Tag Archives: racism

Still Seperate, Still Unequal: The Shame of the Nation

In the summer of 2003, in preparation for working in the public school system, I read the book Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. To say that the book changed my view of the public school system would be an understatement. Initially it shocked me that inequalities like this still existed even 30+ years after the Brown Ruling and that I had not heard about these recent (copyright 1990) inequalities. He opened my eyes to this injustice and made me forever an advocate of just public schools. In 1990 Kozol wrote revealing decrepit schools, out of date textbooks, segregated schools, and basically little of the change we thought had come from Brown vs. Board of Education on May 17, 1954.
Kozol has recently published a new book that gives a current account of the public school system, and the picture is not pretty. The Shame of the Nation, with a subtitle that speaks volumes: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.
The stories, first-hand accounts from children in our education system, are moving and impacting. You must hear their stories. But, Kozol also writes deep and challenging words that challenge the way we discuss what is occuring in our school system. This paragraph took me a few reads to take in but it’s statement is intense:

“Perhaps most damaging to any serious effort to address racial segregation openly is the refusal of most of the major arbiters of culture in our northern cities to confront or even clearly name an obvious reality they would have castigated with a passionate determination in another section of the nation fifty years before—and which, moreover, they still castigate today in retrospective writings that assign it to a comfortably distant and allegedly concluded era of the past. There is, indeed, a seemingly agreed-upon convention in much of the media today not even to use an accurate descriptor like “racial segregation” in a narrative description of a segregated school. Linguistic sweeteners, semantic somersaults, and surrogate vocabularies are repeatedly employed. Schools in which as few as 3 or 4 percent of students may be white or Southeast Asian or of Middle Eastern origin, for instance—and where every other child in the building is black or Hispanic—are referred to as “diverse.” Visitors to schools like these discover quickly the eviscerated meaning of the word, which is no longer a proper adjective but a euphemism for a plainer word that has apparently become unspeakable.”

To get more of a taste of Kozol before you go and check this book out of the library you can read Still Seperate, Still Unequal an article pulled from the first chapter of the book.

Another Reason why I WON’T Shop at Abercrombie

First a confession: I once owned a hat from Abercrombie and Fitch. They share my initials: AF, and with a simple sewing tool the “AbeRcrobIe And fitcH” Became “A R I A H” and I was happy. My friend Zach told me the other day that that hat was a defining characteristic of me in high school.
It was also during those high school years that I saw Abercrombie go from “cool” status in my mind to “Wow, they are pornographic and setting terrible standards for my generation!” And from there it’s gone only downhill.

This quote from a recent interview of the CEO, Mike Jeffries, says pretty much everything:

Listen, do we go too far sometimes? Absolutely. But we push the envelope, and we try to be funny, and we try to stay authentic and relevant to our target customer. I really don’t care what anyone other than our target customer thinks.

This is his response to the many protest that Abercrombie has faced for it’s sexist and racist t-shirts.

I don’t want to spend anymore time listing reasons Abercrombie is bad. Want I would like is to figure out some way to convince the millions of “good” people out there that spending your money at a place like Abercrombie gives your support to their Racist and Sexist behaviors.

via AngryAsianMan.com

“We are not all football players” (nor do we want to be)

Another interesting point that came up in the movie Rize is the idea that in the inner city the one thing you can always seem to find is a sports team. Maybe is one of those catch-22 types of things, but the truth is that a lot of do-gooders come into an inner city neighborhood and start sports teams. This makes some sense because there are a lot of kids that want to play sports, and thus we have our little catch-22 (I could be using the term all wrong, sorry).
But there are plenty of youth in the inner city that have no desire to play sports and would love to have other outlets. In the movie they mention the lack of performing arts schools and studios which is very true from what I know. There is a definite need for more of these things in the inner city.
If you have tons of sports options available to youth, you’ll continue to hear plenty of “rise out of poverty to sports star fame” types of stories. If you make performing arts more available, and good education available, you’ll eventually hear many more, “rise out of poverty to” broadway renown, ballet all-star, symphony elite, science genius, and the list goes on.

The sweet beauty of healthy race relations

Eventually, someones going to figure out that I am fairly emotional (i.e. I cry very easily). I was watching Rize today (I’ll write more about it later), and a quick 30 second scene brought a tear to my eye.
The movie is a documentary about a dance culture in the African-American community. In the one scene there is a party happening and you see an elderly white couple watching from their driveway. Three girls from the party (all three black) come up to the couple and do a little dance for them and then give them a balloon animal. The couple claps for them.
The scene isn’t really crucial to the rest of the film, it’s just a snippet during a music and dance segment. The part that touches me about it and other occasions, is the sweet beauty there is in healthy communication and interaction between people of different races. I see, hear and know of so many injustices and racism that occurs that you just long to see more and more relationships that are healthy.

Maybe I’m alone in that, but maybe not.


The trouble with Real Estate

As a gift over the holidays, Mindy and I received the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It had been recommended to me before and I had browsed the first chapter but hadn’t picked it up.
I’m currently a good chunk of the way through it and it brought up an interesting financial issue that I have. In the book Robert Kiyosaki will give examples of was that he made money. The two primary ways have been small stocks and Real Estate. I’ve read my fair share of money making and finance books and a lot of them, as well as plenty of people say there is money to be made in Real Estate.
You look at the ideas, me being somewhat of an entrepuneur, and your mind start whirling through all the possiblities and the idea of being able to make a ton of money quite quickly through buying and selling real estate (I know some of you are surprised by me talking like this). When I think only about the financial side of the real estate business, it’s quite tempting to try and jump in. And that’s when I step back and think about some of the social implications.
I’ll start with a typical example. Pick up your average ‘Make millions in Real Estate’ book and one of it’s tips will be to go to the bankruptcy office, or look for foreclosure notices, those are places to get houses for dirt cheap. Never have I seen in ANY book or tape or information anything that addresses the needs or situation of the person that is bankrupt or foreclosing. If anything it might mention that they’ll be glad to have the money, but I highly doubt they are glad to lose their house. “Your misfortune is my fortune,” that’s basically what it is, and that just doesn’t sound right to me.
The other major problem with real estate that I see is the power it has to push people around, particularly poor people. Gentrification is somewhat of a buzzword, but it’s happening and it’s frustrating and sad. Pick any major city and what’s happening is people with low incomes, but people who had a stable home, are being pushed out of their residence and left to move somewhere else. Now that the city has become popular again, those with money are forcing (I’ll explain in another post) out those without money. This includes housing projects (Cabrini Green of Chicago is now condos). This troubles me.

I like the idea of buying a house some day. I like the idea of living in community with people in a place that we own. I worry that my purchasing and profiting will be at the expense of others. There is oppression in the way we do real estate and I want to have no part of it. I only hope I can find out a way that is possible.

The Next PostSecret… Sharing our Feelings on Race

I mentioned this last week, but my readers jumped off on a discussion about other things in the post, which was great and enjoyable, but made me want to mention this again.
Something that troubles me in dicussing race and racism is that we are often (like in many other areas) poor listeners. We tend to have a lot to say regardless of how important it really is or how much it affects us. Like you learn in any basic communication class sharing your feelings is perfectly okay and important. It’s also important to listen to one another. The typical statement you’ll here suggested is the famous, “I Feel…When You…” It allows you to share what your feeling based on the others action and focuses on your feeling rather then just yelling or pointing out their action (the “You ALWAYS do this…” types of statements).

Martin Luther King day is just around the corner and I thought it would be neat to have a site dedicated to sharing our feelings about Race and Racism in a constructive way. The site IfeelWhenYou has been up for less then a week now and the traffic to it is slowly increasing. Traffic doubled yesterday and there looks to be even more today. Many people are coming back and browsing through the confessions to read what people have written. The statements are anonymous, so there is no way to react you just listen. You can post your own statements to and I’d encourage you to do so.

Sharing our feelings on race

Every so often something comes up that brings race and racism to the fore front of many people’s minds. For many these topics are often at the forefront, for some of us white folk it sits absent in the back of our mind until something comes up.

For a lot of people I know, the issue recently came up, prompted by two different events. First, the issue of race was starkly brought up around the events of Hurricane Katrina. If folks didn’t pick up on it from the get-go, they most certainly did after Kanye West made his bold confession on national television. One of the major issues was the bias (though a LOT of people disagree on this) news stories. Also, for those with a little awareness, the clear overwhelming majority of people that where stuck in New Orleans and the slow response of aid should have been disturbing both from an economic and racial perspective.

Second, the movie Crash recently came out on DVD and was viewed by a number of my friends. It is a very in-your-face approach to a lot of race issues and problems. The movie lacks any clear attempt at a solution and that has both a positive and a negative effect. I think on a positive note, they recognized that there is not a simple solution and to attempt to convey one might come across as naive or ignorant. At the same time, the lack of any solution presented leaves some people feeling that there isn’t any solutions, but also that that is then okay and acceptable. I worry that too many people left that movie feeling that that is just the way life is, and that we are all good people in the end, so we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

I’m a well-to-do white male, so I’m the last person to be spouting my thoughts and opinions on race, but I will take every opportunity to speak up and add a voice to the cry for justice. There is FAR too much racism in the world today. We must all rise up to the challenge and respond. Do not sit silently as you hear a racist joke, speak up, at the expense of your own reputation, it must be stopped.

In light of all this, I was very interested in providing a way for people to share their personal feelings about race, and about how others have treated them in regard to race. I’ve always found the statement promoted for communication and conflict resolution: “I feel…When you…” I’ve put together a small website for people to have the opportunity to share those feelings and put them out in the open for others to read and learn from. Please stop by and add your feelings.

[Sharing your Feelings on race: “I Feel…When You…”]

Further thoughts on Kanye West.

My original post on Kanye West was written before I saw the actual video footage of what he said. From the description and summary I had heard from many many other blogs and news articles I thought Kanye had gone off yelling and screaming, insisting Bush “hates” black people. Well, I finally found the clip here. And this is anything but a outspoken rant. Why didn’t anyone mention the fact that Kanye was stumbling over his words? Why didn’t anyone mention that he didn’t sound angry, but distraught and disturbed, nervous about speaking but concerned about sharing what was on his heart? Does anyone else see that in this video?
Just my opinion, but I feel like this supports my original post that Kanye was speaking out of pain.

Now to address a few of the comments:

Anon: Kanye did not say Bush “HATES” black people, he said Bush doesn’t care about black people. And as far as evidence goes I think the evidence he was referring to (at least recently) was the Hurricane and New Orleans. You obviously don’t agree with him though do you. What if (I know another one of those “what if’s” you don’t like me asking) Kanye was a close personal friend of yours. What if in a conversation with your close friend, he got choked up and stumbling over his words expressed his hurt and emotions and said, “Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Would you ask him where his evidence is? Would you try and see things from his perspective a little?

Mr. Strong, I don’t think the fact that 2 of the people on Bush’s cabinet are black is really a case against Kanye’s statement, do you?

Brian and Jon and Stephen, I’d like to suggest that you try a different approach if you are really actually curious where the feelings that Kanye expressed come from. You see the way you post some of your comments, they sound argumentative, not like open and listening ears. If I was Kanye, or someone who shares his feelings, I don’t think I would want to share with you my hurt and emotions and the stories and evidence that make me feel the way I do. I’d be afraid you’d just rip into and discredit everything I just vulnerably shared with you. If your really interested though, and willing to listen, I’m sure you can find a person on Wheaton’s campus, or maybe in your church or neighborhood who would share with you some of their feelings, you just have to look.