Sociologist Bruce Western in the Post Opinion Page

Harvard University Sociology Professor Bruce Western published a great piece in the Post this Sunday:

Just over 100 years ago, there was no separate court for juveniles anywhere in the world. Adolescents were viewed as smaller versions of adults, were prosecuted under the same laws and often sent to the same prisons.

But in 1899, a pioneering group of women — Jane Addams, Lucy Flower and Julia Lathrop — persuaded the state of Illinois to create a separate court to handle juveniles’ cases individually, be more rehabilitative and less punitive and ensure that youthful mistakes wouldn’t haunt youngsters throughout their lives. The family court was a smashing success, spreading to 46 states and 16 countries by 1925 and decidedly reducing recidivism compared with trying children as adults.

But while family court’s founding mothers got a lot right, the setting of 18 as the court’s maximum age was an arbitrary choice based on the mores of the time rather than hard evidence…

Read more here.


DCSS Member’s Post Op-Ed: “How Confederate lore survives”

This morning, the Washington Post printed an op-ed “How Confederate lore survives” by DCSS member James W. Loewen. Loewen is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Vermont and the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader. This morning, he wrote:

With our monuments lying about secession, our textbooks obfuscating what the Confederacy was about and our Army honoring Southern generals, no wonder so many Americans supported the Confederacy until recently. We can see the impact of Confederate symbols and thinking on Dylann Roof, accused of killing nine in a Charleston, S.C., church, but other examples abound. In his mugshot, Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, wore a neo-Confederate T-shirt showing Abraham Lincoln and the words “Sic semper tyrannis.” When white students in Appleton, Wis. — a recovering “sundown town” that for decades had been all white on purpose — had issues with Mexican American students in 1999, they responded by wearing and waving Confederate flags, which they already had at home, at the ready.

Across the country, removing slavery from its central role in prompting the Civil War marginalizes African Americans and makes us all stupid. De-Confederatizing the United States won’t end white supremacy, but it will be a momentous step in that direction.

Read more here.

DCSS in ASA Footnotes

ASA footnotesYou have likely just received your ASA Footnotes. On page 8, you will find “Two ASA Presidents speak at DCSS”: “In a little less than three calendar months, the District of Columbia Sociological Society (DCSS) membership heard research talks from not one, but two ASA presidents.” Yes, what a great opportunity to hear both the ASA Presidents talk about their current research. We had a great time!

AU Sociologist on Riots

Cathy SchneiderToday in the Washington Post, AU sociology professor Cathy Lisa Schneider wrote an excellent “Five Myths about Riots.” She brings sociological evidence to show:

  • Riots are not caused by outside agitators but rather that her research has shown that the main participants in riots are “young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods that have been virtually occupied by police.
  • Police action and repression are not the best way to stop a riot. Police repression prolongs the conflict.
  • Rioters are not defending people who committed crimes. They are “responding to long-simmering issues, not just one particular police act.”
  • Mass incarceration of black men has not led to a decline in riots: “Instead of preventing riots, the punitive turn in criminal justice has multiplied the number of negative encounters between police and minority youth.”
  • Riots do accomplish something for these communities: “Unfortunately, riots are sometimes the only way those living in marginalized neighborhoods are heard…It was only when Ferguson was in flames that the Justice Department investigated and condemned the city’s pattern of civil rights violations.”

Schneider 2014Schneider is the author of many books, including Police Power and Race Riots: Urban Unrest in Paris and New York published last year:

“Cathy Lisa Schneider’s comparative analysis of policing in New York and Paris examines the relationships between the state and urban minorities, and asks under what conditions do fractious relationships turn into riots. Schneider compares police tactics in enforcing racial boundaries, and argues that access to the judicial system and municipal authorities are the key variables in dampening social unrest. The book is an exciting addition to the literature on policing and urban violence, and will find an appreciative audience with those interested in urban studies, sociology, and public policy.”—Eric Schneider, University of Pennsylvania

She has also published Shantytown Protest in Pinochet’s Chile and the articles, among others, “Violence and State Repression: Debating the Arab Spring,” “Police Power and Race Riots in Paris,” “Violence, Identity and Spaces of Contention in Argentina, Chile and Colombia,” “Racism, Drug Policy and AIDS,” and “Framing Puerto Rican Identity.” She is co-editor of Collective Violence, Contentious Politics and Social Change: A Charles Tilly Reader with Ernesto Castaneda and a special issue of the journal NACLA, COPS: Crime Disorder and Authoritarian Policing, with Fred Rosen.

Thank you, Professor Schneider, for your great sociological contribution to the public discussion on riots!