Posts Tagged ‘Discrimination’

A few days ago, L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was revealed to have said some racist things. Although his fate as owner of an NBA team has not yet been determined, his ability to interact with those on his team and attend NBA games has been; he has been banned for life.

There are a number of interesting sociological questions related to this situation. One concerns the relationship between private statements and personal property. Another is related to types of discrimination and why statements that gain public attention can have more severe consequences than years of discriminatory practices. Although NBA players are paid very well, we can also use this situation to examine relationships between owners and players. Finally, Doug Hartmann at The Society Pages has a nice exploration of the situation’s impact on our understanding of racism in America.

Included in Hartmann’s post is a message from Max Fitzpatrick of Central New Mexico Community College (Edit: Fitzpatrick’s message is now its own post). Fitzpatrick writes:

Instead of merely being what Marx sarcastically called “critical critics”—those who attempt social redress through words alone—we should take these opportunities to bring attention to—and to change—the poor social conditions and institutional discrimination disproportionately faced by people of color. Attacking the material foundations of the problem will be more effective than simply laughing at the wrinkled old symptoms of the problem.

In some ways, the Sterling situation seems to support Fabio’s claim that, while we are not “post-racial,” we may be “post-racist.” Although racism is still prevalent, its public expression has been severely limited. As Fitzpatrick and Hartmann note, however, this may actually serve to make racism and discrimination more dangerous, since they continue to have serious negative effects even when society claims that they don’t.

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One of the things that struck me about this year’s ASA conference was the bizarre attempt to demonstrate how progressive sociologists are by designating some of the restrooms in the Marriott as unisex.  On the surface, this seems like a case of sociologists walking the walk, and a friend of mine even remarked how cool this was when he saw them for the first time, but the execution of this idea was severely lacking.  The main problem was that the restrooms designated as unisex were the women’s restrooms.  On some level this makes sense because the Marriott restrooms featured fully enclosed rooms with toilets rather than the partial walls of a typical bathroom stall.  The men’s rooms, however, featured urinals (as men’s rooms typically do), which would have opened up anybody using them to exposure to the opposite sex.  I assume this is the reason that only women’s rooms were designated as unisex, but by doing this the ASA created a situation in which men could use the men’s restrooms, check themselves out in the mirror, etc. without the potential for this backstage behavior to be seen by women, but women who wanted to use a restroom in the same area could not.  Despite his initial excitement, my friend later admitted that he had not used the unisex restrooms, opting for the nearby men’s rooms instead.  Whether or not many men used the unisex restrooms, the ASA denied women some measure of privacy that it did not deny men.  I guess this is another example of the ASA’s good work.

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