This “rethinking” program for Monday, September 19 will be the first of our new Monday series, in which the key premise (initially, for sure) is that nobody we know sounds very compelling on this old nexus of race and class in America.
Bill Clinton’s “race conversation” didn’t go long or deep enough. A lot of the post-Katrina commentary shows just how tired the old reflexes are. We will not be arguing for or against Big Government or George W. Bush’s heart. The invitation is out to callers and guests who can deal with a good deal of confusion on an old, intricate nest of realities, and who can voice their disappointments, doubts, rages and reversals in fixing on “the problem,” much less “the solution.” We want to hear minds in evolution, and thinkers we never met before. Suggest your best.
You can subscribe to a podcast of every Race and Class show here:
- Rethinking Race and Class, 9/15/05
With Marcellus Andrews and Leon Wynter
- Rethinking Race and Class: John McWhorter, 9/26/05
Continuing our post-Katrina conversation about race and class in America, with the black conservative John McWhorter, an inventory and maybe an argument about what’s worked and what hasn’t over the last 40 years.
- Race and Class: Glenn Loury, 10/3/05
Our series rethinking race and class continues, retracing the path from Black Power, the shout, to Katrina revelation of black powerlessness in the Superdome. Where we say all men are created equal, what’s to be done now to make it so?
- Race and Class in America, 10/10/05
In our continuing series on race in post-Katrina America, the intricacies of class — the realities, the rules, the built-in benefits and hidden costs — at the tangled intersection of money and melanin.
- Racial Inequalities in Healthcare, 10/24/05
The healthcare color line. In our ongoing conversation on race and class, how do we explain the persistently separate and unequal access to doctors and hospitals, or the startling disparities in health overall?
- Race and Class: The Artists’ Take, 11/29/05
They may be today’s James Baldwins, Billie Holidays and Langston Hugheses: the contemporary artists tackling race in their paintings, videos, writing and performances. It’s the artists’ turn in our weekly conversation on race and class.
- Race and Class: Hip-Hop, 12/12/05
Hip-Hop. It’s more than music, it’s the big cultural movement of the last 25 years… in black AND white America. From the Bronx to the Dirty South, it’s time to get crunk and put on your bling.
- Black Men In Crisis, 3/27/05
Black Men in Crisis: In our ongoing conversation on race & class, can we understand why black men are still left behind? Why is it that more than fifty percent don’t finish high school? Or that incarceration rates are seven times higher for black men than they are for white men?
- Black Men In America: Behind the Numbers, 4/03/06
Black men behind the numbers. Last week, in another race-and-class conversation, we looked at big-picture statistics. Now we get to the stories: of schools and prison, worklife and family. Stories that put a voice to the crisis, and some that question it.
- Race, Class and Prisons, 4/17/06
Race and class behind prison walls in America. For two million incarcerated adults and their families, prisons are not just punishment. They’re social insitutions that build, bend, and extend the fault lines that of the world we all live in.
- Race, Class and Racism, 4/24/06
Tracing the roots of racism. Something we’re born into? Something we learn? Ingrained or inculcated, what would it take to break a cycle as old as we are?
- The Day After Prison, 5/01/06
There are two million people behind bars in America today. Consider: what happens when they come back to the street? It’s a question that 650,000 people ask themselves every year.
- The Hidden Histories of Slavery, 5/17/06
The British uber-historian Simon Schama starts a new round with the best-kept secret of our Revolutionary War: that when slaves in America heard “give me liberty or give me death,” many of them ran to fight with the redcoats against the slave-owners.
- Ralph Ellison’s America, 5/01/07
Ralph Waldo Ellison: new light on the now canonical novelist of “Invisible Man.” Think of him as the Jackie Robinson of our high culture, and consider whether his integrated America of endless possibility has been affirmed or lost.
I was happy to hear by email today from one of my best, the economist Glenn Loury, ever an intriguing work in progress, recently relocated to Brown University. As always Glenn is a model of candor, smarts, modesty and at the same time emotional and social urgency. He writes:
“Rebuilding” is, of course, not just about bricks, mortar and a regional business development plan. It’s also about relationships, communities, and “imagining” a city afresh — imagining the city with poor people as an integral part of it. This is unlikely to happen without concerted political effort, and it is an act of imagination that the Bush administration will be especially poorly equipped, and disinclined, to undertake. (As one local Republican politician has been quoted to say (paraphrasing): “We’d been trying for decades to clean-up public housing in N.O. without success. Now, in one fell swoop, Katrina has managed to achieve that…”)
All of this raises genuinely profound questions: What was the “essence” of New Orleans? Who’s city was/is it, anyway? Wasn’t part of the “charm” of the old city it’s grittiness, which in turn rested on the presence of person’s about whom most of us have ambiguous feelings (fear, sexual allure, fascination with the risque, the grotesque, the forbidden…) Wasn’t there an “above board” and an “under the table” aspect of N.O. — as with any city for that matter — that is unlikely to appear in any urban planner’s portfolio, and that will be difficult explicitly to recognize/acknowledge (“ah, let’s see now, where will the hookers, hustlers and panhandlers hangout in the restored urban landscape;” and, “exactly how should we recapture the ‘charm’ of communities full of poor people while avoiding their socially undesirable ill-effects…?” etc.) Remember, that great and much touted American cultural achievement, jazz, emerged in part out of music that was performed for the entertainment of patrons at the flourishing bordellos of turn of the 20th century N.O…
In sum: neither the stake that poor black people had in the old N.O., nor their entitlement to a place in the new N.O., is well-proxied by their ownership of real estate, their insurance policy claims, or their political clout in this redevelopment and evacuee assistance project. (E.g., the Bushies now see a chance to impose every hair-brained social reform scheme that the Heritage Foundation or Manhattan Institute can come up with (vouchers this, enterprise that…) under the guise of ‘helping’ the dispossessed. Dems ought not to allow this to happen. But then, they would need a coherent alternative vision of social reform, wouldn’t they…)
Therefore, without the insertion of some explicit political values into the rebuilding process — values which affirm the aforementioned stakes and respect those entitlements — without such values, these folk will not be represented in the soon-to-be newly imagined city…
Glenn C. Loury in an email to Chris Lydon, 9.19.05
We got a couple emails last night from bloggers who have been writing about Katrina, race and class.
Sociology professor Rowan Wolf, who writes at his Radical Noesis blog, says:
I think that what is least understood about race in the United States is its institutionalized nature… Unfortunately, as a society we have defined “racism” as personal prejudice rather than part of cultural ideology and social practice. One area that starts challenging some of this is discussions of privilege.
If you are unfamiliar with that concept, privilege is an unearned “right” given to some groups simply because of their status. It operates at both an individual and collective level. It has been made invisible in many ways in US society, by defining privilege as the norm. For example, it is considered the norm to be treated courteously by customer service people. However, that may well not be the case if you are not white, nor white and obviously of the middle class or above…
If you start at Katrina and New Orleans, institutionalized racism is everywhere. The past of displaced share croppers – and their movement two urban areas, certain underlies both the demographics of New Orleans, and the disproportionate number of those left behind…
Rowan Wolf, in an email on 9/19/05
Marc Davidson, a preacher who writes at Branch In the Vine, writes:
Here is what I would like to see:
- What are bloggers that are white saying about significance of race and class in the slow response to New Orleans?
- What role is religion playing positively and negatively vis-à-vis race and class with concern to New Orleans in Katrina’s aftermath?
- Where are blacks and whites coming together on this issue, and where are they pulling apart?
- How are non-whites and non-blacks responding to what happened in New Orleans?
- What is happening with the black and white Christian communities in Houston and the rest of the country that seek to help the evacuees? Are they working together well to assist the displaced families? How are racial politics impacting those who wish to help…?
Marc Davidson, in an email on 9/19/05