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ordinates and subordinates in a system of inequality. 2) Conflict happens when the legitimacy of the super ordinates is withdrawn by the subordinates. 3) Chances of Conflict increases when there are few are no avenues of redress (and no upward mobility for subordinates).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.

Fruit Bearing Trees, Credit Checks,And A Better Tomorrow.

      I’ve heard the assertion over and over again from his supporters. It goes something like”Sure he may have said those things during the campaign but I’m sure he’ll change once in office.” The other common one is “The gravity of the office will temper him.” Well to quote President Trump…”WRONG!!!!!!!!”  The sad part is that on some level I sort of believed it myself. I was hoping (still hoping) that there was going to a moment in this shit show of a presidency where Donald J Trump would switch gears and become someone befitting of the office. Yeah, I no longer  think so either. President Trump has made me miss George W Bush. Bush may not, in my opinion, been a good President but he at least he didn’t make a mockery of the office. I also got the feeling that he was essentially a good man. That is something that I definitely don’t get from President Trump.

       When comparing Former President Obama and President Trump I’m reminded of an old Sunday School lesson I had when I was a little boy. It was based on this idea that you can tell the type of tree you have by the type of fruit it bears. An apple tree produces apples, a coconut tree produces coconuts and so on. The point of the lesson was that your words and actions are the fruits and you are the tree. Therefore, if  you want to know if a man is a good man or a bad man then all you need to do is examine what he says and does. I have found this to be as true an axiom as any in my life. Almost everything about Obama’s two terms in office was about helping people. Obamacare, stopping wars, consumer protections and immigration. These are the fruits of a man that is good at heart and cares. Now compare that to what you’ve heard from President Trump. He bragged about sexual assault, made fun of special needs people and mocked war veterans. As President his crass behavior has escalated exponentially. The President behaves this way because he is NOT A GOOD MAN. And the plain and simple truth is that bad people do not typically make good decisions.

    President Trump is a shining example of why lenders do credit checks. One of the most basic concepts credit worthiness is that past behavior often predicts future behavior. If someone has a history of paying their bills late or not at all then there is a good chance they will continue like that in the future. Nothing about what the president has said or done is out of character. For as long as he’s been in the public’s consiousness he has been a misogynistic,bigoted blowhard. President Trump had his credit checked by the American people and we have failed to deny him the keys to the White House. That is a failure by the electorate that may have repercussions for generations.

If I can offer anything positive about The President it would be that I think he has galvanized the well intentioned to resist him. I heard someone say, “He may be the President but he is not America.” We as a people seem to be rising up in direct proportion to the garbage spewed by the President. Never before have I’ve ever seen so many different types of people coming together and speaking out against Trump’s vision of America. From the March For Social Justice And Women to all the protests against the Muslim ban, Americans are rising up against this administration’s dark vision of America. I am heartened by this, I am inspired to continue make changes in my life and to help others. Sometimes a nation needs a good kick in the ass in order to get things moving. President Trump might be that kick we’ve been needing. I got comfortable during the Obama years because I trusted him. I didn’t have to agree with him on everything because I felt that as a good man he would ultimately do what he thought was in our best interest. With President Trump I feel like I have to be attentive and vigilant. Maybe, that is what America has needed and if that  is the case then maybe Trump is the bitter medicine we need for a better tomorrow.

The Accidental American. 

It still impacts my world view to this very day. It’s been over 25 years now. I was was about 22 years old and had just arrived at this place called Fort Drum, NY. They said it was the 10th Mountain Infantry Division but I didn’t see any damn mountains. What I saw was a lot of snow and being a boy from New Orleans I really wasn’t feeling all this “snow” shit. You can keep it. I had just graduated from Advanced Indidivial Training (AIT) with an MOS of 91 Bravo 10, a Medical Specialist (Combat Medic). I was assigned to the 210th Forward Support Battalion, Charlie Company, Ambulance Platoon. I was thin had all all my hair and was in the best shape of my life.You couldn’t tell me shit back then.

I hadn’t been at my unit more than a month before I started hearing rumblings about us getting deployed to a place called Somalia. The way I understood it at time was that we were going on a humanitarian mission. We were to provide logistical support to the combat units in the area and to secure transportation of food and medical supplies to the civilian population. There was a problem of bandits disrupting food distribution points and we were going to stop that. It was all very confusing to me, lots of briefings and SOP(Standard Operating Procedures) meetings. I though I was going to war and was very concerned that I might not make it back. There is a lot of false bravado among young men of a certain age. I heard a lot of my fellow soldiers say things like ” I can’t wait to shoot me a fucking Somali.” That description…A Fucking Somali… was thrown around a lot during that time. In every meeting and briefing the Somalians were not talked about as “people.” They were the objective, the enemy or otherwise some kind of obstacle to be navigated. Too many Rambo movies filled me and my fellow soldiers with a Hollywood version of deployment. We were going to go to Africa and kick some ass!

Then we arrived and I saw them. On the back of a 5 ton truck with about 12 soldiers armed with m16-A2 rifles what I saw wasn’t a bunch of fucking Somalis. What I saw were little boys and girls, men and women. The little boys I saw lining the streets of the villages we convoyed through looked just like the little boys and girls I knew and played with back at Lawrence D Crocker Elementary School. I had what some may called an epiphany, a moment of sudden revelation or insight. The ONLY difference between ME and THEM was purely accidental. I was lucky enough to be born in the United States and they were not. I was born in a place where clean water runs freely from indoor plumbing and food is so plentiful that you can actually be discriminating about what you find tasteful. Some of my fellow soldiers regarded the Somalian people with contempt. I thought back to the times when people looked at me, a black man, and judged me to be a criminal or otherwise up to no good. How can I in good conscience regard these people in a similar fashion because of a uniform.

Somalia was in my opinion the worse place I have ever been in my life. I could not wait to get out of there. It did however form the basis of my feelings on immigration. I and most people I know are Americans by accident,by birth…but they talk about it like they accomplished something. I had nothing to do with the fact that I’m an American.I didn’t take a test nor did I have to pass some rite of passage to be considered American. The reasons why most of us are citizens are based on decisions made long before any of us were born. So it comes across as a bit sanctimonious to me when we act all morally superior to people that want to come to the US. Ask yourself this, if you live in a place that was in your estimation a horrible place but just over the horizon was a place full of potential and opportunities would you not take it? Would you not risk everything to secure the blessings and freedoms for you and your family?

I understand that borders are important and must be secured. However the legacy of how those borders were originally obtained is one of genocide and inhumane treatment. We have no moral high ground to claim when we talk about our country. Native Americans were displaced( and murdered) and generations of enslaved people loss blood and life to build our nation. I believe that recognizing the common humanity of all people should be a guiding principle in our policy towards immigration. I think it is right and morally upstanding to let people in freely. Of course people should be vetted,we are after all nation of laws. However, I believe the default attitude should always lean towards welcome, not rejection. “Those” people are only “Those” people because of an accident of birth. “Those” people could just as easily be “You”. If it were you, I’m sure you want someone to have empathy and compassion on you.

It is disturbing to say the least that President Donald Trump shows no compassion or empathy to immigrants. He talks of building walls, deportations and blocks on immigration. The President is acting in a way that is completely contrary to the values we hold in high esteem as a nation. The Statue of Liberty has a placque that reads “Bring me your tired,your poor,your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these,the homeless,tempesttossed to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” If the President doesn’t uphold these ideals then we must insist he does. We are citizens, the most important and powerful position in our nation. I challenge myself and others to find out who our congressional representatives are( House and Senate) and demand they do what’s right by these people.

We can change this world but its going to take work and persistence. And most importantly it going to take voting. Let’s stop waiting for change and become the agent of change.

In Defense Of “President” Trump In A Post Obama America.

He described himself as a skinny kid with a funny name. His name was Barack Hussein Obama and he was seeking the nomination for President of the  United States. At the time I was only casually paying attention to the primaries. I knew that  Hillary Clinton was among some of the people seeking the nomination but beyond that I really didn’t care. A clinical rep at the hospital I work for asked me who I was voting for and when I answered that I was leaning toward Clinton she admonished me and said I should vote for this guy named Barack Obama. I said “Ba-Rock A Who BaBa? and I also let her know in no uncertain terms that I was not going to vote for some guy just because he was black and gave a good speech at a convention. This was a moment of perfect irony; the white lady was trying to convince me, a black man, to vote for the black guy and not the white lady. That can only happen in America . I promised her I would read the books Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope and when I did I was all in. In my mind the Senator from Illinois was everything I wanted in a candidate. He was an articulate, intelligent, charismatic black man that personified all the attributes I wanted white America to know existed in our community .

In 2008  Senator Obama became President-Elect Obama and I have never felt so much pride and admiration for a public figure in my life. Its difficult to convey what Obama’s election meant to me and countless other African Americans .  His views of social justice mirrored my own. Most importantly here was a black man, a celebrity, that was celebrated not because he could sing or dribble a basketball but because of the words he spoke and the  ideas he promoted. As a black man there is a dark burden of feeling like the “other” and of not belonging that is the result of a long history  of racial injustice and negative stereotypes. Obama was a man that seemed to transcend all the negative images and I wanted to be a part of that. His election, for me, was evidence that being intelligent, articulate, and powerful was not the exclusive providence of  white America but were characteristics that could ALSO applied to black men.

The honeymoon period for the President was short lived. We all witnessed the unprecedented disrespect and obstruction the he faced for the entire 8 years of his presidency. He was called a liar during an address to congress and certain republicans stated on record that their only objective was to make him a one term president. If Obama was for it then they had to be against it. In my mind these obstructions  were just part of the game of politics and really didn’t bother me much. What struck a nerve with me were the blatant attempts to delegitimize him. Enter Donald J Trump and the birther movement. Trump’s continued allegations that Obama was not a citizen stuck me as ugly and racist. It was a charge that has never been leveled against a U.S President before. Never has a president have to produce a birth certificate to the public and even after he did so Trump insisted it was fake. Trump’s attacks felt like an assault on me and all that I represented. In my mind, Trump wasn’t just questioning the presidents legitimacy, he was by extension questioning every black man in America. He was communicating to me that it didn’t matter if you are educated and accomplished, that in his eyes people like Obama had to have something wrong with them. They could not possibly be smart or industrious enough for that type of success. Somehow, some way they cheated.

After Trump was elected I was outraged. Obama had to turn the keys of the White House over to a bigoted xenophobe that questioned his education and citizenship for 8 years. The devil had won. I declared on Facebook and other platforms that I will never refer to him as President. I like many others posted things like #notmypresident or in reference to Obama #Forevermypresident. I purposefully referred to Trump as Mister Trump and Obama as President Obama. After sometime I decided that as much as I didn’t want it to be so Trump was the President of the United States. I think that we as a nation run the risk of repeating the same mistake that Hillary Clinton made during her campaign. The mistake of under estimating Trump and dismissing him. Whenever  you are dismissive to a candidate what you inevitably do is paint him as victim. You make him seem like  an outsider and  a hero figure that people want to champion. If we stop treating Trump less like a joke and more like a serious player then it becomes easier to debate and run against him in the next election. What Trump’s next opponent need to do is not talk about why he’s bad for America but rather why their ideas are good for America. When we focus on the clown show that is Trump we lose sight of the issues and what’s important. This was Hillary Clinton’s ultimate failure and it is one we cannot afford to repeat.

It is my heartfelt belief that  normalizing Trump is the best way to defeat him. I realize that Trump is anything but normal but as long as he remains this larger than life cartoon character then he’s nearly impossible to stop and we run the risk of 8 years of this bullshit instead of 4.Donald Trump’s campaign was based on style, not substance. To defeat him we must put the spotlight on the substance of him and to do that we must treat him as ordinary candidate. We can’t be dismissive of him again. When Donald Trump builds a wall between Mexico and the United States it’s a  “Trumpian” thing totally in keeping with his persona . However, if the President of the United States spend 14 billion dollars to build a wall it then  becomes a rallying point you could run  against. Placing emphasis on the fact that he is President Trump and not  just “The Donald” makes all of his foolish actions and words stand out more.

So from now on it’s President Trump for me. It’s President Trump not because I think he is deserving of it but because I want to do whatever I can to prevent him from being President Trump a second time around. Despite the disrespect President Trump showed the last President I am going to take the advice of the former First Lady. When they go low, we go high. Let’s not succumb to the same pettiness and hatred that marred the last administration and show America, and the world, that truth reason and compassion can win the day. I challenge myself and others to be vigilant in spreading the truth from reputable sources and to thoughtfully engage with those that share a different point of  view. Let’s get involved in our communities and change this nation and the world for the better one person at a time.

The Truth Matters…At Least It Should. 

Like most people during the election cycle of 2016 I was sure that Hillary Clinton was going to be our next Commander In Chief. In my mind Donald J Trump being selected as the republican nominee was the answer to my prayers. This was a man that took the birther movement to new heights and even questioned the academic qualifications of the first African American U.S President. He conducted himself in a crude and insulting manner during primaries and to say he played fast and loose with the facts would be an understatement. He insulted veterans, minorities ,the disabled and women. I felt certain that a nation that elected an African American twice to the White House was ready to send Washington it’s first Female President. I especially felt confident of it in the wake of released audio of the soon to be president openly bragging about sexually assaulting women. I asked myself how can a guy that insulted every important voting demographic get elected. I was confident Clinton would win and I would have bet my life on it.
All of that optimism and hope came to a screeching halt on November 8, 2016. Watching the early results trend in Trump’s direction and never turning back filled me with a sense of disbelief and angst. All of the nearly impossible scenarios that I and others thought Trump needed was slowly coming to pass. My initial feelings of shock and despair finally turned to that of grudging acceptance. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the lady I thought was a shoo in for the presidency, lost. Donald J Trump was the President Elect and America had just entered a strange new age of politics.
In the immediate days following the election there was no shortage of questions and theories of why the seemingly impossible happened. Political pundits offered a slew of reasons ranging from the ineffectiveness of the Clinton campaign to the genius of the Trump message to the ignorance of urban America regarding the plight of rural white America. Whatever reasons history decides is the right one the one point that has asserted itself to me is the fact that the truth has somehow become a victim in our political discourse. Concurrent to that fact is the undeniable failing of journalism.
When I was a little boy, CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS seemed to be the standard bearer of news. I had the impression that news was largely vetted and generally accepted as true. Whether you were a democrat or a republican there was an agreed upon set of facts that most reasonable people didn’t dispute. After serving some time in the the army I became interested in politics again. The election of George W Bush fascinated me to no end and around that time I started watching FOX news and shows like the O’Reilly Factor. I also started listening to right wing radio and from that I quickly began to understand concept of bias in reporting. I Figured out which programs had a conservative bend and which ones were more liberal leaning.
In 2008,with the election of Barack Obama my ideas of political leanings and biases were completely blown away. A candidate that I admired and wanted to emulate was called the most vile and disgusting things I’ve ever heard a president called. The fact that these things were said about Obama wasn’t the issue. The issue was the fact that the “news” media gave credence to the most ridiculous of these claims. President Obama is an American citizen and yet news outlets treated claims of him not being so as credible. When Governor Palin suggested that Obamacare included “death panels” the news treated that as a legitimate concern. When it was suggested that the President was a Muslim, the news treated it as an assertion that should be respected.
There was a time when the news industry was not as profit driven as it is now. It seems now that the truth is a lesser priority than ratings. The need to be sensational and first is more important than being accurate because above all, ratings trumps everything. This has only been exasperated by the simultaneous rise of social media being many people’s primary news source. Everyone with a Facebook or a Twitter account is now effectively a broadcaster. Everyone is now a broadcaster with no journalistic imperative to verify and vet what they published. This state of being is not good for our democracy and I believe that this is unsustainable.
When politicians lie and those lies are allowed to fester and grow then no one benefits. Science, reason and facts should always drive policy, not half truths and misinformation. Science has proven for decades that vaccinations save lives. If our elected officials don’t respect the science of vaccinations and don’t provide for the funding of them then people will die. We are all unsafe. Most scientists believe that human activity causes global warming and that can have dire consequences for humanity. If we continue to not address this problem, because elected officials don’t respect the science of climate change, then we run the risk of doing irreparable harm to our world. Politicians suggesting we ban flights to countries with certain disease outbreaks does not actually prevent those diseases from spreading around the globe and potentially harming Americans.
No one benefits from ignorance and willful stupidity. Ultimately I feel it’s the fault of the citizens for electing individuals like this and not holding them accountable in subsequent elections. An apathetic mindset and a pathological belief that nothing can be done is the best way to make sure nothing ever gets done. Allowing stupid and misinformed people to guide our national dialogue leads us to a place where we get Donald Trump as the President of the United States. A man that puts the word of the Russian President over the word of his own intelligence community. Donald Fucking Trump. Really?
So what do we do? I believe the best route is to take a grass roots approach. I am going to try to share as much truthful information as I can. I am going to try to not be insulting to people that do not agree with me. I am going to vote, encourage others to vote and help people to register for the vote. I am going to promote issues(local and national) that I find important. And finally I am going to perform some sort of community service.
As President Obama said in his final address to the nation “Because for all our outward differences, in fact, share the same proud title, most important office in a democracy:Citizen.” As a citizen the ultimate responsibility for the state of our politics fall on our shoulders. We can no longer expect our elected officials to act in an altruistic manner. We must recognize that their power to govern us comes from our consent. Giving this fact, it is incumbent upon us to take a more active role in shaping the landscape of our politics. We must roll up our sleeves, get in the trenches and engage in those things that are not glamorous or garners the attention of the press. Most importantly we must communicate with and engage with those that we have elected to represent us.
This is my pledge to myself and my fellow citizens. I respectfully ask and challenge others to join me in this.By working together we can all work to make this a more perfect union. As President Obama is found of quoting “ E Pluribus Unum,Out of many one.” If many of us join together and speak and act as one, there is no limit on what we can accomplish.