SOC 100 spring 2014
Assignment #2: Social Deviance & Race (Photo)
12 March 2014
Figure 1. Seal walks around with his biracial son and Caucasian stepdaughter. According to Conley, the labeling theory is the belief that individuals subconsciously notice how others see or label them, and their reactions to those labels, over time, form the basis of their self-identity. In other words, labeling theory is the idea that society determines the distinction between what is deviant and what is not deviant. This theory states that conforming members of society, especially individuals with power, impose significant labels on certain behaviors, constructing them to be deviant. In this picture, Seal, the husband of Heidi Klum, is challenging the racial norm of marrying within the same race and having children that are not mixed race. Often times in society, a black man walking around with a child that is blonde and fair skin causes discrimination toward the parent and may even cause accusations that the child is not his. The TV show “What Would You Do” tested this concept by allowing a black man to walk around with a daughter that is blonde, similar to the picture of Seal and his daughter. An actor on the show began to ask the man what the relationship was with the girl, and then said, “I see a scared white girl with a black guy.” Society’s reaction to this act can often be dangerous and there are cases where biracial families have been labeled deviant and had their houses nearly burned to the ground. According to Conley, social sanctions are responses designed to transform the offender into a productive member of society, rather than deviant. In other words, sanctions are types of social control and mechanisms that regulate behavior by trying to obtain compliance to the given rules. They help uphold common beliefs and that status quo. Formal sanctions are those that are externally enforced by the environment whereas informal sanctions are structured by socialization. When people view the different races of Seal and his daughter, they are informally sanctioning the deviant. By law, biracial families are legal, but due to the racial judgments that society puts on mixed race families, people begin to engage in stereotypes. By putting these “rules” on biracial families, they can over time begin to label themselves as deviant and have to change things about their life in order to conform to the rest of society. I don’t believe the witnesses of this specific act hold society together, because biracial families have no negative affect on society, they just may differ from the social norm.
Conley, Dalton. You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking like a Sociologist. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2011. Print. Crossman, Ashley. "Labeling Theory." About.com Sociology. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2014. . Seal as a Father. 2007. People Magazine, Los Angeles, CA. People.com. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. . "Social Control." Princeton University. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2014. . Zepeda, Robert, and Susie Whitley. "What Would You Do If You Saw a Black Father With a White Child Being Harassed?" ABC News. ABC News Network, 28 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. .