Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 30 August 2012

Life with rabbits

Many people have no idea that rabbits can be housed indoors or that they make excellent pets for adults. Rabbits are often bought as a “starter pet” for young children and then housed outdoors in a hutch, where they are fast forgotten. Needless to say, this is not an acceptable life for a rabbit, or for that matter, any pet. In addition, rabbits are the 3rd most surrendered pet at shelters. Many rabbits end up at shelters because their owners did not realize that rabbits do have more needs than they thought or that they are NOT a “starter pet” for their children. In fact, I advise anyone with children against a rabbit, unless the parents really want one for themselves. Rabbits are perfect for working adults since rabbits like to sleep during the day and are awake and active in the mornings and afternoons/evenings.

However, this is not a post about who should or should not have rabbits. It’s a personal decision and a 10+ year commitment to bring a rabbit into a household and it’s one that everyone has to make for themselves. I would just like to lay out how life plays out with our own rabbits. We have 4 rabbits in our house, who are free range. This means the rabbits can roam about the house (although we have it divided because all four don’t get along) as they wish. Houdini has his condo into which he will hopefully welcome Willow, soon and Yuni and Odin live under the bed. It’s their choice and their preferred place, unless they are sitting in front of the fan.

A typical morning, therefore, starts with 2 pairs of rabbit eyes staring at us, willing us awake. If we dare to sleep past 8 o’clock, we may get a little nudge to help us wake up, or we hear a food bowl being thrown. Something like that is certain to wake us up. After all, rabbits enjoy a strict schedule and like their meals to be delivered on time. As a rabbit owner, you have to respect that and act promptly. That said, some rabbits are hungrier in the mornings than others. It is advised you place your steps carefully as some rabbits walk between your legs in anticipation of their breakfast. In our house, we take the food bowls to the food bag and fill them there, instead of taking the food bag to the food bowls. This has proven to be safer and less messy. Yuni and Odin scarf down their food as if they haven’t been fed in ages, while Houdini and Willow like to take their time, eat about half of their food immediately and then come back later to finish their breakfast.

After breakfast, it’s usually nap time for the rabbits, which gives us the chance to clean their litter boxes. It is imperative that the litter boxes be cleaned at least twice a day, otherwise Yuni will consider her litter boxes too full and refuses to use them. In addition to clean litter boxes, a fresh handfull of hay is required. However, we have to be careful that the favorite litter box of the day is not needed while we are cleaning litter boxes. If the litter box is needed but unavailable, the result will be a protesting puddle of pee or pile of poops, or both.

Rabbits are great at protesting anything they don’t like and you will be the first one to know. Turning their backs at you and ignoring you hurts, but you might be able to turn that around with treats. When treats are rejected, however, hay boxes flipped and the hay spread everywhere to cover up for protest pee, it’s serious and you better figure out what you did wrong fast.

Speaking of treats… Yuni and Odin have started charging us for passing them. Every trip through the kitchen must be paid for with a treat. This has lead to some anxiety on our part. Now, every time we have to go to the kitchen, or through the kitchen for that matter, you will find us looking around for Yuni and Odin. If they are under the bed and cannot be seen, it’s a good start. We’ll tiptoe towards the kitchen, hoping they missed us passing by. Once in the kitchen, the next question is whether or not we can be quiet enough not to alert the two. The opening of the refrigerator door is something that can pull Yuni and Odin from their deepest sleeps and within the blink of an eye, we have one, if not two rabbits in the refrigerator, blocking us from closing the door. Only a treat can convince them to move. The sound of the coffee grinder has much the same effect. Yuni and Odin stand at attention in front of the refrigerator door and demand payment for such noise.

Sometimes, we are able to escape all the way to the bathroom. However, Yuni and Odin are perfectly able to count and know when one of us is not where we are supposed to be. Then, the bathroom door is opened and immediate payment is demanded. Yuni usually sends Odin first. Odin has to open the door and he is the one who has to go inside the bathroom to remind us that we forgot something while Yuni is waiting (guarding) outside the bathroom door. It has happened on occasion that we took a shower before making sure the rabbits all had their breakfast. Let’s just say, we’re happy to still be alive. Yuni and Odin are perfectly capable of looking into the shower and make sure we notice their disapproval and take appropriate action.

While Yuni likes to just stare at us, Odin has developed a 3-step system to guarantee our attention. The first step is a slight nudge against our ankles. If we don’t respond, he’ll give a second, more forceful nudge. This opens a 1 second window to give him the attention he wants, before he starts scratching our ankles and feet. This usually does the trick (after all, even though we cut his nails regularly, it still hurts to be scratched). What he wants really depends on the situation. Sometimes, a round of cuddles will do, sometimes a treat is required. However, he never requests us to brush him or powder his leg because he has peed on himself. These actions always result in high disapproval and a thump as he races under the bed to hide.

Houdini and Willow are more subdued in that regard, however, they will also let you know when you did something wrong. Houdini is a very vocal rabbit, expressing his displeasure about anything with different types of grunts, as well as boxing actions. A single low grunt means as much as “no, but go ahead”, a louder grunt or a double grunt means “I really don’t like this”, repeated grunts with boxing action means “no, hell no, get away from me!” Willow usually just runs and hides. These two gladly accept treats, but they don’t beg for them the way Yuni and Odin do. Willow and Houdini seem to be content as long as they have access to anything the can be climbed. Willow has no problems making a 30″ jump onto the desk, thus far beating out Houdini. Neither one appreciates a brushing and neither sees it necessary to have their nails clipped.

Knowing your rabbits and allowing them the freedom to live in your house with you, instead of having them locked up in a pen or cage (or worse, the aforementioned outdoor hutch), makes life with your rabbits so much more enjoyable. Many rabbit owners have their electronics caged in, and not their rabbits.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 23 November 2011

The reason I don’t care about Thanksgiving

I really don’t care much about Thanksgiving. Yes, I do enjoy the day off from work and the food. But that’s it. Thanksgiving to me should be either a day to celebrate the end of harvesting season or a day of rememberance. Native American history is often overlooked in US American schools. During my sociology class, racism was a big topic, but did anyone ever mention Native Americans? No, not once in the entire book. How’s that for racism?

I bow in respect to those, whose ancestors endured the worst, had to give up their lands to be herded into reservations and yet hold their heads up in pride because of who they are and always will be at heart. These are the people I thank: for not giving up, for not losing faith or hope. These are the true Americans.

A Native View on Thanksgiving

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 19 November 2011

Pull HIV/AIDS Out Of The Closet!

I guess it’s time I take a few minutes and get on my soap box again. It’s been a while since I have last done that and so much has been building up. But the reason I’m on my soap box today is to ask you all to pull HIV/AIDS out of the closet and remove its dust. I don’t know where you are in your education, whether you’re positive or negative but HIV/AIDS is still around and it still affects us very much.

I have to say that I’m very happy I have met my boyfriend and kind of because of him, have gotten involved more in the HIV/AIDS community. Before I met him, my education was stuck somewhere in the early to mid 90’s. HIV/AIDS became a face for me with Freddy Mercury. I knew about prevention but I never really cared. It surely wouldn’t happen to me, would it? Luckily, it didn’t, but it wasn’t because I protected myself. I just got lucky. Preventing pregnancy was an issue that needed my attention much more than HIV/AIDS. Yes, I was more afraid of ending up with a baby I didn’t want than dying.

So, depending on your age, it may greatly affect your educational situation. Is it still the “Gay Disease” for you? Do you, like me before I met my boyfriend, know that HIV/AIDS is around but you will inevitably die from it eventually? Do you believe that HIV/AIDS only exists in Africa or is a manageable disease that requires you to take a pill or a couple more to live a normal life? Well, we’re all wrong. Yes, gay men are still very much at risk but HIV/AIDS really doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re male or female, regardless of your sexual orientation, ethnicity or age, HIV/AIDS could affect you. Nobody is safe from it and stories like the “Berlin Patient” spur hope but they do not really provide a viable option for most of those with HIV/AIDS.

Add to that the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. Once again, HIV/AIDS is non-discriminatory. But it doesn’t end there. There are so many myths about the transmission and unless you are well educated, you may not know what it takes for HIV to be transmitted. There is a long list of myths available but rest assured, HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact, kissing, or even sharing the same eating utensils. Mosquitoes cannot transmit HIV, neither can air. A friend’s sister had her clothes washed separately after my friend suspected she might be HIV positive (the test came back negative). HIV, however, cannot be transmitted by clothes touching. Nevertheless, many HIV positive people are still afraid to publicly disclose their status because of said stigma. They are afraid because comprehensive education does not happen. They are afraid to be categorized, labeled and discriminated against.

But what may be most upsetting for someone with HIV is whenever they encounter those, who believe that HIV/AIDS is nothing more than maybe diabetes, which requires a daily pills or a couple more and that’s all there’s to it. Wow, are those people wrong! HIV/AIDS is a life-changing event that not only requires strict adherence to a pill regimen, but also the side effects of those pills. HIV/AIDS affects you 24/7. Whether it is the pain, the nausea, the fatigue, depression or one of many other “side effects” of the disease, the pills only ensure survival. Everything else only ensures that you won’t forget what you are up against. Yes, these days it is entirely possible to reach near normal life expectancy with HIV/AIDS, but don’t ever forget the price you are paying for it. HIV/AIDS and the medications prescribed are doing their best to destroy your body from the inside out. HIV/AIDS does not only affect the blood, but the nervous system, several organs, bone marrow, and the GI tract. You can read more about it here. Depending on the antiretroviral treatment prescribed and its side effects, the organ destruction only continues. Nevertheless, there are people out there, who will try to get infected intentionally. Although they have different motives, it is something I may never fully understand. Living with someone who is positive and suffering from a debilitating, incurable disease myself, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

However, if I had one wish, I would wish that HIV/AIDS finally leaves the closet it has been pushed into and that every kid and every adult in the entire world will get comprehensive education on a disease that is still very much alive in every part of the world, that nobody is safe from it and that it is not as easy as taking a pill to live with the infection.

By Sünje Schwarz


The need for protection from the North Sea, especially during storm surges, lead to the necessity for dikes as the region lacked natural protection from the sea. There are countless tales of devastating storm surges, the Rungholt saga being only one of them. Since dikes are vital for the protection of human life and economic resources, the North Sea is always present in the mind of the people of the North Sea region and its dangers are visualized through the dikes.


The people of the German North Sea coast have always had to defend themselves from the sea, especially during storm surges. These storm surges are a common event and people had to take action to protect themselves from the catastrophic devastation these storm surges are capable of. This not only shaped the landscape but also the people, who inhabit the North Sea coast regions.

During the Pleistocene times, the North Sea coast was not covered with ice. As a result, glacial outwash deposits formed the landscape and the sea is fairly shallow. Since natural protective structures, such as cliffs, inlets, or other natural protective structures are missing from much of the North Sea coast; the locals had to find another ways to protect themselves (Sterr, 2008).

Dwelling mounds were the first ways people tried to protect themselves from the North Sea in the 4th and 5th century. However, as a result of increasing population, agriculture became more and more important. Technological advances enabled the people along the North Sea coast to build the first dikes in the 11th century and use the very fertile marshlands for agriculture. But the building of dikes presented another problem to the people at the North Sea coast: Although their land was now protected from the sea, the plentiful rain had no place to drain. To solve this problem, the farmers formed an association that enabled them to build ditches and tidal outlets, which would drain the water at low tide but prevent water from coming in at high tide. Because this prevented mud deposits behind the dikes, these mud deposits were now seaside, leading to a rise in land. This new land, called a “Koog”, was in turn enclosed by dikes and used for agriculture (Rieken, 2005).

It is important to note that the dikes underwent an evolutionary process to arrive at the current design and height (Dust, 2010). While the first dikes were a mere 3 feet tall and only protected the crops during the summer. In the 13th century, the first dikes, designed to protect the region year round from the sea, were built (Rieken, 2005). In the 17th century, the dikes reached a height of over 12 feet and today’s dikes are almost 29 feet high, 23 feet higher than the regular high tide, protecting the entire area year round (Dust, 2010).

But history is filled with storm surges and dikes that couldn’t withstand the force of the water, leading to catastrophic devastation. Almost every generation has had to experience such a storm surge and the memories are passed on, ensuring awareness of the danger the people live in day in and day out. These storm surges are defined as periods of time with very high water levels, usually caused by very strong winds (Jakubowski-Tiessen, 1992). One of the most recognized stories every kid grows up with is the Rungholt saga. Rungholt was a city on a North Sea island. It is believed the city was destroyed during the “Marcellus flood” of 1362.  Poet Detlev von Liliencron’s poem “Trutze nun, Blanker Hans” (“Now obstinate, bare Hans”) is known in essence to all people in the area, whether they had to memorize the poem during their elementary school days or whether they learned about it from their parents. The expression “Bare Hans” is a metaphor for the North Sea that is still commonly used today (Mauch & Pfister, 2009). For a long time it was unclear whether the city of Rungholt actually existed or whether it was nothing more than a myth. However, archeologists have confirmed its existence in the 1920’s and 1930’s when remaining fragments of houses and wells were discovered (Dust, 2010). Another very famous piece of literature is “Der Schimmelreiter” (“The Dyke Master”) by Theodor Storm. This novel tells the fictitious story of Hauke Haien, a man with a vision for a new, better design for dikes. When he assumes the position of dikegrave, he can build the new dike although much of the village was against the design.  But when, during a storm surge, an old part of dike breaks and claims the life of the family, he takes his own life and rides his grey horse into the raging sea. His dike, however, prevails (Findlay, 1975).

The storm surge of 1717 is another example of a devastating flood surge, which flooded the entire marsh region in the county of Dithmarschen, destroying approximately 10 miles of dike along the coastline. Normally, the bells in the churches sounded to warn the population of impending danger but in the case of the storm surge of 1717, the storm surge came so fast and unexpected that warnings were impossible for most of the region. A quarter to half of the population in the areas impacted by the storm surge was lost. Recollections of the event are eerily similar to what many people had to experience during the tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan in recent years. The storm surge of 1962 was the latest storm surge that caused widespread devastation and deaths (Jakubowski-Tiessen, 1992).

As a result, the North Sea is always present in the mind of the people of the North Sea region and its dangers are visualized through the dikes. Everyone knows how important the dikes are, not only for the protection of human life, but also for the economic sustainability of the region. This region has not only seen entire cities vanish as a result of storm surges, but other cities have lost their wealth and status because a storm surge destroyed important trade goods and shifted access to harbors (Herrmann, 2008).

But the dikes and the constant fight against the unforgiving North Sea, have inevitably shaped the character of the people inhabiting the coastal area. The people feel very much connected with the nature surrounding them, and use a very pragmatic approach to coexist with the North Sea (Meyn, 2007). In other areas of Germany, the people of the North Sea are not only known for their love of freedom, they are also known as public-spirited, rough, steadfast and distrustful towards anyone who wants to change the way things are done (Allemeyer, 2008).

Today, rising sea levels and coastal protection stress the importance for dikes, as these low-lying areas are at high risk for flooding. In addition to flooding from the seaside, the terrestrial drainage from the inland is utterly important. Increasing the height of the dikes is only one way to combat the problems that rising sea levels as a result of climate change bring. Ultimately, people may be forced to retreat further inland, to areas that are higher and to give the North Sea a greater opportunity to weaken during a storm surge (Sterr, 2008).

In conclusion, living at the coast forever shaped the people of the North Sea region and their relationship is signified by the dikes that are meant to protect them.





Allemeyer, A. L. (2008). »Kein Land ohne Deich..!«.Lebenswelten einer Küstengesellschaft in der frühen Neuzeit (Veroffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts für Geschichte). (1 ed.). Goettingen, Germany: Ruprecht Gmbh & Co.

Dust, U. (2010). Die Geschichte der Sturmfluten an der Nordsee. Munich, Germany: GRIN Verlag.

Findlay, I. (1975). Myth and Redemption in Theodor Storm’s Der Schimmelreiter. Papers on Language & Literature, 11 (4), 397.

Herrmann, E. (2008). Schauplätze der Umweltgeschichte, Werkstattbericht. Goettingen, Germany: Universitaetsverlag Goettingen.

Jakubowski-Tiessen, A. (1992).Sturmflut 1717, Die Bewältigung einer Naturkatastrophe in der frühen Neuzeit. Oldenburg, Germany: Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag.

Mauch, H., & Pfister, H. (2009).Natural disasters, cultural responses, case studies toward a global environmental history. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Meyn, J. (2007). “Mit dem Meer wird man geboren”: vom Leben an der Küste Nordfrieslands. Münster, Germany: LIT Verlag.

Rieken, E. (2005). Nordsee ist Mordsee. Muenster, Germany: Waxmann Verlag.

Sterr, H. (2008). Assessment of Vulnerability and Adaptation to Sea-Level Rise for the Coastal Zone of Germany. Journal Of Coastal Research, 24(2), 380-393.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 7 November 2011

Decentering of Culture – The Impact of Western Contact with the Innuit

By Sünje Schwarz


Before Western contact, the Inuit were a self-sufficient, predominantly hunting culture. Since the first contact in the 16th century with the British, Westerners have tried to decenter Inuit culture. However, a more culturally sensitive post-modern world has helped to create hope to strengthen Inuit culture once again. The Inuit used the Western decentering of their culture to adapt and recenter it on Inuit culture.

Many cultures came into contact with the Westerners throughout Western explorations as early as the 16th century. Since then, it has been the emphasis of Westerners not to only bring Christianity, but also their own culture to these “primitive” nations. This forced many non-Western cultures to decenter their culture and shift the focus from the indigenous culture to the Western culture, often to see it replaced (Sayre, 2010).

One example of such decentering of culture can be found in the Inuit civilization. The Inuit are a people who inhabit about 53 communities in Northern Canada, namely Labrador, Northern Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (Kay-Raining Bird, 2011). Before Western contact, they were a self-sufficient, predominantly hunting culture (Tester & Irniq, 2008). They lived in small bands or extended families, with a great emphasis on the connections between the individual, the community, animals and nature (Kirmayer, Dandeneau, Marshall, Phillips, & Williamson, 2011). In detail this means that individuals of the community cannot make any decisions that involve others, unless it serves the community’s best interest. Innuit believe that any change to nature will have consequences. Sometimes these consequences will be good, but sometimes they will be bad. They also believe that animals should always be treated with respect and that nature is essential for their own sustainability and not a commodity (Tester & Irniq, 2008). These beliefs ensure their life and well-being, not only physically, but also mentally and socially as well (Kirmayer, Dandeneau, et al, 2011).

Since the first contact in the 16th century with the British, Westerners have tried to decenter Inuit culture. It started with the Missionaries, who were mainly concerned with the Inuit’s conversion to Christianity. Before the Westerners arrived, the Inuit educated their children by incorporating and mentoring them in daily activities (Kay-Raining Bird, 2011). The Missionaries were the ones who established the first schools in the Inuit community and had little regard for the disruption in indigenous culture they caused. Residential schools replaced missionary schools in the mid-19th century (Thomas, 2003). These residential schools further removed the Inuit children from their cultural identity, often with force. The Inuit children were not allowed to speak Inukitut, the Inuit language, they were forced to wear Western clothing and wear Western hair styles (Kay-Raining Bird, 2011). The goal was to replace and repress any cultural knowledge that did not fit within Western rationality. It is no surprise that the cultural differences were immense. The Inuit based their principle of power on skill and practice, which is a stark contrast to the way Westerners define power. Additionally, the Western concept of industrial capitalism and Inuit culture, which is based on a harmonious life with nature, are difficult to reconcile (Tester & Irniq, 2008). For the Westerners, who saw nature as a resource to be used, organized and exploited, the idea that life in harmony with respect for nature was impossible to understand (Sayre, 2010).

The Westerners thought of the Inuit as inferior and tried to establish their superiority in a number of economic policies that were aimed at increasing their wealth and creating a dependency of the Inuit to the Westerners (Sayre, 2010). For example, Westerners regarded Inuit as incapable of natural conservation and responsible handling of modern weapons. The result of this way of thinking was the creation of hunting quotas, which were actually based on little more than ethnocentricity and racism. These hunting quotas, however, had a serious impact on the food security and cultural identity of the Inuit. The Inuit saw themselves threatened of being cut off from their food supply and their traditional way of hunting. Although Westerners thought that Inuit needed constant supervision in the handling of modern weapons and hunting, there was no evidence that the Inuit indeed tried to overhunt and kill any and all seals or caribou. Instead, the Inuit showed remarkable resilience to attempts of Westerners to decenter their culture. Regardless of what kind of barriers the Westerners tried to build and make the Inuit conform to the Western culture, the Inuit resisted and instead of complying, they simply continued doing what they had always done (Tester & Irniq, 2008). Even a 90-95% reduction in population from the first contact to the late 20th century, has not resulted in eradication of Inuit culture (Kay-Raining Bird, 2011). Nevertheless, Western attempts at decentering Inuit culture have left their marks. Especially the institution of residential schools has had a negative impact with some Inuit incapable of speaking their own language and feeling disoriented and without an established cultural identity. Alcoholism is prevalent among these Inuit (Thomas, 2003). Inuit are also at a high risk for illiteracy and in 2003-2003, 95% of Inuit did not graduate high school, although the residential schools were closed starting in the 1960’s. At the same time, Inuit have higher child death rates and a lower life expectancy than Canadians (Kay-Raining Bird, 2011).

However, the Inuit have never given up and now benefit from a more culturally sensitive post-modern world. In 1999, the Inuit were granted a land claim initiated in the 1970’s (Tester & Irniq, 2008). The result was the Canadian territory of Nunavut. The hope behind it is to strengthen Inuit culture once again (McCollum, 2004). The Inuit are now allowed greater control of their children’s schooling and Inukitut is once again the first language taught, and although English and French are the other official languages of Nunavut, they are not taught until the third grade (Kay-Raining Bird, 2011). This reflects the desire of the Inuit people for their children to grow up with the knowledge and traditions of their own culture, but at the same time receive a modern, Western education (Tester & Irniq, 2008). Nevertheless, there are some parts of their culture that the Inuit have given up in favor of Western luxury. The Inuit no longer use sleds drawn by dogs but use snowmobiles instead and they abandoned life in igloos to live in heated houses (McCollum, 2004).

In the end it seems as though the Inuit were able to stay true to their Inuit principles and make use of Western culture to the best of their abilities and benefit from some of its advantages. One of them is the worldwide organization of indigenous people, who, in 1977 passed their own resolution on human rights (Tester & Irniq, 2008). At the same time, the Inuit are still adapting to the changes that first colonization and now globalization present to their social structures. The Inuit response to globalization is their own research into the issues that threaten Inuit communities and to raise awareness (Kirmayer, Dandeneau, et al, 2011). The Inuit used the Western decentering of their culture to adapt and recenter it on Inuit culture.


Kay-Raining Bird, E. (2011). Health, Education, Language, Dialect, and Culture in First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Communities in Canada: An Overview. Canadian Journal of Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology, 35(2), 110-124. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kirmayer, L. J., Dandeneau, S., Marshall, E., Phillips, M., & Williamson, K. (2011). Rethinking Resilience From Indigenous Perspectives. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(2), 84-91. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

McCollum, S. (2004). ENDANGERED CULTURES AND THE ANIMALS IN THEIR LIVES. National Geographic Kids, (343), 25. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Sayre, H. (2010). Discovering the humanities. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Tester, F., & Irniq, P. (2008). Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Social History, Politics and the Practice of Resistance. Arctic, 6148-61. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Thomas, R. (2003). Can Money Undo the Past? A Canadian Example. Comparative Education, 39(3), 331-43. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 4 November 2011

Philosophies that influenced Latin America

By Sünje Schwarz

When discussing the philosophies that influenced Latin America, it is important to note that the centuries under colonial government have left a lasting impression. As soon as they gained independence from the Spanish and Portuguese empires, the Latin American regions started founding republics (Palti, 2009). This gave way to the liberalism movement. With the uprising of the liberalism movement, its supporters stressed the need to replace the old, colonial laws with those that grant liberty and equality, anchored in the foundations of a constitution. However, it was inevitable that some of the laws of the “ancient constitution”, as the old Spanish and Indian laws are called, were preserved to guarantee legal continuity. Thus, the old rules often survived the liberal reform wishes (Chiaramonte, 2010). Nevertheless, the Latin American countries struggled to incorporate two of the most influential liberalism principles: the English liberalism and the French liberalism, personified by John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau respectively (Palti, 2009). One of the reasons the Latin American countries struggled to establish democratic governments can be seen in the difference of interpretation of liberalism. While for Locke the purpose of government laid within securing property and liberty for men, Rousseau saw the purpose of government in the creation of unity and harmony among people. At the same time, Locke favored a representative government, while Rousseau favored a more direct democracy with active involvement of the people (Gaus and Courtland, 2011). While European countries, as well as North America, were able to combine these two philosophies, the same could not be achieved in Latin America and instead gave rise to caudillos.

Caudillos are highly charismatic leaders, who often came to power through violent action or illegal methods. They were sometimes highly educated men who studied law and theology (Chiaramonte, 2010). Generally, the caudillos can be distinguished between those who favored the free market and social liberals (Margolis, 2008). In the end, they were strong but populist leaders, who obscured the division between government and state (Peronism and its perils, 2004).

One of the most recognized and popular caudillos is probably the former Argentinean president Juan Perón. Although he was essentially a dictator, he was nevertheless a freely elected dictator who had support from labor unions and the military. Perón used a vast propaganda machine to garner support among all social classes, but it was especially the poor, who supported him most because of his social welfare programs (Foss, 2000). To understand Peronism, it must be understood that Argentina was a country in which the clergy and religion did not play an important role in the creation of political parties. Nevertheless, political parties that sought votes depending on a certain social class existed even before Perón’s presidency. It is interesting that before Perón, the conservatives and socialists were sure to receive the votes of the classes they targeted, but after Perón, they essentially ceased to exist. The Radicals, which were split into Peronists and Radicals under Perón, were able to gain the votes that previously belonged to the conservatives, while the Peronists had vast support among the poor voters. This support reversed during Perón’s time in exile, likely because many of the poor voters were illiterate.

However, the social welfare agenda, largely propagated and implemented under Perón continues to define the Peronists’ legacy. In times of instability and crisis, people seem to remember the social agenda and Peronists gain votes among the middle class while the Radicals, who can secure most of the middle class votes during times of stability, are losing them (Lupu, 2009).

When researching the impact of European encroachment on Latin America, it is important to recognize that this impact was certainly two-fold. While Latin Americans and Europeans alike certainly benefited from some of the resources and technology, it should not be forgotten that the indigenous people paid a high price for it. Not only were many of these civilizations eradicated by disease, forced labor and exploitation, they were also faced with the loss of their culture (Sayre, 2010). This resulted in a heavy dependence on Europe, not only economically but also culturally. It should, therefore, not be surprising that the way Europeans enacted liberalism was seen by many as a way for elitist and special interest groups to run the country and not as a way to provide democratic values to all. To Europeans, on the other hand, caudillonism and Peronism were seen as an attack on aristocratic and liberal values (King, 1984).


Chiaramonte, J. (2010). The “Ancient Constitution” after Independence (1808-1852). Hispanic American Historical Review, 90(3), 455. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Foss, C. (2000). Propaganda and the Perons. History Today, 50(3), 8. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Gaus, G. and Courtland, S. D. (2011, Spring). Liberalism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved from <;.

King, J. (1984). Civilisation and Barbarism: The impact of Europe on Argentina. History Today, 34(8), 16. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Lupu, N. C. (2009). The social bases of political parties in Argentina, 1912-2003. Latin American Research Review, 44(1), 58. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Margolis, M. (2008). The Return of The Old Caudillo. Newsweek (Pacific Edition), 151(19), 36. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Palti, E. (2009). Beyond Revisionism: The Bicentennial of Independence, the Early Republican Experience, and Intellectual History in Latin America. Journal of the History of Ideas, 70(4), 593-614. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Peronism and its perils. (2004). Economist, 371(8378), 7. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Sayre, H. (2010). Discovering the humanities. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 21 October 2011

The Impact of Vernacular Language during the Middle Ages

By Sünje Schwarz


There were several factors responsible for the rise of vernacular language. A subsequent standardization of vernacular language is a logical consequence.

The French were among the first to spread their literary works in the vernacular language and by the fourteenth century, vernacular works spread throughout Europe. This shift from Latin to vernacular language presents an important shift in the interest of courtly literature. The role of women in the rise of vernacular language should also not be underestimated, as it was noble women who commissioned works to be written in or translated to vernacular language, thus preserving history. By the fifteenth century, vernacular language was well established as the language of literature, historical record and personal expression. In the end, however, vernacular language was often subject to standardization. Vernacular language was possible to rise and spread because many people did not speak Latin, not even noble men. Since vernacular language made it easier to convert people to Christianity, it was eventually used over Latin. Technological advances, which helped spread vernacular language and lead to increased literacy rates were essential.

There were several factors responsible for the rise of vernacular language. The desire to spread Christianity, the women’s desire to take part in cultural debates and technological advances are only three factors that made it possible for vernacular language to surpass Latin in importance of the everyday lives of people. A subsequent standardization of vernacular language is a logical consequence.

One important factor for the rise of vernacular language was the desire to make Christianity available for the broad population. Because they were most versed in studies of the bible and science, as well as vernacular language, it was usually monks who created an alphabet to translate the Latin bible into vernacular language. Once Christian readings and teachings were available in the vernacular language, it became easier to convert people to Christianity (Bouchard, 2004).

Nevertheless, there was a debate about whether or not religious service should be held in Latin or in vernacular language. This debate was one of the focal points of the Reformation in the sixteenth century (Slavitt, 1999).

Although the translation of the bible into vernacular language began in the tenth century among the Slavic Orthodox Christian community (Bouchard, 2004), in the rest of Europe Latin was still most common among educated people until the twelfth century (Sayre, 2010). However, the shift to vernacular language was not limited to Christians. Byzantine Jews also used their vernacular Greek language in religious texts, albeit using the Hebrew alphabet (De Lange, 2006).

This suggests that, although a standard language united religious communities, what communities together was ultimately the use of vernacular language. This can especially be seen in the development of nations when the religious impact on individual communities subsided (Bouchard, 2004). Vernacular language is, therefore, an important way to stabilize the identity of a culture, which not only binds a culture together but also emphasizes the difference to different cultures (Vincze, 2009).

The French were among the first to spread their literary works in the vernacular language and by the fourteenth century, vernacular works spread throughout Europe. This shift from Latin to vernacular language presents an important shift in the interest of courtly literature. It gave people greater freedom of expression, as can be seen in the poems of troubadours about courtly love (Sayre, 2010).

The role of women in the rise of vernacular language should also not be underestimated, as it was noble women who commissioned works to be written in or translated to vernacular language, thus preserving history (McCash, 2008). Although schools were on the rise, at least for wealthy boys, the main subject was still Latin and although girls of the same social class learned to read and identify Latin, they did not learn its grammar and with it its true meaning (Orme, 2006).  Therefore, when women wanted to participate in cultural debates, it had to be in vernacular language (McCash, 2008).

As a result, vernacular language empowered women and lead towards greater freedom of expression and by the fifteenth century, writings by women were no longer oddities (McCash, 2008).

Additionally, advances in technology and the import of papermaking techniques were important for the rise of vernacular language (Slavitt, 1999). Gutenberg’s invention of movable letters and a printing process that allowed for mass production was important for the spread of vernacular language. The printing process made it easier and faster to reproduce literary works (Chappell, 2011). Not surprisingly, the first book Gutenberg printed, the Bible, was written in vernacular.

These technological advances also generated greater rates of literacy since anyone who could speak a vernacular language could learn how to read and write in it as well  (Slavitt, 1999).

By the fifteenth century, vernacular language was well established as the language of literature, historical record and personal expression (McCash, 2008). Latin, however, remained an important language for official proceedings and science as it was considered safe from change (Vincze, 2009).

In the end, however, vernacular language was often subject to standardization. This is a widespread phenomenon in Europe where many countries have one standard language, which is by no means shared by all of the country’s inhabitants. Examples include, but are not limited to, Welsh, Gaelic, or Cornish in the United Kingdom, which were overtaken by English, Catalan, Galician, or Basque in Spain, where Spanish is the official language or North Friesian, Low German, or Bavarian in Germany, which has a form of High German as its official language. The standardization in these countries is not the result of superiority of one language over the others, but is a result of comprehensibility (Deumert & Vandenbusche, 2003). It is sometimes much easier to settle on a common standard for a language that can be understood by all and lead to the building of a common identity (Reershemius, 2009).

Vernacular language was possible to rise and spread because many people did not speak Latin, not even noble men. One of the main points that lead to the Reformation was the debate about whether or not religious services should be held in vernacular over Latin. Since vernacular language made it easier to convert people to Christianity, it was eventually used over Latin. Technological advances, which helped spread vernacular language and lead to increased literacy rates were essential. However, the women, who wanted to take part in cultural debates, but who were limited in their educational aspirations, also played an important part in the rise of vernacular language.

Because of regional differences, however, a standardization of vernacular language became necessary to increase comprehensive communication and a stronger national identity.


Bouchard, M. (2004). A critical reappraisal of the concept of the ‘Imagined Community’ and the presumed sacred languages of the medieval period. National Identities, 6(1), 3-24. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Chappell, P. (2011). Gutenberg’s Press Revisited: Invention and Renaissance in the Modern World. Agora, 46(2), 26-30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

De Lange, N. (2006). Jewish Use of Greek in the Middle Ages: Evidence from Passover Haggadoth from the Cairo Genizah. Jewish Quarterly Review, 96(4), 490-497. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Deumert, A., & Vandenbussche, W. (2003). Germanic standardizations: past to present (Impact: studies in language and society. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Pub Co.Retrieved from

McCash, J. (2008). The Role of Women in the Rise of the Vernacular. Comparative Literature, 60(1), 45-57. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Orme, N. (2006). What did Medieval Schools do for us?. History Today, 56(6), 10-17. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Reershemius, G. (2009). Post-Vernacular Language Use in a Low German Linguistic Community. Journal of Germanic Linguistics, 21 , pp 131-147 doi:10.1017/S1470542709000221

Sayre, H. (2010). Discovering the humanities. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Slavitt, D. R. (1999). The Decline and Fall of Latin (and the Rise of English). World & I, 14(10), 18. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Vincze, H. (2009). The stakes of translation and vernacularisation in early modern Hungary. European Review of History, 16(1), 63-78. doi:10.1080/13507480802655402

By Sünje Schwarz
Having grown up in a region that fiercely defended its independence and over which no aristocrat ruled until the late 16th century, and which even then remained de facto independent until 1864, it can be difficult to understand the suppression women of aristocracy. People in the North Sea region were not only able to choose their own spouse; they also put more emphasis of raising valuable members of society. This meant that women had higher literacy rates than in other parts of Europe and that it was seen as normal for people to temporarily serve in another household, which would teach them valuable skills (De Moor & Van Zanden, 2010).
Nevertheless, an attempt will be made to accurately and objectively describe the findings of research and analysis.
Troubadours and trobairitz wrote and performed poems mainly on the subject of love. One popular form was the canso, which was an artificial construct with the purpose to idealize and worship the person described in it (Warren, 1912). Describing the admiration for a person of the other sex, who was unobtainable either because of social or marital status was a common theme (Peakman, 2011).
Another popular form was the tenso, a debate on the topic of love between a troubadour and a trobairitz or a fictional character invented by the troubadour with the intension to give the poem more dimension. Tensos between troubadours and trobairitz were written to supplement the troubadours and as a way for the trobairitz to match the men at their literary game. Nevertheless, most women’s writings were suppressed because misogyny was common (Jewers, 1994).
A third form were sirventes, which were usually not performed by trobairitz. These poems were largely of political or moral nature (Findley, 2006).
The poem written by the Contessa de Dia is a canso. When discussing troubadour and trobairitz poetry, it is important to realize that they were a piece of entertainment (Sayre, 2010). This means that Troubadours and trobairitz did not necessarily mean what they sang and many troubadours had what could be called “celebrity status” (Findley, 2006). Additionally, while trobairitz were an integral part of the courtly standards, they were a minority (Sandels, 2008). The courtly love described in the poem was usually not lived out, if only for very practical reasons. Marriages among aristocrats were usually arranged only with regard to expand wealth and power, but not mutual feelings (Peakman 2011). While there were certainly instances in which the couples shared mutual feelings and respect for each other, there were certainly other instances in which these mutual feelings were absent to say the least. As a result, it is not surprising when men and women fell in love with someone they were not married to.
At the same time, the men were often too busy going to war, leaving their estate for the women to rule and manage. This was also important considering the general unattainability of the person they desired (Peakman, 2011).
Although trobairitz were progressive women, who wrote and spoke their mind in a world, which would prefer them to be silent objects (Jewers, 1994), the status or reputation of a trobairitz did not usually change (Findley, 2006).

De Moor, T., & Van Zanden, J. (2010). Girl power: the European marriage pattern and labour markets in the North Sea region in the late medieval and early modern period. Economic History Review, 63(1), 1-33. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.2009.00483.x
Findley, B. (2006). Reading Sincerity at the Intersection of Troubadour/Trobairitz Poetry. Romance Quarterly, 53(4), 287. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Jewers, C. A. (1994). Loading the canon: For and against feminist readings of the Trobairitz. Romance Quarterly, 41(3), 134. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Peakman, J. (2011). Poise and Passion in the Middle Ages. History Today, 61(8), 36-41. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Sandels, M. (2008). How Do We “Read” the Miniatures of the Occitan Trobairitz?. Studia Neophilologica, 80(1), 65-74. doi:10.1080/00393270802082960
Sayre, H. (2010). Discovering the humanities. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Warren, F. M. (1912). The troubadour “canso” and latin lyric poetry. Modern Philology, 9(4), 469-487. Retrieved from

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 24 September 2011

Have families weakened? A sociological look at families today and 50 years ago

By Sünje Schwarz



Family life has changed a lot since the 1960’s. Not only have women become more independent but the perception of what is a family has changed as well. Families no longer have to consist of a man, a woman and children. Single-sex marriages are becoming more accepted and lawful. Men decide to stay at home and care for the children while the woman continues to work. The family structures have changed considerably but this does not necessarily mean that the institution “family” has weakened.

I. Introduction

Families are often considered to have weakened since the 1960’s. This means that families can no longer provide the social function of creating and developing new, virtuous and viable members of society. However, to look at this further, it has to be considered that the structure of family has changed.

II. Family Then And Now

The term family is largely a social construction that serves as an intermediary between an individual and society (Mustaeva, 2010). This construction strengthens society as a whole (Rodríguez-Sedano, Aguilera, & Costa-Paris, 2009). That said family is often defined through the relationship of a group of people based on their blood relation, marital status or adoption. Other relationships that require mutual agreement are also included (Macionis & Plummer, 2010).

When considering changes in the family structure since 1960, it is important to recognize that before the industrial revolution, women often contributed to a family’s income as well. This changed with the industrial revolution and in the 1830’s it became the role of men to be the main provider and for the women to stay at home and raise the family. This went so far that women were discouraged to seek work outside the home (Bernard, 1981). This all began to change again in the 1960’s when more and more women started entering the workforce, pursuing a professional career themselves and creating more double income families (Braiker, Kuchment, & Dy, 2007). However, women entering the workforce have not been the only change families have seen in the past 50 years.

People have also been waiting longer to get married; they now wait until their mid- to late-twenties, as opposed to the early twenties before 1960 (Braiker, Kuchment, & Dy, 2007) and children have become a financial liability instead of an asset (Rodríguez-Sedano, Aguilera, & Costa-Paris, 2009). At the same time, the decision to have children is now much more of a personal choice, and some people decide to stay child-free (Cahill, 2003). But especially for women, the decision is often not so much the personal freedom and the unwillingness to put in a second shift, but the careers they chose to pursue that won’t allow them to have children. The workplace is still very discriminatory when it comes to women and their pursuit of a career. Men usually won’t have to worry about their careers taking a downturn when they decide to be fathers but the same cannot be said about women. Therefore, many women will have to make a conscious decision to pursue their careers instead of having children (“The choices that”, 2002).

However, there has been a change in the perception of traditional parenting roles. Although men are still often perceived as the primary providers for a family, the number of stay-at-home dads has increased dramatically. This is connected to a shift of the perception of fatherhood. While fathers before 1960 still believed that hard work and the ability to pay the bills and provide for the family were still seen as outmost important (Bernard, 1981), more and more fathers are now concerned with the well-being of their children and keep their best interest in mind (Yarbrough, 2004). But even with this perception, economic reasons still often determine if a father will assume the role of stay-at-home dad (Braiker, Kuchment, & Dy, 2007). Not every family can afford for a parent to stay at home and in cases in which the father earns considerably more than the mother, it seems impractical for the father to stay at home (Krista, 2010). Yet, regardless of whether a parent stays at home with the children or whether both work outside the home, fathers spend increasingly more time with their children (Braiker, Kuchment, & Dy, 2007).

But stay-at-home dads are not the only novelty families have seen. Although they still face many legal obstacles and stigma, same-sex couples with children are also on the rise (Onderko, 2011). For same-sex couples, children often have a different significance than they do for heterosexual couples (Weber, 2011). This may be in part because same-sex couples generally have to work much harder for their children and the legal obstacles granting both parents equal parental rights are astoundingly high (Onderko, 2011). Until October 2010, same sex couples in Florida were not even allowed to adopt a child (“Florida gay adoption,” 2010). But even if one partner brings a child into the family, either by birth or through a previous relationship, most states and the federal government do not provide any legal rights to the other parent and that parent then must consider second-parent adoption, a costly process (Onderko, 2011).

III. Family and Social Issues

Some people may argue that the weakening of families can be seen especially in same-sex families, which some still consider immoral. Research proves them wrong, however. First of all, same-sex couples are not at all different from heterosexual couples when factors such as happiness and satisfaction in the relationship are considered (Weber, 2011). At the same time, children of same-sex couples often have fewer behavioral and social problems, as well as better school performance than their peers from heterosexual couples (Onderko, 2011).

As a result, the gender of the parents really does not seem to matter in the development of a child, and therefore the next generation of society.

Instead, the focus should be on the stability of the relationship the children grow up in. Children who grow up in stable relationships report overall fewer health and social issues, regardless of their parents’ sex (Weber, 2011). These children usually have a better understanding of their identity and experience a high level of closeness at home Additionally, parents provide essential support, information and opportunity to their children based on their own successes and failures (Rodríguez-Sedano, Aguilera,  & Costa-Paris, 2009).

In contrast, unstable relationships as well as broken marriages cannot provide this support and create important virtues that help children grow up to be valuable members of society. Instead, these situations can lead to substance abuse, depression or even suicide and damage society  Rodríguez-Sedano, Aguilera,  & Costa-Paris, 2009). This is especially true for African-American families, who not only have the lowest marriage rates, but also the highest divorce rates (Patterson, 2002).

Children of single mothers are also at risk for low educational performance. One reason can be seen in the economic resources (Hampden-Thompson, 2009). Single mothers will often have to work more than married mothers or those who are in a stable relationship to cover daycare costs as well as pay bills and provide for their children. It should, therefore, not be surprising that single mothers are more likely to experience poverty than their peers in stable relationships or marriages (Patterson, 2002). What is surprising, however, is that there is no indication of how well single fathers manage raising their children. Regardless, with single parent families, the extended family plays a much bigger role. Especially when daycare is not affordable, the extended family will have to take over the role of the nuclear parent at least some of the time and help raising the children or provide economic resources or both (Hampden-Thompson, 2009).

Daycare is another example often cited in the weakening of families. Spending time in daycare means time a child cannot spend with his or her parents or the extended family. Critics say that this time is critical for a child’s development. Research shows, however, that a child raised in daycare generally does not present more behavioral or social issues than when a child raised at home. It is important to note that much of this outcome depends on the quality of the daycare and the parents’ interaction with the daycare providers to take care of the child’s needs (Stamm, 2011).

IV. Considerations

In the end, it is the family structure that has changed and not so much that the families themselves have weakened. The economic success of two people often dictates if and how many children they will have (Mustaeva, 2010). In order to strengthen family ties again and change the outlook of how families are perceived, several steps need to be taken. One step is to provide more financial stability for parents, as this is an important factor for a lasting marriage (Shore & Shore, 2009). At the same time households, which contain both parents, generally have more resources, often as a result of double income. But this also means they are able to engage their kids more socially and culturally (Hampden-Thompson, 2009). The federal and statewide legislation of same-sex marriage would also further strengthen families and benefit the children involved (Weber, 2011).

Finally, legislation needs to recognize the fathers’ desire to stay at home and pay an essential role in raising their children by changing any maternity leave provision to a more-inclusive family leave provision, so that either parent or both parents can take time off from work to care for their newborn (Braiker, Kuchment, & Dy, 2007).

V. Conclusion

In summary, family as a social structure has undergone significant changes over the past 50 years. The man is no longer the provider and families have become more diverse. In adapting to these more diverse family structures, stigma needs to be removed and more economic equality needs to be created. Only with supporting legislative action, families in their new structure can be the powerful unity they seemed to be in the past.


Bernard, J. (1981). The good-provider role: Its rise and fall. American Psychologist, 36(1), 1-12. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.36.1.1

Braiker, B., Kuchment, A., & Dy, C. (2007). Just Don’t Call Me Mr. Mom. Newsweek, 150(15), 52-55. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Cahill, T. (2003, October 6). You assumed wrong. Maclean’s. p. 52. Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Florida gay adoption ban ends. (2010, October 22). Retrieved from

Hampden-Thompson, G. (2009). Are Two Better than One? A Comparative Study of Achievement Gaps and Family Structure. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 39(4), 517-534. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Krista, J. (2010, October 17). Stay-at-home dads are finding it’s not such a bad place to be. Washington Post, The. Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Macionis, J, & Plummer, K. (2010). Sociology: a global introduction,  13th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Mustaeva, F. A. (2010). The Social Problems of Today’s Family. Russian Education & Society, 52(7), 69-78. doi:10.2753/RES1060-9393520705

Onderko, P. (2011). The (same-sex) family next door. Parenting School Years, 25(2), 62. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Patterson, O. (2002). Reclaiming Our Family Ties. Essence (Time Inc.), 33(5), 226. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Rodríguez-Sedano, A., Aguilera, J., & Costa-Paris, A. (2009). The Decline of the Family as a Source of Social Capital in the EU: Some Indicators. Educación y Educadores, 12(3), 161-177. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Shore, R. & Shore, B. (2009). Increasing the Percentage of Children Living in Two-Parent Families. KIDS COUNT Indicator Brief. Annie E. Casey Foundation, Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Stamm, M. (2011). Wie viel Mutter braucht das Kind? — Theoretische Befunde und empirische Fakten zur Frage der Nützlichkeit oder Schädlichkeit von früher familienexterner Betreuung. (German). Diskurs Kindheits- und Jugendforschung, 6(1), 17-29. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

The Choices That Confine Us. (2002, April). Harvard Business Review. p. 10. Retrieved from EBSCOhost..

Weber, S. (2011). Impacts of legal relationship recognition of same-sex parenting couples on family health and well-being. Journal of Nursing Law, 14(2), 39-48. doi:10.1891/1073-7472.14.2.39

Yarbrough, M. (2004). The Single Dad: Tackling Fatherhood On His Own. Jet, 105(25), 12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Posted by: sternenfeeinflorida | 17 September 2011

A few thoughts on hate crime

By Sünje Schwarz



Hate crime is a difficult topic. Anyone can be the target and anyone can be the attacker. Legal definitions limit hate crimes to crimes committed on the basis of an individual’s race, sexual orientation, physical disability or ancestry. Regardless of which qualifying community is targeted, hate crimes have lasting effects on the community. They can instill fear, which in turn can result in a social movement protesting the very crimes committed against that community or the members could fall into a state of hopelessness and despair. A possible solution to hate crimes is to rebel against hate crime and force social change, and with it acceptance.
I. Overview

Hate crime is a complex topic that knows no easy answers. It can target anybody and anyone can be the perpetrator. Solutions are just as difficult to find as they require the involvement of the entire community.

Hate crime existed for centuries but it has become the focus of policy making only within the past thirty years (Bleich & Hart, 2008). To qualify as a hate crime, a crime has to be committed because of someone’s race, religion, sexual orientation, physical disability or ancestry (Macionis & Plummer, 2010). This means the question needs to be asked if the same crime would still have been committed even without any of these qualifying factors, making the perpetrator’s selection an intentional act (Lieberman, 2010). For example, there is a large difference of a crime committed against a black person to get his or her money and a crime committed against the same black person because that person is black.

Interestingly, although crimes against homeless certainly do occur, this social status has not been included in the legal definitions (Wachholz, 2005). In contrast, hate crime laws in Germany include crimes committed based on a person’s ideology, appearance or social status (Bleich & Hart, 2008). The desire to protect these characteristics is almost certainly the result of the genocide in the Third Reich, during which individuals could be sent to concentration camps for nothing more than their political ideologies and/or affiliations.

Hate crime can also be regarded as a crime against prejudices that are not accepted by society as a whole (Chakraborti, 2010). It is important to realize that prejudices exist in every culture and some are indeed deemed acceptable. They create boundaries between social classes for example, or determine who will get a job based on an individual’s attractiveness. Hate crime, however, is trying to protect carefully crafted boundaries in a physical, as well as a social sense (Perry, 2009).

Perhaps the most distinguishing factor of hate crime to “regular” crime is that hate crime intends to send a message to the group exhibiting the victim’s identifying characteristics (Lieberman, 2010).

II. Perpetrators and victims

Technically, everybody can become a victim of hate crime, however, race, religion and sexual orientation are the most reported forms of hate crime in the United States, while hate crimes against women do not seem to be prevalent. They are much more obvious in other parts in the world, often justified by law. If a person displays multiple qualifying characteristics, the likelihood that he or she will be a victim of hate crime is much higher (Macionis & Plummer, 2010). Often forgotten is the case of Native Americans, although their genocide and ethnocide is well documented in American history and is still a cause for great concern. For most Native Americans hate crime and hate incidents are the norm, rather than the exception (Perry, 2009).

That said men seem to be at greater risk of becoming victims of hate crime, not only in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) community but in the overall hate crime statistics and younger people feel more at risk than older individuals (Dick, 2009).

The fact that hate crime is an intentional act against a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or ancestry makes it a very personal crime. The victim is not always able to hide the characteristics that make him or her the target of hate crime (Lieberman, 2010).

While identifying the victims of a hate crime is seemingly easy, identifying the perpetrators is much more difficult. Nevertheless, statistics show most crimes, and therefore most hate crimes, are committed by young individuals who are younger than 25 years old (Dick, 2009). When thinking about hate crime in the United States, most people think about the Ku Klux Klan, although this group has actually reported declining membership numbers, while there are other groups emerging and strengthening. Hate crime is not limited to membership in supremacy groups; hate can be learned from family and friends (Anderson, Dyson, & Brooks Jr., 2002). The important part to remember is that hate crimes can be characterized by their self-serving prejudices (Key, 2006). However, hate against a specific group is rarely the cultural norm; it exists in deviant subcultures that accept violence against individuals that do not fit this subculture’s norms and values (Anderson, Dyson, & Brooks Jr., 2002). This means that hate crime is not the result of intergroup conflict. Intergroup conflict would require different group memberships for the perpetrators and law-abiding citizens. For example, if hate crime was based on intergroup conflict, perpetrator and victim could not both be of the same race. Yet, white men do not only target gay men with a different race/ethnicity but they also target white gay men (Key, 2006).

People within these subcultures learn to dehumanize those who are different and criminal behavior against these different people is accepted and sometimes glorified (Anderson, Dyson, & Brooks Jr., 2002).

III. Effects and Prevention

Hate crime usually has a lasting effect on the society it targets (Lieberman, 2010). One of the reasons for this is that the victims are almost always strangers (Dick, 2009). In addition, hate crime has a psychological effect, too. Not all hate crime results in the death of the victim and victims may be afraid of retaliation (Callanan, 2010) or they fear further discrimination from law enforcement officials (Dick, 2009). At the same time, it can make the victims feel overwhelmed, hopeless and disempowered (Perry, 2009).

Members of the LGBT community may try to hide their sexual orientation as a crime prevention measure, however not all communities have this choice and by far not everyone wants to hide part of their identity (Dick, 2009).

But perhaps the greatest effect of hate crime on society as a whole is the resulting segregation. Once again, this is most obvious in Native American reservations, which are not only the direct outcome of violence committed against them but are a very visible and real boundary, enforced by police (Perry, 2009). Not as clear but still existent is the large black population in inner cities, which could constitute another type of segregation (Macionis & Plummer, 2010). This residential segregation ensures economic segregation as well, especially for Native Americans. Keeping them on reservations, where they feel safe, also limits their ability for economic success and upward social mobility (Perry, 2009).

Preventing and solving the problem of hate crime is not an easy task. It is important that the affected communities stand up for their rights and create new social movements. Society as a whole needs to be shaken up, so it is open to re-define and re-construct itself. The desired result would be that difference is not seen as something inferior but as something that is just not the same (Perry, 2009). Tolerance may be a big word and a difficult concept to apply to an entire society but a society that can accept that a person’s hair color doesn’t make them superior or inferior can learn the same about an individual’s race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or ancestry.

IV. Conclusion

In the end, hate crime is a concept that can be universally to every member of society. Although technically nobody is safe from becoming a victim of hate crime, people of a different color than white, a sexual orientation other than heterosexuality, religion other than Christianity are more often the targets of hate crime. The effects of hate crime can have a lasting effect on the targeted community and can result in social movements such as the Civil Rights movement or they can lead to hopelessness and despair as often seen in Native American Reservations.

Solving hate crimes would require the targeted communities to stand up, become deviant and force social change through rebellion.


Anderson, J. F., Dyson, L., & Brooks Jr., W. (2002). Preventing Hate Crime and Profiling Hate Crime Offenders. Western Journal of Black Studies, 26(3), 140. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Bleich, E., & Hart, R. K. (2008). Quantifying Hate: The Evolution of German Approaches to Measuring ‘Hate Crime’. German Politics, 17(1), 63-80. doi:10.1080/09644000701855143

Chakraborti, N. (2010). Crimes Against the “Other”: Conceptual, Operational, and Empirical Challenges for Hate Studies.Journal of Hate Studies, 8(1), 9-28. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dick, S. (2009). Homophobic hate crime – findings from the Gay British Crime Survey 2008. Safer Communities, 8(4), 35-42. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Key, S. (2006). THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF HATE CRIME AND THE HATE OFFENDER’S DISTORTED COGNITIONS. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27(6), 597-604. doi:10.1080/01612840600642877

Lieberman, M. (2010). Hate Crime Laws: Punishment to Fit the Crime. Dissent (00123846), 57(3), 81-84. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Macionis, J, & Plummer, K. (2010). Sociology: a global introduction,  13th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Perry, B. (2009). ‘There’s just places ya’ don’t wanna go’: the segregating impact of hate crime against Native Americans.Contemporary Justice Review, 12(4), 401-418. doi:10.1080/10282580903342888

Wachholz, S. (2005). Hate Crimes Against the Homeless: Warning-Out New England Style. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 32(4), 141-163. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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