EssaysRaceRace/isms

Learning Baltimore

A student asked me whether I had arranged the Baltimore riots to take place now, at the end of our semester. The news out of Baltimore too perfectly illustrates so much of the history I teach. I suspect I am not alone in this odd feeling of validation — at once reassuring yet terrifying — that the patterns identified by historians are also incredibly important to activists. They may have never taken our classes. They live the experience that most historians merely describe in our research and teaching. “Sometimes,” Tom Sugrue declared recently, “I wish my scholarship wasn’t so relevant.” …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRaceRace/isms

The Muslims are Coming! Video of Arun Kundani’s Lecture

Islamophobia, extremism, and the domestic war on terror

This lecture by Arun Kundani, Adjunct Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, was part of the NSSR Sociology Lecture Series. It took place on February 9, 2015, in the Wolff Conference Room of the Vera List Academic Center at 6 E. 16th St. in New York.

Over the last few years, it has become increasingly apparent that Muslims in the U.S. are being subjected to systematic surveillance by law enforcement agencies. How does this surveillance relate to the longer histories of surveillance in the U.S.? How can we understand the construction of Muslims in the U.S. as a racial “other”? …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRace

A Postcard from France: A Canadian in Avignon

To provide some context for what follows: I live in France, in the small southern city of Avignon. My wife, Audrey, is French, but I’m not. I, like so many others here, am “an immigrant.” Recent events have made the last few days emotionally and intellectually complex. I’ve been, at times, angry, exhausted, bewildered, and blasé. 

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” – But They are Not

As the holidays are coming to an end, I return to New York after a week spent in Puerto Rico with my family. The island is enchanting: it has opened itself to tourism, without selling its soul to it. What most impressed me upon our arrival in San Juan was the number (and strangeness) of Christmas decorations. Instead of the usual western iconography, here Christmas is most often symbolized by what appeared to me as a small detail of the nativity scene: the three Magi. Furthermore, funnily enough, instead of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the three exotic kings have musical instruments in their hands — as a reminder of the overwhelming importance of salsa, which one hears on almost every corner of the city. For the whole week we spent traveling around the island I kept asking myself “why such a choice?” …

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EssaysRaceTheory & Practice

The Social Condition and the Ghetto

Jeffrey Goldfarb and Iddo Tavory (recently joined additionally by Tim Rosenkranz) have been trading pieces in this forum toward sketching the outlines of an existential sociology based on a concept they call “the social condition.” The social condition, if I understand them correctly, is the intrinsic potential for our lives and our projects to come up against impasses. Borne from the complexity of our existences as social beings, it is the impossibility of overarching, unproblematic narratives. It is the inevitably of indeterminacy and irreconcilability. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRaceRace/isms

A Crowd of Whites, A Sea of Blue

A Report from Cleveland

This past week hundreds of residents gathered in downtown Cleveland for a “Sea of Blue” rally to show support for police officers and law enforcement official across the nation. The rally, held in Public Square in response to the recent shooting of two NYPD officers and to counter months of anti-police protests and civil unrest linked to the murder of three young Black men — Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice — at the hands of white police officers, one of which took place in Cleveland. Rally organizers claimed the event was meant to show support for all lives, but it was obvious from one look at who attended the event that it was really about white people showing their support for white cops, all under the guise of defending law and order. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRaceRace/isms

Reflections on Ferguson

I have spent much of my academic career researching and writing about the Civil Rights Movement. Today, I am heartbroken, and I believe my greatest heroes would be too — Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, William Monroe Trotter, Ida B. Wells, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr., are all collectively turning in their graves. My heart breaks for America because it feels like the struggle, and sacrifice of countless civil rights activists have in part been futile. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRace

Cop Violence and the Order of Urban Terrorism

Immediately after Ferguson, MO cop Darren Wilson murdered unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, the city’s police mounted a show of militarized power that represented the rising tide of police-state terrorism in growing numbers of urban communities throughout the United States of America. Treating the community as a war zone, the cops occupied the streets, ostensibly to protect the city from the violence of black protestors. Rather, the militarized cop presence in the city of Ferguson only served to exacerbate community anger, outrage, and resentment. Young Brown’s parents, Leslie McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., were left to grieve for their son, who was left dead in the street for four hours. Since the murder of Michael Brown, killer cop Darren Wilson has not been seen in public, nor has he been charged with a crime; rather, he has been allowed to walk free and has gone into hiding. …

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Ferguson and Fatherhood: My Turn to Give The Talk

Recently, I took my son to the doctor for his 13-year old checkup. “He’s 5’8”, she told me, “and he hasn’t even begun his growth spurt yet.” I was also a late bloomer. 6’1” now, at his age, I was 5’2”. Looking at the chart, I could see there was an even chance he’d hit 6’4” in the next few years.

I knew it was time for The Talk.

My son doesn’t get out so much. Like most middle-class kids his age, the problem isn’t getting him off the corner, it is getting him off the computer. My son, however, is African-American. …

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