Race and Racism

Predatory Inclusion

Predatory Inclusion

Placing homeownership at the heart of the nation’s low-income housing policies ceded outsize influence and control to the real estate industry over dwellings intended to serve a disproportionately African American market. Real estate’s wealth was largely generated through racial discrimination. Its profitability was contingent on “best practices” that actively encouraged racial segregation, and the public policies that grew from the partnership between property assessors, brokers, bankers, and federal policymakers reflected the logic of the housing market.

School Daze

School Daze

The principal looked at me like I was crazy. Maybe I was.

Once I began to see the schools, of course, I could not unsee them. I realized how much of life—and by life in this case I mean real estate—was organized around them. Wealthy homeowners had the resources and the motivation to put time and money into their neighborhood schools; good neighborhood schools in turn attracted other wealthy homeowners. In the 1990s, a Federal Reserve economist named Sandra Black did a study on how much extra parents in Massachusetts were willing to pay for homes in superior school districts. (She studied the home prices in neighborhoods that were directly adjacent to district lines, so otherwise basically the same.) Black found that a 5 percent increase in test scores added 2.5 percent to the price of a home. In New York, where adjacent school zones might have radically different test scores, those 2.5 percent increases could add up quickly.

The Hidden Fortress

The Hidden Fortress

Bourdieu in the forest

Sometimes, I wonder if there is a spell at work when we write, one that causes what is said to be said without us. And indeed, that is perhaps what writing is, isn’t it: what is said there is said without us. If I could stop writing, I think maybe I would.

There Is No Alternativelessness

There Is No Alternativelessness

What's been hiding Germany's hidden crisis?

Now, when a politician or a public intellectual or a newspaper goes on a Rumspringa in the rightmost reaches of the political spectrum, or if the fine citizens of some small town decide to set fire to a house, there is less of a script by which they would be welcomed back into respectability. Certain ethnic Germans used to take it as their seigneurial right to shower cruelty on the vulnerable and return to the mainstream after a cooling-off period to be listened to and shaken hands with. They are beginning to feel deprived of that right.

The Prison House of Language

The Prison House of Language

On Rachel Kushner and Sergio De La Pava

The women in the novel are subjected to sexual violence so regularly that it is treated as if it is just another part of their punitive program. For many of them, this sexual violence is not unique to their time in jail. Kushner wisely demonstrates throughout the novel that patriarchy and its parallel oppressive structures are not phenomena specific to incarceration; they groom these characters from birth to feel comfortable in the rigidly authoritative structures of prisons. “I had been a waitress at IHOP right after I graduated high school,” Romy says. “I was waitress 43, and the cooks would call, Forty-three! Your order is up! Which, as I only saw later, had been preparing me for here.” With wrenching flashbacks to Romy’s youth that bare the bruises of innocence forcibly taken, Kushner shows us Romy navigating and bucking authority throughout her life, in her predatory friendships, in her work as a stripper, and in her experiences with men. By the time she ends up in prison, like the rest of the women around her, she hardly has the capacity to question or resist authority.

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Meaning of Emancipation

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Meaning of Emancipation

He was a revolutionary, if one committed to nonviolence. But nonviolence does not exhaust his philosophy

As a theorist of inequality, King is our contemporary. But he was also a philosopher of equality, and thus of emancipation. At the core of his thought one finds the political subjectivity that the civil rights struggle was helping to engender. Important as his final year was, the radical outlines of this project are visible from 1955 to 1963, as King was drawn deeper into political activism and answered the call to engage in a political sequence that exceeded the boundaries of the existing situation.

The Los Angeles Teachers Go on Strike

The Los Angeles Teachers Go on Strike

The number of students in public school classrooms is irrefutably political.

The problem the union faces is that, on its own, it cannot create the type of system it wants. To ensure that a service like education be available at high quality to every family in the population, general standards must be established and monitored across the community. The district and its schools are the only tool suited to this task. Choice is invidious when the underlying options are so poorly distributed. Smaller classes, with student access to serviceable institutions such as libraries, nursing, and counseling, will require action from municipal and state authorities, from the Board of Education, through the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, to the Governors office and the State Assembly. Fighting the effects of the trends the district has set in motion won’t suffice; the teachers must reverse those trends. Can they do it alone?