Ferguson and Privilege

It is difficult to visit any kind of a news website these days without seeing articles about the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. When Michael Brown (an unarmed, black teenager) was shot by Darren Wilson (a white police officer), it sent shock-waves throughout the United States. Many believed that this was an issue of police brutality, just one example out of many past cases that proved that American police officers were abusing their authority. People were (and still are) outraged that such a horrible crime could occur, and then go unpunished. What everyone should recognize though, is that the shooting of Michael Brown provides an example of privilege and how it effects minorities in our country today.

The involvement of privilege in the case of Michael Brown’s shooting is pointed out by an anthropologist in Carole McGranahan’s article. This is not something that I, personally, had considered before. Michael Brown was killed because of his lack of privilege. His family did not receive the justice they deserved because they were black, and the police officer who took the life of their loved one was white. Because Officer Darren Wilson was white, he was given more authority by our justice system. He was not indicted because of the privilege he was born with.

Our justice system might have acknowledged privilege in the court while Officer Darren Wilson was on trial, but it most certainly used Wilson’s privilege as a means to keep him from facing time for the crime he was accused of. Had Michael Brown been white, the situation would have been entirely different. The courts might have been horrified and the jury might have sent Wilson to jail as quickly as they could have. This is a perfect example of inequality, and how it is still very prevalent in our country today. People who are not gifted with white privilege suffer because of it. They are labeled as usually being the ones at fault in bad situations simply because of their skin color. This is a very big problem in our country today, yet it is unlikely to be solved or even formally addressed any time soon because of how often people like Officer Darren Wilson are able to get away with murder without any consequence at all.

McGranahan, Carole. “Ferguson: Anthropologists Speak Out.” Savage Minds. 26 Nov. 2014. Web.


Anthropology in the Arts

I find it fascinating to consider the different ways that people could potentially approach the same thing, given their own specific background and expertise. I approach anthropology, for example, through the lens of a music theorist, which proves to be confusing and changes the experience of learning a social science. In the same vein, Kat Jungnickel, in her article “anthropology + design: kat jungnickel”explores how her background in anthropology has shaped her place in the world as a creative artist (or “maker” as she refers to herself). This background, fascinatingly, changes her process and vision, but also makes her analyze her work with endless ethonographer-esque questions. The end products of her creative endeavors are a hard to categorize mixture of maker-ness and ethnographic research.

For example, Jungnickel’s most recent project has been “Enquiry Machines”: a mish-mash of bicycle scraps repurposed to seat two people, facing opposite one another. Each person then interviews the other about interviewing as a process through an anthropological lens. (I can’t say I completely understand the project) In this, Jungnickel combines the art of making, performance art, and an anthropology-rooted inquiry systems. Jungnickel also states that she “makes to understand”, which I resonate with. I use the creation and performance of music much in the same way. I think especially with less immediately personal subjects such as anthropology, finding personal meaningfulness dramatically enhances your understanding of that subject. 


Jungnickel, Kat

2014. anthropology + design: kat jungnickel, Savage Minds.