All posts in Race

Appropriate Appropriation

Back in the 1960’s I remember seeing a cartoon by Jules Feiffer in which a black hipster said “I dug jazz then whitey picked up on it…” then repeated it in the next few panels with some other thing that whites had appropriated (to use contemporary language.) The cartoon’s last panel said “Then I dug freedom…and finally lost him.” This comes to mind whenever I read about some black folk complaining that this white person has adopted a black style or black music or hairdo.

The discussions about appropriation I read about today usually revolve around three issues. First, white artists

Thoughts in the Time of Trump

Before the presidential election a few months ago I mused about whether it is more upsetting to live in a country where Donald Trump was president or in a country where people would elect a Donald Trump to office. I have decided that it is the latter. The election of Donald Trump reveals that my fellow citizens are not only desperate, racist, and selfish, but they are incredibly ignorant of how things work in America. I am not talking about the 1% who have a rational interest in Trump because he will protect and advance their interests. The ideological conservatives

“Nobody’s Blues Are Like Mine”

All around us we see people playing the game of “Comparative Deprivation.” Its signature meme is “Those people don’t have it as bad as (fill in the blank here.)” Some conservatives for example like to point out that poverty in the United States is not “real” poverty such as in underdeveloped countries.  American “poor” have refrigerators and televisions unlike say all those Syrian refugees. On Facebook recently I entered a conversation when someone mentioned an old quote from sociologist Orlando Patterson that he made in a New York Times op-ed piece defending Clarence Thomas in 1991. He said, “[America] is

Could MLK’s Methods Work in the Time of Trump

Martin Luther King would have been 88 years old this year. Next year will mark 50 years since he left us. We should ask are his methods and strategies still the right ones? King was a man of great optimism and faith in human beings. His strategy reveals that. King’s method had two components. The first was an appeal to white moderates. His tactic was to bring the violence inherent in systems of oppression down upon himself and fellow demonstrators, to make it visible. Such examples of undeserved suffering and dramatization of the problem, would convince people to make a change. Those

Racism without Racists?

Maine’s governor Paul LePage recently said that 90% of Maine’s drug dealers were black or Hispanic. When a state legislator said that such statements contributed to racism LePage responded by leaving an expletive filled voicemail message that he was not a racist and had instead devoted his whole life to helping black people. First things first.  I don’t know the actual statistics or indeed if anyone is keeping them. LePage says that he has been keeping a scrapbook of pictures of drug dealer arrests mentioned in the media and they are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. I guess the idea that

Bury My Heart at the Fish and Wildlife Building

My social media accounts are burning up with comparisons of how the armed white occupiers of the Oregon Fish and wildlife building are being differently treated than unarmed black folks who have been shot by authorities. People mention the media calling them “militia” instead of “terrorists” or “thugs”; the police waiting them out instead of going in guns blazing as people assume they would in a comparable situation with black protesters.   No one has to convince me that police see young black men as potentially dangerous “thugs” because of the racial fears rampart in our society. It does not matter

Why Conservatives are wrong about Welfare

Recently a friend who was a couple of classes behind me in college and who is a reasonable but die-hard conservative mentioned “government sponsored systematic racial inequality.” By this I take it that he was implying that current social welfare programs like TANF and food stamps trap African Americans in cycles of dependency that reify racial inequity, that is, turn it into a reality. That is a variation of the usual conservative argument against social welfare programs: they sap individuals’ motivation to go out and get a job, encourage laziness, and in general hold back the poor. This is of course based

The “Mother of the Year” in Baltimore

I spanked my child only one time.  It took me about a week to get over it.  He was 2 or 3 at the time and he started to run out into the middle of the street. I rationalized that this was a life or death situation and he was too young to have a rational discussion about this.  He had to learn not to do this if he were to survive and he had to learn the simple equation that running into the street was a no-no, that it was associated with pain. I was reminded of this with the

If you don’t have a clue at least buy a vowel

I was watching Jon Stewart’s takedown of the Fox News coverage of the Ferguson, Missouri outrage. As is usually the case it was brilliantly done. My favorite part was Fox News’ Sean Hannity explaining how he would act if stopped by a policeman and implicitly saying that black men should do likewise.  He said that he would put his empty hands out the window, then get out of the car, pull up his shirt to show that he had a handgun in his waistband and explain that he had a permit to carry that weapon. The look of incredulity on Stewart’s face

Books That Were Important To Me

A little while ago there was a Facebook challenge circulating among my friends: quickly list 10 books that were important to you without thinking about it too much. Not being one to be constrained by the rules I wanted to do it but with some thought rather than quickly and not necessarily with 10 books. My list is considerably different from those of my friends and colleagues but I always was an odd duck. The first book is one few will have read but many will have heard of: Moby Dick. I read it for the first time when I checked