Wednesday, December 19, 2012
This has been a day for watching or dealing with cheating. Aside from the unpleasantry of failing students caught cheating, I just watched a college kid come into a Taco Cabana and sneakily stuff a bag with tons of plastic ware type stuff from the condiments bar. It wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't been so blatantly (& badly, obviously) trying to mask and hide his activity - slyly filling up a cup w/pico and then grabbing stuff and shoving it in his bag, then doing it again ... and again. After watching the sad spectacle for a minute I got up to ask him if he really was so broke that he had to steal this cheap fast-food crap-ware, but he left as I got up to chat. Hell, I'd lend him a $5 just to end the embarrassing spectacle. I really should have gotten up more quickly. It would be interesting if he showed up in one of my classes. I would absolutely find a way to bring this back around to his attention. Cool thing about teaching 600 students a year is that a *whole lot of them* cross your path before its all said and done. Ah, college kids... Glad I was never one.
Friday, December 14, 2012
So many children murdered. What an awful, awful reality. ... And then to complicate it, so much of the immediate conversation has already turned into a debate about gun control versus gun access. This at first caused me a little emotional whiplash ... but then I almost got sucked in. Social and news media are inviting me (all of us really) into the arena of argumentation. ... There are those among us who will look at the tragedy and say we need gun access for self-protection. There are others who will say we need gun control. And the debate will be heated. As a collective, we will seek catharsis and relief from the horror of the murder of children by deeply and passionately engaging this debate, sure that we are right, and at some point possibly even questioning the sanity or intelligence of those with an opposing view. ... But you know what? I am pretty much sick of this sort of reaction. That is, I am sick of us (the collective "us," me included) dealing with our confusion and angst by taking the "side" that feels right in our gut, defending and promoting it all costs, and then, eventually, demonizing those who have now been constructed as the "other side." We did it during the election, and we do it in all manner of policy debates. ... Tonight, rather than go that predictable route, I think that I am just going to focus on hugging my kids a little tighter. I'll see where it goes from there.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Some would have you limit your reading to those whose political alignments, social networks or faith traditions fit the orthodoxy of their tribe. For them I offer a shrug of indifference to their admonitions and maintain a raised eye brow of scrutiny for whatever they have to say on any topic of consequence.
That said, I've discovered and will be reading more about and from Mormon apostle Hugh Brown. His was a cool head in a time of even greater national division than we have today. Check out these words from this Mormon Church leader, apparently offered in May 1968:
"I would like you to be reassured that the leaders of both major political parties in this land are men of integrity and unquestioned patriotism. Beware of those who feel obliged to prove their own patriotism by calling into question the loyalty of others. Be skeptical of those who attempt to demonstrate their love of country by demeaning its institutions. Know that men of both major political parties who bear the nation’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are men of unquestioned loyalty and we should stand by and support them, and this refers not only to one party but to all. Strive to develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variation of political belief. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize on issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent."
Some of those words are hard for me to swallow. But they strike my ear as capturing wisdom for the ages and I choose to consider them carefully.
Here is a blog entry from Mormon Heretic on the topic and another from Latter-Day Common Sense.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Hundreds of young people (and some not so young) are learning hard lessons after their ugly cathartic releases following the re-election of President Obama. While some express shock at these comments (many are eye-popping ugly), I am pleased that ugly comments seem to number only in the thousands, and that the truly ugly ones (the ones that get you on federal watch lists or merit Secret Service visits) only number in the hundreds. I am an "N of 1" and yet have received my share of threats and racist taunts over the years. Some have been real doozies. Thus, when I see that nationwide the open racist remarks were in the hundreds, I am relieved. ... Many of those who were spewing venom on election night appear to be intellectually challenged, rather young (or perhaps both). For instance, a 22 year-old expressed surprise following her tweet calling President Obama the N* word and expressing her thought that maybe he'd be assassinated this time. In follow up social media posts she exclaimed that she didn't understand the big deal. Others who were outed were high school students tweeting or posting from accounts that featured family pictures, their sports teams and church affiliations. Their punishments began coming quickly as several in organizations with codes of conduct were kicked off of teams, fired from jobs or otherwise reprimanded. I view all this and see it as part of our ongoing development. I am not the slightest bit surprised at ugly sentiments and I feel that with kids in relationship with one other across lines of difference, things are still getting better and better (although there are millions who choose to live in cocoons and millions who harbor racial [or gendered or xenophobic or homophobic] resentments). So I note all of this, and while I do fear the possibility of an uptick in violence by racists against minorities, I see this as the dying gasps of an ideology that is being forced further and further to the margins.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Guided well, student athletes routinely grow into people who make you beam with pride. Marcus Lattimore, who - in images of vivid clarity - was injured in a nationally televised football game yesterday, has an incredibly challenging road to recovery ahead of him. ... Though it might seem detached, overly-romantic and sappy to write this, it remains that when I interact with former student athletes, I routinely see the way in which initial adversity has been key to the strength of character they have come to embody. As Mr. Lattimore recovers I pray that he is guided and supported well. He will be struggling to walk normally before even thinking about running. He will also have tough times emotionally. But when he comes through it, and if he comes through it having been guided spiritually and emotionally as well as physically, he will be exactly the person I will be cajoling to come and talk to kids I work with ... exactly the type of person we'll admire most. My thoughts are with all student athletes this morning, and of course, are especially with Marcus Lattimore.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
On September 20, 2012 Space Shuttle Endeavor flew - piggyback on top of a 747 jumbo jet - over Austin, Texas. Austin was one just one of the many cities that was treated to one last view of Endeavor in the air. Through ups and downs, our nation's Space Shuttle program was something to behold. It cost the average American $93 per year. The program was financed by the American people (through our taxes) and may be the last thing we do as a nation without nakedly engaging profit motives and corporations.
|Dr. Mae Jamison at a White House |
event in June 2012.
My brushes with the space program included attending a launch in Florida (the night sky turned to day as the rockets ignited), and occasionally interacting with astronauts, educators and others with NASA during my time in DC.
Many of the things we do as a people and a nation are truly amazing.
I hope that we turn back towards the idea of being a people who support of wonderful (and not necessarily economically profitable) scientific and humanistic endeavors that serve the greater good of our nation and world. The turn towards profit-driven corporations as the answer to our nation's challenges and opportunities is sad. Not only is it doubtful that those with profit-motives will serve the greater good, but on top of it all, it is a soulless way to approach the life of the nation. So give me heroes like the late Ron McNair and Christa McAuliffe, along with the hundreds of living heroes who trained and flew (many of whom by the way are now quietly dynamic and impactful college professors). ... Words can't capture what the 30 year Space Shuttle Program meant to thousands and thousands of people directly and millions indirectly. It is one of the countless American episodes that beautifully display what we are about at our best and what we are capable of. ... Attached is the video I took from STS-130.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
I have been shaking my head in wonder for a few years now. President Obama has been in turns vilified as the embodiment of evil, of socialism or of incompetence. None are accurate. Strip away the straw-demon that has been constructed for years, and what you have in President I believe that an honest assessment shows Obama as a competent, even keel steward of U.S. domestic and international interests who governs from the center in the midst of a toxic climate that is in large part the product of a knee jerk reaction of loathing by many on the Right. ...
When he came to office, one of the huge assertions was that he would put the nation in danger with his FOREIGN POLICY. What has happened? He's ended one war, drawn down the forces on another front and assassinated most of the Al-Queda leadership, including Bin Laden. His foreign policy includes drone warfare, lines the pockets of contractors, and costs fewer American lives than would other available strategies. I don't love it, but I get it. I also know that he owns a record here that the Right only wishes it could pull off. ...
On the HIGHER EDUCATION FRONT, he stretched available federal funds for college students by pulling off the brilliant maneuver of cutting the banks out of the student loan process. ... On the K-12 EDUCATION front he is a partner in a bipartisan disaster - turning over education policy to corporations and philanthropists that are, respectively, taking turns making huge money or giving huge money away in disastrous misadventures in privatization and standardization that are somehow recast as innovation.
On the ECONOMIC FRONT, he is still hostage to the explosion in the deficit that is directly attributable to the Bush tax cuts and in much smaller percentage to the stimulus funding passed early in his presidency, and yet he is on a path of deficit reduction. On it goes.
I am not thrilled with the guy, but nor have I ever been thrilled with a President. But the descriptions from the Right come from lala land! And they have been pulling reasonable people in with them. ... My sense, again is that huge segments of the Right have been so vocal in their hatred that they have pulled the conversation their way. In many circles you have to be pretty brave to just offer a reasoned assessment that includes praise for Obama. The immediate, unfounded shrieks about socialism and incompetence can make your ears bleed. Importantly, the dislike that drips from the mouths of many started before he took office and has never let up.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
There was a nice little Opinionater piece in the Sunday 7/1/12 NY Times on The Busy Trap. For me it led to a great basic insight: for many of us, being "crazy busy" is a choice. Being crazy busy means that we don't have to acknowledge our priorities; nor do we have to 'fess up to the things and people we'd like to avoid. Haven't taken care of your health? "Oh, I have just been crazy busy." Haven't called family members? "Oh, I have just been crazy busy." Don't follow up with certain people? "Oh, I have just been crazy busy." Haven't finished that project? ... And on and on. Works well, doesn't it? For some of us, maybe being crazy busy is a great way to be dishonest, not just to others, but to ourselves. Maybe it is a way to avoid being responsible and engaged, but with the ironic bonus of seeming ever-more responsible and engaged. I think that this year I may resolve to be less busy ... and in the process, be more honest and get more things done.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
ademics went live. Our first four talks were filmed in the KLRU studios and on the historic Austin City Limits set. The event was an overwhelming success with a live studio audience of over 200 students, faculty, staff and community members. A write up in the Daily Texan captured the essence of the event as did this interview on KUT radio.The first talk, "Sista Docta" was by Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones. was released Thursday June 28, 2012 on the ICUSP Youtube Channel.
Over the next few months we'll upload three more talks: "The Bus Stops Here" by urban planner Dr. Talia McCray; "Black with a 4.0" by educational psychologist Dr. Kevin Cokley; and my own piece, "The Life and Times of a Community Engaged Scholar." The goal of the larger project is to bring Black Studies to broad audiences via public television and social media. The four talks will get the ball rolling; Blackademics 2 will comprise a set of five more talks and be recorded in the late Fall.
Along with being shared via social media, the talks will also be shown on TV. The first four talks will air as two shows on KLRU public television. The eventual vision includes going national, with the central Texas Public Television episodes as an extension of our proof of concept and a teaser for PBS stations nationwide.
So look out for Blackademics, coming to a twitter feed, a Facebook Page and a YouTube channel near you. Again, that first release date is April 26, 2012.
Oh, and if you like what we are doing, share it, like it, friend it, subscribe to it. Give us feedback and help us spread Black Studies scholarship far and wide.
Dr. Kevin Michael Foster
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Participate in a variety of social media platforms - and on your own terms - in order to build an on-line presence that you enjoy and that moves you toward your goals.
I've been purposefully tinkering. Since fall 2011 my goal has been to develop a philosophy of practice for making the best personal/professional use of various social media platforms. The initial work was prelude to an exploratory course I am teaching entitled "Black Studies Dissemination in the Age of New Media." More on that later; for now I'd like to focus on my experience developing a theory of engagement.
Spaces I inhabit include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Academia.edu, this blog, and Linked In. The experiment is so far: 1) yielding distinct sets of interesting new relationships; 2) facilitating increased dialog (and learning) about things I care about; 3) facilitating rapid discovery and response regarding local crises and opportunities; and 4) resulting in an increased dissemination of my published work.
While I suppose that I am not all that different from others in terms of why I engage social and new media, it is still worth noting that my engagement is purposeful and specific. There are: a) things that I want to learn, b) knowledge and perspective that I want to share, c) dialogs I want to engage (thus furthering both "a" and "b"; d) people I want to connect with; and e) students I want to see grow and achieve career success. My social media participation serves these broad interests.
As a matter or course, I see no reason why we all shouldn't be purposeful about our engagement with social media. So this semester in my Black Studies in the Age of New Media course, I ask students to consider: "Why do you engage social and new media?" After that question, I ask: "How do you engage?" For folks who've done some real work, have something to share, and are naturally inquisitive seekers of knowledge and perspective, the emerging media offer an incredibly powerful set of tools. I would urge all social media participants to consider both the "why" and the "how" of their engagement and then to map a plan for moving forward. Thoughtful, purposeful participants can tangibly and noticeably benefit from this new world.
Facebook for me has settled into a site for the engagement of people I like on some level - be they family and friends whom I like very much, or acquaintances, whom I don't know well, but whose perspectives I like. As with others, it is a convenient place for me to follow and at times engage friends in Austin and DC, the two cities to which I am most strongly attached.
Most importantly, Facebook is also the place where I put my best self forward. In the Facebook realm I am a purposeful micro-blogger, sharing that which represents the person I aspire to be. I have defined myself as community-engaged, family oriented, fun-loving, thoughtful and a few other things and see Facebook as a mirror for the person I hope to be. As a self-check, the easier it is to post about my life the better. If I find that activities and thoughts that occupy my time aren't things I can share, then I have an early warning that I may not be living up to the person I hope to be. So Facebook has emerged as a place where I get to post and thus share, but at the same time take a look at the mirror.
In the twitter realm, I pick up articles and perspectives on issues and areas I am passionate about, share my own perspective, and share word of things that are important to me. These include my own articles, events I am excited about, or articles, events and comments by others. Twitter is an active experiment for me, and over time I've noticed that I can use it in different ways but that I almost have to choose, because the engagement approaches do not always blend. For instance, if I use it to talk about one area (say education), I may lose followers and valued interactions in another area (say new media innovations). If I tweet more often, folks who share or like my perspective may initiate relationships (aka follow), but again, others may drop off. I have found that whatever I tweet, if my tweets are well composed and have the effect of inviting thought, people are appreciative and more likely to retweet (share what I've tweeted with others), which opens my sphere of influence, but also leads to more followers whom I can then follow back.At the end of the day, twitter for me is largely about building a network of information sharers and commentators by sharing interesting information and offer strong commentary myself.
I teach at The University of Texas at Austin and find that the better organized I am the better I am as a lecturer. Well organized lectures are critical and maintaining a YouTube channel allows me to collect all clips for each lecture so that, semester after semester, I have a stable site for each lecture's supporting materials.
At some point after opening an Academic.edu account I noticed that I could upload my articles there, attach labels/keywords to each and then disseminate and track the readership of my work. Phenomenal! When it became apparent that folks were discovering my work from all over the world, I became a true believer. In short, Academia.edu serves as a open access repository for my articles, lecture slides, article drafts and past syllabi. I trust it more that my university's blackboard system.Another new media platforms I use is google docs for collaboratively developing articles or events or projects. Then, of course, there is this blog.At the end of the day, I find tremendous professional and social value in purposefully engaging social and new media. Most of what I've mentioned is old hat to many. For such folk then, the take away may simply be the renewed call to not just actively engage a multitude of platforms, but to purposefully do so as well. Still others may gain some new insights. Regardless, the journey of engaging, sharing and acting -- as a learner, a commenter and a teacher all in the same set of realms -- is worth the considerable low price of admission.
Friday, March 30, 2012
For millions of us, the killing hit close to home. It reminded some of us of our own close calls. For others of us, it brought into focus our greatest fears for our own boys. For some, it did both and more. Amidst this backdrop, we yearned for a cathartic release of our complex mix of emotions. The Miami Heat delivered. They delivered in a way that made positive use of their celebrity. They delivered in a way that earns them an honored place in American social history.
Athletes, because they are the embodied representation of intense passion and effort, have a unique opportunity to create compelling images. Complex images of athletes not being athletes, but yet being so fully human in others ways, are inherently powerful. They contradict one dimensional representations that are overwhelmingly the norm. In this way, their images of spontaneous and autonomous expression also fill many of us with quiet, affirming pride. Their expressions remind us that we too can be "both/and." We are athletes and intellectuals, intellectuals and parents, scholars and activists. Perhaps most important in this instance, their display proclaims that we can black and upstanding citizens. Whatever the dualities that define and limit us, our complexity is affirmed in instances where simplistic or stereotypic representations are undermined. At the very least, basketball fans who consume these men as entertainment now have a bit more insight into the human side of these professional entertainers.
|In 1967, black male athletes stood up to support Muhammed Ali's |
brave and career threatening stand against the Vietnam War.
How many can you name?
As an educational researcher, teacher and mentor who has paid attention to the norms, values and racial socialization of black athletes, I was encouraged to see the Miami Heat hoodie tweet. They offered an image that hearkened back to earlier examples of symbolic activism among black athletes. My favorite is that of Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Bill Russell and several other black male professional athletes who vocally supported Muhammad Ali's principled stand against the Vietnam War. Upon refusing the draft he famously stated, "It is hard to live up to the example of The Greatest, but no matter. In this moment, in this day, in this society, Lebron James, Dewyane Wade and the other members of the Miami Heat did their part. To them I simply say thank you, whatever came before and whatever happens next, for your spontaneous moment of symbolic action you have earned an honored place in social history. My hope now is that they, and we, build upon it.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Odd reality: on racial matters, I don't require allegiance from friends or family. My relations - both kith and kin - span the racial and political gamut, so if I expect to stay in relation, there are several from whom I simply don't hope for much. That having been said, while there are some for whom tough racial conversations are too much, there are others with whom I am impressed and to whom I am grateful. I speak especially of white allies - folks who have every invitation to blissful, ignorant privilege, but who insist on moving through their privilege and into solidarity, understanding, voice and action.
Over the last months I have been commenting on the neighborhood treatment of black male youth. My commentaries were inspired by incidents with my own son - incidents that were infinitely less horrific than the current tragic circumstance surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin. All the time that I have spoken up and spoken out, I have been encouraged by an overwhelming majority of my neighbors of various backgrounds. White neighbors who step into difficult conversations and are open to the possibility that racial biases are still present, powerful and dangerous are especially important. The reality is that they enjoy more space to call it like it is and yet be heard without suspicion or resentment.
The greatest U.S. example of this is, of course, that of Harriet Beecher Stowe and her classic Uncle Tom's Cabin. The serial story turned novel wasn't perfect, but it was critically important. Near immediately translated into dozens of languages, and second only to The Bible in sales, this book turned northern public sentiment against slavery. The engaging book drew northern Christian readers off the fence and invited them into to the fold of those actively and vocally opposing the enslavement of African descended people. Of course it could go without saying that Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas and other Blacks risked more and took bolder stands. But their white allies were critical as well. Even when putting less at risk, they likely had broader impact. It may seem perverse, but it is simply another odd aspect of our racial order.
Given all this, we can ask two questions of ourselves. The first is this: "What privileges - even if often unacknowledged - do you benefit from?" In my case, I am a light skinned, educated, heterosexual, African American male who was born a citizen of the United States. This embodiment and identity carries great privilege as well as leaves me open to some expressions of intended or unintended prejudice. The second question is: "what do you do with your privilege?" In the last months, many of my neighbors having taken the opportunity to stand for nurturing neighborhoods instead of creepy surveillance neighborhoods - and to stand for kids generally. Many of them, white and richly privileged, have acknowledged that race and racial biases likely account for many of the surveillance patterns and assumptions that characterize our neighborhood message boards and Facebook pages. Importantly, when these white folk call out problems, they often have more credibility than me. They are assumed to be unbiased observers, unlike myself. Their whiteness has them viewed as neutral and unbiased; while my blackness has me read as biased. In short, their alliance is critical. Things that take me months to move forward, they can move forward with a single well placed utterance. So to my white allies, thank you. We'll call your work the honorable deployment of white privilege. Now please don't rest on these laurels. I now ask: "what more can you do?" Or better yet given your privilege, how about this: "what more should you do?"
This post is dedicated to the memory of Trayvon Benjamin Martin, to the hope for justice, and to the hope for whatever measure of solace is humanly possible for his mom and dad.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Yes, it's true, I record the Republican primary debates. I record them, and I watch them, and when they are particularly juicy, I watch them again. It's not that I am a masochist; it's just that the whole Republican primary season has been really, really funny. I am having an absolute blast watching this protracted affair play out. You would think that it is hard to keep up the hilarity now that folks like Cain, Perry and Bachmann have bowed out, but the reality is that even as the field whittles down, the remaining candidates work hard to keep me entertained. I appreciate that.
This week, Romney was my favorite. From "I love the perfect height of your trees," to "I love your finger lakes," to "I love your cars," his suck-ups have been a hoot. Gem of the week: “I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pick-up truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.”
Utterances like this show him expertly walking a fine line... how to be really funny, while also making sure that people really, really dislike you.
|Romney strategists worked overtime to manufacture this |
horrible an image for their guy's powerhouse campaign.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed MLK day. We did not, however, enjoy waking up the next day to a publicly posted video of my son playing on the sidewalk, with a message falsely associating him with trespassing, vandalism and "looking for things to steal."
|Martin Luther King, Jr. Statue|
on the campus of UT Austin
|Dad and son during the march|
Martin Luther King Day here in Austin was wonderful. My two kids and I participated in the annual march and festival. The weather was great, the speakers did a fine job, and the music was wonderful. We started on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, marched to The Austin Capital and then finally marched to Huston-Tillotson University. There a full festival awaited. Along the way, my kids saw many of their friends - from school, church, violin, and even pre-school. I was thrilled to see several friends with places of honor in the festivities as they now hold elected office in Austin. It was also great to see Austin firefighters out enjoying the festivities, along with many other cherished friends whom I simply don't get to see very often. It was simply a wonderful day. The morning after MLK day, however, was not. ...
|On the way to the Capital|
The day after the festivities I awoke Tuesday to a frantic phone call. Monday afternoon, a friend's son and mine had been recorded by a neighbor's motion detecting surveillance camera, and a video had been publicly posted under the heading "trespassing, vandalism and theft."
|Greater Mt. Zion choir, band|
and pastor at the steps of the Capital
The kids had seen the camera from the street and had been waving at it, smiling, jumping around, dancing. They video was of them on the city sidewalk. This neighbor lives less than one minute from my house, but instead of finding me and the other family to report wrong-doing (that had not occurred), he was comfortable putting up video of two kids (doing nothing wrong) and asking in the post who these kids were because they looked like they wanted to steal things. When I and the other father knocked on their door at 7am they called the police. I was happy to have the police involved, so that we could emerge crystal clear on some things. Needless to say the video is now down. And my understanding of race in America remains.
Happy MLK day!
Thursday, January 12, 2012
I appreciate folk who bravely share aspects of their lives that society tells us to look on with shame - hard working people who are homeless or don't have enough to eat, folk dealing w/physical or mental health issues, folk dealing with addictions, folks whose kids have problems at school. We are all just doing the best we can, and we do better with support. When you step up, share, and seek support, you get out of the hole faster and as a bonus give permission for the rest of us to be honest and seek the help we need. The apparently weakest are often actually the strongest.