Category Archives: political

Waking up to racism at reunions

 

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Beyond the beer bracelets and the colorful jackets, the organizers of Princeton Alumni Reunions have included some displays and events that explain the history of white supremacy — the political, economic, and cultural system that manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.

On view today at the Frist Campus Center is the photographic story of James Johnson.  This is a somewhat positive story about a formerly enslaved man who worked at the university, in various capacities including as an entrepreneur selling snacks, from 1843 to 1902. A Princeton woman paid to keep from having him returned to his former owner. (He repaid the debt).

PTI

Until 5 p.m. today, on the south lawn of East Pyne Hall,  experience a solitary confinement cell in an exhibit organized by the New Jim Crow of Trenton and Princeton. This exhibit, also, has a positive spin. It is co-sponsored by the Class of 1994 and the admirable Prison Teaching Initiative (PTI).  PTI offers a panel on Friday, May 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Andlinger Center. 

PUAMOSE_30941In the Art Museum, now and until July 7, resonate with the problems of immigrants at the border in an exhibit: Miracles at the Border, 

 

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You may have noticed odd stones in the sidewalk on campus. They are part of the (In)Visible Princeton Walking Tours, five self-guided tours on your cell phone covering the experience of minorities (African-Americans, Women, and Asian-Americans) as well as standard Tiger traditions. Download and take any tour anytime.

Back by popular demand are the “performance theater” Race and Protest tours. When I took one last year there was some confusion, among those who signed up, about the format. The theater artists tell location-based stories. If you read this TODAY, May 31, meet at the Art Museum for an hour-long tour at 10:30 a.m. or 4:30 a.m. It’s well worth going. Or read about my experience here. 

And – if you are a townie – join Not in Our Town Princeton at the Princeton Public Library on Monday, June 3 at 7 p.m. for Continuing Conversations on Racism. At these monthly sessions you can learn about – through discussion with others — what white supremacy really means.

 

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Executive male or black teen?

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Graph of MIT survey courtesy of NZHerald

Princeton engineering professor Alain Kornhauser might seem to dominate discussions of driverless cars; he’s making them and leading the dialogue on their controversies.

Now Princeton prof and Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman has been linked to the ethics of how driverless cars make their decisions about who to hit – cats or people? pregnant women or old man? In this article, Kahneman is cited re his experiment on the psychology of health decisions that extrapolates to the choices that driverless cars will make.

Quoting the Washington Post and NZ Herald (note the British spellings!)

The way questions are framed can often have an impact on the final decision that’s made. The behavioural scientist Daniel Kahneman illustrated this through a thought experiment in which the outbreak of an unusual disease was expected to kill 600 people.

Respondents, in this case, were offered two potential health programmes. In programme A, subjects were told they had a 100 per cent chance of saving 200 lives. Programme B offered a one-third chance of saving 600 lives and two-thirds possibility of saving no lives.

In this scenario, most people went for programme A – the guarantee of saving 200 lives.

However, when Kahneman switched the scenario to lives lost rather than lives saved, the choice respondents made was completely different.

When they were asked to choose between the 100 per cent chance of the death of 400 people or programme B (which remained unchanged), most respondents opted for the latter despite the fact that programme A was unchanged in both scenarios.

What Kahneman illustrated was that moral decisions can be swayed by the way in which the questioning is phrased.

Kahneman doesn’t decide. He illustrates the complexity of the decision. What I am asking? Will driverless cars “see” race? 

Calling White Evangelicals to Stand Against Racism

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Ten days before the national observance of the Stand Against Racism day, a leader of evangelical Christians sent a wakeup call to conservative Christians everywhere: Mark Labberton, president of Fuller Theological Seminary addressed  leaders gathered at Wheaton College (Illinois). In multi-faceted, far-reaching remarks, he defined white supremacy and attributed it to Christian leaders past and current.  

To get details on YWCA Princeton’s plans for Stand Against Racism day, click here. 

To read his address, “Political Dealing, the Crisis of Evangelicalism,”  click here.  Main points: 

This is not a crisis imposed from outside the household of faith, but from within.

This is not a crisis taking place at the level of language.

This is not a crisis unfolding at the level of group allegiance, denomination, or affiliation.

This is not a recent crisis but a historic one. . .”Right alongside the rich history of gospel faithfulness that evangelicalism has affirmed, there lies a destructive complicity with dominant cultural and racial power. Despite deep gospel confidence and rhetoric, evangelicalism has been long-wedded to a devastating social self-interest that defends the dominant culture over and against that of the gospel’s command to love the “other” as ourselves. . .

First is the issue of power.  …”The apparent evangelical alignment with the use of power that seeks dominance, control, supremacy, and victory over compassion and justice associates Jesus with the strategies of Caesar, not with the good news of the gospel.,,

Second is the issue of race. …”White history narrates the story of America’s heroes, and white evangelical history views those “good guys” as the providence of a good and faithful God.  When some white evangelicals triumphantly pronounce that we now have “the best president the religious right ever had,” the crisis it underscores to millions of people of color is not an indictment of our President as much as it is an indictment of white evangelicalism and a racist gospel…

Third is the issue of nationalism. …”For white evangelicals to embrace a platform and advocacy that promotes, prioritizes, and defends America above all and over all is to embrace an idolatry that has only ever proven disastrous…

Fourth is the issue of economics.  …”When white evangelicals in prominent and wealthy places speak about what is fair and beneficial for society, but then pass laws and tax changes that create more national indebtedness and elevate the top 1% even higher—while cutting services and provisions for children, the disabled, and the poor that are castigated as disgusting “entitlements”—one has to ask how this is reconciled with being followers of Jesus…

Labberton hopes that evangelicals can change their racist views and cites Matthew 28, the account of the Great Commission. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Labberton points out that Jesus gave the Great Commission even to those who doubted, those who might have been considered unworthy. “So perhaps he can also still use American evangelicals as well.”

Though I  personally focus on trying to help the people of this world come to know their God better — and some say that is evangelizing — I oppose the rigid beliefs of evangelical theology. Nevertheless I applaud Labberton’s urging the conservative Christian community to study its responsibility for white supremacy, definable as “a system which manipulates and pits all races and ethnicities against each other.”

The organization I support, Not in Our Town Princeton, aims to identify and expose the political, economic, and cultural systems which have enabled white supremacy to flourish. We are trying to create new structures and policies which will ensure equity and inclusion for all.  

As NIOT Princeton’s website says, “listen to your heart, figure out whether you can contribute time, talent, tithe, or some combination of all three, and then STEP UP! And tell all your friends how your commitment to racial justice is reflected in your calendar, your checkbook, and your conversations. The website offers resources, one place to begin. 

Or come to the rally this Friday. 

 

 

 

 

So much good stuff this week

So much good stuff this week in U.S. 1.

Aside from the cover story, there is Richard K. Rein’s fascinating column on D-Day in Normandy.

A review of my new favorite restaurant in Hopewell (Basilico).

A primer for employees on tipping, as relates to a Princeton Regional Chamber breakfast this Wednesday.

And two intriguing revelations about celebrities with Princeton roots.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, is a trustee at Institute for Advanced Study and is donating millions for research on machine learning.  (Win Straube will be pleased; he’s been touting online tutoring for forever.)

And when you see a  Kushner name on a commercial real estate property in Princeton, you now know for sure what THAT Kushner has to do with THE Kushner, Jared. As here: 

“The founder of Kushner Real Estate Group is Murray Kushner, and his son, Jonathan Kushner, serves as president. Murray is the estranged brother of the developer Charles Kushner whose son, Jared Kushner, is the son-in-law of President Trump.”

To meet the folks who put out this paper every week, come to the Summer Fiction reception, Wednesday, August 16, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Tre Piani restaurant in Princeton Forrestal Village. The free event begins with informal networking, accompanied by a cash bar and free hors d’oeuvres, with introductions of the poets and authors beginning at around 6 p.m.

What if the government just gave everyone money?

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The Guaranteed Minimum Income plan, or Universal Basic Income, is not new. It was researched by a Princeton company, Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), back in 1969. It’s the subject of Diccon Hyatt’s excellent cover story “Driven by Data” in this week’s U.S. 1 Newspaper.

Led by Paul Decker, MPR is a company I’m proud to have in Princeton.

Cross your fingers: health news

Today’s healthcare news:

I’ll start with Juliet Eilperin’s coverage of the healthcare bill in the Washington Post, “From hospitals, doctors, and patients, a last gasp of opposition to the Senate health-care bill,” A Daily Princetonian alumna, the Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, she tells of how hospitals have mounted unusual lobbying efforts. ‘While McConnell had been pressing for a vote on the measure before the end of June, the delay gave opponents more time to marshal their arguments and make their case to lawmakers. This final lobbying push represents opponents’ best chance of derailing McConnell’s final drive to passage, which continues to look uncertain.’

Today the CEO of Incyte, Herve Hoppenot, speaks at the Princeton Regional chamber lunch. Look for me in a striped jacket. At age six I ‘worked’ in my parents’ cancer research lab and 70 years later I have a vested interest in new cancer cures.

 

Sexism on the Hill

Subtle sexism is so precarious because it is thought-provoking — for the targets. Management and psychology researchers Dr. Eden King and Dr. Kristen Jones have found that implicit biases can actually be more harmful than outright discrimination for several reasons, including: the higher frequency with which they occur, the lack of clear legal recourse, and the amount of time women spend analyzing these perceived slights.

A former Congressional staffer writes about sexism in the Athena Talks blog on Medium. 

This quote has interesting parallels to racism.

To be clear, this concern over sexism in the workplace was not part of my experience.

Bridgegate: Now Bordergate?

A Canadian mission team, ages 15 to 60, aiming to help rebuild homes from Superstorm Sandy was turned away at the border, according to this report.

They were to be hosted by a church whose minister, Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, has been labeled “a vocal critic of Trump’s immigration orders.” (He is also the Green Party candidate for governor.)

According to the Customs and Border Patrol, they lacked the government letter needed to prove the project is needed. But mission teams have, for years, entered the United States from Canada without such documentation.

This group of teenagers and parents was told, by the immigration officials, that there was a danger that they might take away American jobs — and that there was no more need for home rebuilding resulting from Superstorm Sandy. No more need? Four years after the storm, more than 4,000 people have not recovered. Churches in New Jersey — including my own, the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey — are still working and collecting donations to get people back in their homes.

Does this seem like payback to you?

At the minimum, the United States loses tourist dollars. And trust. According to this report in The Guardian the Girl Guides of Canada have canceled all trips to the United States.

 

 

This is called journalism: Andrea Mitchell

Joe Pompeo offers daily comment on the media in his column for Politico 

Especially apropos for International Women’s Day, he saysandrea mitchell “Let’s hear it for ‘unruly’ Andrea Mitchell.” Bold face mine.

MUST WATCH: In which Andrea Mitchell does her job by asking the Secretary of State questions because that’s what member of the press corps covering him are supposed to do, and then Bill O’Reilly’s website characterizes the scene as, “Unruly Andrea Mitchell escorted from press conf; The NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host shouts question after question at Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then seems proud as a peacock at her display.”

Alternate takes: “For the record, this is called journalism, and she did this on the Clinton campaign and during the prior administration too.” [Nick Riccardi] “1)

Ya can’t call it a “press conf” if no questions are taken 2)

We should all be as ‘unruly’ as Andrea Mitchell when public officials dodge.” [Matt Viser]

“She persisted, one might say, and on women’s day of all days” [ Maggie Haberman]

“Does anybody know if Secretary Tillerson can speak? Maybe he has some terrible disability? Good to see @mitchellreports checking on him.” [Nicholas Kristof]

This makes me wish I weren’t retired, to get a chance to be unruly again.

Just tell it so they get it: gerrymandering

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As Sam Wang talked this morning on how to countermand the evils of gerrymandering —  legislative districts structured to favor one party — I kept thinking “he’s the perfect person for this.” Wang spoke this morning at the Princeton Regional Chamber breakfast. 

The battle to redistrict Congress will be fought in the courts, probably leading to the Supreme Court, which has turned down several cases for lack of a manageable standard.  As Wang said, lawyers don’t go to law school because they like math. (Nodded agreement from the 80+ attendees, with more than the usual number of lawyers.) Lawyers might be good in math but it’s probably not their forte.

So if you want to use algorithms to uproot gerrymandering, you’d better figure out how to make that math accessible to the lawyers’ brains, especially the SCOTUS brains.

If any one can do that, Wang can. He is an eminent neuroscientist with an unusual facility to state complicated concepts in simple ways, as in his first book “Welcome to Your Brain.”

Though Wang is still doing neuroscience he is also consulting on political statistics via the Princeton Election Consortium. During the question page he talked about testifying in various court cases and presented various “manageable standards.”

His webpage even has an option to do the math yourself – pick a data set and work out whether those districts are configured fairly.

On that page, Wang says he wants to do more than use math and polls to explain politics. He wants to stimulate people to act. Not just Democrats, but “all Americans who want to save institutions – whether they are liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican.” He recommends that we all

  • joining our U.S. Representative’s party (even though that may be hard to do)
  • work to keep the media ‘on task’

Are you looking for ways to make change? Read his  action items for democracy’s survival here.

Says Wang: “Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way round.”