All posts by David J. Leonard

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Impostor Syndrome: Academic Identity Under Siege?

Not a day passes without my questioning my abilities: as a writer, a commentator, and—most of all—as an academic. I wonder if I have talent, or am I just faking it?

Despite those insecurities, I don’t feel like an impostor. On paper, I fit the profile of an academic. I am a white male. I trod a typical school-to-university path that—in addition to providing ample opportunities and advantages—normalized becoming an academic. I have been taught over and over again that my identity fits that …

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Frat Rap and the New White Negro

Adele, Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Teena Marie. White musicians and fans are embracing the cultural performance—jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm & blues, hip-hop—that African-Americans have given life to over the last century.

In 1957, Norman Mailer spoke to the existence of the “white Negro,” an urban hipster whose fascination and fetishizing of blackness resulted in a set of practices that reflected a white imagination: part cultural appropriation, a subtle reinforcement of segregation, and a de…

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Hocus Pocus From Potus and Flotus

It’s commencement season. Yet amid conservative complaints about liberal dominance of the commencement industry, some speeches have reverberated with conservative ideas.  That was no more evident than when Michelle Obama took the opportunity to reiterate more of her husband’s politics of black respectability at Bowie State University.

She told the audience at the historically black college’s graduation last week that the focus on education had been lost by a community with a history in which s…

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Athletic Programs’ Twitter Jitters

A few months into his inaugural season at Washington State University last fall, the football coach Mike Leach faced yet another controversy. Plagued by allegations that he had mistreated a player while coaching at Texas Tech and a reputation as a bit of a loose canon, Leach was about to wade into what some people consider another form of abuse—barring players from using Twitter.

Reporters from a student news service had provided Leach with evidence that several players apparently posted messag…

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Preventing the Rise of Pothead U.

With the election season thankfully in our rear-view mirror, we can take stock of what the marijuana legalization initiatives (in both Washington and Colorado) mean. It should come as no surprise that college students have been rallying to end the prohibition of marijuana. I, for one, have often seen students pushing their decriminalization agenda on campus. What always struck me as I walked past these primarily white, middle-class crusaders is that marijuana is already effectively decriminalize…

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The Inked Academic Body

Paraphrased “Henry V” as tattoo; photo by beau-foto

Look around: As Mary Kosut, an associate professor at Purchase College, has written, “America has become a tattooed nation.” Indeed, our shared ink transcends race, class, gender, sexuality, political affiliation, ideology, and even our sports loyalties. According to a 2012 Harris Poll, 20 percent of Americans have ink; the visibility in today’s world is startling. In kids’ culture—tattooed Barbie—and popular/sports culture and politics, tattoo…

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Shoes, Diplomas, and the American Dream

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images for Nike, via ABC News. Click on photo to get to source page.)

The media is abuzz with reports of Nike’s fall release of the LeBron X. Not surprisingly, the widespread commentary doesn’t focus on production conditions or even the technological components of the shoe, but instead on the cost of the shoes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the LeBron X would retail for a whopping $315 dollars; subsequent reports noted that Nike would market the model with all t…