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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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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EducationEssaysRaceRace/isms

How My Social Justice Failed My Family

I’ve never felt more helpless than when I heard my dad tell me that he was selling the house where I was raised. After using my student loans to help cover the overdue mortgage payments, we were still unable to stave off the inevitable. Facing the prospect of the bank foreclosing on the house, my father was forced to sell my childhood home. And despite my knowledge of the precarious position of middle and working class black people and the enduring nature of poverty, particularly in an area like the Mississippi Delta, I still feel like it’s at least partially my fault.

The sociologist in me says that divorce often plunges black families into poverty. My parents divorced in 2009. The sociologist in me says that the economic downturn disproportionately damaged black people. My dad lost his job soon after the divorce. …

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EssaysSex & GenderThe Left

Anarchism and Feminism: Toward a Happy Marriage?

Some have argued that the marriage between Marxism and feminism ended up in an unhappy marriage: by reducing the problem of women’s oppression to the single factor of economic exploitation, Marxism risks dominating feminism precisely in the same way in which men in a patriarchal society dominate women (Sargent 1981). The oppression of the latter needs to take into account a multiplicity of factors, each with its own autonomy, without attempting to reduce them to one all-explaining source — be it the extraction of surplus value in the workplace or unpaid shadow work in the household. There seems to be something intrinsically multifaceted in the oppression of women — so much so that women’s and gender studies programs are all, inevitably, interdisciplinary ones. …

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EssaysRace/ismsSex & GenderThe Left

The Women Did It?

A reply to Eli Zaretsky

We are living through dark times. Many lament the decline of a vibrant Left in American politics; why the right has been ascendant for the past quarter century is a matter worth extensive exploration. Zaretsky’s “Rethinking the Split Between Feminists and the Left,” however, both underestimates the deep roots of the American right and overestimates the power of feminism (Perlstein, Lowndes). In doing so, Zaretsky makes it difficult to rethink the possibilities and obstacles for the Left now. Zaretsky’s account of feminist politics runs amuck because of the ways in which he links feminism with madness and distances it from radicalism and race. Let us untangle the ways in which Zaretsky puts these elements in play in ways that distort past, present, and future.

Let us begin at the beginning — with madness. Zaretsky starts with a fine recognition of Shulamith Firestone (1945-2012), and her work as a radical feminist thinker (The Dialectic of Sex) and activist. …

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Thanksgiving, Kugel, and Cornbread Stuffing

A secular celebration in our diversity

Thanksgiving is a special holiday, the great American secular celebration: a common ritual, eating of a turkey dinner, almost universally practiced, in all the nooks and crannies of the social landscape. Indians may not be very enthusiastic. The return on their historic hospitality was not very good. And those who are concerned about the Native American place in the national story may have their critical doubts, but still just about everyone takes part, or at least is expected to take part, including me. A conversation I had with a good friend earlier in the week reveals what it’s all about.

My pool at the Theodore Young Community Center will be closed from Thursday through Sunday. Knowing the pool would be closed, I made sure I went today and earlier in the week. I chatted with Beverly McCoy, the receptionist and social center of gravity there, about the upcoming holiday. She explained her preparations…

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EssaysRaceRace/isms

Black Faces, Red Skins and White Celebrations

In the country where I grew up, the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas’ yearly visit is a hugely popular celebration, rich in rituals and designed to make children happy. Three years ago, the celebration came to New York, where I now live. It seemed only logical to expose my half-Dutch children to this cherished tradition.

A large group of Dutch parents and children gathered at New York’s The Netherland Club. While awaiting the arrival of “the holy man,” they all happily sang the traditional songs about “the bishop,” who, as it is told, hails from Spain and makes his yearly trek to the Netherlands on his white horse with his servants. The lyrics: “His servant stood laughing and told us,” “Those who are sweet will get candy, the others will get spanked.” And: “Even though I am black as soot, I mean pretty well.”

All had been peaceful at the Netherland Club until a number of black-faced minstrels came out of nowhere, ramming on doors and throwing candy into the room. My three year old ran out of the room in utter fear, settling in a hiding spot, somewhere under a table in a closet with the doors closed. The show of well-intentioned fun by a bunch of guys in funny suits, donning afro-wigs and red painted lips was completely lost on my son, forcing me to reconsider the meaning and symbols of the tradition.

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