An article in the Columbia Journalism Review explored the differences between political journalism and political science. As a result, Chris Beam wrote about what would happen if academics started writing the news. It’s a wonderful piece, but Mr. Beam frames it as if all academics are political scientists.
What if sociologists wrote the news instead?
Untangling Race & Gender from Catastrophic Incidences of Corporate Exploitation In Semi-Natural Ecosystems: A Case Study
by Tenure C. King, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Tulane University
NEW ORLEANS — Absent from the dialogue surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which began on April 20, 2010 following an explosion that killed eleven workers, are the roles of class, race and especially gender. Due to the environmental devastation wrought by the catastrophe, which is likely to fall heaviest on the working poor, it is understandable that attention is largely focused on efforts to plug the oil well undertaken by British Petroleum, a corporation founded in imperial Britain to exploit the oil resources of people of color.
It is not insignificant to cleanup efforts, however, that even today BP’s leadership lacks adequate gender diversity, its board of directors being made up of fourteen persons, only one of them who self-identifies as a female, and all of whom earn significantly more than the median income in Louisiana, Alabama, and even the relatively privileged residents of coastal Florida.
Among other things, this raises important questions as to whether Gulf Coast populations most affected by the spill will see mitigation efforts as legitimate. Asked about this issue, Mijntje Lückerath-Rovers, a legal researcher at Erasmus University Rotterdam, noted that “any comprehensive investigation of the impact of providing legitimacy by female board members on corporate performance should not be limited to profitability (which is mostly concerned with shareholders profit), but should include, for example, social and market performance and the satisfaction of relevant stakeholders.”
Thus far, however, neither a protocol for evaluating the satisfaction of stakeholders nor a safe space where they might be interviewed has been established by the disproportionately white, male pubic servants with a responsibility to respond..
Despite the fact that the United States has institutional frameworks insufficient to adequately safeguard environmental assets through federal intervention, other observers are calling for President Barack Obama to assume a greater role over efforts to stop the spill. While his participation would certainly improve upon the actual and perceived diversity of oil mitigation efforts, a long pattern of institutional racism in American history and the resulting exclusion of African Americans and other people of color from the Oval Office means that scholarly data cannot predict how an increase in racial diversity would impact performance in mitigating the environmental impacts of an oil spill.
“Diversity scholars have argued that demographic heterogeneity in work groups is associated with decreased job satisfaction and organizational commitment of employees,” said Sungjoo Choi of Southern George University. “As a result, employees in the diverse work groups tend to show higher probability of turnover.”
Asked for comment, a White House staffer who requested anonymity out of habit said that Barack Obama has no intention of resigning from the presidency due to job dissatisfaction or any other reason. “The President has a long list of agenda items that he is eager to accomplish,” said the staffer, alluding to the recent re-articulation of policy proposals made as an attempt to aggregate together into a cohesive whole the disparate discourses of Democratic candidates competing in the mid-term elections.
Both the textual and sub-textual paradigms emanating from the White House are likely to shift after election day.