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robertogreco : tressiemcmillancottom   13

How Tressie McMillan Cottom's 'Thick' Affirmed My Years-Long Refusal Of Body Positivity Language
"Beauty only works if someone is not."



"Beauty is a global economy and a vital component in industries not directly related to it. But it’s not something progressive women and men want to believe is completely constructed. It’s easy for us to acknowledge the standards of beauty that exist, say, on a Victoria’s Secret runway and the way these narrow ideals can harm women’s self-esteem. But there’s still a popular belief, guided by the principles of body positivity, that everyone is beautiful or can achieve beauty. We’re defensive about it. We all want a slice of that capital."



"McMillan Cottom challenges her readers to understand beauty as a capitalist and white supremacist structure that is, therefore, inherently inaccessible for non-white people. She points to feminist analyses of beauty standards over time, most notably Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, which women of color are excluded from simply because beauty, as a Western concept, was not designed for us. This isn’t to say that Black women and women of color can’t be beautiful to themselves or within their own communities or even span outside of them under certain conditions. Just as McMillan Cottom talks about experiencing desirability and acceptance at her historically Black college, I find comfort in similar, all-Black environments. Still, we’ve all bought into same system where beauty is a form of power and that power is oppressive."
kyndallcunningham  tressiemcmillancottom  roxanegay  beauty  race  racism  inequality  capitalism  whitesupremacy  economics  hierarchy  feminism  whiteness  desirability  power  oppression  bodies  meritocracy  2019  bodypositivity 
4 weeks ago by robertogreco
New Sentences: From ‘Lower Ed,’ by Tressie McMillan Cottom - The New York Times
"We are a nation obsessed, from our founding documents on, with radical individualism. Our revolutionary forefathers, we are taught, heroically untethered us from the weight of collective history, and so we imagine ourselves as exceptions — totally unlike, say, Italians or Brazilians or Indians, who are pushed and pulled by historical tides from which we are magically exempt."
tressiemcmillancottom  samanderson  2017  exceptionalism  individualism  collectivism  history 
september 2017 by robertogreco
A Philosophy of Voting and Revolutions | tressiemc
"There is a meme floating around. I won’t share an image of it. Somewhere along the way, I pieced together too many followers to casually link to people’s memes and social media content. I don’t want it to seem like I’m refuting any single person so much as an idea floating out there in the ether.

The meme cites James Baldwin and/or W.E.B. DuBois on why the negro should not vote.

I respect both philosophers a great deal. I teach DuBois as the start of modern sociology. I think my respect is well-documentated.

However, there is another political philosophy about the African American vote that I find interesting. I will call it the Bash Mister’s Head Open And Think About Heaven Later philosophy.

______________

If you don’t recognize the reference there is an excellent chance that you are not a black American of a certain age. It is from The Color Purple:

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnSbUuCEvrQ ]

I have tried for a long time to articulate how I understand black southern working class women’s philosophy in the U.S.

Many smart people are doing this work formally. You should read Anita Allen, Paula Giddings, Tina Botts, and Brittney Cooper to get started.

I am thinking about philosophy more like a sociologist might: philosophy of knowledge and the political economy of knowledge production. And, I am thinking about philosophy more like a black southern Gen-Xer raised in Black Panther Party politics but also in the NAACP respectability machine might think about it. That is, it is complicated.

That’s the gist of my argument about Hillary Clinton’s campaign in “False Choice: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton” A recent book review called the feminists in that volume, including me, as peripheral to mainstream feminism. I was like, you ain’t never lied but also thank you.

Being on the periphery is exactly what black women like me have always been. Our philosophy reflects that.

_______________

Bash Mister’s Head Open And Think About Heaven Later philosophy reflects the peripheral knowledge production that black women have done as they fight in their house: with Mister, with Mister’s oppressors, and with political machinations that ignore both.

In that space where our fight has been systematically and deliberately erased, it is useful to think about DuBois and Baldwin’s arguments against voting as a powerful statements of resistance. And they are. But they are not absolutely statements about how black working class (who have been historically situated in the U.S. south physically or ideologically) women have to fight in a political regime.

Miss Sophia offers a way to understood black suffragists like Ida B. Wells. Wells, who knew as much about state sanctioned white rage and violence as anyone, still organized for black women’s franchise.

Later, black women socialists wrote the philosophy of revolution but also, some of them quietly, organizing the vote.

These philosophers of action and rhetoric seemed capable of both incrementalism and revolution, something we’re told are incompatible. The result was revolution of a sort. It was revolutionary for blacks to force one of the mightiest nations in history to prosecute whites for hanging blacks, for example. And, it was also incremental in that state violence clearly continues to target black people. But to say the revolution is incomplete isn’t the same as saying revolutions don’t happen. They simply may not happen the way we dream of them.

Philosophical rhetoric is important but black women philosophers have argued and lived the truth that it is not the only thing that is important.

______

Here’s where I am: I try to vote the interests of poor black women and girls. I do that because, as a winner in this crap knowledge economy, the election outcome won’t much affect my life no matter who wins or loses. But poor black women and girls don’t have a lobby. So, I supported Bernie Sanders because, despite his (non)rhetoric on race, I truly believed that an anti-poverty policy would represent poor black women and girls’ political interests. Truly. I still believe that.

I don’t care if Bernie didn’t ever learn the words to Lift E’ry Voice and Sing. I thought that with a Democratic party machine behind him to hopefully elect locals and state officers plus a federal agency to legitimize an anti-poverty and jobs program, maybe we could get some long overdue economic and political investment in poor black women and girls. Now I will vote for Hillary for the same reason, even as I know that being oppressed in the U.S. still makes us all complicit in the U.S.’ global oppression of other poor people, brown people and women.

However I am crystal clear on this: my not voting or voting Trump doesn’t change global geo-politics. By definition, a “vote” can never do those things as voting is defined by nation-states and the military power to enforce their boundaries and, ergo, legitimize voting as a state project. That’s why I can’t ONLY vote but vote and donate; vote and organize; vote and philosophize a resistance. Petty feels good, god knows it does. But so do applied philosophies like Planned Parenthoods.

I want to bash mista’s head in with Planned Parenthoods for poor black women and girls now while I think about heaven (and revolution) later."
tressiemcmillancottom  2016  voting  elections  alicewalker  thecolorpurple  berniesanders  hillaryclinton  rhetoric  politics  democrats  anitaallen  paulagiddings  tinabotts  birttneycooper  webdubois  jamesbaldwin  sociology  philosophy  knowledgeproduction  knowledge  feminism  oppression  idabwells  revolution  incrementalism  change  changemaking  democracy 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Limits of Education Reform: A Road Paved With the “Best Intentions”? | tressiemc
"Class-based solutions to racial inequality stress resource investment and allocation to achieve equality in opportunity. The implicit assumption is that assuming any racial differences in outcome after equal opportunity is achieved can be attributed to individual abilities. This is one of Barack Obama’s most strident arguments, by the way. From the head to the tail of American discourse, the idea of class based universal reforms as redress for racism is viewed as pragmatic. Lewis and Diamond point to several measures of the idea’s pervasiveness in media and political discourse. In a slightly different but wholly related guise, the argument continues unabated with recent dialogue about Bernie Sanders’ racial street cred versus given his rejection of economic reparations. Ta-Nehisi Coates recently wrote Sanders’ refutation of economic reparations for blacks is indicative of the kind of liberal politics of a “rising tide lifting all boats”. Coates condemns this thinking as irrationally hopeful, at best, saying that, “treating a racist injury solely with class-based remedies is like treating a gun-shot wound solely with bandages.” Agree or not with Coates’ artful assessment of class-based solutions as comprehensive redress for racist harm, he is right that this kind of rhetoric is pervasive in our political discourse. Nowhere is that more true than in our discourse, politics, and national obsession with racial inequality and schooling.

The entire strategy of federal, state and local education policy since at least 1971 when the Supreme Court decided Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education has quickly devolved into strategies to substitute nominal class redress for racial redress. Scholars have noted that white districts across the U.S. immediately began challenging the landmark Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka decision. In many critical ways, Swann gave federal district courts the tools of school desegregation that would infuriate and mobilize white families, school boards, and districts for years to come: busing, teacher reassignment, and student assignments based (at least in part) on achieving racial parity. The resulting challenge for white parents hell bent on maintaining the best for “their kids” and the political class that needs to be re-elected was to critique the tools of school resource allocation while maintaining a rhetorical allegiance to racial equality. For at least twenty years that rhetoric has stressed the kind of liberalism Coates critiques and that Lewis and Diamond show still very much animates formal school policy.



In subsequent chapters, Lewis and Diamond argue that racial differences are reproduced at Riverview through three key mechanisms. One, disparities in quantity and quality of disciplinary treatment mean that black students are more frequently punished for behaviors similar to white students and the punishments are more punitive. That’s in keeping with national data on in school and out of school suspension that shows black students is more harshly punished in schools, resulting in missed days, disrupted learning, and declining teacher investment. Two, the classic issue of academic differentiation of “high” and “low” tracks within one school raises its head in chapter four. Within school tracking is a primary tool for social control of black students. It is also a tool for managing of black parent’s socio-political agitation for greater access to “good schools”. Tracking also has a less discussed ideological value. It also allows good people in good neighborhoods with good schools to support “diversity” in principle without making meaningful changes to how schools operate most efficiently for white families. Third, Lewis and Diamond indict white parents’ “opportunity hoarding”. Opportunity hoarding is a popular concept in the study of what Charles Tilly called categorical inequalities, or the marked group identities that pattern our social world. Lewis and Diamond argue similarly to others that “well meaning” white parents use their superior cultural and economic capital to divert school resources to the high tracks where their children are disproportionally enrolled and the school rewards white parents’ cultural and economic capital as superior to black parents’."
education  edreform  reform  schools  tracking  race  inequality  diversity  intentions  2016  tressiemcmillancottom  hierarchy  integration  civilrights  arneduncan  barackobama  l'heureuxlewis-mccoy  linnposey-maddox  sociology  amandalewis  johndiamond  class  policy  us 
february 2016 by robertogreco
New Topics in Social Computing: Data and Education by EyebeamNYC
"In this discussion, we will consider how younger generations are growing up with data collection normalized and with increasingly limited opportunities to opt-out. Issues of surveillance, privacy, and consent have particular implications in the context of school systems. As education and technology writer Audrey Watters explains, “many journalists, politicians, entrepreneurs, government officials, researchers, and others … argue that through mining and modeling, we can enhance student learning and predict student success.” Administrators, even working with the best intentions, might exaggerate systemic biases or create other unintended consequences through use of new technologies. We we consider new structural obstacles involving metrics like learning analytics, the labor politics of data, and issues of data privacy and ownership.

Panelists: Sava Saheli Singh, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Karen Gregory"
savasahelisingh  tressiemcmillancottom  karengregory  education  personalization  race  class  gender  2015  publicschools  testing  privacy  government  audreywatters  politics  policy  surveillance  consent  social  journalism  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  labor  work  citizenship  civics  learninganalytics  technology  edtech  data  society  socialcontract 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Men (Still) Explain Technology to Me: Gender and Education Technology | boundary 2
"There’s that very famous New Yorker cartoon: “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” The cartoon was first published in 1993, and it demonstrates this sense that we have long had that the Internet offers privacy and anonymity, that we can experiment with identities online in ways that are severed from our bodies, from our material selves and that, potentially at least, the internet can allow online participation for those denied it offline.

Perhaps, yes.

But sometimes when folks on the internet discover “you’re a dog,” they do everything in their power to put you back in your place, to remind you of your body. To punish you for being there. To hurt you. To threaten you. To destroy you. Online and offline.

Neither the internet nor computer technology writ large are places where we can escape the materiality of our physical worlds—bodies, institutions, systems—as much as that New Yorker cartoon joked that we might. In fact, I want to argue quite the opposite: that computer and Internet technologies actually re-inscribe our material bodies, the power and the ideology of gender and race and sexual identity and national identity. They purport to be ideology-free and identity-less, but they are not. If identity is unmarked it’s because there’s a presumption of maleness, whiteness, and perhaps even a certain California-ness. As my friend Tressie McMillan Cottom writes, in ed-tech we’re all supposed to be “roaming autodidacts”: happy with school, happy with learning, happy and capable and motivated and well-networked, with functioning computers and WiFi that works.

By and large, all of this reflects who is driving the conversation about, if not the development of these technology. Who is seen as building technologies. Who some think should build them; who some think have always built them.

And that right there is already a process of erasure, a different sort of mansplaining one might say."



"Ironically—bitterly ironically, I’d say, many pieces of software today increasingly promise “personalization,” but in reality, they present us with a very restricted, restrictive set of choices of who we “can be” and how we can interact, both with our own data and content and with other people. Gender, for example, is often a drop down menu where one can choose either “male” or “female.” Software might ask for a first and last name, something that is complicated if you have multiple family names (as some Spanish-speaking people do) or your family name is your first name (as names in China are ordered). Your name is presented how the software engineers and designers deemed fit: sometimes first name, sometimes title and last name, typically with a profile picture. Changing your username—after marriage or divorce, for example—is often incredibly challenging, if not impossible.

You get to interact with others, similarly, based on the processes that the engineers have determined and designed. On Twitter, you cannot direct message people, for example, that do not follow you. All interactions must be 140 characters or less.

This restriction of the presentation and performance of one’s identity online is what “cyborg anthropologist” Amber Case calls the “templated self.” She defines this as “a self or identity that is produced through various participation architectures, the act of producing a virtual or digital representation of self by filling out a user interface with personal information.”

Case provides some examples of templated selves:
Facebook and Twitter are examples of the templated self. The shape of a space affects how one can move, what one does and how one interacts with someone else. It also defines how influential and what constraints there are to that identity. A more flexible, but still templated space is WordPress. A hand-built site is much less templated, as one is free to fully create their digital self in any way possible. Those in Second Life play with and modify templated selves into increasingly unique online identities. MySpace pages are templates, but the lack of constraints can lead to spaces that are considered irritating to others.


As we—all of us, but particularly teachers and students—move to spend more and more time and effort performing our identities online, being forced to use preordained templates constrains us, rather than—as we have often been told about the Internet—lets us be anyone or say anything online. On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog unless the signup process demanded you give proof of your breed. This seems particularly important to keep in mind when we think about students’ identity development. How are their identities being templated?

While Case’s examples point to mostly “social” technologies, education technologies are also “participation architectures.” Similarly they produce and restrict a digital representation of the learner’s self.

Who is building the template? Who is engineering the template? Who is there to demand the template be cracked open? What will the template look like if we’ve chased women and people of color out of programming?"



"One interesting example of this dual approach that combines both social and technical—outside the realm of ed-tech, I recognize—are the tools that Twitter users have built in order to address harassment on the platform. Having grown weary of Twitter’s refusal to address the ways in which it is utilized to harass people (remember, its engineering team is 90% male), a group of feminist developers wrote The Block Bot, an application that lets you block, en masse, a large list of Twitter accounts who are known for being serial harassers. That list of blocked accounts is updated and maintained collaboratively. Similarly, Block Together lets users subscribe to others’ block lists. Good Game Autoblocker, a tool that blocks the “ringleaders” of GamerGate.

That gets, just a bit, at what I think we can do in order to make education technology habitable, sustainable, and healthy. We have to rethink the technology. And not simply as some nostalgia for a “Web we lost,” for example, but as a move forward to a Web we’ve yet to ever see. It isn’t simply, as Isaacson would posit it, rediscovering innovators that have been erased, it’s about rethinking how these erasures happen all throughout technology’s history and continue today—not just in storytelling, but in code.

Educators should want ed-tech that is inclusive and equitable. Perhaps education needs reminding of this: we don’t have to adopt tools that serve business goals or administrative purposes, particularly when they are to the detriment of scholarship and/or student agency—technologies that surveil and control and restrict, for example, under the guise of “safety”—that gets trotted out from time to time—but that have never ever been about students’ needs at all. We don’t have to accept that technology needs to extract value from us. We don’t have to accept that technology puts us at risk. We don’t have to accept that the architecture, the infrastructure of these tools make it easy for harassment to occur without any consequences. We can build different and better technologies. And we can build them with and for communities, communities of scholars and communities of learners. We don’t have to be paternalistic as we do so. We don’t have to “protect students from the Internet,” and rehash all the arguments about stranger danger and predators and pedophiles. But we should recognize that if we want education to be online, if we want education to be immersed in technologies, information, and networks, that we can’t really throw students out there alone. We need to be braver and more compassionate and we need to build that into ed-tech. Like Blockbot or Block Together, this should be a collaborative effort, one that blends our cultural values with technology we build.

Because here’s the thing. The answer to all of this—to harassment online, to the male domination of the technology industry, the Silicon Valley domination of ed-tech—is not silence. And the answer is not to let our concerns be explained away. That is after all, as Rebecca Solnit reminds us, one of the goals of mansplaining: to get us to cower, to hesitate, to doubt ourselves and our stories and our needs, to step back, to shut up. Now more than ever, I think we need to be louder and clearer about what we want education technology to do—for us and with us, not simply to us."
education  gender  technology  edtech  2015  audreywatters  history  agency  ambercase  gamergate  society  power  hierarchy  harassment  siliconvalley  privilege  safety  collaboration  identity  tressiemcmillancottom  erasure  inclusion  inclusivity  templates  inlcusivity 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Everything To Like About Kevin Carey’s #EndofCollege And Reasons to Pause — The Message — Medium
"If “The End of College” gives a little love to jobs, it does not give much love inequality. There isn’t a single discussion of any of higher education’s well-documentated fault lines in the entire book. That ommission undermines the arguments chosen to advance the major claim of what technology can do. Take for instance, Carey’s framing of higher education’s skyrocketing cost. He talks about high student loan debt and tuition. But debt and cost are relative. Despite impressive sounding aggregrate numbers about student loan debt the most vulnerable students are struggling with objectively small debt burdens. Making college cheaper by cutting out the expensive campus real estate arms race does not address the fact that cheap is not an absolute value. That is why race, class, gender, and citizenship status are ways to understand how much college costs: they map onto the relative nature of debt. If you don’t talk about why skyrocketing tuition is relative then you aren’t really talking about skyrocketing tuition. And if your argument is built on the claim that it counters skyrocketing tuition, then the slightest tug of the thread unravels the whole thing.

Let’s take another example of how the “End of College” argument talks about jobs. For Carey, the key to changing higher education is employers seeing online degrees as “official”. Becoming official could, indeed, change the game. We call it legitimacy and it is hard to earn, hard to keep but worth trying because legitimacy can turn a piece of paper into currency. If Mozilla badges become the preferred degree for jobs, we may be talking about a big deal. But, again, the challenge is not about quality of teaching or the skills people learn at online colleges. Colleges aren’t even the problem for online degrees’ quest to become official. The problem is that easy access to skills training is precisely what employers do not want. A labor market of all creeds and colors and cultures with objective skills is actually a nightmare for employers. Employers benefit when they can hire for fit and disguise it as skill. If the private sector were interested in skills over racism, sexism, and classism, it need not end college to end wage disparities. Employers could start by ending inequalities among the people they already employ. They don’t because politics makes it so they don’t have to. Carey overstates the private sector’s interest in skills and understates its interest in hiring for who we are as much as for what we know."



"The argument is well aware that political priorities and coalitions produce higher education crises. But what are those politics? The book never says. Of course, other books do say but there aren’t many references of them. A reader who picks up just this one book is going to know a lot more about technology and very little about the politics of how we live with technology.

Just once I would like a technological disruption to be tuned for the most fragile institutions, rather than the most well-heeled. Carey seems to aim for just that. Less well-funded colleges, especially those without the prestige to justify their tuition are squarely in Carey’s sights. The argument is that these schools cannot compete for the best; subsidizing them is throwing good money after bad; and, individuals are better left to their own devices. But even Carey’s choice of George Washington University does not represent the typical college in the U.S. or the diversity of colleges. There is no treatment of historically black colleges, Hispanic-serving colleges, or for-profit colleges. They are in the status competition race, too, with different stakes and different traditions with different importance for different reasons than Harvard or even George Washington University. The institutions, like the students they serve, just disappear in the future. The book is about the end of college but Carey’s higher education future only describes the end of some colleges.

All of that is also fine. Really, it is. Imagined futures can be useful thought experiments, although I admit a preference for those that do not erase people who look like me. But I’m selfish that way.

Thought experiments can be fun and edifying and useful abstractions. I like that about the tech sector’s approach to problem-solving. But in reality, these arguments can also suck the air out of the room precisely when we must make hard, political choices."
tressiemcmillancottom  education  highered  highereducation  2015  kevincarey  disruption  technology  class  inequality  race  politics  policy  meritocracy  future  endofcollege  forprofit  jobs  employment  legitimacy  badges  mozilla  credentials  debt  gender  tuition 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Starbucks Wants To Talk To You About Race. But Does It Want to Talk To You About Racism? — The Message — Medium
"It takes a lot of training and a lot of institutional support to teach people things they would rather not hear. I wonder what kind of training and support the hourly wage baristas at Starbucks will get. There is no reporting yet on whether Starbucks issued a training module on “when the customer is always right and the customer wants to be right and racist”."

[See also quote (no longer within the piece):
https://twitter.com/arissaoh/status/577879667929153536 and
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2015/03/17/393562838/heres-what-people-are-saying-about-starbucks-race-together-campaign

"It is unclear who Starbucks is aiming for with this campaign. If you are a colorblind ideologue, just mentioning race is racism. If you are racist, being confronted with "perspectives" on race will piss you off. If you know the difference between race and racism, race stickers will confuse you. If you would rather talk about your feelings about that thing that was about race that one time rather than talk about racism, you're really going to slow down the latte line." ]
starbucks  race  tressiemcmillancottom  2015  racism  racetogether 
march 2015 by robertogreco
No, college isn’t the answer. Reparations are. - The Washington Post
"I am mostly uninterested in political rhetoric about education being the “new” civil rights movement. The old civil rights movement waged a battle for citizenship through school legislation because that was the nearest available political tool. The landmark civil rights case, Brown versus the Board of Education, was initially conceived as a means for justice, not its end. I also think that narrowly focusing on college completion is not a good thing. The job market is volatile for African Americans in the best of times and these are not the best of times. During difficult economic cycles, black workers and students should benefit from the flexibility of moving in and out of college as their life circumstances allow. Without that flexibility, every educational moment becomes a zero sum decision: “If I leave school this semester to take that job or care for a family member, I probably will never be able to return.” We’re poorer as individuals and groups when people least likely to get a call back because of a “black” name or negative credit check or criminal conviction have to make a decision to take a job or opt out of college forever. In short, I’m a heretic about almost every fundamental populist education belief we’ve got.

As the world was waiting for Coates’ case for reparations, Janelle Jones and John Schmitt at the Center for Economic Policy Research were releasing a policy paper on black college graduates and the labor market. In “A College Degree is No Guarantee”, Jones and Schmitt examine the labor market conditions for black college degree holders pre and post Great Recession.

Their findings are only a surprise to those who ain’t living it."



"How can I revere education as I do and refuse to accept it as the gospel that will save us from persistent, intractable inequality?Actually, it is precisely because I revere education—formal and informal—that I refuse to sell it as a cure for all that ails us.Degrees cannot fix the cumulative effect of structural racism. In fact, over five decades of social science research shows that education reproduces inequality. At every level of schooling, classrooms, schools, and districts reward wealth and privilege. That does not end at college admissions, which is when all that cumulative disadvantage may be its most acute. Going to college not only requires know how that changes from institution to institution and year to year, but it also requires capital. There’s the money to take standardized tests and mail applications and make tuition deposits. But there’s also the money that levels differences in individual ability. An unimpressive wealthy student can pay for test prep, admissions coaches, and campus visits that increases one’s shot at going to the most selective college possible. If education reinforces the salience of money to opportunity, it is money and only money that can make educational “opportunity” a vehicle for justice.

Reparations can do what education cannot do.

When we allow education to be sold as a fix for wealth inequality, we set a public good up to fail and black folks who do everything “right” to take the blame when it goes “wrong.”

Coates has a written a thing about reparations. Ostensibly, it is about the pattern of systematic extraction of black labor, wealth and income to the benefit of institutions that operate to their exclusion. It is a story with a history but one that is not a relic of history. Conservatives may be guilty of rejecting outright their basic faith in fair pay for labor when the issue is labor done by brown people. But white liberals are just as disingenuous when they rhetorically move reparations back in time as redress for slavery when there are countless modern cases of state-sanctioned racist oppression to make the case for reparations.

Like housing and banking, education is a modern debate that sounds like it is a 19th century one. Reparations are about slavery but also about Jim Crow and white violence’s effect on intellectual property and islands of segregated want in a land of plenty. There remains an entire generation of African Americans alive and well who were legally consigned to segregated schools, neighborhoods, and occupations. The black college graduates with weaker starting positions in the labor market are the children and grandchildren of that generation. No matter how much we might believe in the great gospel of education, it is an opportunity vehicle that works best when coupled with justice and not confused for justice."
tressiemcmillancottom  2014  race  inequality  education  class  justice  reparations  ta-nehisicoates  us  jimcrow  segregation  civilrights  socialjustice  lanor  work  unemployment 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Allies, Friends, and the Value of Utopian Visions | tressiemc
"I am fortunate to claim economist Sandy Darity as a friend and mentor. I asked him once, after a barn burner of an academic lecture on reparations, why in God’s name would he go all in on something that doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of ever happening. “That’s what they once said about abolishing slavery,” he said.

I shut up.

And, I got to thinking.

For about six years now, I’ve been thinking about what it means to go all in on the improbable.

Ta-Nehisi Coates reintroduced the subject of reparations to public debate recently. I’m no Coates or Darity but I’ve been around just long enough to know how these debates are often truncated and misconstrued by the well-meaning and nefarious alike. I saw it happening in the responses. I jotted off a thing about how education is the exact wrong prescription for cumulative denial and violent extraction of capital from black lives. The Washington Post ran that thing. I stand by it.

I stand by it knowing that tomorrow I will read the latest scholarship and policy on education and access and inequality and I will do my damn job. I will see us moving the same ball and I will do my job. I will even, most days, enjoy my job. I will read supposedly sober critiques from disciplined conservatives that pull every slight of hand to look serious while avoiding taking any real stance. I will ignore the emails, social media taunts and thinly-veiled threats.

I will do it knowing that no one is about to go all in on reparations legislation this week or even this lifetime.

This is how these things work. Until they don’t.

Sometimes, all of the Times that have mattered actually, a conversation will meet a moment will meet a movement. And, our collective social evolution relies on the zealots who took a stand from time to time.

I’m not saying I’ll be one of them. But I am saying I won’t stand in their way.

Can we say that for our allies? The ones who are fine with reparations in theory but cannot go so far as to deal with its practical application for living victims of apartheid. They, the ones who are happy to talk about slavery given the comfort of space, time, and probability statistics but go silent when reminded that there are living victims of Jim Crow or new victims being made in places like New Orleans as we speak? Can we say the same for friends of equality who cannot imagine justice for people “like you” in an alternate reality even when the stakes are so very low? I mean, if its so ridiculous, so improbable this idea of reparations why can so few allies and friends and progressives and liberals be bothered to even venture utopian futures where black folks have something akin to justice?

It is not unlike creative geniuses who, with the power of CGI and a billion dollars, can imagine green extraterrestrials and shimmering vampires but not black people.

Anyway, I wrote a thing about reparations. I know it won’t matter but that is why I wrote it.

In the meantime, I’m headed to New England to bump up against some bright brains as I work on the here and now of inequality regimes, social media, digital geographies and credentials. It’s my job. I like it.

You can catch me at the Berkman Center in July and mostly here on the blog as I hand a book over to my publisher, usher some pubs through brutal revise and resubmits, and dream of allies and friends."
conversation  utopia  tressiemcmillancottom  small  multiplicities  multiplicity  2014  allies  writing  whywewrite  thinking  probability  improbability 
june 2014 by robertogreco
The Audacity: Thrun Learns A Lesson and Students Pay | tressiemc
"It is a fair question that in many ways the academic and scientific communities have already answered with a resounding no. When I want to interview students for a research project I have to present a carefully, detailed plan to my University for approval. The plan is vetted by an Institutional Review Board. Every research university has an IRB but they didn’t always. Before 1974 doctors figured out the internal reproductive organs of women by cutting them open without consent or sedation. They observed the effects of untreated syphilis on test subjects — insanity and death — without bothering to inform the participants that there was a known, available treatment. They told volunteers they had electrocuted a stranger to see how human decision-making works.

Basically, before IRB a lot of modern science would have been war crimes had the U.S. been on the losing end of World War II. And because this is America, there was a disturbing pattern among the victims of these kinds of horrific experiments. They were overwhelmingly black, brown, indigenous, poor, and powerless. A 1978 report on regulating research on human beings declared that ethical research has “an obligation to protect persons from harm by maximizing anticipated benefits and minimizing possible risks of harm”. The connection to inequality was clear. The most vulnerable were likely to be prodded, poked and tested because the elite don’t often sign up to risk their lives for little reward. And flagrant disregard for these risks had few penalties because the victims were powerless. The rules governing academic and scientific research recognizes that some groups are too vulnerable to risk the failure that the scientific method requires.

Where was this ethical standard in what Thrun freely concedes was always an experiment? When Udacity was primarily interested in beaming the erudite countenance of professional smart people out into the world, it can be said that any risk was assumed by the those who chose to sign up. But when Udacity went after formal arrangements with colleges like SJSU to offer courses, for credit, to students enrolled in the University that changed.



Udacity always knew that the non-completion rates were high for its courses. They may not have known why, but that was a reason for greater testing, not a reason to roll-out the for-profit product for University clients. With sanction from the California governor on down the political line, Udacity  had to meet no ethical requirement to prove that the risk of failure was worth the promise of rewards. And what was promised? University partners could prove they were innovative, forward-thinking, and cut expensive faculty out of the complex equation of teaching students. To prove that teachers don’t matter and Stanford knows best what the world needs, a public university gave a for-profit company unfettered authority to experiment on its students without informed student consent. We may need more experimentation in higher education but it should be as ethical as any other we conduct in the name of science and progress.

Thrun says it wasn’t a failure. It was a lesson. But for the students who invested time and tuition in an experiment foisted on them by the  of stewards public highered trusts, failure is a lesson they didn’t need. Students like those at SJSU tend to know quite a bit about failure — institutional, social, and political. They did not need to learn again what Thrun, a smart guy from Stanford and Google, could have learned from a book."
mooc  moocs  2013  sjsu  sebastiunthrun  california  education  highered  highereducation  policy  politics  experimentation  tressiemcmillancottom 
november 2013 by robertogreco
The Logic of Stupid Poor People | tressiemc
"Gatekeeping is a complex job of managing boundaries that do not just define others but that also define ourselves. Status symbols — silk shells, designer shoes, luxury handbags — become keys to unlock these gates. If I need a job that will save my lower back and move my baby from medicaid to an HMO, how much should I spend signaling to people like my former VP that I will not compromise her status by opening the door to me? That candidate maybe could not afford a proper shell. I will never know. But I do know that had she gone hungry for two days to pay for it or missed wages for a trip to the store to buy it, she may have been rewarded a job that could have lifted her above minimum wage. Shells aren’t designer handbags, perhaps. But a cosmetology school in a strip mall isn’t a job at Bank of America, either.

At the heart of these incredulous statements about the poor decisions poor people make is a belief that we would never be like them. We would know better. We would know to save our money, eschew status symbols, cut coupons, practice puritanical sacrifice to amass a million dollars. There is a regular news story of a lunch lady who, unbeknownst to all who knew her, died rich and leaves it all to a cat or a charity or some such. Books about the modest lives of the rich like to tell us how they drive Buicks instead of BMWs. What we forget, if we ever know, is that what we know now about status and wealth creation and sacrifice are predicated on who we are, i.e. not poor. If you change the conditions of your not-poor status, you change everything you know as a result of being a not-poor. You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor. Then, and only then, will you understand the relative value of a ridiculous status symbol to someone who intuits that they cannot afford to not have it."
class  culture  poverty  race  wealth  2013  tressiemcmillancottom  gatekeepers  signals  signaling  slothing  psychology  work  interviews  economics  statussymbols  status  mobility 
october 2013 by robertogreco

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