Monday, October 7, 2013

The Black Studies answer to TED Talks is here!

Season 1 of Blackademics Television features 12 presentations on "Education, Performance and Youth Empowerment" by Black Studies scholars from around the nation. The show will initially air on KLRU PBS-TV Austin starting on Sunday October 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm and will be made available on-line after that.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

When to comment about racists via social media ... the case of the no-brainer.

In thinking about whether to use social media to comment about racists, I've offered that do to the problem of giving racists a platform, the issue of whether to respond to garden variety racists is an open question worthy of additional discussion. In the case of elected officials, however, there is no dilemma

For instance, I would not hesitate to say Congressman Steve King is a stereotyping ass and should be widely acknowledged as such among Democrats and Republicans alike, and especially among those Republicans who don't want to be seen as sharing his heartless and twisted views.

U.S. Congressman Steve King has been an elected official since 1996, and in Congress since 2003. He doesn't like the Dream Act and wants you to know why. So what exactly does he have to say about Hispanic youth? 

 Here is the Congressman: “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” 

Of course, in his defense, King has followed up by saying that what he is interested in is "the most logical, rational policy." 

Even viewed charitably, his utterance is callous and heartless. At best, you could point out that King is referring to an actual phenomenon - that where Mexican youth end up as "drug mules" carrying illegal narcotics into the United States. But he is glibly describing a situation where kids are put into positions of extreme danger and exploited to the extreme. Kids involved are victims, plain and simple. Yet, there is no indication that King is interested in shedding light on human trafficking, the exploitation of children (especially brown ones) or anything like that. He wants to demean hispanic youth in order to reframe a debate that he sees as to charitable to kids he generally thinks lowly of.  

So, here is Steve King, an upstanding an upstanding elected Republican official. To get back to the main topic, my sense is that calling out elected officials like this is a no-brainer. 

Dealing with garden variety racists on social media

In thinking through and attempting to stay on top of things for the Black Studies in the Age of Social Media class I'll teach this fall, I've encountered instances where, after some national event, a few dozen racists will broadcast racist tweets. A cute Hispanic kid in a mariachi outfit beautifully sings the national anthem and a bunch of people go nuts with the name calling. Same thing when a New York born Hispanic sings the national anthem at another national sorting event. Xenophobes come out of the woodworks with idiotic expressions of racism.

I've tried to think of this in context though. There are 400 MILLION mundane tweets every day, coupled with DOZENS (or sometimes HUNDREDS) of publicly shared racist tweets. How should one respond? If you ignore racism, it can take root and grow like an all-consuming weed. On the other hand, when you point out the kooks, you give them free publicity and the opportunity to convince others of their warped perspectives. Working through this conundrum will be one of our class tasks for our Black Studies in the Age of Social Media.

Now, all that having been said, next up, Part 2 (the one where I go ahead and call out a racist asshole since he is an elected official of influence) ...

Monday, June 3, 2013

To "only" finish in the nation's top four ... The making of life-long champions.

UT Softball fell short of a national title this year, and "only" finished as one of the top four teams in the nation. ... They were a joy to watch as they marched to the College World Series. I watched them play at home in the Regionals and Super Regionals, and then on ESPN as they played in Oklahoma City at the College World Series. Through all the watching and rooting, I was consistently struck that the experiences these women were living is exactly how life-long champions are made.

Longhorns celebrate the no-hitter the sent
them to the College World Series.
The playoff system for NCAA softball and baseball is rigorous, grueling and fair. Once the UT Women made it to Oklahoma City, that meant that they were one of the top 8 teams in the country. From there it's a double elimination tournament, where fighting back through the elimination bracket is really tough. They beat Arizona State in the Championship Bracket, got beaten by a powerful Oklahoma, then in the Elimination Bracket beat Florida, before losing to Tennessee. In short, the softball team went 2-2 at the World Series, finishing strong amidst the best competition in the country. 

Pitcher Blaire Luna, who went 31-7 on
the season, pitched 288 pitches in one day,
pitching against both Florida and Tennessee.

I have been watching athletes and athletics for a long time. I know what quit looks like and I know what fight-to-the-end looks like. This team's run was long, exhausting and impressive. I couldn't be prouder ... and more importantly, I bet that Coach Connie and her crew feel the same way. 

Watching these student athletes play, I saw the same drive, persistence and work ethic demanded of anyone who wants to work and thrive in a  top-notch organization. Oh, and one more thing: the team GPA is 3.08, which is well above the university-wide average. Not bad at all.

These student athletes show the best of UT and the best of UT Athletics.

What a pleasure.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lots of Ph.D's are smart, but apparently the degree itself is no guarantee.

The Heritage Foundation recently produced yet another important sounding report, this one using dubious chains of logic to argue, among other things, how costly immigrants are to the American public. But the report turned into a minor disaster for Heritage when it turned out that one of the report authors wrote his doctoral dissertation on the intellectual deficits of Hispanics. Since "Hispanic" is a government created category, not a biological one, the argument, in the context of doctoral work, is monumentally stupid. Whatever committee approved the line of research and then the dissertation should be closely scrutinized, as should the accredited university that granted old dude his credentials. 

Then we find out that the dissertation came from Harvard. Sigh.

Here's the story of the dissertation of Dr. Jason Richwine. Academia takes a well-deserved hit on this one. We are producing far too many immodest little emperors who lack proper clothing.

The Harvard Dissertation That Became Too Racist For Heritage

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An interracial family in public? Someone call the cops

So here's a story from the "just-keep-moving, nothing-racial-to-see-here" front ... 

A white Dad had to deal with the police at his door when he got home from Walmart. Some people were evidently concerned that his darker-than-him kids weren't his and that he was a kidnapper. Some folks like to say, "well, better than safe than sorry," but these actions accumulate in the minds of kids and some folks are more often than others forced to deal with them.

How many times do we subject kids and families to such "minor inconveniences" before they leave a lasting impression? The indignity of law enforcement officers asking a 4 year old if that is really his mom or dad is real. Public Safety folks have a tough job to be sure, but when suspicion is really about race, not behavior, umm, sorry folks, that is racism.... It's not mean-spirited to be sure, but what else do you call?

Oops, there I did it, I used that horrible, scary word. But the reality is that many, many of us lead with a racial lens. And many, if not most, straight out refuse to admit it. But whatever folks want to call it, we threaten to damage kids and family's with constant, (and quite frankly, annoying) fear-induced, racial behavior.

An interracial family in public ... now that's suspicious