Blog Post 6

A topic within sociology that always seems especially interesting to me personally is postmodernism. There has certainly been a trend in the film industry and production of television shows. Series and movies questioning the theories of Western philosophy have existed for a while considering classic shows like The Twilight Zone, but within the last decade I have noticed another wave that pushes postmodernist theories cinematically. One of my favorite shows is the Netflix series Black Mirror. The show has four seasons, with a fifth releasing at the end of December, and each episode has a different plot and cast as well. Science-fiction, dystopian, and utopian stories are all graced with an element of satirical comic relief that makes these episodes all too relatable and plausible for the future of society. For this blog post, I’d like to walk through one of my favorite episodes with a sociological lens.  

*Spoiler Alert* 

One episode from season three is titled Men Against Fire. The protagonist is followed through a military based setting, and his first couple of days post training are depicted. He, as well as every other soldier, are implanted with an implant that is supposed to enhance their performance. As he enters the battlegrounds with his crew, a few members of the group pump themselves up for what is about to take place. Their targets are what they call “roaches.” Notorious for being ruthless, sickly mutations of former humans, roaches deserve no mercy, and killing even one on the first day is highly honorable amongst the crew members. Roaches live in abandoned homes, which is where the military group heads to in order to take out their enemies. Throughout this initial battle, the main character experiences his first interaction with the roaches and at first is reluctant to kill them as he’s been vigorously trained to do. Eventually shots fire, and one of the roaches holds up a contraption which starts to have effects on the soldier over the next few days. The end of that combat ended in the soldier brutally stabbing a roach to death. He smells no blood, barely hears any screaming, and is operating as one with technology.  As the story progresses and combat continues, he begins to feel “out of it” and starts seeing things differently. At first, he seeks the help of medical on the base, but after a quick evaluation they send him back with the rest of the soldiers. The next instance of combat is when things change. The main character no longer sees the unsightly roaches that he saw the first time, but instead he sees regular people fearing for their lives. He begins talking with a woman who explains how the government outcasted her ethnic group until eventually, all of society saw them as these “roaches.” The military was using an implant that affected the soldier’s vision, smell, hearing, and overall mental capacity. The soldiers were literal killing machines. After this the main character begins fighting for the people that his team is assonating. 

This episode spoke volumes to me, because it first addresses the postmodern aspect of technology and ethical conversation of what is too much when paired with human skill. The overall message made a huge impact on me, because it reminded me of the way stigmas are attached to certain races which can result in seeing people as subhuman. Language is so powerful, and using discriminatory language respectively has a larger impact on us that most realize. Black Mirror allows me to put lessons like these into perspective and wonder about what the future holds for a society that is right at the cusp of making some of these episodes a reality. Cultural production is largely affected by different forms of media, so I think it is important for shows like this one to continually be available to the public.   

My senior seminar group project allowed us to study every day individuals who considered themselves to be wiccans, or study alternative faith practices. In the beginning of our course, I along with the other members of my group thought that we might find young, Caucasian, women as a majority of our respondents who were willing to talk about their alternate faith. At first, I thought that this might have been because my friend who I wrote a separate blog post in reference to this topic fits this description, but throughout preliminary research it revealed itself to be a common expectation for us all. The photo above is the demographic chart from our final presentation of this research. Evidently, we were able to talk with a variety of people, and the diversity was admittedly unexpected. Aside from being raised Christian as a child, our sample pool didn’t generate any other demographic trends at a high level.  

When deciding which direction to take our literature-based research, I initially wanted to focus on Fascism. Many neo-pagan spiritualties and communities are based in Fascism, and this can be seen all throughout history. A lot of white supremacy and surrounding ideologies manifest in neo-pagan spaces, but this simply is not what we found in our interviews. Some respondents were specifically asked if they recognized the cultural practices of other ethnicities, and most if not all, said that they did not practice any spiritual rituals that they could not authenticate themselves. Now it did seem as though some practitioners were aware of the issue but found a way to talk around the topic all together, but most did acknowledge that they have seen the spaces and actively tried to refrain from becoming a part of those communities.  

Our entire project allowed us to see how nuanced spiritualty and the individuals who practice neo-paganism truly are. We realized that our respondents were not interested in alternative faith rooted in fascism, but rather to practice something that they felt answered all their questions unlike Christianity. Growing up, the adults in their lives would punish them or give answers that didn’t make sense when they asked about certain things pertaining to their Abrahamic religion. Wiccans have comfort in understanding nature as a source from which they regain spiritual power and feel whole within themselves. In fact, the physical element of the practice mostly dealt with nature. Being able to see various phases of the moon, see the seasons change, and understand the physical meaning of those phases allowed individuals, regardless or background or age, to have proof in what they were believing and practicing every day.  

Blog Post – SOCY 402

 

Reflecting on the people that I have met over my college experience I see a lot of similarities in the roommates that I had my first year at VCU, and the ones that I have now over three years later. The similarities lie in the fact that my roommates have an understanding of their culture and are aware of their ethnic background. I feel like simply knowing where you come from can be a cultural motivation, and this sense of appreciation is evident when my roommates both former and prior talk about their heritage. Becoming a student at VCU instantly diversified my friend group, and unlike the usual roommate pairing I was lucky enough to be given two roommates during my freshman year. One could imagine I was extremely thrilled (quite the contrary) when given the news that I would have to share my living space with not only one but two new ladies in my life. After time that initial feeling of annoyance wore off, because I realized I was given the opportunity to learn about two new cultures. Their ethnic backgrounds were Jamaican and Irish. Unfortunately, being African American has led me to have little information about my ethnic background as my roommates had, but the three of us still had dozens of personal stories to share from our cultural points of view.   

While I did enjoy my first two years at college, personally I have recognized more and more that the counter-culture of college is what actually makes the most sense to me, especially in the financial aspect. It is a blessing to be given the opportunity to attend college, especially given the history of blacks and education in this country, but the institutionalization of it all becomes draining when you have to work and juggle school at the same time. Essentially, I decided to go to college more so to live in a different city than the one I grew up in and have new experiences. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I may have considered other options but then I wouldn’t be where I am today. As we know the pressure to be successful is everything in nearly almost all cultures. As my original two roommates and I have grown and matured we realize that our decisions may not have been as innately determined as we thought, and as I move into the workforce post-graduation, I will aim to keep the sources of my cultural production authentic. Currently, my roommates are of Caribbean and African decent and we often talk about the differences in expectations from our parents. The expectations that they feel from their family are stronger and larger than what I’ve felt from my family, and they often feel suffocated by the conversations surrounding their current and future achievements. Looking from the outside in it can be easy to become envious of others culture as someone with little information on their own, but I do believe that the space that my parents give me to figure out what works best will ultimately lead me to self-discovery and success.  

 

 

Blog Post -SOCY 402

Spoilers Alert! This past weekend I went to see “Widows” directed by the critically acclaimed Steve McQueen. The general plot consisted of the widows of high caliber criminals organizing their own crime in order to repay the debts left behind by their husbands, as well as regain the financial stability they once lived with as their wives. Many themes can be derived from the plot of this movie, but I would like to specifically focus on the concept of meritocracy in order to analyze the film. As we have learned in our course, meritocracy refers to the idea of everyone in society having the chance to succeed on their own merits regardless of background. While the three widows of the plot have a higher likelihood of succeeding given their prior affiliations, the community that they live in does not have the same chances of succeeding in society. A sub plot of the film is about the race for governor between a lower level, locally renown drug pin. He is competing against a governor who fits the role more typically and has the family legacy as his dad was the former governor of the ward. Throughout the film, each party is lobbying different communities within the ward such as the church community, and it quickly becomes evident that the idea of meritocracy is being pitched in order to make each candidate more appealing to the public in question.  

The governor who is following in his father’s footsteps wanted to seem as if he was giving opportunities to lower income members, and in one of his campaign speeches he invited several African American women to the stage. He boasted about the opportunities that he gave these women to start their own businesses which created more money within the community. This pitch during his campaign seems a little off tune, but also it appeals to people who wanted to see change before they elect anyone as the governor of their ward. The film later reveals the reality of the situation. The women who this governor brought onto stage were given the chance to start their own business, but of course it came at a price. The loans that these women accepted acquired large debts that they were often threatened about by the governor’s security. Debts that even with a successful business would be difficult for anyone to pay off fully. At the end of the day, the governor knew that these members of the community did not have the willpower to fight back if they were being harassed about their debts. To him, it most likely seemed like a low risk factor that would hopefully win over some votes and propel him to a victorious finish. Ending nepotism in business and government would of course be ideal, but it was evident that this governor in particular had the power of his father’s former political endeavors. I think that this movie represented some of the ways that communities can be taken advantage of in lieu of being presented with favorable circumstances.  

Week 15 – Brooke Washington

Chapter 10:

 

Chapter 10 provides an overview of the circumstances African American families live with in the United States. As a result of the outcomes of slavery, government effort and initiatives, policy reform, socialization, education systems and many more African Americans are marginalized at higher rates than their counterparts of other races in America. These terms and situations can be understood as attributes of systemic racism. The prison system, education, and discrimination within the hiring process are more than enough to set blacks back economically, but unfortunately the chapter reminds us of many more variables within the state of our country. What can be done now is to better educate other races on the state of the situation. Even though many privileged people understand the issue their everyday lives are not affected in the same way so it’s much harder to initiate change by the people who are in positions of power. This is what it takes to help marginalized people escape their tribulations on a systemic level. An example of this working in the media recently is when white actresses refuse to be a part of films unless their black costars receive the pay that they deserve.

 

Exam Prep: 

1.The New Jim Crow refers to the “get-tough” sentencing policies, war on drugs, and concepts involving mass         incarceration in America. True/False?

-True

2. What percentage of black immigrants arrived in the U.S. in 2000 or later?

a. 31%

b. 24%

c.45%

d. 67%

-C.

3.  When deciding on bond amounts ICE does not have full discretion to set the amount based on facts such as a                    person’s fight risk, community ties, and criminal history. True/False

-False

4. Which character is used as an approachable model for understanding the social construction of gender, based on              the input of thousands of voices over several decades?

a. The Easter Bunny

b.The Orientation Orangutan

c.The Spectrum Snake

d.The Genderbread Person

-D.

5. Black women disproportionately experience violence at home, at school, on the job, and in their neighborhoods.             True/False?

-True

 

Course Evaluation:

  1. I like the awareness that this course brings to people who may not understand all the areas that systemic racism lives. Media has turned off many people from addressing social issues where it does not affect them, so this course is a good way to educationally inform without the bias of popular media.
  2. I honestly believe that the course is formatted well as an online course.
  3. Each week I enjoyed reading the articles for the blog posts, but it could feel redundant at times when writing about these topics and some of the themes overlap.
  4.  I wish I could have learned more about black individuals in politics and areas of government.
  5. I really enjoyed the supplemental materials on RamPages. Text books can be out of touch sometimes, so having the materials to base writings off helps a lot.
  6. Learning about black immigrants felt the most important to me personally, because the topic is so nuanced it can be easy to generalize even as an African American who is not from an immigrated family. I will especially remember the viewpoints and stories of the black people who shared their stories about being a part of the LGBTQ community, and the experiences of black women and mothers.
  7. Thank you so much for allowing students of all backgrounds the opportunity to become educated about marginalization. I think that an online course similar to this one should be offered for various families of ethnic backgrounds since VCU is so diverse.