Rose/Hill Tuesday, May 3 2011

Jalen Rose’s recent comments that he thought that Grant Hill, and other black athletes that went to Duke, were Uncle Tom’s has caused quite a controversy in the sports world. It has also generated a discussion in America about race, racism, and what it means to be black.

 According to Rose, blacks that are raised by successful and affluent parents do not share the same blackness as those from inner-cities. There is no doubt that the experiences of Jalen Rose and Grant Hill have been extremely different. However, Rose’s comments are dangerous to the black community he comes from. Instead of criticizing Hill’s upbringing as being non-black, he should celebrate the fact that Hill’s family was able to succeed in America.

 Too often, being poor is seen as a necessity to being viewed as a legitimate black person. This is a terrible situation. Blacks should rejoice when a member of their community works hard to find success. Instead, success is often greeted with insults and accusations that the person is forgetting where he came from and conforming to white society. Blacks should not have to choose between being successful or maintaining their identity. Success should be a welcomed part of their identity.


Sugrue Tuesday, May 3 2011 

Thomas Sugrue’s book, Sweet Land of Liberty, is an interesting evaluation of the nature of racism in America. When we typically think of racism we often think of the South and Jim Crow laws. We envision legal segregation, the Ku Klux Klan, and violence against blacks. These things are obviously racist. However, according to Sugrue, there is a different kind of racism that exists in the North. This racism is characterized by much more subtle segregation and is practiced by whites that say, and often wholeheartedly believe, that they are not racist.

 This more subtle form of racism, according to Sugrue, is often more dangerous and damaging to blacks because it is not recognized. Whites will move out of cities and into all-white suburbs, they will create policies that make it all but impossible for blacks to be able to move into those neighborhoods, and will create school districts with schools filled with whites. The result is neighborhoods and schools that are nearly as racially segregated as Southern cities. Whites then argue that they aren’t racist, but that the two races simply choose to live separately.

 According to Sugrue, racism in the North is not carried out with state laws separating the races. Rather, it exists in practices like steering, when realtors try to place whites in white neighborhoods and blacks in black neighborhoods, and financial instutions’ practice of making it nearly impossible for blacks to get loans big enough to afford suburban houses. These practices have the same effect as more obvious racist practices carried out in the South. But, the people implementing them have a clear conscience and believe that they are not racist.

 I disagree with Sugrue that the practices carried out by Northern whites are racist in nature. The fact is, that oftentimes when blacks moved into white neighborhoods, the housing prices in that area plummeted.  Low income blacks are a riskier investment for banks to give loans to than middle-class whites. And, predominately white schools do tend to perform better academically than do predominately black schools. If a person tried to keep blacks from moving into his neighborhood, or a bank tries to make the wisest decisions with its money, or parents try to maintain the quality of their child’s education, it doesn’t make them racist. They are simply doing what is in their own best interest. Unfortunately, the reality is, that often times what is really in a white’s best interest causes misfortune in the black community. I don’t believe that makes somebody a racist however.

 If I apply for the same job as a black person and do everything in my power to make sure that I get picked for the job, I am simply doing what is best for me. If I succeed and get the job, I will advance in society and the black person will be left behind. I don’t feel like I am a racist for competing against a black person though. Perhaps Sugrue would disagree.

What’s the matter with Detroit? Monday, May 2 2011

The preceding audio demonstrates three major problems with the welfare system that will eventually undermine the country unless something is done to change course:

One, the people in this recording do not even understand where the money that they are getting comes from. They don’t realize that they are getting the money that other people earned. People like this think that their welfare money just magically appears in the mail. They fail to recognize that somebody else is sacrificing for them. Since they don’t recognize where the money comes from, they get a sense of entitlement and start to feel like they deserve more and more. As Margaret Thatcher once said however, “Eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Second, these people are clearly dependent on the government for their very survival. It is never a good plan to depend on someone or something else to take care of you. Eventually, those whom you depend on lose the ability and/or the desire to continue to care for you. What would these people do if their benefits were ever cut off? Instead of continuing to support these people, the government needs to find a way to ween these people off of the government dole. They need to slowly learn to and find a way to take care of themselves.

Finally, the second lady in this clip, clearly states that she voted for Obama because he was going to give her money. This is incredibly dangerous for our county. This demonstates to all politicians that if they promise to hand out money, they will get elected. This is not a healthy situation to be in. Our candidates will end up in a war of bigger and bigger promises in order to get voters to choose them. We are already broke as a country and yet we find ourselves continuing to promise more and more benefits to the people. This is just making the fiscal problems that this country faces even worse.

Not because it is easy… Monday, May 2 2011

In 1962, John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech challenging America to send a man to the moon by the end of the decade. As I write this, the United States is on the verge of ending its manned space program for the forseeable future. Unfortunately, this means a proud 50-year history of American bravery in space exploration will come to an end. American supremacy is space, the concept that Kennedy advocated, will be lost as only the Russians and Chinese will have the capability to put men in space. This will potentially leave the United States at risk militarily.

The idea of retreating from space, unfortunately, is just another example of retreating from difficult situations in America today. In Kennedy’s speech, he specifically said that we should go to the moon because it was hard. These challenges make us grow, learn, and become a better country. Our leaders today run away from confronting the tough issues. Leaders from both parties are speaking about the dangers of our growing national debt and deficit. They all acknowledge that our present situation is unsustainable. However, nobody seems willing to do anything but make symbolic gestures at putting America on a path to fiscal responsibility.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid take up a larger and larger portion of our budget every year. Eventually, these programs will take up the entire budget and keep growing. This is a situation that simply cannot be sustained. However, these programs are extremely popular with the American people. Thus, politicians are unwilling to do what is necessary and trim these programs into sustainability because they are afraid of losing electoral support. The budget is this decade’s moon challenge. Overcoming the current situation looks impossible. However, I believe that we need to confront these issues soon and take Kennedy’s advice in doing so, “not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

King’s Politics Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

In 1963, when King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, he was expressing a fairly conservative concept of race relations, especially by modern standards. When he says that he dreams of the day that his children will live in a nation in which “they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by content of their character,” he is making a statement that conservatives today would wholeheartedly embrace. Conservatives believe that people should be judged and achieve success based on the type of person they are in their skill and performance and not by their race. This runs counter to liberal programs like affirmative action that provide special considerations based on the color of one’s skin. In this speech, King seems to be advocating a color blind society in which race is no factor. This strikes me as a conservative concept in 2011 America.

When King gave his last speech in 1968, he advocated the boycott of companies that he viewed as racist and the support of black institutions. This is also a conservative idea. He wanted to use the power of the free market to influence the political and social climate in America. He is not asking for the government to regulate certain companies or to subsidies others. He is simply instructing like-minded individuals to use their resources to their own advantage. This is very different from liberal politics today. Today, a liberal would be advocating the government involvement in the economy to ensure that blacks get treated well by companies and to make sure that blacks get their fair share of the nation’s wealth. King is different though. He believes that blacks can achieve their goals with the power of the individual and without the assistance of the government.

King does believe that the government needs to be involved in ensuring black’s rights which are guaranteed to them by the Constitution. He believes that the government should ensure that blacks are actually allowed to vote like the 15th Amendment allows them to. But, these are Constitutional concepts and conservatives today would agree with King in these areas. King does not advocate for the government to redistribute wealth or to give special considerations to people on account of their race. Instead, he wants blacks to simply be judged on what they do and for blacks to use their own economic resources to advance their agenda. By today’s standards, this is a conservative approach to race relations.

Walk for Freedom Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

King’s “Walk for Freedom” reflections were the most significant of the documents that I read. It was really the beginning of King expressing the importance of non-violence in the movement that he was becoming involved in. King states that “Love must be at the forefront of the movement if it is to be a successful movement.” He recognizes that in order for the movement to achieve its goals, it must be done through love and non-violence. If blacks stoop to hate and violence, it will only cause whites to hate blacks more. King recognizes that it is going to be a long and painful struggle, but that non-violence is the only was to achieve the desired goals.

The thing that really stood out to me was when King talked about his house being bombed. His wife and baby were there and soon afterwards a large crowd gathered at his home. He had to convince them to react in love. It is so impressive that in such a tramatic experience, King still preached love and non-violence. So many times, people will preach about how things are to be done, but then when they are confronted by a difficult situation, they don’t follow their own advise. This is what really made Kind so impressive.

King not only recognized that violence would be ineffective in the movement, but also that the use of violence was immoral. He says that “not only is violence impractical, but it is immoral.” He goes on to say that, “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil.” In essence, King is saying that violence will not only ruin the movement, but it will continue the path of making the world a worse place. He is not only trying to achieve the goals of the movement, but he is also trying to bring peace and love to the world.

Malcolm X Thursday, Mar 31 2011 

Malcolm X’s attitude towards white people changed dramatically during the course of his life. When he was young, he looked up to and admired white people. He writes, “I didn’t really have much feeling about being a Negro, because I was trying so hard, in every way I could, to be white.”(32-33) When he was a young man, he didn’t really have an opinion of whites in general. However, when he was sent to prison and became exposed to Islam, he became very resentful of whites and formed a true hatred towards them. He began calling whites “the devil” and wrote, “Book after book showed me how the white man had brought upon the world’s black, brown, red, and yellow people’s every variety of the sufferings of exploitation.”(180) He began blaming whites for all of the black man’s problems. His experience in Mecca and in other parts of the world seemed to mellow his attitude somewhat though. In Mecca, he met other Muslims from all over the world and of every color, including whites. His hatred of whites in general subsided, but he still never embraced the idea of integration. He said, “I never really trust the kind of white people who are always so anxious to hang around Negroes.”(384) He seemed to appreciate good intentioned whites wanting to help in his cause. But, he believed that they could best help by staying with their own kind and trying to change minds in the white community. So, Malcolm X’s attitude towards whites did develop and change as he aged. First he wanted to become white. As the apathy of his younger years faded, he formed a true hatred of whites. As he aged, however, he gained a respect for whites but never seemed to want to work directly with them.

Similarly, X’s attitude towards blacks also changed throughout his life. He believed that black true place was “at the top of civilization.”(201) He hated so-called “house-niggers” that did everything in their power to please the whites that were suppressing them. He was also angered by the fact that most blacks he tried to recruit to his state of mind seemed to be entirely apathetic to his teachings that he believed “would resurrect the black man.”(203)And, despite the fact that he blamed whites for the problems of the blacks in America, he eventually came to believe that only blacks could improve their situation. He thought that they had to do away with the problems of crime, drugs, drunkenness, and absent fathers in order to lift themselves up.

I think that it would be fair to label Malcolm X as a racist at certain points of his life. Certainly when he was in prison and then first exposed to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, X was a racist. He absolutely hated whites and believed they were the root of nearly all evil in the world. The fact that he repeatedly refers to whites as the devil is pretty convincing evidence that he was a racist. That is not to say, however, that he did not have good reason to be a racist at that point in his life. Everything he had experienced and been taught up to that point showed him that he was right for hating whites. However, a racist is a racist whether they have a reason to be or not. When he left America and encountered white Muslims and other international whites that treated him well, he lost that racist edge he had earlier. He no longer thought that all whites were evil, but rather began to realize that only a segment of whites were the problem. This is a much more nuanced, intelligent, and, I believe, correct attitude. So, I would say that when Malcolm X was first engaged in the struggle of blacks, he was a racist. However, as he matured and experienced more of life, he became much more focused on the true areas of white people who were causing blacks problems. Instead of lumping all whites together as evil, as a racist would, X was much more pointed in directing his anger towards truly problematic whites. So, at the end, I don’t believe you could accurately describe Malcolm X as a racist.

Invisible Hands Wednesday, Mar 30 2011 

According to Kim Phillips-Fein, conservative thought was on the very fringe of mainstream American thought after the successes of the New Deal. It was only able to work itself back into the mainstream of American politics through a long and careful process of indoctrination of the American people by corporate America and rich businessmen.  As Phillips-Fein writes, “businessmen could not rely only on behind-the-scenes lobbying.  After all, politicians were constrained by their constituencies. More important was finding ways to influence ‘public attitude formation’–the ideas and beliefs of the general public.”(166) Business leaders then took it upon themselves to invest in “educational” programs to get Americans to change their attitudes to a more favorable concept of conservatism.

I disagree with Phillips-Fein on a couple of points. First, conservatism has never been on the fringe of American political thought. On the contrary. Conservatism has dominated American politics since the founding. Conservative principles like limited government, states rights, self-reliance, and a hesitancy for government to intercede in the economy have been expressed from Jefferson to conservatives today. The unprecedented disaster of the Great Depression allowed for the American people to be willing to accept a more powerful and active federal government. But, this was only a temporary state of mind. Conservatism was still firmly entrenched in the American psyche.

Second, I don’t believe that it took a long and expensive education program to bring people back to conservatism. After the problems of the Great Depression ended, people naturally went back to the political ideas that they were accustomed to. People did become more accepting of a more involved federal government after World War II because of programs like Social Security and Medicare. However, all in all, most Americans today, just like most Americans two hundred years ago, want the federal government to stay out of their lives. Americans are very independent and believe in taking care of themselves. It takes  a lot for most people to be willing to accept a handout from government. It didn’t take a massive corporate conspiracy to get Americans to feel this way. Americans have always felt this way.

Populism & Wal-Mart Tuesday, Mar 15 2011 

Wal-Mart has successfully built itself into the biggest company in the world. If it were an independent nation, it would rank as the 30th largest economy in the world (Moreton, 6). Wal-Mart has become so successful, not because it has acted like an enormous multi-national corporation, but because it appeals to “average” consumers.

Wal-Mart began, not in big cities appealing to rich shoppers, but in small towns with a poorer demographic. In fact, the origins of Wal-Mart lie in the very region that fought against chain stores years earlier. Wal-Mart was successful in this area precisely because it did not act like a typical chain store. It hired women as the primary work force and listened to the suggestions they made. It allowed employees to have a stake in the company. It also respected its employees family and religious values. Many former employees commented on how working at Wal-Mart was like being in a family. This is very different from a typical giant company in which workers are not valued by the company.

This family atmosphere at Wal-Mart allowed for its success with customers as well. When customers walked in the door, they were greeted by somebody whom they probably knew. When they needed help in the store, there was a cheerful employee there to help them. Wal-Mart even went so far as to have country music days in its stores. This all built the perception among Wal-Mart customers that the store was aligned to their values. It wasn’t some big corporation headquartered in New York or something. Wal-Mart truly understood the kind of things that its customers and employees valued and made sure to represent those values in its stores.

Wal-Mart became the largest corporation in the world precisely because it was built on populist ideas. It never would have made it out of Arkansas if it had acted like just another huge company.

Stupid Kansans Saturday, Mar 5 2011 

Does Thomas Frank think that Kansans are stupid? That is a tough questions to answer. I believe if Frank was forced to answer this question himself, he would no doubt say “no.” He would argue that Kansans have been abandoned by the Democratic party and misled by Republicans. Frank would also argue that because Democrats have not presented a clear alternative on economic issues from Republican ideas, voters tend to vote based on their social values which elected officials can do little about. However, despite the fact that I believe Frank would not say that Kansans are stupid, deep down, he does.

Frank thinks part of the problem with Kansas is the fact that Democrats have abandoned their core economic principles. He writes, “The way to collect the votes…is to stand rock-solid on , say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation, and the rest of it.” (243) Frank also believes that Kansans are misled by Republicans. He writes about Sam Brownback gloating about his philosophy, “Good wages, fair play in farm country, the fate of the small town, even the one we live in–all these are a distant second to evolution, which we will strike from the books, and public education, which we will undermine in a hundred inventive ways.” (68) In short, Democrats have sold out on the economic values and Republicans exploit Kansans’ social conservatism despite the fact that Republican economic ideas are not in the best interest of average Kansans.

Despite the fact that Frank describes the events that have led Kansans to vote the way that they do and he would never admit it, he clearly believes that Kansans are stupid. In his book, Frank continuously frets that liberalism would be better for average Kansans, but that they are too blinded by their religion to see it. By stating that he knows what is best for Kansans more than they do themselves, Frank is clearly, if unintentionally, claiming to be much smarter than Kansans.

Frank, despite his fancy education, isn’t able to understand that Kansans do vote for their best interest. They just happen to value freedom, hard work, and independence more than they value government controlled prices, subsidies, and welfare. Kansans aren’t too stupid to understand which political party will give them the most direct assistance. They just value a less intrusive government more than they value the opportunity to suckle from the governmental teat. Frank, can’t recognize the fact that just because somebody values different things, it doesn’t mean they are stupid.

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