The Denison Bubble

Our fair college on the hill is one that we claim as exceptional as we work to embody the mission statement:

“Our purpose is to inspire and educate our students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and active citizens of a democratic society. Through an emphasis on active learning, we engage students in the liberal arts, which fosters self-determination and demonstrates the transformative power of education. We envision our students’ lives as based upon rational choice, a firm belief in human dignity and compassion unlimited by cultural, racial, sexual, religious or economic barriers, and directed toward an engagement with the central issues of our time.”

But while we dedicate our selves for four years to reach the point where we confidently call ourselves discerning moral agents history can pass us by, leaving only missed chances to participate. While we praise our beautiful college and simultaneously complain about hiking up the hill it creates a sudo-world in which we operate. Unless you take time and pay attention to the headlines on papers or care to switch from a Buzzfeed poll about One Direction to the news sections you can miss out on the greater world around us. While I am not trying to shame our ignorance to the outside world, I know I have been guilty of it, I am trying to acknowledge that we, as Denisonians, need to make time to talk about the riots and protests in Baltimore. Not just comparing them to other historical events, but take the time to examine the case and what conditions primed a city for violence.

It is my opinion, and you may not agree with this, that we as a group of adults prepping to enter this great world should be aware of the crisis and events that will shape the course of history. All it takes is the 10 minutes to read an article about what protesters are raising awareness of, such as racialized police brutality, to understand how the larger world is  being affected. I know that just being aware will not stop a city from burning, but taking the opportunity to learn from how each side of the conflict is working to resolve the issue will help us develop that liberal arts education we are gaining.

So fellow in-progress autonomous thinkers, future active citizens of a democratic society, and developing discerning moral agents this is my charge to you to take the time and break out of our Denison bubble to start fulfilling the mission given to us as we were inducted into this fair college on the hill.


Social Sentencing

As the death penalty trial for the Boston Bomber is underway, and more incidents occur, I have begun to become more aware of the effect of social sentencing that occurs by the public and the media. Once someone becomes accused, arrested, or charged with committing an unjust act the American public and the media seem to jump to conclusions about if an individual is truly guilty, and then decide the sentence for this individual.

From Mike Brown to Freddie Gray to the Aurora Theater shooting and the Boston Bombing the public bases their opinions off of the media framing of each incident. The emotions connected with a violent or unnecessary death produce an environment that goes to the extremes. A surge of emotions causes people to think that ‘an eye for an eye’ is the best form of justice, and thus the death penalty is what the people cry for. While in some instances, such as that of the Boston Bomber, the death penalty may be the justified sentence for the spree of crime that ended with the streets of Boston looking more like a urban war zone rather than a historical city of deep passions. The people of Boston have waited and watched for two years for the decision from the court about the fate of the man who terrorized their city, but those outside of the city the media that defended on the traumatized city. This media set up a frame of what occurred, and handed down their judgement and their the appropriate sentencing, whether that match the outcome that the people of Boston called for or not.

In the recent cases of blacks dying at the hands of white cops it has sparked a debate of what justice for taking a life, innocent or not, should be in the case of those tasked to serve and protect. While no situation is identical the framing by the media places as many similarities as possible together to create coverage that draws in viewers. This combined framing of similarities and sentencing creates a mass hysteria that is creating riots and protests that have simultaneously set fire to cities such as Ferguson and Baltimore, and the judgments handed down by the courts that do not side with the overly emotional public just further deepen the rift forming between authority and the public.

While the public does not hand out judgements and sentences, the influences of the public reign strong on those citizens who eventually make it onto juries who ultimately decide the fate of those charged. The effect of social sentencing by the public delegitimizes the sources that were established to hand out just judgements and sentences, thus providing some explanation to the violence and distrust that currently exists in the US.

Hyperawareness or Rise in Occurrences?

It seems like everyday in the news you see an incident between a black man and a white cop. Wether the actions taken by either the cop or the civilian were justified or not it appears like the amount of occurrences between these two groups have risen since the discussion of which lives matter began with the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. But the is the apparent increase in the amount of incidents an actual increase, or is it that the American people (and especially the media) have become hyper aware of when incidents occur? While the violent actions taken by police officers have been called into question excessive force. As in the case of Eric Garner and the need of choke-holds, or more recently in Arizona when a police officer was authorized to use whatever means deemed necessary in order to prevent a man with a gun from approaching a highly populated area where the officer in question used his car to hit the suspect, who happened to be black.

This most recent case in Arizona highlighted for me the role of the media within the social aspects in racializing these incidents. In the segment on the incident I watched it first showed the use of excessive force, framing the officer as a mad man with a battering ram. Only after showing the dash-cam footage a few times did this news broadcast show why the officer was told to use any means necessary to apprehend the suspect because he had just stolen a rifle and ammunition from a store and was walking closer and closer to a highly populated area. This case showed the framing effect that the media has upon how viewers react toward a story.

The media effect seems to point to hyperawareness it could also be the case that there are a rise in incidents, as it every other day another black man seems to be at the opposite end of a police officers badge. While in some cases there appears to be an underlying racist sentiments, the media seems to be placing such sentiments on each incident it is not necessarily the truth.

So is there a actual rise? I think that there is some of both, as crimes become more violent the responsive actions taken by officers have to reflect that rise in violence, and more violent acts are what makes the news.