What Are We Celebrating?

In Frederick Douglass’s famous oration, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” he calls himself a citizen, but the speech is full of references to “your national independence” and “your political freedom.” This ambivalence reflects the bitter irony of celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence while black men and women were held as slaves, bought and sold like animals.

The Fallacy of Equating Gun Violence with Mental Illness

“Every time one of these shootings happens, it puts us three steps backwards,” Paula said to me during my first summer of preliminary fieldwork in 2012. Her concern stemmed from media discourse following the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting at a midnight movie theater screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Paula, a staff member at Vista, a New Orleans-based organization that provides various mental health programs for individuals with mental illness and their family members, has good reason to be concerned about how mass shootings, like the one in Aurora, portray individuals with mental illness as dangerous and violent, further exacerbating existing stigma that individuals with mental illness face daily. This discourse further discourages individuals from using such services because they might be seen as dangerous or violent.

Starbucks, Racism, and the Anthropological Imagination

After a series of discrimination allegations, Starbucks announced in April that it would close to eight thousand stores on May 29 to conduct racial bias training. Many applauded the multinational corporation for taking a stance against racism, while others scoffed. Anthropologists have long kept a pulse on how corporations pollute environments, depress wages, control workers, create war, and, as a mentor recently reminded me, how they “just kill people.”

The Power of Sports to Change American Ideals

When the now former National Football League (NFL) quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the national anthem in a preseason game in the summer of 2016, he set off far reaching political waves. He empowered other players to follow suit and provoked the sitting United States president to lash out at kneeling players. But Kaepernick also […]