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Posts Tagged ‘segregation

“Genuine equality means not treating everyone the same, but attending equally to everyone’s different needs”*…

 

inequality

 

In 2014, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to rank the “greatest dangers in the world.” A plurality put inequality first, ahead of “religious and ethnic hatred,” nuclear weapons, and environmental degradation. And yet people don’t agree about what, exactly, “equality” means. In the past year, for example, New York City residents have found themselves in a debate over the city’s élite public high schools, such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science. Some ethnicities are vastly overrepresented at the schools, while others are dramatically underrepresented. What to do? One side argues that the city should guarantee procedural equality: it should insure that all students and families are equally informed about and encouraged to study for the entrance exam. The other side argues for a more direct, representation-based form of equality: it would jettison the exam, adopting a new admissions system designed to produce student bodies reflective of the city’s demography. Both groups pursue worthy egalitarian goals, but each approach runs against the other. Because people and their circumstances differ, there is, Dworkin writes, a trade-off between treating people equally and treating them “as equals.”

The complexities of egalitarianism are especially frustrating because inequalities are so easy to grasp. C.E.O.s, on average, make almost three hundred times what their employees make; billionaire donors shape our politics; automation favors owners over workers; urban economies grow while rural areas stagnate; the best health care goes to the richest. Across the political spectrum, we grieve the loss of what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “general equality of conditions,” which, with the grievous exception of slavery, once shaped American society. It’s not just about money. Tocqueville, writing in 1835, noted that our “ordinary practices of life” were egalitarian, too: we behaved as if there weren’t many differences among us. Today, there are “premiere” lines for popcorn at the movies and five tiers of Uber; we still struggle to address obvious inequalities of all kinds based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity. Inequality is everywhere, and unignorable. We’ve diagnosed the disease. Why can’t we agree on a cure?…

We all agree that inequality is bad.  But what kind of equality is good?  A thoughtful consideration:  “The Equality Conundrum.”

* one answer, from Terry Eagleton

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As we seek balance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that the Nashville Sit-ins began.  Part of a nonviolent direct action campaign to end racial segregation at lunch counters in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, they ran through May 10.  The sit-in campaign, coordinated by the Nashville Student Movement and Nashville Christian Leadership Council, was notable for its early success and emphasis on disciplined nonviolence.  It was part of a broader sit-in movement that spread across the southern United States in the wake of the Greensboro sit-ins in North Carolina.

300px-Rodney_Powell_Nashville_sit-ins_1960 source

 

Written by LW

February 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced”*…

 

Liquid Pleasure

“High Yella Masterpiece: We Ain’t No Cotton Pickin’ Negroes” (2011), by Amy Sherald

 

In North Carolina in 1980, bands wanting to get booked for social and corporate gigs only had to impress one man: Ted Hall. Raised in Charlotte, Hall booked his first band, the Catalinas, to play the Myers Park High School prom after-party in 1959. “We called it ‘The Morning After the Night Before Party,’” said Hall in his slow but certain drawl. In 1960, Hall took his talents to NC State, where he quickly became the fraternities’ go-to guy when they needed to book a band. Soon enough, booking bands went from an easy way for Hall to make “a little extra liquor money” to a full-time job. By the time he signed Liquid Pleasure to an exclusive contract with his company, Hit Attractions, in 1980, Hall had created an enormous cottage industry in the Southeast: an entire economy in which song and dance bands like Liquid Pleasure supplied college fraternities’ demand for cheap entertainment. Cheap because there were so many bands to choose from, which meant Liquid Pleasure had to stand out.

What the band needed was a gimmick, something to separate themselves from all the other bands jockeying for the boys’ attention. The stakes were high. Kenny Mann viewed each fraternity brother as a potential source of renewable income—soon enough the young men would marry and need a wedding band. To secure all that future business, Liquid Pleasure’s gimmick needed to make a lasting impression. The band’s mentors, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts, told dirty jokes between sets, delighting young men by insulting their dates. Mann and Liquid Pleasure decided instead that they would insult themselves.

It all started at a KA party at the University of Alabama. The brothers had hired Liquid Pleasure to be the entertainment for that evening’s party, but things weren’t going great. The audience seemed uptight. To loosen things up, Mann explained, the band let the brothers “come up and scream ‘nigger’ into the microphone.” It was a contest. “There’s no clean way I can say it,” Mann added. “We would let them come up and scream ‘nigger’ into the microphone.” Whoever screamed “nigger” the loudest, won.

The Monday after the KA party, Ted Hall phoned Kenny Mann with good news. Fraternities at UGA, UNC, Ole Miss, and Clemson all wanted to book Liquid Pleasure for the same night. “What the hell did you do at Alabama, Kenny?” Hall asked. Mann proceeded to tell his agent about the contest. Hall replied with a question from the fraternities. “Well, they want to know if it costs extra.”

“Yeah,” said Mann. “Tell them it costs five hundred dollars.”

Liquid Pleasure, an African-American band, has played for almost entirely white audiences for 40 years: for every President since Jimmy Carter, for the famous (Donald Trump, Jr., Laura Ingraham) and the simply wealthy (“[most of] the white people we perform for . . . they aren’t famous . . . but they are rich. These aren’t common white people.”)  Liquid Pleasure’s assent to wedding band superstardom– its rewards and its costs– are an all-too-revealing tale of our times: “That Kind of Money.”

[Many thanks to friend DB for the link.]

* James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro

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As we render respect, we might recall that it was on this date in 1968, on the eve of his assassination, that Martin Luther King, Jr., who was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, delivered his final public speech, the address that has become known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”  The full text is here.

220px-Martin_Luther_King,_Jr. source

 

“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength”*…

 

Since 1990, more than 90 percent of U.S. metro areas saw a decline in racial stratification, signaling a trend toward a more integrated America. Yet, while areas like Houston and Atlanta have undergone rapid demographic changes, cities like Detroit and Chicago still have large areas dominated by a single racial group.Some 50 years ago, policies like the Fair Housing Act and Voting Rights Act were enacted to increase integration, promote equity, combat discrimination and dismantle the lingering legacy of Jim Crow laws. But a Post analysis shows that some cities remain deeply segregated — even as the country itself becomes more diverse.

To explore these national changes, The Post analyzed census data from 1990, 2000, 2010 and the latest estimates from the 2016 five-year American Community Survey. Using this data, we generated detailed maps of the United States using six race categories: black, white, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American and multirace/other for the available years…

The United States is on track to be a majority-minority nation by 2044. But census data show most of our neighbors are the same race.  Take stock of where there has been progress and where there has been none using the interactive (and zoomable to zip code level) map at “America is more diverse than ever — but still segregated.”

* Maya Angelou

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As we turn up the heat on the melting pot, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that 29 year old J. Edgar Hoover became the fifth Director of the Bureau of Investigation, which became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935; he remained the FBI’s first director until his death in 1972 at the age of 77.

Hoover has been credited with building the FBI into a larger crime-fighting agency than it was at its inception and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories.  But especially later in his carer and since his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive abuses of power began to surface.  He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI, and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists (especially civil rights activists; see here and here), to amass secret files on political leaders and to collect evidence using illegal methods.

 source

 

Written by LW

May 10, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Take support and comfort from your own group as you can, but don’t hide within it”*…

 

Johnny Miller was just starting out as a photographer in Seattle in 2011 when he won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship that took him to Cape Town, South Africa—a country that, like his own, has a long history of institutional racism and segregation.

After learning more and more about the history of apartheid in academic settings and encountering its legacy on Cape Town’s streets, Miller decided to engage with the topic in a fresh way: by using a drone to photograph birds-eye views of South African cities and suburbs. The resulting series, called “Unequal Scenes,” shows just how drastically different the urban experience is depending on what side of the color line you are on today, more than 20 years after the end of apartheid…

More photos, and an interview with Miller, at “Apartheid’s Urban Legacy, in Striking Aerial Photographs.”

* Sonia Sotomayor

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As we Cry, The Beloved Country, we might send beautifully-composed birthday greetings to James Van Der Zee; he was born on this date in 1886.  A leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, he was a photographer whose subjects included the famous (Marcus Garvey, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Countee Cullen, and the artist below), but whose full body of work is probably the most comprehensive pictorial documentation of the full range of life in the period.

For a look at (some of) his work beyond the examples here, visit The Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian.

“Escape Artist”

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Jean Michel Basquiat

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Van Der Zee in 1982 (the year before his death)

source

 

Written by LW

June 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins”*…

 

From 1936 to 1966, Victor Green, a postal worker who worked in New Jersey but lived in Harlem, published the directories known today as the Green Book. (The actual titles were variously: The Negro Motorist Green Book; The Negro Travelers’ Green Book; The Travelers’ Green Book.) These listed hotels, restaurants, beauty salons, nightclubs, bars, gas stations, etc. where Black travelers would be welcome. In an age of sundown towns, segregation, and lynching, the Green Book became an indispensable tool for safe navigation…

The NYPL Labs’ Brian Foo (another of whose projects featured in an earlier post) has made the Green Books available– and interactive:  you can map a trip or plot the books’ data.

* from Mary Torrans Lathrap’s poem “Judge Softly”- the probable origin of the now-proverbial “before you judge someone, walk a mile in his shoes”

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As we live like a refugee, we might recall that it was on this date in 1776 that Thomas Paine first published (albeit anonymously) his pamphlet “Common Sense.”  A scathing attack on “tyrant” King George III’s reign over the colonies and a call for complete independence, “Common Sense” advocated immediate action.  America, Paine argued, had a moral obligation to reject monarchy and declare independence.  An instant bestseller in both the colonies and Britain (over 120,000 copies in just a few months), it greatly affected public sentiment at a time when the question of independence was still undecided, and helped shape the deliberations of the Continental Congress leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

source

Color me _____ …

Feeling  _____?  About to head out for a night on the town in _____?  Then dress in _____!

From Zoho:Lab, an interactive version of (R)D favorite David McCandless’ “Colours of Cultures“…

click the image above, or here, for full-screen interactive version

And for a grid version, click here.

As we reorganize our sock drawers, we might recall that on this date in 1896 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that color mattered in a different kind of way: it ruled that separate-but-equal facilities were constitutional on intrastate railroads.  For half a century thereafter, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision upheld the principle of racial segregation in the U.S., across which laws mandated separate accommodations on buses and trains, and in hotels, theaters, and schools.  While the Court’s majority opinion denied that legalized segregation connoted inferiority, a dissenting opinion from Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that segregation in public facilities smacked of servitude and abridged the principle of equality under the law.

At a Rome, Georgia bus station, 1949 (source)

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