Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Cities should shovel sidewalks—some do

You might think drivers and pedestrians have equal rights to free travel, but in Minneapolis, the city shovels streets and leaves sidewalks to property-owners. The result is that sidewalks are often challenging for the able-bodied and impassible for people with wheelchairs or strollers.

If the city took on the job, that would change—and the cost to taxpayers would be barely noticeable. As noted in Down shovels: the city should clear the sidewalks - Macleans.ca:
Sidewalk plowing appears to be one of the great bargains of municipal governance. Winnipeg, for example, manages to keep its sidewalks free from snow and ice for $2 million a year, or less than $7 per household. Try finding a teenager willing to shovel your driveway just once for $7, let alone a whole season.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A question identitarians don't ask: Why are poor white people poor?

Identitarians say poor women are poor because of sexism and poor people of color are poor because of racism, but they don't talk about why poor white people are poor.  Yet the number of white Americans who fail to benefit economically from white privilege is huge. In 2012, Robert Ross wrote in Poverty More than a Matter of Black and White:
Collapsing poor and black as if all poor were black and all blacks poor turns the “poverty” problem into a “race” problem.

The white poverty rate does run much lower than the black rate, just under 10  percent, one-third of the black rate. But the white poor outnumber the black poor considerably, 19 to 7.8 million. White people make up 42 percent of America’s poor, black people about 28 percent.

The basic numbers don’t change when we look at people living in extreme poverty, in households making less than 50  percent of the meager poverty line. Of the 20 million people who live at this alarming level of want and deprivation, about 42 percent are white, 27  percent black.
Because class mobility in the US is so limited, the ratio of white and black people in poverty has not changed since 1967, when Martin Luther King said,
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.
The identitarian understanding of capitalism implies that poor white people are too stupid to compete even though they have white privilege. Some identitarians admit that; see Two examples of black identitarians mocking poor white people. The idea that the poverty of poor white people proves their inferiority is probably as old as the idea of race. We have an example from 1833: Fanny Kemble wrote in her diary, "The slaves themselves entertain the very highest contempt for white servants, whom they designate as 'poor white trash'."

ETA: Every group in poverty has a unique historical reason for being there. Yet Martin Luther King knew the solutions are all the same: end poverty with Basic Income.

Recommended:

Mass Incarceration: New Jim Crow, Class War, or Both? – People's Policy Project:
Overall, this study supports the view of Cedric Johnson and others that mass incarceration in the United States is primarily a system of locking up lower class men—one which ends up disproportionately imprisoning black men, since they are far more likely to be lower class than white men. Racial disparities remain among certain incarceration outcomes, which are consistent with findings of other studies on this topic, but it is nevertheless class that is the predominant factor.
The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now:
At the heart of contemporary organizing is the notion of black exceptionalism. Contemporary Black Lives Matter activists and supporters insist on the uniqueness of the black predicament and on the need for race-specific remedies. “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza explains. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity and our resistance in the face of deadly oppression.”1 “When we say black lives matter,” Garza continues, “we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement [that] Black poverty and genocide [are] state violence.” This essay takes aim at this notion of black exceptionalism and lays out its origins and limits as an analysis of hyperpolicing and, more generally, as an effective political orientation capable of building the popular power needed to end the policing crisis.

The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now

The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now:
At the heart of contemporary organizing is the notion of black exceptionalism. Contemporary Black Lives Matter activists and supporters insist on the uniqueness of the black predicament and on the need for race-specific remedies. “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza explains. “It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity and our resistance in the face of deadly oppression.”1 “When we say black lives matter,” Garza continues, “we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement [that] Black poverty and genocide [are] state violence.” This essay takes aim at this notion of black exceptionalism and lays out its origins and limits as an analysis of hyperpolicing and, more generally, as an effective political orientation capable of building the popular power needed to end the policing crisis.

Sexual Victimization by Women Is More Common Than Previously Known - Scientific American

Sexual Victimization by Women Is More Common Than Previously Known - Scientific American

Friday, January 26, 2018

On servants, sidekicks, and partners, or why I don't put Lothar, Kato, and Tonto among the first superheroes of color

Superheroes have three kinds of companions, and the difference matters, especially when the hero is a white man and the companion is not.

The first is the servant, like Lothar and Kato when they first appeared. Servants may be very capable, but they rarely act on their own. They do what they're told. The relationship between a hero and his (or, rarely, her) servant may be friendly, but there is never a hint that it's a relationship of equals.

The second is the sidekick, usually a boy like Robin, Bucky, and Ebony White, or an adult like Jimmy Olsen, Tonto, and Doiby Dickles, or a love interest like Lois Lane and Steve Trevor. Sidekicks may be the hero's social equal, but they're not the hero's equal in ability.

The third is the partner, a character who is effectively the hero's equal in every meaningful way—see Superman and Batman, Hawkman and Hawkwoman, Captain America and the Falcon, Luke Cage and Iron Fist...

In the 1960s, heroes' servants were upgraded. Lothar and Kato became more like sidekicks than servants, and Chop-Chop became a full member of the Blackhawks. Since then, their writers do the best they can to make them partners, but even today, the best you can say about Lothar, Kato, and Chop-Chop (or Chopper or whatever they call him now) is they're treated with the respect a writer would give Lancelot or Will Scarlet, but they're still not King Arthur or Robin Hood. This attempt at creating a team from old newspaper heroes shows the problem: the white guys are clearly the heroes and Lothar comes fourth in importance:


So for me, Lothar, Tonto, and Kato are major characters in the history of superheroes, but they're important steps toward the creation of superheroes of color rather than fully-realized characters in their own right.

That said, Kato has effectively eclipsed the Green Hornet, thanks especially to Bruce Lee's TV performance. If I was publishing their comic, I would title it Kato and the Green Hornet.

Boosting Tonto and Lothar to full partnership status is more challenging—giving them equal billing would be a start. Lothar's enormously strong and an African prince as well; there's no reason he can't be as interesting as the Black Panther. But Tonto is saddled with a name that means "fool" or "moron" in Spanish, and while I suspect that came out of ignorance rather than malice—the name may have been inspired by the Tonto Basin in Arizona—it's a problem. I would be tempted to reveal that Tonto was also a man on a mission, so when he teamed up with the Lone Ranger, he chose a false name that amused him. When he completes the mission—perhaps by finding the people who killed a member of his family—he could reveal his true name.

Possibly of interest

Ask the Archivist: Meet MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN includes a very early example of Lothar saving a white woman in her boudoir, which had to have been considered daring in its time.

*

Friday, January 19, 2018

Obama, Derrick Bell, and the race reductionism of Critical Race Theory

A history of neoliberalism and identitarianism should include this moment:



And data from this: How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth.

And, of course, Adolph Reed's observation about Obama in 1996.

Relevant: The Man Who Changed Middle-Class Feminism, or Derrick Bell and Critical Race Theory, Where Racism and Anti-Racism Intersect

ETA: "Barack Obama's speech on April 5, 2006 at the launch of The Brookings Institute's Hamilton Project where Obama says that "most of us are strong free traders" and praises the goals of the Hamilton Project."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Amber A'Lee Frost summarizes socialist feminism

"The whole point of the socialist project with regards to feminism is to create the material conditions under which women can regard male bullshit as an avoidable trifle, where every man is an option, and if they're unappealing, you can sashay away to greener pastures." —Amber A'Lee Frost

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Step It Out, Nancy vs. Step It Out, Mary —on the folk process and Holly Near's misstep with a Robin and Linda Williams' song

Back before the internet, many songs effectively had no writers. If a song seemed traditional, people shared it assuming that's what it was. Albums were sometimes released with songs miscredited as "traditional" or with no credits at all.

Two of my favorite writers ran into this problem. Charles Vess decided to do The Book of Ballads, a graphic album with adaptations of folk songs written by fantasists, and asked Emma to write one. She chose one she loved, "The Black Fox".



Charles did the art, and just as the book was about to go to press, they discovered it wasn't trad—it was written by Graham Pratt. Fortunately, there was time to get permission and add an explanatory note in the book.

The same thing happened to Pamela Dean. She wrote "Owlswater" based on Stan Rogers' cover of "The Witch of the Westmorland", thinking it was trad, and learned after it had been bought that Archie Fisher wrote it.



And when Jerry Clark heard "Step It Out, Mary", he didn't know it was written by Sean McCarthy. It has all the elements of a great trad song: a European setting, a danceable tune, and a tragic ending.



Clark decided to write an American version with Robin Williams, which Robin and Linda Williams played. I love it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it shows how the folk process has always worked: songs from the old country are changed for the new.

In this case, the big change is the ending.



Holly Near covered it and engaged in the folk process herself: she added a final verse. Frankly, it's a mistake. She breaks a basic rule of great art: don't tell the audience what they're supposed to think. While "Step It Out, Nancy" has a feminist subtext, it's about another kind of injustice too, which Near's new verse omits.

But her version is otherwise fine, so here it is for your edification: