History In The Making?

Will a woman finally break the glass ceiling in politics?  Hopefully, after tonight, HRC will most likely clear the bar after the CA, NJ voters go to the primary polls.  Tonight could be historical.  Finally a woman may be en route to the White House.  

As for the claim from the BS camp.  None of the delegates, super or “regular” has cast a ballot. They are pledged to cast their vote for either Bernie or Hillary, as a regular delegate or super delegate.  Consequently, claiming a contested convention is not only dishonest but subterfuge and Bernie is better than this. 

 I wonder if Jeff Weaver, brother in law to Karl  Rove, may have channeled Rove during this campaign because some of the tactics employed are truly below the belt and truly crass.   It’s so easy to get into the mud, so much more difficult to rise above the gutter.  And hopefully Bernie knows this and will end his campaign honorably and graciously and celebrate with US this historic moment.

Failure is impossible!!

Micro-Aggressions: Useful Characterisation or Unproductive Tag-Line?

These days it appears that speech is on precarious terrain.  The words offensive and aggressive come to mind; but are these characterizations a consequence of experience or cultural micro-aggression? 

I have a long list of what offends and how to offend.  For example, I am offended when a friend says, “Just a minute,” and that phrase morphes into a fond memory as time slips away.  My time is worth at least 82 cents in relation to the guy next to me, but pennies on the dollar are something.

And I can offend as well.  My staccato speech and frequent references to a sex act, offends folks from Nebraska or anyone west of the Hudson.  My speech isn’t crafted to offend, it just is what it is.

So when I read about “micro-aggressions” and  cultural “triggers,” I am somewhat unnerved.  Triggers in NYC, the land of my birth and my home,  occur at least every 60 seconds especially if you’re stuck on the F train.  As a law school professor, I am invited into the world of the law student where everything is at once insulting, offensive and disconcerting.  Indeed, asking a student to comment on how he or she feels about a specific case can cause apoplexy if not down-right heart seizures.  Such a request is treated as if one invaded a micro force field which shields from having to interact with other humans during the course of a day.

Yet, the current state of sensitivity on campus is marked by minefields that are not always recognised or seen through cultural lenses.  Indeed, one can wander into such a minefield unaware of the damage which can result to both speaker and listener.  Yet, sensitivity or cultural offence is at best a two way street if not a six lane highway.

Let me share a personal experience.

A few years ago we were in the market for a new Dean.  The faculty hallway is a repository for opinions, lobbying and general kvetching.  

One day a group of young professors gathered to swap stories about our latest victim in the roulette game that is Deanship candidacies in American Law Schools.  He was a Jew from THE City, and for the uninitiated I am referring to NYC.  He had spent the last five years deaning in a state to the extreme mid-west of the Hudson River.  

Whilst discussing this fellow,the conversation overheated.  Apparently, at the law school where he currently was Dean, he noticed how the black students congregated on one side of the hallway whilst the white students positioned themselves directly opposite with no group members interacting or engaging with members of the other group.  Each was a self contained and isolated entity.

Upon viewing this scene, the Dean Candidate, commented, “What is this a ghetto?”  
One of my colleagues claimed his comment demonstrated “cultural insensitivity and inexcusable ignorance” because he failed to account for African-American students’ cultural  understanding of the term ghetto” and what it telegraphs or conveys.  

What she failed to understand however was the term “ghetto,” has more than one meaning and once unpacked is grounded in differing cultural experiences. 

In New York City, the word ” ghetto ” is synonymous with “neighborhood.”  Indeed my parents referred to where they grew up, 187 Street & Belmont Avenue, as the Italian Ghetto, whilst the Grand Concourse in the Bronx or Williamsburg Brooklyn were tagged as the Jewish and the Hassidic Ghetto, respectively.  

For Jews, however, the word holds additional memories.  It is a reminder of Warsaw and Lodtz during the Holocaust and the Ghettos of Christian anti-Semitic Europe.  The word holds dual meaning –a cultural preserve that conjures up remembrances of Nonna, Nanna, cannoli and kugel.  Yet it also brings up memories of segregated genocidal killing fields marked by the bones of murdered relatives and friends.  It is the nexus of these two experiences or memories that framed the Candidate’s response to what he observed. 

When reminded that speech is grounded in experience, another young colleague remarked, “Oh he’s just a 60’s liberal,” dismissing the political struggles that now allowed us to stand in this hallway as tenured professors  at a law school.  The doors of law schools, medical schools, police and military academies were no longer blocked by racial, sexual, or homophobic barriers because of not in spite of  the work by the Candidate and his comrades.

My question?  Was his comment a micro aggression and were the comments of my colleagues cut from the same cloth?  I think not.  As to the Dean Candidate; insensitive and offensive  to African-American students? Yes indeed!  My colleagues statements; were they offensive-consequences of limited experience and myopic political experience and knowledge? Absolutely!  But a micro-aggression?

As Patricia Williams reminds, we are the sum of our parts.  And those parts are constituted by myriad experiences. Recognition of and understanding difference is not a consequence of silencing speech and marginalisation of experience; rather it is a consequence of debate & discourse. 

Being kind, respectful and gracious are important; censoring speech that violates these values is dangerous however.  And while freedom of speech is essential, it requires accountability.  Censorship however produces a self imposed silence that inhibits individual and collective growth and, in an academic environment, it stunts the ability to think critically and to act compassionately. 

What are your thoughts?

It’s Time To Lower The Bern

Bernie’s contribution to the election process has been incalculable.  He has infused a class analysis into the political campaign, more than shaken up the Establishment and provided a much needed voice to the traditionally voiceless in American Politics.

And he has been a mensch & role model to so many.  

But the writing is on the wall, the water is under the bridge, over the dam and through the woods.  It is time for Bernie to bring himself and his followers into the center of the nominating process and support HRC in Philadelphia; support that reveals a strength of spirit and commitment to the People and the common good.  

Bernie’s support of the presumptive nominee can materialise into a political platform that contests and confronts income, racial, gender ID, and sexual inequality.  A Democratic Platform that has a Sanders imprint can and will shift the discussion to policies that improve the quality of life for all Anericans whilst reaffirming our commitment to inclusive democracy.

This election is perhaps the most critical in decades.  Its importance cannot be  overstated.  The Supreme Court is at issue and its composition will determine for generations, whether the rights and lives of the poor, people of color, women-regardless of ethnicity, the LGBTI community, immigrants- documented & undocumented, shall be protected or abrogated.   A Trump Presidency will be the death knell for U.S. credibility in the world community and make tenuous democracy at home and abroad, and such a Presidency places its imprimatur on the worst in and of US.   

ALL persons who believe in human dignity, Liberty and Equality must coalesce around and collaborate in the election of  HRC.     

As Hillel reminds, “if I am not for myself who am I; if I am only for myself, what am I ; if not now-when?”

The time is now!

In the News

In the case involving the murder of Tom Clements, Colorado Director of Prisons, prosecutors missed an opportunity to charge the white supremacists who helped Evan Ebel escape after he gunned down Clenents in the doorway of his home.  And they will never get the chance to bring them to account.  The statute of limitations has run on the accessory-after-the fact charge; thus, the State is forever barred from charging the perpetrators.   

Questions remain.  Why no investigation?  Why didn’t they act when the report from Texas documented who hid Ebel and helped him to flee?  What more was needed for the DA to act in addition to the report which gave chapter and verse to who assisted Ebel’s sprint out of Colorado.  

White supremacist gang conspired to kill Colorado prisons director, new documents allege