I am invested in, and emotionally responsive, to the idea of black people doing for themselves.
Yes. So many of us are. Including me. You can scroll back through the archives and look at my response to Obama's Father's Day speech, to his speech to the NAACP, and his invocation of personal responsibility. For those of us of a particular quasi-nationalist persuasion, the idea hits a sweet spot and lives in a long tradition of "doing for self."
The difference between Obama, on the one hand, and Douglass, Garvey, Ida, and Martin, on the other, is that the latter always paired "do for self" with a solid critique of race in America. When Ida Wells was attacking the "manhood" of black men during the height of the Red Summers, she was just as aggressively inveighing against American racism. Douglass's final autobiography is filled with a moral critique of his own community. But it's obviously paired with a recognition of the history and nature of racism.
Obama is only practically capable of delivering on half of that formula -- and it's a half that's very popular in the larger country. The self-help nationalistic strain of black thought resonates with how Americans think about themselves. Consider this:
For all of Malcolm's invective, his most seductive notion was that of collective self-creation: the idea that black people could, through force of will, remake themselves. Toward the end of his book, Marable tells the story of Gerry Fulcher, a white police officer, who--almost against his will--fell under Malcolm's sway. Assigned to wiretap Malcolm's phone, Fulcher believed Malcolm to be "one of the bad guys," interested in killing cops and overthrowing the government. But his views changed. "What I heard was nothing like I expected," said Fulcher. "I remember saying to myself, 'Let's see, he's right about that ... He wants [blacks] to get jobs. He wants them to get education. He wants them to get into the system. What's wrong with that?'"
Fulcher is a white police officer who should be plotting against Malcolm--but "do for self" resonated with Fulcher. With that said, "do for self" -- divorced from a critique of racism--has the convenient side-effect of letting white people off the hook. This is the version of "do for self" that Obama delivers -- a palatable black nationalism, inoffensive to, and uncritical of, white people. Obama's a smart dude, with a serious knowledge of black history. I suspect he knew what he was doing when he went on his bamboozled riff. I suspect he knows exactly what he's doing now.
I am not unsympathetic to his dilemma. There's simply no way he can be president and be honest with the country about race. The one time he tried it, during Gates-gate, he paid for it.
On top of that, Obama's very presence in the White House has deep symbolic significance to many African-Americans. There's an element of the black Left that would have that symbolism dismissed, and argue that black people have somehow been duped. I think that's wrong. Living with racism is hard. Living with the belief that racism has not changed, and never will change, is even harder. Obama is radical evidence that the latter claim, no matter how much we feel it, is false. That means something.
Of course the result is that Obama gets a pass, on policy, from black people, that Hillary Clinton simply would never enjoy. If you're in the business of pressuring the Democratic Party to be more progressive, this is a source of frustration.
So where does that leave us? Is it wrong for the head of the American government to speak as black citizen out of convenience? What do we say to the crowds of black people in Beaumont, Texas, who cheer his rhetoric on? I think there's something to be learned there. And yet I also believe in applying pressure.
I watch that clip in Beaumont and laugh. I don't know what that says.
The MIT economist Peter Temin argues that economic inequality results in two distinct classes. And only one of them has any power.
A lot of factors have contributed to American inequality: slavery, economic policy, technological change, the power of lobbying, globalization, and so on. In their wake, what’s left?
That’s the question at the heart of a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin, an economist from MIT. Temin argues that, following decades of growing inequality, America is now left with what is more or less a two-class system: One small, predominantly white upper class that wields a disproportionate share of money, power, and political influence and a much larger, minority-heavy (but still mostly white) lower class that is all too frequently subject to the first group’s whims.
As the president nears his hundredth day in office, he seems increasingly concerned about how he’ll measure up.
As he approaches his hundredth day in office, Donald Trump appears to be suffering—once again—from an acute case of presidential status anxiety.
In public, of course, he has labored to play it cool, strenuously insisting (and insisting, and insisting) that he does not care about the “first hundred days” metric that historians and pundits have used to evaluate the success of new administrations since FDR. Trump has called this milestone “ridiculous” and “artificial”—a meaningless media fixation. And yet, the less-than-laudatory press reviews seem to have left him seething. For evidence, look no further than the president’s pathos-drenched Twitter feed, where he recently took to vent, “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!”
In 1985, Neil Postman observed an America imprisoned by its own need for amusement. He was, it turns out, extremely prescient.
Earlier this month, thousands of protesters gathered at Washington’s National Mall to advocate for an assortment of causes: action against global climate change, federal funding for scientific research, a generally empirical approach to the world and its mysteries. The protesters at the March for Science, as scientists are wont to do, followed what has become one of the established formulas for such an event, holding clever signs, wearing cheeky outfits, and attempting, overall, to carnivalize their anger. “Make the Barrier Reef Great Again,” read one sign at the March. “This is my sine,” read another. “I KNEW TO WEAR THIS,” one woman had written on the poncho she wore that soggy Saturday, “BECAUSE SCIENCE PREDICTED THE RAIN.” Three protesters, sporting sensible footwear and matching Tyrannosaurus rex costumes, waved poster boards bearing messages like “Jurassick of this shit.”
President Trump, in an interview with Reuters, also said while he would “love to solve things diplomatically … it’s very difficult.”
President Trump says “[t]here is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.” The comments, which were made to Reuters in an interview, come two days after senior members of his administration, in a joint statement, tried to defuse tensions with the communist state, saying the U.S. remained open to talks.
Trump suggested in the interview that while he would “love to solve things diplomatically … it’s very difficult.” The subject of North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program has been a U.S. priority since at least the Clinton administration—though efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula began during the George H.W. Bush administration. But despite bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts undertaken by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, North Korea’s nuclear technology has improved, and many experts believe that it could be capable of firing a nuclear-armed missile that could reach Seattle in the next few years.
The House and Senate voted to extend federal funding for another week, averting a shutdown to buy more time for negotiations on a large spending bill.
Updated on April 28 at 12:05 p.m. ET
President Trump isn’t getting a health-care vote to mark his 100th day in office, but he won’t be saddled with a government shutdown, either.
The House and Senate voted in quick succession on Friday morning to extend federal funding for another week past a midnight deadline as negotiators try to reach an agreement on a large spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Democrats had briefly threatened to hold up the stopgap measure if Republicans tried to jam through their stalled American Health Care Act. But GOP leaders still can’t find enough support among their members for the proposal, and their decision on Thursday night to again put off a vote defused—for now—the shutdown threat.
If 2016 was the year of populist victories, there are signs this year will be different.
If 2016 was the year that populist protest triumphed in Britain (Brexit) and the United States (Trump), 2017 is shaping up as the year that political normality reasserts itself. Three events in three different Western democracies confirm that some of the familiar laws of political gravity do still operate.
The most spectacular of the events is unfolding in the United Kingdom. The Conservative party under Prime Minister Theresa May is rolling toward a crushing victory over a Labour party that veered to the hard left under Jeremy Corbyn. Corbynjoins radical views and stated sympathies with extremists—IRA, Islamist, and pro-Russian—to a personal befuddlement nicely captured in a Vice documentary that showed him autographing apples in permanent marker to distribute to admirers. (Who wants an autographed apple? You can neither eat it as a snack nor save it as a memento.) The befuddlement might be endearing were it not laid atop a paranoid management team staffed by the hardest of the British hard left. As an incredulous Politicoreported of Corbyn’s chief of communications, Seumas Milne:
“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.
At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages.
Recent border battles have once again redrawn the lines of the metro area.
On the Saturday before Election Day last November, Jason Lary, a former insurance executive, crouched on a rough patch of grass at the center of a busy intersection 20 miles outside of Atlanta in DeKalb County. Lary was holding a hammer, and he tapped carefully on the thin wire base of a campaign sign. “My hand is like Fred Flintstone’s right now because I banged my hand in the night,” he said, noting his latest sign-related injury. This hazard, though, was worthwhile: “If you don’t start [the sign] with your hand, it will bend. It takes longer—guys are 10 times faster than I am. But my sign’s still gonna be up.”
This was a non-trivial advantage for Lary, who for the past month had begun most mornings with a kind of ground-game whack-a-mole. He would put up signs under the cover of night, only to have his opponents dislodge them by hand or, when that failed, run over them with their cars. Nevertheless, Lary was feeling good. “My opposition? Worn down,” he told me. “They don’t even have any more signs. And I kept a stash, knowing this time was coming. This is not my first picnic with nonsense.”
Princeton freshman Tal Fortgang was right that "privilege" is a problem, but not about why.
Poor Tal Fortgang. (Well, perhaps “poor” isn’t the right word.) Not long ago, the Princeton freshman’s white male privilege was known only to those in his life. Then he published an essay about this privilege in a conservative student publication, arguing that because his ancestors had struggled, he personally doesn’t benefit from unearned advantage. If he’s not privileged, no one should be asking him to check his privilege, right? After all, some of his advantage was earned; he just doesn’t happen to be the one who earned it.
Because “privilege” is clickbait, Fortgang’s piece made the rounds, culminating in the New York Times interviewing his classmates about his privilege and whether he had, in fact, checked it. The consensus is that he did not. Fortgang’s privilege has now been checked not only by his classmates and Facebook friends but by the entire Internet.
All over America, people have put small "give one, take one" book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.
Three years ago, The Los Angeles Times published a feel-good story on the Little Free Library movement. The idea is simple: A book lover puts a box or shelf or crate of books in their front yard. Neighbors browse, take one, and return later with a replacement. A 76-year-old in Sherman Oaks, California, felt that his little library, roughly the size of a dollhouse, "turnedstrangers into friends and a sometimes-impersonal neighborhood into a community," the reporter observed. The man knew he was onto something "when a 9-year-old boy knocked on his door one morning to say how much he liked the little library." He went on to explain, "I met more neighbors in the first three weeks than in the previous 30 years."