With our documentary film interview coming up with Kipling D. Williams, Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University, social exclusion and ostracism is on my mind. What is social exclusion anyway? An excepted definition is:
“Social exclusion is the process in which individuals or entire communities of people are systematically blocked from (or denied full access to) various rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of a different group, and which are fundamental to social integration within that particular group (e.g., housing, employment, healthcare, civic engagement, democratic participation, and due process).”
And there’s more…social exclusion has many contributors. Major contributors include race, income, employment status, social class, geographic location, personal habits and appearance, sexual orientation, education, religion and political affiliation. Okay, with all that said, how can social exclusion effect you and your family? And does being treated as a “social outcast” affect my emotional state?
The short answer is, we’ve all been treated as an outcast in one way or another, some more serious than others. Being treated differently and being excluded from groups, opportunities and resources does affect your emotional and well being in various ways. Social rejection increases anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and sadness. It reduces performance on difficult intellectual tasks, and can also contribute to aggression and poor impulse control. Physically, too, rejection takes a toll. People who routinely feel excluded have poorer sleep quality, and their immune systems don’t function as well as those of people with strong social connections. Through his research on social exclusion, Williams has verified the link between being ostracized and aggression. Williams’s student Lisa Zadro, PhD, now at the University of Sydney in Australia, interviewed 50 people who were either ostracized or perpetrators of ostracism. Those who’d been ostracized reported depression, eating disorders, promiscuity disorders and even attempted suicide. Almost all said that they would have preferred physical abuse to ostracism. In addition, researchers find that all you have to do is relive a past ostracism episode, or even imagine a future event, and you will feel psychological agony. So intense is the pain of ostracism that even being rejected from a despised group makes people upset. Observing ostracism distresses even bystanders.
We can dive deeper by studying Abraham Maslow and the famous hierarchy of needs model. Maslow and other theorists have suggested that the need for love and belongingness is a fundamental human motivation. According to Maslow, all humans, even introverts, need to be able to give and receive affection to be psychologically healthy. Diving deeper is where we would find peer rejection in childhood and the connection between ostracism and violence. An analysis of 15 school shootings between 1995 and 2001 found that peer rejection was present in all but two of the cases (87%). The documented rejection experiences included both acute and chronic rejection and frequently took the form of ostracism, bullying, and romantic rejection.
So why do we sometimes go against what is recommended by numerous theorists when relating and socializing with friends, families, co-workers and even strangers? A little history of human nature may help to clarify. Some researchers think belonging to a group was probably helpful to our ancestors. We have weak claws, little fur, and long childhoods; living in a group helped early humans survive harsh environments. Because of that, being part of a group still helps people feel safe and protected, even when walls and clothing have made it easier for one man to be an island entire of himself. Basically, social rejection and ostracism is part of human nature, according to researchers. It’s when it goes to far (as we have seen throughout history) when it becomes a problem not just for the ostracized individual, but for society as a whole.
As we interview Williams for our upcoming documentary, NOT FOR RENT!, we will be focusing on the effects of social ostracism on individuals with criminal records and the rejection these men and woman face in the community, especially with rental housing. In addition to social exclusion, ex-offenders sometimes carry a “social stigma” because of their past crimes. We’ll also talk with Williams about Cyberball, an open-source virtual ball-toss game that can be used for research on ostracism, social exclusion or rejection. It has also been used to study discrimination and prejudice (free download).
I could write and write all day about this very important subject. Today, I covered only a brief look at social exclusion and how it affects everyone on earth in one way or another. Please like our blog and our Facebook page to stay updated on our interview with Kipling Williams and our documentary film, NOT FOR RENT!, due out spring of 2017.
–Matt Duhamel Metamora Films
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This is interesting news from Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding blanket bans against ex-offenders when it comes to fair housing. According to HUD, “Private landlords who have blanket bans on renting to people with criminal records are in violation of the Fair Housing Act and can be sued and face penalties for discrimination.” I thought this was great timing to post this blog since April is Fair Housing Month and we are currently in production of our upcoming documentary film, NOT FOR RENT! Now before you get too excited about the news, there are some restrictions to what the government calls “guidance” regarding the ability to rent to ex-felons. This is where it gets a little confusing and by no means am I a Political Analyst. I’ll try to make it simple as I can…
On April 4th, 2016 HUD and Julián Castro released it’s “Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate Related Transactions.” That is a mouth full. Basically it lays out a 3-prong test used to analyze claims that a housing provider’s use of criminal history to deny housing opportunities results in a discriminatory effect in violation of the Act. They include: Whether the Criminal History Policy or Practice Has a Discriminatory Effect, Whether the Challenged Policy or Practice is Necessary to Achieve a Substantial, Legitimate, Nondiscriminatory Interest, and Evaluating Whether There Is a Less Discriminatory Alternative. This all boils down to private landlords and property managers CAN have restrictions against renting to ex-offenders, but they will need to prove that its policy accurately distinguishes between criminal conduct that indicates a demonstrable risk to resident safety and/or property and criminal conduct that does not. This may seem like bad news for ex-offenders, but this is a huge win for housing advocates and civil rights groups such as The Fortune Society as the new guidance set forth forces land owners to take a more individualized approach to avoid violating the Fair Housing Act. (Unfortunately, excluded are those convicted of manufacturing or distributing drugs, the only crimes that are exempted under the Fair Housing Act).
So what about “disparate impact?” What does it have to do with HUD’s new guidance? Last year, the United States Government ruled in favor 5-to-4 endorsing a broad interpretation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, allowing suits under a legal theory that civil rights groups say is a crucial tool to fight housing discrimination. The Court “acknowledges the Fair Housing Act’s continuing role in moving the nation toward a more integrated society”, said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The ruling allows plaintiffs to show instead that the practices both have a “disparate impact” on racial groups and are not justified. Blacks and Latinos are arrested, convicted and imprisoned in disproportionate numbers, and civil rights groups say they face equally disparate discrimination in finding housing.
As mentioned, April is Fair Housing Month. On HUD’s website it reads: “April, we come together as a community and a nation to celebrate the anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act and recommit to that goal which inspired us in the aftermath of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968: to eliminate housing discrimination and create equal opportunity in every community. Fundamentally, fair housing means that every person can live free. This means that our communities are open and welcoming, free from housing discrimination and hostility. But this also means that each one of us, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability, has access to neighborhoods of opportunity, where our children can attend quality schools, our environment allows us to be healthy, and economic opportunities and self sufficiency can grow.”
As I produce NOT FOR RENT!, a documentary film on the struggles ex-offenders face while trying to secure housing, I’ve seen first hand the “blanket bans” on felons, including straight out “No’s” for registered sex offenders. I believe this will need to change quickly and private landlords and management companies will need to look at each individual cases separately and to prove that renting to a certain offender would cause “demonstrable risk to resident safety”. Prove is the important word here. I understand the need for safe communities and living near nice people that all get along. I also understand the worry landlords have in regards to property damage, rent payments that go unpaid, and the overall higher risk (not in all cases, of course) in renting to ex-offenders. On the other hand, it’s my belief that this new guidance put forth only a couple of weeks ago is an improved balance between the rights of tenants and property owners. In addition, I’ll bet it will reduce recidivism rates across the country as more ex-felons are able to secure housing, which is a HUGE hurdle during reentry into any community. Way to go Julián Castro!
– Matt Duhamel, Film Director