August 3, 2012, 5:21 pm
More than 30 years ago, Elisabeth Landes and Richard Posner provocatively observed that a “glut” in black babies exists in the United States foster care system. Their controversially framed assessment attracted ardent criticism, including charges of racism. Nonetheless, Posner and his colleague touched on urgent and yet unresolved problems, including how to (a) provide more meaningful life opportunities for child wards of the state by transitioning them into permanent home placements, (b) reduce the prevalence of black children in foster care, and (c) decrease state expenditures on foster care, while not sacrificing quality of care. There were other questions of great importance that arose in response to their research. However, the use of economic terms as analytical tools to describe the collision of both a terrible racial phenomenon and family law crisis launched the type of…
August 2, 2012, 6:03 pm
“The Man With the Muck Rake,” courtesy of National Archives UK
Everyone knows how muckraking is supposed to work. An investigative reporter uncovers hidden wrongdoing; the public is outraged; and the authorities move quickly on behalf of justice and righteousness. There can be failure at any of these points, of course. Sometimes there is no outrage. The timing of the story may be poor, or the media outlet might be too small to get any real attention. If the target of the investigation has a skilled public relations team, it may be able to spin the story in a way that minimizes the damage. Often, the relevant authorities simply don’t take any action. And once the initial shock of the story has settled, the public demand for justice vanishes, like a bullet that has missed the target.
In American medical research,…
July 31, 2012, 4:46 pm
Houston gun show, 2007 (photo by Michael Glasgow via Flickr/CC)
Swimming with my family yesterday, we were shocked to learn that a man just down the beach had been attacked by a shark. The usual feelings of fear, shock, helplessness, and gratitude that it wasn’t us ensued. As this story mingled with the story of James Holmes in Colorado, it seemed easy enough to imagine that a shark attack and a mass shooting are similar events: tragedies floating through the summer air randomly attaching to certain bodies while swimming by others.
Of course shark attacks are not at all the same as mass killings. Mass killings are acts of madness that are cultural in nature, not blind animal instinct. More than 60 years ago, Ann Parsons, daughter of one of the mightiest of U.S. sociologists Talcott Parsons, wrote about…
July 30, 2012, 5:23 pm
Gail Johnson with a portrait of Nkosi
For the past three years, one stream of my work has involved extensive field research on the sexual trafficking of girls in the Philippines, South Africa, and India. For some years, my research has involved trafficking generally, including that of organs, children, and even body parts such as human tissues. However, this project examines trafficking beyond the exploitation and kidnapping women and girls taken against their will and under false consent to work in brothels or on street corners. This current project investigates girls forced into underage marriages or used as “cleaners” or “purifiers” to rid men of HIV in places like South Africa. These transactions violate laws, but not necessarily social norms and customs. Indeed, it has been very…
July 8, 2012, 12:33 pm
On July 4th Chris Rock tweeted
Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.
I realize that tweets in and of themselves are not that important, but the backlash against this particular one is overburdened with significance. Over at Huffington Post, they have a poll and you can vote whether you find the tweet “funny” or “unpatriotic.” About as many people found it unpatriotic as found it amusing (15.56% to 18.42%). Needless to say, if 15% of readers of the left-leaning Huff Post found Rock’s tweet unpatriotic, the red, white and blue vitriol was ramped up in the right-wing blogosphere. At briebart.com, John Solte wrote about Rock:
Still carrying a grudge against a country that has made Chris Rock wealthy and famous way beyond where his waning talents should’ve taken him… To divisive racialists like Rock, nothing will ever be…
July 5, 2012, 10:56 am
1. “I have never allowed my schooling to interfere with my education.” Mark Twain
2. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Mark Twain
3. “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner
4. . “Why are they called illegal immigrants? They’re undocumented workers. If someone broke into my house and vacuumed my rug, I might be puzzled. But mad?” Wanda Sykes
5. “Laughter rises out of tragedy, when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.” Erma Bombeck
6. “’Deep’ is a word like ‘theory’ or ‘semantic’ — it implies all sorts of marvelous things. It’s one thing to be able to say ‘I’ve got theory’ quite another to say ‘I’ve got a semantic theory,’ but, ah, those who can claim ‘I’ve got a deep semantic theory,’ they are truly blessed.” Randy Davis
7. “The nice thing about being a celebrity…
June 28, 2012, 10:38 am
Recently, I posted a column about the decidedly pernicious vitriol against the Obama family, targeting not only the President, but even his children with racialized death threats (to kill his “monkey” children). Some responses to the column offered provocative, insightful comments. Yet, others succumbed to the reductive, which underscored the message behind the post. As one law professor told me, “It becomes clear from reading the comments that some Americans become very defensive about the frequency and entrenchment of racial biases without understanding what racism means.”
Beyond the racial polemic, we should all be concerned about becoming a nation that is so adrift from bipartisanship that recently even Jeb Bush came under attack for pointing it out.
Jeb’s advise on immigration: “Don’t just talk about Hispanics and say immediately we must have controlled…
June 6, 2012, 11:07 am
(JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images via Flickr/CC/ProgressOhio)
In each administration, there emerges something to mock, caricaturize, and stereotype. With Bill Clinton, it was his sex addiction and bulbous nose—both issues he has written about or commented on in the press. With Jimmy Carter, it was peanut farming, and with George W. Bush the list is long: reading children’s books turned upside down, political stunts on aircraft carriers, and the misguided invasion of Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction. So, caricaturizing Obama’s wide-extending ears or even how his administration rolled out health care reform fits with prior discourse. These are the shots politicians take as presidents.
Yet, noticeably, this administration has been the subject of more pronounced and pernicious…
May 31, 2012, 12:08 pm
(Image from Khalid Albaih via Flickr/CC)
Myth Number 1: black Americans are more homophobic than white Americans
Myth Number 2: President Obama lost support among black voters when he came out in support of gay marriage.
The claim that African-Americans are more homophobic than white Americans is one of those head-scratching, what could possibly be the purpose of such a white lie kind of claims. When Prop 8 was passed in California, some white leaders in the gay-marriage movement blamed it on black voters. A simple calculation of how few black voters there are in California should have nipped such a flowering of untruth in the bud, but alas, there it was, out in the world, flourishing. This despite the fact that the very white Mormon Church spent a ton of money making sure marriage rights were not …
May 21, 2012, 5:00 pm
As I mentioned in my last post on improving our comments policy, I had my say about Naomi Schaefer Riley’s work roughly a year ago (Giggling at Stereotypes). Over time I think most reasonable observers will agree that the issue with her work isn’t one flawed post, but a history of offenses against academic norms.
Together with shameless hit pieces like The Faculty Lounges, her assault on African-American Studies was not an exception, but a repetition, of serious blunders against both academic and journalistic values. I wouldn’t have hired her, and I’d have intervened in her efforts earlier. Her work was ideological first and foremost. As others have observed, the question isn’t why she was fired; it’s why she was hired.
Many of us in higher education get to our ideologies as a result of our research: we think “reality is broken” in some way, to use Jane McGonigal’s phrase, and we…
May 7, 2012, 4:16 pm
Amendment 1 is North Carolina’s attempt to stop any and all unmarried residents from having any legal rights whatsoever. This despite the fact that unmarried Americans are the majority of the population.
Amendment 1 defines
marriage between one man and one woman [as] the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.
It would deny any registered domestic partnerships or civil unions legal status.
Billy Graham even got up off his deathbed to urge Evangelical Christians to vote for Amendment 1. Running full page ads in 14 of the state’s paper, Graham urged North Carolinans to vote for Amendment 1 saying:
At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8…
May 4, 2012, 11:13 am
Is Brainstorm racist for publishing racist attacks?
I have been struggling with this question ever since my fellow blogger Naomi Shaefer Riley wrote a breathtakingly unfounded attack on graduate students working in Black Studies and went even further to call for the elimination of Black Studies all together. Normally I ignore the sort of blogs Ms. Shaefer Riley writes, even when they are about me. I ignore her mostly because I think there are far more important things to write about than bloggers at the Chronicle, but I also ignore her because her blogs are more attack than argument and have the same intellectual weight as Fox News broadcasts. Don’t get me wrong. I believe conservative arguments can have all sorts of intellectual merit. But there is a difference between an analysis of Black Studies as a field and the complete dismissal of an entire discipline without ever reading any…
May 3, 2012, 6:37 pm
This week Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown tossed race in the fire of his heated re-election bid against Harvard Law Professor, Elizabeth Warren. At issue is Elizabeth Warren’s voluntary listing as a “minority” in the American Association of Law Schools’ directory, which reports how law professors self-identify (by race and gender). For a decade (1986-1996), Warren listed herself as Native American rather than white and felt justified, and in her words, “proud” in doing so because of her great-great-great grandparent’s American Indian status.
Scott Brown’s team demanded that Warren issue an apology or proof. But, to whom and why? Legally, U.S. legislatures and courts imposed a “one-drop” status rule that held all persons of any African decent to be legally—and subordinately—“negro,” thus denying those even 1/16th black the privileges and rights afforded …
May 1, 2012, 7:20 pm
Rodney King (photo from Wikipedia)
Twenty years ago this week, riots swept through Los Angeles. Rioters looted stores and then burned them to the ground. Photographers and journalists attempted to capture the mêlée, but some were physically assaulted in the process. South Central and South East Los Angeles were on fire. The vitriol and violence emerged hours after several white police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury in the infamous Rodney King beating case. A year before, Rodney King’s name left an indelible mark on our collective conscious as did the video tape of his brutal beating at the hands of baton-wielding officers.
Indeed there was a sad double consciousness for some blacks—pain and empathy for King while at the same time his beating provided some political expediency…
April 21, 2012, 5:01 pm
John McNeil Courtesy of NAACP
A few weeks before Christmas in 2005, John McNeil, an African American homeowner killed a trespasser, Brian Epp. McNeil, a middle-class businessman, claimed that Epp reached in his pocket (where aut
horities found a folded knife) and charged at him. McNeil shot a bullet in the ground, backed away from Epp, and urged the intruder to stop. According to an eye witness, Epp charged forward and was shot in the head.
Earlier in the day, McNeil’s son called his dad to report a trespasser on the family’s property. The McNeils and other homeowners had experienced violent outbursts from Brian Epp, a home builder. Indeed, the McNeils had employed Epp to build their new home. But, according to witness testimony, Epp had a temper. Indeed, at…
March 29, 2012, 3:25 pm
Trayvon Martin’s tragic death last month focuses attention on Florida’s “Stand Your Own Ground” self-defense law as well as racial profiling as many people believe that George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of the boy was out of racial anxiety, if not animus, rather than fear for his life. Indeed, the enhanced 911 call undermines statements made by Zimmerman’s attorney that race was not a factor in the shooting. Throughout much of the past two weeks, attention has been on Zimmerman—what was his state of mind on that night? Why was he stalking the boy? Why did he leave his automobile after a warning by the police to remain in the car? Why did Zimmerman intervene when police advised him not to do so, particularly with law enforcement on the way? Was he psychologically unstable prior to shooting Trayvon?
Absent from much of this discussion are probing questions…
March 23, 2012, 10:15 am
Trayvon Martin was murdered last month, but this week the case gained national attention. Martin, an African-American teenager, was gunned down by George Zimmerman, an individual who identifies as a white male. The controversy in the case involves not only race: Zimmerman apparently left his car, stalked the youth, because he thought Martin looked suspicious and “out of place,” and gunned him down. Zimmerman’s supporters claim that had Trayvon—who was on his way back to a family member’s home, carrying a pack of Skittles and ice tea—answered Zimmerman by identifying himself and explaining why he was in the neighborhood, this tragedy might have been averted. But, there is no duty to explain oneself while walking down the street. As a constitutional matter, individuals need not answer the police: You have the right to remain silent.
But the case also brings into…