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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

‘Stigma is sticky’: Anna Haskins concludes ‘Building an Anti-Racist Vocabulary’ series

Professor Anna Haskins has come to many conclusions during her extensive research on social inequality — primarily that “stigma is sticky.”

“An individual can be stigmatized, but this stigma doesn’t stay in one place,” Haskins said. “Stigma spreads.”

Haskins is an Andrew V. Tackes associate professor of sociology and co-editor of “When Parents Are Incarcerated: Interdisciplinary Research and Interventions to Support Children.” She shared her research on racism, the effects of incarceration on the education system and families in the final lecture of the Klau Center’s “Building an Anti-Racist Vocabulary” series.

The series featured many scholars, leaders and professors who gave different insights into social inequalities and what we can do to combat racism. It was led by Dory Mitros Durham, associate director of the Klau Center and leader of the Racial Justice Initiative at the Keough School of Global Affairs. Lectures occurred over Zoom every Friday of the semester and can be found online through the Klau Center’s website.

On Friday, Haskins closed out the lecture series by diving into the intersection between school, families and the criminal legal system. She began by analyzing the rate at which people are imprisoned in the United States, and more specifically, in Indiana.

“Here in Indiana, we have an incarceration rate of 765 per 100,000 people,” Haskins said. “This means that Indiana locks up individuals at a higher rate than any other democracy on Earth.”

These rates are objectively higher for Black Indiana residents, as well as Latino and Indigenous citizens. There is no way to avoid the apparent racial disparity when examining these statistics, Haskins noted.

This racialized nature of incarceration plays a huge impact in African American communities, Haskins said. Children of incarcerated parents are especially affected by the lack of stability. Children whose parents are imprisoned often have lower standardized test scores and live in underprivileged neighborhoods where the schools are underfunded and have higher teacher turnover.

“This is not to say that children whose parents are incarcerated are not as smart,” Haskins noted, “but that they are often given less academic opportunities.”

Through her research, Haskins pointed out how truly racially segregated our nation still is.

“These issues happen often within particular areas and absolutely rarely in others,” she said. She emphasizes the divisions that still exist in our country — these divisions are one reason why parental incarceration is so stigmatized.

However, both Haskins and Mitros Durham believe this stigma should end, especially when Haskin’s research proved that one in two Americans experience some familial relative being imprisoned.

Even with so many discouraging statistics about the true presence of racism in America, especially in our legal and education systems, Haskins and Mitros Durham believe there is hope. And this starts, they said, with open minds and open hearts.

“Silence is stigmatizing!” Haskins said passionately. “ We cannot pretend that race doesn’t exist, and we cannot pretend these families don’t exist. We have to talk about it.”