Wednesday, May 30, 2018

On Speech and Consequences: Roseanne and Kaepernick

Yesterday, ABC fired Roseanne Barr for her racism (after hiring her and promoting her offensive tweets as a reason advertisers should be behind the show), a move that prompted a lot of people to compare her to Colin Kaepernick - some in defense of one, some in defense of the other, but too often dealing in abstractions.

Here's how I parse the difference:
It's not really very difficult to tell the difference between kneeling to protest anti-black violence and making racist comments about a black woman being descended from an ape. We don't have to dwell in the world of abstractions here (we /do/ when talking about state censorship and prosecution for speech acts, where defending offensive speech is a leading bulwark against fascism).

The racist New York lawyer who threatened to call ICE on people speaking Spanish should experience professional and social consequences for his act. The author writing that women who have abortions should be hanged should experience professional and social consequences for voicing his horrific idea.

The right wing is going to respond to the firing of Barr with accusations of hypocrisy, that saying negative things about the president, for example, is equivalent, or that the NFL like ABC can do what they like and we're hypocrites for criticizing one and praising the other. This may even have a certain abstract truth.

But we live in a real world. There are lots of gray areas and complexities when talking about speech, but sometimes, it's pretty clear: Fire overt racists, protect overt anti-racists.

We can do this. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Webinar: Reproductive and Disability Rights

My writing on the subject includes:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Ireland - #RepealThe8th

Hey Ireland, get it right.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Interview: Nicola Griffith

I interviewed author Nicola Griffith for Pacific Standard. She's one of the writers creating new literary disability culture as we speak.
We are desperately in need of seeing ourselves. Telling our stories is what builds culture, builds a sense of self. I really want that to happen. For me there's a really exciting feeling of creating my own culture now. I felt as though I was doing that a little with my very early novels, but there was already a lot of queer lit, and some of it was pretty good. There isn't enough disability fiction, and I feel I'm part of a group building a culture. I'm really excited because I know disabled people will read this book and see themselves.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Liberation of Medieval Fashion

Great essay on appropriating medieval fashion as feminist.
In doing so they began a feminist tradition that continues today. We saw this most recently at the Met Gala where stars donned fashion inspired by the Roman Catholic Church’s long heyday from the year 500 to 1550, including Rihanna’s glittering papal mitre and cloak. It was hard to miss the pointed irreverence of Rihanna assuming (and sexing up) the supreme mantle of an institution in which women can’t hold office. Coming at a time when campaigns against sexual harassment are sweeping the entertainment industry, the theme was surprisingly pertinent.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Keep Shaming Racists

Shame is definitely a social act that can get out of control and lead to unintended consequences. It's good to have these discussions. What's not happening, though, are the elite white pundits (Weiss, Ioffe, Friedersdorf, Chait, Haidt, the FIRE folks, that prof from VA who keeps writing the same op-ed, etc) thinking through the consequences of not shaming racists.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Animals and Der Jude Kriminell" - Immigration and Rhetoric

President Trump called some immigrants "animals." He said:
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,” Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room during an hourlong meeting that reporters were allowed to document. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”
The debate is now predictably to descending whether we should place the animals comment in context of just the MS-13 members.

Here's what I have to say about that:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

On GOP Nazis

There are Nazis doing well in GOP elections. There's always been a radical fringe, but they seem to be doing better this year.

The CA GOP kicked theirs out of the convention. I'd like to see more of this. Explicit rejection of Nazis is important.  And it's the job of the GOP to deal with their own Nazis, not for Democrats to be nice to them about it.

Now if only the GOP would reject its anti-semitic evangelical preachers instead of inviting them to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Whiteness and Power

My colleague, Katharine Gerbner, a brilliant historian of the Carribean, wrote this for the Washington Post:
Although many today consider race to be an immutable characteristic, that wasn’t always the case. Before the 17th century, whiteness didn’t even exist as a racial category. It emerged for the worst of reasons: slave-owning politicians invented “whiteness” as part of a political strategy intended to restrict the voting rights of free black men. Lawmakers subsequently refined “whiteness” by developing a “one-drop rule” — the idea that one drop of African blood would make a person “black.” In other words, race isn’t just connected to voter suppression; black voter suppression created whiteness.
The modern invention of race (as opposed to medieval thinking about race, also complex and important and about forms of power), has always been about this kind of power.

Monday, May 14, 2018

How to Apply for Graduate School

I get this question a lot. Eve Ewing has published a guide to the "personal statement" that is brilliant and useful. She writes:
The personal statement is a slightly misleading title for this document. It is not primarily about you holistically in the way your college personal statement was. It serves ONE MAJOR PURPOSE: to demonstrate to a department that you understand how to formulate and pursue a research question, and that there is a good fit between your question and the department.
She then outlines the major elements of the statement.

There are many ways to write this document, but its function, as Ewing says, is the aspect to keep in mind and the piece that's often most mysterious to undergrads.

Disciplines differ, but I think this is tremendously useful.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Kochs on Campus - An Overview

On Monday, Dean Moneta went into a campus coffee shop for tea and a vegan muffin, was offended by the lyrics of a rap song that came up on the shop's Spotify playlist, and promptly had the two employees on duty fired.
In this case—as in other recent cases where professors were fired or threatened with firing for criticizing elite figures, or when legislatures attempt to criminalize protest—we see once more how the real threat to free expression on campus has always come from the abuse of power. Power belongs to administrators, donors, and, in the case of public universities, lawmakers. Anyone serious about defending free speech and promoting ideological diversity should focus their critiques on those who wield that power to crush dissent. This Duke dean's abuse of power, especially given his hypocrisy, is merely the latest example of a much bigger problem. 
A few other notable examples have come to light over the last few weeks. The hard work of a student group at George Mason University has exposed how the right-wing Koch brothers have used their billions to sway faculty hiring. An ex-professor at Arizona State University has written about the Koch-funded creation of a shadow university—a mandatory ideological bubble—within that institution. At the University of Montana this June, a 39-year-old executive from General Electric was named president. His first move was to cut the humanities, especially targeting the independence of interdisciplinary programs like gender or environmental studies. Finally, a new survey of religious schools reveals that administrators routinely exercise approvals over what can and cannot be published in student newspapers, creating cultures and systems of campus censorship.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Conservatives on Campus: General Principle

Whatever it is that conservatives accuse liberals of doing on college campuses are things they themselves are trying to accomplish.

Today's case: Censoring student newspapers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On Silencing: You're Not Being Silenced Bari Weiss (et al.)

Bari Weiss has been writing the same "I'm silenced" essay for a long time, joined by a huge range of rich, powerful, connected, folks. She came up with this latest "intellectual dark web" piece about people who are well known, rich, powerful, and connected in order to assert ... what? I think her thesis is that fearless "pursuers of the truth" are being silenced, but it turns out they are the opposite of oppressed or silenced. How do I know? Because Bari Weiss also wants to tout their fame.

She has nothing to write about but culture wars. In this case, the NYT gave her the services of a Pulitzer Prize photographer, spending some thousands of dollars to create a weird photo shoot.

What  didn't seem to happen with this piece was an edit through the inherent contradictions of the piece.

How can these people be so exiled to some "dark web" when they are hyper visible? Raking in the millions?

It's just another case of dominant people wanting all the power but also to take the discourse of marginalization, as they think it would exempt them from certain kinds of criticism.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Texas "joke" and the Cult of Compliance

A Texas principal joked to her staff that the next time a black disabled child tried to leave the school grounds, she'd call the cops and tell them he had a gun. NEW at Pacific Standard
"Swearingen's "joke," if that's what it was, tells a story about the state-sanctioned killing of one of her students. It's good that there's no evidence she actually was planning on calling the police, but it's also a sign of the ways that the criminalization of disability and race permeates our schools."

Monday, May 7, 2018

Surveillance Pedagogy: It's what EdTech Sells

Don't spy on your students. Build pedagogical approaches premised on trust and respect.  Maximize the best practices rather than letting potential bad actors frighten you into building your teaching approaches around scaring students, spying on them, stopping cheating, etc.

I wrote about this in The Atlantic:
Back in reality, technologists are largely focused on the Internet of Things in which all the objects with which people interact on a daily basis—Google Glass and Apple Watch, for example—are gradually becoming computers, robots, and phones. The technologist Bruce Schneier calls it a “world-size robot.” The upshot? Quotidian objects that are actually computers will soon enter classrooms. It's still fairly easy to spot students using their cell phones in class—but when the smart pen or smart textbook sends messages directly to the contact lenses of students, teachers aren’t likely to even notice.
If the simple banning of devices from classrooms isn’t possible, then what? One option is to assert rigorous control over all information flow—a practice that could be described as panopticon pedagogy. As the education writer Audrey Watters has shown, ed-tech companies are all-in on surveillance, eagerly promoting models that capture every website, click, and time spent working. But students would inevitably find workarounds—using cellphone hotspots, for instance. More critically, controlling data use in class runs counter to optimal pedagogy.
Ultimately, we can spy on our students or we can trust them. I don't think we can only sorta spy on them.  And while the tools to spy on them can potentially be useful in a culture based on trust and respect, they make it harder to create that culture.

Teaching is hard. Tech won't fix it. Tech can break it.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Senators Attack Sub Minimum Wage

It's been exciting to see major senators, especially in the context of broader labor solidarity, attack exploitative work like this. More coverage at The Hill.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Arizona Teachers: We Won't Be Divided

News from the labor front, my latest at Pacific Standard.
As the threat to strike grew, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey promised a hefty 20 percent raise for all teachers by 2020 (which would still leave the state's teachers far below the national average). Rather than generate new revenue to cover the cost, though, Ducey, as reported by the Arizona Capitol Times, is counting on "rosy revenue projections and a mix of funding sweeps, lottery revenues, and spending reductions." The rosy projections are imaginary, but the sweeps and reductions will be all too real. The targets for cuts include arts and university programs, but also programs for people with developmental disabilities and children who need extra help learning English.
Twenty percent might sound like a lot, but Arizona teachers weren't striking to pad their pockets, but rather to shift the whole funding structure for higher education.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Abolish ICE: Man with Down syndrome arrested

My latest - on the arrest of a man with Down syndrome and the campaign to #AbolishICE
"Juan Gaspar-García, a 22-year-old man with Down syndrome, came to this country from Guatemala the year after his mother died. He was 14 at the time, and his father and siblings were in Florida. From the outside, it would seem as though the move worked well: Gaspar-García has graduated from high school and works with one of his brothers for TentLogix, an event-rental company. He's also undocumented. Now, after a raid last month by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Gaspar-García is facing the risk of deportation back to a country that he doesn't know.
Instances like this one demonstrate why more and more people—not just radical leftists—are arguing that we need to abolish ICE."

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Nazis and Incels

"While we do need law enforcement to try and stop the next terrorist act; long-term, it's well past time to think structurally."
My latest on Toronto, Waffle House, and Georgia Nazis for Pacific Standard