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The Design Thinking Movement is Absurd – Lee Vinsel – Medium
"A couple of years ago, I saw a presentation from a group known as the University Innovation Fellows at a conference in Washington, DC. The presentation was one of the weirder and more disturbing things I’ve witnessed in an academic setting.

The University Innovation Fellows, its webpage states, “empowers students to become leaders of change in higher education. Fellows are creating a global movement to ensure that all students gain the necessary attitudes, skills, and knowledge to compete in the economy of the future.” You’ll notice this statement presumes that students aren’t getting the “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they need and that, more magically, the students know what “attitudes, skills, and knowledge” they themselves need for . . . the future.

The UIF was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and led by VentureWell, a non-profit organization that “funds and trains faculty and student innovators to create successful, socially beneficial businesses.” VentureWell was founded by Jerome Lemelson, who some people call “one of the most prolific American inventors of all time” but who really is most famous for virtually inventing patent trolling. Could you imagine a more beautiful metaphor for how Design Thinkers see innovation? Socially beneficial, indeed.

Eventually, the UIF came to find a home in . . . you guessed it, the d.school.

It’s not at all clear what the UIF change agents do on their campuses . . . beyond recruiting other people to the “movement.” A blog post titled, “Only Students Could Have This Kind of Impact,” describes how in 2012 the TEDx student representatives at Wake Forest University had done a great job recruiting students to their event. It was such a good job that it was hard to see other would match it the next year. But, good news, the 2013 students were “killing it!” Then comes this line (bolding and capitalization in the original):

*THIS* is Why We Believe Students Can Change the World

Because they can fill audiences for TED talks, apparently. The post goes on, “Students are customers of the educational experiences colleges and universities are providing them. They know what other students need to hear and who they need to hear it from. . . . Students can leverage their peer-to-peer marketing abilities to create a movement on campus.”

Meanwhile, the UIF blog posts with titles like, “Columbia University — Biomedical Engineering Faculty Contribute to Global Health,” that examine the creation of potentially important new things mostly focus on individuals with the abbreviation “Dr.” before their names, which is what you’d expect given that making noteworthy contributions to science and engineering typically takes years of hard work.

At its gatherings, the UIF inducts students into all kinds of innovation-speak and paraphernalia. They stand around in circles, filling whiteboards with Post-It Notes. Unsurprisingly, the gatherings including sessions on topics like “lean startups” and Design Thinking. The students learn crucial skills during these Design Thinking sessions. As one participant recounted, “I just learned how to host my own TEDx event in literally 15 minutes from one of the other fellows.”

The UIF has many aspects of classic cult indoctrination, including periods of intense emotional highs, giving individuals a special lingo barely recognizable to outsiders, and telling its members that they are different and better than ordinary others — they are part of a “movement.” Whether the UIF also keeps its fellows from getting decent sleep and feeds them only peanut butter sandwiches is unknown.

This UIF publicity video contains many of the ideas and trappings so far described in this essay. Watch for all the Post-It notes, whiteboards, hoodies, look-alike black t-shirts, and jargon, like change agents.

When I showed a friend this video, after nearly falling out of his chair, he exclaimed, “My God, it’s the Hitlerjugend of contemporary bullshit!”

Tough but fair? Personally, I think that’s a little strong. A much better analogy to my mind is Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

When I saw the University Innovation Fellows speak in Washington, DC, a group of college students got up in front of the room and told all of us that they were change agents bringing innovation and entrepreneurship to their respective universities. One of the students, a spritely slip of a man, said something like, “Usually professors are kind of like this,” and then he made a little mocking weeny voice — wee, wee, wee, wee. The message was that college faculty and administrators are backwards thinking barriers that get in the way of this troop of thought leaders.

After the presentation, a female economist who was sitting next to me told the UIFers that she had been a professor for nearly two decades, had worked on the topic of innovation that entire time, and had done a great deal to nurture and advance the careers of her students. She found the UIF’s presentation presumptuous and offensive. When the Q&A period was over, one of UIF’s founders and co-directors, Humera Fasihuddin, and the students came running over to insist that they didn’t mean faculty members were sluggards and stragglers. But those of us sitting at the table were like, “Well then, why did you say it?”

You might think that this student’s antics were a result of being overly enthusiastic and getting carried away, but you would be wrong. This cultivated disrespect is what the UIF teaches its fellows. That young man was just parroting what he’d been taught to say.

A UIF blog post titled “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” lays it all out. The author refers to Fasihuddin as a kind of guru figure, “If you participated in the Fall 2013 cohort, you may recall Humera repeating a common statement throughout session 5, ‘By connecting to other campuses that have been successful, and borrowing from those ideas you hear from your UIF peers, it removes the fear of the unknown for the faculty.”

Where does the faculty’s fear come from? The blog post explains, “The unfortunate truth in [Humera’s] statement is that universities are laggards (i.e. extremely slow adopters). The ironic part is universities shouldn’t be, and we as University Innovation Fellows, understand this.”

Now, on the one hand, this is just Millennial entitlement all hopped up on crystal meth. But on the other hand, there is something deeper and more troubling going on here. The early innovation studies thinker Everett Rogers used the term “laggard” in this way to refer to the last individuals to adopt new technologies. But in the UIF, Rogers’ vision becomes connected to the more potent ideology of neoliberalism: through bodies of thought like Chicago School economics and public choice theory, neoliberalism sees established actors as self-serving agents who only look to maintain their turf and, thus, resist change.

This mindset is quite widespread among Silicon Valley leaders. It’s what led billionaire Ayn Rand fan Peter Thiel to put $1.7 million into The Seasteading Institute, an organization that, it says, “empowers people to build floating startup societies with innovative governance models.” Seasteaders want to build cities that would float around oceans, so they can escape existing governments and live in libertarian, free market paradise. It’s the same notion undergirding the Silicon Valley “startup accelerator” YCombinator’s plan to build entire cities from scratch because old ones are too hard to fix. Elon Musk pushes this view when he tweets things, like “Permits are harder than technology,” implying that the only thing in the way of his genius inventions are other human beings — laggards, no doubt. Individuals celebrated this ideological vision, which holds that existing organizations and rules are mere barriers to entrepreneurial action, when Uber-leader Travis Kalanick used a piece of software to break city laws. And then they were shocked, shocked, shocked when Kalanick turned out to be a total creep.

Now, if you have never been frustrated by bureaucracy, you have not lived.Moreover, when I was young, I often believed my elders were old and in the way. But once you grow up and start getting over yourself, you come to realize that other people have a lot to teach you, even when — especially when — they disagree with you.

This isn’t how the UIF sees things. The blog post “Appealing to Your University’s Faculty and Staff” advises fellows to watch faculty members’ body language and tone of voice. If these signs hint that the faculty member isn’t into what you’re saying — or if he or she speaks as if you are not an “equal” or “down at you” — the UIF tells you to move on and find a more receptive audience. The important thing is to build the movement. “So I close with the same recurring statement,” the blog post ends, “By connecting to other campuses that have been successful . . . it removes the fear of the unknown for faculty.”

Is there any possibility that the students themselves could just be off-base? Sure, if while you are talking someone’s body tightens up or her head looks like it’s going to explode or her voice changes or she talks down to you and doesn’t treat you as an equal, it could be because she is a demonic, laggard-y enemy of progress, or it could be because you are being a fucking moron — an always-embarrassing realization that I have about myself far more often than I’d like to admit. Design Thinkers and the UIF teach a thoroughly adolescent conception of culture.

Edmund Burke once wrote, “You had all of these advantages . . . but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society, and had everything to begin anew. You began ill, because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.” The brain-rotting … [more]
leevinsel  designthinking  2018  d.school  tedtalks  tedx  cults  innovation  daveevans  design  d.life  humerafasihuddin  edmundburke  natashajen  herbertsimon  peterrowe  robertmckim  petermiller  liberalarts  newage  humanpotentialmovement  esaleninstitute  stanford  hassoplattner  davidkelly  johnhennessy  business  education  crit  post-its  siliconvalley  architecture  art  learning  elitism  designimperialism  ideo  playpump  openideo  thommoran  colonialism  imperialism  swiffer  andrewrussell  empathy  problemsolving  delusion  johnleary  stem  steam  margaretbrindle  peterstearns  christophermckenna  georgeorwell  thinking  howwwethink  highered  highereducation  tomkelly  nathanrosenberg  davidmowery  stevenklepper  davidhounshell  patrickmccray  marianamazzucato  commercialization  civilrightsmovement  criticism  bullshit  jeromelemelson  venturewell  maintenance  themaintainers  maintainers  cbt  psychology  hucksterism  novelty  ruthschwartzcowan  davidedgerton 
10 days ago by robertogreco
A Place of Rage - Wikipedia
"A Place of Rage is a 1991 film by Pratibha Parmar. The film includes interviews of Angela Davis, June Jordan, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Alice Walker.[1] It discusses and asks for political action regarding racism and homophobia, linking the two issues together.[2] It was created to be aired on British television and it is 52 minutes long.[3]

The main interviews of Davis, Jordan, and Walker were filmed in the present day. Davis and Jordan discuss the effects of Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and other activists; as well as women's roles in black churches during the Civil Rights Movement and the outcome of the 1960s Black Power movement.[3] Parmar took a 1970 prison interview of Davis and intercuts scenes of poetry of June Jordan.[1] The documentary also uses music from the Staple Singers, Neville Brothers, and Janet Jackson as well as documentary scenes of the 1960s.[3]

The film title originates from how the interview subjects say there was a "place of rage" within black people in the 1960s where they collected anger from being oppressed and released it against the persons oppressing them. The interview subjects stated that by the 1990s this shifted to a sense of defeatism and internal repression characterized by drug use and resignation.[3]"

[on demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/aplaceofrage

"A PLACE OF RAGE, an exuberant award-winning documentary a film by Pratibha Parmar made its debut in 1991 yet it's content is still one of the richest and most cherished with interviews from Angela Davis, June Jordan and Alice walker. A celebration of the contributions and achievements of prominent African American women, the film features Angela Davis, June Jordan and Alice Walker. Within the context of civil rights, black power, lesbian and gay rights and the feminist movement, the trio reassesses how women like Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer revolutionized American society and the world generally.

‘A Place of Rage documents the lives and politics of three African-American women. Weaving a narrative of spiritual awakenings, political consciousness and poetry through powerful imagery of Angela Davis speaking, Alice Walker reading and June Jordan teaching, A Place of Rage works like a narrative poem. It takes is title from a statement from June Jordan where she tries to articulate how her poetry and her pedagogy emerges from a ‘place of rage” and builds into some other kind of articulation. The film is moving in its quiet intensity and fascinating in its portrait of three powerful Black artists.’
Judith Halberstam, Professor of English,Gender Studies and American Studies and Ethnicity USC.

Pick of the Week. L.A. Weekly July 1992
Winner of The Best Historical Documentary from the National Black Programming Consortium, 1992.

"This lyrical film begins the much needed exploration of the African-American women who sustained and inspired the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's. By shining an intimate light on some of our best known artists / activists Parmar eloquently reveals the power and poetry of the hidden faces. Her film is a visual embrace of who black women really are. " Jewelle Gomez

"A complex image is created of the times, its ideas, emotions, victories and losses...the kind of analysis historical documentaries on African American life sorely need." - Collis Davis, Afterimage"]

[via: https://finalbossform.com/post/184255759875/trinh-t-minh-ha-in-a-place-of-rage-1991-dir ]
pratibhaparmar  angeladavis  junejordan  trinhminh-ha  alicewalker  1991  racism  race  homophobia  rosapark  fannielouhamer  activism  civilrightsmovement  oppression  blackpower  civilrights  feminism  intersectionality  pedagogy  aplaceofrage  documentary  politics  poetry  blackpantherparty  blackpanthers 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
Black Flag - MTV
"On the History of the American Flag in Black Protest Art"



"But the arguments employed by some of Kaepernick’s defenders are themselves deeply flawed. I’m thinking in particular of those rallying to Kaepernick’s side on the grounds that the national anthem is simply a song, and the flag is just cloth — people who are offended by the protest are attaching unwarranted significance to both.

But to strip the flag of the symbolism it carries is also to sap the power of Kaepernick's protest. The flag is more than a piece of fabric — and that is precisely what gives meaning and significance to his refusal to venerate it.

The border separating protest and art is porous. Almost all protests have an element of symbolic performance. One device that sometimes distinguishes protest from "pure" art is the way protest relies on disruption and taking up space — occupying ground, blocking a road, interrupting a ceremony. (Some public artworks also incorporate disruption, of course, but it's no coincidence that these are often explicitly political.)

Kaepernick's decision to sit for the anthem did not rely on disruption. In fact, it was so unobtrusive that it wasn't even noticed the first time he did it. It relied on a symbolic act, one with enough room for interpretation that Kaepernick needed to spell out its meaning. His protest was a piece of performance art, and in staging it he blurred the line between art and protest. Kaepernick isn't just a part of the long line of black athletes who have used their platforms to speak out about political issues; he (unintentionally) inserted himself into the rich tradition of black artists who have invoked the American flag in political protest."



"In the late 1980s, Dread Scott presented a controversial installation that consisted of a framed photomontage of protestors and coffins draped with American flags, with the header "What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?" Below the photomontage he mounted a shelf with a blank book in which those who wished to participate could write down their responses to the the question. And laid on the ground, directly in front of the frame and book, was a 3-by-5-foot American flag. This meant that if you wanted to look at the picture more closely, or write in the book, the most direct way to do so was to stand on it.

In What Is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?, Scott demonstrated that it is much easier to confront America's injustices and participate in the project of building America into the country it should be if you do not see America as sacrosanct. After all, how can you fix what you don't think can be broken? How can you improve something that you believe is sacred? A sampling of responses written in the book sound like they've been pulled directly from the current debate. "If you don't like this country and you don't like our flag then get the hell out of here and go back home," reads one, sounding a lot like Donald Trump suggesting that Kaepernick "find another country." "The U.S. flag is a tool for continued oppression of People of Color throughout the world," reads another. Some responses claimed that Scott's artwork was disrespectful to the military, while others cited black American veterans who did not stand for the pledge of allegiance.

The tradition of invoking the flag in protest continues into the Black Lives Matter era. Last year, William Pope.L presented an updated version of his 2008 installation Trinket, an enormous and disproportionately long flag (54 by 16 feet), illuminated by giant klieg lights and set continuously waving by massive industrial fans — the kind used to create fake storms on movie sets. At the rightmost edge of the flag, the stripes are not completely sewn together, so that as the exhibition goes on, the end of the flag begins to fray and unravel from whipping back and forth, pulling apart the red from the white.

Trinket's hyperreal depiction of an America literally coming apart at the seams is powerful by itself, but it acquired new layers of meaning when Kendrick Lamar used it in the stage set of his performance at the 2015 BET Awards. Kendrick performed his pro-black protest anthem "Alright" atop a vandalized police cruiser, with Trinket as his backdrop. Even in the face of the shredded American social fabric, an economy "looking at me for the pay cut," and police that "wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho," Kendrick proclaimed a message of rebellious hope: "We gon' be alright." Kendrick Lamar's ragged Trinket, like Francis Scott Key's "Banner," is a flag of defiant survival.

Kendrick is able to write himself into the American flag for the same reason Kaepernick can write himself out of it — the American flag is a political object and its meaning is malleable and contestable. It is the banner of the federal government, and the battleflag of the American military, but it can carry other meanings that are just as potent. It is the symbol of the American dream, the American way, its values, its history, its principles, its traditions. But the flag isn't just a symbol of the America of our abstract ideals; it is one of the America that actually exists."
ezekielkweku  2016  colinkaepernick  protest  flags  us  sports  history  race  racism  military  nationalanthem  dreadscott  williampope.l  kendricklamar  1933  1980  civilrightsmovement  naacp  1964  discrimination  1969 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Sha Hwang - Humans, Labour and Technology - Video Archive - The Conference by Media Evolution
"Sha Hwang is an information designer whose work focuses on designing complex systems while staying human.

Sha is a cofounder of Nava, a team formed as a part of the efforts to fix HealthCare.gov that now works with government agencies to radically improve their services. In this talk he speaks about how tech companies enhance or subvert systemic abuse, who gets disrupted when disruption happens and how policy shapes technology, and vice versa"
shahwang  2016  organzation  civilrightsmovement  montgomerybusboycott  rosaparks  nava  technology  labor  displacement  unknownfieldsdivision  humans  policy  healthcare.gov  government  obamacare  governmentservices  systemsthinking  shipping  unions  containerization  malmo  theconference  lebbeuswoods  resistance  work 
august 2016 by robertogreco
In Praise of Impractical Movements | Dissent Magazine
"Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign has opened up a debate about how social change happens in our society. The official version of how progress is won—currently voiced by mainstream pundits and members of a spooked Democratic Party establishment—goes something like this: politics is a tricky business, gains coming through the work of pragmatic insiders who know how to maneuver within the system. In order to get things done, you have to play the game, be realistic, and accept the established limits of debate in Washington, D.C.

A recent article in the Atlantic summed up this perspective with the tagline, “At this polarized moment, it’s incremental change or nothing.” This view, however, leaves out a critical driver of social transformation. It fails to account for what might be the most important engine of progress: grassroots movements by citizens demanding change.

Social change is seldom either as incremental or predictable as many insiders suggest. Every once in a while, an outburst of resistance seems to break open a world of possibility, creating unforeseen opportunities for transformation. Indeed, according to that leading theorist of disruptive power, Frances Fox Piven, the “great moments of equalizing reform in American political history”—securing labor rights, expanding the vote, or creating a social safety net—have been directly related to surges of widespread defiance.

Unlike elected officials who preoccupy themselves with policies considered practical and attainable within the political climate of the moment, social movements change the political weather. They turn issues and demands considered both unrealistic and politically inconvenient into matters that can no longer be ignored; they succeed, that is, by championing the impractical.

Such movements, of course, face immense barriers, but that shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging their importance and highlighting the key role played by moments of mass defiance in shaping our world. Outbreaks of hope and determined impracticality provide an important rebuttal to the politics of accommodation, to the idea that the minor tweaking of the status quo is the best we can expect in our lifetimes.

Here, then, are three moments when the world broke open—and two when it still might."
socialchange  politics  policy  society  revolution  civilrightsmovement  us  bosnia  serbia  otpor  gaymarriage  markengler  paulengler  2016  environment  immigration  economics  humanity  evanwolfson  marcsolomon  egypt  resistance  protest  nonviolence  martinlutherkingjr  history  incrementalism  francesfoxpiven  berniesanders  grassroots  polarization  disruption  statusquo  laborrights  defiance  mlk 
june 2016 by robertogreco
[Easy Chair] | The Habits of Highly Cynical People, by Rebecca Solnit | Harper's Magazine
"In April 24, 1916 — Easter Monday — Irish republicans in Dublin and a handful of other places staged an armed rebellion against British occupation. At the time, the British Empire was the strongest power on earth; Ireland was its first and nearest colony. That the puny colony might oust the giant seemed far-fetched, and by most measures the endeavor was a failure. The leaders were executed; the British occupation continued. But not for long: the Easter Uprising is now generally understood as a crucial step in a process that led, in 1937, to full independence for most of the island. A hundred years on, some view 1916 as the beginning of the end of the British Empire.

This year also marks the fifth anniversary of the Arab Spring. It seems to be taken for granted that these uprisings, too, were a failure, since many of the affected countries are now just different kinds of dire than they were before. But the public display of a passionate desire for participatory government, the demonstration of the strength of popular power and the weakness of despotic regimes, and the sheer (if short-lived) exhilaration that took place five years ago may have sown seeds that have not yet germinated.

I am not arguing for overlooking the violence and instability that are now plaguing North Africa and the Middle East. Nor am I optimistic about the near future of the region. I do not know what the long-term consequences of the Arab Spring will be — but neither does anyone else. We live in a time when the news media and other purveyors of conventional wisdom like to report on the future more than the past. They draw on polls and false analogies to announce what is going to happen next, and their frequent errors — about the unelectability of Barack Obama, say, or the inevitability of the Keystone XL pipeline — don’t seem to impede their habit of prophecy or our willingness to abide them. “We don’t actually know” is their least favorite thing to report.

Non-pundits, too, use bad data and worse analysis to pronounce with great certainty on future inevitabilities, present impossibilities, and past failures. The mind-set behind these statements is what I call naïve cynicism. It bleeds the sense of possibility and maybe the sense of responsibility out of people.

Cynicism is first of all a style of presenting oneself, and it takes pride more than anything in not being fooled and not being foolish. But in the forms in which I encounter it, cynicism is frequently both these things. That the attitude that prides itself on world-weary experience is often so naïve says much about the triumph of style over substance, attitude over analysis.

Maybe it also says something about the tendency to oversimplify. If simplification means reducing things to their essentials, oversimplification tosses aside the essential as well. It is a relentless pursuit of certainty and clarity in a world that generally offers neither, a desire to shove nuances and complexities into clear-cut binaries. Naïve cynicism concerns me because it flattens out the past and the future, and because it reduces the motivation to participate in public life, public discourse, and even intelligent conversation that distinguishes shades of gray, ambiguities and ambivalences, uncertainties, unknowns, and opportunities. Instead, we conduct our conversations like wars, and the heavy artillery of grim confidence is the weapon many reach for.

Naïve cynics shoot down possibilities, including the possibility of exploring the full complexity of any situation. They take aim at the less cynical, so that cynicism becomes a defensive posture and an avoidance of dissent. They recruit through brutality. If you set purity and perfection as your goals, you have an almost foolproof system according to which everything will necessarily fall short. But expecting perfection is naïve; failing to perceive value by using an impossible standard of measure is even more so. Cynics are often disappointed idealists and upholders of unrealistic standards. They are uncomfortable with victories, because victories are almost always temporary, incomplete, and compromised — but also because the openness of hope is dangerous, and in war, self-defense comes first. Naïve cynicism is absolutist; its practitioners assume that anything you don’t deplore you wholeheartedly endorse. But denouncing anything less than perfection as morally compromising means pursuing aggrandizement of the self, not engagement with a place or system or community, as the highest priority.

Different factions have different versions of naïve cynicism. There is, for example, the way the mainstream discounts political action that proceeds outside the usual corridors of power. When Occupy Wall Street began five years ago, the movement was mocked, dismissed, and willfully misunderstood before it was hastily pronounced dead. Its obituary has been written dozens of times over the years by people who’d prefer that the rabble who blur the lines between the homeless and the merely furious not have a political role to play.

But the fruits of OWS are too many to count. People who were involved with local encampments tell me that their thriving offshoots are still making a difference. California alone was said to have more than 100 Occupy groups; what each of them did is impossible to measure. There were results as direct as homeless advocacy, as indirect as a shift in the national debate about housing, medical and student debt, economic injustice, and inequality. There has also been effective concrete action — from debt strikes to state legislation — on these issues. Occupy helped to bring politicians such as Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio, and Elizabeth Warren into the mainstream.

The inability to assess what OWS accomplished comes in part from the assumption that historical events either produce straightforward, quantifiable, immediate results, or they fail to matter. It’s as though we’re talking about bowling: either that ball knocked over those pins in that lane or it didn’t. But historical forces are not bowling balls. If bowling had to be the metaphor, it would be some kind of metaphysical game shrouded in mists and unfolding over decades. The ball might knock over a pin and then another one in fifteen years and possibly have a strike in some other lane that most of us had forgotten even existed. That’s sort of what the Easter Rising did, and what Occupy and Black Lives Matter are doing now.

Then there is the naïve cynicism of those outside the mainstream who similarly doubt their own capacity to help bring about change, a view that conveniently spares them the hard work such change requires.

I recently posted on Facebook a passage from the February issue of Nature Climate Change in which a group of scientists outlined the impact of climate change over the next 10,000 years. Their portrait is terrifying, but it is not despairing: “This long-term view shows that the next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.” That’s a sentence about catastrophe but also about opportunity. Yet when I posted the article, the first comment I got was, “There’s nothing that’s going to stop the consequences of what we have already done/not done.” This was another way of saying, I’m pitting my own casual assessment over peer-reviewed science; I’m not reading carefully; I’m making a thwacking sound with my false omniscience.

Such comments represent a reflex response that can be used to meet wildly different stimuli. Naïve cynicism remains obdurate in the face of varied events, some of which are positive, some negative, some mixed, and quite a lot of them unfinished.

The climate movement has grown powerful and diverse. On this continent it is shutting down coal plants and preventing new ones from being built. It has blocked fracking, oil and gas leases on public land, drilling in the Arctic, pipelines, and oil trains that carry the stuff that would otherwise run through the thwarted pipelines. Cities, states, and regions are making stunning commitments — San Diego has committed to going 100 percent renewable by 2035.

Remarkable legislation has been introduced even on the national level, such as bills in both the House and the Senate to bar new fossil-fuel extraction on public lands. Those bills will almost certainly not pass in the present Congress, but they introduce to the mainstream a position that was inconceivable a few years ago. This is how epochal change often begins, with efforts that fail in their direct aims but succeed in shifting the conversation and opening space for further action.

These campaigns and achievements are far from enough; they need to scale up, and scaling up means drawing in people who recognize that there are indeed opportunities worth seizing.

Late last year, some key federal decisions to curtail drilling for oil in the Arctic and to prevent the construction of a tar-sands pipeline were announced. The naïvely cynical dismissed them as purely a consequence of the plummeting price of oil. Activism had nothing to do with it, I was repeatedly told. But had there been no activism, the Arctic would have been drilled, and the pipelines to get the dirty crude cheaply out of Alberta built, before the price drop. It wasn’t either-or; it was both.

David Roberts, a climate journalist for Vox, notes that the disparagement of the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline assumed that the activists’ only goal was to prevent this one pipeline from being built, and that since this one pipeline’s cancellation wouldn’t save the world, the effort was futile. Roberts named these armchair quarterbacks of climate action the Doing It Wrong Brigade. He compared their critique to “criticizing the Montgomery bus boycott because it only affected a relative handful of blacks. The point of civil… [more]
rebeccasolnit  2016  cynicism  change  time  occupywallstreet  ows  hope  optimism  idealism  perfectionism  obstructionism  simplification  oversimplification  possibility  economics  justice  climatechange  keystonepipeline  patience  longview  blacklivesmatter  civilrightsmovement  politics  policy  conversation  easterrising  power  community  systemsthinking  standards  metrics  measurement  success  failure  dissent  discourse  uncertainty  opportunity 
may 2016 by robertogreco
Black America and the Class Divide - The New York Times
"The economic gap within the African-American community is one of the most important factors in the rise of Black Lives Matter, led by a new generation of college graduates and students."



"Consider them, instead, the grandchildren of Du Bois’s “talented 10th,” taking their cues, wittingly or unwittingly, from the challenge that he and the civil rights activists of the ’60s issued to black leadership. Many of today’s black activists are the children of middle- and upper-middle-class parents — the affirmative action generation — and may be realizing, as Charlayne Hunter-Gault put it to me, “that privilege doesn’t always translate as they thought it would.”

Despite the highs — the escalating successes in finance, business, public service, education and entertainment (think beyond President Obama and sports figures to the American Express C.E.O. Kenneth Chenault, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, and the queen of Thursday-night TV, Shonda Rhimes) — there have been far too many lows, too many moments in which we as a country have come face to face with the deprivation, disenfranchisement, marginalization and flat-out abuse of African-Americans at the socioeconomic bottom.

The disparity of opportunity plagues Black America perhaps even more starkly now, given its extremes, than the economic reality that motivated Dr. King to transfer the focus of his movement from civil rights to economic justice, as exemplified in his last, tragically aborted effort to mount a “Poor People’s Campaign.”

The childhood poverty rate for African-Americans remains stubbornly close to what it was the day Dr. King was assassinated; unemployment for black Americans runs nearly double that of the national average; and the distrust between impoverished communities and the police continues to spiral (helped in no small part by the fact that blacks make up more than a third of the prison population, compared to only 13 percent of the overall population).

And we still confront the question that arose the moment the first slave ships arrived: Do black lives matter?

It is into this whiplash environment of economic inequality that college students have come of age. They were youngsters when Hurricane Katrina engulfed New Orleans — for a time the ultimate symbol of inequality of income and opportunity — and teenagers when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. They have been consumed by a roster of recorded police killings of unarmed black men and boys since August 2014, when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo., followed by similar assaults in Staten Island, Cleveland, Chicago and North Charleston, S.C.

Black women and girls haven’t escaped injustices, either. We need think only of the young girl in the Mall of America who was restrained by a security guard or the teenager in South Carolina who was thrown from her desk by a school resource officer, or the 13 black women who testified against the former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was convicted of rape.

The nation’s African-American students are searching profoundly and visibly for a definitive end to racial injustice. College campuses, Du Bois’s proving grounds for the training and testing of social responsibility and leadership, have once again become a primary front in the battle against inequality — from “I, Too, Am Harvard,” a concept that has spread from Berkeley to New York University, to the principled protest of football players at the University of Missouri against racial insensitivity, to demonstrations at Brown and Brandeis, Princeton and Yale.

A number of administrators have voiced strong support for these protests as well as an institutional will to change, be it renaming buildings or re-evaluating the makeup of their student body and faculty.

Change, even at the symbolic level, is difficult, of course, and it remains to be seen what this current wave of protests will accomplish. Will the fight against police brutality, symbols of the Confederacy and society’s plethora of micro-aggressions become the basis of a broader movement for the improvement of underfunded public school education, for the right to a job with decent wages, and for the end of residential segregation that relegates the poor to neighborhoods with murder rates as alarming as those on the South Side of Chicago?

What is certain is that the outrage that led to Black Lives Matter and its spinoffs will be with us for years to come unless these legacies of slavery and Jim Crow become remnants of a racist past."
henrylouisgatesjr  race  us  class  blackamerica  education  blacklivesmatter  history  webdubois  jimcrow  civilrightsmovement  highered  highereducation  socialjustice  racism  economics  inequality 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS
"GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I had no idea what I was gonna do after I got my degree in philosophy in 1940. But what I did know was at that time, if you were a Chinese-American, even department stores wouldn't hire you. They'd come right out and say, "We don't hire Orientals." And so the idea of my getting a job teaching in a university and so forth was really ridiculous. And I went to Chicago and I got a job in the philosophy library there for $10 a week, And so I found a little old Jewish woman right near the university who took pity on me and said I could stay in her basement rent-free. The only obstacle was that I had to face down a barricade of rats in order to get into her basement. And at that time, in the black communities, they were beginning to protest and struggle against rat-infested housing. So I joined one of the tenants' organizations and thereby came in touch with the black community for the first time in my life.

BILL MOYERS: One of her first heroes in that community was A. Philip Randolph, the charismatic labor leader who had won a long struggle to organize black railroad porters. In the 1930s. on the eve of World War II, Randolph was furious that blacks were being turned away from good paying jobs in the booming defense plants.

When he took his argument to F.D.R., the president was sympathetic but reluctant to act. Proclaiming that quote 'power is the active principle of only the organized masses,' Randolph called for a huge march on Washington to shame the president. It worked. F.D.R. backed down and signed an order banning discrimination in the defense industry. All over America blacks moved from the countryside into the cities to take up jobs — the first time in 400 years — says Grace Lee Boggs, that black men could bring home a regular paycheck.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And when I saw what a movement could do, I said, "Boy, that's what I wanna do with my life."

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It was just amazing. I mean, how you have to take advantage of a crisis in the system and in the government and also press to meet the needs of the people who are struggling for dignity. I mean, that's very tricky.

BILL MOYERS: It does take moral force to make political decisions possible.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yeah. and I think that too much of our emphasis on struggle has simply been in terms of confrontation and not enough recognition of how much spiritual and moral force is involved in the people who are struggling.

BILL MOYERS: Well, that's true. But power never gives up anything voluntarily. People have to ask for it. They have to demand it. They have-to--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, you know as Douglas said, "Power yields nothing without a struggle." But how one struggles I think is now a very challenging question.

BILL MOYERS: She would learn a lot more about struggle from the man she married in 1952 — Jimmy Boggs, a radical activist, organizer, and writer. They couldn't have been outwardly more different — he was a black man, an auto worker and she was a Chinese-American, college educated philosopher — but they were kindred spirits, and their marriage lasted four decades until his death.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think that I owe a great deal of my rootedness to Jimmy because he learned to write and become a writer because in his illiterate community nobody could read and write. He picked cotton, and then went to work in Detroit. He saw himself as having been part of one epoch, the agriculture epoch, and now the industrial epoch, and now the post-industrial epoch. I think that's a very important part of what we need in this country, is that sense that we have lived through so many stages, and that we are entering into a new stage where we could create something completely different. Jimmy had that feeling. "



"BILL MOYERS: And you think that this question of work was at the heart of what happened-- or it was part of what happened in Detroit that summer?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't think it's that they were conscious of it, but I thought-- what I saw happen was that young people who recognized that working in the factory was what had allowed their parents to buy a house, to raise a family, to get married, to send their kids to school, that was eroding. They felt that-- no one cares anymore.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it's the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it's not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?"



"BILL MOYERS: The conundrum for me is this; The war in Vietnam continued another seven years after Martin Luther King's great speech at Riverside here in New York City on April 4th, 1967. His moral argument did not take hold with the powers-that-be.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't expect moral arguments to take hold with the powers-that-be. They are in their positions of power. They are part of the system. They are part of the problem.

BILL MOYERS: Then do moral arguments have any force if they--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Of course they do.

BILL MOYERS: If they can be so heedlessly ignored?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think because we depend too much on the government to do it. I think we're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments--

BILL MOYERS: But wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: There's big changes--

BILL MOYERS: Wars do. Wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Wars do. But positive changes leaps forward in the evolution of human kind, do not start with governments. I think that's what the Civil Rights Movement taught us.

BILL MOYERS: But Martin Luther King was ignored then on the war. In fact, the last few years of his life, as he was moving beyond the protest in the South, and the end of official segregation, he was largely ignored if not ridiculed for his position on economic equality. Upon doing something about poverty. And, in fact, many civil rights leaders, as you remember, Grace, condemned him for mixing foreign policy with civil rights. They said; That's not what we should be about.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: But see, what I hear in what you're saying is a separation of the anti-war speech of the peace trajectory, from the other things that Martin said. He was talking about a radical revolution of values. And that radical revolution of values has not been pursued in the last forty years. The consumerism, and materialism, has gotten worse. The militarism has continued, while people are going around, you know just using their credit cards. All that's been taking place. And so, would he have continued to challenge those? I think he would. But on the whole, our society has not been challenging those, except in small pockets.

BILL MOYERS: He said that the three triplets of society in America were; Racism, consumerism or materialism and militarism. And you're saying those haven't changed.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I'm saying that not only have those not changed, but people have isolated the struggles against each of these from the other. They have not seen that they're part of one whole of a radical revolution of values that we all must undergo. "



"BILL MOYERS: Yes, but where is the sign of the movement today?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that's where the movement -- I see a movement beginning to emerge, 'cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.

BILL MOYERS: Where do you see the signs of it?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways. For example in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will Allen, who is a former basketball player has purchased two and a half acres of land, with five greenhouses on it, and he is beginning to grow food, healthy food for his community. And communities are growing up around that idea. I mean, that's a huge change in the way that we think of the city. I mean, the things we have to restore are so elemental. Not just food, and not just healthy food, but a different way of relating to time and history and to the earth.

BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that's the key to reality, you're in a hell of a mess of a human being."



"BILL MOYERS: You know, a lot of young people out there would agree with your analysis. With your diagnosis. And then they will say; What can I do that's practical? How do I make the difference that Grace Lee Boggs is taking about. What would you be doing?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I would say do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don't diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

BILL MOYERS: Don't 'diss' them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Disrespect them.

BILL MOYERS: Disrespect them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Understand their … [more]
via:jackcheng  2007  graceleeboggs  activism  gardens  gardening  civilrightsmovement  us  prisonindustrialcomplex  education  climatechange  protest  change  revolution  democracy  struggle  rebellion  racism  socialism  occupation  riots  righteousness  injustice  justice  martinlutherkingjr  jimmyboggs  aphiliprandolph  detroit  evolution  changemaking  consumerism  materialism  militarism  vietnamwar  morality  power  grassroots  war  economics  poverty  government  systemsthinking  values  christianity  philosophy  karlmarx  marxism  humanevolution  society  labor  local  politics  discussion  leadership  mlk 
june 2015 by robertogreco
▶ Struggle, success and celebrating Selma - YouTube
"In this episode of The Illipsis, Jay Smooth honors the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement marches in Selma, Alabama and explains how the struggles of activists and leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. can inform how we make progress today. (It’s not always easy.) “When you commit some part of your life to activism…you’re basically committing to a lifetime of work that might, if you’re lucky, contain a few fleeting moments of triumph,” he says. “In those last years of Martin Luther King’s life, he was struggling…[but] he kept showing up even though he knew that there would be no more perfect plans, no more grand victory. He knew there was no more glory to be found but he kept picking himself back up and showing up every day because he knew now more than ever, this was the work, and this was the only way we get to true justice and true equality.”"

[text via: http://fusion.net/video/59234/struggle-success-and-celebrating-selma/ ]
jaysmooth  civilrightsmovement  selma  ferguson  2014  vision  activism  time  martinlutherkingjr  generations  effort  longview  progress  inequality  struggle  mlk 
march 2015 by robertogreco
A True Picture of Black Skin - NYTimes.com
"These images pose a challenge to another bias in mainstream culture: that to make something darker is to make it more dubious. There have been instances when a black face was darkened on the cover of a magazine or in a political ad to cast a literal pall of suspicion over it, just as there have been times when a black face was lightened after a photo shoot with the apparent goal of making it more appealing. What could a response to this form of contempt look like? One answer is in Young’s films, in which an intensified darkness makes the actors seem more private, more self-contained and at the same time more dramatic. In “Selma,” the effect is strengthened by the many scenes in which King and the other protagonists are filmed from behind or turned away from us. We are tuned into the eloquence of shoulders, and we hear what the hint of a profile or the fragment of a silhouette has to say.

I think of another photograph by Roy DeCarava that is similar to “Mississippi Freedom Marcher,” but this other photograph, “Five Men, 1964,” has quite a different mood. We see one man, on the left, who faces forward and takes up almost half the picture plane. His face is sober and tense, his expression that of someone whose mind is elsewhere. Behind him is a man in glasses. This second man’s face is in three-quarter profile and almost wholly visible except for where the first man’s shoulder covers his chin and jawline. Behind these are two others, whose faces are more than half concealed by the men in front of them. And finally there’s a small segment of a head at the bottom right of the photograph. The men’s varying heights could mean they are standing on steps. The heads are close together, and none seem to look in the same direction: The effect is like a sheet of studies made by a Renaissance master. In an interview DeCarava gave in 1990 in the magazine Callaloo, he said of this picture: “This moment occurred during a memorial service for the children killed in a church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1964. The photograph shows men coming out of the service at a church in Harlem.” He went on to say that the “men were coming out of the church with faces so serious and so intense that I responded, and the image was made.”

The adjectives that trail the work of DeCarava and Young as well as the philosophy of Glissant — opaque, dark, shadowed, obscure — are metaphorical when we apply them to language. But in photography, they are literal, and only after they are seen as physical facts do they become metaphorical again, visual stories about the hard-won, worth-keeping reticence of black life itself. These pictures make a case for how indirect images guarantee our sense of the human. It is as if the world, in its careless way, had been saying, “You people are simply too dark,” and these artists, intent on obliterating this absurd way of thinking, had quietly responded, “But you have no idea how dark we yet may be, nor what that darkness may contain.”"
tejucole  photography  2015  civilrightsmovement  color  blackness  roydecarava  édouardglissant  elireed  carriemaeweems  deeree  andrewdosunmu  avaduvernay  bradfordyoung  danaigurira  davidoyelowo  1940s  1950s  1960s 
february 2015 by robertogreco
The Long Road from Selma to Montgomery
"Half century ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, in Oslo, spoke of the “creative battle” that twenty-two million black men and women in the United States were waging against “the starless midnight of racism.” A few months later, in March, 1965, that battle came to Selma, Alabama, the birthplace of the White Citizens’ Council. The issue was voting rights. As King pointed out, there were more blacks in jail in the city than there were on the voting rolls. James Baldwin, who was among the marchers, had written, “I could not suppress the thought that this earth had acquired its color from the blood that had dripped down from these trees.” The series of marches there––the first was Bloody Sunday, a bloody encounter with a racist police force armed with bullwhips and cattle prods; the last, the fifty-four-mile procession from Selma to the State House, in Montgomery––pushed Lyndon Johnson to send voting-rights legislation to Congress. The nonviolent discipline of the marchers, the subject of a new film by Ava DuVernay, and portrayed here in Steve Schapiro’s photographs of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, became such a resonant chapter in the black freedom struggle that Barack Obama, in 2007, went to Selma to speak, at Brown Chapel, just weeks after declaring for the Presidency. Almost eight years later, as Selma is being commemorated, demonstrators against racial injustice are employing as a despairing slogan the last words of Eric Garner, an African-American man on Staten Island in the grip of a police choke hold: “I can’t breathe.”
photography  civilrightsmovement  steveschapiro  selma  alabama  1965  history  jamesbaldwin  martinlutherkingjr  andrewyoung  ralphabernathy  johnlewis  mlk 
december 2014 by robertogreco
NPR Code Switch | When Our Kids Own America
"It’s much harder now to patrol the ramparts of our cultures, to distinguish between the appreciators and appropriators. Just who gets to play in which cultural sandboxes? Who gets to be the bouncer at the velvet rope?"



"If something is everywhere and everyone trafficks in it, who gets to decide when it’s real or not? What happens when hip-hop stops being black culture and becomes simply youth culture?"



"So once some piece of black American culture slips outside that culture, when does it stop being black and just become this new thing? Where do the borders of one culture end and another begin?"



"When young people inherit the new America, this reconfigured hip-hop will be part of their birthright: the code-switching, style-shifting, and swagger-jacking that’s always been there, mashed up with stories about thrift-shopping, border-crossing and rich South Koreans. Lest anyone get it twisted and think this new America will be some kind of Benetton ad, be forewarned: it’s going to be confusing and it’s going to be messy."



"My generation started writing our chapters on race during the Crack Era — the time of of Rodney King, The Cosby Show, and Menace II Society. But that was 20-something years ago, and we’re still applying the templates that we created in 1992 and 1963 to the chapters that are being scripted now. Those old stories reflect a starkly different demographic reality than the one we now inhabit. It’s not that those stories are wrong, it’s that they’re incomplete. And so we find ourselves having to assimilate into these places we thought we knew and that we thought were ours.

The Afropunk skater in Philly, the Korean b-boy graffiti artist in Los Angeles, the bluegrass-loving Latino hipster in Austin — they’re all inheriting an America in which they’ll have access to even more hyphens in their self-definitions. That’s undoubtedly a good thing. But it’s important that those stories be complete as well. If you’re in Maricopa County, Ariz., and brown, the sheriff’s deputies won’t care whether you’re bumping Little Dragon in your ride when they pull you over. The way each of us experiences culture each day may be increasingly unmoored from genre, from geography, and yes, even from race, but America will not be easily untethered from the anchor of its history. We may be more equal, but mostly in our iPods.

How the country fares in the next century will depend in part on how it deals with these dissonances. It will be determined by whether we grapple with the complications of some basic assumptions about our spaces — who gets to play and work and live in them and how they get to do that.

And so, the “Harlem Shake” kerfuffle isn’t just about some hip-hop dance, but about these anxieties of ownership of the past and future, about generational tensions around acknowledgement, respect and reverence, about the understandable if futile impulse to want culture to retain something like purity, about disparities in power both real and perceived, about land and property, about realness and authenticity and race and history.

For good or ill, the country our kids are creating will work by new, confounding rules.

It’s the rest of us, those of us who’ve been here for awhile and who still find comfort with these old modes of viewing the world, who will start to face the discomfort of assimilating. A Minnesota suburb that looks more like a Brooklyn ‘hood. A “Harlem Shake” that looks nothing like Harlem."
codeswitch  codeswitching  2013  culture  appropriation  us  appreciation  gentrification  diversity  race  ethnicity  harlemshake  genedemby  rafaelcastillo  laurenrock  npr  harlem  nyc  oakland  brooklynpark  minnesota  discrimination  sterotypes  popularculture  hiphop  marginalization  teens  youth  youthculture  ebonics  ceciliacutler  civilrightsmovement  blackpanthers  joshkun  signaling  separateness  hsamyalim  language  communication  english  wealth  power  access  borders  repurposing  shereenmarisolmeraji  chantalgarcia  music  remixing  sampling  dumbfounded  jonathanpark  losangeles  biboying  breakdancing  messiness  stevesaldivar  hansilowang  karengrigsbybates  assimilation  generation  demographics  evolution  change  canon  remixculture  blackpantherparty 
april 2013 by robertogreco

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