Racism, Police Brutality in Brazil

Racism, Police Brutality in Brazil

Sociology student Katherine Jensen talks about her research on the race relations underlying the Brazil protests in 2013, ahead of the World Cup. The catalyst for the protests was the increase in public transport fees at a time when the government was spending “an obscene amount of money” on the Olympics. Using the concept of “moral shock,” she finds that the media only paid attention to police brutality during the protests when White women were involved. In some cases, the media even focused on women who had been spectators to police violence and had not been direct victims. At the same time, the predominantly Black, poor people who were being violently removed from the favellas (poor housing areas) in brutal ways were largely ignored.

Instead, the media constructed Black people’s protest as deviant and disruptive, even though they were essentially protesting the same issues as White Brazilians: Government corruption, public spending and lack of social welfare and basic services.

Listen to Jensen discuss her research: http://buff.ly/16upe1c Read the study (paywall): http://buff.ly/1sHGD0h Image: http://buff.ly/16upe1d #sociology #latinos #brazil

“I Have as Much Right to be Here”: Women of Colour in Space

A Black child in an astronaut Halloween costume holds a sign that read 'I have as much to read here.' At the bottom is the title of this post: Women of colour in space

I wrote this post below for STEM Women on G+ about the MAKERS documentary focused on women in the American space program. I wanted to add some notes about two women of colour featured in the program.

Latina Engineer Marleen Martinez wanted to be an astronaut from the age of five. She writes the scripts and procedures to test the Orion spacecraft. She is the daughter of migrant farmers and says she overcame a lack of role models to reach her goal:

“I do remember that engineer wasn’t really a girls’ field. There was other things you could do. When people found out I was becoming an engineer, a lot of people were taken aback. Especially being a Hispanic female, it’s not something that you really run into very often, it’s actually very rare.”

Physician and peace-corps worker, Dr Mae Jameson was also featured. She is celebrated as the first Black woman in space, a title she says frustrates her:

“I was really irritated that I was the first African-American woman in space, or the first woman of colour in space in the world. I was irritated because there should have been many more before me…  One of these things that people talk about nowadays is the overview effect [astronaut’s overwhelming experience of seeing the Earth from orbit, as a ‘pale blue dot’ without national boundaries]. But that wasn’t the part that struck me. The perspective that stuck with me is that I am as much a part of this universe as any speck of stardust. I have as much right to be here. It connected me with this greater universe. That perspective of belonging was what was important to me. “

Continue reading “I Have as Much Right to be Here”: Women of Colour in Space

STEM Women in Space Engineering: Candy Torres

I’m super excited to be talking with fellow Latina and STEM woman Candy Torres! I’m co-hosting this with Buddhini Samarasinghe. Join us at STEM Women to learn more about Candy’s career and her advocacy for Latina youth in engineering and the space program!

What are you doing to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing? Spend it with us and a veteran woman engineer of the space program! On Sunday, at 2.30pm Pacific, we’ll be talking with Candy Torres, a Puerto Rican engineer who went from being one of only 10 women in her astrophysics classes at Rutgers University, to getting a job at Princeton University to work on the Copernicus OAO-3C Satellite and later, as a software programmer for NASA.

Candy was a STEM trailblazer from an early age. She had a firm dream to join the space program, but she encountered much push-back from her family and friends in the Bronx, where she was born. Latina women were simply not meant to have a career in STEM, or so she was told, let alone dream of contributing to the space race.

At age 14, Candy joined the Civil Air Patrol and she was flying a plane before she could drive. She encountered sexism early on, however, when she learned that girl cadets were not allowed to participate in some training sessions. She tells CNN: “We were supposed to go find a businessman who was lost in the woods, but the girls were not allowed.” 

This attitude continued. At university in the 1970s, her classmates were less than welcoming of women. She tells CNN: “They were definitely not happy about having women in the class… I didn’t have any kind of support system. I didn’t get to know any of the other women, and the guys basically ignored me.”

Overcoming exclusion based on her gender and ethnicity, Candy would go on to use her computer programming skills to organise files for NASA. She later went on to work at Johnson Space Center on software for the Space Shuttle as well as the International Space Station. She worked on various other space programs over the years, such as human factors.

Candy has been featured in various high-profile publications like The Atlantic, where she noted: “People don’t realize how many thousands of us worked on these programs… I loved being part of something big, and I knew that I had worked hard to be there.” 

Candy has continued her work in recent years by educating the public on space history, and supporting the inclusion of minority women in space programs. She is passionate about encouraging Latino youth to pursue engineering and science. She tells Latino USA: “When you’re first starting out you really have to know what you want and it’s not necessarily other people that are going to keep you from doing what you’re going to do, it’s yourself.” And to Latina and other minority women, Candy’s message is about being passionate, curious and tenacious. “You can do it, it’s exciting, its fun, it’s understanding the universe and it’s being connected to the universe and making the world a better place.”

Join us as we chat to Candy about her amazing journey through various space programs, and hear her advice for young girls and women who want to follow in her footsteps.

A write up of the video is on the STEM Women website.

Honouring Evelyn Boyd Granville

On STEM Women, we’ve been writing about women in STEM to celebrate International Women’s Day. Below is what I wrote, and what a joy it was to reflect on the life and work of Evelyn Boyd Granville. She was only the second Black American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics. We didn’t include this in the original post below, but I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. 

Granville was raised in a single parent home by Julia Boyd, her poor working mother who wholeheartedly supported her daughter’s education. This was a very brave move given that in the 1940s, there were few educational or work opportunities for women in science, let alone for minority women. Granville recalls:

I saw black women – attractive, well dressed women – teaching school, and I wanted to be a teacher because that’s all I saw. I was not aware of any other profession… I did not receive a scholarship the first year at (Smith College), and I was told later that they didn’t see how in the world a poor child as I could afford to go there. 

Granville faced much discrimination along the way, not just in finding work despite her obvious brilliance, but in other ways that should have impeded her progress. For example, she was not able to find accommodation in New York when she moved there to undertake her postdoctoral work. 

Keep reading to learn more about this phenomenal woman! Continue reading Honouring Evelyn Boyd Granville

Pisac, Peru

Portrait of Peruvian man playing a siku (panpipe), Pisac market by discovercorps on Flickr.

Pisac is a Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley on the Urubamba River. The village is well-known for its market every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, an event which attracts heavy tourist traffic from nearby Cusco. One of its more notable features is a large pisonay tree which dominates the central plaza. The sanctuary of Huanca, home to a sacred shrine, is also near the village. Pilgrims travel to the shrine every September. The area is perhaps best known for its Incan ruins, known as Inca Písac, which lie atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. The ruins are separated along the ridge into four groups: Pisaqa, Intihuatana, Q’allaqasa, and Kinchiracay. Intihuatana includes a number of bathes and temples. The Temple of the Sun, a volcanic outcrop carved into a “hitching post” for the Sun (or Inti), is the focus, and the angles of its base suggest that it served some astronomical function. Q’allaqasa, which is built onto a natural spur and overlooks the valley, is known as the citadel.

Information via the photographer on Flickr.

Sociology of Community

In sociology, we define community as a group who follow a social structure within a society (culture, norms, values, status). They may work together to organise social life within a particular place, or they may be bound by a sense of belonging sustained across time and space.

We start students thinking about community using the work of Ferdinand Toennies. He used the concept of gemienschaft to study the close social ties in rural and pre-industrial societies, where everyone knows one another and bonds overlap. For example your local grocerer is also your neighbour, you socialise together and you may be their children’s teacher. Gesellschaft is the opposite. Toennies used this to describe urban, post-industrial communities where people don’t necessarily know their neighbours and locals have specialised roles. You may not know your grocerer by name or associate outside their shop.

Toennies sees the former as an ideal community and the latter as a problem.

Durkheim and other sociologists have argued against the idealism of this typology as close-knit communities are more likely to adhere to traditions that demand strict obedience and reinforce individual oppression. Debates about community continue to this day, affecting the work of applied sociologists who address disadvantage. Some communities are held up as an ideal and so resources are allocated to groups who appear to conform to policy definitions of a “good community.” Other communities are stigmatised so programs either neglect their needs or focus on their deficiencies rather than their strenghts.

Have a think about how definitions of community might affect applied sciology. For example, I took this photo over the weekend at the Hispanic Street Festival in Melbourne Australia. This event is one of the ways that multiculturalism officially recognises and supports minority communities: by sponsoring community shows revolving around food and music. Social welfare, political recognition and other community issues of difference gain less social attention and funding.

Albinos in Brazil

Albinos in Brazil is a project highlighting the racism that people face. Photographer Gustavo Lacerda discusses how standards of beauty are narrow. This leads to misconceptions about this condition of skin pigmentation, and a feeling of alienation among albinos:

My intention was to highlight a type of beauty which is completely out of normal beauty standard… For these people it is completely new to be at the centre of attention. They’re not used to it.

In many countries, Albinos face persecution because of their light skin and fair hair. They are often seen as being different – outcasts from society – and are often not regarded as beautiful.

Many of these people often feel marginalised, rejected. They feel different from what [society offers] as a standard of normality… It’s much easier to accept what is similar or identical to what you know. The reality is, generally people are ill-equipped to deal with diversity.

Lacerda says he witnessed two emotions in the eyes of the people he photographed: “uneasiness and a pride to be here.”

Youth Protest During the Election in Chile

On the 17th of November, Chile voted in the national election. Michelle Bachelet has won twice as many votes as her major opponent (47% of votes) but this may not be enough for a win.

Al Jazeera English explore the importance of student activist movement on the election. Students protested for free education and improvement of services. Bachelet was popular amongst low income and among younger voters, but not everyone was convinced that social change can happen.