BEYOND THE WHITE TUNNEL: THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF NEAR DEATH IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
Dr. Jooyoung Lee
Department of Sociology,
University of Toronto, Canada; Senior Fellow, Urban Ethnography Project, Yale University
Abstract: What is it like to get shot and almost die in a shooting? How does this experience shape the social worlds of gunshot victims? This talk explores the social construction of near death amongst young black men who survive shootings in Philadelphia—a city that averages close to one murder per day. Previous generations of scholars have written about near death as an event that inspires personal introspection and moral change. But attitudes and beliefs are not the only things to change after trauma, and soul searching is not done in isolation. In the aftermath of shootings, victims reach out to religious leaders, friends, and family who collectively reframe their shooting as a “traumatic rebirth” or a positive experience that will ultimately benefit them in the long run. These interactions become sources of hope and resiliency. Other interactions fill victims with dread. Some may frame the shooting as a master tragedy that will dictate the rest of that person’s life. At the end of my talk, I will return to larger themes that guide a book about young black men and gun violence in Philadelphia. Their stories raise questions about local health care interventions that could assist victims in the aftermath of shootings.
About the speaker: Dr. Jooyoung Lee is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto and a senior fellow in Yale University’s Urban Ethnography Project. He writes and teaches about hip hop, gun violence, and health disparities. Dr. Lee has several publications and writes a personal blog: Guns, Rap, Crime.
#FREDDIEGRAY: THE ANATOMY OF STRUCTURAL AND INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCE IN BLACK BALTIMORE
Dr. Joseph B. Richardson, Jr.
Associate Professor, African-American Studies Department; Faculty Associate, Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), University of Maryland; Director, Violence Intervention Research Project, Prince George’s Hospital Trauma Center
Abstract: In April 2015, the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody sparked days of protest in Baltimore. By May and July 2015, Baltimore had experienced its highest rates of homicides in nearly four decades. By mid-August 2015, Baltimore had experienced more homicides than all of 2014. While criminologists have offered several explanations why homicides increased in Baltimore—ranging from the “Ferguson effect” to an increase in prescription drugs being sold on the street and the violence associated with drug markets—little discussion has focused on the persistence of structural violence in “Black Baltimore.” Structural violence refers to systematic ways in which social structures harm or otherwise disadvantage individuals. Structural violence is subtle, often invisible, and often has no one specific person who can (or will) be held responsible (in contrast to behavioral violence).
According to structural violence theorist, Paul Farmer: “Structural violence is one way of describing social arrangements that put individuals and populations in harm’s way. The arrangements are structural because they are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world; they are violent because they cause injury to people.” For example, Freddie Gray’s community, Sandtown (a poor black neighborhood on Baltimore’s west side) is a stark symbol of the structural violence, which impacts many poor urban communities across the United States. Here are just a few statistics on the structural violence in Baltimore’s Sandtown community: 1) 31 percent poverty rate compared to the national poverty rate of 14.5 percent; 2) unemployment rate of 21 percent compared to the national rate of 5.1 percent; 3) incarceration rate of 3,074 individuals per 100,000 compared to a national rate of 455 per 100,000; 4) life expectancy rate of 65.3 years compared to a national average of 78.8 years; 5) 3 percent of children age six years or younger have dangerous levels of lead in their blood double the city’s average; and 6) 47.6 percent of children in Sandtown live below the poverty line. Sandtown sent more of its residents to Maryland’s state prisons and jails than any other community in Baltimore, making it essentially a pipeline to the state’s prison industrial complex. Furthermore, 3 percent of Sandtown’s residents are incarcerated. This presentation utilizes structural violence as a conceptual framework to further our knowledge and understanding of the social context of interpersonal violence among young black men in Baltimore.
About the speaker: Dr. Joseph Richardson, Jr., is an associate professor in the department of African-American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also the director of the Violence Intervention Program at Prince George’s Hospital Trauma Center and faculty associate at the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) at the University of Maryland. Dr. Richardson is a criminologist trained in urban ethnography and medical anthropology. His research focuses on four specific areas: 1) gun violence and trauma; 2) incarceration as a social determinant of health; 3) the black male life course and health risk behaviors; and 4) parenting strategies for low-income black male youth. He has produced a short documentary, “Bullets Without Names,” which chronicles the experiences of a young black male survivor of a firearm-related violent injury and has also produced “Every 80 Minutes,” a public service announcement on gun violence in Philadelphia. “Bullets Without Names” was nominated for an American Visions Award in 2014.