Tag Archives: class

A Broken System, Part I: Unconstitutional

by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils


What aspect of U.S. life wraps all the forms of oppression and inequality into one tidy little package? What system successfully keeps women, people of color, LGBT, religious minorities, people with disabilities, and people in poverty “in their place” more effectively than any other? Why, the education system, of course. And as a teacher and writer on all things unequal, it’s high-time I start specifically addressing education (in the States, and abroad). So I bring to you the first of a multi-part CVT special: A Broken System, Part I: Unconstitutional. Enjoy.

“Separate but equal” is inherently unequal. So what about “separate and unequal“?

This post is a long-delayed response to the ongoing situation at South Philadelphia High* and the U.S. public school system, in general; and it goes something like this:

We all know that the public school system in the U.S. is a problem. We all know that public schools in the richer areas of big cities, or in the suburbs, are drastically better than those in poorer areas of the country (whether rural or urban). This is not something that anybody would refute. We also know that, in many poor, urban schools, the student population is heavily skewed towards students of color. In those schools, we are also aware that race-related violence is a part of everyday life. We know that many of these schools use large portions of their federal and state money on security measures, as opposed to education.

So let’s take a look at this logically; summed up, we all know that a disproportionate number of students of color are in inferior schools with major impediments to receiving a decent education. Hmmm . . . and last time I checked, I recall reading that schools are getting more racially segregated over time. Sounds like “separate but unequal” to me. Continue reading

More Supermarkets, Please.

by Guest Contributor G.D., originally published at PostBourgie

Up until last fall, I lived in Bed-Stuy, and the only supermarket near me was so far away that I would just do my food-shopping on the way back from my gym — which happens to be in a completely different neighborhood.  The bodegas on either end of the block where I lived only sold white bread; fresh fruit and vegetables were completely out of the question. Fast food restaurants abounded. After 10 p.m., you had to stand outside the bodega and tell the store employee what you wanted through bullet-proof glass; they handed you your goods via a rotating carousel. If you were hungry at that hour — and I usually was, since I work evenings — there was no place to get food, except Papa John’s. (Ugh.)

Then my lease ran out and I stumbled into an apartment for slightly less than I was paying — in Park Slope, that notorious bastion of upper middle class liberalism and helicopter parenting. My mind was blown. It’s just two miles away, but the demographic chasms are ginormous. This is the whitest, most affluent place I’ve ever lived, and the nutritional options border on the cartoonish. There are supermarkets two blocks in every direction, a surfeit of top-shelf restaurantsthe famous Food Co-Op, and the 24-hour bodega on the corner sells fresh herbs and organic kale. As dope this is for me now, I had to move to a completely different neighborhood in order to have regular access to fat-free milk.

Continue reading

“The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online”

by Guest Contributor danah boyd, originally published at Zephoria


[This is a rough unedited crib of the actual talk]

Citation: boyd, danah. 2009. “The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online.” Personal Democracy Forum, New York, June 30.

This talk was written for a specific audience – the attendees of the Personal Democracy Forum. This audience is primarily American, primarily liberal-leaning, primarily white, and primarily involved professionally in politics in one way or another. Keep this audience in mind when I’m talking about “we” here.

Good morning!

Many of us in this room have had our lives transformed by technology. Some of us have grown up with tech while others have embraced it as adults. Many of us have become enamored with tech and its transformative potential. And because of this, many of us have become technology advocates. We’ve worked our way into different institutions, preaching about new opportunities introduced because of the internet. Furthermore, many in this room have been active in transforming politics through technology. We’ve leveraged technology for fundraising and getting out the vote. We could go on and on about political events that have been shaped by technology, from the Obama Campaign to the post-election Iranian protests.

All of this is brilliant and powerful, exciting and motivating. But I’m also worried. I’m worried about the rhetoric we use when we talk about technology. Given what we’ve experienced and what we witness today, we tend to believe that these technologies are the great equalizers, that they can help ANYONE participate, that the technologies in and of themselves can revitalize democracy. In other words, we tend to believe in a certain utopian myth of the internet as the savior. What if this weren’t true?

There’s nothing more tricky than standing up in front of a room full of people passionate about transforming society at a conference on big ideas and asking you to do a privilege check, but I’m going to do so anyhow because I’m a masochist. More acutely, I think that we need to unpack what’s happening with technology in order to productively engage with the development of technology. You need to understand the sticking points in order to move the needle in the right direction.

I want to ask a favor here today. I want you to step away from the techno-hyperbole for just a moment and think about issues of inequality and social stratification with me. I want you to think about the ways in which technology is not equally available or equally transformative.

For decades, we’ve assumed that inequality in relation to technology has everything to do with “access” and that if we fix the access problem, all will be fine. This is the grand narrative of concepts like the “digital divide.” Yet, increasingly, we’re seeing people with similar levels of access engage in fundamentally different ways. And we’re seeing a social media landscape where participation “choice” leads to a digital reproduction of social divisions. This is most salient in the States which is intentionally the focus of my talk here today. Continue reading

Is There Any Such Thing As A “Black Issue”?!?

by Guest Contributor Average Bro, originally published at Average Bro

During the campaign season, lots of folks were critical of candidate Obama for not speaking out more vocally about issues that pertain to the African American community. Many saw his race-neutral style as one that largely skirted his ethnicity, and focused perhaps too much on catering to “mainstream America”. In the end, all this panned out. Obama pulled 95% of the black vote, which sounds ultra-impressive, but is more or less in line with what most Democrats running for President have received.

Anyways, Barry is in office now, and going about the bid’ness of saving the world, yet many are still holding his feet to the flame on these “black issues” and exactly what he’s going to do about them.

President Barack Obama should specifically address disparities in black unemployment, foreclosures, education and health care, the National Urban League says in its annual “State of Black America” report.

Despite the progress represented by the election of the first black U.S. president, blacks are twice as likely to be unemployed, three times as likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated, says the report, which was being released Wednesday by the civil rights organization.

Obama has said that the way for government to help minorities is by improving things like education, employment and health care for all Americans.

But “we have to be more specific,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the 99-year-old Urban League.

“The issue is not only (blacks) doing better, but in closing these persistent gaps in statistics in this country,” Morial told The Associated Press. “Our index shows that the gap in African-American status is about 71 percent that of white Americans. We will not rest until that number is at 100, and there is no gap.”

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Tricia Rose on The Hip-Hop Wars, Race, and Culture – Part 1

by Latoya Peterson

In the Noir Issue of Bitch Magazine, I interviewed Tricia Rose about her new book The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip-Hop.

My interview assignment was 2,000 words. The transcribed interview came back as 6,000.

This is the overflow.

Latoya Peterson: You’ve had other works published, including Black Noise, which was a very influential book discussing music and culture and how that plays out in the black community. So why do you choose to work with music to explore both black culture and youth culture?

Tricia Rose: The category of youth culture to me tends to be racialized youth culture. From my vantage point, when you’re looking at African-American history and cultural expression, music is of extraordinary importance to that history. It is disproportionately rich and complex and dynamic and influential and innovative. And I say “disproportionately” to say that not everyone has such a rich, modern musical legacy. Some ethnic and racial and religious and national groups have literary or dance or film legacies, but when it comes to music in the modern world, people of African descent in the Diaspora in particular have an enormous contribution….if you are thinking twentieth century alone there are not too many American musics that have not been directly influenced or are in fact constituted as an African American tradition. Jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, hip-hop, even dance music – techno and the like.

It’s just an incredibly rich tradition. It also has a profound connection to a history of culture in oral traditions of social commentary. [...] In African American music and culture, you find not just good music, but music that plays a role in commenting on and creating critical consciousness about one’s social world.

LP: In your book, you write, “gangsta rap music is a post-industrial black culture industry with job openings and a chance for upward mobility. This is a fascinating way to frame the discussion because so much of hip-hop has become about the business side of it. Some have argued that it has come to step in for the industrial [labor market] void we have. So, instead of having progressive job growth in inner cities, other industries have come and filled in that gap of losing jobs to off-shorting, like the hip-hop industry or underground industries like the drug game. Can you comment more on the idea of rap music being an industry and providing people with upward mobility?

TR: Beginning in the twentieth century, when industrialization begins to flourish, you develop industrialized music cultures, in that you develop products, right? Music became something you could buy and sell. And once that happens, the record industry begins to take hold, and then [music] begins to be an industry for artists that was not the case before. [...] For post-industrial, isolated, urban black youth, rap music, and to a lesser extent athletics, have become an alternative form of upward mobility, a way to get of the hood. What makes rap music problematic in this way is that it is not just an industry that creates opportunity, but a form of opportunity creation that is also a trap.

It creates a trap for it’s followers because of the icons it celebrates. So rap as a “way out” has become attached to the tail of a street economy, that “gangster” rap has been defined by. So it’s not just rap music and the industry that’s a problem, but the fact that what we are selling is profitable. And what is profitable, what makes it an industry, is its constant sale of pimps, hos, gangsters, hustlers, drug dealers, criminals. It’s a grab bag of what we would call in the old days the red light district – it’s that underground economy. Continue reading

Real Housewives of Atlanta – Where Race and Class Collide

by Latoya Peterson

Dear readers, you are going to have to bear with me on this one, because I am still sorting my thoughts out about this show. However, I did want to put out some preliminary thoughts and get your feedback.

I only sporadically pay attention to the Real Housewives series, so I’ve only caught about six episodes of Orange County and New York combined. However, when I heard they were basing a RH series in Atlanta, my interest was piqued. Atlanta is considered by some to be the new Mecca for black wealth in the United States and home to some of hip-hop’s largest stars, in addition to athletes, filmmakers, and others. As opposed to the casts of RH:OC and RH:NY, which are predominantly white, RH:ATL is predominantly black.

The show revolves around five women: Lisa Wu Hartwell, Sheree Whitfield, NeNe Leakes, Kim Zolciak, and DeShawn Snow.

Watching the show, I’ve been a little less than impressed with the women involved. Part of this is my own personal bias – I like to watch shows where people need to achieve something. Watching people with the means to accomplish so much in this life waste it away kind of bores me, so I tend to tune out most of these kinds of shows. Even the title of the show – The Real Housewives – is off-putting to me. But I checked out the women’s bios and noticed that most of them seemed to be involved in both a charitable organization and an entrepreneurial venture, so I thought it might be something worth watching.

But if the first two episodes are any indication, I’m going to regret investing time in this show. Continue reading

Summer Movies – Wall-E and Wanted

by Latoya Peterson

For some strange reason, I’ve found myself in the multiplex more times in the last week than I have in the last couple months. I caught Wall-E and Wanted, and I am heading toward The Dark Knight this weekend. (Hancock is still being debated by my friends who fall into two camps – “Will Smith is hot” and “Wait for the DVD.”)

With that in mind, here’s my take on the two films I saw.

Wall-E

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.) Continue reading

Another Perspective on Gentrification

by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng

There is something extremely disheartening about walking into a bar called “La Negrita” to find it full of white people, and white people only. I already cringe when someone brings me to a bar in New York City where I’m the most “ethnic” face in the room; it hits me over the head in a city as diverse as this. But La Negrita is especially bugging me, not only because of its name and lack of explanation for the name; but because we’re on 109th Street and Columbus—Manhattan Valley—a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood where most of the longtime residents are black and Latino (and most of the newcomers are white).

For the past couple of months, I’ve been staying with a friend who lives in this neighborhood. (It’s a temporary living situation while I wait to make a more permanent move back to Queens.) I’ve been hyper-aware of gentrification and racial dynamics since my first day here. Continue reading