The Use of Social Framework as an Analysis of a Historical Event

The Use of Social Framework as an Analysis of a Historical Event

Jakob Morrissey

A “social framework” is a way that the public perceives a specific event that is ongoing or is being analyzed. Learning how something is socially constructed is by analyzing the primary sources of the specific event one is talking about. Primary sources include newspaper clippings, speeches, government documents, etc.… Social framework determines if a historical event is genuinely bad or genuinely good, but sometimes social frameworks of historical events are not completely true. When analyzing traditional history, generally speaking, top-down, it’s difficult to see what is going on at the smaller more local levels of society. Put this way, traditional history is usually analyzed from the top-down perspective, an analogy would be looking at a battle and looking at the battle from the general’s perspective. So an alternate way to determine the social framework would be taking the social-historical route where when analyzing an event, again back to the battle example, one can see the soldier’s perspective of the battle and how bullets were flying by, no food, seeing their friends being killed. Taking the social history route is key when discussing a lot of historical events. For example, during the crack epidemic, many politicians and rich people were not affected and they are at the top of society, therefore they never realized what life was like for people in those positions. During the crack epidemic, there were not many primary sources that were actually showing and displaying some of the characteristics that were shown during the heroin epidemic. So, the differences between the crack epidemic and the heroin epidemic were that first off there was a racialized component, and second that the crack epidemic was seen from that top-down analysis, and the heroin epidemic was seen from the social history approach

A way to show the racial privilege effect of the crack epidemic is the way that the epidemic was framed socially compared to other drug epidemics. Sadé L. Lindsay, author of Drug Epidemics and Moral Crusades: The Role of Race in Framing Issues of Substance Abuse  explains the idea of public perception perfectly. Lindsay discusses the crack epidemic and the heroin epidemic and how they were both framed in the public eye. In one section of her research, Lindsay describes her findings on personal narratives in newspaper articles. Prior, Lindsay discusses how the heroin epidemic primarily hit suburban neighborhoods which are predominantly areas that affect white people, and how the crack epidemic hit inner cities which predominantly affect areas of African Americans. In her findings, Lindsay cited an article from the New York Times that stated Everyone’s dream child… She was in the honor society, a cheerleader, and sang the national anthem at school events” (Sade, 2017, p.2) and described this quote as a “positive characterization of heroin addicts was common from family and friends who were given the opportunity to discuss their heroin-addicted loved ones.” (Sade, 2017 Page24)  When a media outlet describes victims of a drug-related death as positive, it gives a sense that what’s going on is a tragedy which is true. A tragedy in one drug-related death during a drug epidemic should be applied across the board regardless of what drug caused the death, but when it comes to the crack epidemic, Lindsay quoted an article from the Washington Post stating “[Crack] users typically binge without eating, sleeping, or bathing until their crack and money are gone and they collapse physically… addicts break into vacant buildings to smoke and share pipes. They also share common squalor (WP 1988).”(Sade, 2017 Page 26)  Stating that the victims of a drug epidemic are unhygienic and physically unhealthy gives a negative connotation to them and is completely opposite of the heroin epidemic. With the heroin epidemic affecting whites, the media gives sympathy for them and praises the victims for how good their life was and how they got ruined by heroin. When the media covers the crack epidemic, there is no sympathy at all but rather a somewhat condescending attitude toward victims and most of the victims of the crack epidemic were blacks in inner cities.

To prove the difference in the social framework of the two drug epidemics, an article by the New York Times and by STAT news were drawn. Crack’s Destructive Sprint Across America written by Michael Massing, in 1989, discusses the effects of the crack epidemic while Behind the photo: How heroin took over an Ohio town written by Casey Ross, in 2016, discusses the heroin epidemic and its effects in small towns in Ohio. In Massing’s article, he stated many negative connotations of the crack epidemic specifically drawn into New York City. Massing discusses how the neighborhood of Washington Heights used to be an excellent vibrant cultural melting pot then states now if you “Wander off Broadway, though, and the neighborhood quickly seems like an American nightmare” (Massing 1989) giving a bad reputation to a neighborhood and people that lived in it as a whole. Massing also went on to state that “in Harlem, in South Jamaica, Queens, in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick and Brownsville, poor young blacks – jobless, uneducated and desperate – hungered for a piece of the ”crazy money” crack offered”(Massing 1989)  again going back to what Sade stated, the use of condescending labels was put onto the people who were affected even going as far to state that “the gangs did their job only too well, killing 800 people by election day” (Massing 1989). In Ross’s article about the heroin epidemic, they hone in on a personal narrative rather than the heroin epidemic as a whole, again a statistic that Sade stated would be popular in comparison to the articles. The heroin epidemic has caused many people to overdose right in front of their children, in an interview with paramedic Christine Lerussi she stated “do you know how many houses we go into that the kids are sitting on the couch watching us?” (Ross,2016) as the newspaper article is sort of portraying a need for sympathy. A photo was taken by police of two parents overdosed in a car with a child in the back screaming for help, and the police department decided to put it on their Facebook as “Their decision to put it on Facebook was, in some ways, a cry for help.”(Massing 1989) It’s understandable to seek sympathy for victims in all aspects of a drug epidemic, but when the epidemic gets racialized, it’s seen that there is no sympathy for African Americans. Referring back to Sade she states that “largely frame the heroin epidemic as a public health concern by humanizing heroin addicts through personal narratives and advocating for collective action” (Massing 1989) but “the crack epidemic was framed as a public safety concern that emphasized punishment and crime prevention” (Sade,2017, p. 2), which is what can be seen between an analysis of both of these articles. Crack was dehumanizing, patronizing, and condescending acting as if the victims were not to be cared about. A drug epidemic again is a sad deal, but the application of sympathy through personal narratives should be applied equally when discussing both of them.

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