Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ghettoside: How to Preserve the Status Quo

Ghettoside: How to Preserve the Status Quo
P. Schultz

This is an email exchange with a former colleague and friend that seemed interesting to me. 

Paul wrote: >
> Hey, what are you up to? Campaigning for Trump down in that swing state; maybe you are throwing your weight behind Clinton. It strikes me that there are two Presidential candidates that you would love.
 My freshman honors seminar is in revolt right now because I give open-book vocab quizzes on the assigned reading. If you look up a word, write down the definition in the margin or on paper, then you can use it for the quiz. The find this very nerve wracking. No joke.
> All the best, Paul

I wrote:
On Sun, Sep 25, 2016 at 1:37 AM, Peter Schultz wrote:
To my favorite former Assumption College philosophy professor:

I have already voted via absentee ballot cause I know the Republicans in N.C. will do all they can to make voting in person a miserable time.  But it doesn’t matter one whit as Trump is merely around to re-legitimize the establishment, which is about as inane and delusional as it is possible to be. It’s really funny how “Trump hysteria” has even made some people say, “Bush II looks good now.” And Obama? What a lie he has turned out to be.

We are presently in Montana and will be doing Yellowstone and Glacier National park for the next week. Retire, or as I like to say, “QUIT!”, as soon as you can. "Work if for suckers," as a good friend likes to put it. Spent two weeks in July with friends in Ireland playing links golf. Wonderful. Since then, I have had one round in the 80’s and the rest in the 70’s. A few months ago, I shot my age, a 69, one under par at Tanglewood. There is nothing like year round golf. And reading whatever I want. I only wish I had discovered some of this stuff while at Assumption as I could have really made Mahoney - and probably Gallager - nuts!

Yeah, our young, like the rest of us, are quite unable to cope with anything that jolts their/our comfortable lives. It struck me some time ago how our young, whom we so much like to disparage, are really little more than reflections of ourselves.

I use to get revolts in class whenever I proposed mandatory national service, military or civilian, their choice, after high school for a year or two. I loved it. And in this too they, the young, are just like the rest of us. Stand for our national anathema? Required. Serve your country? Optional. And I would love to witness the response of many parents of the young now if they were confronted with a draft. “What? You want my child to defend the republic against those jihadis? Are you insane?” You can’t make this stuff up.

But I am not worried because after our second Clingon presidency, all will be well with the world! Believe it! The bitch will nail those oh so evil Muslims and corral the greed on Wall Street. But I shouldn’t be so hard on those supporting Clingon II: After all, it makes perfect sense for well off white people to vote for her. It’s only the people in Kansas who are confused, I guess.

Let the games begin.


Paul wrote:

I had a retirement assessment done recently--maybe when I am 65, but likely 70.

Read Ghettoland by Jill Leovy. It really nails the dynamics of race and police without the blame game. Best read I've had in years. --Paul

p.s. I will be teaching an Ethics course--if everything goes right--at MCI Framingham, a medium-security women's prison, next semester. 

I wrote:

For “Ghettoside”: NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Economist • The Globe and Mail • BookPage • Kirkus Reviews

 Well, if all of these mainstream media organs loved it, it has to be filled with conventional wisdom to the brim. I will be sure to read it when I can. I am sure it will be as enlightening as I find the NY Times and Washington Post and Boston Globe these days. 😈

Paul wrote:

Don't let the populraity fool you. It seems the height of conventionality to reject something because certain people or groups accept or reject it. You can read the Introduction to REBEL NATION (don't read the entire book; it is overwritten--an article turned into a book) in order to get the American fascination with "being different from the mainstream" or "thinking outside the box" or being "unconventional" Indeed being unconventional is the most conventional of American conceits.

Leovy's book is filled with questions not answers. I am sure the Globe can isolate what they want, but the book is superb. --P

I wrote:

Thank you so much for educating me as to the meaning being unconventional, but I have thought it had something to do with what one was actually thinking, not whether one was “thinking outside the box,” to use a phrase that is meant to marginalize those who are being unconventional. I mean to describe Nietzsche as thinking “outside the box' seems an excellent way of dismissing Nietzsche rather than taking him seriously. “How quaint! Friedrich was ’thinking outside the box.’ Now that I understand that I don’t have to worry about what he thought.” Again, to say that Malcolm X was “thinking outside the box” is a way of marginalizing his thought. Which leads me to ask: If unconventional thinking is so “American,” how come so many who were or are unconventional are marginalized as they are, e.g., by being described as “thinking outside the box?” 

Such a description is merely a way of dismissing someone, not engaging with them, which in my experience in academe is how an awful lot of academics respond to those who don’t accept their arguments. 

But to remind you of what I actually said, not what you say I said: I said I would read “Ghettoside” when I can but was not expecting it to be anymore enlightening than the media that has endorsed it, ala’ the NY Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, all of which are “big house newspapers” that merely serve to underwrite the status quo. Nor do I expect much from a book that may be accurately described as “not playing the blame game,” as you put it. How any one can confront "the dynamics of race and police” without blame seems incomprehensible to me. Just that phrase, “the dynamics of race and police” has all the makings of an obfuscation that serves to perpetuate the status quo, that is, the racism that pervades our society and our establishment, from left to right. 

“When violent people are permitted to operate with impunity, they get their way,” Leovy tells us. “That’s what the criminal justice system is for.” Who is she writing about here? The police or blacks? My bet, she is writing about blacks. Nice example of “dog whistle” racism embedded in the phrase, “violent people.” What if those “violent people” were described as those “oppressed people?” Hmmm, that’s a different phenomenon altogether, isn’t it? 

Again, from the Washington Post review: "It [the book] should show why making policing more effective — while, yes, doing far less collateral damage — is an absolute necessity for helping those neighborhoods find safety and justice. When, to take one extreme, the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition in Madison, Wis., calls for the police to withdraw from the community and says that the method of interaction they want with the police is “no interaction,” we should see both why that is understandable and why it is deeply, deeply wrong.” 

I love how the reviewer throws in, almost as an afterthought “while, yes, doing far less collateral damage,” a phrase that is used to justify the killing of innocents both here and broad. Perhaps the damage isn’t “collateral,” but endemic to our racist society. 

And, ah yes: without the police, black neighborhoods are terrible places - hence, almost any collateral damage is or will be acceptable. Of course, with the police, they are or resemble occupied, apartheid spaces. I’m with the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition in Madison on this one. As Hedges pointed out, the police killings will not stop even when the “professionalization” of the police has taken place because that violence is endemic to our racist society and embraced by our establishment, both “left” and “right,” ala’ the mass incarceration facilitated by Bill Clinton, et. al.

But, boy, it sure must feel good to have good things to say about a book lays bare, allegedly, life in “the ghetto” - another “dog whistle” phrase - and yet ends endorsing more of the same. And this is oh so comfortable: Life in “the ghetto” isn’t our -  that is, middle, upper middle, upper class people - problem after all. The police will deal with it and we can go on with our comfortable lives. 

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