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!!!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Depression is a rare but unwelcome acquaintence

Well, I've been dealing with a depression right now I haven't experienced since Katrina. I go through good days and bad days. It creates times when I don't want to do anything but lie down in bed, and then I bounce back and conjure up all my energy to focus on work and family.

I basically got fucked with my tenure. I didn't get tenure, and I was set up. Given my performance record, there is no way I should not have received tenure. But the committee was stacked against me and there was never any way I would receive an objective review of my work. As a former administrator, I had been on the "wrong side" with many of the tenure-review committee members, and those who should have supported me did not have enough weight when it came down to the final decision on my fate.

Academics are neither objective nor mature in their workplace dealings. I was hoping that this stop in my career would be different when it comes to academics in the workplace, but I was again proven wrong.

Losing tenure has caused my great depression.

I am not going to dwell on my condition here. I do know that the way I will get out of this funk is through reflection, some meditation, and lots of riding. Drinking does not help me when I'm in these downturns, so I am doing my best to stay off the bottle. But the one thing that will begin to help me get out of this funk is when I begin getting some bites on the job applications I've sent out over the past few weeks. I would be so happy to be out of this university before the beginning of the semester. With a new job, I would begin to feel a sense of work self-worth.

Wish me luck :)  It's All Good

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

And So The Adventure Begins

It has been almost two years since I rode my bike to New Orleans. I'm about one-hour behind my take-off time, but I'm ready to go now and hope to make that hour up on the road.  Tales from the road continue.  It's All Good!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Break

This is the first spring break in three years that I have not brought students to New Orleans to do Alternative Spring Break. I really needed this Spring Break all to myself, and I intend to relax as much as I can with the family and with the bike.

This week's agenda includes taking Devin to the Lego shop in Austin, spending a few hours down on South Congress to enjoy what we can of SXSW, and then for me later this week to spend a day at SXSW on my own. Later this week I finally get to ride to New Orleans and spend a few days there with friends chilling out.

Looks like a wonderful Spring Break. It's All Good

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Missing Another Mardi Gras

It's funny how I "rationalize" reasons for not going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. First, I say it's the money. No doubt, it costs over $200 in gas alone to get down there. Well, it's always about the money, really....  I've got places to stay, so I don't have to worry about that. But going to New Orleans anytime will cost me almost $500. That's lots of money during a time when we're trying to save money and pay off bills.

So, I'll live my Mardi Gras experience once again vicariously through my friends' instagrams, facebook posts, and other social media.

I will make it home next year. I know I will....

Its All Good!

Monday, February 24, 2014

On Retirement....

Well, I've been doing more than thinking about retirement. I'm planning on doing it by next year.  

Susan and I have started to take an inventory of what we can get rid of and what we can keep. Basically, we're keeping all the art and getting rid of most everything else. There will be a bounty of garage sales over the next many months. If you're in the area, watch for some good deals from our house.

I'm just tired of working. I have a great job, but the people I work for are, well, people I work for. I am not good with working "under" people--I understand this. I love the freedom that comes with my job, but even my job has limits to freedom and the control of my time. It has been a great ride, though, over the past nearly 20 years of my career. But, it's time to spend time with Devin and Susan.

What will we do? Well, we'll be moving for one thing. We'll be going to Tennessee to live close to Susan's mom. That won't be happening until sometime next year, but there's a good chance that Susan and Devin will head up there for the new school year, leaving me here to finish out my last year at the University.

Why now? Lots of small reasons, but the big one is my obsession with my impending doom. My father lived until he was 56. He had just retired from his highly stressful work and "enjoyed" his retirement for 9-months.  Then he died of a massive heart attack.  

I will be 56 next January....

I don't want to go out that way. I'm in good health, I anticipate I "could" work until I'm in my 70s or later, but I don't want to work anymore. I want to begin really enjoying myself, spending time with the family, and watching the world go round. I am so "over" trying to accomplish something for myself or for this world. I have my children who will pass on my legacy. I have all the students who have passed through my courses that I believe I've left with some lasting impression. That is all I can do. Now, it's time for me to do things just for myself.

I feel really good about this. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Early Spring Means....

I'm not getting my hopes up at all, but I'll take these last few days (and the forecast for the next 10 days) of wonderful, spring-like weather.

The real problem for me when the weather turns like this is that all I want to do is ride the motorcycle....

Where I live (Central Texas), there's a great ride waiting for you literally on every road you turn on. We have long but secluded roads in the hills that take you through some of the best areas of the state. I've been on quite a few and have discovered some by accident. Each road comes with the freedom and peacefulness I need these days as I grade my papers.

I am looking forward to the upcoming Spring Break. I'm hoping that it will include a very long ride back home to New Orleans. We will see.

It's All Good!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Morning Coffee and WWOZ

There isn't much better in life-in-exile than having my coffee and listening to WWOZ on Friday mornings. It is my weekly routine. One of the perks of not teaching on Fridays that I really cherish with my job.

I can almost smell the French Quarter from here ;)

As the weather becomes more "spring-like," and the parades begin to roll for Mardi Gras, I find myself always missing home more and more. I have learned one lesson while living in exile--never take anything for granted.  Appreciate all the good things while you can. Because you never know what's coming for you. All you had could be gone in the blink of an eye.

For right now, I'll enjoy my coffee, my WWOZ, and maybe a shot of whiskey. And tonight I'll dream of walking down Decatur Street tomorrow to watch the Krewe du Vieux parade.

We all need dreams ;)

It's All Good!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dear Winter....

Dear Winter,

Back when I was young growing up in the Northern California Sierra Nevadas, you and I had a great time. I enjoyed the snow and I loved the times when you were able to get me out of school. The only thing I really didn’t like about our relationship was that I had to clean up all your messes. I didn’t seem to mind, though, because we were having so much fun.

As I grew older, I saw that my other friends had more fun with you than I. Our relationship had matured, and I knew that I had to go someplace farther away from you. I didn’t want to leave you completely, so I ventured to a place where we could see each other a few times a year and still say hello and remember the old days. When I moved to Atlanta, I thought we had an understanding that you could come into my life once a year and we could get into a little bit of trouble together. Not the week-long frolics we used to have when I was a kid, but still enough disruption to cause some good fun. And every once in a while you were able to get me out of school.

Still, the Ice Storm of 1993 was enough for me to realize that you were not the friend I had hoped, and I knew that at some point in time I’d have to move farther away from you. I never wanted to leave you completely, and I don’t believe you’d ever let me go completely, but I knew that we just weren’t good for each other anymore.

When I moved to the Gulf Coast and eventually New Orleans, I felt that we had finally achieved the kind of relationship that would be healthy for both of us. Sure, you’d come and visit every once in a while, but you weren’t hanging around as much and you weren’t making as big of a mess. Our relationship felt good and I was happy.

It was your damn cousin Summer and her damn hurricanes that really messed me up. But I know you had nothing to do with that.

So, we found ourselves in Central Texas in 2006 and for the most part you and I have continued on with our friendly, healthy relationship. Sure, you surprised the hell out of me with an unexpected blast in April 2007 with that Easter snow storm. But I felt like a kid again—it was fun and I forgot about how bad of a mess you leave behind. Well, I didn’t forget—I actually had kids who could clean up after your mess now.

I got to say, though, that you must be pissed off at me or something. Or you miss me so much that you want to come and visit more often this year. Perhaps you’ve become a bit senile and forgot the distance we had over the past few years and the reasons why I needed this distance. I’m not sure what the reason is, but I’m not happy with you coming around as often as you are doing right now. It’s not fun, and it’s just not right.

So, I’m writing this letter to let you know that I am through with you. Our relationship is over. I’m tired of moving, and I feel that you’re the one who has over-stepped her bounds. I think you need to remember your place in the weather patterns of Central Texas. You’re not denied opportunities to visit here—you’re just not supposed to come here every week.  It’s just not right, and I am truly fed up with your visits.

Please, don’t come around here anymore!

Maybe I’ll feel different next year, or the years after. But right now, I’ve had enough of you and I just want you to go away.

I’ll remember all the fun we had in the past, but for right now you are a very bad memory. I must demand that you go away.