This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

December 17, 2009

Should We Try a ‘Class’ for ‘Race’ Switcheroo?

I think the time has long passed for adding socioeconomic status to the categories of affirmative action, but it must not and cannot be viewed as a replacement for race. Poverty is not a proxy for race, and to pretend that it is would eradicate the initial rationale for affirmative action—to correct for society’s demonstrable biases against people of color regardless of their socioeconomic status.

The murder some years ago of Bill Cosby’s son by a white racist who later bragged about the shooting to his friends shows how feeble the Cosbys’s great wealth was in protecting their son against this ugly virus. The recent news that black graduates of prestigious colleges and universities feel they must “whiten” their résumés to hide their blackness demonstrates how little effect affirmative action in its original iteration has today, and how our current substitution of “diversity” for actual race-based affirmative action has rendered the latter almost useless. How many of our colleges count students from Africa and elsewhere toward their “affirmative action” goals?

So bring on socioeconomic status. And while you’re at it, bring back race-based policies—you cannot get beyond race without going to race.

~Julian Bond, Chronicle of Higher Education,
Reactions: Is It Time for Class-Based Affirmative Action?

October 28, 2009

85 Years as President…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — pprscribe @ 9:12 am

…That is how long it would take Barack Obama (or any POTUS at the current pay) to make what the CEO of Hewlitt-Packard makes in 1 year. This, according to the graphic reproduced here (from this original piece). Of course, we cannot all be leader of the fee world. If you are an “average worker” making around $40K, it will take you 836 years to reach H-P CEO bank.

I’ve heard some say that the next world war will be fought over water. Perhaps. But will the next US revolution be fought over income disparities?

Doesn’t seem plausible, IMO. Many folks seem to think that they—with hard work and a “quality education”—might one day pull down H-P CEO-type money, or position their kids so that they might. In the meantime, so much more efficient to blame affirmative action or immigration for any lack of personal income power.

October 12, 2009

Race and Real Estate “Riots”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 10:14 am

…Yet if hard numbers mean anything, the 1970s FHA-HUD Scandal, and not “the riots,” bore well over the lion’s share of responsibility for the decayed buildings and vacant lots that scar urban minority communities.

Take Detroit, for example.

In that city’s 1967 riot, 2,509 buildings were looted and burned. In comparison, the FHA-HUD scandals of the 1970s were responsible for the abandonment and ruin of ten times that number – approximately 25,000 properties.  The scandals, moreover, clearly foreshadowed today’s subprime mortgage crisis that is similarly hitting black families in grossly disproportionate measure.  In both the 1970s and the late 1990s and early 2000s, minority communities that were vulnerable because of decades of state-sanctioned racial discrimination in the granting of credit were suddenly promised a “chance at home ownership”….

~Beryl Satter, Associate Professor of History, Rutgers University;
author of Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America

September 26, 2009

Study of Implicit Bias Goes “Neuro”

In case you miss it in the Situationalist post below, this is an example of our stimulus dollars at work. As a researcher, I could not be more tickled.

Overt expressions of bigotry are relatively infrequent, but current psychological research finds that racial biases often lurk in the unconscious mind, influencing behavior in subtle ways without one’s intent. Under a five-year, $834,000 National Science Foundation CAREER award, New York University Psychology Assistant Professor David Amodio is examining the dynamics of such unconscious, or “implicit,” racial associations, through research that aims to advance our basic understanding of how neural mechanisms of learning and memory function in social behavior. The award is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Amodio and his colleagues are conducting research that links emotional and conceptual (i.e., stereotyping) forms of implicit racial bias to different systems of learning and memory in the brain. By linking implicit bias to neural processes, he can apply knowledge from existing scholarship on how these systems learn and unlearn, and how they interact with mechanisms for cognition, emotion, and behavior, to obtain a novel perspective on the dynamics of racial prejudice.

September 12, 2009

My Old School Friday’s a Day Late and Dollar Short

Filed under: Old School Friday — Tags: , , , — pprscribe @ 10:32 am

We are poor, and poor is one of three things people don’t want to be. Right next to sick, and dead.

~James Evans

"Money, Hanging On." cobalt123,

"Money, Hanging On." cobalt123,

I’m with James. I never understood this romance we sometimes have about not having money. And this immediate suspicion we sometimes develop of anyone who has money—particularly those who used to not have money but now do. So my first Old School Friday song for this week’s “All About the Money” theme will not be about the ills of money, or how it turns folks evil, or how it can’t buy love. Yes, “they” say the best things in life—love, for example—are free. But like Barrett Strong says, love cannot pay the bills: “Money (That’s What I want).”

Rappers know this simple truth. You want a kind of economy that runs on something other than money? Want a Star Trek-era society where everybody works for personal gratification and the betterment of the Universe? Believe it or not, that kind of society—researching it in think tanks, selling it on the floors of our law-houses, creating the institutions that will serve as safety nets in this new age—all of that requires (you guessed it) money. Yup. “It’s All About the Benjamins,” baby. Tell ’em, Biggie and Lil Kim.

Now if you do not find yourself with a positive cash flow, all is not lost. It is just a matter of scale. When I had less money, I still lived my life—just on a more slimmed down scale. I was livin’ small—but still havin’ a ball. I rode the subway instead of my car. That made doing everyday things like visiting my baby more challenging, but I still got it done. And if the subway was late, I always had my own two feet. Like Edwin Starr, I could just keep on walking to see my baby. Even if it was 25 Miles on foot.

Hmm. No, Mr. Evans had the right intuition. I admit: I’d rather ride than walk. But it’s nice to know that if I ever had to do without again, I’d probably be OK. As long as I still had Old School Friday, that is.

Have a good one, everybody!


As always, a big thank you to OSF hostesses, Marvalus at Conversations with Marva and MrsGrapevine.

Please check out the rules for joining and list of other OSF participants here.

September 6, 2009

Blacks in the Great Recession

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From The Defenders Online:

In the midst of this crisis, President Obama has tried to help those left behind by the conservative drift of the last three decades by stimulating the economy, extending health care coverage, reforming our immigration policies, and enabling workers to freely form unions. And just as Dr. King spoke of “twin-headed creatures”, the opponents of Obama’s initiatives rail against efforts to use government’s powers to aid the less fortunate and simultaneously, use very thinly-veiled racial codes to whip up opposition. (And often, codes are not used at all.)

…What lesson can we draw from this on Labor Day? The key to revitalizing the black community lies in improving the economic fortunes of its workers. One the one hand, this means getting the Black unemployed into good paying jobs—we cannot be satisfied by accepting any job as being good enough—and improving the quality of jobs held by black workers—many blacks are holding low-paying jobs, and these jobs must pay decent wages.

But more fundamentally, this means that, just as the black community had to rely on self-help and political action to defeat legal segregation, the black community cannot focus solely on community uplift to improve the conditions of black workers; we must also engage in political action to raise the living standards of black workers.

August 31, 2009

An Unhappy Anniversary: NOLA Four Years After the Katrina Levee Breaches

Filed under: NOLA Post-Katrina Levee Break — Tags: , , , , , , — pprscribe @ 6:06 am


August 6, 2009

Are We Worried Yet?

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I understand the impulse to make jokes about “crazed Right-wingers” ranting about Barack Obama being (a) Muslim (or, as the sign-maker above believes, “muslin”), (b) a socialist, (c) evil incarnate, and/or (d) a secret Black Panther bent on destroying the White race.

But are we worried yet?

I understand the snickers about the Birther movement, and the ridiculousness of fake Kenyan birth certificates. I barely resisted making my own Kenyan birth certificate. I chuckled at Sarah Palin’s Canadian birth certificate.

But—are we worried yet?

I know it is easy to see mistakenly-sent email rants and cartoons and poor puns and jokes as just further evidence of how stupid They can be (while we feel ever the elitists that They claim we have been all along)…as further proof about how much They and their Party are Out of Touch and Unraveling at the Seams.

But are we worried yet?

I understand that many of us my age do not recall the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers or of King or of others, being merely babes or toddlers. I realize that those of us younger than I am do not even have any memories of the failed assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan. And I, too, found comical the endlessly replayed clips of former President George W. Bush being nearly knocked upside the head with a shoe—not fully recognizing it as the vulnerability and security breach that it was. But tell me—

Are we worried yet?

I hear how expressing safety concerns about President Obama and his family can sound as irrational as the conspiracy theories claiming Obama was some sort of Manchurian candidate. I read the same article as you probably did stating that “Since Mr Obama took office, the rate of threats against the president has increased 400 per cent from the 3,000 a year or so under President George W. Bush….” And probably like you, after reading this I clicked on to other news, merely shaking my head in mild dismay with the smug satisfaction that such news did not surprise someone as smart and worldly as me. But just between you and me and our computer monitors,

are we worried yet?

I get that random acts of violence by deranged, troubled individuals would likely happen were Barack Obama president or not. I understand that whenever a marginalized group is perceived as succeeding, members of that group can be at even greater risk of backlash, of being scapegoated. I recall from history books how the combination of general economic hardship plus the perception of an inferior group getting special privileges, jumping their turn in line ahead of others more deserving—how all of this can turn fairly level headed people into mobs with a grudge and a target at which to aim their sense of loss, anger, and frustration.

Are we worried yet?

I remember the line from the bad guy in one of my favorite horror movies: “It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.” I remember how that was supposed to help him de-humanize in his mind his soon-to-be victim, make her Other, so that it would be easier for him to treat her as prey and not as a fellow human. I know how in times of war, soldiers give harsh degrading nicknames to the people they are fighting against, learn to see them not just as enemies, but as undeserving of compassion. And I know that on the other side of the front, the other soldiers have been trained to do the same thing. So,

are we worried yet?

I understand that what we still call the “news” business is all about ratings, about branding, about money, about theater. I understand that some of the hate that passes for talk is partly or fully artifice. I also have read stories about research on people who watch a lot of local news who then overestimate the prevalence of street violence. I believe in freedom of speech and that talking heads do not kill people– Believe, though it may surprise you, in the rights of private citizens to have and bear (some) arms, and that guns do not kill people. I know that people kill people. I also believe that hate speech contributes to a certain toxic environment in which violence can (and does) thrive, though. And that firearms make killing fast, easy, impersonal. And more efficient.

I know. I understand. I hear, read, and see. I am sure we all know, understand, hear, read, and see.

Are we worried yet, though?

Are we?

May 12, 2009

Paint the Ghetto Green

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 9:21 am

When you think about green, you often think about people who have a lot of money and who can afford a certain lifestyle. But really what the green economy represents is a massive opportunity for new work, new wealth and better health for all Americans.

~Van Jones,
President Obama’s special adviser for green jobs, enterprise and innovation

"Powered Planet." PPR_Scribe

"Powered Planet." PPR_Scribe

May 5, 2009

Dr. Dunham, Her Dissertation, and Her Baby Boy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 9:32 am

As someone whose dissertation (actually, 3 copies of it!) merely sits on my office shelf, I am always pleased to hear when another academic has their own dissertation published. So, kudos to the late S. Ann Dunham on the publication of Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia (Duke University Press).

Dr. Dunham was an economic anthropologist and rural development consultant. According to her abstract, the dissertation:

…is a socio-economic study of peasant metalworking industries in Indonesia. The emphasis is on traditional blacksmithing, but data is also provided on copper, brass, bronze, silver and gold industries.

Since the late nineteenth century, economists and administrators have been predicting the demise of village industries in Indonesia. Despite such predictions, the number of persons employed in these industries has steadily increased, the rate of increase accelerating during the last two decades. Social scientists working in Indonesia have tended to view this increase negatively, as a sign of crisis in the agricultural sector. However, their models of rural change have been based almost entirely on studies of lowland wet-rice villages. This dissertation contends that these models need revising because they start with the false assumption that agriculture always generates more income per labor hour than non-agricultural occupations. It describes a number of villages where, for a variety of historical, ecological and demographic reasons, metalworking tends to be more profitable than agriculture. Villagers accordingly give metalworking priority in their strategies of resource and labor allocation, and consider agriculture to be a secondary occupation…. [Source, ProQuest Document ID#:744692521]

By the way, Stanley Ann Dunham, PhD is probably better known as the late mother of President Barack H. Obama.

April 15, 2009

I fuss; You fuss; We all fuss ’bout taxus

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — pprscribe @ 9:22 am

This is it, huh. This is the new Republican strategy. The woman-diversity tactic was a wash. The We-got-our-own-Black-guy gambit was less than ideal. The scary-Black-nationalist-I-hate-Whitey-wife turns out to be a media and fashion darling. Obama can apparently send in the Seals with the best of ’em. The First Puppy is too cute for too many folks to fret about the President “breaking a promise” to adopt a shelter dog.

So now they’re trying to rally around the taxes we all love to hate? And they adopt as part of their rallying cry a verb that has already been taken for quite a different activity? Really?

Well, thanks. Thanks for making things a little bit easier for the new administration in these super tough times. And thanks for forcing me to explain to my mother why that perky Rachel Maddow from the TV box she likes so much was laughing every time her guest said “teabagging.” After I mail in my tax check to the IRS I’ll be sure to send my next therapy bill to the RNC and Fox.

April 13, 2009

Magic and Taxing Times

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — pprscribe @ 11:43 am

There was a time when, for me, finances were funny. Not ha-ha funny, but boo-hoo funny. I planned my visits to friends’ homes around the time I thought they might be eating, and so offer me a bite. (Yes. I was That Person.) I acted like I was inspecting the offerings at the salad bar, when really I was swiping single-serving packages of saltine crackers. I choreographed an elaborate bill-payment dance that included such moves as post-dating checks and “accidentally” mailing the wrong checks to the utility companies. I prayed in front of the ATM screen, hoping as the machine did its calculations on my little card that it would discover that I had the minimum $10 balance in my account to be able to withdraw money for the weekend. I waited by the mailbox for my little tax refund check every spring as if I were dogpaddling in the middle of the ocean awaiting a life preserver.

"Puff Daddy George, 2/2." EricGjerde,

"Puff Daddy George, 2/2." EricGjerde,

I, however, was not really poor. I could have simply abandoned my dream to live in the big city on my own and return home to live with my mother and my economic status would have magically improved over night. I was “hipster poor”–a temporary financial situation that gave me a certain perspective, a certain appreciation, but never with much chance that I would actually be in serious danger.

Even then, though, I often fell prey to the financial situations that people in better financial positions rarely worry about: not having a permanent address in order to open a checking account and so having to rely on expensive money orders to pay my bills, for example. (This was before internet bill-pay, mind you.) When I did have a checking account, I frequently had to deal with the new-math of $15 overdraft charges on $12 checks. Getting a new job meant leaving the box for “dental coverage” on my employment form unchecked because that extra money taken out of my check each month would too seriously deplete my already low pay. No health care insurance meant not treating medical conditions until it became so serious that I found myself waiting, doubled over, on a cold plastic chair in a crowded urban emergency room waiting room, being chatted and felt up by a drunk man holding a dirty shirt to his profusely bleeding forehead.

This tale of my former woe gives you some context to my intense dislike of payday loan places and other predatory financial institutions. Often, people who are not financially strapped will say things like, “Why do those people use those services? Who in their right mind would  take out a loan at 100% interest Who would sign papers for a car/house/furniture they know they cannot afford?”

Sure there is enough personal responsibility to go around. But the fact is, it is very difficult to survive in any economy when you are already on the economic margins. Those who need certain financial goods and services the most–simple stuff like neighborhood banks, low-interest seed loans, low- or no-fee installment payment programs for everything from college credit hours to couches–are precisely the people who cannot get them. That leaves options that are less than ideal. A lot less than ideal. In fact, they may be only one step and broken kneecap up from the neighborhood loan shark.

It doesn’t help matters much when you have celebrities, community leaders, and other big names actually promoting these predatory programs. This time of year–tax time, and in this current economy, is apparently prime time for these shameless scams. Former NBA star Magic Johnson is one of the high-profile people shilling this nonsense:

Since November 2008, Johnson has appeared on billboards and in TV ad campaigns as the pitchman for Jackson Hewitt, the tax preparing company. His slogan, “It’s Money Like Magic,” is meant to lure customers to the company’s Money Loan Now product, a refund anticipation loan, or RAL. RALs are short-term loans secured by federal income tax refunds, which typically carry high interest rates — as much as 150 percent.

…“A lot of people are losing their jobs so they were going after the money,” said Pat Contantine, director of the VITA [volunteer income tax assistance] center at the San Antonio Community Development Center in Oakland. “What they are doing is hard on the community. And then here comes Magic Johnson. I am so mad at him.” Constantine says that some paid tax preparers change clients’ W4 reported earnings to be higher in order to receive a higher RAL. That means they end up owing more money than they actually get refunded by the IRS. She and her volunteer preparers try to educate people about the realities of RALs. (My emphasis; Source)

The Obama Administration addresses such practices as part of its “Urban Policy.” Among the agenda points is the following goal:

Some mainstream, responsible lending institutions are beginning to enter the short-term lending market to provide many Americans with fair alternatives to predatory lending institutions. President Obama and Vice President Biden will work with his Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to encourage banks, credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions to provide affordable short-term and small dollar loans — and to drive the sharks out of business.

We’ll see what happens. So much of the campaign was spent focused on the promise of bettering economic times for “the middle class.” (There is an awful lot of code in that phrase I will not get into right now.) And perhaps it is true that there is enough (if only barely) of a safety net to provide an assistance infrastructure for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. But those people living on the border between making it and not making it often are left out by economic policy forces. And once left out, other forces are more than ready to swoop in to fill the need.

“Money like Magic” is just that–a trick, a sleight of hand, an act. Time for this kind of showtime to end.

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