Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Birthday Thoughts

Today I “celebrate” my 56th year on this earth. The story is that my mom was rushed to the hospital in a taxi early in the morning. I was born shortly after she checked in, sometime around 2am. I believe my father was there as well, though in those days he probably had to wait in the waiting room until I was born.

My mother told me that the room she was in had many other women giving birth. It was not the “suite” stye of rooms they have today—she was on a “maternity floor” which literally meant, the beds were in the open and next to each other. I can only imagine what this looks like. I believe I’ve seen film footage of this type of hospital ward.

Birthdays, like any other cultural anniversary, causes us (me?) to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. For me, this is a milestone birthday. My father passed away 8 days after his 56th birthday. I have been saying for many, many years that one of my goals was to outlive him. I will do that on February 6th. I hope I have many years ahead of me—cognizant years where I can see all my children grow up. My father did not see my children. He lost out on seeing them grow up to be the incredible people they are today. I feel sorry for him missing out on that. At least my mom was able to see the kids. I know he loved seeing them grow up.

I am not obese like my dad, and I tend to be very easy-going, so I don’t impose any undue stress on myself. I am happy at home, love Susan to death, and truly enjoy helping Devin with his Math homework. The only thing I am doing to “jeopardize” any life longevity is riding my bike. But if that’s the way I go, I couldn’t think of a better way to go.

I am at a mental and perhaps physical crossroads in my life. As much as I try to stay in shape, I know the body is deteriorating and there is nothing I can do to stop this. I can slow it down, but I can’t stop it. I know that my mind is still good and as long as I exercise the brain I am pretty sure I’ll be ok for a very long time. But when my body and my mind begin to fail, it will be time for me to call it a day.

My kids have all heard the story. I’m pretty sure they and Susan know what to do when the time comes.

 I want to believe I have another 25 years left both in the saddle and in this world. I’m not sure what happens after 80, but I might be able to squeeze another 5 years out after that. There are so many things to still see and experience. If anything, THAT is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

 I am happy to have made it this far in life. It’s all been good!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Who I am Part I--I am a proud liberal

This is an appropriate time for me to “testify” to who I am as a person. Since this blog is primarily for my children (so that they can “know” a bit about my thinking), it’s important for them to know who I am and how this affects how I behave.

Here goes….

Not necessarily in this order, I am:

I am a proud liberal.
I attribute this quality to my mother and father. I’m not sure if my grandparents were liberals, but they were certainly pro-union people and totally distrustworthy of the wealthy. The boogie-men for them, which had an impact on me, were corporate bosses and big business owners. Big government was not an issue for them because they had been through the “struggles” of a 40-hour/five-day work week, social security, and the New Deal. They saw how government can be the advocate of the working people, and they were staunch supporters of FDR, Truman, and Kennedy. I never knew how they felt about IKE, but I’m sure they supported him as well since he really wasn’t a “bad” Republican President.

My grandparents (especially my grandfather) were especially distrustful of those with “educations,” but more on that later.

Back to my parents. My father grew up in my grandparent’s household and was deeply influenced by their liberal perspectives. To be clear, my grandparents attitudes did not represent some “anomaly” of the society they lived in. They reflected the attitudes of their peers from the North-East—staunchly liberal, pro-union, working class. My father embodied these attitudes and added the experience of his generation (he was part of the last “pre-Baby-Boomer wave—he was born in 1933). A die-hard Democrat, he was still a bit “racist” when it came to attitudes (I’m sure that the only black friends he ever had were during the time he served in the Air Force during the Korean War). He was against discrimination, but probably felt that as long as they weren’t discriminated against and were in their own neighborhoods everythng would be ok (try to sort that one out in your brains). He was not a “big” fan of Dr. King, but he understood the need for the Civil Rights struggle. In many ways, I have come into contact over the last 8 years with people who reflect similar attitudes. The only thing different is that they now label themselves as “conservative”, which is totally contradictory.

My dad’s influence on my “liberalism,” though, begins with a staunch pro-union, pro-working-class foundation. My grandparent’s influence adds a strong anti-corporate, anti-big-business, anti-wealthy attitude.

My mother was the social empathizer. She was Japanese, had experienced WWII with her own eyes (her home was destroyed during one of the bombing runs, and she witnessed the strafing of innocent civilians in Tokyo by American bombers and warplanes), and she was strongly against military conflict. She experienced racism and discrimination first-hand when she came to the US with my father as a war-bride. She understood the reality of being a minority in this society during the late 1950s. This was real to her. Her influence on my “liberalism” was empathy and compassion for the minority experience. Dr. King WAS one of her heroes—she supported all of his efforts. She was staunchly against the Vietnam War. She was in love with the Kennedy’s.

I am a liberal because of how I was raised. And though I took a turn down conservative alley during the 1980s, I returned in the 1990s to where my mental, emotional, and rational roots were solidly grounded—social liberalism.

From this foundation, I became even more strongly “left” as I entered academia. Theories, research, empirical findings, all grounded not only my world-view but also gave me the evidence I needed to understand how corporate interests undermine the needs of the working class. The social psychology in my training also showed me how the working-class could be “bamboozled” into believing the “rhetoric” of harmful big-government by the very corporate interests who want to keep the working-class and the poor “in their places.”

Remember, though, that my grandfather showed me that his generation of working-class people were also highly distrustful of those with educations. People like me today. I’m not sure where this came from—perhaps it was the recognition that “educated” for him meant a special privilege only the wealthy had access to during his times (which is more true then than today).

But that distrust I find today among my working-class peers.

I attribute today’s working-class distrust again to the bamboozling orchestrated and financed by the wealthy.

(BTW—the above statement IS NOT meant to be taken that I believe there’s some conscious conspiracy by the wealthy to dominate and control the working class. I believe it is just a clash of cultures, with one culture having the ability to express and institute their worldview on the rest of society).

(BTW-2: I fully realize that there are a number of Liberals who are Wealthy. They are a small percentage, with some estimates being no more than 25% of the top 1%. But my experience with these “well-meaning” liberals is that they “patronize” the working-class. They have no idea what the working-class experiences, but they have their hearts, and pocketbooks, in the right places. The only wealthy liberals that I see today who appear to have a true non-patronizing attitude about the working class are Congressman Joe Kennedy III from Massachusetts, and, well, I can’t really think of anyone else—that’s pretty sad….).

I am first and foremost a proud liberal. It comes from my background, it is grounded in my research and training as an academic, and it is further grounded in my everyday experiences.

No one can take that away from me.

And I am happy to have friends on the conservative side who know me well enough that they can respect this aspect of my life.

This passage has been longer than I thought. I have so much more to write about.  More to come.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The New Social Movement?

The post-Garner/Staten Island protests continue, not just in the US but around the world. People who are/will be potentially affected by today's police brutality, as well as the supporters of those oppressed by police brutality, are coming forward to protest. I like this action, and I hope it continues for as long as it takes to create action and new policy. But in order to be an effective social movement, it must have a clear set of goals and objectives. The strategies used must be for those goals and objectives. Each win must lead to new movements towards reaching the ultimate goal. We cannot stop here--we must alter existing power relationships in this society.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

RIP Ms. Tugce Albayrak

Germany mourns a true hero today. Ms. Tugce Albayrak, a 23-year-old woman, died earlier this week after she was beaten by a man she had just stood up to earlier for harassing two teen girls. Her story is important to know. Her courage stands out, and the potential sexism and racism in the assault against her says much about how far Germany needs to go as well when it comes to dealing with diversity in its society.

In American society, the great divide is one of race. We are perhaps one of the only western countries that has this racial divide. The rest of the west is divided by ethnicity. Germany has a long history of prejudice and discrimination against its Turkish community. Only in the recent past (2000) did Germany "soften" its laws to allow children born in Germany of Turkish parents to become German citizens (in a reverse sort of way, that is what the Right-Wing wants to see happen in the US--not allow citizenship to children born in the US of non-citizen parents). Germany, like the US, has a long way to go to fully incorporating its minority into its society. With a small population (only 3-4% of the total population), the German-Turks have a long battle ahead of them.

I admire the courage of Ms. Albayrak. Her actions, though, should not have cost her her life. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Post-Ferguson Analysis--Rebuild Impoverished Communities

Again, there is nothing "new" in this analysis by the Economist. It is so "simple" as well to many on the sidelines. Yet, if we discover the forces that provide the barriers to community redevelopment, then we truly discover those who want to maintain poverty and division for their own profit-motivated purposes. I want to help those who live in poverty to rebuild their communities. Want to join me?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Post-Ferguson Observations by a once young professor....

I wrote these words in 1997. Somehow, they seem true today. We are not going to solve our Race issues in society today until we all have a meaningful dialog on race and racism.

Race Relations in American Society:  Let’s put things in perspective

I.  First, Race plays an important role in defining social and class relationships in American society
Though conflict does exist, rarely does it flare into violence.
(Ferguson) is more a reflection of the reaction of the hopeless, alienated part of our society who recognize that race is still an important variable in defining who has a chance to escape poverty and who remains in this condition.

But this society, at least since the early 1930’s, has moved towards developing programs that are more inclusive of all race and ethnic groups into the “mainstream.”
            Industrialization and WWII moved the society towards this very quickly.
            Political clout of minority groups have demanded change.
And indeed, since the Civil Rights legislation of the 60’s and several preceding and subsequent court cases, state-regulated discrimination is probably a closed chapter in American history. 

The danger is that the debate is moving towards the perspective that 30 years after the Civil Rights Movement, we have alleviated all the problems of racial inequality in America today.
Clearly, Cornell West, Feagin, Pearce, Lafer, Bonacich, Farley and others see things a bit differently.
Not only do they see things differently, they have the empirical proof that the ideology of the “blame-the-victim” is completely wrong.

In a comparative sense, we are more “civil” about race relations than other nations:
In many Western European countries, immigrants (guest workers) cannot become “citizens” of their “host” country
This is the case even if your family has been in the country for over three generations!

In many countries, religions are state sanctioned
For those individuals, citizens and non-citizens alike, being a part of a non-state religion leads to potential social alienation and conflict.
                        Jews in Germany (over 6 million people were killed between 1932 and 1945).
                        The current Bosnian situation.

In many societies, it is “ethnicity” and not “race” that are the demarcating principles.  In America, this is not the case.

We probably will not experience the level of conflict and violence in this society as with others because, even with all its faults, American society gives the impression of “inclusiveness” to its ethnic and minority groups that is not part of other cultures.

Yet, we cannot compare Apples with Oranges.
We may be more “civil”, but does this mean that we stop here and let the other countries catch up with us? 
We must still deal with achieving our own principles of justice, freedom, and equality.

II.  Second, America IS a class-based society,
one which has used race and ethnicity to further rank society’s members

Usually for economic advantage and for defining how to interact with one another (from a class and race perspective).
Society defines the roles you and who you interact with will take on when you encounter each other.
            It provides a certain order to society.

We are stratified according to relationships between economic, social and political variables.

We rank, economically according to one’s (or a family’s):

We also consider one’s status:
            Their Personal Prestige
            The Associations they belong to

Which then has an effect on perceptions passed on to future generations:
            thru Socialization

We can measure the political clout of certain ranked groups by their:
            and “Class Consciousness”

And we can measure how permeable these class boundaries are through opportunities: 
            in Social mobility

Variables related to economic aspects of stratification (occupation, income, and wealth) are of fundamental significance in this society:
            The Distribution of Wealth leads to income disparities:
            Distribution comes about two ways: 
            1) Ownership of wealth:
Where one gets Returns on assets (interest and dividends) whether they work or not, and
            2) Wages an salaries, which are Dependent on
                        Type of Job
                        Number of family members working (contributing to family income)
                        Disability, single parent, skill levels at the lower end.

            The process we are most familiar with is through “wages” and gaining access to jobs.

So....Why does it happen that among those who work, some people have good jobs that pay well and others have jobs that pay poorly?
            Why do “good” and “bad” jobs exist in the economy?
            What selects people for the various types of jobs that do exist?
What “advantages” do individuals possess that make them more competitive in the job market?
            Well, People with more education tend to get better jobs.
                        These tend to pay more money.

But here is where the “quirks” come into being.  Race and gender do have an effect on not only job availability but level of pay compared to skills once achieved.

On top of this, consider the disturbing trend that since the 1970’s both income and wealth are becoming more concentrated.
The wealthiest .5% of households enjoyed a notable increase in net worth at the expense of the bottom 99%.

Minorities may have achieved some upward mobility in the system, but this is not hard to see since, prior to the 60’s, there was no chance for mobility at all.  Any change would be a significantly positive one!
                        Their mobility chances, though, are still lagging behind whites.

We need to look at the issues of
            Who goes to college, increasing their chances for mobility
            Who gets the jobs, and
            Who has political clout....
                        when we want to understand the class and race relationships that exist today.

III.  So, what are the “Problems” in Race, Ethnic and Class relations today?
How did they develop?
What social forces exist that cause these problems to persist?

1. De Facto Institutional discrimination still takes place today:
            in Housing market practices (as Pearce and Darden illustrates)
            in Employment opportunities (as Lafer illustrates)
and in Perceptions in the criminal justice system (stereotyping of “fear” as Farley illustrates)

2. The perpetuation of Poverty in American Society is also a force
            Why are we so inclined to see it continue?

            Most people feel it is a race issue, yet it is one that cuts across all race boundaries.

            According to the 1990 Census:
                        Over 22% of all persons in poverty are White
                                    Compared to nearly 10% for blacks and 6% for Hispanics

The CHANCES ARE, though, that if you are black, you are three times as likely to live in poverty than whites.

                        A high concentration of people below 18 (13 percent) live in poverty.
                                    Children are a much greater risk of poverty than adults.

                        Most poor live in suburban or rural areas

                        They can be dual-head (12.7) and female-headed (12.6) households.
But, if you are a black or Hispanic female head of household, you are twice as likely as a white female head of being in poverty.

3.  The “racialization” of social problems
There are those in society who also want to “reshape” the reality of race relations today.
            The Culture of Poverty advocates; the Rush Limbaugh hate mongers, the Newt’s.
            Those that perceive that, 30 years after the Civil Rights Act, racism no longer exists.

            Programs of:
                        Affirmative Action, and
                        Equal Opportunity
                        receive a “backlash” in this context.

We see from this the racial rearticulation of political issues.

where Culture and “cultural deviancy” become the “explanatory” devices
and where social problems are being rearticulated as “racial problems”

1) Murray and associates, in the book “the Bell Curve,” feel that by wrongly identifying social ills such as POVERTY as “structural problems” (as I argue they are)

FOR Murray and his advocates, CULTURE plays an important role in inequality.

Given that “cultural” differences, and not discrimination, account for group differences in income, education and occupational location, there is little the STATE or LIBERAL SOCIAL POLICIES can do.

2) A range of non-racial issues have been interpreted through a framework of racial meanings, often through the use of coded language, symbols and images.
As Cornell West states:  “Thus, social structural issues such as “poverty” become “black problems” rather than social problems.”
The solution to these problems, then, becomes easy:  let the blacks solve the problem, rather than society tackling what should be seen as a societal problem!
            Giving a “racial reading” to SOCIAL problems!

“Blacks constitute the explanation for the white workers’ vulnerability and for almost everything that has gone wrong in their lives.”

“The average American white guy gets a raw deal from the government because blacks get advantages, Hispanics get advantages, Orientals get advantages.  Everybody but the white male gets advantages now.”

It’s clear to see that, through the racial rearticulation of social problems, the source of white “threats” come from the State.

It is the foundation for Biologically racial/cultural superiority types of arguments
It justifies the Differences in social class positions as a product of cultural attributes.

Do the “far right extremists” who are largely responsible for the racial rearticulation of social problems pose a valid threat to society?
YES, since historically we have seen “far-right” issues converge with the cultural and political center.

Today, both the political ideas and the culture of the far-right revolution have roiled just below the surface of the conservative riptide, and now remain disconcertingly close to mainstream politics.”

As we noted a few classes ago, has “discrimination” disappeared from society?  ONLY THIRTY YEARS SINCE THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT??


            These arguments give a racial reading to the structural problems with this society.
Race is again being used, with success, in blaming victims for social structural problems.

But this debate has got to end.  We need to shift our focus away from Race as the center of all social problems and focus on restructuring the social system.  We have not done enough to reallocate power in this society, to give the working poor and the impoverished jobs that will lift them out of poverty, educate their children in an equitable fashion so that they have a chance to succeed in this society, to not make the working class the brunt of governmental tax burdens.

As Bonacich states:
“It is important to recognize that the racism embedded in our institutions are not undone by token statements of commitment to affirmative action, nor by the appointment of a few fairly high-level administrators and faculty people of color, nor by the establishment of “multicultural” programs like Black History Month, nor by official condemnation of racial incidents.  The truth is that so long as inequality itself is not challenged, the core of racism remains untouched.”

The Plight of the Middle-Class is that we are caught up in a colossal contradiction. 
On the one hand, we feel compelled to focus on our own survival, our own upward mobility in the system.

On the other, we recognize that in pursuing our own survival, we are participating in the very system that oppresses us.  We abandon the collective, political strategies necessary to change the system and, instead, play by the very rules we know are corrupt.  We are trapped in cynicism,.  “Change isn’t possible.  We might as well work within the system.” 

We can make change happen, but it is difficult when our guiding ideology is based on INDIVIDUALISM and a complacent sense of cynicism.

It is embodied in the struggle to change social and political institutions, and it takes (or will take) generations to overcome. 
Individual or community acts of charity are important, but not enough unless linked to a more deeply transformative program aimed at changing the underlying economic and political institutions that cause the problems.

The important questions to ask, as we are reminded of the world in which our children will inherit, are:
                        IF NOT YOU, THEN WHO?
                        IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?

Challenge injustice when you see it.  Work to see AND show the truth. 

Work towards making this society live up to its ideals of JUSTICE, FREEDOM, and EQUALITY.

Monday, May 12, 2014

And Just Like That....

I was just interviewed for the dream job....

I can't believe it. I guess I still have some gas in the tank. If this comes through, then I will be exactly where I want to be!

It's funny how those things work out the way they do.

It's ALL Good!!!