Tags: crime/law/deviance, government/the state, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, violence, war/military, militarization of police, racial profiling, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: In honor of the first week(s) of class and in response to the tragedy in Ferguson, MO, I began class by discussing "common-sense" explanations for social phenomena (naturalistic or individualistic explanations) versus sociological ones. I typically frame this activity around sociological questions such as: "Why are people poor?" or "Why do more women stay at home with children?" or "Why are people overweight?" I then present individualistic or naturalistic explanations that might be used to explain these phenomena. For instance, in the "why are people poor?" scenario, an individualistic explanation might argue that people are poor because they are are lazy, dumb, or have no skills. A sociological perspective might interrogate structures of opportunity such as education and wealth that can be used for a down payment and to help someone save money. After a couple of these scenarios, I asked students to explore the Michael Brown shooting in terms of these two approaches in order to develop their sociological imaginations. After the discussion, as a class we watched this John Oliver clip that highlights many of the systemic problems in Ferguson, MO specifically, and the U.S. generally, in order to understand the importance of context and historical forces. The clip includes discussions of the prison industrial complex, the militarization of the police force, legacies of housing discrimination, racial profiling, and much more. [Note: This post originally appeared on My Sociological Activation.]
Submitted By: Michelle Smirnova
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