forty sixth President of the United States. This highly contested and emotional campaign was the culmination of more than a year of record-breaking voter registration and participation while in the context of a global pandemic, and a U. S President in Donald J Trump with a penchant for lying and misrepresentation not typically seen in a president. Despite the historic victory for Mister Biden, there were several constitutionally mandated steps that had to be completed before he could assume the office. The final step, prior to Inauguration Day, was the certification of the electoral college results by the United States Congress and that was to occur on January 6th, 2021. On that day, domestic terrorist, and insurrectionist in support of and at the encouragement of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to stop the certification of the results. This resulted in the deaths of civilians and capitol police and did untold damage to this particularly important and sacred government institution. In the immediate aftermath of January 6th, there was universal and bipartisan condemnation of the rioters and of the president’s actions (and inactions) that eventually led to a second impeachment of the president. Though acquitted of the charges by the Senate, it was the first time in U.S history that a United States President had been impeached twice.

            The article for this paper is from the New York Times website entitled Republicans Rewrite History of the Capitol Riot, Hampering an Inquiry by Luke Broadwater( (Broadwater, 2021). The article details the efforts of the House of Representatives attempt to form a bipartisan committee to examine the events of the January 6th, Capitol attack. The article points out that republicans, namely Representatives Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, are simultaneously misrepresenting the events of that day and are wanting to include left leaning groups such as ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter in the investigation. It is noteworthy that the article points out that Former President Trump is still lying about the validity of the election results and that the equivalence of left wing and right-wing involvement in the January 6th attacks are false. Democrats believe the investigation should be narrowly focus on the events at the Capitol, and republican Representative Liz Cheney (recently ousted from House leadership position) is quoted as saying “That kind of intense, narrow focus threatens people in my party who may have been playing a role they should not have been playing.” The continued assertion by Ms. Cheney that Mister Trump is promoting a “Big Lie” has put her at odds with republican members of her own party.

While there are many ways to frame the issues covered in this news article, it seems to me that the paradigms of Conflict Theory and StructuraL Functionalism adequately provides two frameworks for viewing the various aspects involved. Conflict Theory, initiated by Karl Marx as a critique of capitalism, is best articulated by Lewis A. Coser. Coser, a German sociologist, views societal conflict revolving around “the withdrawal of legitimacy by subordinates in a system of inequality…with violence increasing when conflict is over nonrealistic issues such as values and morality (Turner, 2014).” I believe Conflict theory explains the precipitating event. StructuraL Functionalism, views societies as “super organisms “whose constituent parts are made up of various social institutions that functions to maintain a state of homeostasis for the collective. Along with that framing, I believe a further abstraction of Ecological Theorizing (societies face selective pressures, just as biological entities do) helps explains the republican’s response to January 6th.

            The first conceptual framework of Conflict Theory applies to the precipitating event itself. Many of the former president’s constituencies are usually White, rural, evangelical Christian that are on average less educated than those that may tend towards the democrats. In the past decade or so there have been much dialogue and progress in the areas of Civil Rights for Black people, women, the LGBTG and other marginalized people. This is particularly salient with the election of President Barack Obama. One could imagine that from the standpoint of a person of typical of conservative leanings, it may appear that other groups (Blacks, Hispanics, LBGTQ, etc.) are getting an outsized share of resources. For example, they may perceive people of color getting their jobs (via immigrants or affirmative action). They can begin to feel as though the gains of other groups is coming at the expense of their own. Added to this is the fact that there is not much upward mobility for these people at their jobs and the United States at the time was going the Great Recession. This can cause what has been described as White resentment, the feeling that they are losing the America they are used to along with the resources and perceived prestige it brings. A charismatic personality such as Donald Trump that can articulate these grievances and is also able to frame the existing administration as illegitimate (Birtherism), leads to a situation ripe for him to ascend to power.

            The four years of the Trump presidency was infused with a high state of emotion and narratives that framed national discourse in terms of values, morals and an “us against them” mentality. Fueled by the lies told by the president that the November 3rd election was fraudulent and stolen and that the final chance to right the wrongs of that election had to happen during the certification led to the January 6th riots. This is in keeping with Randall Collins discussion on how interaction rituals are used along with group symbols (Trump flags, MAGA hats, confederate symbols) are focused on the “enemy” to commit violence (Turner, 2014, p. 50).

            That is how we got to the Capitol riot itself. Contemporaneously, the framing of the incident can best be visualized within a StructuraL Functionalism framework. As described earlier functionalism views societies as analogous to living beings or “super organisms.” As such, just like biological entities, they are subjected to selection pressures (Turner, 2014, p. 31). This viewpoint can be abstracted out to any organization within a society too. These organizations will still have to face “ecological dynamics (Turner, 2014, p. 69)”. Viewed this way the U.S Congress generally and republicans and democrats specifically can be thought of as groups competing for a valuable resource(votes). Votes brings an enormous amount of power, prestige, wealth, and resources. Using Talcott Parson’s Action Theory illustration, both the Democratic and Republican National party fulfills his requisites. Adaptation (they must secure votes and turn them into power and influence), Goal Attainment (Party Platform and vision), Integration (majority leaders, committee chairs and minority whips), Pattern Maintenance and Tension management (Rallies and other means of emotional investments (Turner, 2014, p. 18). The Republican leadership’s reframing of the Capitol riots is in accordance with the selection pressures of trying not to be seen in a negative light. Former president Trump still enjoys much support from his election base, and this reality means that as a collective unit, the party must pivot away from the narrative of that day. The party is evolving in platform, practices, and values that it had not been before. People often view evolution as improving into better form. Evolution is simply adaptation to the environment over time into something that is suitable to survive that environment. This is devoid of any notions of “better” “worse” or “advanced.”

            In the final analysis, there are many ways of parsing the different issues presented in the article. I felt that the overriding dynamic, even in the context of functionalism, is conflictual in nature. In matters of politics and democracy that should come as no surprise.


Works Cited

Broadwater, L. (2021, May 13). The New York Times. Retrieved from (

Turner, J. H. (2014). Theoretical Sociology A Concise Introduction to Twelve Sociological Theories. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.



American Criminal Justice System…Not For All the People.

Structural Functionalism as a concept and an analogy frames societies as “super organisms “ whose constituent parts are made up of various social institutions that functions to maintain a state of homeostasis for the collective. Implicit in this framework is the idea that these institutions work together harmoniously and to the benefit of all the members of society. This belief is also a major source of criticism and also used as justification for many extreme conservative beliefs, racists attitudes and practices, and the perpetuation of White hegemonic ideals.

History and a critical objective eye informs us that there are institutions that can be deemed “dysfunctional” and still “work” because they may work better for some people than for others. That struggle leads me to think that there is one main macro level institution that is dysfunctional because even though it works some it is absolutely FAILING others. And I believe that failing is inherent in the system itself and not in the people they are supposed to serve. That institution is the Criminal Justice system.

The Criminal Justice system is dysfunctional because it fails at its primary purpose, which is to rehabilitate people. This is evidenced by the rate of recidivism and its unfair treatment of Black Americans . According to “ A U.S Sentencing Commission report on recidivism among federal prisoners, released on January 24,2019, showed that nearly 64% of prisoners who had been convicted of violent offenses were arrested within eight years…”( It is also well documented that Black people are over represented in the federal and state penitentiary system. According to, Black people represent thirteen percent of the total U.S population but represent forty percent of the incarcerated population of the U.S( Finally, concurrent to the over representation in the penal system is the fact that Black people are sentenced more harshly than other groups. According to an article by, “ The U.S Sentencing Commission showed that Black men serve sentences that are one average 19.1 percent longer than those for White men for similar crimes.” This is from a November 17th, 2017 article and it also stated that the disparity can’t be accounted for by the offenders history of violence.(

So to say that the Criminal Justice system does not work would be inaccurate because we are a nation of laws and norms and there has to be a system of crime and punishment. However, I think it is equally obvious that if a person is poor or otherwise marginalized that the system globally does not work for them and is harmful. Failing to properly rehabilitate and to re- integrate, coupled with the fact that a criminal record hampers the ability for gaining employment shows that this particular institution is dysfunctional.

Reflections of a Black man on “Independence” Day.

When I was a little boy growing in New Orleans, Independence Day was simply known as the fourth of July. I knew that there would be fire works and barbecue involved and it was also when my family would have our family reunion. As I got older I started to learn about the historical record of America : Columbus, The Magna Carta, The Boston Tea party, The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were among the many items studied regarding the founding of America. What complicated these elements was the difficultly of reconciling these things with the presence of slavery in America and the treatment of Black people into the modern era. And then I learned about Juneteenth!

When one considers the full context of American history, a natural question could be asked if Black people could or should celebrate Independence Day. A fair number of my Black friends would tell me that the day is not for us. As for me, I personally think that Black people can and should celebrate American Independence Day.

While I acknowledge that the orginal constitution had a 3/5 clause in it that was tacit reference to slavery, I believe that the stated ideals of America are worthy of celebration. I also believe that Black people have toiled and sacrificed too much blood sweat and tears in building the nation. That is too much of an investment to just turn away from and to forfeit our rightful inheritence. Black people struggled, fought, and were killed in an effort to grant us our full and proper place as citizens. We are Americans, even though America has not always treated us as such.

As Americans I believe that there are certain duties we carry. We must continually work to perfect our union. It’s a hard and time consuming process that oftentimes feels hopeless. It is not hopeless. We must persevere and continue the struggle, just as generations before us have. We must correct the historical narrative of America, by acknowledging the contradiction that slavery presented and the contributions that all people made to the founding of the country. We can no longer abide a white washed, sanitized, and largely mythical accound of America. We must tell the truth even if it is a painful and uncomfortable truth. Above all, we must become full participants. We must vote, serve on juries, run for office, educate ourselves, and dialouge with people in meaniful ways.

The fight for a more just and righteous America is not going to come by waiting on it. It will come when we all work to bring it about through our collective actions. So yes, I do celebrate American Independence Day because I too am an American and I will be damned if I don’t claim the full measure of my citizenship.

The Professional Socialization of Medical Students and it’s Ramifications.

Doctors are regarded as the ultimate authority in the field of medicine. They enjoy unparalleled prestige, autonomy and dominance not seen by most other professions. This authority comes from two facts, the fact that medicine is over represented by White men and the fact that medicine is a highly technical and science-based discipline. In American society today, White males are still considered the embodiment of authority and intellect, and American culture values scientific knowledge. Medical students are trained within this context.

Medical school is long, expensive and difficult process. It is rigorous, hierarchical culture requiring students to master a lot of technical information about body systems. That can naturally lead a person to think of patients less as “people” and more as a collection of parts that needs to be fixed, sort of like a car. This is referred to as a mechanistic model of the body. This model combined with the American belief that one should be emotionally detached in order to make good decisions is supported and propagated in medical school. Also, the very essence of medicine is intervention. Doctors, and by extension medical students are trained in the belief that they must take proactive action to correct maligned body functions rather than letting the body heal itself.

The benefit of this type of training is you get highly competent doctors that do a lot of good for people.

One of the more devastating consequence of this is that a lot of “upstream” problems can be overlooked because of the absolute deference given to doctors. “Emotional detachment can lead doctors to treat patients insensitively and to overlook the emotional and social sources and consequences of illness.” (Weitz, 2010 :275). Furthermore, doctors are not immune to the biases and prejudices that afflict most of humanity. Because of that you end up with situations where minority people may not be given the same treatment and respect as majority people and that can have serious life or death consequences.


The Sociology of Health, Illness, and Health Care: A Critical Approach. Rose Weitz. Seventh Edition, 2010