Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Brett Kavanaugh in Me, And So Many Other Men


Looking and listening to Brett Kavanaugh testify before Congress, and especially looking at photos of his face contorted with rage, I would like to think that I have nothing in common with him.
The truth is much more complicated. The Brett Kavanaugh Face-now preserved for all time in countless articles and memes, is one women are all too familiar with. It is the face men use to intimidate women when they are frustrated, cornered, at a loss for words, or trapped in a lie.
How do I know this? Because when  my wife Liz and I were first getting together, she called me on it! Whenever we got in an argument that I felt I was losing, I produced a "hate look" which Liz refused to accept.
"I will not let you intimidate me," she told me.
She also told me, later, when she decided that we had enough in common for us to spend a life together ( something many people think qualifies her for sainthood) that the hate look was the thing about me that upset her the most.
If Liz, one of the strongest and most confident people you will ever meet, felt this way, you can imagine how many millions, if not tens of millions of women, have had similar experiences with visual manifestations of male rage and frustration, and have equally strong reactions to Brett Kavanagh's testimony.
All throughout this nation, in response to Christine Ford and Brett Kavanagh's testimony, people are revisiting deeply personal experiences, reviving awful memories, and reliving bad times
The strong negative reaction by so many women to Brett Kavanagh testimony arose not because he was an outlier, but because his words, behavior and affect were all too familiar.
The tension and anguish this has produced is not going away any time soon

Monday, August 6, 2018

Why I Support Multiple Measures of Admission to New York's Specialized High Schools

 
When people ask me what I think of proposed changes in the admissions requirements for Specialized High Schools, here is what I tell them
First, I support multiple measures of evaluation for colleges, jobs, sports teams and anything else I can think of, why should I support a single test as the sole standard of admission to specialized high schools.
Secondly, at a time when more and more colleges are becoming SAT/ACT Optional, it is in no one's interest, other than test companies and those involved in data mining, to put so much emphasis on standardized tests. You are not preparing students for higher education by using a single test criteria for top high schools- you are not preparing them for today's workplace either. Social skills, intellectual curiosity, cultural breadth are among the array of traits that employers in all walks of life look for; that is why they have interviews, or group sessions which expose prospective employees to real life situations
So, while I think testing is a legitimate element in admission for institutions such as Stuyvestant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech, especially given these schools long and distinguished histories, it is time to make their admissions standards more broad based.
An excessive emphasis on testing is the bane of public education. Test skepticism, not test reverence, is what we need to deal with children's multiple aptitudes and to create healthier communities

Humiliation of the Blind When Taking Identification Photos- A Statement by Jazz Pianist Dr Valerie Caper


“MY SITUATION AT THE DMV”

 
 I am outraged because of the stupid and insensitive  experience I had when I went several weeks ago  to the Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the Bronx to renew my non driver’s I.D. 

    I got to the place early and it wasn’t long before I was called to get my picture taken.  The clerk seemed to have trouble taking my photo.  She tried to no avail several times, but the camera was not getting my picture.   Some what frustrated, the clerk called for some assistance.  I was then told that I must take off my sunglasses.  I was told that their cameras are not programmed to take pictures of anyone wearing glasses.  I explained that I am BLIND, and that I wear sunglasses for cosmetic purposes.    I was then told that I would have to take off   my sunglasses if I wanted to get a photo for my nondriver’s I.D.  I REFUSED TO TAKE MY SUNGLASSES off.    I’ve had a passport with my photo for over forty years! I am an educator and a performer, and I have traveled internationally everywhere with that passport with my picture.  Just for the record, when I went for my passport those many years ago, they requested that I take off my sunglasses; however, after realizing the situation, they went ahead an took my picture for the passport photo. Several years later, I got my nondriver’s I.D. with my photo on it.

 

     Now I was told that as of 2020, there will be NO I.D.s issued to people wearing glasses.  As a matter of fact, several states have already instituted this practice.

 

   Sunglasses are very important to the blind.   Sunglasses are recognized  as a symbol of blindness all over the world.   In many cases, sunglasses enable the blind to work side by side in the sighted world maintaining their dignity and putting their colleagues at ease.   If something isn’t done to remedy this situation,the obtaining of I.D.s will become an awkward and embarrassing process.

  The situation can be easily  solved by having a camera(at least one camera in the place) that will take facial photos for special I.D.s!

   I sincerely hope that this issue is taken up and given serious consideration.  I intend to follow this situation until there is a change in policy!

 

                      Dr. Valerie Capers                   

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Uneasy "Prosperity"

 
Those who think that the low official unemployment rate signals a return to prosperity for working class and middle class Americans or that it guarantees Donald Trump’s re-election in 2020 are not seeing what I am seeing on the ground.
In the working class neighborhood of Eastern LI where we have a home ( we are the only dual residence family on our block) almost every house has 4-6 cars parked in front of it, meaning that families are doubling or tripling up or taking in boarders. This has been going on for more than ten years, but you actually see MORE cars parked in front of houses than you did five years ago, even though the unemployment rate is lower. And this is not just a sign of the Latinization if the neighborhood. White, Black and multiracial families also have multiple cars in their driveways.
What is going on? Some of this is the result of inflation-in the past year, food and gas prices have gone up, and medical expenses have skyrocketed. But the major reason is wage stagnation and the disappearance of stable, high paying jobs. Everyone, young middle aged and old, has to piece together multiple jobs in a “gig economy” to assure themselves 
of the basic necessities of life and have little left over to afford homes and apartments on their own.
The profound sense of economic unease this inspires contributes to the tense and volatile political atmosphere in the nation. It also explains why some working class and middle class people who voted for Barack Obama turned around and voted for Donald Trump.
The majority of people in the country are struggling economically and are worried about where we are heading
That is our reality in 2018, no matter what statistics tell us
To quote Bob Dylan:
“It’s tough out there. High water everywhere”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Putting Our Worst Foot Forward

 
When I was growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950's, the product of an immigrant family which had pulled itself out of poverty in two generations, there was one image that stood out in my mind that captured most why I was proud to be an American.
It was the picture of a US soldier, walking in a war torn country, with his arm around a terrified child, reassuring him that he was finally safe.
What it suggested to me was that the powerful, wealthy country I lived in was a force for good in the world, using its wealth and power to help people being persecuted and impoverished and save them from dictators. It gave me added motivation to try to excel in school and in sports so that I become part of the leadership of this great nation
I would learn, as the Civil Rights movement erupted and as the war in Vietnam unfolded, that this image was only one part of a much more complicated and troubled history, but the ideal reflected in the photo was one I still kept close to my heart
Now segue to the present. The most powerful image of the US we have been presented with in the last few months is of children in cages and courtrooms, crying as they have been separated from their parents. They have the same haunted look in their eyes as the children being comforted by GI's in the photos from the 1940's and 1950's, but this time it is Americans, including Americans in uniform, responsible for their pain.
What does this image say to my counterparts today, impressionable young people trying to figure out their place in the country of their birth? What does it say to people around the world trying to make sense of what the United States stands for.
Have the people of this country become so cynical and angry that they are comfortable with the United States inflicting cruelty on children rather than healing their pain? Are they prepared for the US to be seen as the latest installment of the dictators we fought in World War 2.
Make no mistake about it, children in cages, and Donald Trump's angry words and contorted face, define this country to America's youth and the people of the world, the way images of GI Generosity and JFK's inspiring image and words once did.
How the mighty have fallen?
Will we fall further still?

Monday, July 16, 2018

The High Price of Using Racism to Fight Liberals and Leftists

I understand being angry at liberals and leftists. But when you are willing to first tolerate, and then applaud open appeals to racism to get back at them, you are walking down a very dangerous path, the path trod by Hitler and his German supporters. Make no mistake about it, those who continue to support Trump no matter what he says or does because it pisses off the "snowflakes" and the "libtards" are not going to be very happy where this all ends up. Everybody loses when a society declares war on its most vulnerable people. Including those who think they were going to be immune to the consequences
Remember: Hitler said that everything he did, including the death camps and killing squads, was necessary to "Fight Communism."
As for the broader consequences, including its impact on those who supported Hitler: When WW2 ended, there wasn't a blade of grass left in the Tiergarten, Berlin's largest park, because every piece of vegetation had been eaten by the starving people of that city.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Tribute to a Great Bronx Teacher on His 80'th Birthday

Tribute to a Great Bronx Teacher on His 80th Birthday:
Hi, this is Dr Mark Naison of Fordham University, When I look back on a career that has spanned nearly 50 years of University teaching, I view Jim Pruitt as one of the ten most impressive educators I have encountered at any level of our educational system. He had a tremendous influence on me when I arrived to teach at Fordham in 1970, and played a central role in providing intellectual guidance to the research project I direct, the Bronx African American History Project, which began in 2003 and has become one of the most respected community based oral history projects in the nation
Shortly after I arrived at Fordham in the fall of 1970 to teach in the Institute of Afro American Studies, Jim was appointed the director of Fordham Upward Bound Program, which had offices across the hall. I quickly saw that he was a force in our Department as well as his own. A tall imposing person, dignified in carriage, precise in speech, knowledgeable about history, passionate about justice, Jim had a profound influence on the Black and Latino young men in his care. Here was someone from the same communities they lived in, who shared their feelings and understood their world, who commanded the respect of powerful white people, from college administrators to faculty to security officials through depth of intellect and force of character. His Upward Bound Students not only listened to him, they watched him carefully, and over time, began to model themselves on him. Thus began the shaping of a new generation of Black and Latino leaders, people who would make an impact on many walks of life from education, to business and the arts. Jim was at Fordham for less than ten years, but he is still in touch with many of the now not-so young people in his charge. I have rarely seen a teacher/mentor command such reverence, and have such influence, on a groups of men from inner city neighborhoods
Now segue to the year 2003 when community leaders asked me to start an oral history project documenting the experience and achievements of African Americans in the Bronx. The Bronx African American History Project, as the initiative was called, began with oral histories of Black women and men who had lived in the Patterson Houses near Lincoln Hospital, but soon began to focus on the largest Black community in the Bronx in the 1940's 1950's and 1960's, Morrisania. I had know that Jim had grown up in that neighborhood and that members of his family still lived there so I called him for advice. It was the best decision I had ever made. Jim not only introduced me to his brilliant sister, Harriet McFeeters, who still lived with her sister Bessie in a row house on East 168th Street, he provided the crucial intellectual framework for understanding the middle class Black community that emerged in Morrisania
Jim explained the path that took Black postal workers and Pullman porters from churches in Harlem like Grace Congregational to an exciting new community in the Bronx. But he also identified key institutions which became the basis of that community as it emerged- St Augustine Presbyterian Church, Forest House, Camp Minisink and Morris High School. Armed with this knowledge, we started recording what ultimately became more than 100 interviews with Black residents of Morrisania, all of which have been transcribed, archived and digitized. People from all over the world consult these interviews, many of which were recommended by Jim and Harriet
So happy 80th Birthday Jim Pruiit. You have truly been an educator who changed the course of history