Subscribe via RSS Feed

What Will We Do to Actually Desegregate Our Schools?

[ 78 ] April 20, 2016 |


I know the answer to the above question will be “nothing.” People who can, largely white people, will continue to move to the suburbs or send their kids to private schools while people of color will attend tax-starved public schools, continuing the long cycle of racial discrimination in this country. Every white person benefits from this today and many of us contribute to it, even unintentionally. But the problem is real and more people are articulating responses to it. Matt Delmont has a new book out on the busing controversies in the North and notes how much of the busing controversy was created by the media, who reported on southern civil rights problems as a moral issue but sided with whites on northern civil rights issues. Jake Blumgart interviewed Delmont.

Q: Do you think part of the reason Northern racism was harder to expose was that it was subtler and less dramatic? There’s this whole edifice of tightly drawn school district lines where residents are able to pull down the portcullis behind them with zoning regulations. Segregation in the North relies on incredibly complex policies that were just harder to make interesting and accessible.

A: The way racism functioned in the North was much subtler. In the South it’s easy to picture how racism operated—colored drinking fountains and white drinking fountains. The system of Jim Crow segregation was so visible. It was still incredibly difficult to overturn that system, but it was easier to visualize. For Northern white citizens and white politicians, the way their schools and neighborhoods were structured was just normal, they didn’t know or chose not to understand that it wasn’t just a matter of white families choosing to live in white neighborhoods and black families in black neighborhoods. There was a whole history of mortgage redlining, zoning decisions, public housing discrimination, and real estate discrimination that created those separate neighborhoods. But the subtlety of that allowed white people to just see it as common sense, just how our neighborhood and schools should be.

It’s easier for them to say, and mean, well, these are our neighborhood schools, this is our property, and we want to protect those things and lobby for zoning restrictions that reflect that. It made it easier because it they believed it to be an innocent thing that just happened and it gave them a language to be able to argue against school desegregation that resonated powerfully and didn’t seem racist.

Delmont concludes:

One of the goals in my book is to get people to think about the fact that schools are still segregated many decades after Brown v. Board because of intentional choices that politicians and parents and school officials made. In regards to school zoning, school financing, and student assignment, those were intentional things that happened. If we want to have a different set of outcomes in the future and have meaningful school integration in terms of race and socioeconomic status we have to make different choices. It wasn’t inevitable that Brown was going fail as it did and it wasn’t inevitable that schools were going to be segregated the way they are now. Those were choices that people made and continue to make. To have different outcomes, we need to have different choices.

We do have to make different choices. One of those choices may well mean committing to contributing to the solution of de facto segregation and then acting on it. Another solution may be a return to busing. That’s what Sean Riley, who was a bused student as a child and now teaches in the Seattle public schools calls for in response to the growing segregation of the city’s schools. He notes that busing worked in many ways, even though white people of course took advantage of it to dominate it for their own purposes. It led to better test scores for minority students, created a more inclusive city, and spawned a greater desire for integration throughout other facets of urban life. But that era ended, Seattle got rich, and the age of testing took over. That’s helped destroy what was good about diversified education in Seattle.

We must prioritize getting different kinds of young people working and learning together again. Therefore, we must prioritize reintegration.

First off, the Seattle Public School District—a district that currently disciplines black kids four times more often than whites—must immediately increase professional development around culturally responsive and socially just instruction. When schools resegregate, staff stagnate. We must ensure that classrooms use all students’ identities and knowledge as entry points. It takes incredible skill and openness to develop these abilities, and Seattle needs to commit serious resources to the work.

Seattle teachers should also blaze the trail on creating cross-district and inter-district collaborations. There is evidence, from groups such as Narrative 4 in New York City, that writing projects between disparate groups of students generate radical empathy, develop cultural flexibility, and nurture authentic writing skills. Writers in the Schools (WITS) and I are currently developing a collaborative writing project between Blaine and South End middle schools. As Seattle continues to segregate, these projects should extend beyond our district’s borders. Seattle Public Schools should look into applying for federal grant money to facilitate this work.

In the long-term, I propose something called the Seattle Civics Academy. Pulling students from all over the district, this would be a semester-long program that all Seattle high-school students would participate in at some point in their school careers. They would get to choose when, but no student could opt out—the overwhelming flaw in Seattle’s integration plan. Five days a week, all day long, students from across the city would attend completely inclusive classes that examine race, class, and gender through the lenses of math, language arts, and other disciplines. Teachers highly trained in socially just and culturally responsive teaching would emphasize and promote communicating across differences and fighting for a more just city and society. Each semester’s cohort would create an activism project to improve the city and its citizens’ lives. Such work would break down isolation, facilitate access to power, and promote harmony and empathy. Frankly, I also believe it would be fucking awesome.

Of course, Riley also understands the class dimensions of this–that Seattle can talk all it wants to about racial inclusiveness and support bringing in Syrian refugees but they will all end up in south King County because they can’t afford to live in Seattle. But we have to move forward to creating more integrated schools in very real ways. When wealthy people move to the suburbs or stay in the cities and find ways to put their kids in all (or almost) white private schools or push black students out of their schools because their parents can’t afford to live in a gentrified city any longer, they contribute to racial discrimination. This may not be intentional, but that’s how white privilege works. White privilege must be fought, including and especially by ensuring that all students have equality of opportunity at school. Separate but “equal” is a terrible thing, whether that is the de jure schools of 1954 the de facto schools of 2016.


Tubman on the 20, Suffragettes on the 10

[ 75 ] April 20, 2016 |



Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will announce Wednesday that Harriet Tubman will replace former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, Politico and Bloomberg reported.

Lew is also expected to announce that leaders of the movement to give women the right to vote will be on the back of the $10 bill. Alexander Hamilton will remain the face of that bill.

Even leaving aside the other problems with Jackson, the idea of him and not Hamilton being on paper currency was bizarre. It’s also appropriate to have Tubman on the much more widely-circulated $20.

I will leave the final word to The Onion:

“I’ll be honest: When Lin-Manuel Miranda told me he had a plan to get Harriet Tubman onto the $20 bill, I thought he was nuts.”

…OK, I’ll give the final-final word to Dara Lind.

Trump’s inevitability

[ 154 ] April 20, 2016 |

trump clinton

In theory the GOP process still has three possible outcomes: Trump, Cruz, and somebody who didn’t run.

In practice it has only one.

Trump is going to finish with somewhere between 1100 and 1250 pledged delegates. If he’s at the top of that range he wins on the first ballot without needing to secure any unbound delegates (of which there will be between 150 and 200 at the time of the convention.) If he’s anywhere else in that range he’s going to get the nomination, because he’ll have a big plurality over Cruz, and very close to an actual majority.

The whining of the NeverTrump# types notwithstanding, denying Trump the nomination in the latter scenario just isn’t politically feasible. Doing so would require disregarding the entire primary process, and that can’t be done at this point in American political history.

The only thing more certain than Trump’s eventual victory is that Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee. On both sides, the last seven weeks of the primary season will be an exercise in playing out the string, nothing more.

Sanders and the South

[ 48 ] April 20, 2016 |

The march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went forward March 28, 1968. Most of the 5,000-plus who participated were described as working-class, church-going people who  donned their Sunday best because they believed in the righteousness of the strike and they believed in King. The 'I Am A Man' signs distributed that day came to symbolize the strike effort. In this photograph the men were lining up prior to the march. King arrived as the march was already in progress. "With those men, when you say (union) 'recognition' that means 'We are being recognized.' This is why they wore the sign 'I Am A Man.'  " - Dr. H. Ralph Jackson, director of the Minimum Salary Department of the African Methodist Episcopal Church  (By Ernest Withers / NOT FOR USE WITHOUT PERMISSION)

Robert Greene builds on Bernie Sanders’ deeply unfortunate comments concerning the South to note that no “political revolution” will ever happen in this nation without the South.

The Civil Rights Movement is the most well-known example of what energized Southerners can do to change a region, but it is not the only one. The 1934 textile strike and the CIO’s “Operation Dixie” of the late 1940s remind us that labor struggle is a mainstay of Southern history — and the recent Charleston longshoremen’s strike, not to mention Fight for 15, show that native Southerners have not thrown in the towel.

Often the fight for progressive politics has come at great personal sacrifice. As the 1979 deaths of five left-wing activists in Greensboro, North Carolina at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan illustrate, Southerners have paid a steep price for holding back not a metaphorical fascism, but the real, terrifying version that has been in America since the Reconstruction era.

Donald Trump’s victories in Southern primaries, the Charleston massacre perpetrated by white supremacist Dylann Roof, and the passage of anti-transgender laws under the guise of “religious freedom” might be seen as the latest examples of the region’s hopelessly reactionary hue.

But for every one of those moments, we can point to movements like North Carolina’s Moral Mondays, historical figures like Fannie Lou Hamer or Jim Hightower, and achievements like the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964.

If the United States is to truly witness a political revolution, it cannot leave behind the South. Too much sweat, tears, and blood have been shed by courageous African Americans and defiant white Southerners to simply whistle past Dixie.

While a lot of the points Greene makes are overstated (southern support for the New Deal was always highly tenuous, which is why FDR tried to primary them, and Clintonism coming out of the South of the 1980s doesn’t have very much relevance for understanding politics today), the larger point may well be true. Which is why there will probably never be a leftist political revolution in the United States, however we define those terms. Doing so would have to overcome the racism that is not southern, but is more pronounced and in the open in the South. I’m skeptical that can ever be overcome.

National Parks Are “America’s Best Idea”–If You Are White Anyway

[ 96 ] April 20, 2016 |


Above: Mary McLeod Bethune. The National Park Service offers tours of her home in Washington, D.C.

Provocative and interesting essay from the National Parks and Conservation Association’s Alan Spears, arguing that saying the National Parks are America’s “best idea” is deeply problematic and a highly racialized statement:

But despite the oft-quoted words of writer Wallace Stegner, parks are not America’s “best idea,” and describing them as such may be preventing us from creating and sustaining the diverse constituency our national parks need to survive and thrive in their second century. As an African-American, I will tell you that national parks don’t crack the top 10 list of best ideas. The Emancipation Proclamation; the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution; the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and Civil Rights Act of 1965, respectively; all occupy a higher place than our national parks in the order of best ideas. Gay men and lesbians probably feel the same way about the recent and long overdue Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Asian-Pacific Islander-Americans might add the repeal of racist exclusionary laws. For women, it may be the passage of the 19th Amendment.

The “best idea” language has the potential to alienate more people than it attracts; it assumes that we all regard national parks with the same unfettered and unequaled devotion. This is simply not the case. If asked to choose between the Grand Canyon or a landmark decision on Civil Rights that guarantees me equal protection under the law, Brown v. Board of Education wins with me hands down every time. And this isn’t strictly a racial or ethnic thing, either. Are we really prepared to say that national parks rank higher than the Bill of Rights, the G.I. Bill and the space program?

Park enthusiasts moved to hyperbole by the majestic splendor of our National Park System often fail to see the arrogance at the heart of the “best idea” sentiment. It’s the assumption that those who don’t “get” national parks have failed to embrace a universal concept. And that we need to be converted into believers not for the sake of park protection, but to improve lives not yet blessed by a visit to Old Faithful. We see this expressed most perfectly by people who doubt the importance of ensuring parks are relevant to a diverse audience. These people proclaim that in a democracy there’s no harm if black and brown people are staying away from national parks of their own accord.

There is more to our history.

Indeed. And the NPS, despite its horrendous funding system (thanks Republicans!) is doing the best it can to tell the stories of people of color and make it relevant to those who are not rich white people able to travel to Yellowstone.

Rally for the Right to Know Act

[ 7 ] April 20, 2016 |



Do you live in or around New York City?  Are you itching for something to do this Thursday at noon?  Then I humbly suggest you come out to City Hall for this rally and tell City Council to pass the Right to Know Act.  The Right to Know Act has two parts: the first requires that that by the end of a stop, police officers identify themselves and provide a reason the reason for the stop.  The second requires that police inform people that they have the right to refuse a “consent search,” a search without probable cause.  

I’ll quote Djibril Toure, who testified before City Council in favor of the Right to Know Act at a hearing last June. On one hand, it was a bit inspiring to be able to watch a bunch of different New Yorkers get to talk directly to their representatives.  On the other, it was dispiriting to know that Bratton, the police chief, would always get to talk first, and the press left after he was done. At least I can amplify the community voice:

As an activist and [Bedford-Stuyvesant] resident, I have many concerns about the way that NYPD officers initiate searches on the street without informing citizens of their rights or identity.  For example, in my neighborhood, it is not uncommon to see officers in an unmarked vehicle telling an individual to “come here”.  In many cases this individual may not be officially ‘stopped’ and has legal protection including their consent as to whether of not they are searched.  Often people submit to a search of their person or vehicle without realizing that they have the legal right not to consent.  The searches are now considered as “consensual searches” by NYPD and are not included in uf-250 forms or reported to precinct personnel.  The process of getting individuals to consent to sometimes unreasonable searches is a commonplace one in many neighborhoods of color and lowers the real number of stops that are reported by NYPD.  Our hope is that city council takes serious consideration of (INT 541 – Consent to search) as it directly relates to the trust and willingness of many communities who have been victimized to interact with NYPD.  This protection against unconsensual searches will increase the abilities of individuals to know their rights in a police encounter and make citizens more confident that they are not being violated by a search.  In addition, the identification of officers is often an issue when people are stopped and or searched.  I have seen and videotaped (as a member of copwatch) undercover vehicles on duty with their license plate bent in half so that it cannot be read.  This should be absolutely unacceptable to a modern police department that want to win the trust of its citizens but it exists.  I have also seen and witnessed officers who refuse to identify themselves while on duty, which is a violation of police training.  If an individual is stopped or searched, and has no way of being able to identify that officer, how does that help bring trust to these communities who have been victimized by discriminatory policies in the past?

I think we should be clear that these proposals will not make a police officer’s job harder, or cause them not to stop someone who is a suspect with reasonable information.  What these will do is show the public that there are changes going on to benefit them in a police encounter so the level of fear and mistrust is lessened by policy.  This is an important step to building a community where law enforcement is seen as a part of the neighborhood and not as an outside occupying force.  INT 182a [the ID bill] and INT 541 are basic steps to rebuilding the trust that all citizens should have with the proper enforcement of the law.  Help us build safer communities and pass these bills into law.

So, listen to Toure!  Come out and demonstrate for the Right to Know Act tomorrow at noon, City Hall.  I’ll be there.  


DAPA Deadlock

[ 23 ] April 20, 2016 |


The arguments against the legality of DAPA are…not good. But, alas, they’re probably still enough to get the four Supreme Court votes its opponents need:

For his part, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller also got a rough ride from the Court’s liberal faction. Justice Kagan focused in particular on Keller’s concession that it was not illegal for the executive branch to defer action on the groups covered by DAPA. “You’re saying that the government could do this case-by-case, one-by-one with respect to all the people in the class,” asked Kagan incredulously, “but that the government cannot identify the entire class and say we’re forbearing from enforcement?” As for the “lawful presence” language that obsessed both the state of Texas’ briefs and the conservative justices, Kagan correctly observed “that phrase really has no legal consequence whatsoever.”

Kagan’s performance was masterful — but it’s unlikely that it will be enough to save DAPA. As weak as Texas’ arguments were, they seemed good enough to get them the tie they’re looking for.

Some Court observers had speculated before oral arguments that Chief Justice John Roberts might try to avoid a 4-4 split by agreeing with the Court’s liberal faction that Texas lacked the legal standing to challenge DAPA. This is still possible. On Monday, however, he seemed skeptical, asking Verrilli to begin with the standing argument and then peppering with questions suggesting that he believed that Texas had the standing to sue.

An evenly split court affirming the 5th Circuit’s opinion striking down the order would not legally settle the issue of the executive branch’s authority. But it will mean that a class of undocumented immigrants will remain in an unnecessary state of legal limbo. And it also means that the policy will ultimately be determined by the next president: not only through the immigration policy he or she favors, but on who (and whether) he or she will be able to appoint to the Supreme Court.

Linkapalooza Wednesday!

[ 63 ] April 20, 2016 |

Links! Links! Get your hot, fresh links!


[ 64 ] April 20, 2016 |
Rear view of jet aircraft in-flight at dawn/dusk above mountains. Its engines are in full afterburner, evident through the presence of shock diamonds.

F-22 in full afterburner. U.S. Air Force. Public Domain

Been on the road for a bit, getting back into the swing of things…

Congress wants a study on whether to re-open the F-22 Raptor line.  This is a complicated question.  Way back when, I supported the decision to kill the F-22 at 187 planes, largely because the F-35 looked like it was going reasonably well, and because of other priorities.  Since that time the F-35 project has nose-dived, and the F-22 has performed exceptionally well, notwithstanding some issues at high altitude.  I think it’s fair to say at this point that the decision to kill the F-22 in favor of the F-35 was wrong.*

That doesn’t make restarting the F-22 line necessarily the right thing to do, however.  For one, restarting any line is extremely expensive, even when all of the tooling and the procedures have been locked down.  Workforce has to be trained (or rehired), factories have to be spooled up, etc.  The bump will all be in capability; new F-22s will cost more than new F-35s.  Moreover, the ban on F-22 export remains in place, meaning that it will still likely be impossible to recoup any expenses through an export model. Finally, although the F-22 is awesome, it’s also old; re-opening the project at this point means committing to a fighter that’s been in development since the 1980s, and in production since the 1990s.

It’s also worth noting that the worm can turn pretty quickly on the evaluation of defense projects.  Eight years ago the F-22 was an expensive disaster, incapable of contributing in a meaningful way to the COIN fights going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now, it is widely acknowledged by aviation experts to be the finest fighter in the world, a good distance ahead of any competitor currently flying, and most still on the drawing board.  The F-15 and F-16 (especially the latter) followed similar paths.


*Let’s take some care on this sentence; it takes no position on whether killing the F-22 to fund, say, schools or free Toyota Corollas or new battleships or anything else would have been a good idea.  Defense procurement decisions are generally of the branch rather than the root variety


[ 382 ] April 20, 2016 |

Here’s the lesson: Being an independent is worthless. If you register as an independent, you are irrelevant.

If you wanted to vote for Bernie but couldn’t soil yourself with being a Democrat, your fault. Voting isn’t a consumer choice. It’s a compromise with reality. Registering as an independent is fine if you want to remain so pure you can’t be stained by whatever the Democrats choke up. But don’t complain that you couldn’t vote for the candidate you want to win. Because if all those independents in New York who wanted to vote Bernie registered as Democrats, Bernie might have won the state.

Today’s Overdetermined Donald Trump Endorsement

[ 78 ] April 19, 2016 |


Of course:

Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan introduced presidential candidate Donald Trump Monday night at First Niagara Center.

It was quite a scene at the foot of Washington Street with Ryan praising Trump for always speaking his mind. Here are a few snippets of Ryan’s intro, with Trump’s Jock Jams entrance and a video.

“We’re all here tonight because we all support Donald Trump.”

“There’s so much that I admire about Mr. Trump but one thing I really admire about him is, you know what, is he’ll say what’s on his mind. And so many times, you’ll see people, a lot of people want to say the same thing. But there’s a big difference: they don’t have the courage to say it. They all think it but they don’t have the courage to say it. And Donald Trump certainly has the courage to say it.”

“This man is one of the greatest businessmen, obviously, that we can ever remember. There’s no question about that.”

It’s also good to know that the Donald is as fact-challenged about football as anything else:

He won championships in New York, the AFC, twice. And he always had these teams that were brutal. They were just good. Great defenses. … You’re going to have a very, very good season this year. You watch. You have a great coach, you really do.”

What? Although, to be Scrupulously Fair, he probably was (after Marvin Lewis) the second or maybe third (after Del Rio) most important coach on a Super Bowl champion once.

This can also serve as a NY primary open thread. The 538 liveblog is really good if you’re into that kind of thing.

SEIU and Airbnb

[ 100 ] April 19, 2016 |


There is no more difficult labor union to read and write about than SEIU. This is for two reasons. First, it operates somewhat differently than other labor unions, including having a very top-down approach to a lot of things that are not traditional ways labor unions operate. That would be simple enough if those actions didn’t engender rabid hatred of SEIU in a big part of the labor reporting world.

SEIU and Airbnb are seeking an agreement that would lead to the company endorsing the $15 minimum wage (which SEIU has done more than any other organization to make a major issue in American politics in 2016) and would steer union-approved housecleaners to the properties listed with that company. Said cleaners would make at least $15 an hour. Interesting. There are some questions here. Should SEIU be working with a company undermining housing for working-class people? Or SEIU should do what is necessary to ensure as many workers are laboring for a $15 minimum wage as possible? Should SEIU be seeking to cut deals with companies? Or should SEIU see companies as enemies and workers should be organized in a broad-based social movement against them? There are some complexities here, I guess. However, on the face of it, I have to say that I am mostly supportive of accepting the economy as it is and working toward ensuring good wages. But I can see room for argument on some of these points.

But then we have this Guardian piece that seethes anger at Big Purple.

Yet sources say that negotiations have been delayed by internal union dissent over the ethics of the home-sharing startup with some labor activists, including some SEIU members, concerned that Airbnb has exacerbated housing crises in cities across the US, including in San Francisco, where Airbnb is headquartered.

“We are appalled by reports that SEIU is partnering with Airbnb, a company that has destroyed communities by driving up housing costs and killing good hotel jobs in urban markets across North America,” said Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for a rival union, Unite Here.

“Airbnb has shown a blatant disregard for city and state laws, has refused to cooperate with government agencies, and turns a blind eye to the fact that its business model exacerbates the affordable housing crisis.” She added: “A partnership with SEIU does little more than give political cover to Airbnb.”

OK, but there’s a whole story here that’s not told. SEIU and UNITE-HERE hate each other. I’m not going to get into the details here except that it came out of an attempt by SEIU to take over UNITE-HERE. In any case, it’s not like Strassel is some sort of neutral observer here. The biggest reason UNITE-HERE opposes this is that Airbnb has the potential to undermine union hotels. That makes sense for the union to oppose the company. And as for SEIU making this sort of deal, I mean, again, what should a union do? That’s the core question. Is the role of a labor union to act on behalf of the entire working class, as particular activists define it? Or should a labor union act on behalf of its own membership? Not saying there are easy answers here.

But let’s get to the real issue labor writers have with SEIU–that it doesn’t act as they think a labor union should act.

Unionizing Airbnb cleaners could legitimize the startup while providing minimal benefits to a small group of workers, Ward said. If SEIU signs a contract with Airbnb, “They are essentially selling cheap cover to an American corporation for union dues from a few members,” he said. “It goes against all the principles of the labor movement.”

Unions have played a big role protesting against Airbnb and pushing for stricter regulations in cities across the country.

Opponents also argue that users of Airbnb, which is worth an estimated $25.5bn, don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Community and labor groups in San Francisco pushed unsuccessfully for a 2015 ballot measure that would have dramatically increased restrictions on Airbnb users in the company’s home city.

One union that backed the anti-Airbnb measure was SEIU Local 1021 in northern California, another subsidiary of the international organization which spent more than $78,000 to support the campaign and has repeatedly criticized the company for its role in the housing crisis.

In another twist, SEIU International’s former president Andy Stern, now a consultant and Henry’s predecessor, is representing Airbnb in the negotiations with his former employer.

These are some real issues, but it still remains unclear to me that SEIU is doing some awful thing. As for Stern, he’s not my favorite ex-union leader by any means, but I don’t really see a big problem here. If this was a 1950s-era Teamsters sweetheart deal that undermined the actual workers, I would see the point, but here, I don’t really get the outrage, unless you believe that the role of labor movements is as an organization working primarily for the entire working class. Of course SEIU does do that, as stated above, in its $15 campaigns and support for the fast food workers working toward that. But it also sees an opportunity to recognize the economy for what it is and act upon it.

In other words, it feels to me that SEIU is adapting and surviving as a labor organization where a lot of other unions are not. And the compromises that entails makes many labor reporters unhappy. I mean, if Uber wants to make a deal with the Teamsters that unionizes their drivers, I would probably support that too.

Page 31 of 2,294« First...1020...2930313233...405060...Last »