race

At a Ferguson protest outside of the Los Angeles Police Department this past Tuesday, a young (white) lady who said she was a student at UCLA lambasted a black LAPD officer about … racism.

“As a person of color, are you ashamed to be part of such a corrupt system?…As a black man, have you ever experienced racism?” the woman asked.

Breitbart.com has the story:

The officer answered that he had grown up in Jackson, Mississippi during the Jim Crow era. “I know racism. I can spot it,” he said.

She was not satisfied. “Do you accept that there are covert types of racism?” she asked, citing an example of a woman clutching her purse tightly when he entered an elevator. “Racism is a structure of power,” she insisted. “You are a black man. You are kept down by your race, even if you won’t accept it.”

He threw the challenge back at her. “Think about it. There are people who don’t like me–they don’t know me–because of my uniform. Is that discrimination or not? Yes or no?”

“That’s a bias,” she said. “Job discrimination is different. I’m talking about your race. The color of your skin…You’re a black man. You’ll never reach the same pinnacle as a white man in this system, because you are black.” Others, gathered nearby, applauded loudly.

She went on to demand to know if the officer was “helping out his black community.”

When the officer replied that “it doesn’t matter what the race is,” demonstrators shouted “Yes it does!”

Because there’s nothing like being lectured to by college students about what it “means” to be African-American.

Here’s video of the encounter:



Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

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Duke University sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva says today’s racism is fomented without the use of actual racists. Or something like that.

He’s also written a book by the same name — Racism Without Racists, that is — and says that such is “a new way of maintaining white domination in places like Ferguson.”

CNN.com reports:

“The main problem nowadays is not the folks with the hoods, but the folks dressed in suits,” says Bonilla-Silva.

“The more we assume that the problem of racism is limited to the Klan, the birthers, the tea party or to the Republican Party, the less we understand that racial domination is a collective process and we are all in this game.”

As people talk about what the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson means, Bonilla-Silva and others say it’s time for Americans to update their language on racism to reflect what it has become and not what it used to be.

“The more we assume …”? You have to like how Bonilla-Silva falls precisely into that which for he lambastes white America. Who is the “we” who assumes racism is the (exclusive) realm of a group which includes the Tea Party and the GOP? Who is the “we” who groups the KKK together with the Tea Party and the Republican Party?

If that isn’t enough to make you stop reading right there, you’ll also “learn” that when whites utter phrases like “I don’t see color,” “But I have black friends” and “Who are you calling a racist?” (by the way, who actually says the second one anymore? It’s long since become a parody of sorts), they’re demonstrating incredible naïveté.

The article goes on to lament the conservative bloc of the US Supreme Court’s (legal) skepticism of “disparate impact,” the “legal approach that doesn’t try to plumb the racist intentions of individuals or businesses but looks at the racial impact of their decisions.”

To wit:

Disparate impact is built on the belief that most people aren’t stupid enough to openly announce they’re racists but instead cloak their racism in seemingly race-neutral language.

And there you have it. Everyone is racist, no one will admit it, and all will attempt to hide such using tactical (racial) subterfuge.

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Meet Professor John Putman — he teaches “Star Trek, Culture, and History” at San Diego State University. As a life-long science fiction fan (including, natch, Star Trek), I was highly intrigued by the course’s content and syllabus.

Professor Putman graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions regarding the course … and Trek in general.

But first, here’s a little abbreviation guide to assist with what follows:

TOS = The Original Series (1966-1969). Y’know, starring Bill Shatner as Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, etc.
TNG = The Next Generation (1987-1994). Picard, Riker, et. al.
DS9 = Deep Space Nine (1993-1999). Sisko and crew on the former Cardassian space station.
VOY = Voyager (1995-2001). Capt. Janeway and co. marooned in the Delta Quadrant.
ENT = Enterprise (2001-2005). The Trek pre-Federation “prequel” featuring humanity’s first big step into the stars.

1. It is my understanding that SDSU has no US History course requirement for graduation. How do you feel about that? Should colleges have such a course mandate, or are courses like “Star Trek, Culture, and History” sufficient?

While SDSU does not have a specific requirement for US history, it does have an American Institutions requirement in which history is one, if not the, most popular choices to fulfill it. Usually a little more than 1000 students take either our Early American or Modern American survey history course each semester. In addition, all students are required to take a World or Western Civ history course as part of the General Ed requirements.

Perhaps it’s my bias but I do believe students should be required to take an US history lower-division course so that they are better informed citizens. The Star Trek course would not be sufficient since it only focused on post-WWII America. Moreover, most of the students who do take it are history majors.

2. How much US History is covered in your class, would you say? What events and/or people are covered? How in-depth does the course delve?

One-half of the course explores postwar US history. Each Tuesday I lecture on the issues and themes of that week and the Thursday class we watch a full episode of Star Trek that deals with that week’s theme. For example, in the first half of the course we focus on 1945-70 and explore history of US foreign policy (Cold War), race, religion, and gender/sexuality during this time period. We then look at how Star Trek: The Original Series reflected the attitudes or ideas of the 60s or offered social commentary on the particular issue. The second half of the course follows the same pattern, but focuses on 1970 to the early 2000s, looking at the same themes as well as a few others like terrorism, environmentalism, and politics/government. We the watch an episode from one of the more recent series (The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, or Enterprise). Because of the time spent on Star Trek I don’t explore history in as much depth as I do in my regular US History since WWII course.

3. You mentioned in one article that in the original series’ Cold War analogy, the Federation was the United States, and the Klingons were the Russians. How has that changed/been modified (with the addition of the various spin-off series), if at all?

The more recent series or spin-offs are a little more sophisticated than the Original Series so the alien species generally don’t represent a single contemporary nation or nationality. Often they might be composites of a couple of other nationalities or groups, though at times viewers can see one predominate. The Klingons do seem to still largely represent the Russians, though the post-Cold War Russia not the Soviets. For the most part, the recent series use the various alien species to explore larger traits or attitudes and not so much nation states.

(My personal view on this is that the contemporary geopolitical situation would appear thusly in the 24th century: The West=The Federation, the Islamist Middle East=The Klingons, Russia=The Cardassians, and China=The Romulans. This, notwithstanding that the “rebooted” 2009 Star Trek film established that Romulus was annihilated by an exploding star.)

4. Which Trek episodes make the best historical connections?

First, we have to remember that the Star Trek series more often than not reflect the concerns, issues, values, and anxieties of the time period during which the series ran. Only a few episodes actually use the more distant past. There are numerous episodes that are useful to help my students understand aspects of postwar America. The Original Series was a little more direct than the other series. Just to name a few: TOS’s “Errand of Mercy” on the Cold War; TOS’s “A Private Little War” on Vietnam War, TOS’s “The Way to Eden” on the hippies/counterculture; TNG’s “The High Ground” on terrorism; DS9’s “In the Hands of the Prophets” and ENT’s “Chosen Realm” on religious extremism; DS9’s “In the Pale Moonlight” on maintaining values during time of war, ENT’s “Demons” on xenophobia, VOY’s “Lineage” on genetic engineering.

5. Which Trek episodes best deal with issues of race, gender, and [non-hetero]sexuality?

For race, TOS’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” is a classic, TNG’s “The Chase” and “The Measure of Man,” DS9’s “Badda Bing, Badda Bong” and “Far Beyond the Stars.” For gender and sexuality, TOS’s “Turnabout Intruder,” TNG’s “Angel One,” “The Perfect Mate,” and “The Outcast,” DS9’s “Rejoined,” and ENT’s “Cogenitor”

spock.yotambientengosuperpoderes

6. Do you think the Trek future history timeline is even plausible, especially noting the years just prior to, and immediately after, the first warp flight?

I doubt it. Let’s not forget it is fiction. Yet it does provide us some inspiration to progress and move forward. Clearly, to travel space like they did in Star Trek we will need to design some way of travel like warp speed to overcome the great distances.

(I recommend checking out the excellent book Federation: The First 150 Years to see the explanation(s) of how humanity managed to create a warp vessel in the midst of global — nuclear — conflict.)

7. What is the best Trek series and why?

This is a loaded question and always produces passionate debate among Trekkies. Most choose either TOS or TNG, however, I believe the best is Deep Space Nine. I say this in terms of the range and depth of episodes. DS9 is helped by its darker feel and view that allows them to explore the complexity of issues and ideas. Also, since it is largely a stationary place which doesn’t travel from planet to planet it allowed and encouraged more character development than the other series which always had to spend time introducing a new planet or species.

8. What is the worst Trek series and why?

Frankly, I like them all and for different reasons. I would say most fans would like target Enterprise and I understand why they would do this. Some objected to a series set before the TOS crew and others felt that Captain Archer and the many episodes revealed a less friendly more aggressive Earth. Some have suggested that Enterprise reflected the more aggressive and imperialistic ideas of neo-conservatism that reign after 9/11. So, I will punt on this question. As they say it is like asking a parent which child they like the most or the least.

9. What is your opinion of the Trek “reboot” films?

I have no problem with the reboot films. First, they reinvigorated the Star Trek franchise and opened it up to a much wider audience. Anything that promotes Star Trek deserves some credit. No doubt my own course has benefited from the renewed interest in Trek. My only criticism which is somewhat unfair is that the depth of the story lines has been sacrificed to the need for explosions and fight scenes to attract a wider audience. The 2009 film had the duty of introducing the characters so that explains its lack of meaningful message. The 2013 film did at least touch on terrorism and genetic engineering, yet lacked any real insight or depth. The hope is that the next film will also leave earth and explore the far reaches of space and include stronger social and political commentary.

10. What are your top five Trek episodes (any series)?

DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars,” DS9’s “In the Pale Moonlight,” TNG’ “The Measure of Man,” TOS’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” and ENT’s “Stigma.”

(For what it’s worth my faves from each series are TOS’s “The City on the Edge of Forever,” TNG’s “The Inner Light,” DS9’s “Far Beyond the Stars,” VOY’s “Future’s End,” and ENT’s “In a Mirror, Darkly.”

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

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IMAGES: NMK Photography/Flickr, yotambientengosuperpoderes/Flickr

In a recent interview with Salon.com, Berkeley professor and music critic Greil Marcus laments the state of American race relations in a way you might expect.

His most provocative statement: “… when that cop killed Michael Brown, and when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, they were killing Barack Obama.”

Anyway, don’t let me go on like this. But, yeah, yeah. And when you look at the things … when you look at the murder of Trayvon Martin, when you look at the murder of Michael Brown, when you look at those situations, it’s not unrelated to Obama being president, but it’s more the way in which the country has reframed itself or rewritten itself since his election, with all kinds of people saying to themselves, maybe never putting it into words, just feeling it, “There’s a fucking n—er in the White House? Well fuck you, n—er, whoever you are.” And an inchoate loathing and hatred that seeks out its targets.

I’m not a psychiatrist, I haven’t sat down and interviewed George Zimmerman or the cop who shot Michael Brown, I don’t know what their motives are, I don’t know what kind of people they are, what kind of childhood traumas they have experienced. But I don’t think it’s nuts that in a certain way, when that cop killed Michael Brown, and when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, they were killing Barack Obama.

Marcus also invokes the usual (progressive) canard that President Obama has been treated worse than any other president, and says that the “Civil War not only had never ended, it had never been … nothing had ever been resolved for countless people.”

Read the full article.

h/t to Truth Revolt.

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Speaking in the nigh comprehensible language of deconstuctivism, Professor Ben Carrington gave a speech last year stating that the “’white sports media complex’ works to further ‘white privilege’ even as it claims to be ‘post-racial.’”

What makes this talk most interesting is that Carrington was a formal adviser to the university for the hiring of its first black football coach earlier this year. The professor had stated that “the only way for the university to escape its segregationist past was to hire a highly-paid black head football coach.”

The speech, titled “The Global White Sports/Media Complex and the Politics of Sport: Towards a Critical Communications of Sport,” often “referenced Marxist and ‘neo-Marxist’ sources, and

also argued … that “you might think of the sports media complex then as having an important role, a role arguably more powerful than any other social institution, in the ideological transmission of ideas about race and, essentially, of normative whiteness.

“In short, the sports media complex has become the modality through which popular ideas about race are lived.”

Uh huh.

World Tribune.com continues:

“[Charlie Strong’s hiring] reminds them that the institution was a historically white institution. It reminds us of the facts of racial segregation and discrimination that took place at UT and its legacy into the present.”

Carrington then bluntly stated that the whole point of Strong’s hiring was in fact to emphasize race.

“It’s not surprising that [for] some white fans, even mentioning the fact that Charlie Strong is African-American is itself, they’ll argue, a form of racism,” Carrington said.

“That’s to get things backwards. It’s really to acknowledge the existence of race.”

In a more recent lecture on another prominent football school campus, the British-born Carrington detailed how he sees college and professional football as an instrument meant to bolster white racial projections.

On April 4, Carrington gave a guest lecture for the Michigan State University African American & African Studies Department titled, “Love and Fear: Thugs, Sports and the Great White Hope.”

“Taking the so-called ‘epic rant’ of NFL player Richard Sherman as a starting point, I show how the framing of his actions as ‘thuggish’ needs to be located within a longer history of white societal attempts to discipline and control black expressive behavior.

“The invention of the idea of ‘the black athlete’ at the start of the 20th century produces black athletes as both objects for homosocial desire and figures of hate and loathing.

The article notes that Carrington has a history of tweets “on which white people have been the subject of criticism.” For instance:


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Over 160 students at Western Michigan University were interviewed for a “documentary theatre piece” titled “Check Your Privilege,” which premiered last week. The production was assisted in part via (the seemingly oxymoronic) “Kellogg Grant for Racial Healing.”

WMUK 102.1 FM reports:

Calvin College Professor of Theatre Stephanie Sandberg is the head director of the production. This is the type of theatre she’s known for. Six years ago, Sandberg helped WMU create a similar play called Seven Passages—the Stories of Gay Christians.

“It’s a kind of theatre where you’re bound by using only the words that people use to describe their experiences and their stories,” she says.

“So it’s theatre in the sense that you still have actors performing it. We’re not putting the actual people on stage. But it’s trying to get at this sense of truth in language and in story that brings about a kind of authenticity that you might get from fictional theatre, but not necessarily.”

Sandberg says Kalamazoo County has a 50 on the disparity index according to the census. That means about half of the white population in a Kalamazoo neighborhood would have to move to another part of the county in order to desegregate the area.

“And so I wasn’t surprised to hear that that reality was happening at the university as well,” says Sandberg. “Even though there’s things…we try to put measures in place that stop that, it’s just not happening. In the United States right now—today—we have a dissimilarity index that is worse than apartheid South Africa. We’ve got to do something about this. We have to do something about this.”

Sandberg notes that “because the play uses real interviews from Western Michigan University staff and students, the audience feels like they’re part of an honest, open discussion about race and privilege.”

Except, again, the title of the production is called “Check Your Privilege” which, as we all know, only applies to Caucasians.

Not to mention, the first speaker in the video below kind of gives away the deal when he says (white) students “aren’t aware of how they fit into this privileged scheme” and that the “the point of this play is to educate people …” (emphasis added).

Prof. Sandberg later in the same video notes that many other colleges would fit right in too because “what we’re dealing with is systemic discrimination.”

So, it’s not really an “honest, open discussion” as Prof. Sandberg had noted, is it? This production appears to be like many other supposedly “open, honest discussions” about race — actually about embracing a particular point of view.

And guess which view that might be?

 

Read more here.

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