Applying sociology to Fire in the Ashes by Jonathan Kozal Class

Applyingsociology to Fire in the Ashes by Jonathan Kozal


Applyingsociology to Fire in the Ashes by Jonathan Kozal

InFire in the Ashes, Jonathan Kozol asserts that he followed childrenand parents to their homesteads. In his visits to individualchildren’s home, his characters conformed to the AmericanSociological Association code of ethics. For example, he portrayedrespect for people`s rights, dignity, and diversity throughrequesting the children permission to check whether he could findfood in the small refrigerators the Martinique Hotel gave them.Besides, he shared he shared the cookies, apples or any foodstuff hehad in his bag whenever he came across famished persons. “Onrepeated evenings when I went to interview a family I gave up askingquestions when a boy or girl would eye the denim shoulder bag I usedto carry, in which I often had an apple or some cookies or a box ofraisins, and would give them what I had (Kozol, 2012, P. 9).” Kozolalso portrayed social responsibility ethics towards the families hevisited through occasionally contacting Steve Banks, an attorneyconcerned with taking care of the children each time he required toforce Martinique Hotel to provide the homeless families with basicneeds such as food and appropriate clothes for the cold weather(Kozol, 2012, P. 9). Lastly, he respected the dignity and diversityof the homeless population as he always visited the sick individualsin the hospitals. The destitute families invited Kozol occasionallyto the hospital because they believed that the doctors could givethem more attention in his presence.

Socialinteraction involves a close relationship between two or more people.Kozol’s relationship with the destitute families made himempathetic towards the homeless. For example, he could stop in themiddle of an interview if he saw a child looking at his denim bagbecause he realized the child was hungry. He would then share fruitsor cookies whenever he had any in the bag (Kozol, 2012, p. 11). Onthe other hand, the families develop a deep trust in Kozol. Theythink of him as their savior from misery. For instance, the sickpersons who knew him invited him to the hospital because theybelieved that his presence would attract higher attention from themedical professionals. The poor families’ trust on Kozol is alsoportrayed by the willingness of the woman who sneaked their camerapast the checkpoint on the day he was going to conduct interviews(Kozol, 2012, P.12). Several families were willing to answer Kozol’sinterview questions, as they trusted him. Furthermore, Kozoloccasionally received invitation from mothers with young children inracially discriminated public schools during holidays, evenings andweekends. He wanted them to understand the plight of the poorhomeless children so that he could fight for their rights (Kozol,2012, P.13).

Kozal(2012, P. 9) have used statistics to portray the extent of povertyaffecting the poor families. For example, the author asserts thatMartinique Hotel situated in the Fifth Avenue sheltered 400 parentsand 1400 children in a destitute state. Furthermore, the authorasserts that the theater entrepreneurs had hired guards and bouncersto assist in removing the homeless persons begging in the street asthey could spoil the entertainment business. The action of hiringguards implies that the poor and homeless large in number. As Kozolvisited different churches requesting for assistance for theirchildren, St. Ann’s Church requested him to transfer the familiesfrom Manhattan to Bronx for an extended stay. However, he found itchallenging because the poor families that required assistance wouldhave overwhelmed the small Montana town. “But moving an entirefamily some 2,000 miles to a small town in Montana that I’d neverheard of was in a different ballpark altogether (Kozol, 2012, P.20).” The children of the homeless families also suffered thehighest rate of pediatric asthma in the USA (Kozol, 2012, P. 194).The disease mainly resulted from exposure to bad weather and poormedical care.

Similarly,Fire in the Ashes does use the concepts of poverty to portray thehomeless families’ insufficiency extent. The author asserts thatthe funds allocated to the mothers was so little that they could notafford to purchase food in restaurants as the government expected.Instead, they preferred to cook, although they were prohibitedbecause of the high fire risk (Kozol, 2012, P.9). Several homelessmothers endured humiliation from the guards and management of thehotel as they forced them to exchange sexual favors for basicrequirements like attire and food for children. The mothers gave into the embarrassing sex trade because poverty compelled them to breakregulations that the guards threatened to reveal to the police whowould in turn have them imprisoned. Others had to exchange sexualfavors for food and clothes. “They told me, was a relative of oneof the two owners of the building, used the power he was thusafforded to induce young women to provide him with erotic favors inexchange for items that they needed, such as cribs and linens fortheir children (Kozol, 2012, P. 11).”


Theconflict theory asserts that the most powerful group economically andin the production of resources has automatic capacity to makeregulations. It also controls the people with lower economicproductivity (Bartos &amp Wehr, 2002, P. 17). The guards and themanagement illustrate the philosophy in their ability to break thehomeless women’s resistance for sexual favors. They threatened toreveal to the police that they were cooking, and yet the institutionadministration had prohibited them. Besides, the management couldalso deny the families essential supplies such as foods if theyrefused to comply with their expected demands. “If the manager sowished, by calling the police and charging her with one of many formsof misbehavior that were common in a building in which almost everyperson had to break some rule or operate some petty scam in order tosurvive (Kozol, 2012, P. 11).” The hotel management also preventedjournalists from accessing the homeless families housed in theinstitution. The restriction was not an official regulation, but thejournalists the guards and the management were unfriendly to CBS in1986 when they attempted getting into the institution. Besides,people who volunteered information to the media risked expulsion fromthe institution (Kozol, 2012, P. 193).”

TheAnomie theory is also evident in the book as women allow people witha capacity to provide them with their necessities sleep with themwith the knowledge of their children (Fletcher, 1999, P. 34).Although it is embarrassing and unacceptable in the society, parentsexpect their children who witnessed the embarrassing incidents tounderstand their dilemma and forgive them (Kozol, 2012, P. 11).Furthermore, many homeless persons are drug addicts. The local lawenforcers and administrators overlook drug abuse among the poor sincefrustration makes majority of them abuse the substances (Kozol, 2012,P. 7).”

TheEnvironmental Injustice concept refers to inequitable distribution ofresources (Byrne, Leigh &amp Cecilia, 2002, P. 51). Most of thepeople living in the unhealthy regions such as close to the medicalwaste incinerator were the poor people, who were mainly blacks andHispanics (Kozol, 2012, P. 91). The poor and homeless people inMartinique Hotel were living in poorly ventilated rooms. In fact, theair conditioning was so poor that the children were forced to hurdleunder blankets or cover up with torn clothes for some warmth. Thiscontrasted the rich who were enjoying perfectly temperaturecontrolled houses and warm clothes (Kozol, 2012, P. 8).

ResearchStudy topic:Challenges that face minority children of the economically challengedpeople in the United States

Hypothesis:What were the challenges of life among the homeless minority in theUSA in eighties and nineties?

DependentVariables:Education quality and job opportunities

Independentvariables:living environment


Kozol,J. (2012). Firein the ashes: Twenty-five years among the poorest children inAmerica.New York: Crown.

Bartos,O. J., &amp Wehr, P. E. (2002). Usingconflict theory.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fletcher,J. A. (1999). Theevolution of anomie theory.

Byrne,J., Glover, L., &amp Martinez, C. (2002). Environmentaljustice: Discourses in international political economy.New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Pub.