UMBC Faculty Provide Perspective and Reflect on Recent Events in Baltimore

In response to recent events that have transpired in Baltimore over the last several days, several UMBC faculty have engaged in thoughtful reflection and dialogue in the news around the complex challenges facing the Baltimore community. The substantive commentaries come from different viewpoints and add various perspectives to the ongoing conversation of the past week’s events.

John Rennie ShortIn The Conversation, School of Public Policy Professor John Rennie Short wrote about three background factors that should be considered when asking why the violence and riots took place in response to the death of one young man: the momentum of the police brutality narrative, the lack of trust between police and minority black populations, and the stifled economic opportunities and limited social mobility of many inner-city residents. “This country needs to address structural issues of poverty and economic opportunity as well as immediate concerns of how we make the streets safer for all our citizens,” Short wrote.

Kate DrabinskiKate Drabinski, lecturer of gender and women’s studies, wrote about decades of disinvestment in Baltimore and uneven development that have disadvantaged largely low-income communities. “One of the dangers of seeing the riot as an event is precisely this danger of losing historical perspective about the ways the neighborhoods burning on television are the very ones that have been cut off from the growth of the city’s downtown core,” she wrote. Drabinski was also featured in a Bicycling Magazine article about her observations of Monday’s events.

Kimberly MoffittKimberly Moffitt, an associate professor of American studies, examined Baltimore City Schools and the important element of focusing on the mental health needs and frustrations of many students. “Now we are faced with the next generation of marginalized youth who demand to be heard, even as they are seen as counterproductive by those who continue to ignore their physical, academic, and psychological needs to be successful in an educational setting,” Moffitt explained. She also participated in a roundtable discussion on Southern California Public Radio about her thoughts on this issue.

Rita TurnerRita Turner, a lecturer of American studies, wrote an article for The Conversation that focused on environmental health issues: “Environmental injustice may seem like a secondary issue in the face of massive police brutality, poverty, and civil uprising, and I don’t suggest that it should preempt conversations about other forms of systemic racism. But as we talk about the devaluing of black lives and black bodies that has taken place in Baltimore and across the country and the world, we cannot ignore the ways that this manifests in a subtle and constant disregard for the health of marginalized communities,” she wrote.

Sue-Goodney-Lea__2013-239x300In a Baltimore Sun op-ed, Suzanne Lea, an adjunct professor of sociology, wrote about an in-depth study she conducted with her students to examine trends in police deadly force incidents that have occurred in the Baltimore/DC area over the last 25 years. The column outlined five key findings from the research, including the vast majority of incidents occurred early in an officer’s career. “Too often, without a video, police officers are exonerated via internal investigations based on rules that prioritize officers’ accounts. Let’s start collecting the data we need to track and systematically examine such incidents and use it to challenge and improve upon our policing until it fully reflects the integrity of our American ideal of equality under the law,” Lea wrote.

Amy BhattIn the Huffington PostAmy Bhatt, an assistant professor of gender and women’s studies, examined the question “what does it mean to be safe?” In her article, Bhatt discussed her experience living in the Federal Hill neighborhood and provided a closer look at discussions of property, race, and resources in light of recent events. “When we talk about safety, we need to look beyond our neighborhoods and ask how we decide who stays safe and who does not,” she wrote.

Tom SchallerIn his column in the Baltimore Sun, Thomas Schaller, professor and chair of political science, discussed the impact of inequality on the past week’s events. “Rather, the fact of social protest is prima facie evidence of political disgruntlement, and of an extant imbalance between those who wield power and those subjected to it. When these inequities persist and have no other form of expression, there will be unrest. And in this case, those suffering from Baltimore’s power imbalances are disproportionately black.”

Chris CorbettChristopher Corbett, professor of the practice of English, wrote a column in Reuters in which he discussed his observations and experience living in Baltimore for 35 years after moving from Maine. In his article, “Baltimore’s truth in Freddie Gray’s life and death,” Corbett examined the history and current state of many of the city’s neighborhoods in the context of the events of the last several days.

Jana Kopelentova Rehak, a visiting professor of anthropology, recently published an article on her applied anthropology collaborative project in Baltimore in partnership with Habitat for Humanity to address urban inequality, poverty, and health in relation to housing.

To read the complete news coverage, click below:

Baltimore riots: the fire this time and the fire last time and the time between (The Conversation)
Why Baltimore burns for Freddie Gray (Baltimore Sun)
Baltimore’s truth in Freddie Gray’s life and death (Reuters)
Baltimore cyclist catches riots in action (Bicycling Magazine)
Keeping ‘Us’ Safe in Baltimore (Huffington Post) 
Freddie Gray: death by legal intervention (Baltimore Sun)
The slow poisoning of Freddie Gray and the hidden violence against black communities (The Conversation)
Baltimore could become key election issue (The Philadelphia Tribune)
Black and young in Baltimore: a roundtable discussion (KPCC Radio)
Practicing urban anthropology in Baltimore

Amy Bhatt, Gender and Women’s Studies, in The Wall Street Journal

An article published March 20 in the Wall Street Journal’s “Expat” blog looked at the recent growth in numbers of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards, which grant people of Indian origin who have passports in another country lifetime entry into India with several economic benefits.

Amy BhattAmy Bhatt, an assistant professor of gender and women’s studies, was quoted in the article and provided historical perspective on OCI cards.

“The economic benefits of the OCI scheme, introduced in 2005, made it easier for citizens to keep their economic ties with India while changing to another passport for convenience,” said Bhatt. “Ms. Bhatt’s research found that more Indian nationals were applying for American Permanent Residency status with an ultimate aim to gain a U.S. passport,” the article stated.

Bhatt also discussed the Indian government’s decision this year to phase out a similar system to the OCI cards called Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards, which gave non-resident Indians a 15-year entry into the country.

The Indian government likely did this to “reduce confusion between the two programs,” said Bhatt, “but also to make it easier for Diaspora Indians to have a lifetime connection with India.”

To read the full article in the Wall Street Journal titled “When Indians Renounce Their Citizenship: An Expat Explains,” click here.

Humanities Forum: Four Types of Feminist Empiricism (3/26)

Miriam SolomonHumanities Forum
Thursday, March 26 | 4:00 p.m.
Evelyn Barker Memorial Lecture
Miriam Solomon, Chair and Professor of Philosophy, Temple University
University Center, Room 312

“Feminist empiricism” is a general term for a range of positions in philosophy of science that aim to combine empirical methods with the insights of feminism. This talk will give an overview of feminist empiricist work in the natural and social sciences in order to showcase four different ways in which feminist critique can improve scientific work. The relationship between the different feminist empiricisms and feminist standpoint theory will also be discussed.

Miriam Solomon is Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair in the Department of Philosophy at Temple University. She is also an Affiliated Professor of Women’s Studies. Professor Solomon is a graduate of Cambridge University (BA in Natural Sciences, 1979) and Harvard University (Ph.D. in Philosophy, 1986). She is the author of Social Empiricism (MIT Press, 2001), editor of several special journal issues, and author of papers in epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophy of medicine and biomedical ethics. Her research interests are in philosophy of science, philosophy of medicine, history of science, epistemology, gender and science, and biomedical ethics. She is currently completing a book on evidence-based medicine, medical consensus conferences, narrative medicine and translational medicine, titled Making Medical Knowledge, to be published by Oxford University Press (UK).

Sponsored by the Philosophy Department, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department.

Humanities Forum: “The Paths We Make As We Go”: The Narrative of an Undocumented Immigrant Woman in the U.S. (3/11)

Gaby PachecoHumanities Forum
Wednesday, March 11 | 4:00 p.m.
Joan S. Korenman Lecture
Maria Gabriela “Gaby” Pacheco, immigrant rights activist
Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery 

Activist Maria Gabriela Pacheco is a prominent figure in the national immigrant rights movement and is currently the program director of TheDream.US, a national organization that provides higher education fellowship opportunities for undocumented immigrants. Pacheco is a leading advocate for the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that would assist the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. She is also a staunch advocate for legislative reform that would provide higher education access to thousands of undocumented youths. Originally from Guayaquil, Ecuador, Pacheco moved with her family to the Miami area at the age of 8. During her high school years, she began to organize politically in order to shed light on the social injustices faced by undocumented immigrants in the U.S. She has gained national recognition for her courageous advocacy of the DREAM Act, legislative reform that would provide residency status to undocumented immigrants aspiring to attend college.

As a DREAMer herself, Pacheco has brought awareness to the marginalization of other young undocumented immigrants in the Miami community who were unable to attend college based on their status. After realizing she was just one of hundreds of undocumented students in her community, Pacheco founded the Florida immigrant youth network in 2005, known as Students Working for Equal Rights, as part of the Florida Immigrant Coalition. She was elected student government president at Miami Dade College, and later statewide student body president. During this time, she raised the issue of in-state tuition for undocumented students throughout Florida, which led to political change and a climate of acceptance in many community and state colleges.

For more information, click here.

Sponsored by the Gender and Women’s Studies Department, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, and the Latino/Hispanic Faculty Association.  

Kate Drabinski, Gender and Women’s Studies, in the Indypendent Reader

Maryland – and Baltimore in particular – remains a place with a troubled relationship to the Civil War, Kate Drabinski, lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies, points out in a recent piece for the “Indypendent Reader.”

“Maryland never seceded from the Union, but its citizens leaned strongly toward the Confederacy,” she writes. “All the contradictions of this past that is still very much present are engraved in the infrastructure of the place, from street and park names to its more obvious public memorials and monuments that remind us of this war.”

Drabinski focuses her piece on Baltimore’s monuments to the Civil War (three in honor of the Confederacy and one in honor of the Union), and especially on the memorial to Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee that sits at the corner of Wyman Park near the Baltimore Art Museum.

“The struggle over the meaning of these memorials continues, and the sense of a glorious Confederate past continues to radiate from this memorial, the memory of slavery and bondage past and present, about which this war was fought, surely ghosting the place,” she writes.

The full piece, “They Were Great Generals and Christian Soldiers: Remembering Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson,” appeared online on June 3.

POSTPONED: The Fracking of Rachel Carson: “Silent Spring” in an Age of Environmental Crisis

Sandra SteingraberThe Fracking of Rachel Carson: Silent Spring in an Age of Environmental Crisis,” originally scheduled for March 6, has been rescheduled for Monday, April 29 at 4 p.m. on the 7th Floor of the Albin O. Kuhn Library.

This lecture with environmental activist Sandra Steingraber of the environmental studies and sciences department of Ithaca College is presented by the Humanities and Social Science Forums. It is the annual Korenman lecture.

A cancer survivor, Dr. Sandra Steingraber has written extensively on the intersection of the environment and public health. She will discuss what we have learned, and failed to learn, in the 50 years since Rachel Carson’s  publication of Silent Spring, and will examine the threat to public health that fracking poses.

Sandra Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue. Originally published in 1997, it was the first to bring together data on toxic releases with data from U.S. cancer registries and won praise from international media including The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Lancet, and The London Times.

This event is sponsored by the Department of Gender and Women Studies with support from the Department of American Studies, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, the Dresher Center for the Humanities, Geography and Environmental Systems, Office of the Provost, and Women in Science and Engineering.

Amy Bhatt, Gender and Women’s Studies, Publishes New Book

Amy Bhatt, assistant professor of gender and women’s studies, is the co-author of Roots and Reflections: South Asians Map the Pacific Northwest, which will be released by the University of Washington Press early next year.

The book examines the experiences of early South Asians who settled on the Pacific coast in the early 1890s through the 1990s. Though the east coast of the U.S. has some of the largest South Asian populations in the country today, these early settlers shed light on the development of South Asian communities across the U.S. and are an important location in understanding contemporary immigration patterns. Roots and Reflections highlights the gender, race, and class aspects of this immigration and settlement.

For an overview of the book, see the book trailer below.