Saturday, December 11, 2010
Rainy Saturday Armchair Sociology: Of Race, Ethnicity, Garbage, and Community Norms
It is yucky, cold, and so blah outside here in Chicago. For those other denizens stuck inside, here is a fun Saturday evening distraction for those so inclined.
This clip from The Howard Stern Show (now re-signed with Sirius for another 5 years) is one of my favorites. His show is consistently one of the few places where honest conversations about race occur on a near daily basis in this country. For example, Stern's Harlem interviews during Barack Obama's presidential campaign remains one of the best demonstrations of the dynamics of mass opinion in the American public that I have ever seen.
The above clip featuring the King of All Blacks (Wack Pack sanitary worker extraordinaire) is also a true gem: Stern and company explore an impolitic but obvious question; what is the relationship between race, ethnicity, and refuse?
As someone who subscribes to the broken windows theory, I believe that neighborhood decline begins with little things. Consequently, the norms of public space resonate quite strongly in my worldview.
Random factoid: My particular data point of interest for measuring the socio-economic trajectory of a community is the care taken in how air conditioners are installed.
Consider the following. How many times have you seen air conditioners precariously hanging out of windows? Cardboard and plastic in the spaces between the air conditioner unit and the window casement? Now ask yourself: Are these communities generally desirable to live in?
I am suspicious of uni-variate explanations of complex social phenomena. Nevertheless, the garbage/race/ethnicity/class puzzle is a fascinating example of applied social science.
What are the little cues that you pick up on when assessing a given neighborhood's standard of living and community norms?