Category Archives: multicultural

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.

Book Review: Simona L. Brickers

levineSimona L. Brickers, my colleague on the board at Not in Our Town Princeton, reviewed this book by Caroline Levine. Thank you, Simona, for drawing my attention to Forms: Whole, Rhythms, Hierarchy, Networks (192 pages, $19.95, Princeton University Press).

Levine’s book is a fascinating journey through Forms, defined as the “fluid overlap of social and cultural order, patterns, and shape that open up to the “generalizable understanding of political power” (Chapter 1).  It brings together, nicely outlined, literary work by Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Jacques Derrida, and Ralph Waldo Emerson along with many others. It weaves the literary examples into accounts of lived examples of institutionalized, systemic, freedoms and constraints that influence social collaboration and chaos.

In relating the act of punishment to rhythm, Levine highlights African music as repetitive, cyclical, polyrhythmic and dialogic and expressing pleasures that produce a participatory and embodied collective singing.  Rhythms turned out to be the repressive form used against African captives by slave masters to impose solidarity, control, and subjugations through chain gang songs (Chapter 3).

Levine’s central concern, as reflected in her title (Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network), was to present a platform to explore the phenomenon called “path dependency.”  Path dependence is learned helplessness depicted as a systematic composition that constricts diversity (race and gender) with barriers that prohibit reversal because of social and organizational cost.  The mechanism of sex is a device that produces hierarchical distinction (Chapter 4). The implicit disconnect in the various forms creates constraints and differences. Various forms overlap and intersect. They travel and influence political policies in particular historical contexts (Chapter 1). 

Nevertheless, the whole theoretical concept is misleading when it is carefully examined to reveal the social advantages that differ according to the traditional rhythms of the hierarchical color-coded network . Levine quotes Derrida’s work because the desire for bounded wholeness has grave political consequences (Chapter 2). Levine addressed the underpinning of social order, pattern, and shape by examining the dysfunction of forms. She also studied how the web translates into “literature as landmarks,” depicted as advanced transgression.  “Repetitive temporal patterns impose constraints across social life…standard repetition, durations, and arcs of development organize our experiences of everything from sleep and sex to governments and the global economy (Chapter 3).

 Levine writes brilliantly. Each word captures an essence of social order, patterns, and shapes (norms) that have become invisible, taken for granted without acknowledgement of the transhistorical or macro-environmental influences on society and the policies governing our daily routines.  The reader learns that we are not authentic — but domesticated, trained to behave, believe, and act according to a socialized outline that serves some differently than others , with no regard to how overlapping forms influence injustice.

Her masterful last chapter discusses The Wire (2002-2008),  the David Simon HBO series. This conventional cop drama exploration of the ways that social experience is structured within African American communities (Chapter 5).  The Wire rendered radically unpredictable and overlapping social forms. Levine ends the book by leading readers to contemplate the unsettled, unexpected and bewildering effects of an ideologically coherent society with power lodged in the hands of a few.  The challenge is self-reflective, aiming to push the reader to seek beyond what is controlled by a few — the societal whole, rhythms, hierarchies, and networks that influence social order, patterns, and shape individual and collective Forms.

Levine asked this question on page 18: “Which form do we wish to see governing social life, then and which forms of protect or resistance actually succeed at dismantling unjust, entrenched arrangements?”

The book is a masterpiece. It offers an opportunity to read, reread, and discuss the forms that are accepted as “unchangeable.”

Simona L. Brickers

Discrimination x three: Princeton stories

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Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, photo by Denise Applewhite

Thanks to Planet Princeton’s Princeton Wire newsletter for the news roundup that alerted me to an article on housing discrimination research at Princeton University by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, assistant professor of African American studies and author of From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation. She has a fascinating biography.

“Putting the blame on the individual suggests that racism can be overcome by education alone,” said Taylor. She is quoted in the article as reminding us that throughout history racism has been used as a way for the powerful to control others for material gain — and it is still used that way.

Another amazing but grim story from the Planet Princeton lineup is about the wrongfully imprisoned Princeton alumnus from Iran. 

If first aired on the Moth Radio Hour, which if you didn’t know about, you want to.

Less grim but still unsettling is the Daily Princeton article on research showing that, at the tender age of six, kids think boys are smarter than girls.

Race discrimination, nationality discrimination, gender discrimination — does this go on  forever?  Parents, start with your two year olds, they have to be carefully taught.

They sold a thousand tickets —

— to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir tonight.’

estonianIt’s in the Princeton University Concert series usually held in Alexander Hall, but, ever-so-appropriately, the venue for the choir is the Princeton University Chapel.

After years of enjoying Janell Byrne’s choreography to the work of Arvo Part “the uncrowned king of Estonian music,” I’m looking forward to hearing his choral work in that Gothic cathedral space.

Here is the program.

Though the ‘regular’ tickets are sold out, there are ‘obstructed view’ seats available and who cares about the view? But the snow will discourage some, and concert series director Marna Seltzer suggests “likely you will be able to move to a better seat.”

With its riches of Westminster Choir College and the American Boychoir, Princeton is a singer’s town. Next weekend we’ll welcome 800 singers from all over the world for a choral festival, “Sing ‘n Joy Princeton.” Trinity Church hosts a “Friendship Concert”  on Friday night, February 17, and Princeton United Methodist Church hosts a concert on Sunday, February 19, at 3 p.m. It’s free!

3 p.m.  – Friendship Concert – Princeton United Methodist Church
• ChildrenSong of New Jersey (Haddonfield, NJ, USA)
• Paduan Suara El-Shaddai Universitas Sumatera Utara (Sumatera Utara, Indonesia)
• Liberty North High School Choir (Liberty, MO, USA)
• Shanghai Jiao Tong University Choir (Shanghai, China)
• Vassar College Majors (Poughkeepsie, NY, USA)

Take part in the joy!

 

“I am not your Negro’

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I Am  Not Your Negro , an Academy Award-nominated film by Raoul Peck, is an up-to-the-minute examination of race in America through the eyes of James Baldwin. It will be in some theaters on February 3. The trailer  reveals it to be a succinct and powerful summary of a time that some of us lived through but did not experience.

The Garden Theatre notes that major cities get it first, but that it will come here “by the end of the month.” What a great resource!

 

The dollar value of Orange and Black

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I’m not among those who think Princeton University should pay more taxes. The University is the reason my house is worth more than a house three miles away. The University is a big part of the reason I moved here.

Here is the report citing the dollar value of the university. It was put together by a New York-based consulting firm, Appleseed. Yes, the university paid for it. But that doesn’t make it untrue.

While I’m thinking about the plethora of university events that I could attend if I had the time, many of my favorite events take place at the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding. It’s on the edge of the Engineering Quad at the corner of Prospect and Olden.

As one of the several events that will commemorate the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the university will host a free community breakfast on January 16 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Fields Center. Everyone’s invited.

Insider tip: this even used to be held after lunch in Richardson Auditorium. This year it changed to a breakfast and, for the first time (!), the MLK day is a holiday for university employees.

 

A book only teens could write

Two Princeton high schoolers — Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi — have published an important book that helps classroom teachers engage students  in the often difficult to discuss subjects of race and ethnicity. They had help from experts in the field, but because it is chock full of personal stories of children, teenagers, and young adults, it’s a book that only teens could write. The Classroom Index, on sale for $20, will be discussed on Wednesday, December 14 at 6 p.mlabyrinthpanelat Labyrinth Books (122 Nassau St, Princeton)

The 220 pages, with color illustrations, are organized beautifully for teachers — with intros on how to initiate discussion and clever indexes by tags. You can look for stories by identity (Latina,   Asian, African American) or by topic (economic, interpersonal, aesthetic, residential, familial). Teachers can use this trove of stories to bring new layers of meaning for any subject from physics to phys ed.

I found it fascinating for a different reason.With so many different stories from so many different kinds of people, I can be a voyeur. I can find answers to the hard questions that I might be afraid to ask.

If I were to live in a place where everyone looks like me, it would be hard to be friends with someone different. And even those of us who live in a diverse community — maybe we can’t get up the nerve to talk about sensitive topics with someone of a different background.

Some of these stories are raw and pungent. Some poignant. Some funny. The authors put each story in a useful educational context. As here:

“My substitute teacher caught two girls talking to one another. He automatically thought the Hispanic girl was asking for help from the White girl, but it was actually the other way round.” The comment: “Racial stereotypes and prejudice go hand in hand. Disregarding the dimensionality of members of one race and placing them into constrained boxes can cause harmful psychological effects….the number of Hispanics enrolled in two- or four-year college has more than tripled since 1993.” 

The panel will be moderated by the authors,  Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi, co-founders of  CHOOSE.  They are also members of the Not in Our Town Princeton boardDr. Ruha Benjamin, Not in Our Town’s lead racial literacy presenter will be on the panel, and she wrote the introduction. The panel also includes Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, who supported the project. Also former Princeton High School English, History  Supervisor John Anagbo, and Princeton University Associate Dean Khristina Gonzalez

If you can’t go, buy the book to read and then give to a classroom teacher. The Princeton school have purchased many, but I’m betting there aren’t enough to go round. And then ask –is it being used?

Taking Care of Seniors

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“The rich fragrance of steaming beet borscht wafted into my apartment from Alexandra’s kitchen, awakening memories of my mother’s incomparable version of the famous Russian soup.”

Libby Zinman wrote this evocative account of living in the Harriet Bryan house for U.S. 1 Newspaper’s cover story this week. Describing her apartment there:
 “It had been designed by architects whose esthetic sensibility had brought the outdoors into the apartment’s living quarters, allowing the woods, luxuriantly clothed in the red and golden leaves of autumn under a brilliant blue sky, to become part of my everyday life.”

Zinman had traveled widely and spent much of her professional life in Vietnam. She found wide diversity in her new home. “A milieu like this offered rich opportunities to understand other worlds and foreign cultures, a reality that also gently nudged us all to practice, more thoughtfully, the gentle art of tolerance every single day.”

She also covered how senior housing works in Princeton. In this sidebar, she testifies that “the Harriet Bryan House is one of the outstanding successes of Princeton Community Housing, which offers different programs for seniors unable to afford the increased cost of purchasing homes or renting apartments.” 

That’s Princeton.

New Lens for Racial Literacy

firstSurely Michele Alperin’s superb October 19 cover story in U.S. 1 Newspaper on Ruha Benjamin helped to enhance awareness of the value of Racial Literacy. Benjamin’s first lecture drew an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd at the Princeton Public Library, and on Tuesday, October 25, at 6:30 p.m. she will facilitate the discussion at the Garden Theatre’s screening of the three-part documentary “Race, the Power of an Illusion.”

This first segment, “The Differences Between Us,” examines the science -including genetics – that challenges the assumption that human beings can be bundled into three or four fundamentally different groups according to their physical traits.

Racial literacy is a much-needed, often neglected skill that — in the 21st century — we all need in order to live and work successfully in a diversifying society. But conversations on race are not easy to have. But as Benjamin said in her lecture,  “Racism doesn’t belong to few bad apples; it is coded in our psyches and institutions. Pretending we don’t see it is not a cure.”

The five-part Racial Literacy series is cosponsored by Not in Our Town Princeton, Princeton Public Library, and the Garden Theatre. It continues with Benjamin’s second lecture at the library on Tuesday, November 1 and film screenings on Monday, November 7 and Tuesday, November 15, all starting at 6:30 p.m. In the coming months, Not in Our Town Princeton will continue its monthly “Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege” on first Mondays at 7 p.m. at the library. For details go to niotprinceton.org.For social media, use #Racial Lit and tag partner organizations, @PrincetonPL, #niotprinceton, and @PrincetonGarden

As quoted in Alperin’s article,  Benjamin aims to help people put on a new pair of spectacles and see that “what I’ve learned about this is actually wrong.” Who among us does not need new lenses?