Week 5 Blog Post


The themes of many of my quotes relate to the idea that racism is something that is learned and not innately within us as humans. Throughout different spaces in society it can seem like certain beliefs we hold as individuals have always been within us. In reality, many of the negative behaviors we see on a daily basis are learned, and can therefore become unlearned with some effort and reflection. Many black and brown people are demonized and hyper-sexualized before they reach adult hood, and in order for a change to occur it begins with first acknowledging these ideas rather than holding them as concrete.

As someone who has been discriminated against I put a lot of effort towards being sure that I do not do the same to others who are different than me. Lots of times communities who are discriminated against by the out-group commit these same discriminatory practices within their in-group. For example colorism and classism are often done to minorities by minorities, and it is important to acknowledge and address this behavior as well as the types of racism that are the most visible in our society. Quotes help package some of these concepts in a form that is short and simple, which really allows us as members of society the opportunity to digest our reality further.

Photo Blog – Week 1

Above is a photo of a street near the neighborhood that I moved into a little over a month ago here in Richmond. As you can see, to the right of the picture is a home that looks very old and run down. There is a “for rent” sign in the window, and the overall state of the home is not aesthetically pleasing. To the left of the photo there is much newer construction. The home looks recently built and it does not look deserted like the house on the right does. This photo reflects the represented neighborhoods that each home represents. On either side of each house there are more homes that look exactly like the ones in the photo, and the fact that you could literally draw a line in between these neighborhoods is very telling.  

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva theorized his studies on color-blind racism, and to someone who views society through a color-blind lens this photo would most likely seem like a constructional coincidence. Discussing why our country’s neighborhoods are so segregated is essential to understanding the motives behind redlining and gentrification. Someone who sees society through a color-blind lens might argue that this photo has nothing to do with race, but the truth is that the house on the right is practically a starting point for a severe food dessert in a part of Richmond where African Americans make up much of the population and this is no coincidence.  

Being an African-American woman with two roommates who are black as well made for an interesting situation when we moved into one of the apartments that resemble the home on the left. Now, there have been no explicit forms of racism since we have moved in and we love our new place, but rather we experienced subtle tones of the “new racism” that Bonilla-Silva discusses in his work. Firstly, our landlord indirectly told us that we were his least desired group of tenants when we were working towards moving into the neighborhood. Though that could be for other reasons, there really wasn’t any need for him to explain concern since other college students live in the area and we were approved just like the other groups of tenants. Secondly, within a couple weeks of moving in I received some rather crass notes on my car with messages from neighbors about how they didn’t approve of where we were parking, even though it is free public parking and no other cars regularly parked there.  

It is always interesting to see how even in an area as diverse as Richmond racism persists on various levels. Perhaps the explanation for the behavior mentioned is due to the concept of “naturalization.” Naturalization is one of the four frames of the color-blind theory and it is used to validate racialized phenomena as natural occurrences. Basically, the frame has been used by whites to say that people “gravitate towards likeness” and prefer to be around people that they racially relate to. In chapter two of Racism Without Racists it explains how naturalization attributes these preferences to biologically driven reasoning, which is harmful to people of color who in return can be discriminated against under the frame.  

Week 4 – Brooke Washington

Though every statistic from this week’s quote under investigation is based in truth, to someone who is not educated on the political and economic factors that yielded these results they can be very damaging and promote the idea that there is a hereditary inadequacy in African American families. The Race, Gender, and Class Paradigm is one of the best theoretical approaches when studying black families, because it encompasses many of the factors that contribute to the stats from this week’s quote. “Why Marriage Isn’t for Black Women” by Drayton is the personal account of a young, single black mother who fits into many of the suggesting framings of the quote even though she beat the odds in finding a partner that she loves. Unfortunately, in a world where black is seen as subpar by other races there still exists a hierarchy even within the black community based on race, class, and gender. The author explains the situation of one of her girlfriends where her husband cheated on her and conceived a child with another woman. The husband explained how he found the child conceived out of wed-lock to be more desirable, because it would be mixed. As we have discussed, the concept of race is a social construct. This fact proves to be true when it comes to individual’s ideas on what they find best for their future kids. That being said it is not rare for black men to find relations with black women undesirable, and vice versa, because they do not want a child who is perceived to be fully black regardless of their race. This can be seen as a product of white supremacy, and the Critical Race theory explains how racism and colorism are pervasive in the dominant culture.  

The class portion of the paradigm is evident in the way that the system works to marginalize the poor and especially lower-class people of color. Drayton describes her financial situation and compares her financial burden when she is single and if she got married. In every situation, marrying her partner who she loves would increase their debts by hundreds or thousands of dollars. The government institutions of healthcare and employment rates are designed in favor of whites, and the effects that this has on blacks is extremely damaging to the dynamic that would be most ideal in a perfect world. Being a single mother is trait that society frowns upon, yet when you look at the facts it is much more practical to remain unmarried because of the intersectional disadvantage’s blacks face in every aspect of their lives.  

The author of the article mentioned how her partner stated that all his male peers were “either dead or locked up” and the significance of that statement is evident in the amount of black men who are incarcerated or who have early deaths as a part of the violence crisis. Paired with race and class, being a man who is already on the unfavored side of the first two paradigms result in a much harsher reality when it comes to living in a racist society. Mix the three together and the results are even more crucial than when they do not exist together. The worst part of this article is that she overcame many of the obstacles that black couples face, and yet her reality was still not in favor of getting married due to economic disadvantages organized historically by those in power.   

Week 2 -Brooke W- Structural Racism

Structural Racism, Defined–  

Institutional and structural racism go hand in hand in my opinion. When the higher political powers of society control the economic structures of a group of people, they are able to impose a specific set of beliefs that are either explicit or implicit in the effects that they have on marginalized people. It is evident in the treatment of people of color within schools, hospitals, jails, and the overall management of institutions that certain groups of people were meant to be excluded or treated differently than those in power who set up these conditions. For example, redlining and denying black people housing loans creates geographical structures that are motivated by race and have consequences for people of color and the poor.  


Two Quotes 

“Even though African American families had a larger percentage increase in net worth than white families between 2013 and 2016, the average wealth gap grew because white families’ wealth in 2013 was so much greater than African Americans’ wealth. Average wealth increased about 35 percent for African Americans in that time frame, compared with 28 percent for white families.”   


This quote does a great job of putting structural racism into perspective, because even though African Americans have increased their wealth at higher rates than other races the structure of economics still proves that the wealth gap exists in favor of whites.  

“Systemic racism persists in our schools, offices, court system, police departments, and elsewhere. Why? Think about it: when white people occupy most positions of decision-making power, people of color have a difficult time getting a fair shake, let alone getting ahead.” 


Ben & Jerry’s did an exceptional job of explaining why structural racism persists, and I like this quote because they are simply an ice cream company, yet they are informing the general public on issues within society. Wealth, employment, criminal justice, healthcare, and surveillance are only some of the topics with which they proved structural racism to be true.  


Three Facts 

1) Healthcare 

  • A 2012 study found that a majority of doctors have “unconscious racial biases” when it comes to their black patients. Black Americans are far more likely than whites to lack access to emergency medical care.  
  • Even black doctors face discrimination: they are less likely than their similarly credentialed white peers to receive government grants for research projects. 
  • Facing a lifetime of racism leaves African Americans vulnerable to developing stress-related health issues that can lead to chronic issues later in life. 
  • Several medical journals have just published guidelines for doctors with titles like “Dealing with Racist Patients” and “The Discriminatory Patient and Family: Strategies to Address Discrimination Towards Trainees.” 


  • The black unemployment rate has been consistently twice that of whites over the past 60 years, no matter what has been going on with the economy (whether it’s been up or down).
  • Blacks with college degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed as all other graduates.
  • Job applicants with white-sounding names get called back about 50% more of the time than applicants with black-sounding names, even when they have identical resumes.
  • Since 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] has received over 45,000 complaints that are directly related to racial discrimination.


  • Blacks make up 13% of the population, yet they represent about 40% of the prison population.
  • If a black person and a white person each commit a crime, the black person has a better chance of being arrested.
  • Laws assigned much harsher sentences for using or possessing crack, for example, compared to cocaine.
  • Finally, when black people are convicted, they are about 20% more likely to be sentenced to jail time, and typically see sentences 20% longer than those for whites who were convicted of similar crimes.


This is What Structural Racism Feels Like 


I am choosing to expand on this portion of structural racism, because it effects so many aspects of the black family dynamic. Not only does it impact the entire family and leave the children with less of a support system, but it also has a great impact on dating for African American women. This fact disturbs the culture of African American’s in the United States greatly, as we have the highest incarceration rate of all developed nations.  

Women suffer greatly when men are incarcerated, and the stress that this has on black communities is evident in the behavior of some members. I selected this topic, because the treatment of black inmates inside jails in especially detrimental to their health and has effects on their personal lives even if they are released from the prison system. Though the public has been made aware of this issue, the laws and legislation of the thirteenth amendment that were reinforced and protected throughout the War on Drugs is and can affect the black community for generations in a similar manner to slavery.  


SOCY 305- Week 3- Brooke W

Part 1: 

When defining family, Hattery and Smith offer a variety of definitions that encompass a broad range of family structures, offering a specific definition with which a broad range of people can claim. My personal association with the word family most closely relates to the fifth definition: “Family is a set of people whom you love.” Though this seems excessively general at first thought, I relate to this the most because my family are the only people who I can love in a certain unconditional way. For example, there is nothing my family has said or done that caused me to voluntarily lose contact with them for a long period of time out of spite. Regardless of intense arguments or hard times, I am always interested in having a relationship with them. Of course, I do love the close friends that I have in my life, but I would be inclined to cut ties with those relationships much quicker than family if I felt as if they were becoming increasingly negative or unhealthy. Therefore, I believe that I only love my family in this unconditional respect.  

“Family is a set of people with whom you share social, physical, and/or financial support” is a definition that I realized I don’t like, because I feel like this can apply to any close friend or partner regardless of how much you love them. The version of family that I related to the least is “people with whom you live with”, because many people that I associate with including myself do not live with the people they would consider to be their family. Even within some homes of biological family members I believe that an individual may not consider them to be family solely for that reason if someone else has supported and loved them more throughout their life.  


Part 2: 

Race has been a social construct long throughout history as we look at hierarchies throughout Europe, and colonization of cultures all around the world. Vox’s 11 Ways that Race Isn’t Real first mentions that “Americans embraced the idea of race to make slavery okay.” I believe that this is true for many countries, because slaves were mostly chosen based on societies definition of an inferior race, or by levels of wealth. Race has no biological basis, because it is defined by stereotypical characteristics attributed to our idea of a specific group of people. In reality, the people who are biologically tied to a race have physical characteristics that vary from those stereotypical attributes. An example of race being socially constructed is seen when we look at Europeans pre-Industrial Revolution compared to after. Before thousands of European immigrants came to America there was a hierarchy based on different ethnicities, and certain nationalities within Europe were socially seen as superior to others. Once immigrants from nations all over Europe came to this country for the Revolution, they primarily identified as white and people of color then became inferior with the rise of slavery. Another example is when people ask me “what are you?” Throughout my entire life I have been asked what specific country I am from, because some members of society do not understand how someone with a deep skin tone can have non-stereotypical African- American facial features. When I say I am black, I am often met with looks of confusion or lack of satisfaction in my answer, which shows that there was an expectation of certain characteristics. Clearly race is a social construct, because there is much confusion when someone does not look like the most socially prevalent members of their race.

 This photo explains how race causes some of the largest consequences in our world, but the phenomena is not concrete by any scientific means.  


Here is a photo of set of twins born in the UK who, despite their physical appearance, share replicas of the same DNA. This is an example of how science is not able to explain why certain people are born with specific features. Du to the differences in their looks, one is often viewed as white and the other as black.


Part 3: 

The three theoretical frameworks are the strength approach, sociology pathology approach, and the race, class, and gender paradigm approach. The strength approach focuses on the resilience of black families at different stages. Robert Hill is the theorist who describes how “blacks constitute adaptations necessary for survival and advancement in a hostile environment.” Strong kinship bonds, strong work orientation, and the adaptability of family roles are all elements of the strength approach.  

Durkheim is a prominent social pathology theorist, and this approach is attributed to the black family due to the nature of African American history and the sociological effects that are left as a result. Essentially, this theory describes how social factors such as higher incarceration rates, discrimination, old age, and poverty lead to social disorganization within a community. Many elements of this disorganization are inherited and subconscious, which make it especially difficult to overcome these faults as a group. 

Lastly, the intersectionality of race, class, and gender form a paradigm that describes how each factor affects spaces in society and result in different yet related inequalities. This theory originated in the last quarter of the twentieth century, and as cultures attempted to assimilate to the highest structures they are often met with various short comings in relation to race, class, and gender. The framework that I like the most is the strength approach, because it talks about positive attributes within the black community despite all the negative events that have occurred throughout history.  


Part 4:  

A prominent social issue facing black families today is the rate of intimate partner violence amongst black women. Black women are killed at higher rates than any other race in society, and this issue takes more lives than that of HIV/AIDs. The media makes it very evident that it is less of a tragedy in society when black women go missing, especially compared to their white counterparts.  

The race, gender, and class paradigm can very effectively approach this issue, because the value of women is already seen as lower than men socially. A woman of a lower class is seen on an even lesser scale, so when you add the racialized component of what it means to be a black woman it becomes evident why society seems to not even bat an eye at this social issue. Throughout slavery black women were seen as jezebels and inseminated in inhumane ways, and it seems that the disrespect that was born in that era has had longevity throughout history since that time period.  

This same idea can be used by the social pathology theory. Elements of the disorganization in regard to black women and how she was stripped away from her family then bought by men who would abuse and rape her have scarred the group as a whole. Even if an individual has not encountered any of this in her personal life, the rates of violence against black women show how society views her and even within the black community these behaviors have persisted as black women assimilate to being able to join the work force and accumulate wealth for themselves.  

The strength theory can explain the resilience of black women throughout troubling times, and even as these boundaries are placed it seems that black women still find ways to overcome and have been making strides in education as well as the work force.  

Race, class, and gender approach would be the best in described this social issue. It looks at the intersectionality of the problem, and helps discover which attributes cause society to treat individuals worse than others.  


Brooke Washington – Week 1

Part 1: 



Hello all, 

My name’s Brooke and this is my last semester here at VCU. I am a sociology major with a minor in business administration, and I haven’t quite figured out exactly what I want to do with my degree. Grad school has always been a goal, specifically for health care administration, but my main goal for 2019 (a definite year off from school) is to travel to at least three countries I’ve never been to before. I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of person, so I really want to experience new places openly and consider that I may not have discovered my true calling in life yet. I’m confident that traveling in general will help me decide exactly what I want for my future, besides a never-ending vacation of course. I work nearly full time as a waitress in short pump, so I try my best to balance that with school work. This is my third course in relation to African American studies, and I am looking forward to extending my knowledge and understanding of the subject.  


Part 2: 

“A History of U.S. Families with a Focus on African Americans” 

Family Structure: 

According to the article, historians have not confirmed which family structure was dominant amongst slaves. This is not difficult to believe, because slavery placed the production value of a slave over personal factors such as if they lived on plantations with their biological family members. Slaves could be bought, sold, and inherited which ultimately left the placement of a family of Africans up to the slave owners that purchased them. Marriage was not allowed amongst slaves, and women were often forced into intimate situations solely for the reason of producing children or simply because their slave master would call on them. This fact alone caused slaves to have children by people they would not have typically chosen as a part of their family structure.  



Not all whites owned slaves, and fifteen percent owned plantations as this practice was exclusively for the wealthy. Most enslaved people came from western African countries, and ninety percent of African Americans were enslaved during this era. The game of auction was a reenactment of a live slave auction, where wealthy whites would purchase slaves. This “game” was mostly played by enslaved children.  



No type of slave had full control over the bodies, but women certainly bared some of the worst conditions starting from early adolescence. Aside from physically upkeeping the land they worked on, slave women were bred similar to cattle simply because each child served as a free worker for their master. Sally Hemmings was a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson, and their relationship began as early as age fourteen for Sally. It was not confirmed until the end of the twentieth century, but it has been confirmed by DNA that at least one of Hemmings children were conceived with Jefferson. 



Slaves would begin intense labor around the age of thirteen. Minor chores would be completely at ages younger than thirteen such as feeding livestock and caring for younger children. Slave elders would tell stories to younger generations and keep their culture by sharing songs and games that they were familiar with in their home countries. 



Herbert Gutman changed the way we should think about the slave family dynamic and structure. He used historical documents to prove that slaves did their best to keep ties with their family members even when they were sold to different homes. Slaves still had forms of organized structure even when they had been separated from their siblings, parents, and other family members. Davis believed that slavery prevented slaves from having a nuclear structure all together, and she refutes some of Gutman’s claims because slavery did not allow families to stay together. Both scholars agree that it was difficult for families to maintain a structure in general. 


After Slavery: 

Even after slavery ended, most slave owners formed ways for slaves to still be in debt to them, which caused them to work as free labors similar to how they had been when slavery was legal. Most slaves were either born into slavery or living as slaves most of their lives, so they had no other form of stability outside of the plantation with which they could make better lives for themselves. Since a lot of the slaves were in debt, they would be hunted down if they tried to escape their masters, and law enforcement would comply with the owners regardless of slavery’s end. Sharecropping basically  formed a different type  of slavery that was in favor of whites, as slavery had always been.  


The Great Migration and Beyond: 

Industrialization was the main factor that propelled the Great Migration. This era was from 1916 to 1970, six-million African Americans moved from the rural south to other parts of the country. African American women worked domestically in most cases, taking on the house work and caring for children. The date of Plessy versus Ferguson is May 18, 1896, and it established racial segregation laws for public spaces.