The Ferguson Syllabus
The Ferguson Syllabus
By Nicki Lisa Cole /

On the heels of the open letter signed by over 1,400 sociologists in the wake of the police killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, the newly formed group Sociologists for Justice has released a list of published research that informs the arguments put forth in the statement. The following articles and books will help interested readers understand the social and historical context surrounding the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and allow readers to see how these events fit within larger patterns of racial profilingsystemic racism, and police brutality.

  1. Stealing a Bag of Potato Chips and Other Crimes of Resistance,” by Victor M. Rios.
    In this readable essay, Dr. Rios draws on extensive ethnographic research in a neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area to show how Black and Latino youth turn to crime as a form of resistance against a racist society after they have been rejected and marginalized by social institutions. He also defines the “youth control complex,” composed of police, educators, social workers, and others, which constantly monitors Black and Latino youth, and frames them as criminals before they even are. Rios concludes that acting out and committing minor crimes “served as a resource for feeling empowered and for gaining redress for the humiliation, stigma, and punishment they encountered even when they were being ‘good.’” Dr. Rios’s research shows how racism and a punitive approach to youth collude to reproduce widespread social problems.
  2. The Hyper-criminalization of Black and Latino Male Youth in the Era of Mass Incarceration,” by Victor M. Rios.
    Drawing from the same research conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area, in this article Dr. Rios illustrates how the “youth control complex” extends into schools and families to “hyper-criminalize” Black and Latino youth from a young age. Rios found that once kids had been labeled “deviant” after having contact with the criminal justice system (most for non-violent offenses), they “experience the full force of direct and indirect punishment and criminalization traditionally aimed at violent offenders.” At the same time, institutions that are meant to nurture youth, like schools, families, and community centers, have been folded into the practice of surveillance and criminalization, often acting at behest of police and probation officers. Rios concludes darkly, “in the era of mass incarceration, a ‘youth control complex’ created by a network of racialized criminalization and punishment deployed from various institutions of control and socialization has formed to manage, control, and incapacitate Black and Latino youth.”
  3. Want to Help Marginalized Students in Schools? Stop ‘Stop and Frisk’ and Other Punitive Practices, Too,” by Markus Gerke.
    In this readable essay published by The Society Pages, an online repository of accessible social science writing, sociologist Markus Gerke explains the connections between systemic racism, racial profiling and hyper-criminalization of Black and Latino youth, and the underrepresentation of Black and Latino men in colleges and universities. Drawing on the research of Victor Rios, Gerke writes, “the experience of being labelled (and treated as) a criminal despite attempts to keep their distance from gangs and not be involved in criminal activities, led some of these boys to lose any faith and respect left for authorities and ‘the system’: What is the point of resisting the temptation and the pressure of peers involved in gangs, if you are always assumed to be guilty regardless?” He connects this phenomenon to the racist police practice of “Stop N Frisk” which was ruled unconstitutional by the state of New York for overwhelmingly targeting Black and Latino boys, ninety percent of whom were never arrested for anything.
  4. Differential Police Response to Black Battered Women,” by Amanda L. Robinson and Meghan S. Chandek.
    In this journal article Drs. Robinson and Chandek report results from a study they conducted using police records from a medium-sized Midwestern police department. In the study they examined whether race of domestic violence victim is a factor in whether the perpetrator is arrested by police, and if there are any other factors that influence arrest decision when a victim is black. They found that some black women received lower quantity and quality of law than other victims, and quite troublingly, that police were less likely to arrest the perpetrator when black women victims were mothers, while arrest rates more than doubled for other victims when children were present. The researchers were also disturbed to find that this happened, despite the fact that children were present at the scene more frequently when black women were victimized. This study points to significant implications for the safety and security of black women and their children who suffer domestic violence.
  5. Pulled Over: How Police Stops Define Race and Citizenship, by Charles Epp, Steven Maynard-Moody, and Donald Haider-Markel.
    Nationwide, racial minorities are pulled over at double the rate of whites. This book examines the ways in which racial profiling in police stops has been encouraged and institutionalized by police departments. The researchers found that African Americans, often pulled over for “driving while black,” have been taught by these experiences to see little legitimacy in the practice or in police generally, which leads to low levels of trust in the police, and decreased reliance on them for help when it is needed. They argue, “with a growing push in recent years to use local police in immigration efforts, Hispanics stand poised to share African Americans’ long experience of investigative stops.” The authors conclude by offering recommendations for practical reforms to policing so that it can both protect the rights of citizens and curb crime.
  6. The Continuing Significance of Race: An Analysis Across Two Levels of Policing,” by Patricia Y. Warren.
    In this journal article Dr. Patricia Warren examines survey responses from the North Carolina Highway Traffic Study and finds that non-white respondents had come to have a distrust in both highway patrol and city police through vicarious experiences of racial profiling (hearing about it from others), and that they applied their distrust to both forces equally, despite the fact that practices differed across them. This suggests that negative experiences with police within a community cultivate a general air of distrust of police in general.
  7. State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review,” by the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.
    This report published by the Kirwin Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity relies on thirty years of research from neurology and social and cognitive psychology to show that that unconscious biases exert a strong influence on how we see and treat others. This research is important to consider today, because it illustrates that racism exists even among those who are not outwardly or vocally racist, or who believe vehemently that they are not racist.
  8. Oppositional Consciousness: The Subjective Roots of Social Protest, edited by Jane J. Mansbridge and Aldon Morris.
    This book of essays by a variety of researchers focuses on the factors that lead people to engage in protest and fight for social change, and to develop an “oppositional consciousness”, “an empowering mental state that prepares members of an oppressed group to undermine, reform, or overthrow a dominant system.” The essays examine different cases of resistance and protest, from race-focused causes, to disabled folks, sexual harassment, labor rights, and AIDS activists. The collection of research “sheds new light on the intricate mechanisms that drive the important social movements of our time.”
4.3 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 9,214 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 9,165 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 8,063 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 5,119 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
Who I'm Voting For...
3 min · 4,654 views today · Prince Ea announces who he's voting for. It's probably not who you think.
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 3,538 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
Free Trade Explained In An Excellent Comic
Michael Goodwin, Illustrated by Dan E. Burr · 2,448 views today · The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are the latest in a long line...
#Hypernormalisation - Why Heathrow Plan Is Proof We Exist in a Catastrophic Fantasyland
Matthew Adams · 2,038 views today · The British government recently gave the green light for Heathrow airport’s third runway. It was heralded by its supporters as a vital boost for jobs and growth – and proof...
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 1,860 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,715 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Open Up - Have the Difficult But Important Conversations With Loved Ones
5 min · 1,704 views today · “The biggest casualty of humanity is the lack of communication, it’s the thing that breaks most relationships. It just feels so much better to talk and get it out.” There is...
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,474 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,414 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 1,339 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
'Maritime Graveyard': 2016 Deadliest Year Ever for Refugees Crossing Mediterranean
Deirdre Fulton · 1,197 views today · "From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiraled to one in 88," says UNHCR spokesman
These Incredible Stories Remind Us of Our Better Selves
36 min · 956 views today · #WhoWeAre is a campaign to share the stories of people whose actions show us compassion and to send a message of empathy, hope and optimism. These videos will automatically...
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 705 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 705 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 688 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 467 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Ferguson Syllabus