Saturday, September 30, 2017

Children Are Listening: Boy Culture in the Era of a Boy President by CarolynJohnson Ed.D.


This analysis is more anecdotal than scientific, but as an educator and mother of teens, I am concerned about the deteriorating boy culture I see in the New York/New Jersey suburbs. The Don Draper “Mad Men” vision of manhood my teen students, daughters and neighbors have shared with me is no longer a passing phase, but has taken root and is flourishing in our current climate. It is no longer entertaining.


In​ the two-year election campaign cycle, and in the wake of the election, many middle and high school aged girls who dared sport Hillary pins or SWAG, or voice divergent opinions in class or online, were publicly ridiculed by loud individuals or mobs of pro-Trump boys.


This taunting and teasing has been relentless and exhausting: it sucks the life, enthusiasm and creativity from hearers. ​I know a self-possessed young woman who gave up a beloved extra-curricular activity in her last year of high school because of the harassing taunts of a few boys about her support of Hillary and feminist issues. Even at her progressive private high school, the Sanders and Trump supporters bullied Hillary supporters loudly, and used misogynist, foul language, e.g. “choke on a (male body part).” It is pervasive: in the classroom, lunchroom, gym, hallways, buses, social media, forced small workgroups, football games, and Main Street, boys can be seen chanting with an in-your-face loudness that diminishes anyone who disagrees and threatens their voices at a critical developmental age. These young boys march in the town parades in their “Make America Great Again” hats and sweatshirts, and are seen stealing dozens of opposing lawn signs from neighbors after school. They are emboldened daily by their role model world leader. He bullies immigrants, people of color, and women; they follow like toddlers in parallel play.

On November 9, boys chanted at Hispanic students in their school during lunch, "Trump won. You are getting deported, you are going back to Mexico." These matters are taken seriously in many well-run high schools filled with mostly well-meaning people. Yet, how do we learn to be respectful humans, citizens, friends, and partners?

This boy culture appears to be fostering a greater divide between the sexes ... a phenomenon of less dating, romance, intimacy, and love in a country where campus rape is normalized, as is racism and sexism, and other biases. I know of a brown-skinned boy who reads Breitbart, shaved his black hair, and tries to blend in with the white skinned boys at school. Otherwise he'd likely be scapegoated, or alone, which is death to a high schooler. A girl of Palestinian descent was called a terrorist as she rode the bus to school. To counter this daily onslaught of toxicity, a group of girls asked a teacher to start a club to support each other. They're looking to create a safe space for themselves and their voices. 

Politics is dividing people by gender because many girls don’t feel comfortable being with boys who are so pro-Trump and its associated “grab her by the pussy” behavior. Many boys don't seem to know how to coexist with empowered women, so they end up diminishing girls to enhance themselves and hide their own insecurities. How do feminist and other boys navigate this terrain?
I asked a few large closed Facebook groups I belong to if they noticed this trend. A teacher responded:

“Absolutely. Last year, I heard an 8th-grade boy shout at an 8th-grade girl, ‘Feminism is a cancer.’ I'd never heard any boy in my school say anything like that before, and I've been there 13 years now. I was also told by a group of girls that when they made and wore shirts that read, ‘Girl Power,’ they were mocked by some boys and called (among other things) 'feminazis.' This is an affluent, left-leaning town. Please don't use my name.”

Other women who had shared similar stories declined to comment publicly. If adult women are forced into hiding in secret Facebook groups, imagine how hard it is to speak up if you are a teen.

The media is covering this President 24/7 because he is Commander in Chief yet his behavior befits more the Spoiled Boy in Chief. The ubiquitous coverage of his every tweet and rant has made him a role model for our youth whether we like it or not. Before we disregard his behavior as the fleeting attention-grabbing antics of an entertainer as president, perhaps we should pay mind to the words of Stephen Sondheim from “Into the Woods:”

“How do you say to your child in the night?

Nothing's all black, but then nothing's all white

How do you say it will all be all right?

When you know that it might not be true? What do you do?

Careful the things you say

Children will listen

Careful the things you do

Children will see and learn

Children may not obey, but children will listen

Children will look to you for which way to turn

To learn what to be

Careful before you say, "Listen to me"

Children will listen

Careful the wish you make

Wishes are children

Careful the path they take

Wishes come true, not free

Careful the spell you cast

Not just on children

Sometimes the spell may last

Past what you can see

And turn against you” Into the Woods soundtrack

Carolyn Johnson Ed.D. is a graduate of Fordham University and the Founder of Not So Common Application

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Why Attacking the NFL and its Black Players Was Vintage Donald Trump

I don't want to be too much of an amateur psychologist, but it looks to me like what floats Donald Trump's boat the most is attacking people. He is fairly ecumenical in his choice of targets. He goes after Republicans almost as much as Democrats. He goes after the press. He goes after Hollywood and people in the arts. But what gets his "base," most excited is when he goes after people who in liberal circles were defined as off limits- Blacks, Latinos, Muslims and immigrants. His overwhelmingly white supporters LOVE IT when he throws "political correctness" to the winds and risks accusation of racism to go after Black Lives Matter protesters, Mexican immigrants, Muslim refugees using language the most people could not risk airing on their jobs
Donald Trump knows this. It is one of the main reasons he was elected President. So it is no accident in the midst of a humiliating health care defeat, and rumors of the Russian influence investigating heating up he calls Black NFL players who took a knee to protest police violence "sons of bitches" and demands that NFL owners fire them. Trump doesn't only do this because he enjoys attacking people-- which he does-- he does it to get his base all excited that they finally have someone for who speaks for THEM as President, saying things they can only say among trusted friends.
Having a President who airs the subaltern racial resentments of America's white people so openly and crudely is new for the United States- Presidents, at least since the Civil Rights movement, normally appealed to white racial resentments in veiled language.
But so effective has  Mr Trump been in  using this for political gain that I expect he will have many imitators
And those of us who are the targets of this resentment are going to have a very bumpy ride for quite some time.

You Can't Run A Country Just with "Angry White People"

Angry White People were the core group that drove Donald Trump's march to the Presidency and remain his most loyal constituency. They are the people who hail his travel ban, who support his attacks on kneeling NFL players, who echo his disparaging remarks about Puerto Rico, who want him to "Build A Wall" to keep out Mexican and Central American immigrants,
Their anger was enough to elect Donald Trump and may keep him in the White House for 8 years
However, we live in a multiracial society becoming more multiracial everyday, There is no major institution I know of in this country that can run effectively using only the labor and skill of Angry White People and that includes
Our Military
Our Schools
Our Law Enforcement Agencies
Our Farms.
Our Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Our Factories
Our transportation system including our buses, trucks, subways and taxis
The people building and maintaining our infrastructure
The NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer
and Big Time College Sports..
If you got rid of all the people Angry White People are mad at- Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Undocumented Immigrants, many of these institutions would grind to a halt
The only major institution I know of that would not skip a beat if everyone but Angry White People left would be NASCAR. And you don't have to worry about anyone "Taking a Knee" there
The rest of the country would be crippled by racial and political conflict if people spoke and acted like Donald at their workplace.
That's where we may be heading if this keeps up....

Monday, September 25, 2017

NFL Players The Nation's Least Pampered Millionaires

When people mock NFL protesters as pampered multi-millionaires, they forget that among the many multi-millionaires in this country, NFL players  are the only ones:
1. Who grew up in poor and working class families and got into the ranks of the wealthy through hard work and sacrifice, unlike the vast majority of multi millionaires- like Donald Trump- who grew up in wealthy families and benefited from class privilege and "affirmative action for the rich," the major form of affirmative action in the nation's top colleges
2. Who sacrifice years off their life, and their future health, by playing a dangerous game that crushes their bodies and damages their minds.
NFL players are acutely aware of where they came from and the fragility of their health and economic status, which makes their protests all the more risky and meaningful

Why This White Man Takes A Knee

Black people have been in this country since its creation. They have been enslaved, sold, whipped, beaten, raped, Jim Crowed, lynched, segregated, deprived of every civil liberty this country prizes, stripped of wealth and property when they acquired it, and finally when, through years of struggle, they achieved full civil and political rights, found themselves facing a criminal justice system that weighs on them far more heavily on them than it does on most other Americans. Given what Black people have gone through, and are still going through to get where they are now, it is astonishing to watch the President of the United States think he can intimidate Black men and women, in the NFL or anywhere else, who are standing up, or kneeling, for their rights
. This white man, who has studied US history  for fifty years, and who has grand children who are Black and Latino, will not let Black protesters stand alone. To quote my friend Timothy B. Tyson, another white scholar who has grappled with how racism and white supremacy have deformed the history of the United states, he will stand, or kneel with his Black sisters and brothers, as circumstances require

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review of John Gennari's "Flavor and Soul"

“With the publication of Flavor and Soul- Italian America at its African American Edge,"John Gennari has written an eloquent book about Italian Americans and race that carves out new space in our increasingly polarized national debate about whiteness and racial identity. Gennari, like me, is a white race scholar who is  frustrated by a reductionist  discourse on white privilege that erases class differences and history,  while being appalled by the re-emergence of racism and xenophobia as a force in national elections. His deeply personal, and evocative portrait of spaces where Black and Italian American culture and style intersect does two important things: it complicates the national discourse on whiteness, and gives Italian Americans a way of affirming their love for their culture in ways that link them to African Americans rather than separate them. It is a powerful work of healing and imaginative reconciliation that is even more important now than it was when it was first published, especially in the light of the orgy of ethnic stereotyping that followed the  appointment of Anthony Scaramucci to a position in the Trump White House. Gennari, writing about things that most of us hold dear, music, food, film, and sports, rescues Italian Americans from the box many Americans have placed them in (and some Italian Americans have placed themselves)  to point the way for people to cross racial boundaries in a spirit of joy and mutual discovery.”

Look for my review of Flavor and Soul in a forthcoming issue of the Italian American Review—here’s a link to the journal:
Excerpted by permission of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College, City University of New York.
The book is available now from all booksellers. Here’s a link to it at the publisher, the University of Chicago Press: