Archive for the ‘ Race/Ethnicity ’ Category

Whites-only Marijuana.

I didn’t ever actually go back and blog more about the The New Jim Crow, which I mentioned here, but I’d like to bring it up again for a second. The general thrust of this book is that the War on Drugs created a permanent underclass in much the same way that Jim Crow laws and black codes did after the civil war. The statistics and stories presented in the book, as well as the description of how the broad police powers granted by anti-drug legislation and SCOTUS decisions on them have significantly damaged civil liberties, will make you sick at heart.

So for the past few days, I’ve been thinking about medical marijuana. In the early days of this blog, I made some embarrassingly naive comments about medical marijuana. I talked some about American views on poverty, and mentioned race only in passing. Looking at medical marijuana, I think I was wrong to leave out race.

I believe that widespread adoption of medical marijuana laws at the state level, without corresponding decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level, will in effect create a whites-only space to use pot. Consider, for example, the already existing disparities in the way medication is prescribed. Also, see Joe Klein’s “The boomers like it, and really, who else matters” argument in Time from a few years ago. There’s a movement for the reform of marijuana laws in this country, but it’s by and large a movement for the reform of marijuana laws for relatively-affluent whites, rather than a movement aimed at any sort of justice.

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More on the “mosque”

I don’t normally like posting straight op-ed pieces, but this one from Frank Rich of the New York Times is too good not to pass along.

As alluded to in my last post, and noted by the Reverend Dr. Michael Kinnamon, spiteful anti-Islamic attitudes in the U.S. do have repercussions around the globe:

So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?

For those politicians (Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, etc …) who have been the most vocal on the subject:

The ginned-up rage over the “ground zero mosque” was not motivated by a serious desire to protect America from the real threat of terrorists lurking at home and abroad — a threat this furor has in all likelihood exacerbated — but by the potential short-term rewards of winning votes by pandering to fear during an election season.

A hefty dose of hypocrisy and a solid jab across Rupert Murdoch’s chin:

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial darkly cited unspecified “reports” that Park51 has “money coming from Saudi charities or Gulf princes that also fund Wahabi madrassas.” As Jon Stewart observed, this brand of innuendo could also be applied to News Corp., whose second largest shareholder after the Murdoch family is a member of the Saudi royal family.

A loyal soldier’s lonely battle:

Poor General Petraeus. Over the last week he has been ubiquitous in the major newspapers and on television as he pursues a publicity tour to pitch the war he’s inherited. But have you heard any buzz about what he had to say? Any debate? Any anything? No one was listening and no one cared. Everyone was too busy yelling about the mosque.

It’s poignant, really. Even as America’s most venerable soldier returned from the front to valiantly assume the role of Willy Loman, the product he was selling was being discredited and discontinued by his own self-proclaimed allies at home.

Let them build the damn community center and quit being so goddamn xenophobic. America, you’re acting like children. You’re better than this. Don’t let the fear-mongering of opportunistic charlatans cloud your judgment.

X steps forward; X-1 steps back

A major bummer for New York City public schools: the still-fresh scab over an appalling achievement gap has been viciously re-opened. Yes, the differences in test performance between racial groups are back. After several years of remarkable improvement among African-American and Hispanic students, the 2010 state test scores paint a portrait less of remarkable progress than a cancer that was merely in remission.

I wish I had something positive to add here, but I’m at a loss tonight. Really, this just highlights how deep the problems within our education system run, and how much work remains to be done. If anything, education policy must evolve beyond test scores to encompass things such as student development and the ability to learn new material, rather than just regurgitating rote knowledge.

If we want to prepare our students for the broad and complex world in which we live, we absolutely must do better. There are many out there who are currently working towards this, but this is an issue facing everyone, not just the experts. We must demand excellence not only from our teachers and schools, but also from ourselves as responsible citizens whose job it is to prepare the next generation to face the problems of tomorrow.

Only half the story

Two reports just published by the Education Trust reveal how some secondary educational institutions in the United States are closing the achievement gap between students of differing racial/ethnic backgrounds (read: between whites and minorities), while also exposing some of those institutions with the greatest persistent gaps. Sadly, the Chicago branch of my alma mater falls into the latter category …

That aside, this is great news for our system of higher education! With some effort, disparities that Mother Culture often says are intractable can be overcome. However, merely focusing on racial/ethnic differences in graduation rates fails to take into account another aspect, which I think cannot be separated from the race issue (and vice versa), and that is socioeconomic status.

When research focuses exclusively on race/ethnicity or socioeconomic status, it neglects the complex interplay between these data sets (e.g., students from poorer backgrounds tend to achieve less, a greater proportion of African-Americans come from poorer backgrounds, etc …). Poverty affects people regardless of their genetic make-up. And other research indicates that “our highest achieving poor kids seem to be earning degrees at rates below our lowest achieving rich kids.” So while it is certainly commendable that the institutions highlighted in these reports have shown (sometimes very impressive) successes in closing the achievement gaps between racial/ethnic groups, they tell only half the story.