Saturday, August 29, 2015

Short Review of Between the World and Me

I read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates in one sitting.  It was a decent book.

Photo of Book: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Get this book for your library!

So many people have already praised it for its great writing and incredible erudition.  I felt really let down after reading his book because I was expecting so much more.

Mr. Coates is a good writer, but he is not a great writer.  His prose flows and I believe he has found his own voice.  However, the writing is not beautiful, nor is it creative or innovative in any manner.

In my opinion the most important aspects of this book are his insights on the black body.   African Americans, after all, were considered products to be exploited for their value as slaves.  Their (and latino) bodies are still used in such a way in the prison industry as explicated so brilliantly in Michelle Alexander's seminal work, The New Jim Crow.

He COMPLETELY neglects the fact that other ethnicities (besides black people) have race issues in the US as well.  I wouldn't expect him to explicate on these issues, but to mention them at least would give his writing a much more well rounded analytic style.

I found Coates' story about his friend's death at the hands of the police to be distant and not too empathetic, except that the writer realized he was not safe. from the hands of the police either.

His article on Prince's death is a good piece of work:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0106.coates.html

He doesn't get into the fact that he was extremely lucky to have a family background that valued education.  He has multiple generations of college graduates in his ancestry.  This is a great thing, but not addressing educational disparities in the milieu that is the US today is a mistake and will lead to bad analysis.

He also makes France sound like an escape from colonialism--which it can't be--as it is and was one of the world's colonial powers.

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates

I believe Coates is primarily a journalist, and that is good.  This book is a good example of journalist non-fiction writing.    However, I don't go looking for James Baldwin when I read nonfiction books by journalists.

I'm going to say that you should read this book and also buy it for your library though.  It is an important book, and it is written in a journalistically accessible style.




Sunday, August 23, 2015

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

The number one issue I encounter when dealing with racism on an organizational/institutional level is the lack of ability to put the organization's resources toward ending racism and the lack of diversity in the institution.

Old Glory
Many US Organizations state they value "diversity."  What does that mean?

Diversity, inclusion and equity aren't seen as an issue of sustainability for our organizations and institutions.   These issues are looked at like pinstriping on a sports car.  It seems they are not as important to our organizations as the engine, or even the tires of the car...

Our nation will not survive if we do not deal with the issues of race that exist in our culture.

Unconscious bias is built into most education, entertainment and other forms of information.

We need teams of analysts to investigate these biases, analyze them, describe them for laypeople, and prescribe fixes for them.  We need these teams within our organizations and in general society.

In the organization, these teams need autonomy in order to properly do the job of analyzing as objectively as possible.   They also need power in order to properly execute the changes they find are needed within an organization.

Organizations need to create such teams and give them the full support of the instead of just giving this subject lip service and keeping actions at the "cultural petting zoo" level.

Educating a diverse workforce and attaining the mission of almost any organization will entail that the organization work to meet the needs of a diverse membership and makeup.

Is it about money, or is it about fixing a broken system?

Indeed, if diversity, equity and inclusion were desirable goals for institutions from the US government down to our local community colleges and school districts, then these organizations would allocate and use their resources at the same level as other "crucial" goals and 'outcomes' of these institutions.

The thing is--these organizations almost NEVER allocate proper resources,  nor processes to achieve these goals.

These resources range in type from the will to create change (and deal with the consequences of those who are upset by said change), to spending money to train, and educate the members of the organization.

In the US our culture shows that it values something by how much money, or how much 'integrity' an issue, or thing has to us.

Don't tread on me flag
People are willing to stand up for their guns, but when it comes to POC--they don't seem to care.
This integrity, in the sense I am speaking about, is the will to deal with those of the dominant culture who might become upset by the appointment, or the recruitment of ethnic minority faculty, staff and membership.

I see people stand up firmly for their gun rights, for the right to fly their confederate flags, for the right to shoot someone if they feel their lives are in danger--yet when it comes to standing up for the lives of their fellow countrymen--all of the sudden--they are worried about offending people.

Denial is the current mental health state in the US.
"Why should I suffer!  I never discriminated against anyone, I never owned slaves!"

"Some people might get mad if we were to appoint POC faculty, or staff members!"  

I hear again and again.  

However,  they don't understand that POC are already upset.  That we deal with microaggressions on a daily basis, that we deal with fear and the knowledge that discrimination exists in our culture.


"Will it be us this time? " 

"Was that discrimination?"

"Did they really just say that?"

"Maybe they didn't mean it."

The hell POC live when it comes to race  in this culture.  The hell of sending your child out to school and not knowing if they will be judged according to what they do and who they are instead of the color of their skin, or by their accent is never acknowledged, nor is it even a reality to those with privilege.

Those in power don't care about the hell POC exist within when it comes to race and employment in the US.

They are more concerned with upsetting someone from the dominant culture.

They don't care one iota if we are upset...

That should send us ALL a really clear and strong message when it comes to rectifying the racial situation in the US today.
meth·od
ˈmeTHəd/
noun
plural noun: methods
  1. a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, especially a systematic or established one.
    "a method for software maintenance"

We need new methods and we need not be afraid of approaching our organizations with this knowledge in mind.

We need to stress that our organizations put their resources, both financial and spiritual toward ending racism in our organizations, toward achieving those lofty mission outcomes and toward achieving equity.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say!

Our organizations and institutions will benefit from this and we will achieve a return on investment that will be staggering--if only we have the courage to make our organizations put their money where their mouths are.

We must create some change with direct action and stop repeating the same things we have been doing for the past 30 years.

I know and understand that diversity is more than race, but I submit that within race exists a rich diversity.   That is to say, if one recruits a rich and large pool of faculty of color, then one will have a richly diverse pool in more than just race, but also of class, gender, abilities, and other measures of diversity that organizations use.  We need to work on race at the moment.

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