Showing posts from 2013

Pope Francis Is No More A Socialist Than Is...: Living In The Age of Francis of Buenos Aires

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.” - Archbishop Hélder Câmara, of Brazil - "Is Pope Francis a Socialist?" My jaw dropped when I read the title of the cover article in the December 13, 2013, on-line edition of Newsweek over my iPad. I thought to myself, this pope is no more a socialist than is Barack Obama. Let’s face it: in America, if you offer to turn on the light switch for someone because the room is dark, conservatives will call you a socialist. Without a doubt, this first pope from Latin America (a child of European immigrants) is as everyone points out, humble and self-effacing. He has eschewed as the Newsweek article points out, a lot of “the pomp and circumstances and the lavish trappings of his office in the Vatican that helped conjure the awe and authority of popes down the centuries.” He took the name of a humble saint, Francis of Assisi. Wanting to lead a

Bah! Humbug! I Divested Myself From The Culture Of Consumption That Surrounds Christmas

To be honest, Christmas has always inspired more stress than excitement for me. This is the most relaxed I have ever felt this time of the year because I've totally divested myself from the culture of consumption that takes hold when Christmas comes around, which gets masqueraded by Corporate America as "a time for giving" (which makes sense from their standpoint, given that for some retailers, holiday shopping accounts for as much as 20-40 percent of annual sales). Thinking about the rampant consumerism that takes control of so many people I know around Christmas time made me think about the following passage from Guy Debord’s critique of consumer society in his book, Society of the Spectacle , thesis 42. "The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life. Not only is the relation to the commodity visible but it is all one sees: the world one sees is its world. Modern economic production extends its dictatorsh

Learning To Win: Fighting Institutional Racism in the Schools

Yesterday, I saw a wonderful play by the Hartbeat Ensemble at the Carrier House Theater in Hartford. The play, Learning to Fail , was written and performed by participants of HartBeat’s Youth Play Institute (YPI). I was invited to the play by a friend, Arlene; her daughter Asia was a member of the cast The Hartbeat Ensemble Youth Play Institute (YPI) is an 8-week professional paid internship in acting, playwriting, theater design or stage management for young adults. All 9 of the actors in the play were between the ages of 16 and 21. Set in a fictional public high school in Hartford, Learning to Fail , is a play about institutional racism in education. The thoughtful, well-writen, and well-acted play was a mixture of humor, biting social commentary, hip-hop music and dance, and spoken word. Specifically, the play looks at the school to prison pipeline, the disturbing national trend in which black and Latino youth are disproportionately funneled out of public schools and in

To be Young, Black, and Male in America: Guilty of Something until Proven Innocent

Only two people know what happened the evening of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. One person is dead, a 17 year-old black male teenager, named Trayvon Martin. The other person, at the time, a 28 year-old neighborhood watch captain for a gated community name George Zimmerman, is on trial, charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin. The question at the heart of the trial seems to be whether Martin was (or was not) the aggressor, provoking a struggle that resulted in Zimmerman firing a single shot into his chest at close range. Bleeding from the nose and with cuts and bruises on the back of his head, when police arrived on the scene, Zimmerman told them that he was violently attacked by Martin and fired his gun in self-defense. According to Florida’s stand-your-ground law, if Martin was the aggressor, Zimmerman’s acted in self-defense. When I first heard about the circumstances surrounding the death of Martin, I told my mother that I did not think that Zimmerman would be c

Black People Are Like Canaries In A Coal Mine

On Monday, April 8, President Barack Obama will be visiting the University of Hartford. The buzz around campus since the email went out announcing that POTUS will be coming to our little campus has been electric. As I start typing this blog post, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff have been standing in line for hours in front of the student center to get one of the highly coveted tickets to hear him speak. Although I like President Obama, I'm not a fan of how he marginalizes the impact of white supremacy in contemporary American society or his preference for colorblind solutions to socioeconomic inequalities that are deeply rooted in longstanding racial and economic hierarchies. His pending visit to campus made me think about a book I read about 10 years ago by Critical Race Theory scholars, Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres , The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy . In their very excellent book, Guinier and Torres, cogently and forcefu

Time To Dismantle, Not Tinker, With Political And Economic Hierarchies

David H. Ikard and Martell Lee Teasley write in their book, Nation of Cowards , that "structural inequalities are systemic material, social, political, and economic factors that individually or in combination facilitate individual and group disadvantages." Structural inequalities are firmly entrenched in American society. According to Ikard and Teasley, they "manifest themselves in inferior housing, health services, education, and employment opportunities." The continuing problem of joblessness is an appropriate place to start in trying to understand how structural inequalities work in America. Nationally, the unemployment rate is 7.7 percent , down from its Great Recession peak of 10 percent in October 2009. This figure only tells part of the story; roughly 20 million Americans are either out of work or underemployed. To make matters worse, the Federal Reserve reported last year that US corporations are sitting on about $1.7 trillion which they keep in treasuries,

The World Has A Growing Inequality Problem And The U.S. Is No Different

The "Great Recession" officially ended three years ago in the second half of 2009. The unemployment rate is down from its double-digit peak in October 2009. The Wall Street investor class is dancing for joy because the Dow Jones Industrial Average has doubled in value since its recent low in March 2009. With home prices, sales, and construction up, the housing market seems to be recovering quite well. The American economy appears to be on the rebound, but, not everyone is benefitting because America has a growing inequality problem that has many Americans staring either into the economic abyss or watching over their shoulder for a pink slip as they live paycheck-to-paycheck. Inequality is a global problem. Let me start with the world first and then work my way back to America. In a new report, The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt us All , a leading international philanthropy organization, Oxfam , argues that inequality caused by extreme concent