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The Speech

If you haven't already, read the text of today's "race speech" from Obama (link).  No matter your political persuasion, you'll find much there that you agree with.

This speech is the essence of what is so attractive about his message.  Unity not division. Hope not fear. And not or. Americans not Republicans or Democrats. This I can support wholeheartedly.

The other thing that has struck me in recent days is how prevalent the impression is that our racial issues are so far behind us that they are irrelevant to today's reality.  And that Tiger Woods, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, a governor or two, are evidence that all is hunky dory.  Come on.  There is no disputing the fact that, relative to their percentage of the population, blacks are underrepresented in positions of power (government, Fortune 500 CEOs, etc.), behind in economic advancement, behind in academic achievement, but drastically over-represented in prison.

As I figure it, faced with that evidence as well as even a superficial knowledge of our racial history (slavery, lynching, sundown towns, segregation, discrimination, bigotry, etc.), what explanations do we have other than 1) the blatantly racist view that blacks are naturally inferior in terms of morality, intellect, etc. or 2) the conclusion that the effects of our tragic racial history are still felt today?  This is no excuse for any individual to shirk responsibility for his own actions, but it does help us understand why some people might still feel angry and that there is still work to be done.

Factory-Reject Monster Baby



With all the recent discussion of race in American politics (e.g. Obama taking heat for the high racial content of his church's message; Bill and Hillary Clinton taking heat for playing racial politics, etc.), it was great timing for me to hear the "Babies Buying Babies" segment of the 18 January 2008, installment of the This American Life radio show.

I won't go into any more detail so that I don't spoil it, but let me simply say that it was fantastic!!! Here is the teaser from TAL's site:

Elna Baker reads her story about the time she worked at the giant toy store, FAO Schwartz. Her job was to sell these lifelike “newborns” which were displayed in a “nursery” inside the store. When the toys become the hot new present, they begin to fly off the shelves. When the white babies sell out, white parents are faced with a choice: will they go for an Asian, Latino, or African-American baby instead? What happens is so disturbing that Elna has a hard time even telling it. (16 minutes)

Have a listen online.  Here is a link to the web page where you can listen to it in your web browser: link

Another good listen that is somewhat-related (deals with race in America) was the 23 January 2008 installment of the "Democracy in America" segment of The Economist's podcast.  It features a conversation with Michael Dawson of the University of Chicago who discusses...

...what's at stake for African Americans in this election, and whether Barack Obama has a chance

Here is a link to the mp3: link

Best Books of 2006

color_of_love.jpgI haven't read many books this year. Make that one: The Color of Love by Gene Cheek. It was gripping, especially since it occurred in my old stomping grounds. An amazing, sad, and tragic story. I wrote a little about it here. Hopefully my list will be a bit longer next year. The lists of others: NY Times "100 Notable Books of the Year" Slate's "The Year in Books"


Athletic Ability

irvin.jpgThis is kind of old news, but I thought this on was funny...that a joke like this one would create a big controversy. Michael Irvin (ESPN commentator and former Dallas Cowboys receiver) joked on ESPN Radio that...

Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo's athletic ability must be the result of an African-American heritage.

Irvin later apologized for his comments...

"They were inappropriate and insensitive. My whole thing, what I always try to do, is give people a first-hand knowledge of what it's like in the locker room and how we as players joke around with one another," Irvin said.

"Generalizations about heritage are inappropriate even in jest, and what Michael said was wrong," ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys told USA Today. "We have spoken to Michael about it."

The Big Lead has a transcript. Based on that, I can see why Irvin's statements were a little more inflammatory than than they would seem based on the ESPN story:

"… [there must be] some brothers in that line somewhere … (laughs to himself) somewhere there are some brothers … I don't know who saw what, where …. [maybe] his great, great, great, great Grandma ran over in the hood or something went down … (laughter)" Dan Patrick, sensing disaster, jumps in and says, ‘that's the only way to be a great athlete?' Irvin comes back with, "No, that's not the only way … but it's certainly one way … [maybe his] great, great, great, great Grandma pulled one of them studs up outta the barn [and said] ‘come here for a second' … back in the day …(more sinister laughter)"


The Analytical Student

Every once in a while (maybe once or twice a year), when I'm sitting in front of the computer and need to kill some time for some reason, I poke around on to see if I can find something interesting to read. The mission of that site is described as this:

There are thousands of Churches undergoing hostile takeovers and being changed into a venue of "Holy Entertainment" by the "community church" movement. "No one here will admonish anyone for worshipping God in what ever manner they believe to be correct. However, when someone subverts an existing Church by secrecy and deceit against the principles of it's founders and members... ...WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" The below listings are links to various church member sites where the members discuss what's happening at their church, and learn about the problems causing division and take-overs.

This past weekend, during such a moment of random browsing, I came across this post by a Rochester College student. Rochester College is located in the Detroit-suburb of Rochester and is affiliated with the churches of Christ. The student documents his/her concerns about Rochester College, focusing on the lightning rod himself Rubel Shelly and also the controversy surrounding a Black History Month (BHM) guest chapel speaker that plagiarized from an internet chain email of dubious veracity known as "Life Without Black People." In reference to the BHM speech controversy, the poster at concerned members links to a blog titled The Analytical Student that (link):

...aims to foster an intellectual environment in which analytical students are free to question the teaching and philosophies taught by Rochester College, both in its activities and assemblies.

The blog is interesting and represents a pretty good discussion of the issues related to the controversial chapel speech without much gratuitous bickering. Much of it is anonymous, but there are also comments from folks like Candace Cain, RC's dean of students, and Calvin Moore, president of RC's Student Action Diversity Committee (SADC). There was also apparently the formation of a Caucasian Support Group on facebook, in analogy to the already-existing African-American Support Group, thrown in for good measure. The poster (Tacitus) at concerned members summarizes his/her motivation in a postscript:

Note: My main intention in writing this (as well as the intentions of other Rochester student writers will be joining in this endeavor as well) to simply "let the truth be known" about what's going on at Rochester College. Rochester College portrays itself as a Bible-believing, conservative Christian institution, but it has shown itself to be anything but that. I hope that you will pass this information on to your friends and church members - it's time donors and visitors see past the facade Rochester College is putting on to attract and maintain students and funds. Final Note: This is only the beginning of the accounts of troubling incidents at Rochester College. I and other students will write more as time permits.

Also, the House of God Sessions, organized by Calvin Moore and RC's SADC, looks like it could be very interesting.


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