American Sociological Association

Winter 2017 Contexts Online Free until April 21

March 23, 2017

Letter from the Editors

Trumped Again

So the Trumping of America continues. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, as these are all the things the “short-fingered vulgarian” promised to bring. Oh so many foxes guarding chicken coops. As of this writing, there are more people in important posts from the vampire squid Goldman Sachs than you can shake a stick at. The secretary of education, Betsy DeVos is a billionaire who made her money the old-fashioned way—through inheritance and marriage—and is intent on destroying the public school system. Oh, and her brother, Erik Prince, is a high-powered mercenary who founded the mercenary outfit Blackwater. (He apparently advised the Trump transition team on intelligence and defense matters; watch for him to pop up again in the coming months.) Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency’s head, has described himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” White supremacist Steve Bannon, the president’s Rasputin, is largely making presidential decisions while the elected president is busy mad-tweeting at Nordstrom’s for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line. Melania Trump, who apparently worked illegally while on a visitor’s visa in 1996, is suing the Daily Mail newspaper for libel for printing allegations that she worked for modeling agencies that also operated as escort agencies. She claimed her brand has been affected by their reporting, which has also damaged the business possibilities available to her now as the first lady and “one of the most photographed women in the world.” And and and there’s just way too much to cover or even remember and he’s only been president for three weeks.


Is there good news? The president’s executive order on refugees and other immigrants that threw airports and actual people’s lives into chaos (though it was popular with his base) was temporarily suspended by a federal judge. (The president then immediately insulted him on Twitter.) The women’s march drew millions of participants in the US, and globally. Dana Fisher, Dawn Dow, and Rashawn Ray led a survey the day of the march and found over half of respondents said it was their first protest in 10 years, and a third said it was their first, period. So perhaps an activist fire has been lit?

In this issue, we have articles discussing taxes, abortion rights, LGBT rights, widening gender pay gaps, class divides, and the US-Mexican border wall. These articles are all great. Read them now, because much of what they say is going to be historical sociology very soon.

Social scientists, because they are appropriately methodical, invest intensive effort in setting up and conducting their studies, and because they tend to be extraordinarily slow when it comes to writing, don’t do as well as we might like with fast-changing current events. Which, for the most part; government, even when it moves quickly, doesn’t usually move all that quickly. The time between law-making and seeing results is usually long enough that we can keep pace. But for the next four years (give or take), that may not be the case. Republicans control the presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court, most governorships and state legislatures and probably most school boards and any other elected and appointed positions. They’re in a position to radically change life as we know it. Abortion rights will become even more heavily restricted; there’s a possibility that Roe v. Wade could be overturned. Long-standing environmental protections will be gone. LGBT rights and protections rolled back. Public schools decimated. Treaties eviscerated. Foreign relations upended. And if the U.S. moves its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Middle East will… well, nothing good.

So, get your studies going, write faster and better and with a sense of urgency, go to the Scientists’ March on Earth Day, run for your school board or state legislature. Become and amplify the scientific voices that show time and again that immigrants make communities safer; that abortion rates may not change with legal shifts, but maternal death rates do; that charter schools and voucher programs increase inequality; that police brutality decreases community trust and makes everyone less safe. Be smart and clear and don’t back down, even if you are warned, even if you are given an explanation—we will persist.

Syed Ali and Philip N. Cohen, Editors

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