Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What It Means to Be "White" In a Rapidly Changing Nation

Being "white" was once a central feature of being American. Those who were able to become "white" had the fullest range of political rights and economic opportunities the rapidly expanding nation had to offer. Those who were not were subject, at various times, to enslavement, caste segregation, racial pogroms,ghettoization,and extreme forms of discrimination. As a result, new immigrants to the country worked mightily to "become" white, with the Irish achieving this goal after the Civil War, and Southern and Eastern Europeans achieving this after World War II. Many mixed race African Americans also participated in this process by "passing,"- moving to another part of the country away from friends and relatives and re-identifying as white. The numbers of people who did that ran into the hundeds of thousands; quite possibly in the millions
Another portion of dynamic were the extreme measures the society took to assure the preservation and growth of the "white" population. Untile the Loving v Virgina decision in 1967, nearly half the states had laws banning intermarriage between whites and non whites. These laws were basically designed to assure white women had white children. And extra legal measures, including murder, were used to assure the preservation of the "white race." From the late 19th Century right up to the 1950's, Black men were routinely murdered and mutilated for having consensual relationships with white women. Such relationships were defined as "rape" under lynch law, a sign of profound fears of intermarriage, "race mixing" and the erosion of a "white" majority, whose perpetuation was seen as an essential condition of the nation's successful growth and development
Now, all these strategies of "race preservation" are starting to erode. More and more whites are marrying and having children with non whites. It is only a matter of time before the US has a majority of people who are non-European or mixed race.
In the face of these demographic changes, along with the growing political power exerted by "people of color," however you define them, many whites are feeling embattled and displaced. They see what was once defined as a powerful communal goal, preserving the "whiteness" of one's biological family and social circles, be redefined as an anachronism rather than an essential feature of national identity.
These "homogenous whites," as I call them, are a now a minority in the country, but a very angry and powerful political force, Some commit acts of violence toward Blacks and Latinos though thankfully such actions are still the exception rather than the rule. Their deep sense of alienation, their feeling they are losing THEIR country, is a major theme in talk radio as well as on some TV outlets.
And they are right. The US is no longer THEIR country. It belongs to everyone. There is no great advantage in preserving "whiteness" in one's family or social relations.
And while to some, that development seems like liberation, to others it seems like delivery into hell.
They cannot imagine living in a world without white supremacy and a white racial majority..

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Which Way Will Campus Protests Go?

One of my great fears with the current wave of campus protests is that Universities will respond to student protests by trying to reshape student and faculty attitudes rather than having universities change who they recruit and admit and hire. Right now, what institutions seem to be doing, in part because this is what students are asking for, is creating new "Diversity Offices," while initiating workshops and training sessions, along with a handful of new courses, some voluntary some mandatory, to make faculty and students more aware of their own biases.
If this is all the current protest movements achieve, the changes will be marginal. Universities will simply produce more culturally sensitive elites to rule over a nation where upward mobility is frozen, wealth is concentrated at the top and the middle class is shrinking.
The bigger challenge is to get Universities to recruit and fund far more students from low and moderate income communities and from marginalized communities.

In a school like Fordham, or even Columbia and NYU, it means recruiting less students from gentrified urban areas and wealthy suburbs and more students from communities like the Bronx, Mount Vernon, or Southeast Queens.
It also means recruiting far more faculty of color, and faculty who WANT to teach students who are first in their families to go to college, from the huge pool of talented scholars our graduate programs have produced.
University administrators will resist these changes, not because they disagree with them, but because they will offend very powerful and wealthy donors and members of Boards of Trustees.
It is up to student, alumni and faculty to engage in protracted trench warfare, over years, not months, to change who universities hire as faculty and recruit as students.
Whether the current movement has this kind of stamina and staying power only time will tell

Preparing Our Children for a Grim Future By Insuring They Are Unhappy in School

When I look at educational programs designed for public school children, especially children in high poverty neighborhoods, almost all of them seem punitive and socially isolating. They involve monitoring students education progress through computers and tests and requiring them to sit in one place for long periods of time, all to get students ready for a future where they going to be asked to work in conditions which are equally alienating and isolating.
Clearly most policy makers imagine a grim future for most of our school children and are trying to get them ready for that through creating a grim present
Think I am exaggerating?
Then ask yourself, where are the Congressional bills promoting recess, play, arts, sports and, school trips or encouraging schools to nurture mechanical skills.
Why are there are no programs giving incentives for teachers to spend a lifetime in the profession and live in the communities they teach in
The vision of education being project in the halls of Congress and our state legislatures is is joyless, painful and isolating
I don't know about you but that sounds an awful lot like child abuse..

"Something's Happening Here"- Understanding Divisions Among Whites About "Race" At Fordham and Elsewhere

One of the most gratifying things about the response to the latest racial incident at Fordham- which featured students shouting "White Power" and even more disturbing racial slurs for 20 straight minutes at a party- has been the incredible support given by so many Fordham students of every background to the "Zero Tolerance for Racism" campaign which my Affirmative Action Seminar started.
This support has crossed all racial lines, has mobilized athletes as much as student activists, and has reached students who consider themselves conservative or moderate as well as students on the left.
The students who were at that party may be shocked at how many white students were outraged by their words, but they shouldn't be. At Fordham, as in the rest of the nation, a growing number of white students are not only part of interracial teams and friendship circles, they are part of multiracial extended families- families like mine where there is a wide spectrum of racial identities. This makes racially targeted acts of vandalism or verbal abuse directed at marginalized people- whether Blacks, Latinos, Muslims or Jews- seem very personal to a lot of students who fall into none of those categories. The people being insulted or threatened by expressions of racialized hatred are not just abstractions, they could be your cousin, your niece, your aunt or uncle, your step brother or step sister. This element of deep identification with people of color and marginalized religious groups should not be underestimated as a force in campus social movements
What I see happening in the US is this. There is a sizable group of whites in the US whose families and social circles are still entirely white. It is in those networks that deep resentment of Blacks, immigrants, Muslims find their most powerful echo, and in the most extreme instances can surface in outbursts of rage, verbal and otherwise. But they are increasingly challenged by the growing group of whites whose family lives as well as work and school environments are multiracial, and who fund those outbursts threatening to people they love as well as morally reprehensible.
I see this dynamic playing out at Fordham with my own students and it actually makes me optimistic about where the University is heading, at least in the long run.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Terrifying Post On the Computerized Learning Future from a Teacher From a Southern State

I was recently at a training where the state superintendent of education .........., was speaking to the......... county teachers. She began her speech with trying to inspire and motivate us to prepare the students for the future they will be entering into.(last I checked the students I'm teaching create the future. There isn't a predetermined future we are streamlining students into) "There is a hotel completely run by robots," she said and "there will soon be driverless cars" she also told a "cute" little story about the time when operators were no longer needed in elevators because of inventions and technological advancements!!!!!! She then switched gears and began saying that it is of the utmost importance that we move in the direction of standards mastery education(computer based learning) instead of the regular grade progression we are implementing now. It was at that point that I walked to the front of the auditorium, raised my hand was called upon and asked June, "is what you are telling us is that we are preparing our students to enter into a future where there are no longer jobs for our students, there will no longer be a need for educators as well?" She gave me a political response stating something along the lines of if I stay for the remainder of her speech, that is not the case....I walked out. I now have a formal letter in my file for my behavior and was told I have lost my credibility as an educator for doing what I did. And my administrators told me that I would be upset if any of my students did what I did. Mind you, I teach social studies and constantly encourage my students to ask questions and debate. I'm an amazing teacher with amazing relationships with my students and I am the exact kind of teacher ............. wants to get rid of.

Computerized Learning ; A Great Strategy for Undermining Resistance in the "21st Century Labor Force"

As School Reformers unveil their new strategy for public education, which involves having children sitting in front of computer terminals all day, where their progress in various subjects can be monitored on line in daily assessments, I ask myself this question:
Is any elite private school in the country switching to this model?
The answer to this question, of course is no. Those schools continue to have small classes, much direct interaction between student and teachers, students and students, as well as a great many opportunities for group activities
Then I ask myself, why are students in public schools, most of whom are working class, middle class or poor, being forced fed individualized computer driven instruction with little opportunity for interaction and discussion, while wealthy students get the opposite?
 The answer seems clear;Our elites want a compliant, atomized labor force that has little experience with any form of discussion that might lead to resistance.
Lets be blunt, children brought up separated from one another in school, almost entirely free of opportunities to influence one another's opinions, or develop bonds with one another in the classroom, will find it very difficult to bond with their fellow workers, even when their work conditions are stressful and humiliating and their wages extremely low
And given their future prospects for employment in an economy in which 7 out of 10 new jobs will be at or above minimum wage- that makes sense as an education strategy-- FOR OTHER PEOPLES CHILDREN

Monday, November 16, 2015

What Sort of Places Should Our Universities Be?

Amidst all the campus protests that have taken place in the last three weeks, an important issue that is structural, as well as ideological, has to be addressed- what are the role of universities in a nation which is becoming more unequal, not only by race, but by class, and where wealth is increasingly concentrated at the top?
Are universities places which consolidate existing social hierarchies or reduce them? For students who come from communities where people feel beaten down, marginalized and trapped, the answer to these questions shape their ability to feel an integral part of the university community almost as much as the attitudes of fellow students and faculty. What happens outside university gates has a powerful influence on what occurs inside them. Even at places like Fordham, where the gates are quite high.
Let me state, for the record, that I am deeply suspicious of mandatory “Undoing Racism” training for faculty, students and administrators, as that substitutes a theraputic model of institutional transformation for the hard work of hiring more faculty of color and shifting around scholarship funds, and lowering tuition to bring more students of color and working class students to campus. It has also been my experience that such mandatory sessions do not convert or transform people who are not already predisposed to identify with marginalized populations and may actually make them more bitter and cynical.