Social Science Tavern Spring Series on Race in the United States

unlearn racism in lights dark street

As a nation the United States has not come to grips with its’ racialized past, and that is causing significant conflict in the present. Citizens and residents in the US must come together in a candid and soul-searching conversation about race, intolerance, and change in order for us to live together and thrive. Hoping to contribute to this national conversation about race, the Atlanta Social Science Tavern will focus its spring sessions on race and ethnicity in the United States, with special attention to the Atlanta area.

For more information or to volunteer as a speaker, please contact Elisabeth Sheff at

Please join us in Atlanta at the beloved lefty watering hole, Manuel’s Tavern, for these interesting and educational sessions! You can find information about time and location at the Social Science Tavern website,

Schedule at a Glance Spring 2015 Social Science Tavern (so far)

January 29, No More Invisible Man: Black Professional Men in the Workplace
• Adia Harvey-Wingfield

February 11, Public Housing, Relocations, and Urban Restructuring in Atlanta
• Chandra Ward

March 3, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom
• Catherine Meeks

March 26, “Whole Indian:” Indigenous Americans Finding Wholeness
• Marshall “Itai” Jeffries

April 14, Race, Residential Patterns, and Inequality in Metro Atlanta
• Regine Jackson

April 30, The Psychology of Race and the Impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Process
• Trina Brown

May 4, Mixed Race Lesbian Step Parenting
• Katie Acosta

May 21, Whiteness as a Race: Exploration of Whiteness and White privilege
• Elisabeth Sheff

Full Descriptions

No More Invisible Man: Black Professional Men in the Workplace
January 29, Adia Harvey-Wingfield
• Black professional men are often overlooked in media, sociological research, and the cultural imagination. In this presentation, I’ll discuss the ways race and gender inform how these men interact with women coworkers. Findings point to ways that black men may be untapped allies in efforts to create more gender-egalitarian workplaces.

Public Housing, Relocations, and Urban Restructuring in Atlanta
February 11, Chandra Ward
• Like other cities around the US, Atlanta has demolished its public housing “projects” and instead moved former residents to mixed housing subsidized by section eight vouchers. Chandra Ward presents on the findings from a longitudinal study of public housing residents before, during, and after moving from public housing to private rentals. Ward details the social and health implications of the study, discussing how changes in social contacts and transportation can impact people’s lives, and the ways in which they navigate their shifting conditions.

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom
March 3, Catherine Meeks
• In this presentation Dr. Catherine Meeks discusses the lives of William and Ellen Craft, who were enslaved but were able to escape from Macon. Their story is one of faith, courage, tenacity and an incredible thirst for freedom. Dr. Meeks uses her extensive knowledge of cross-cultural stories to cultivate rich conversations on race, an approach which can be a little less intimidating than other approaches because stories invite us to remove ourselves enough to explore the issues of race from a wider perspective.

“Whole Indian:” Indigenous Americans Finding Wholeness through Memory, Community and Radical Self-Love
March 26, Marshall “Itai” Jeffries
• Among racial and ethnic minorities, the indigenous inhabitants of the United States, American Indians or Native Americans are perhaps some of the most neglected. We rarely see American Indian people on television and fail to include them in many of our social and educational efforts. In this presentation, Itai Jeffries explains his research findings that document the stories of Native people from all over the US in order to shed light on their racial identities, racialized perceptions, and experiences with racism. Challenging popular conceptions of Native people as fractions of a whole imagined self (half-Indian, one quarter Indian, etc.), Jeffries’s research explains how Native people use language and redefine themselves outside of mass media stereotypes.

Everything in its Place: Race, Residential Patterns and Inequality in Metro Atlanta
April 14, Regine Jackson
• In this presentation, Dr. Regine Jackson (Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Agnes Scott College) explains some of the demographic changes that the Atlanta metropolitan area has undergone in the last 40 years. She challenges the idea that the incorporation of immigrants and new ethnic groups has dismantled the black-white dichotomy that once characterized the “old South.” Using data from the U.S. Census and field research with Caribbean and African immigrants, Dr. Jackson argues that while many new immigrants have diversified predominantly white suburbs, for blacks – regardless of ancestry – residential settlement and business location continue to be structured by race. The presentation hopes to raise questions about enduring patterns of segregation, spatial inequality and the meaning of diversity in the “post-racial” South.

The Psychology of Race and the Impact of Communal Trauma on the Collective Perception of Self: Explorations of the Truth and Reconciliation Process
April 30, Trina Brown
• In this presentation, Dr. Trina Brown (SCAD) discusses her contributions to a recent book examining the potential benefit of a Truth and Reconciliation Process (TRP) in this country. Brown’s chapter focuses on the psychology of race and the impact of communal trauma on the collective perception of self, and her talk will also include a discussion of the overall purpose of the book and the psychological implications. For a summary of the book that provides a description of the content of each chapter, see the website:

Mixed Race Lesbian Step Parenting
May 4, Katie Acosta
• In this presentation, Dr. Katie Acosta (Department of Sociology, Georgia State University) reports on her qualitative interview based research with women who are raising children in same sex stepparent households. Acosta explains the ways that race, ethnicity, class, and culture shape the parenting experiences for the mixed race families in her study. As these families include a stepparent, who was not part of the family’s original formation, the racial, ethnic and cultural tensions they experience are new to them at least in part and they must learn how to negotiate these tensions with their children. Dr. Acosta explains how mixed-race lesbian families negotiate cultural tensions and the strategic ways in which they go about presenting as a family.

Whiteness as a Race: Exploration of Whiteness and White privilege
May 21, Elisabeth Sheff
• Whiteness is the race that passes as no race at all, and in this presentation Dr. Elisabeth Sheff (Director of Legal Services, Sheff Consulting Group) explores some of the intricacies of whiteness in the United States. Dr. Sheff explains how social settings can still be racialized, even when there are no people of color present. This presentation explains Peggy McIntosh’s idea of the “invisible knapsack” of privilege that white people carry around with them as they move through life, and looks at some common mistakes well-meaning white people make when interacting with people of color. The presentation will close with a group discussion of the strategies white people can use to combat white privilege.

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The Mic looks at Whiteness in Polyamory

The Mic recently published Kaitlyn Mitchell’s article “There’s a Big Problem in Polyamory that no one is Talking About

Mitchell interviewed me for the piece and did a great job interpreting the I published with Corie Hammers in 2011, “The Privilege of Perversities.” Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Adorable submission to inspire your thoughts, please write something for POLYCULE

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Christine submitted this great little vignette for my new anthology on polyamorous families, Stories from the Polycule, and said I could post it in a call for further submissions. It made me smile, and I am hoping that it will inspire some of you to contribute your own adorable tidbits.

Conversation with my four year old son, Jax, about polyamory:

Me: “Jax, what do you think about Mommy’s friends?”
Jax: “You have lots of many friends!”
Me: “What different kinds of friends?”
Jax: “Some are like friends that are other mommies and some are like friends who come to our house and some are like special friends.”
Me: “Special friends?”
Jax: “Like Mr. David or Dr. Chris. Like the ones you like to kiss.”
Me: “Mmm hmm.”
Jax: “Because you like to have many special friends but some grown ups like to just have one special friend, like Granny and Rumpah are just one special friend for each other.”
Me: “What do you think about that?”
Jax: “I think that they are happy.”
Me: “Mmm hmmm.”
Jax: “I like to have many friends but I don’t like kissing so I don’t have special friends.”
Me: “Do you think you will have one special friend or many when you grow up?”
Jax: “I will invent a special kissing machine to do that for me so I can have a house for a family of special friends but not have to kiss them.”
Me: “Sounds like a plan.”


Now it is your last chance to submit a story, poem, or drawing for this groundbreaking new book by JANUARY 15, 2015.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding submissions to Stories from the Polycule:

Do the stories have to be positive or flattering to polyamory?
Real families have hard times, and poly families sometimes fall apart at the seams just like other families. To present a realistic picture of poly families, we will include both the advantages and the disadvantages contributors face.

Do the families have to have children?
Families take all sorts of forms, and those made up of all adults count as families too! Elders with or without adult children are also encouraged to write something for the anthology.

May children contribute too?
Children are encouraged to submit something for the book. Kids can draw pictures of their families, write something on their own, or dictate a story to an adult.

What kinds of submissions, and how long should they be?
It depends
on your talents and what you have to say – from a drawing, photograph or few lines of poetry to an entire essay or selection of prose — let your creativity flow.

Do I have to use my real name?
You may if you wish, or you can make-up a different name for the book.

Do contributors get paid?
YES, hopefully.
If the Indiegogo campaign raises enough money for the book to go, we will pay contributors $25. If you want to help us pay contributors, please donate to our crowdfunding campaign and help us fund the book ☺

Who is editing this anthology?
Dr. Elisabeth Sheff,
a researcher who studies polyamory and recently published a book about the findings of her 15-year study, The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families. Thorntree Press (with Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert) is publishing the book.

How can I submit something?
your submission as an attachment to

Who should I contact with questions?
Eli Sheff

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Filed under Books, Families, Gender, Media, Polyamory, polycule

Indiegogo Campaign for Polycule Book + Goes Live

Thorntree Press is kicking off an Indiegogo campaign for three new books on polyamory. One of the books is Franklin Veaux’s memoir, a book that other publishers wanted from him to begin with and spurred him to start Thorntree with Eve Rickert. A second book is by Louisa Leontiades who writes her memoir about loving two men. The third book is edited by me, Elisabeth Sheff, and shares stories, poems, and artwork from people in polyamorous families.

Please check out the Indiegogo site and contribute to the campaign to help us get these three books to the market!

Thanks, Eli

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DebateOut looks at polyamory with Dr. Sheff

The website DebateOut promises “The end of the one dimensional debate” and seems to have delivered on that promise with its new series of posts on polyamory. The series features me as the pro side with Dr. Karen Ruskin as the con.

Please check out the posts and let me know what you think.

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Responding to Polyphobia and Rude Comments

On November 7, 2014, John D. posted a comment in response to one of my Psychology Today blogs, “Does Polyamory Work?.”

In his comment, John D. assumes that polyamory is obviously pathological and an excuse for inhumane and slavish behavior. This response, just one of the many, many like it that I have received over the years, has at its core the certainty that polyamory (or kink, or feminism, or ______(fill in the blank) is debased beyond redemption. Thus far I have taken these folks seriously and provided the evidence they demanded, attempting to engage them in reasoned dialogue. While occasionally this works, far more often they either disappear or snark. My patience with their foolishness is wearing thin, and I am beginning to question my accommodating strategy.

How do you all respond to people who make comments? How seriously do you take them? What do you think of my response to John D?

John D. writes:
” for some people it is critical to their emotional wellbeing and mental health.”
With all due respect…
Show me one, single, solitary piece of documented, researched, peer-reviewed scientific literature to back this statement up and you might have an argument to make.
Otherwise, you’re scraping mightily in the dirt for some reason – ANY reason – to want to copulate with anyone and anything you feel like, without having to consider what it might actually say about you as a human being. Assuming of course that you do, in fact, like to consider yourself a human being and not simply a biological machine that is a slave (a brainwashed slave, no less) to hormones and physiological responses.

I responded:

Hello John,

I see your call of “Bullshit” and raise you 18 peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles ranging from the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography in 2005 to the most-viewed article of 2013 at the Journal of Law and Social Deviance (with Mark Goldfeder). My new book, The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple Partner Relationships and Families (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014) reports on the findings from my longitudinal (15 years) ethnographic study of polyamorous families with children. Google me, or check out my publications on this site.

If you are truly interested in the evidence, you can read not only my publications, but those of Meg Barker, Curtis Bergstrand, Elaine Cook, Kathy Labriola, Robert Goss, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, Robert Francouer, Christian Klesse, Kirsten McLean, Marcia Munsun, Nathan Rambukkama, Melita Noel, Natalie Perry, Roger Rubin, Paula Rust, Anita Wagner, and Katherine Frank — to name a few. Alternately, if you are primarily interested in “scraping mightily in the dirt for some reason – ANY reason – to want to” make unfounded and biased assumptions “without having to consider what it might actually say about you as a human being” then by all means continue to think as you do and ignore the research evidence.

With all due respect,

Elisabeth Sheff, PhD, CSE, CASA


Filed under Media, Polyamory, Psychology Today

LGBT Communities World Wide Take Two Steps Forward but One Step Back

There are a lot of newsworthy developments surrounding LGBT+ communities around the world right now.

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For example, knowing full well that he’ll be faced with a steep uphill battle, it seems that Pope Francis is on a mission to welcome LGBT+ community members and encouraging others of the Catholic faith to do the same. CBS News said that after Bishops meeting at the Vatican failed to come to an agreement on the issue of homosexuality, Pope Francis appeared to be “barely able to contain his frustration.” They also said that he cautioned bishops not to cling to doctrine with “hostile rigidity” and that “God is not afraid of new things.”

In addition, earlier this month Wyoming became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage. It’s a pleasant change in a state that many still relate to the 1998 tragedy of Matthew Shepard, a gay student from the University of Wyoming who was the victim of a hate crime when two homophobic men beat him to death and left him tied to a fence. But as Wyoming’s recent acceptance and acknowledgement of same-sex marriage clearly demonstrates, things have changed since the Matthew Shepard murder and that hate crime doesn’t reflect the feelings of the majority of citizens.

Wyoming is just one state among many that are overturning previous bans on same-sex marriage. It’s a development that ABC News claims was inspired by the Supreme Court ruling on Oct. 6 that “refused to hear appeals from states that wanted to defend gay marriage bans.” As a result, more than 30 states have agreed to recognize same-sex unions.

As noted on Adam and Eve, we’ve seen positive growth from the government’s acknowledgement of LGBT rights over the last decades, from revoking the law that sodomy was unconstitutional to President Barack Obama signing a memorandum offering benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. However, there are some areas of the US and the world that are still lagging behind this trend.

Recently, members of LGBT communities from Africa who have sought asylum in the U.K. have been advocating for new practices from the government when accepting refugees. The U.K.’s Channel 4 recently interviewed Prossy Kakooza, a woman with first-hand experience in the matter. A Ugandan refugee, Kakooza claimed asylum in 2007 after spending time in a Ugandan prison because of her sexuality. While in prison, she was brutally beaten by police officers. However, when she attempted to claim asylum after the incident, British officials dismissed it as a “random attack of unruly police officers and nothing to do with sexuality.” As a result, she was forced to “prove” her need for asylum because of her sexuality by answering a range of highly personal questions about her sex life.

Unfortunately this happens all too often to those seeking asylum. Kakooza reported that, “Such is the dismissal for LGBT asylum seekers. The humiliation of having to describe what you like in the bedroom, how many people you’ve slept with and turning your whole life into being all about sex.” She went on to say the Home Office needs to take a look at cases individually while training their representatives to ask more appropriate questions.

This degrading interview is understandably a demoralizing and dehumanizing experience. While fearing for their lives at the hands of their own people, LGBT asylum seekers are being treated as if they are lying about their reasons for being persecuted in the first place. After years of trying to hide their true identities, to finally escape only to find the new government approaching it as if it were a choice can be just as painful for the victims.

Many places in the world have come a long way in the acceptance and welcoming of members of the LGBT community. However, it seems that even those at the forefront of the movements in Europe and the U.S., still have a long way to go in understanding the people experiencing the discrimination firsthand.

Brought to you by Adam and Eve

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