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Earl Babbie’s “Social Structure Is Real” Essay

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Updated: Feb 21st, 2022

When reading Earl Babbie’s chapter 2, titled “Social Structure is Real,” I found myself increasingly troubled by the concepts it has offered. The descriptions of injustices and racism, both structural and institutional, towards black people resonate well with what is going on in the US right now. The chapter says that large-scale injustices and crimes transcend individual responsibility, as they occur as a result of cultural beliefs that have been generated over the course of human history. Babbie suggests that the roots of modern unseen institutionalized racism lie in the history of the US and that individual actions that perpetuate the mounting issues, such as police brutality, poverty, and so forth, can be attributed to overarching culture rather than individual acts of racism perpetrated by individual entities.

I found such a concept both understandable and confusing, as we live in a country where the vast majority of people would never describe themselves as racist and would struggle to name the last time they caused a person of a different skin color grief because of their race, religion, or gender. At the same time, crimes keep happening on a systemic basis. I think that the reason why the ideas of equality and progressiveness are so difficult to promote among the “privileged” parts of the US populace is that individual justice does not work with metaphysical concepts, and collective justice is potentially dangerous and can be misused. The fear of it, mixed with anger over what is perceived as a violation of individual justice, forms the backbone of modern pushback against any movement promoting social justice.

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