Ready and Wait...

Remember Hurricane Katrina? Remember when we spent millions of dollars and countless man-hours fixing the infrastructure of the city after the storm to prevent catastrophic flooding from happening again? Remember when Bush and the federal government made it a priority to make sure an American city wasn't destroyed a second time by the same mistakes that caused it's first devastation?

Today the NYT is reporting on an Army document that shows that New Orleans is still prone to widespread flooding during large storms.

Priorities, people. The argument that we don't have the money or resources to fix these problems is completely mute when considering the amount of money we throw at certain other programs. Make no bones about it, the US has the ability to end hunger and homelessness, provide decent health care and education to all our children, and provide folks safety from natural disasters. We just don't choose to.

War President



Speaking of race in America, one of the most amazing and heartbreaking things I've seen recently is Jill Leovy's Homicide Report over at the LA Times. Essentially, Jill has taken it upon herself to blog every homicide in the city each day. Often details are slim when only police reports are present, but often she conducts interviews and tells stories that are incredible testaments to the violence and destitution that oppresses the lives of so many people of color in America today. Today's post is a pretty shocking example of what it means to to say that the problems of racism and poverty are ignored in this country. The truth is, we could fix all of this if we cared. It's often said that the first step is admitting you have a problem. In this case, they first step is admitting that we're at fault.

It's Institutional

I want to take a moment to expand on my post from yesterday. What I mean when I say the race issue is going to be interesting to dig up is this:

I'm a firm believer in the old adage that the biggest race problem in the United States today is the fact that white people don't believe there's a race problem in the United States today. The logic that leads to this conclusion is that today racism is not so much overt discrimination (although that still definitely happens) but institutional discrimination, whereby deeply ingrained systems and institutions behave to reproduce class and cultural stratification based on ethnicity. Thereby, it's not that folks are starting their day to say "I'm going to be a big racist and discriminate," it's more that not enough people are waking up and saying "I'm going to tear down the structures of institutionalized discrimination." Complacency caused by the idea that "we solved racism with civil rights in the 60's" is a great way to end up in this situation.

Yesterday, I read an article in the business section of CNN by a woman who was arguing against legislation to encourage employers to narrow the income gap between men and women. You can read the article if you like, but here's a synopsis: women these days aren't overtly discriminated against, but instead make less because they choose to major in English and take career breaks to have kids.

Now, this is a fine logical argument, except for the fact that it completely ignores the concept of institutional discrimination. The very idea that we would arrange society to reward less people who major in English and choose to spend time with their kids, which are two traits found disproportionately among women (her assumption, not mine) is in and of itself INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION. Just the same way that mortgage brokers lend at worse rates to people looking to buy a house in neighborhoods with higher crime rates, that just happen to be black community centers (for example) is also discriminator to black folks.

My point of all this is that upon reading that article yesterday, it struck me that we haven't just forgotten about race as a real issue in this country, we've forgotten about a whole concept of methods of discrimination. Or maybe we never learned.

It it just me...

...Or did they flatten the midtones on this picture (from to make Clinton and Obama have more similar skin tones than in reality? Note how Clinton looks distinctly grey, which is contrary to the super warm tone look networks usually go with for folks with light skin. Gah, I'm already looking forward to this race...

In all seriousness, though, I think the most interesting thing that's going to happen is that we might actually have a conversation about race in America for the first time since, well, the Johnson administration. That's probably a good thing, though I'm a little scared to see what's going to come out of it...