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Why I’ll Always Apologize for My Privilege

Twitter was abuzz with banter yesterday concerning Time magazine’s re-post of a Princeton Tory diatribe by student Tal Fortgang, entitled Why I’ll Never Apologize For My White Male Privilege.

I checked it out and quickly understood why. Tal begins,

There is a phrase that floats around college campuses, Princeton being no exception, that threatens to strike down opinions without regard for their merits, but rather solely on the basis of the person that voiced them. “Check your privilege,” the saying goes, and I have been reprimanded by it several times this year. The phrase, handed down by my moral …

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Why I Support Same Sex Marriage as a Civil Right, But Not as a Strategy to Achieve Structural Change

The pending Supreme Court decisions concerning the constitutionality of California Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act have pushed discussion of same-sex marriage into the mainstream of the news cycle, with many civil rights advocates convinced that regardless of the court’s decision, eventual victory is a done deal. I don’t disagree. I’ve also argued in support of same sex marriage rights. However, I have some serious worries about the broad implications of this victory.

Why? First, the obvious. Marriage is a conservative institution. It licenses certain kinds of relationships and not others based on a template that reproduces a …

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Johnson: The Movie

I just returned from a week of vacation. That means I’m just catching up on the Oscars.

I was surprised to return to find that Lincoln didn’t do as well as many entertainment media pundits predicted. After all, even the likes of Senator Barbara Boxer claim to have seen it twice, and once in a White House movie night apparently intended to remind members of Congress of the nobility of compromise. Movies with that kind of gravitas generally do well in the Oscars race. But not this time. Good from my point of view because I frankly hated Lincoln…the movie, …

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The Stuff You Can Learn From Late Night TV

Since it’s Friday, I thought I ought to post something short. This video made me laugh out loud.

It’s made the rounds so you’ve may have already seen it, but it’s the kind of thing that deserves multiple looks. And it’s gotta be one of the best things to happen on late night talk TV in a while.

Louis C.K.’s point about slavery being just “two 70-year old ladies living and dying back to back” behind us in history is a good one, especially in light of what’s happened since abolition.

We’re one of those old lady’s middle aged younger …

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Columns Reviews

Book Review: The Warmth of Other Suns…Now, Go Ahead, Read It!

 

Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns is a great read. I know I’ve said this already, but I want you to read it, now, if you haven’t already. Then I want you to tell me what you think of it. Seriously.

The Warmth of Other Suns is a compelling account of the great migration of African Americans who fled the South for Northern cities in the early to late-mid 20th century. The migrants whose stories are shared were driven out of the South by the humiliations and horrors of Jim Crow and drawn Northward by stories, many …

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Whites Won’t Give Up on Racism

Mychal Denzel Smith recently posted an article on The Nation that’s a worthy read. In it, he argues,

…White people have to let go of racism. From the avowed racist, to the anti-racist activists, to the “I’m not a racist, I have two black friends” folks, to the “I don’t see color” people and everyone else between or on the margins…

I loved the article. It raised points we rarely see in print, even in places like The Nation. But, as I’m sure Smith would agree, white people aren’t really going to just give up racism. Why? Here goes.…

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Racism is a House …or Something

When discussions of racism come up, folks are quick to remind me that race is not a real thing – it’s just a social construct. I agree. Race isn’t “real” in the sense that it’s not based in biology and it sure isn’t based on geographic difference. I mean, just check out Asia. What do Japan and Iran have in common other than some idea about the “Orient” invented by Europeans, right?

But this idea of race as a social construct is pretty academic. And folks often preface “social construct” with the word “just,” as if the fact …

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North Carolina Amendment 1: Racism In Homophobe’s Clothing

Much has been written about Amendment 1, the referendum to change the North Carolina State Constitution to deny official recognition of domestic unions other than legal marriage between a man and a woman. The amendment was approved by 60% of North Carolina voters yesterday.

The passage of Amendment 1 is a serious defeat for pro-LGBT forces. 60% exceeds the polling estimates and, in the land of ballot issues, a 20% margin is pretty much a landslide.

I worked on a bunch of ballot measure races back in the 1990s, starting with serving on the campaign staff of the 1992 …

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Blog Reviews

Book Review: The New Jim Crow

Today is my birthday. The passage of time has me reflecting a lot on the years behind me, especially as I’m looking down the barrel of 50.

Among the most frustrating yet inspiring experiences I’ve had over the years was the time I spent working on criminal justice reform. During those years I spent a lot of time in juvenile detention facilities, jails, prisons, and courtrooms. From that perch, the racism of the system seemed so plain as to be indisputable. Just as plain was the amazing resiliency of people caught up in the system, many of them non-violent drug …