Black Men in Crisis

million man marchThe reason why the girls do better is that, because they’re with the same sex parent, they have their mothers as role-models. … They grow up seeing a woman who is a very, very capable person. They boys say, ‘where’s the model of manhood?’ He finds it on the street.

Orlando Patterson on Open Source

In February the Washington Post’s Lonnae O’Neal Parker appeared on our feminism after Betty Friedan show to talk about how the “Mommy Wars” (deciding whether to pursue a career or opt out of the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom) just didn’t apply to black women in the same way that it might for many white women. It didn’t apply because black women have a completely different history of employment, property ownership rights, and educational opportunities. It didn’t apply because working black women must often help support family members who aren’t employed. But most interestingly, she said, because an estimated 40% of black boys born this year will someday end up in prison, it didn’t apply because staying home to raise healthy, well-educated, well-adjusted black men was an accomplishment in itself.

It’s a shocking figure, no? But is it more shocking than it should be, given we know how bad black men have it in America? Shouldn’t it be less shocking for precisely the same reason?

Starting last September we embarked on a weekly series about race and class in America. After a winter hiatus we’re resurrecting the series, and we want to start by talking about the specific and very scary plight of black men. We were inspired in part by this New York Times article which quotes a slate of new books and studies that all ask roughly the same set of questions: we know it’s bad, but how bad is it? And why? Why is it that more than half of all black men still do not finish high school? Or that incarceration rates are seven times higher for black men than they are for white? Why, even with the boom-town economic expansion of the 1990s, were black men basically left behind? And in the decade since the Million Man March challenged black men to take control of their own lives and empower themselves for change, has anything gotten better, or has it gotten worse? And how do you get around the uncomfortable meta-point, the famous line from W.E.B. DuBois: How does it feel to be a problem?

Ronald Mincy

Professor of Social Policy and Social Work Practice, Columbia University

Editor, Black Males Left Behind

Orlando Patterson

John Cowles Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

Author of recent New York Times op-ed, “A Poverty of the Mind”

Thanks DAM for this suggestion.

Christopher Rabb

Blogger, Afro-Netizen


Update, 3/27/06, 7:13pm

We asked our friend at the blog Angry Black Bitch (who has one of our all time favorite blog slogans: “Practicing the Fine Art of Bitchitude”) for her take on tonight’s topic. Here’s what we got:

Too often past research has neglected the impact of poverty, oppression and neglect on a person’s mental health. Personally, many of the black men in my world are clearly depressed and frustrated. Sometimes, this depression predetermines a situation. I have one friend who can talk himself out of taking a chance in 24 hours through a manic exploration of The Man, his boot and how it is forever planted on his neck.

Having said that, a lack of expectations within the black community is also a factor. We absolve bad behavior and have few, if any, consequences for mistakes. To be honest, we have moved to a level where words like ‘mistake’, ‘wrong’ and ‘poorly thought out’ simply don’t come into play.

I am anxious and concerned for my brothers. I long to come up with the quick answer, the motivational statement and the solution to what is clearly a crisis.

Internalized racism – the embracing of racist notions of our culture, low expectations and a slave mentality towards ambition.

Misogyny – the embracing of outdated roles of women, the blaming of black female empowerment for the current dysfunction in black families and the insulting disregard of black female achievement in the same time of the great black male crisis is rampant in some…not all…of these studies.


And then we have the brothers, the crisis, the unclear goals and the overwhelming apathy of our patient.

And, to reference Brother Martin Luther King, Where do we go from here?

Angry Black Bitch, in an email to Open Source, 3/27/06

Related Content

  • Open Source crew, those are some deep, imposing questions at the end of the teaser. For the most part I am inequipped to provide a worthwhile reply. But your first questions hit home: “…we know it’s bad, but how bad is it? And why? Why is it that more than half of all black men still do not finish high school?”

    I personally feel that education is a huge issue, and not just education in the abstract words of dead men, but the real-life, nitty-gritty, learning-between-walls. In fact, I think there should be an entire show devoted to the problems, but that’s an issue for another time. I understand that the reality is a complex interrelationship of many giant factors, like big ‘P’ Politics, big ‘E’ Economics, big ‘C’ Culture, etc. But I think it all starts with education. Or, less abstractly, with schools.

    Anecdote: (bear with me, I know I’m all over the place)

    A few summers back, you’ll all recall, the country was abuzz. Bombs were falling on Baghdad, our voters were polarized. The blogosphere was diffusing, with it prophecies that media, politics, thought, et al., would never be the same, that every single one of us would be changed.

    And then there were the inner cities.

    That summer I spent some time working with a Philadelphia area non profit group, taking donated old computers, fixing them up, and giving them away or selling them really cheap to poor people who demonstrated need. One of our poor people was the School District of Philadelphia. One morning, we installed one computer in every classroom in a typically run-down school, in a typically run-down neighborhood. So I went into basically every single classroom. And it was one of the most depressing sights I can remember. Other than the discolored desks, chairs, and chalkboard, the rooms were all completely bare. There weren’t any maps or globes, no cheesy posters with butterflies sentimentalizing education and dreams, no posters of the solar system – nothing. I’ve had the privilige to travel a bit, and I’ve seen schools in Brazil, and a lot more in India- never have I seen classrooms more barren or depressing.


    -Before any of these black men decided they’d drop out of school and become swallowed up by a life of crime, before they decided that the pursuit of learning and advancement held nothing for them, it was already decided for them. If the schools aren’t excited to teach them, the students CAN’T be excited to learn.

    -Technology has a way of ignoring the poorest members of society. Nowadays, whenever I hear of how wireless technology and blogs and iPods and TiVo are going to change the face of the nation, I think, ‘Wow, we’re really hustling to leave the impoverished behind…’ Basically, before blogs can change everything and excite everyone, students in city schools need to know how to use computers.

    I don’t think education can solve structural problems. But I know there is a sizable contingent here in the current batch of recent college graduates who, though capable of being doctors or lawyers or politicians, are taking up this challenge of educational inequity. Are there numbers to back this claim up? Is it at least doing something?

  • well, as an immigrant, i’ll say that massive immigration of hard-working folks from other parts of the world doesn’t help. one way to raise working class wages would be constrain the supply of labor.

  • nother

    The worst consequence from the cycle of poverty may the backlash within the community against people who try to rise from the cycle. I have witnessed remnants of this dynamic among my friends from Ireland, which I believe stems from that countries many years of oppression.

    From Stanley Crouch “There is also a crisis of ethnic identity that infects not only the black lower class but too many of the black middle-class young as well. Both groups have been convinced that being “authentic” does not allow for high-quality intellectual engagement in school, something that John H. McWhorter addresses in his book “Losing the Race,” but is a subject that has been written about and discussed for more than a decade.â€?

    Later: “The unconscious absorption of anti-intellectual defensiveness and minstrel ideas of authenticity can be understood by reading Robert C. Toll’s “Blacking Up.” Fox Butterfield’s equally profound “All G-d’s Children” argues that traditional attitudes among Scot-Irish in the South that sanctioned extreme violence in response to trivial insults began infecting Southern black men in the 1890s and are the root of the black violence we see nationwide today.â€?

    The sad fact is, even if some of these inner-city kids overcome the peer pressure and decide to explore their intellectual curiosity – the public school infrastructure is a mess.

  • elphaba

    I don’t think there is one answer to this problem. There need to be changes in many areas.

    I went to San Francisco on a trip with my niece, nephew and my two children. My nephew looks like a young black man. He was dressed in the usual baggy pants that he had to hitch up every two or three steps. (It was pretty entertaining when he was carrying the baby.) We made jokes that we had our own gang banger with us. We were stopped on a street corner waiting for a light, or a bus, and a police car turned the corner and slowed way down. My first thought was that the policeman was going to ask directions. I stepped forward thinking, a policeman asking directions of a tourist! He didn’t stop, but after looking at us continued on. Then it dawned on me that he was checking my nephew out. This is liberal, multi-cultural San Francisco. Small wonder so many black men get in trouble with the law.

    Education: This is an interesting one. Whenever there is a problem, education is supposed to come to the rescue. I don’t doubt that the inner city Philadelphia schools have a problem. How much would they have to pay a teacher to allow them to live a middle class existence in Philadelphia, or San Francisco, or other big expensive cities? What kind of classroom management support are those teachers given? There must be some reason why they don’t have good teachers in those schools.

    I worked in an inner-city school. Many of our kids came from environments of crime and poverty. We had decent resources and the teachers were committed to doing the best we could for our kids. Our kids walked into Kindergarten a year behind the kids from more affluent areas. We had a high transient rate. It wasn’t unusual for me to have a turnover rate of one third of my class. There was a lot of economic and family instability.

    How much of it is the responsibilty of the black community? I have read that other more recent african immigrants aren’t having as many problems as the first black americans.

  • The main factor for educational and, hence, job-market success is socio-economic position. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Ethnic/racial groups that make up the larger proportions of the lower socio-economic stratum will as a matter of course show lower rates of achievement. The growing income gap in the US (and in other countries) only exacerbates problems for poorer people. This is not quantum physics. The cycle of poverty born of historical and social conditions means it is extremely difficult to break the loop unless those conditions drastically change.

    This is where quantum physics starts to look easy. How do you change the conditions, not just for the betterment of a few, but for the many? Something (or someone) has to give. Here are some answers derived from my limited capacity.

    1) You could try to raise the base, by growing the whole economy and letting some portion trickle down to the desperate waiting at the faucet of need. Though the income gap would remain the same or worsen and you may also be plundering the world’s resources and distributing the income gap problem overseas.

    2) Or you could raise the total and distribute more fairly (I am not talking about handouts, but actually spending on education and family security rather than military and death). Of course there is still the larger issue of plundering the world’s resources and distributing the income gap problem overseas.

    3) You could lower the base (this gets really complicated in our present mode of production and consumption) and distribute all over the place.

    4) You could raise the issue every once in a while and ask why there is such a crisis.

  • nother

    The prohibition of drugs has created a “black� market that is simply too enticing. I work with many guys who are on work-release after serving time for drug offenses. Most of them have calmly told me that they will return to selling drugs when they get out. They say it in a way that tells me – “of course, I’m going to sell drugs.�

  • nother

    The strife in Iraq stems partly from the feeling of the people that the government does not truly represent them. The black man in America does not feel represented in our government. How can black men be expected to buy in to the system when they look at congress and see a sea of white? They feel the game is rigged from the beginning– so they must buy into their own game.

  • nother

    From my perspective as a white man, a big part of our problem is the fear of the black man. This fear has many faces. “Theyâ€? have the athletic prowess, “theyâ€? have the musical prowess, “theyâ€? have the sexual prowess – at least those are the stereotypes that are apparently ok to joke about.

    A recent anecdote of our fear that comes to mind is “Lil John� – you know – “Lil John� that new celebrity, the one who raped that young pretty white girl from Boston. If that young pretty girl had been from Roxbury and had been black, would that have been the front page war and the TV sensation that it is? BLACK man rapes and kills WHITE girl! Oh, that is the worst of the worst!!! Right? Our darkest fears are confirmed.

    The white community fears the black man and we have to figure out why and we have to come to terms with that “whyâ€?, and we have to move on. “Weâ€? as white people have to attempt to stop seeing the black man as the – other. The only way to do that is to change the “we.â€? How many times have you heard someone tell you about meeting/talking/or seeing/ a person downtown and they throw in that the person was black, when the color of their skin was not germane to the story. Throwing in that one word description can say so much – we need to get to a point where that one word description useless.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Eventhough it is obvious that this isn’t the entire problem, maybe a portion of it is culture?

    “Using a controversial distinction popularized in the black community by comedian Chris Rock, Brown says, “There are two types of black people in this world: There are niggers and black people. Niggers are completely terrified of education and change. They never want to change. No matter how much my brother and I wanted to help the niggers in my family, they never changed. No matter how much money we gave them, they never changed. They have very low self-esteem. My brother lived with me for two years, but he never wanted to change. Now he�s in jail for murder.”

  • Robin

    Interesting that no one so far has mentioned prison, or astronomically high rates of incarceration among black men as a factor for the sorry state of things. Nother did allude to the “war on drugs,” which a lot of people think has also become the war on poor (black) people. I had a great pre-interview Friday with Princeton’s Bruce Western, who studies the way going to prison impacts your ability to earn a living after you get out. It ain’t pretty folks, and that’s before you start talking about what the absence of all of these men does to the communities they leave behind, and to their families. We’re thinking about doing a follow-up show to this Monday’s show entirely about race, class and prisons – about the social problems they try to solve and the whole range of social problems they then create. (Western will likely be a guest on one or both of these shows). I’d love to hear people talk here about crime, the “war on drugs,” prison rates, etc., in addition to the great points people have made so far about education and culture.

  • fenixfacs

    Robin brings up a good point, every root cause discussed so far – education, family, culture, education, crime – are part of a negative feedback loop. Once someone (or a whole race / class of someones) is / are caught up in it, it is hard to get out of it.

    Even the article linked to above with its ancedotal example of culture admits that there are larger societal forces that produce the negative feedback loops – “The only time you felt precarious about your middle-class status was with the police. They didn�t see my class, only my color,” Watson says. This may be why black professionals worry more about things like police racism than direct threats like crime or tax rates�the main worries of their white neighbors.” [fenixfacs – this the famous example of “driving while black”]

    But I think that this article also introduces an interesting concept that should be discussed, and that is that it seems that one cannot simply lump all blackmen together in this discussion. The demographics makes it look like there is are subclasses within the black community.

    “Much of the black middle class, like its white counterparts, lives in the suburbs.”

    “Black professionals defy easy categorization. Many are like Lorna Holt, an independent television producer who lives in San Francisco with her husband, Eric, who is white and teaches in an inner-city Oakland high school. She understands discrimination firsthand.”

    “There is also good news. The black middle class has grown dramatically in size and wealth in recent years. Black buying power surged from $300 billion in 1990 to more than $500 billion today. The rapidly growing ranks of black managers, supervisors, technicians, and business owners represent “an army of potential role models and mentors to help those stuck in the cycle of poverty,” suggests Fraser.

    The number of black-owned enterprises nearly doubled over the last decade�five times the rate of new business creation for the country as a whole. There are more black millionaires than ever before.”

    So, it will be easy in this dicussion to fall back on old, tired arguements at both ends of the spectrum from “blaming the victums” to “its all societies fault” but the solution requires understanding and discussion of the actual situation and what can practically be done to accomplish the desired ends.

    As Otto Von Bismark, who was the inventor of the modern concept of govt social systems, said ” Politics is the art of the possible”.

  • DAM

    I just ask that you schedule a guest willing to talk abou the glorification of ‘thug life’ by hip hop culture and music and they way this has affected young black men. Any answer that leaves this out is seriously deficient.

  • tbrucia

    Maybe Malcolm X has more relevance than we thought, and Martin Luther King has less. But if no one remembers the story of Malcolm Little, what difference do the lessons of his life hold? And if the education and formation of Afro-American males is taking place in prisons, are there lessons to be learned from the Gulag or the labor camps of the World War II era? Or for that matter, Gaza…

  • Robin,

    Prison, of course, is a part of the negative feed-back loop. It is part of the societal structures that increase the likelihood of more of the same.

    This said, the question is why the US is persuing what Shelden and Brown call a “mean social welfare system” rather than one based on compassion, social justice and love? Or is it simply a societal cost benefit decision: policing, prisons, home security systems, gated communities, etc., are cheaper and more efficient than better schooling and other welfare systems that lift people out of the poverty trap in terms of managing social order.

    Shelden and Brown write,

    We find more and more of our citizens relegated to the ranks of what Marx once described as the “surplus population,” a population rendered unneeded or “superfluous” as far as creating profits are concerned. Along with more and more corporate “downsizing” there is the ominous disappearance of semi-skilled and unskilled jobs once filled by urban minorities, especially black males. But this group is still very much with us and, from the point of view of those in power, they need to be “managed” in some way. One way that has been used to manage or control this population is to confine them to inner city ghettos, while another way is to use the prison system as a mechanism of this form of “management.”

    Here is their excellent 4-part series, The New American Apartheid, by Randall Shelden and William Brown.

    Nikos, do we have memes at play here?

  • babu

    This is white hypocrisy folks.

    In the recent ROS “neoCon’, Unholy Trinity’ and ‘Hardwired’ threads, where many many inches of content were offered vehemently on the administration’s shortcomings w.r.t. class, race, imperialism, fundamentalism harnessed to oligarchic greed, etc., no one made any reference to the fact that the foundation this country is BASED on the concept of systemmatically annihiliating the millions of Firtst People who were already here and that we are the inheritors of all this ‘take’ and we now take it for granted. Jefferson, quoted elsewhere rapturously, is included.

    After mass-murdering the non-western, non-caucasian residents encountered here, the founders then involuntarily imported another set of non-western, non-caucasian slaves, whose very color and innocence conveniently ensured that they could not escape and ‘pass’ into the over-culture.

    The democratc idea we all refer to as the ‘American Ideal’ is about a hundred and thirty years old, at best and the tired and hungry the Statue of Liberty welcomed were intended to be white European next of kin. White rascism was and is the unmentionable official credo of this country. It gets played out in the dialogues about how much the upper class is willing to pay its servants to keep them showing up. Black women are very slightly ahead owing only to the chauvinism of white men, a practical reality.

    To sit here and say Black Men are in crisis is to disown how it happened, how recently it happened and who is responsible.

    It is we who are in crisis.

    Black men are now and have always been displaying a completely rational sometimes even gracious reaction to forced existence in a social construct which compares on many levels to the systemmatic degradation of ABu Ghraib.

  • Nikos

    Robin: I’ve been so busy in the Dennett thread that I haven’t had time to copy and paste your: “40% of black boys born this year will someday end up in prison�, and then, as a mere guttersnipe, say: this is inexcusable.

    This condemns the country’s social policies entirely. Locking up 40% of males of one arbitrarily categorized ‘race’ damns the country as a whole.

    Babu is right.

    My only other 2 cents worth is that Compassionate Conservatism is a hoax – and that ‘40%’ stat is my condemning evidence.

    It’s high time we begin to listen to the African American social specialists who offer plans to eradicate (over time, of course) the sordid legacy of slavery and racism.

    Especially since ‘race’ isn’t even real, for cryin’ out loud.

    It’s old, discredited false-science.

  • Keep it coming Babu. I was astonished in an earlier show on Seattle that there was not one mention of the First Peoples. Deleted!

    The only way to be shocked by the 40% figure is if you are going about your business and ignoring what has and is happeneing to maintaing the status quo.

    But in another sense, all the increasingly extreme measures used to contain the State of the dis-Union (incarceration, spying, fear mongering, impoverishment, immigration laws, etc.) is a sign of the crisis you mention.

  • the above should read….are a sign…

  • nother

    Robin, babu has a point. Horace Seldon, a well traveled white (octogenarian) civil rights activist in Boston, conveyed to me a fundamental idea that has stuck with me ever since. Horace talks about the civil rights struggle of the 60’s and how he and his (valent) contemporaries were attempting to deal with this problem of discrimination that black people had. Horace then talks about his most important revelation in the struggle, the realization that discrimination wasn’t a problem that blacks had, it was a problem that white people had.

    Discrimination is a white crisis!

    Robin, the name of this show would be more aptly titled – White People in Crisis. It took me a while to fully appreciate this idea, but white people must tackle this issue from the understanding that this crisis is a white crisis and the strategies for change can ONLY branch from this premise.

  • Nikos

    nother, I was gonna try leaving this thread mostly to others, but I can’t resist one riff off your 2:47 AM — “Black Men In Crisis; White Folks in Coma”

    (disinterest, that is)


  • reality_bytes_it

    ‘Marriage Is for White People’

    I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America. Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many — particularly in the black community — have dispensed with marriage altogether.

    But as a black woman, I have witnessed the outrage of girlfriends when the ex failed to show up for his weekend with the kids, and I’ve seen the disappointment of children who missed having a dad around. Having enjoyed a close relationship with my own father, I made a conscious decision that I wanted a husband, not a live-in boyfriend and not a “baby’s daddy,” when it came my time to mate and marry.

    For years, I wondered why not. And then some 12-year-olds enlightened me.

    “Marriage is for white people.”

    That’s what one of my students told me some years back when I taught a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in Southeast Washington.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Plan takes on ‘black-on-black’ crime

    Four council members seek $100,000

    BOND HILL – Cincinnati’s four black City Council members on Wednesday launched a campaign against the escalating homicides in the city, and said they want $100,000 to start it.

    The four council members – Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, Laketa Cole, Christopher Smitherman and Sam Malone – said it’s time for them, as young African-Americans, to step up. Three live in Bond Hill, where two killings happened Monday. And they said they’re tired of attending funerals for young black men slain in their streets.

    Of the 75 people killed in Cincinnati this year, 84 percent were black.

    “We are outraged with the number of deaths that have occurred in our community,” Cole said. “We have to put an end to it.”

    Cincinnati recorded its most deadly year since 1977, and 2003 was the fifth straight year that the city’s homicide total increased. The 75 killings marked a 12 percent increase over 2002’s 66 deaths. Based on Cincinnati’s 2000 population of 331,285, the city’s homicide rate jumped more in the last three years than the rate of killings in larger and historically more dangerous cities.

    Chief Tom Streicher has said at least 90 percent of the killings are related to drugs.

  • nother

    Thanks for that, reality bytes it. What a sad thing for a child to say.

    Robin, The Urban Institute is tackling this issue of prison reentry in a major way, with reports, evaluations, and ongoing studies.

    Some info from their site: Two-thirds of released prisoners are rearrested within three years of release. One and a half million children have a parent in prison. Four million citizens have lost their right to vote.

    -For more stats and links than you can shake a stick at, go to:

    A sample of incarceration stats from 2004:

    Black males: 4,919 per 100,000 residents.

    White males: 717 per 100,000 residents.

    South Africa under apartheid (1993), Black males: 851 per 100,000 residents.

    -There is a project out of Columbia University called Africana Criminal Justice Project. Written research on crime and punishment from some of our black intelligentsia.

    I found a great poem from Langston Hughes on their site:

    That Justice is a blind goddess

    Is a thing to which we black are wise

    Her bandage hides two festering sores

    That once perhaps were eyes

  • nother

    Who are the “enemy combatants� in this War on Drugs?

    At the Federal level, prisoners incarcerated on a drug charge make up nearly 60% of all inmates. Most of these persons are not high-level actors in the drug trade, and most have no prior criminal record for a violent offense.

    “Fifty years after the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, a new report by The Sentencing Project finds that there are nine times as many African Americans in prison or jail as in 1954. The current figure of 884,500 dwarfs the estimated 98,000 blacks in prison or jail at the time of the Brown decision.�

    The “enemy combatants� of this war are young black men.

    ““One day i’m gonna bust

    Blow up on this society

    Why did ya lie to me ?

    I couldn’t find a trace of equality

    Work me like a slave while they laid back

    Homie don’t play that

    It’s time I lett’em suffer tha payback

    I’m tryin to avoid physical contact

    I can’t hold back, it’s time to attack jack

    They got me trapped�

    -Tupac Shacur from his song “Trapped�

    People are finally asking what the end game is with this war in Iraq. People want to know how we win. Why are people not asking these same questions about the war on drugs? 20 billion a year to what ends?

  • reality_bytes_it

    Nother – the quote is an indication not of a problem with shild but of a larger issue with African American culture as a whole. Read the entire article ans see.

    And, if you read the article re: Black on Black crime, or many other scholarly articles on this subject, you will see that the number one beneficaries of the incarceration of African American males is other African Americans.

    If most black males kill other blacks in drug related crimes and most black males are incarcerated for drug crimes if follows that incarcerating black males saves black lives.

    Of course, this doesn’t address the problems of why abuse of dangerous drugs is so wide spread amoung that portion of society but the reality is just that.

  • mschwab

    Elizabeth Gould’s work on the relationship of neurogenesis (growth of new cells in the brain) to stress (which stops it) and depression (which comes on when it stops) sheds a totally new light on the social ramifications of urban poverty. When people are in a tough situation, they lose the ability to improve themselves.

    Additionally, society heaps expectations on them that are unintentionally racist, and send signals that largely negate the argument ‘an education will help you’. As long as employers discriminate so hard against blacks, it will be tricky to grow the proper respect for intellectual pursuits. But there are other ways to do that. Distributing CDs of this show by hand to people in poor neighborhoods, or schools, would be a great way to help change the anti-academic culture.

    No one should make the mistake of thinking that there aren’t anti-black laws in our nation. While its never explicit, when taken in context there are aspects of several codes that have marginal effects that add up. When you consider the disenfranchisement of felons you can see a lot in the criminalization of black people. Jeb Bush is merely the most visible example of this electorate-trimming. But those white folks didn’t anticipate the severe pathologies that now appear in all strata of our society, that they were creating by racializing things that weren’t naturally racial. Blurring the lines between things that are racial and things that aren’t created all sorts of perverse incentives for people of every race, without anyone even realizing what they were doing.

    Now our prison culture is just an outlet for poor whites to beat poor blacks under the socially-constructed premise that one is ‘guarding’ the other, when really they’re just professors and students in an anti-college. Prison won’t solve any of these problems until its based on education and therapy, rather than abuse and neglect. You might think that sounds expensive, but I think the expensive option is definitely the latter. I don’t want to pay with my quality of life. It is a myth that one race can get ahead by keeping the other back. It is a myth that one social class can get ahead by keeping the others back. And we need to dispel these myths so that our government stops shooting us all in the feet.

    Our nation is rhetorically in a place that should enable an elevation of colored people to equality. Elizabeth Gould’s work gives conservatives a great excuse to change their opinion about welfare and prison and drugs while saving a lot of face. And our literacy is at a level that empowers the truth more than ever before. The last obstacle is the politicians who think its prudent to keep blacks from voting too much.

  • mschwab

    Oh yeah. Ex-felons who get their right to vote back, recidivate at half the rate. Feedback effects are all OVER the place.

  • Nikos

    Alhtough this thread is chugging along nicely without much nonsense from me, I can’t help but react to “DAM�’s March 25th @ 10:37 PM –

    “I just ask that you schedule a guest willing to talk about the glorification of ‘thug life’ by hip hop culture and music and the way this has affected young black men. Any answer that leaves this out is seriously deficient.�

    It would be equally deficient to understand the genesis of this:

    White racism bred understandable resentment in oppressed and denigrated blacks,

    which bred Black Pride,

    which bred a reciprocal bigotry characterized by scorn of ‘those uppity Negroes’,

    which bred a more militant manifestation of Black Pride,

    which bred subcultural veneration of toughness and machismo,

    which bred ostentatious displays of macho-ism, recklessness, and daring-do,

    Which bred ‘thuggery’.

    As a white male, I am fully willing to point the finger of blame toward where it belongs:

    at me.

    White contentment to leave blacks to deal effectively unassisted with the ongoing legacy of slavery, bigotry, and to molder endlessly in economic inequality incubated the ‘thuggery’ that so concerns “DAM�.

    So please, white America, accept your responsibilities and do something.

    It’s the only decent thing to do – and the only way you’ll ever get over your fears of those ‘black thugs’.

  • babu

    “Of course, this doesn’t address the problems of why abuse of dangerous drugs is so wide spread amoung that portion of society but the reality is just that. ”

    I’ve always assumed that drug use is a sympton, a form of self-medication by a psyche in such despair that only the temporary alternate-reality is worth living for.

    Alcohol produces the same effect in other populations. There is a subtle, pernicious permanent negative effect on the brains of drug abusers which must affect the post-prison or treatment horizon. This ‘Crisis’ is an extreme subset of the victrim mentality…..which gets me back to the point of squarely addressing origins as well as symptoms.

    The origin of this problem is white rescism.

    This is a white problem. it anesthetizes whites when they hear it discussed only in terms of prison programs, job counseling and police gang units.

  • Nikos

    oOpS! re my 3:03 — “It would be equally deficient to ignore the genesis of this”


  • sidewalker: “Keep it coming Babu. I was astonished in an earlier show on Seattle that there was not one mention of the First Peoples. Deleted!â€?

    First of all I completely agree… keep it coming babu!

    Seconding babu is about the only comment I feel qualified to make on this topic except to say that however inanely and insufficiently I did actually mention Chief Seattle on the Seattle thread.

    “Then according to Chief Seattle his people have not left. They may be invisible but they are still around and wandering the streets. I imagine they may throw a wrench into the works from time to time. Who could blame them?�

  • DAM

    Get Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson on the show!

    Prof. Patterson has written something most timely on this subject. It’s in Todays’ NYTimes:

    The failure of social social scientists for reasons outlined by Patterson is clear.

  • DAM


    I largely agree that you can trace the current celebration of ‘thug life’ to white racism, although I might not agree with your particular account.

    In any case, things don’t have to be this way, white racism or not.

  • nother

    I read the article, thankyou. I tend to believe that the shift in marriage as whole is not that it may go away, just as a society we are pushing the age back. Of course this might be my own rationalization for being single at thirty three.

    You write, “You will see that the number one beneficiaries of the incarceration of African American males is other African Americans.�

    “If most black males kill other blacks in drug related crimes and most black males are incarcerated for drug crimes if follows that incarcerating black males saves black lives.�

    I respect your opinion, but the logic perplexes me.

    You’re talking about putting a band aid on a gaping flesh wound. The flesh wound is a system that fosters a cycle. Part of the cycle is the broken lives those incarnated men leave behind.

  • Peggysue,

    Above I was talking about the radio portion of the show, but thanks for correcting me and reminding me that I need to read more carefully.

  • Nikos

    DAM: we can agree to disagree. That’s fine with me, and thanks for your reply.

    My only substantive contribution to this thread is to suggest (tirelessly, if necessary) that white America’s contentment to mouth ‘Compassionate Conservative’ platitudes is really nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to evade responsibility (as babu so effectively alludes).

    Worse, it’s also another disingenuous attempt to ‘wish away the problem’.

    We’re willing to annually spend unprecedented fortunes on foreign misadventures related to our oil addictions, yet next to nothing on the incubated-by-neglect plight of our own fellow citizens.

    There’s a word for this kind of lapse into willing ignorance and neglect: ‘disgrace’.

    Lastly, it’s might hypocritical to excoriate symptomatic drug addiction while excusing our SUV-sucking oil addictions.

    I’m not saying you’re doing it, DAM – I’m saying we all are.

  • Orlando Patterson gets a lot right in that piece. I think a lot of people don’t realize that young black men want to live in a way such that they can respect themselves. A lot of them have seen their parents and grandparents put in lifetimes of honest work with good will. And they see the way that black employees are treated, regardless of how well they do their jobs, and they see how well off they are left in their retirement by the firms they helped build. There are some black professionals who can be role models and help kids learn about intellectual types of success, and that they are possible for blacks. Sadly these guys do not get as much attention as the high school athletes, let alone the collegiates and pros. As their ranks swell, if they are able to sieze cultural respect and admiration, to get a lot of lessons across in ways the kids can relate to their real lives, to speak about being black and successful in a way that acknowledges that there literally are obstacles that are unique for blacks, black students may be able to really improve their academics very suddenly. They will put effort and enthusiasm into learning if they see evidence that it will help them, especially if schools start teaching in a way that is sensitive to the reality of black life. A lot of teachers don’t imagine how much racism yong black kids see, and this can allow them to be unintentionally and unknowingly very insensitive, according to “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Dr. Beverly Tatum. A lack of proper role models and sypathetic teachers are huge, but beatable, obstacles to cultural change.

  • nother

    Nice 3:03 pm post Nikos, it was nice to see that thread of connections spelled out.

    It’s tempting to isolate certain symptoms of this crisis and judge – but one must step back and view these symptoms in the context of recent history. Brown vs. the board of education was only 52 years ago. There is broken shard from this oppression all around us and there is no rug to sweep it under. Sorry doesn’t cut it – we all need to look into the mirror and confront our own prejudices.

  • reality_bytes_it

    A Poverty of the Mind

    SEVERAL recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.

    The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960’s: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group’s cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.

    His conclusions are shared by scholars like Ronald B. Mincy of Columbia, the author of a study called “Black Males Left Behind,” and Gary Orfield of Harvard, who asserts that America is “pumping out boys with no honest alternative.”

    This is all standard explanatory fare. And, as usual, it fails to answer the important questions. Why are young black men doing so poorly in school that they lack basic literacy and math skills? These scholars must know that countless studies by educational experts, going all the way back to the landmark report by James Coleman of Johns Hopkins University in 1966, have found that poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.

    Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other. Joblessness is rampant in Latin America and India, but the mass of the populations does not turn to crime.

    And why do so many young unemployed black men have children — several of them — which they have no resources or intention to support? And why, finally, do they murder each other at nine times the rate of white youths?

    What has happened, I think, is that the economic boom years of the 90’s and one of the most successful policy initiatives in memory — welfare reform — have made it impossible to ignore the effects of culture.

    Orlando Patterson, a professor of sociology at Harvard, is the author of “Rituals of Blood: Consequences of Slavery in Two American Centuries.”

  • reality_bytes_it

    Nother – I can only point out what might be denial. The article with the quote ‘Marraige is for white people” has, as one of main sources, a black female who is a single mother because, it seems, that the black men of her generation want to father babies but not marry the mothers. That is is passing trend it is stable or growing.

    Also, I must point out what I stated above regarding the logic from the article on Black on Black crime is simply fact. It is a restatement of what is not what I wish it were.

    So, I am not proposing that prison is the answer I just presented facts a they are.

    And your statement “Part of the cycle is the broken lives those incarnated men leave behind” shows a willingness to overlook the fact that if these men were free is society they would simply “break more lives / kill more people” – most of them black I should remind you.

    I think the answer lies in prevention i.e. interceding prior to when these indivuals growing up to become who they are.

  • Nikos

    reality bytes it: the commentary at that NY Times link is astounding (in your 10:26). Thank you.

    I recommend it to all, but especially to anyone possibly provoked by the ideas exchanged between me and DAM.

    DAM, you’ll find it provocative — or had you read it before your first post in this thread?

    If so, good work!

  • The NY Times article that reality bytes it introduced (thanks) rasies a question (actually many). Why doesn’t the culture of incarciration dampen the culture of cool if so many black youths are going in and out of prison? I would have thought that those let out would have come back to their neighbourhoods and let others know how terrible the experience was. If this is the case, why don’t many hear the message or why do they choose to ignore it? Is it so cool to have done time? The article suggests that black kids want to be respected by white kids. Do white kids respect those who have spent time in prison?

  • malcom z

    I’ve been reading and holding back on my comments. I’m a black man with a different perspective. For one thing I’m not angry, just sad. I read your comments and I think that you are close to an answer but still lost in the unproductive patterns that have frozen progress in the past. It isn’t a white problem or a black problem. The problem has no color. It is our problem. I wish you could get Alice Walker on the show she could articulate this much better than me but let me try. We are all human beings with many beautiful differences. We inhabit a common planet, it’s our home. I was born into a family with a mother and a father. We were poor but we did not live in poverty. My parents didn’t have much of an education but they had dreams for their children they refused to let go of. We attended terrible looking schools but our parents made us study, do our homework, and mind our manners. We weren’t allowed to run wild. We were taught the value of responsbility. My father taught me that I must be responsible for my actions and my life. I got in trouble in school one day for fighting with another boy who called me a name. I felt justified. My father sat me down and told me this: Own up to your part in this. Take responsibility for what you did. I started to argue and blame. My father stopped me. He told me. In your life you are going to have a lot of times when people do things that upset you. You live in a society with rules. If you break those rules you will be punished. Just because someone else does something wrong doesn’t give you the right to do wrong. When you act that way you are wrong too. Whatever happens in your life look at it and take responsibility for your part in it. If you’ll do this you won’t be a victim, because along with taking responsibility for the bad things in your life you also get to take responsibility for the good things in your life and no one owns a man who thinks and acts like that. We were taught civics at home. If my father saw us litter he made us pick it up. It didn’t matter if the whole street was littered. Our home was small and in a poor neighborhood but it was clean and well kept with pride. We didn’t have black pride we had plain old pride, we didn’t limit it to a color. I now am a father with two children of my own. I’v taught my children the same things my father taught me. My children are doing well and I am too. I suggest you put away the statistics and just talk. The statistic we seem stuck on is: an estimated 40% of black boys born this year will end up in prison. We don’t have to accept this as a fact or even an eventuality. It only means we have to change, all of us. Be concerned for the poor boys and girls born this year that will end up in prison. Don’t accept it. The problem with many such statistics is they seem set in stone. It all adds to the feeling of powerlessness that is so pervasive in this world. Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t burden yourself with the sins of those who went before you. Start here and now and begin creating a new world where our babies won’t end up in jail. I am, I have two bright children who will do well because we prepared them. It’s not too late.

  • babu

    Orlando Patterson’s aptly named ‘Dionysian Complex’ describes a fully-realized self-destructive escapist complex fueled by generations of victimhood. Until the source is eliminated this and other parallel cultures will exist.

    Come on white people, let’s talk about how we just keep going along, going along.

    “I’m not a rascist. I just do what I’m interested in. If black people came to the [environment] meetings they’d be welcome. But they never come…”

    Right after 9/11 some of my white male friends joined the all-night protective vigils formed around the mosques in Seattle. They showed up and sat down on folding chairs and stayed. No explanations necessary or supplied. No big discussions, committees, analysis. The simple act of showing up said everything.

  • Nikos

    Malcom z: thank you. Please post more here, no matter the topic. By the next thread we’ll likely forget your ethnicity – which is probably one of the virtues of this forum.

    It might be a comparison of apples and oranges, but some of my earliest years were spent in a neighborhood of Wonder-Bread white Southerners who’d moved to Michigan to work the steel mills and assembly lines. They viewed the several recently arrived Greek families with suspicion – not with the outright bigotry a new black family would have faced, but, even so, we were a less than fully welcomed caste of incomprehensible foreign-language folks with skin the color of coffee with heavy cream.

    And yet, even under the scrutiny of that social microscope, our parents taught us all the same lessons your dad taught you.

    What most people who pre-judge on complexion don’t ever want to grasp is that your skin, or skull-shape, or nasal dimensions don’t alter the sameness of the emotion-life within. We all emote exactly the same, no matter where our more recent ancestors originated.

    Culture certainly can and does affect the way human minds work, but not even culture should ever excuse willful neglect of the unique human capacity for empathy.

    Now that we’re talking culture, here’s a remarkable one I’ve read about recently: the men pride themselves on their toughness, sail in collaborative yet competing groups to peaceful neighboring shores, ingest not merely intoxicants but violence inducing ones, and then run ashore together to kill, rape, abduct and steal.

    Dreadful, huh?

    Their descendants are called Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, and Russians.

    Culture sure can make men do the damnedest things!

    (Especially those involving peer-condoned use of psychoactive agents.)

    PS: Tavis Smiley this weekend on his weekly radio show had a brief, illuminating, and entirely relevant talk with Michael Eric Dyson, but the link isn’t up yet at the site( )

    I’ll post the March 24th link to the specific conversation when it shows up (probably tomorrow).

  • nother

    Thank you Malcolm z for your powerful comments, I appreciate them dearly. This is obviously an emotional subject and your words add some calm to the subject. Your dad was/is a man I would be proud to know.

    “Whatever happens in your life look at it and take responsibility for your part in it. If you’ll do this you won’t be a victim, because along with taking responsibility for the bad things in your life you also get to take responsibility for the good things in your life and no one owns a man who thinks and acts like that.�

    What a beautiful sentiment from your father. Your right Malcolm z, there is a colorlessness to those words. Someday I hope I can pass your fathers sentiment onto children of my own.

    Your post reminded me of powerful comments by Potter a few days ago about the 60’s.

    “Speaking for myself and perhaps some that I know, after the sixties ( even during) it became clear that we had talked and preached ourselves out and the only change that was going to be real would come from how each one of us lived our daily lives. And so many of us retreated to perfect our awakened selves, and raise kids who reflected our values. That’s what I and others I know did all these years. I gravitated to live more closely connected to nature and the land. Those short years of the late sixties were life-altering and what I learned then I am sure is reflected in every moment of my life.�

    Thank you Malcolm z, and as always, thank you Potter, both of your writings remind me to first control what I can control. If we truly walk the talk then maybe we’ll spread a little karma, maybe we’ll create a little change – one person at a time.

    Ultimately, your post reminds me of the maxim that I try to guide my life by: We are all much more alike than we are different.

  • nother

    Malcolm z, as important as personal responsibility is, is that enough to change an entrenched system of bias. MLK and his followers created change by taking on a much larger responsibility, a responsibility for all citizens of this world, including the ones yet to be born.

    My cry is that we are simply not done yet. Look at the alabaster makeup of our congress, and cabinet, our corporate board rooms, and media elite. Old white men galore!

    We have not reached MLK’s mountain top- we are only halfway up the mountain, stuck in some George – I mean gorge.

    Remember, race issues were not even discussed in the presidential debates. We are looking away from these problems hoping they will go away, but they are festering; there will be more Katrina’s.

    “Let me give you a word about the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle… Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the mighty roar of its many waters…�

    -Frederick Douglass

  • malcom z

    Nother, it all starts with personal responsibility. My father took personal responsibility for the care and guidance of his children. I have four brothers and two sisters, we were all raised to accept and take personal responsibility for our lives. Our occupations range from doctors to social workers. My father now has twenty six grandchildren, all of them have been raised with the same values. I think you can see that my fathers values and reach will extend far into the future. Our sense of responsibility doesn’t end at the front door to our houses, we just make sure those houuses are in order before we venture out into the world. We are all active in our communities. Dr. King did the same, he didn’t leave his family to fend for themselves while he was out changing the world. All I’m saying is start with yourself, then go change the world. Struggle against crime and poverty in your own neighborhood. Go out and work to get your neighbors to vote. Run for office yourself if you feel so inclined or support someone who wants to. Dr. King was a bright and shining star but it took lots of invisible others to help turn the tide. Things may seem slow to you but in my fathers lifetime he’s seen miracles. Rosa Parks was a tired little woman who one day just decided not to give up her seat, not a grand gesture by some measure but it made a difference. You do the same.

  • malcom z

    Babu, Since you brought it up, try inviting some black people to your environmental meetings. I’m sure you could find some who were interested if you tried.

  • nother

    Malcom z, I will take your words to heart.

  • Nikos

    I hope we’re not on the verge of a conversational ‘freeze-out’ akin to the notion that men aren’t welcome to discuss ‘feminist’ topics. Men must discuss feminism’s questions, or else they’ll never perceive the male chauvinism imbedded in the culture, and understand it well enough to act to change it and thereby erode its pervasive impacts.

    Here’s the link I mentioned last night (a short radio piece):

  • nother

    dispatches from the frontlines of war:

    I don’t wanna live no mo’

    Sometimes I hear death knockin at my front do’

    I’m livin everyday like a hustle, another drug to juggle;

    another day, another struggle

    I know how it feel to wake up f d up

    Pockets broke as hell, another rock to sell

    People look at you like youse the user

    Selling drugs to all the losers, mad buddha abuser

    But they don’t know about your stress-filled day

    Baby on the way mad bills to pay

    That’s why you drink Tanqueray; so you can reminisce

    and wish, you wasn’t livin so devilish, ssshit

    -Notorious B.I.G.

  • nother

    Reality bytes it, the tone of your words to my (tone-deaf) ears, sound sadly fatalistic. How do you feel about the idea of change? Do you feel that people have the capacity to change? I’m sure you do, but to what extent?

    Robin, if we are going to discuss prisons, I think it’s vital that we take a step back and analyze what we want from our prison system. Surfing through the web I am taken aback by the lack of debate on this issue. Somewhere along the line, we have let punishment/deterrence be the goal of incarceration, and the idea of rehabilitation now sounds like some fanciful notion.

    If you go to the website for the Massachusetts Department of “Corrections� you will find the following at the top of the page:

    “The Massachusetts Department of Correction’s mission is to promote public safety by incarcerating offenders while providing opportunities for participation in effective programming designed to reduce recidivism.â€?

    Does anyone really believe they are providing effective programs?

    On January 18, 1989, the abandonment of rehabilitation in corrections was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Mistretta v. United States, the Court upheld federal “sentencing guidelines” which remove rehabilitation from serious consideration when sentencing offenders. Defendants will henceforth be sentenced strictly for the crime, with no recognition given to such factors as amenability to treatment, personal and family history, previous efforts to rehabilitate oneself, or possible alternatives to prison. The Court outlined the history of the debate: “Rehabilitation as a sound penological theory came to be questioned and, in any event, was regarded by some as an unattainable goal for most cases.” The Court cited a Senate Report which “referred to the ‘outmoded rehabilitation model’ for federal criminal sentencing, and recognized that the efforts of the criminal justice system to achieve rehabilitation of offenders had failed.”

    The above and the following come from an article in the Washington Post by Jerome G. Miller, D.S.W’

    “Corrections is a system of extremes – debilitating prisons vs. ineffective probation/ parole. To use a medical analogy, it would be like asking a doctor for relief from a headache, and being told there are only two treatments – an aspirin or a lobotomyâ€? “Criminal behavior is no more unitary than any other individual or social malady. If the treatment options are so narrow as to be irrelevant, the likelihood of success is diminished. The simple mathematics along suggest that the chances of fitting the treatment to the individual offender are enhanced when there are more choices.â€?

    “Too many brothers daily heading for tha big penn

    Niggas commin’ out worse offthan when they went inâ€?

    -Tupac Shacur

    from his song “Trapped�

  • Raymond

    I find it fascinating that the two contributors who self-identify as being black, reality_bytes_it and malcom z, have contributed a view that seems to run against almost all of the other contributed views.

    In the context of discussing the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the disconnection of black youths from the American mainstream reality_bytes_it writes that there is:

    “… a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960’s: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group’s cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing.”

    Similarly, in reading over the other contributor’s views, malcom z writes:

    “I read your comments and I think that you are close to an answer but still lost in the unproductive patterns that have frozen progress in the past. It isn’t a white problem or a black problem. The problem has no color. It is our problem.”


    ” … it all starts with personal responsibility.”

    Now we have had this conversation before here at ROS. In particular, in contrasting the views of John McWhorter and Marcellus Andrews I wrote:

    “… it seems there are those like Marcellus Andrews, John Lewis and Ted Kennedy who look to the past: past problems of racial inequality and past policies that did represent progress. And there are those like John McWhorter who look to the future: future opportunities afforded by personal responsibility in spite of the human universal of racism.”


    “If the past of racial inequality can never be irrelevant, then the goal of a society in which race plays no material part is unobtainable.”

    This view, which agrees, as I read it, with the views expressed by reality_bytes_it and malcom z, has not been well received by the majority. In fact, in Chris’s post-game analysis of the show on which John McWhorter appeared as a guest, Chris wrote:

    “To my ears … brother McWhorter pays much too little attention to old, maybe worsening economic burdens on young black America, and too little attention to the engrained habits of racial preference — a.k.a. racism.”

    And so my question to reality_bytes_it and malcom z is why? Why does this majority view — that the problems blacks face is structural, rather than cultural, or that the problems blacks face are due to the engrained habits of racial preference rather the cultivated habits of personal responsibility — why does this majority view persist? And is this persisting view the problem, or at least a big part of the problem?

  • Those words posted at 10:26 were actually Orlando Patterson’s, not reality_bytes_it’s. But to my surprise, Orlando is also a black man. Having re-read his article, I still think he is only partly right. His point that cultural factors have a huge explanatory role in these pathological behaviors seems totally valid, but I think its a mistake for him to discount the role of socio-economic factors as a result of that revelation. The world that I can see is one where hundreds of factors are interacting to weave a whole ecosystem of disadvantages for blacks. Seeing a handful of these, politicians and voters are confused when their targeted reforms are hindered by the hundreds of factors they’ve chosen not to see. There is so much feedback in the poverty trap that reforms are beleagured by anything and everything their sculptors fail to account for.

    I sincerely think that anyone who really hopes to understand poverty will scroll up to my first post (3/26 2:31), where I linked the Seed article about new neuroscience, and read that article. It is terribly relevant to this issue, and it is a genuinely new contention that goes hard against much of the frustrated element that has celebrated moves like welfare reform. Also, to bring this conversation back to what I see as the most consequential and central element of the social problems we are facing, there is active and passive disenfranchisement of blacks occurring across our nation, and most people are a bit too oblivious to notice and oppose it. Although black musicians, especially those Brooklyn MCs, have drawn attention to it, their calls are not heeded, in large part because our government is being run for the benefit of the wealthy, and there’s no money for effective education. People who doubt that the temptation of disenfranchising blacks is really at work should remember how many elections can end near the 50-50 mark, and should watch the ACLU’s new ‘Democracy’s Ghosts’, which is available for free.

  • The NYT’s ‘related article’ that’s linked from Orlando Patterson’s op-ed is, I think, a better assessment of the issue. Three quotes that must be seen:

    “It hurts to get that boot in the face all the time,” said Steve Diggs, 34. “I’ve had a lot of charges but only a few convictions,” he said of his criminal record.

    “I don’t understand,” said William Baker, 47. “If a man wants to change, why won’t society give him a chance to prove he’s a changed person?”

    Men with criminal records tend to be shunned by employers, and young blacks with clean records suffer by association, studies have found.

    This reminds me of an argument I first realized when I was reading about Katherine Harris’ shenanigans in 2000 in Florida: The government should want to avoid a ‘once a felon, always a felon’ mindset but instead they are insisting on it. This criminalization of our burdened class is done for political reasons but those greedy pols don’t realize the massively negative consequences it has for all of us.

  • Nother, punishment and retribution (revenge) is at the very heart of the prison and legal system. Right there at the top is the death penalty. Look at the other countries that still use that threat/power of the state over its own citizens. One would not think of them as for the people by the people democracies.

    I greatly appreciate the suggestions that personal responsibility and integrity is important, but I wonder at the same time if this does not play to the ideology of competitive individualism. It is important to draw a clear distinction.

    Also, I wonder if focusing on “culture” is not just another way to avoid notions of racism and classism. The term has a far less edgy connotation and is safer for all to use. To talk of the cultural industry would seem more appropriate since it brings back into the idea of culture the element of class exploitation.

  • Seeing that Dr. Patterson will be on the show, I thought I should be more explicit about his points that don’t do it for me.

    “Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other.”

    There are a lot of expenses faced by the poor in the environment of taxation that is significantly regressive. People turn to drug culture for escape, for cash, and for respect. There may not be studies that have explained this but there’s lots of intuition that can do a pretty good job.

    “And yet America was able to dismantle the entire system within a single generation…”

    I’m not sure if this is right. There are still voting laws from that era if I haven’t misunderstood the ACLU disenfranchisement literature.

    “Sociological investigation has found, in fact, that one popular explanation — that black children who do well are derided by fellow blacks for “acting white” — turns out to be largely false, except for those attending a minority of mixed-race schools.”

    While I may be no authority, I think that this effect is particularly powerful because it acts at the margins. By dissuading the black students who attain the greatest academic achievements, it keeps back the majority even though it only works on a minority. In other words, the effect works much harder on the very smartest, and shouldn’t be underestimated for that reason.

    “Collecting transcripts of their views and rationalizations is a useful first step, but won’t help nearly as much as the recent rash of scholars with tape-recorders seem to think. Getting the facts straight is important, but for decades we have been overwhelmed with statistics on black youths, and running more statistical regressions is beginning to approach the point of diminishing returns to knowledge.”

    Here is the devaluation of one approach which I regard as very risky. Don’t give up any of the tools that will each play their role.

    By now you’ve begun. Looking forward to this very much!

  • Raymond

    Michael, thanks for the correction.

    The point I hoped to make was echoed when you indicated your surprise that Orlando Patterson was black. And that is what fascinates me. Why were you surprised?

  • kel


    Please don’t fall into the trap that solving this problem requires an infusion of new money. If the accounting is done correctly, the money spent improving education opportunities should be viewed not as an expense but as an investment. If done right, the benefits will be in reduced liabilities in the future. It is much cheaper to educate children than incarcerate adults!

  • Potter

    What about music and art in the schools ( as well as sports)?

  • kel

    NPR had a fascinating program earlier this month about a private middle school in some city that was teaching poor black students Latin and preparing them for an academic private high school in the same city. The report sounded very promising, Anyone remember the details?

  • Potter

    There you go- take advantgage of the culture….. work with what they are interested in…. let them feel their creativity.

  • malcom z

    I would like to see civics taught in school again, not just for black children but for every child. If our young men and women had some experience in some constructive activities that made an immediate and positive change in their neighborhoods they may begin to feel different about the places they live. It would, of course, involvement of the parents. I think if we need more positive images in the mass media of black people doing positive things in their communities.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Nother – You can’t have change unless you realistically understand where things currently stand and then using your “hopes” to inform how you want things change.

    Then, I find it interesting that we are ~ 40 mins into the conversation between the 2 guests and it seems that a majority of the conversation is about culture.

  • Nikos

    sidewalker: you’re a genius for this gem: “ideology of competitive individualism”.

    That’s perfect. Perfect. (Not very ‘Christian’ either, which says plenty about those who preach its putative virtues.) Simple clarity like that is why I, with my wooly-minded confusion, come here. Thanks!

  • Nikos

    kel (7:33) — right on!

  • reality_bytes_it

    Two-thirds of Blacks Would Pull Children from Public Schools

    If given a choice, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of black parents would transfer their children from their current public school to a charter school or a private school, according to a survey of 1,000 registered black voters conducted last June by Public Opinion Strategies for Black America’s Political Action Committee. A majority (56 percent) gave public schools only a C- grade or lower, citing lack of discipline, overcrowding, lack of learning resources, and crime as the biggest problems with their schools.

    Even though 82 percent of those polled called themselves Democrats, 40 percent said the Democratic Party has taken them for granted–up from 27 percent in a 2001 poll. The percentage of blacks who stated the Democratic Party has served them well dropped from 61 percent in 2001 to 49 percent in 2002.

    A survey of 1,647 black voters during September and October 2002 by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found those identifying themselves as Democrats had dropped to 63 percent from 74 percent two years earlier. Those identifying themselves as Republicans increased from 6 percent to 10 percent. A clear majority (57 percent) of those polled favor an education system “where parents get the money from”

  • kel

    I think that the economy of the 90s was too short to have a positive effect on poverty in this country. The poorest of the poor will require at least a generation (20 years) to reverse their circumstances, and to become “invested” in the mainstream economy. The past 5 years have been a time of slow growth, war, and economic contraction in many parts of the economy. Of course, the last hired will be the first fired and the cycle of despair will continue

  • reality_bytes_it

    Raymond – you asked “And so my question to reality_bytes_it and malcom z is why? Why does this majority view — that the problems blacks face is structural, rather than cultural, or that the problems blacks face are due to the engrained habits of racial preference rather the cultivated habits of personal responsibility — why does this majority view persist? And is this persisting view the problem, or at least a big part of the problem?”

    The answer to your question as to why this is the majority opinion is really why is the the majority opion on this ROS site. It is not the majority of the opinion out in the REAL WORLD.

  • Hey guys, lot of good stuff on the blog tonight — I’ve been fascinated by what malcolm z wrote — but we ran out of time to bring it up in the show.

  • reality_bytes_it

    Kel – the unemployment rate for African Americans is now at exactely at the same rate as at the heigth of employement during the late 90’s.

  • Raymond

    Nikos write “right on” … and of course education is better than prison. But what if it is not education? What if what we have always thought wasn’t right? Or wasn’t the whole picture? Then our hold on this explanation, or this explanation’s hold on us, prevents us solving the problem. How does one get to new explantions?

  • malcom z

    Raymond I just got here. I can’t speak for the majority but I can pass on my observations. I believe that the lack of a strong family structure (such as mine) is a big part of the problem. My sister is a social worker and she sees the same problems in white families, hispanic families etc. If I had been allowed to run wild as a youth I may have chosen to quit school and hang out on the corner. Children need some guidance. They need someone to guide them and set boundaries until they have enough experience to live on their own. I grew up in a black neighborhood. I was given a very hard time for not hanging out. Many young people I knew stayed out all night with no consequences to be paid.

  • The speakers tonight said a lot about the failed marraiges between blacks, and the children out of wedlock. I think the missing piece of analysis is that most of these lovers are not living up to each others’ hopes and standards. These people have been put in such bad places by the employment discrimination and educative failures that shape their lives, that they have less personality and inspiration to offer their partners. They are culturally conditioned to look for trivial traits, yes, but also they are disadvantaged in the development of truly attractive ones (like self-confidence).

    Also, women have a visible incentive to have babies by fathers who are less than willing – sometimes they succeed in trapping them into a family life. These family consequences are in many ways simply an offshoot of the larger problem. I think the problem there is only vaguely cultural and predominantly socioeconomic.

    Raymond, I was surprised that Orlando was black because of what I saw as casual dismissal of some very relevant concepts. I covered most of these passages in my last post. I also think that it is relevant that his heritage, possibly his childhood and young adulthood, are not of the United States, and he has experienced a distinct society that has different realities than ours.

  • Kel – I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that expenditures should be treated as an investment in our future, and we should set up our nation with programs that should make the greatest returns based on the lessons of social science and the visible trends we see in this decade. But your language seems to me to suggest that it might not be very expensive to do so. When you compare responsible welfare-statism with the ‘expenses’ of an unruly, unproductive, unhappy society, you can make a very favorable cost-benefit comparison. But I believe that effective reform will cost quite a bit of taxpayer money, and I don’t think we should shy away from that or regard it as a ‘political impossibility’. Again, I have to refer to Elizabeth Gould’s work and suggest that welfare may not have failed because it was too generous, but because it, like so many other government programs, was scaled back beyond the threshhold where it would have been effective.

  • Ellen McCarthy

    The public schools desperately need male teachers in the elementary area. Black men would be ideal, but any qualified male teacher in the elementary area who is dedicated, sensitive, intelligent and interested in the fine craft of teaching would have a tremendous impact upon young children who are fatherless.

  • Has anyone talked about how our persistent desire to get products and services at the lowest possible cost lead to the devaluing of people?

    Forget, for a moment, education, prisons, etc. We don’t value other people. Especially their labor. THere have been slaves since the beginning of human history, practically. Why? Cheap labor. If you want that coffe to be “affordable” you have to keep production costs down. We don’t care how much the person doing the labor pays for our consumption.

    As long as we want to be a consumer-centric society trying to get more for less, we will always create lower classes that are devalued to the point of dehumanization.

    Maybe we shouldn’t eat so much sugar….. We might regain a sense of humanity.

    Underfunding inner city schools, targeting minorities for arrest, prosecution and the death penalty, and then referring to people with a different color skin as a ‘minority’ are all part of a psyche of dehumanizing others so we don’t feel guilty about the price others pay so that we pay the lowest price we can force.

  • Raymond

    Michael, thanks for the reasonable explanation.

    But I am still wondering … is it possible that what you perceive as casual, he has in fact given some thought to and dismissed, or de-emphasized for a reason? Perhaps the reason is that he does come from a different culture, and this gives him some insight.

    Could not culture play some part? Could it be a large part? What if it was? Would this mean that there is nothing more to do? Not in my mind. It would mean that there was something else to do. Maybe something better. And that is why I think it is worth asking.

  • Raymond

    But, Allison, give up sugar … now that would be hard.

  • dwood37

    I have to say that I am absolutely appalled by even the title of “Angry Black B…” As an African-American male who was raised in a single-parent home with a mother and a grandmother who focused my brother and I on education, I am insulted by the use of the word “b.” It does, in fact, illuminate the many problems inherent in our race. All of us need to re-read,if we haven’t done otherwise, “When and Where We Enter.” This seminal book details the importance of the African-American FEMALE in holding our race together. God knows the MEN have done NOTHING to do this. When, as African-Americian men, are we going to finally get off our butts and take responsibility for our OWN actions as opposed to consistently blaiming everyone else for our ills? When are African-American females going to realise their importance to our civilization and STOP appropriating the language routines and rituals framed by males? Yes, of course the “state” has a role, but when DO WE have a role? Tell me?

  • dwood37

    Correction: The title of the book I mentioned is, in fact, “When and Where I Enter.” READ IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • dwood37

    I cannot believe this discussion!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so happy to hear all these privileged black men from the “inner city” talk about the ills of society–these guys don’t have a clue. Again, as an African-American male from the rural South, who did, in fact, attend and graduate from an Ivy League School TWICE, we were told to get off our butts and get it done!!!! There is NO question that racism STILL exists in America in a substantive way. But, again, I ask: Where do we rest at least SOME responsibility on us???????????????????????????????

  • dwood37

    Will one person on this radio program raise the issue of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY?????? And, please don’t give the lame excuse of “they don’t have a context or any role models.”

  • Raymond – indeed.

    Herein lies the problem…

  • reality_bytes_it

    Sounds like many African Americans on this thread would have liked to hear from Bill Cosby and his ideas about personal responsibility etc.

    Is cry of “victimization” dead?

  • dwood,

    you call for placing an emphasis on personal responsibility. I’m sure you also realize the need for structural change, too. They of course have to go together. We all are imperfect, which makes us interesting, but it means we need conditions that help us do the right thing and conditions that help us get back on our feet when we do something that harms others and ourselves.

    I’m just now dealing with a young lad, 19, who was baited on the street late at night on the way home from his part-time job. He didn’t like what the other guy, 23, said and they exchanged words and in the end the young lad punched the other guy, who was lying on the ground with a bloody nose when the police arrived. The young lad got taken into custody for 7 days and interrogated, mainly because he was dressed in the fashion of the day, gangsta wear, and his pride kept him from falling at the feet of authority and begging for forgiveness. He ended up going before family court (an adult here is 20 and over) and he was given a suspended sentence with probation of from 1-2 years, depending on his behaviour. He has to report to a probation officer and his record will be officially wiped off the books when he turns 26. He was suspended from jr. college for a year (he was about to graduate so they will hold his certificate) and lost the chance at a permanent job. He must also pay compensation to the guy he hit of about $2,500.

    He was in a sense lucky because he has a support network around him. His parents were beside him. His teachers have stood by him and fought to make sure he was not expelled. He could get a couple of part-time jobs, which will help pay off the money. On the other hand, the police, the courts and the college authorities were intent on applying the rules of personal responsibility. In court the judge said, be a man. Take responsibility. Don’t cause your parents trouble.

    These words are fine and hopefully the experience will teach him to think before he acts and to understand the repercussions of his behaviour. But the fact is he did something that many of might have at his age given the circumstances. He should have just turned a cheek and walked away from the abusive words but he didn’t. He had been bullied in jr. high school and this time he wasn’t going to be. He was being a man, in a different sense.

    Do we leave him to his own doings? You broke the rules, you face the consequences. It’s your personal responsibility. Or do those around him and, in a way, the greater community and society also help him learn and make better choices the next time. Isn’t it all of our responsibility?

  • Yes, mutual responsibility. Of course we are each responsible for our individual actions. That includes the thoughtless actions that lead to an environment that makes it an extraordinary effort to do “the right thing” in the most mundane situations.

  • babu

    I just heard the show, late here on the west coast.

    I’m VERY surprised that none of the speakers turned it around to origins and the necessity for white ‘personal responsibility’ and participation in solutions. Strret life is an emotional, psychic escape from demonization. The demonizers hold most (but not all) of the cards at this table.

    If money poured in for after-school programs, as in Patterson’s proposals, and if those programs did not include means for effectively sensitizing white kids — and their parents — to the subtleties of their personal rascism, if these programs were largely black on black, then I think there would be no net advancement in the underlying situation.

    As I said above, whites are anesthetized to their role. I’m non-plussed to hear intelligent blacks and other social scientists ignore the chance to state the obvious. The whole on-air discussion focused on the victims, I’m disappointed in Chris and the speakers.

    reality bytes it: “But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem, and their inability to come up with any effective strategy to deal with it.

    Are you referring here to the lack of attention to white participation in the problem? Individuals and institutional?

    dwood37: Who is the author of the book, ‘When and Where I Enter”? Thanks.

    malcolm z: I liked everything you said and was even envious. Your family seemed like a gently gilded cage to me. I had another experience.

    I grew up in a two-parent lower middle-class inner-city white family with parents who faught like beasts and a brother who was mentally disabled, dangerous and turned to crime because that’s where he fit in. It killed him at 19. I coped by pretending I didn’t belong to them. I had my own life from about nine or ten on. Since I was interested in art I found my own way to the public school where I could major in art, My art teacher got me more art lessons after school. I was horse-crazy so I snuck out to a stable where I cleaned stalls. Finally someone taught me to ride. At school I organized committees for what I thought we needed. Wherever I went doors opened if I showed interest appropriately. My parents knew nothing of all this, still don’t thirty years later. You could say it was my street life, but I always noticed and appreciated that I was rewarded and reinforced by the surrounding community on which I relied. I grew up thinking I could do whatever I wanted IN SPITE OF my family.

    malcolm z; “Babu, Since you brought it up, try inviting some black people to your environmental meetings. I’m sure you could find some who were interested if you tried.”

    In practical terms, where would you suggest I start looking? I have built playgrounds with black people for their neighborhood(s) but the natural intersection of black’s — and other minorities’ — interest in broad environmental activism eludes me. It is missed and would be a very strong addition.

  • Tatterdemalion

    I enjoy this show; specifically the topics covered. I want to make two observations, that I earnestly don’t intend as rude. One, Mr. Lydon interrupts his guests far too often. Two, the mic picks up his breathing including sighs and other forms of inhale/exhale. These two things together, make Mr. Lydon seem uninterested in his guests opinions and maybe even the show in general. Don’t know if you’ll read this, but I don’t intend to sound mean.

    And of course I know nothing about the radio business, I just know what comes from listening to public radio every day.

  • nother

    Tatterdemalion, you start out your post with the words “I enjoy this show.” Why look for a negative in something you enjoy. Take this precious post space to tell us what you enjoyed. One of us might build on what you what you write with what we enjoyed and we might even build on your enjoyment.

    I’ll try to say this in as few words as possible. This sphere that I cherish so much, this sphere that you have now entered, is a sphere lead by Mr. Lydon. He is the conductor on this train of curiosity and we are free to punch our ticket and get off or on at anytime. When you choose to ride a few stops with Mr. Lydon at the helm, you have to trust that he knows when to periodically stop and start the train (interrupt and ask a new question).

    The guests are usually experts in their field, each one of them could probably go on for 20 hours straight elaborating on any part of the specific subject. It is up to Mr. Lydon to keep the hour long vision of the show on track. He can only do this by interrupting. Personally, with my own conversations, I embrace interruptions. I see it as essential for healthy discourse, as long as it’s done in a tactful way.

    The ultimate irony about criticisms of Chris’s interruptions, is that his listening skills are his genius. It’s the critics who are not listening.

    Now to your second point. Mr. Lydon’s sighs are like music to my ears. He can say more with “hmmmm” then a hundred words. When you hear “hmmmm” you hear thinking, you hear, I’m not going to fill up this space with empty words; I’m going to ponder for a moment. I can’t emphasize all this enough Tatterdemalion. Let me give you an example. Instrumental music – take classical or jazz. Do you feel that emotions can be conveyed in music without words, with strictly sounds? The sighs and sounds of Mr. Lydon are conveying so much, only without words.

    Try to listen in a new way. You might find the enjoyment you experienced with this show, was only the beginning.

  • nother

    Allison, your 8:50 post speaks to the immigration issue as well. Our president just said openly that these are jobs that Americans do not want to do. Essentially saying, let the lesser people do them. Upon hearing those words, how can immigrants not feel, as you wrote, “devalued to the point of dehumanization?”

    Sidewalker, thank you for your story. I’m a little torn. On one hand he will be reluctant to settle disputes with violence; on the other hand the harsh punishment might make him resentful and angry, and ultimately violent again.

    What do you think sidewalker?

  • loki

    Great show! It might be helpful to listen to the young back intellectuals like Jeff Fergusen at Amherst. Perhaps, have Jeff in Conversation with Ilyan Staffens?

  • malcom z

    I’m interested to noticed the response here. One last post and then I have to go. I advocate personal responsibility. I also advocate a responsibility to community. All of my brothers and sisters live in other neighborhoods than the one we grew up in but we haven’t abondoned it or other areas like it. We work with our community and volunteer, working with children who weren’t as lucky as us. We bring our children and they help. Babu, my family situation may have seemed “guilded cage” but it was hard. We struggled together. We didn’t always have enough to eat. We still struggled trough the same streets as everyone else but we resisted. We didn’t accept what some ignorant people thought of us. We didn’t accept the place in society offered us we worked hard and got what we deserved. I give back to my community and race. I feel no guilt for having moved away. I didn’t want to raise my children in such a dangerous place. I still return and work for change. I don’t apologize for being intelligent or middle class. I suffered through being belittled as a “Tom”. There is a strong anti-education or advancement sentement in our community but I also work to change that. Our young people need examples of successful adults. I tell them they can be what they want. Babu, I don’t know where you live but don’t give up. If you truely want to involve black people in the environmental movement you will succeed. Try getting some children involved in litter removal. You’ll have to reward them with cookies and soft drinks at first but they will respond. I speak from experience. I’m sure the other good folks in this community can give you lots of good suggestions and internet resources. Now I must go. I’m not sure when I’ll return. My family and I are taking a long planned trip to Africa to see what we can discover about ourselves.

  • nother

    Good luck Malcom z, it seems you’ve already discovered more about yourself than most people.

    Your words are inspirational.

    I hope you will return to this ROS community with reports from Africa. It would be great if you spread our community to the place we all sprang from.

  • Nikos

    Babu: I suspect this is the book dwood mentioned:

    It seems indeed like a ‘must read’.

  • Sidewalker, thank you for your story. I’m a little torn. On one hand he will be reluctant to settle disputes with violence; on the other hand the harsh punishment might make him resentful and angry, and ultimately violent again.

    What do you think sidewalker?

    nother, my heart aches for this boy/man. The tension and anger in him after 7 intense days in custody was visible. He seemed like a caged tiger at times. He’s calmed down since and is focusing on his two jobs, but clearly there is more that troubles him and I don’t know if this ordeal will be a positive learning experience (god, I hate such words) or the source of rebellion against cold authority. He still does not want to talk about it much and though he tries to look repentful, I wouldn’t say he feels he deserves what he got. I, too, am torn.

    And thanks for that beautiful response to Tatterdemalion. Maybe he just needs to listen a little more and a little closer to Chris, who is a master at making his guests relax and open up. The world is strange, a mouthpiece like Rush gets 3 hours for his droning monologue and Chris gets 1 to converse on interesting topics with thoughtful guests and this community.

  • jilljones8

    it not what society is doing what are you doing? Amongs black men I see all these elaborate hand shakes hugs and nick name for one another. Is that the extent of black manhood. I’m not hating but I guess you assume things will work it’s way out. If you work your way up in this society, throught your good paying jobs and advanced degrees. But after you have spend all your doe on women and bling bling. the majority of you are getting bagged up and most of you look and cast the blame on who?

    Do you really look out for each other who is looking out for the women in your lifes on your job, in the streets, on the train, you see a man is judged by the way he treats all women of his hue. Regardless of her age, complexion, size, or shape. No one will respect you unless you repect your woman. Sociology 101

  • nother

    Jilljones8 – what?

  • Tatterdemalion

    Well nother, you sound truly dedicated. I respect your fanaticism, but suggesting that I am not listeneing because I hear differently than you is ignorant in and of itself. The nasal expressions of the dear host could be cut down by proper audio production. Free form Jazz? Wow. Okay.

    In that case I breathe a symphony in my sleep every night and would be glad to sell you the recordings.


    the tatters

  • nother

    Sidewalker, I love that you wrote “boy/man” about this 19 year old. Our societies put way too much pressure to be an “adult” on people of that age. We are sending 17 year olds to freakin Iraq for God sake! Take your 19 year old and all of his internal confusion and put an M16 in his hands and tell him to roam the hot streets of Fallujah. Do the math on that one.

    All I can say sidewalker is that I hope you read all of Malcom z’s posts. You will come away with a feeling that your small positive influence might help this boy/man in a big way.

  • Tatterdemalion

    By the way. I am in San Francisco and listen to Open Source at 2am. Is that a live broadcast?

  • nother

    Tatterdemalion, I am well aware of my ignorance, that’s why I listen to this show and read these threads. I looked up fanaticism in the dictionary and it reads “Excessive, irrational zeal.� If I had a nickel for every time someone chided me for my irrational zeal? When the Red Sox won the World Series and I through my beer in the air and hugged that strange hairy man next to me, I indeed exhibited “irrational zeal.� When the conversation with a few friends tonight became about the culture of the 80’s, and I proceeded to exhibit a few of my long lost (for a reason) break dance moves, there was irrational zeal in abundance. I honestly make it a point to only hangout with people whose zeal is more irrational than mine. I want them to challenge my zeal, make me rise and top their zeal.

    What is the opposite of irrational zeal anyway?

    Let me ask you one more thing. If your lover called you on the phone to convey beautifully, in the most heartfelt way, their undying love for you; and while they were talking there was some static on the phone line; would that phone static take away from the sentiment of your lover’s words? Why does some lack of “proper audio production� affect the enjoyment you said you had?

    I’m sorry if I said you were not listening, I only want you to listen in a new way. This is not your father’s public radio. This is different, this is challenging – for all of us. We are building this together – you included. I’m really just asking you to keep listening and reading for a while; you might come away with a different idea of what public radio is/can be.

  • nother

    I meant – Threw my beer! ugh!

  • Tatterdemalion

    Keep hugging your hairy men dear boy. The relaion of a lover on the phone and listening to Lydon is rather revealing. Don’t give it all away. Be subtle in your attraction.

    Regardless. Lydon needs to blow his nose before each show, pick out the forestry of hairs even. The rustle in the breeze of consernation.

    Response to your hypothetical: If my lover called me and interrupted me every four seconds, while otherwise breathing heavily into the phone with the severe exhalations of disinterest, I would hang up. Yes even on my dear hairy Lydon lover.


    All tattered in medalions

  • Tatterdemalion


  • babu

    Tatterdemalion; The show is live on the west coast at 4 p.m. Here are the links to CA sources of the show. It looks like you could go to the KNHM, KMJC or KPMP websites and find their streams for the live show at 4 pm. Or the KAZU site for a stream at 7 pm:


    Bayside, KNHM 91.5 FM, 4:00 PM [stream]

    Mendocino, KPMO 1300 AM, 4:00 PM [stream]

    Mt. Shasta, KMJC 620 AM, 4:00 PM [stream]

    Pacific Grove, KAZU 90.3 FM, 7 PM [stream]

    Sacramento, KQED 89.3 FM, 1:00 AM[stream]

    San Francisco, KQED 88.5 FM, 1:00 AM[stream]

    Yreka, KSYC 1490 AM, 4:00 PM [stream

    Come back.

  • nother

    Once in a while out here in the blogosphere, I unfortunately see a tendency that I would compare to car traffic etiquette. Some people are very brave with their comments and gestures when protected by a ton of metal. They courageously say things at 20 miles and hour that they would never dare say to that persons face. Our conversation has ended.

  • nother

    The above is directed to Tatterdemalion.

  • Thanks for the encouragement, nother.

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