Archive for the 'race' Category

October 22nd 2012
Today’s example of brainless, fact-free so-called “Founding Fathers” worship

Posted under American history & European history & jobs & race & wankers

And it would have worked too, if it weren’t for you meddling Anti-Federalists!

Today’s example comes from Katherine Kersten, a fellow at something called the Center for the American Experiment in Crappy History.  It’s a twist on the “Obama is not an American” theme so popular with anti-Obamaniacs these days.  Big news, kids:  President Barack Obama’s agenda is not rooted in Kenyan anti-colonialism.  Instead, it’s rooted in Kaiserreich Germany!  Behold:

Progressivism views the roles of citizen and state very differently than our founding fathers did. The founders anchored the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in three principles. They believed that human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inherent in nature and human dignity, and preexist the state. They believed that government should be limited, and that its primary purpose is to protect these rights. Finally, they crafted our Constitution to disperse power and curb its abuse through mechanisms such as checks and balances, and federalism.

As the 20th century opened, progressives like Woodrow Wilson — a former president of Princeton University — dismissed the Declaration and Constitution as outmoded. They insisted that America’s archaic political system was unsuited to solving the problems of a new industrial age. Ironically, however, they drew their own vision for perfecting democracy from a very undemocratic place: the imperial Germany of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnnn!  Now, forget about some American intellectuals’ fascination with German education back in the 1870s for just a moment, a phenomenon to which Obama is only very, very distantly attached, to say the least.  Did you see what she did with the so-called “Founding Fathers?”  Continue Reading »

12 Comments »

October 20th 2012
Creating a diverse pool of finalists for faculty jobs

Posted under Gender & jobs & race

Dive into the pool!

Nicoleandmaggie from Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured left a very smart comment in the peanut gallery of the last post that I thought deserved highlighting and discussing.  They write:

My department has had huge success hiring high quality women and minorities. (We’re almost all women and minority assistants and associates, in fact.) How do we do it? Well, we recruit widely and we pretty much just use rubrics to hire advanced assistants and new associates. We initially cut the pool by number of publications in a specific tier of journals. We look through the rest and rate on specific things in a grid using numbers. Then we compare people at the top with numbers that are above a certain threshhold. Then we double check all the women and minorities. We’re also good about policing potentially sexist and racist language and we almost completely ignore letters of recommendation.

We don’t assume that the woman or minority is the trailing spouse. And we end up with really strong final candidates even though our teaching load is a bit higher than average and we’re in the middle of nowhere. And then they accept the job. (Turns out hubby or partner is willing to be a trailing spouse and single women actually will take jobs in the middle of nowhere.) Continue Reading »

10 Comments »

September 30th 2012
The Color of Christ: America’s own personal Jesus?

Posted under American history & happy endings & local news & race

Our friend Paul Harvey, the proprietor of Religion in American History and a Professor of History at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, has had a banner month in September.  First, his new book with Edward J. Blum, The Color of Christ:  The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2012)  has just been published.  Then the authors got a nice bit of publicity from the Chronicle of Higher Education a few weeks ago when it published a brief explanation of their argument, along with some thoughtful comments about Mormonism, Mitt Romney, and representations of Barack Obama as a Christlike figure.

The book ranges over the entire course of American religious history, from puritan prohibitions on representing Christ at all, to Mormon imaginings of a blue-eyed, phenotypically northern European-looking Jesus, to the emergence of a black Jesus in the Civil Rights era.  As the publisher’s website suggests, “[t]he color of Christ still symbolizes America’s most combustible divisions, revealing the power and malleability of race and religion from colonial times to the presidency of Barack Obama.”

But that’s not all!  Last week, I got an e-mail from Fraguy while he was at Denver International Airport, reporting that Harvey and Blum had published an opinion piece in the New York Times about “Fighting over God’s Image.”  They point out that Americans bloviating over “Muslim rage” about recent profane American representations of the prophet Muhammad overlook the fact that “Americans have had their own history of conflict, some of it deadly, over displays of the sacred.”  Continue Reading »

18 Comments »

August 30th 2012
Women’s and gender history has menstrual blood smeared all over it. If you read this post, you too will be contaminated.

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & women's history

George Catlin, “Comanche Village, Women Dressing Robes and Drying Meat,” 1834-35

UPDATED BELOW

I am so tired of reading “new” histories of the North American borderlands and “new” conceptualizations of “empire” that read  just like anything that Francis Parkman or Frederick Jackson Turner ever wrote, except minus the racism.  Now, that “minus the racism” part is important, don’t get me wrong.  But is it really an intervention for which modern historians should be congratulated when we assume that historical Native Americans were rational and had their own politics?

Having read a whack of recent histories that address the Great Basin and Great Plains in the past few years, a region whose economy was based in large part on the trade in bodies and the labor of female slaves from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, I want to hear more about these captive women and less about the men who lead those raids and profit from stealing, raping, exploiting, and/or reselling those women.  Every author alive today makes this point in his book–and yet, that’s just about the extent of his analysis.  I want books written from the perspective of these women and girls, not more books written from the perspective of the dudes on the horses, whether those dudes are European, Euro-American, or Native American.  Didn’t we get enough of those books about the manly exploits of armed and mounted men in the nineteenth century? Continue Reading »

61 Comments »

June 11th 2012
The successes of the LGBT rights movement

Posted under American history & book reviews & Gender & GLBTQ & happy endings & race & the body & women's history

In her thoughtful review of Linda Hirshman’s Victory:  The Triumphant Gay Revolution (2012)  E.J. Graff says that Hirshman presents a serviceable overview of the GLBT movement.  However, she says that Hirshman’s core argument for its remarkable success slights the Civil Rights and feminist movements that preceded gay liberation, and misunderstands the importance of the previous two movements to the victories of LGBT rights:

Of course, Hirshman isn’t trying to tell the entire history of the lesbian and gay movement, but so much is missing that she gets her analysis wrong. Or did she limit her focus because her analysis is off? In the book’s introduction,Hirshman claims that America’s two great preceding social movements, for racial justice and women’s equal rights, were less ambitious and therefore less successful, making strategic calculations to emphasize their similarities to the dominant social order. Lesbians and gay men, in contrast, had to work hard to open up room for our deviance, and therefore achieved more profound social change.

.       .       .       .       .

But in praising the LGBT movement’s drive to make the world safe for difference, Hirshman implies that black people and feminists never had to establish their moral cred. Is she kidding? Blacks had to fight depiction as subhumans, sexual monsters, immoral criminals, and intellectual inferiors. Feminists were painted as sterile, heartless harpies; women’s brains as supposedly too small for public life. Both groups expanded the meaning of the founding American dictum: All of us are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Continue Reading »

16 Comments »

May 9th 2012
Why blogging still sucks, part II: a shande

Posted under American history & bad language & race & students & wankers

I haven’t written about this previously because I haven’t wanted to give this predictable charade the attention Naomi Schaefer Riley so desperately craves, but here she is, boo-hoo-hooing all the way to the bank with her next book deal in the works, I am sure.  Fannie and Lance wrote perceptively about this embarassment for the Chronicle of Higher Education last week–read their links if you want more background.  So, to summarize:

  1. Nasty, lazy blogger with an axe to grind insults the ongoing dissertations of a few graduate students on a Chronicle-sponsored blog. 
  2. The mostly academic audience for the Chronicle blogs takes offense not only at the a) racist invective of the original post, but b) at the fact that the writer came to her opinions on the basis of reading just the titles and brief abstracts of the dissertation.
  3. The Chronicle dismisses the nasty, lazy blogger, after foolishly trying to portray the blogger’s post as an “invitation to debate.”  (Since when do we debate the existence of academic fields?  Do we debate the existence of the Philosophy or History departments?  Does the Chronicle publish blog posts arguing that all biology departments are driven by their political agenda of evolution, instead of producing research based on creationism and intelligent design too?)
  4. The nasty, lazy blogger writes a screed complaining of her unfair victimization by typical left-wing closed-minded academics.

Here’s something from the nasty, lazy blogger that’s unintentionally funny.  Continue Reading »

16 Comments »

April 13th 2012
Pat Buchanan, or John C. Calhoun?

Posted under American history & race & wankers

Old crazy ideas

You be the judge.  Answer on the flip!

I know further. . . that we have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race–the free white race.  To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind of incorporating of an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes.  I protest against such a union as that!  Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race. . . .

[I]t is a remarkable fact, that in the whole history of man, as far as my knowledge extends, there is no instance whatever of any civilized colored races being found equal to the establishment of free popular government, although by far the largest portion of the human family is composed of these races. . . . Are we to overlook this fact?  Are we to associate with ourselves as equals, companions, and fellow-citizens, the Indians and mixed race of Mexico?  I should consider such a thing as fatal to our institutions. . . . Continue Reading »

15 Comments »

April 5th 2012
Sex preferences among expectant parents: are they antifeminist?

Posted under childhood & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & women's history

Via Bridget Crawford at Feminist Law Profs, we learn of a trend observed by Erin KLG at 5 Cities, 6 Women

[T]here’s a trend I’ve noticed lately that gets me as teary …. It’s this: when pregnant women – smart, funny, fierce women I respect – say they don’t want daughters. Some even take to their Facebook pages to rejoice, at approximately 20 weeks, when they find out it’s a boy instead of a girl – or, in the case of one person I know, updates her status to complain specifically about the disappointment of having a girl.

I find these women fall into two camps:

#1: “I don’t want a daughter because girls are harder to raise than boys.  Variations on this: “Girls are so moody and dramatic” or “Girls are manipulative and dangerous” or “Girls are easy when they’re young but watch out when they’re teenagers! Hoo boy!” or the ironic “Girls are too girly. I just can’t get into that stuff.” I cannot explain these women. I’m sorry. The best I can figure is that they dislike themselves, their sister, their mother, or someone else with a vagina, based on past experience, and the thought of producing another creature of the female variety makes their brain short and they say stupid things like, “Girls are just, I don’t know, harder on you emotionally.”. . . Really, you should pity these women. Show them kindness. Love them. But do not try to change them; you will not be able to reason with them. . . .

#2: “I don’t want a girl because the world is harder for girls.”. . .  Continue Reading »

57 Comments »

March 27th 2012
“Race and nature are at the heart of the story:” Part I of my interview with The Republic of Nature author Mark Fiege

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & Intersectionality & race & the body

Today’s post is the first of a two-part interview with Mark Fiege (pronounced FEE-gee, rhymes with BeeGee), who has just published The Republic of Nature:  An Environmental History of the United States (Seattle:  University of Washington Press, 2012).  Mark is a colleague of mine at Baa Ram U., and his book delivers what its sweeping subtitle suggests–a striking reinterpretation of American history as environmental history, with chapters that span the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. 

Because we have had conversations on this blog about many of the issues Mark addresses in his book, I believe that many of you will want to learn more about The Republic of Nature.  Those of you who are training graduate students in history and who are looking for ways to bring environmental history into your survey and upper-division lectures and readings will find this book indispensible.  American historians will learn something new, and non-U.S. historians will behold a model for using environmental history in telling a national story.  Furthermore, all readers who enjoys brisk prose and surprising insights into stories you thought you already knew will be rewarded with discoveries on nearly every page. 

The Republic of Nature is not a textbook, but rather an attempt to interpret key episodes or turning points in American history as environmental history, reconsidering them from the different angles employed by environmental historians and their extra-disciplinary colleagues.  Its nine chapters explore New England witchcraft, the Declaration of Independence, “King Cotton,” Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address, the Transcontinental Railroad, the atomic bomb, Brown v. Board of Education, and the energy crisis of the 1970s.  (Click here to learn more about the book at its own website.)

In today’s conversation, we talk about nature, race, and their central roles in American history:

Historiann:  Abraham Lincoln and race are emotionally and actually at the center of your book:  Lincoln’s profile at Mt. Rushmore greets us on the dust jacket of your book.  Your introduction opens with a fascinating meditation on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Chapters 3 through 5 focus respectively on slavery and cotton production, the mythic and actual biographies of Abraham Lincoln, and the Battle and Address of Gettysburg.  And finally, your interest in race and the color line in American history are evident again in your choice to focus on Brown v. Board of Education in chapter 8.  What is it about Abraham Lincoln and America’s record on race that attracted your interest as an environmental historian?  I can’t help but perceive a rebuke to environmental historians who perhaps have not attended to this aspect of the American historical landscape–or is that an unwarranted assumption?

Mark Fiege:  Researching and writing this book has convinced me that race and the black freedom struggle are central to American history, perhaps even its defining elements. But I’m an environmental historian, and another part of me recognizes that all social struggles unfold in the material medium generally known as nature. So I felt that I had to explain how race and nature are at the heart of the story.

While working on the book, I came across ”Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the national anthem composed in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson. I had never heard it performed, so the ethnomusicologist Deborah Wong gave me a version of it on a CD. It is profoundly moving, as great as any of the other national anthems. In it, people wander across an awesome providential landscape until they come to a place where they can live in God’s sheltering grace. It presents a kind of alternative Manifest Destiny that is about redemption, not conquest. It captures perfectly the sense that the struggle is centered in a landscape and involves a people’s special relationship to nature. 

So I think my focus on race is less a rebuke to anyone than an embrace of what I take to be the truth of the matter–that this is what American history, at its core, is really about.        Continue Reading »

15 Comments »

March 5th 2012
White bread, racial purity, and the longue duree

Posted under American history & book reviews & race & the body

From The Child's Colored Gift Book, with One Hundred Illustrations, (1867)

 Aaron Bobrow-Strain got some nice publicity yesterday for his new book, White Bread:  A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf, which according to Amazon will be released tomorrow.  Bobrow-Strain’s subtitle suggests his focus, which is really on the past 100 years and the invention of the mass production of factory-baked loaves.  In an interview with NPR on Weekend Edition Sunday, he made the point that “white bread was a deeply contentious food — ever since the early 1900s’ ideas of “racial purity” up to the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s. . . . . White bread first became a social lightning rod with the Pure Foods movement of the late 1800s. Bobrow-Strain says well-meaning reformers were concerned about a host of legitimate food safety issues, and their activism led directly to many of today’s food safety laws.  But food purity ideals bled into the social realm in the form of what Bobrow-Strain calls “healthism” – the idea that “perfect bodily health was an outward manifestation of inward genetic fitness.” 

Fans of Laura Shapiro’s Perfection Salad:  Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century (1986; 2009) will likely be familiar with the earlier parts of Bobrow-Strain’s narrative, from what I can tell from the promotional materials–I’m glad to see that Shapiro’s book has been reissued and perhaps thereby brought to the attention of younger scholars.  (I tried but failed to find even a table of contents for White Bread online–I guess we’ll have to wait until the book is officially published to “look inside,” as the Amazon feature suggests. . . )

Bobrow-Strain is not a historian, but rather an Associate Professor of Politics at Whitman College, and he holds a Ph.D. in Geography and other degrees in Latin American Studies International Studies.  White bread–or to be more specific, raised loaves made of refined wheat flour–has a much longer and more interesting early American history, and one that marries well with Bobrow-Strain’s arguments about white bread and racial purity.  Continue Reading »

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