Category Archives: Discrimination

Thoughtless and Racist.

I’m going to be vague on location here to avoid giving away too much, but I had a friend who just had to interview a group of homeowners in a portion of the northeast that’s very wealthy and smugly liberal. The group was concerned about a mixed-income housing unit going through the zoning approval process. These folks were going to get some new neighbors, and they didn’t like it. They actually feared it, and said so on the record.

Officially, the group was upset about increasing traffic, and that the plan called for some units’ backyards to face the street, forcing them to look at backyard things like playsets and grills. Zoning officials addressed those concerns, but residents were still not happy. When a group of a dozen neighbors called my friend over to their swanky townhouse complex, which is on the border between well-off and less well-off sections of the city, some unofficial objections leaked out through the aggressive use of pronouns.

I mean, why do they all have to live in this side of the city. Right?

Last week, this same town filled all three available board of education spots with candidates who came out against “heterogeneous classrooms,” which are experimental classes in some local middle schools that do away with the former method of grouping kids by ability. Ability is assessed at way too tender an age, and in suburban schools the achievement gap by and large splits black and Latino students from their white peers. The idea used to be that kids learned best in similarly abled groups, but it turns out that idea hurts lower-achieving students and does little if anything to help higher-achieving ones. This parental fear that lower-achieving kids are somehow going to infect the higher-scoring ones with their stupidity has no merit. I can’t say for certain that heterogeneous classrooms were the deciding factors in the elections, but it was a big issue during the campaign and those who supported them lost.

I don’t see the harm in calling “ability grouping” what it really is: segregation. And I see no harm in calling the condo-folks’ efforts what they really are: unofficial redlining. They believe lower-income residents, largely black and Latino, will lower their property values, blight their neighborhoods because they don’t make home improvements and use their pools without permission (kids knock on their doors in the summer to ask to use their pools, and are turned away.) But what really worries the residents is that people who don’t look like them will be so woven into their lives that they see their backyard playsets every day, that they can’t tell one yard from the next.

The people in the townhouses trying to guard their suburban idyll will tell you it has nothing to do with race, and I think they actually believe it. They were all white, young professionals who aren’t among the wealthiest in the city. This area went heavily for Obama last year, and in general aggressively pursues affordable housing projects like this one. It’s a city outwardly concerned with equality and opportunity for all but at the same time people gripe about the taxes and policies used to provide services for them.

Both these instances made me think about the controversy after a New Mexican hotel owner asked his workers to Anglicize their names. For some, it was a shock to call this racist. I learned about it when I saw a CNN banner that read “Racist, or Thoughtless?”

As if people can’t be thoughtlessly racist. In fact, people are more often thoughtlessly racist than they are aggressively so.

Which is why I was the only person on Jimmy Carter’s side when he called out the obvious racism against Obama. I know the argument against his having said it; that it’s not helpful, only puts people on the defensive and shuts down conversation. But I have a certain affinity for a fellow white Southerner who sees racism from a different angle, when it’s spoken in closed company by people who assume you agree with them. That’s what upset my friend the most; the homeowners spoke to her as if she knew what they were trying to say. They call it dog-whistling for a reason: It’s under the surface until you call it up and address it, and white Americans just don’t have these conversations that often, if ever.

Quote of the Day.

One of Sully’s readers explains how he came around on DADT.

I used to be of the same mind as your military reader who says we cannot repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, as it would bring homosexual men and women into danger. I had served in the Marine Corps, and still bear my marine tattoo. I believed that we had to keep homosexuals safe from the barbarous military men (the women weren’t violently homophobic, in my experience) until I spoke with another former marine who told me that my good intentions were small minded.

Homosexual men and women needed to suffer publicly. They needed to be beaten and keep standing. They needed to be promoted into powerful non-commissioned officer ranks. There needed to be gay drill instructors who put recruits in awe of their abilities. There had to be openly gay marine and soldier heroes to show the homophobes that they are wrong, just as Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians, and all the rest have done.

And, as I write this, I realize that’s why so much of the country fears letting homosexuals serve openly in the military, because it will show America that they are not inferior. The hardscrabble Americans in the military will learn that there are gay men who are better than themselves, that there are lesbians tougher, and smarter, and more heroic than they will ever be. That’s why they must keep Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, in order to maintain the hideous illusion of superiority for the homophobes of all stripes.

Armchair Sociology: Broken Windows Theory of Discrimination.

broken_windows (1)

(x-posted from U.S. of J)

To sort of second Neil’s observation about the power of anti-bullying/anti-prejudice norms to “have a broad and beneficial societal impact,” I’m pretty convinced that you can apply the “broken windows” theory of crime to overt prejudice and the treatment of minority groups.  That is, and as I’m sure you all know, the “broken windows” approach holds that urban crime is facilitated when small problems are left to fester.  When broken windows are left unfixed, streets unswept and minor crimes unpunished, criminality – the theory goes – is encouraged.

It’s easy to see how this applies to the treatment of minorities: when governments give official – or even unofficial – sanction to discrimination against minorities, it creates a very real sense that “those people” are fundamentally other, and as such when dealing with them, overt prejudice or violence is socially acceptable.  By contrast, with governments explicitly protect minorities and enforce anti-discrimination laws, that explicit stance of anti-discrimination on part of the government can, over time, transform into a more general anti-discrimination and pro-tolerancenorm among the population at large (as we’ve seen in real-time beginning with the civil rights legislation of the 1960s).

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: Nuts about ACORN

Today in my office, a pimp and his prostitute came looking for advice on where to score some blow and advice on how to fill out their W-2s. When I told them what they could do, they accused me of encouraging them to engage in public masturbation. I hope Beck and Co. don’t get hold of the video:

pimp

It’s hard out here for a pimp. No, really. James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles (not pictured above) risked their lives, limbs and a camcorder to infiltrate the den of “thug criminality” that is the largest organization of poor and working families in America.

This is a time for us to appreciate their deep commitment to maligning ACORN, which clearly is an issue of utmost importance in these most troubled and divisive of times. I am sure their hearts and motives are pure.

Now if we can, let us move forward and consider some of the news of the weekend:

1. As always, if you want to learn something new or interesting or possibly infuriating about health care reform, reading Ezra Klein is essential. (Blackink)

2. Are pregnancy, bunions, acne, or receiving therapy or counseling pre-existing conditions that might allow health insurers a reason to deny people coverage? Of course. Best health care system in the world, eh? (Blackink)

3. Officially, according to a U.S. Census report, the Bush years were full of fail. h/t John Cole. (Blackink)

4. Go with your first instincts, Roxanne Wilson. (Quadmoniker)

5. Massachusetts might appoint an interim replacement for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the late Ted Kennedy by the end of the week. (Blackink)

6. In an e-mail sent to friends and supporters last week, Van Jones made his first public comments since resigning from the White House. Said Jones: “Of course, some supporters actually think I will be more effective on the ‘outside.’ Maybe so. But those ideas always remind me of that old canard about Winston Churchill. After he lost a hard-fought election, a friend told him: ‘Winston, this really is just a blessing in disguise.’ Churchill quipped: ‘Damned good disguise.’ I can certainly relate to that sentiment right now. :)” (Blackink)

7. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty is cutting federally funded child care in the poorest wards of the District. Making it more difficult for single mothers to bring in money (or inviting child neglect cases) seems like a counter intuitive way of addressing city budget issues, at best. (Shani-o)

8. Something we probably won’t see in any campaign brochures from Texas Gov. Rick Perry next year: Texas remains first in the nation in rates of uninsured residents and uninsured children. Upholding family values and rebuffing creeping socialism … I love my home state. (Blackink)

9. Also related: Perry is not a very smart or honest man. (Blackink)

10. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) backed off prior claims that President Obama is a socialist because, uh … he’s not one. (Blackink)

11. Among those at the Values Voter Summit this weekend, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was the clear choice for 2012 Republican presidential nominee. The 600 voters said abortion was the most important issue in determining their choice. What else is there to say about that? (Blackink)

12. Also at the Values Voter Summit, the chief of staff for Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma made the case that: 1. we should trust the sexual instincts of prepubescent boys; 2. bigotry against homosexuals is fine by him; and 3. “all pornography is homosexual pornography.” Video here. Sigh … Michael Schwartz and his ilk are almost completely beyond ridicule. (Blackink)

13. So rather than resort to ridicule, Amanda Marcotte moves the conversation forward to talk about some of the very real problems with porn. Which don’t include making boys turn gay. (Blackink).

14. Don’t you love links about porn? Yes. Well, here’s another: “The awkward truth, according to one study, is that 90 percent of 8-to-16-year-olds have viewed pornography online. Considering the standard climax to even the most vanilla hard-core scene today, that means there is an entire generation of young people who think sex ends with a money shot to the face.” Whoa. (Blackink)

15. Feminist Finance speculates on where she’d be if she hadn’t rejected all the “dudely money advice” she’s received over the years. (Shani-o)

16. BitchPh.D puts out a call for volunteers for the 40 days for CHOICE campaign. (Blackink)

17. For John and Elizabeth Edwards’ sake, I hope his former aide is lying about this: “Mr. Edwards once calmed an anxious Ms. Hunter by promising her that after his wife died, he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band.” Please let that be a lie. (Blackink)

18. Let us mourn the death of American civility with Jude at First Draft. (Blackink)

19. Bruce Bartlett remembers Irving Kristol, father of neoconservatism. (Jamelle)

20. According to Marcus Buckingham at the Huff Post, women have grown increasingly unhappy as they made professional and social progress over the past 40 years. There’s a lot to digest in the provocative piece, and I get the feeling something is missing from this analysis. I need someone smarter than me to fill in the gaps. (Blackink)

21. After six years, Leslie Bennetts says The New York Times is finally attempting to set the record straight about the “Opt-Out Revolution” – well-off women who quit their careers to become full-time mothers. (Blackink)

22. Crooked Timber highlights a recent op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education that points out the problem of poor, black and Hispanic students choosing to go to less-demanding college institutions and an overreliance on standardized tests. (Blackink)

23. Colorism isn’t just the purview of black folk — it exists in the South Asian community as well. Sepia Mutiny notes a campaign that’s attempting to address the fear of darker skin. (Shani-o)

24. After charges were dropped last week against five men accused of raping a Hofstra University freshman, Amanda Hess parses some of the many problems of living in a rape culture. That includes false rape accusations. (Blackink)

25. In case there was ever any doubt, Andrew Sullivan has major pull. (Blackink)

26. While I was watching the Giants thump the Cowboys and the season premiere of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” apparently Neil Patrick Harris and the Emmy Awards were putting on quite the show. (Blackink)

27. I’m finding myself agreeing with Alyssa again: you should definitely get down to your nearest newstand or bookstore, pick up a copy of the latest New Yorker and read Ta-Nehisi’s piece about MF Doom and hip-hop. And, like her, I might quibble a bit with a few parts of the feature. Then again, we’re both from the South. (Blackink)

28. Harry Allen asks if Kanye is doomed to become “the next O.J.”? At the least, Kanye’s “victimization” of Taylor Swift has drawn out some of the bigots among us. (Blackink)

29. Nearly four-fifths of NFL players are bankrupt or struggling financially within two years of retirement. The Business Insider looks at some of the reasons why. (Blackink)

30. And because I’m from Houston and hate the Dallas Cowboys, I really enjoyed this:

Feel free to drop some links that would be of interest or chat among yourselves. Let’s hope we’re all in for a great week.

Deuces.

Your Monday Random-Ass Roundup: Acting Stupidly

Because of technical difficulties and an unusually busy work day, this almost became Your Tuesday Random-Ass Roundup. Sorry I’m late again.

DougJ at Balloon Juice: “We’re a country where a uniform and a badge entitles you to arrest people for speaking loudly on their porches.”

DougJ at Balloon Juice: “We’re a country where a uniform and a badge entitles you to arrest people for speaking loudly on their porches.”

Your PostBourgie-approved weekend reading material:

First things first, Stacia, one of our co-bloggers, is writing a novel and posting a chapter a day at her personal blog. What is this space for, if not for a show of pride in our blog fam?

Neither Senators John Cornyn of Texas, Orrin Hatch of Utah, or Jeff Sessions of Alabama will join their Republican colleague Lindsey Graham in voting for Sonia Sotomayor’s SCOTUS confirmation. Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the other two Republicans on the judiciary committee, haven’t said what they plan to do yet. (GD)

Also, Sessions outlined his opposition to the Sotomayor nomination in a USA Today column. “I don’t believe that Judge Sotomayor has the deep-rooted convictions necessary to resist the siren call of judicial activism. She has evoked its mantra too often. As someone who cares deeply about our great heritage of law, I must withhold my consent.” Of course. It’s always about heritage with these guys. (Bi)

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates is also the man behind The Root, which saw an uptick in racist commenters in the aftermath of his run-in with Cambridge police two weeks ago. Also, some must-reads on the Gates mess: Rich Ford’s typically smart macro take, as well as TNR’s John McWhorter and the NYT’s Charles Blow wrestling with being black men on the receiving end of touchy encounters with the police. (GD)

Ezra Klein on why President Obama should review the playbook from Clinton’s health-care reform efforts in the early ’90s. “Clinton got the politics of reform wrong, but in important ways, he got the policy right. He just got it right too soon.” I also had no idea that before the ’90s, most people had something other than managed care. (Bi)

Nate Silver offers thoughtful analysis about the “healthcare timeout” to keep everyone from taking a dive off the cliff. In short, don’t read too much into breathless media reports about momentum or a lack thereof: “I don’t think the media has a liberal bias or a conservative bias so much as it has a bias toward overreacting to short-term trends and a tendency toward groupthink. The fact is that there have been some pretty decent signals on health care.” (Bi)

After writing a feature story about MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” Amy Benfer pondered the difficulties involved in telling the stories of the many, many pregnant teenagers who choose to have abortions. (GD)

Jamison Foser at Media Matters raises an interesting question: why is it a given that abortions should not be covered under any health insurance reform? “The idea that taxpayers shouldn’t pay for insurance that covers medical services they don’t support is fundamentally incompatible with the very concept of insurance. If every interest group wields veto power over the medical care insurance can cover, insurance simply can’t work.” Yes. Though I might quibble a bit with Foser’s implication that Chris Matthews is a reporter of any sort. He’s not. He’s a commentator. (Bi)

Russ Feingold and John Conyers have introduced a bill that would, among other things, restore felons’ right to vote in federal elections. (GD)

On Friday, the federal minimum wage went up 70 cents to $7.25 an hour. It still isn’t nearly enough to climb over the poverty line. (Bi)

The White House and lawmakers on the Hill from both parties are moving toward ending the disparity in sentencing for crimes involving crack and powdered cocaine, which disproportionately punish black people. (Does anyone, anywhere, still support those guidelines?) (GD)

Poor people in the U.S. are living live in a virtual “law-free zone,” according to a new report from the Center for Law and Social Policy. The study finds that the legal needs of the U.S. poor are unmet more than 80 percent of the time. Ian Millhiser at The Wonk Room: “As the report explains, the United States invests far less in legal services for the poor than other Western industrialized nations. At the low end, Germany and Finland spent three times as much of their gross domestic product as we do on civil legal services for the poor. At the high end, England outspends the United States twelve times.” (Bi)

More mundane Republican racism. Stay classy, guys. (GD)

Few places in the world are as dangerous for women as South Africa, where 1 in 4 men say they have committed rape. (Bi)

Can the legalization and taxation of marijuana save California from its unparalleled budget woes? (Bi)

It’s easy to forget how far the Internet has come in a relatively short amount of time. A photo gallery from The Daily Beast takes us back through those dark, unappealing pioneer days on the Web. (Bi)

Before she was a famous chef, Julia Childs was a spy. (GD)

In case you missed it last month, Toure visited Martha’s Vineyard to learn about vacation, the Obamas and the peculiar racial dynamics of Oak Bluffs – “one of the most demographically unusual towns in America.” (Bi)

Angela at ProperTalks takes issue with that commercial for KGBKGB commercial with the black women in a hair salon discussing the origins of their hair weaves. “White people giving two black women who’ve presumably gotten weaves before information about the process is a bit condescending. What if the answer-givers had been black as well? I think that would have made the commercial easier to stomach. …Why’d homegirl have to do the neckroll and the finger wave at the end?? And all of a sudden her English is broken, with the “bet not be putting no yak up in my weave” retort. Her eyes bulged out a little too.” (GD)

For a YA novel called Liar about a short-haired black girl, Bloomsbury chose a cover with a white woman’s face because “black covers don’t sell.” (GD)

President Obama might not have been looking at any ass overseas. But that doesn’t mean Joe Biden wasn’t. (Bi)

More and more atheists are going through a sort of mock ceremony known as “de-baptism” in an effort to renounce their childhood faith. (Bi)

What if robots took over the world? (GD)

A cool – but sad – Google map showing the cluster of foreclosures around the country. (Bi)

The college freshman that lives inside of me just rolled off my futon in excitement: Method Man, Ghostface and Raekwon are planning a joint album. Now if only they invite along Inspectah Deck and the GZA. (Bi)

“…a casualty of abnormal normality.” Vernon Forrest, a former welterweight champion who did a lot of charity work around Atlanta, was gunned down during an attempted robbery. He was 38. His hometown newspaper also offers a fitting, final tribute. Also, SI has more about Forrest here and here.

In the future, we’ll all be using HGH and hitting 40 homers a season. Or maybe we should. Don’t worry about that bacne. (Bi)

Wilt Chamberlain, George Clooney and Frank Sinatra all wear Tim Tebow pajamas. (Bi)

Back when Mark Madsen was a benchwarming Laker, Shaq used his clout to get him a deal on a car and bought him a grip of clothes to welcome him to the team. “After that he drove us up to Beverly Hills and we went to a Big and Tall clothing store. I found a pair of jeans that fit and Shaq said to the store worker, ‘He’ll take eight of each color!’ I said, ‘All I need is one of each color.’ When Shaq kept piling on Italian sweaters, I told him I didn’t need all the stuff, but he told me it was a welcome gift and to relax while he paid the $2,500 bill.” (GD)

And finally, the Huffington Post asks: Is this the stupidest person in the world? Judge for yourself.

Also, I meant to ask this question a couple weeks ago: Did anyone here ever go see “Bruno”?

Deuces.

Relistening to a Restoration.

showboat

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a replay of Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with John McGlinn, a conductor and musical historian who died Feb. 14. McGlinn found lost songs and original orchestrations for several musicals and re-recorded them. Among his restorations was a recording of the musical Show Boat.

Show Boat, if you’re not up on your musicals, premiered in 1927 and depicts the lives of those who worked on a fictional Mississippi River showboat from 1880 to contemporaneous times. It’s widely credited with being the first true American musical play, and you probably are most familiar with the song “Ol’ Man River.”

The play also originally began like this: “Niggers all work on the Missippi/Niggers all work white the white folks play.”  It was later changed to “Coloreds,” and then even later to this: “Here we all work on the Mississippi.”

McGlinn, in 1988, restored it to the original and recorded it. He said Hammerstein, you know, of Rogers and Hammerstein, who wrote the lyrics, used the word deliberately. Not because that was just a word people used then, but because he felt there was no way for theater-going society to know what it was like for black people only a few years removed from slavery to work on the Mississippi. Hammerstein wanted to jolt them out of their comfort zone, and McGlinn wanted to do that, too. He felt that restoring the word was not only the most accurate way to approach the recording, but also the most socially responsible.

And it’s been bothering me since. Is this ok? The black chorus he hired to sing for the recording did not think so. All walked out, and he had to hire a white chorus to sing it.* I steer clear of all topics relating to the n-word. I feel I have no authority to speak about it at all,  or even to tip-toe around it in the slightest. There’s no way I can ever truly appreciate the topic, and so I’m bound to put my foot in my mouth. Or, I’m afraid to put my foot in my mouth, and therefore won’t engage in an honest, open dialogue. I hate hearing it, and I especially hate hearing it divorced from any kind of historical context. I occasionally weigh in on the word and its use with much trepedation, but it will only be in a conversation regarding fiction or movies. And even then, it’s usually to seek clarification.

So I didn’t want to post about it either, until I finally decided I had to. Because the use here is interesting to me. There are plenty of reasons why the appropriation argument might fail, and there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want a use that might seem to condone it to fall on the wrong ears. The afternoon of the Fresh Air broadcast, I felt that it was painful to hear such a hateful word rise out of such beautiful music. Then, I can’t help thinking; maybe that’s not such a bad thing for the kind of person who would regularly listen to NPR to feel, especially as they’re doing their routine errands on a Connecticut afternoon?

* Who are the white people who would sing it???

Hitting the Ground Running.

obama-sign-getty-8440433

Besides Obama signing executive orders that Gitmo close within the next year, the Senate passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Obama has promised to sign. (Some background on the legislation here.)

Also, repealing the “global gag rule” seems to be on the agenda for the next few days. That’s about as good a start as anyone could expect.