Systemic racism. Police brutality. White privilege. Mass incarceration. Intersectionality.
These words and phrases have flooded my social media feed in response to the murders of innocent Black people at the hands of the police.
Social media is a powerful tool that allows us to teach, learn and listen. In just one Instagram post, I can learn about prison labor and which companies use it. Pink infographics teach people about white privilege. A user shares a page-by-page analysis to explain voter suppression in communities of color.
My generation of social media activists has taken it upon ourselves to learn about everything — from systemic racism to how to abolish the police — just by scrolling on our phones.
It’s impressive. It’s important. But it is not the only way to learn.
As students, we need to take advantage of the social science classes on our campus. We need to analyze why injustices happen and what we can do to prevent them. We should be using our knowledge from courses to publicize the information on social media, and not learning about the sociology of race for the first time on our phones.
Through the College of Liberal Arts and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, students can take courses that cover almost every area of our society. Whether you take “Introduction to the Study of Society,” “Foundations of Social Justice” or “Politics of Black Identity,” you will learn more about how society works and your role in it.
“In the STEM field, the social science classes are just a requirement for a lot of people, but there is an appreciation for the course, especially after it has been taken,” geology junior Seth Coleman said.
In order to graduate, every UT student must complete three credit hours of a social science. However, there is no reason to stop there.
“(The social sciences) address big questions such as racism, crime and religion, look for patterns in answering these questions and produce scientifically valid evidence,” said William R. Kelly, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Criminology and Criminal Justice Research.
Kelly said the social sciences can play a key role in helping students understand current events.
“Hopefully, (students) would have a bigger-picture perspective and would appreciate the role of scientific evidence rather than opinion or speculation,” Kelly said.
Learning on your own is crucial for growth. Taking it upon ourselves to read, watch and listen is imperative to being an ally. But we are ignoring our greatest resource: our school.
“It’s important for us as STEM majors to understand the effects we have on our Earth through social science courses,” Coleman said. “(Then) we can better prepare and create solutions to offset our impact.”
Professors at UT have years of experience studying these subjects that Instagram users only began to address in early June. They’ve done the reading and the research, and they know how to teach it.
Our society will only change once we understand the foundations of problems and how to fix them. We can’t abolish the police without some research beforehand.
Kelly said these restructuring efforts are largely based on emotion, politics and opinion.
“A social science approach to policy making would ask, ‘What does the evidence indicate in terms of changing law enforcement?’” Kelly said.
In order for us to be a part of the change so many of us want to see, we must educate ourselves. We must do the readings. We must do the research.
Taking more social science classes is a small but mighty step we can all take toward changing our society for the better.
Kielty is a government and sociology junior from Concord, Massachusetts.