Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review of John Gennari's "Flavor and Soul"

“With the publication of Flavor and Soul- Italian America at its African American Edge,"John Gennari has written an eloquent book about Italian Americans and race that carves out new space in our increasingly polarized national debate about whiteness and racial identity. Gennari, like me, is a white race scholar who is  frustrated by a reductionist  discourse on white privilege that erases class differences and history,  while being appalled by the re-emergence of racism and xenophobia as a force in national elections. His deeply personal, and evocative portrait of spaces where Black and Italian American culture and style intersect does two important things: it complicates the national discourse on whiteness, and gives Italian Americans a way of affirming their love for their culture in ways that link them to African Americans rather than separate them. It is a powerful work of healing and imaginative reconciliation that is even more important now than it was when it was first published, especially in the light of the orgy of ethnic stereotyping that followed the  appointment of Anthony Scaramucci to a position in the Trump White House. Gennari, writing about things that most of us hold dear, music, food, film, and sports, rescues Italian Americans from the box many Americans have placed them in (and some Italian Americans have placed themselves)  to point the way for people to cross racial boundaries in a spirit of joy and mutual discovery.”

Look for my review of Flavor and Soul in a forthcoming issue of the Italian American Review—here’s a link to the journal: http://qcpages.qc.cuny.edu/calandra/publications/publications
Excerpted by permission of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College, City University of New York.
The book is available now from all booksellers. Here’s a link to it at the publisher, the University of Chicago Press: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/F/bo25094688.html

Saturday, August 26, 2017

If Fordham is Any Example, Millennials are not "Dictatorship Material"


One of the reasons I am confident that Donald Trump will not take us on the path to dictatorship or authoritarian rule is the refusal of young people to be intimidated by authoritarian figures in their lives, be they parents, teachers or school and university administrators
I have seen this first hand at my own university in the past year. In three separate instances, students have mobilized to protest what they consider unfair or inappropriate action by different wings of the university, risking suspension to get their point across.
The first example took place when Dean of Students Office refused to give club recognition to "Students for Justice in Palestine" after every student and faculty committee which evaluated the matter suggested it be given such recognition. Students not only organized rallies, vigils, and protest marches to challenge the decision, they brought the matter to the press and are now suing the University in court to challenge the decision.
The second example took place when the University refused to recognize or negotiate with an organization of contingent and adjunct faculty and even claimed a religious exemption from such negotiation. Students not only organized rallies and marches in support of contingent faculty, they tried to march on the President's office and demand he begin negotiations, an action which led to a confrontation with Fordham security guards that led to some injuries and disciplinary action against the students. Following the incident, which caused widespread distress among faculty as well as students, the University changed its position and agreed to negotiate with the faculty group
Finally, and more recently, the Dean of Students made a presentation on Campus Sexual Assault to Resident Advisors that some found so offensive that they interrupted the presentation and walked out of the room. Following the protests, several students issues a public statement on the presentation demanding that remedial action be taken and last night, the University said it was launching a formal investigation
In all my years of Fordham, I have rarely seen students challenge actions by the administration so forthrightly and effectively.
I suspect this is part of a national, and generational pattern. If Fordham is any example:
Millennials are Not Dictatorship Material!.

Friday, August 25, 2017

How I Respond to Critics of My "White Supremacists by Default" Comments on CNN


  

 In the last two years, I have watched Neo Nazis and the KKK rise to a level of influence and visibility that they have not had since the 1960's, possibly not since the the Great Depression. And  I have been horrified
that they have given credit to Donald Trump as both candidate and President for their renewed influence
'
 I count many Trump supporters among my tennis partners and people I work with the national anti-testing movement. And I have some Trump supporters in my family. When I saw this happening, I begged them to speak out and get Mr Trump to decisively repudiate this array of extreme racists who were using his candidacy to elevate themselve

 With few exceptions they declined to give this matter much attention, either because they wanted to prevent Hillary Clinton from being President, or because they saw the issue as tangential

 However, to many people in the country, especially African Americans, this matter was hardly tangential as it brought up tragic circumstances in their history which they hoped they had left behind

 Now we are facing a face off in many of our communities which has reach dangerous proportions.

Following the election of Mr Trump, there were numerous incidents in schools in Eastern Long Island, Ohio and other places where white students chanted at their Latino classmates " Build A Wall" and "We Will Deport You."

I have also witnessed racially provocative behavior on the part of white students at Fordham that we have not had since the late 1980's. In fall of 2015, when Mr Trump was starting his candidacy, a group of white students at a swimming team party chanted, so that other students in their building could hear them "White Power"  "Barack Obama is a Nigger" and "Martin Luther King is a Nigger"

 I used this forum of the CNN article to raise the alarm about a rising tide of White Racism  which is anything but abstract to Blacks, Latinos, Muslims and other targets. I am hoping that decent people of all political persuasions, but especially conservatives, clamp down hard on the Neo- Nazis and White Supremacists who have sought cover in their movement.

Turning away and ignoring the powerful impact of this on our social fabric will only make things worse

 I see some signs that people are waking up And am willing to take the heat for ruffling some features to get things moving in the right direction

All the Best

Dr Mark Naison

PS  This survey was brought to my attention recently.  It suggests that I was not exaggerating

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Kaepernick, Charlottesville and National Anthem Protests


The NFL owners who have collectively refused to sign Colin Kaepernick in the hope of avoiding protests which divide their fan base may have miscalculated or misread the political climate.
Following the Charlottesville "Unite The Right" rally where Neo Nazis and White Supremacists came out in the open in ways which frightened and appalled many people, the National Anthem protest which Kaepernick initiated- and few NFL players initially followed- has started to spread.
First sixty current and former NY City Police officers- including 81 year old Frank Serpico- took the knee during the National Anthem at a ceremony in a Brooklyn Park.
And then yesterday, nearly a dozen Cleveland Brown players-
including tight end Seth DeValle, who is white-took a knee in prayer during the National Anthem during their pre-season game with the Giants.
Given the growing sense of revulsion, not only with the Charlottesville protests, but the President's response to them, I have every expectation that the National Anthem protests will grow in size and number, especially if Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned.
I may be wrong about this, but as someone who has sensed growing anger among friends and colleagues about Kaepernick's exclusion from the NFL, I fully expect my prediction to hold.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why There is a Movement to Remove Confederate Monuments


The movement to remove Confederate monuments is only one part of a much larger project forcing the country come to terms with the legacy of slavery, something it never has done. This also involve exploring how some of our major universities were built on proceeds derived from slavery and the slavery trade ( as Fordham Grad Craig Steven Wilder did in his book "Ebony and Ivy"); exposing how prevalent slave markets were in almost every major Southern city; and creating exhibits throughout the South and the nation which explore how central slavery was to the economic development of the nation and how cruel it was in its daily functioning, especially in terms of the systematic breeding and sale of slaves. This movement is being driven by the brilliant young race scholars who are now on the faculty of almost every university in the nation. It is not going away. It is only going to gather momentum in coming years. And it is likely to lead to local, and possibly national efforts, to compensate the descendants of its victims

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Lonely Places Champions Are Made


At 10:30 this morning, on a cloudy day, I headed over to the tennis courts adjoining the local elementary school to practice my serve. The courts were empty, and filled with puddles that still hadn't dried from the morning's rain. Nevertheless, I served by myself for a half an hour, determined to sharpen the direction and depth of my serve for the singles semifinal I had in a week, against an opponent who had excellent ground strokes and good service returns.
And as I struggled to find the right rhythm, I thought of all the lonely moments I had spent as an athlete and a parent trying to perfect my skills or those of my children
Like the times I went to the little park near my apartment building at Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 AM, practicing layups, set shots and hook shots before the big kids arrived for the day's pickup games. I did this religiously from the time I was 8 till the time I was 12
Or the times I took my daughter Sara, when she began training for junior tournaments, to courts where you needed your own net, on 7 AM on spring and fall weekends so we could practice uninterrupted for 2 hours, something impossible on public courts where you needed a permit, or impossibly expensive at private courts. To one of those courts, on McDonald Avenue and Avenue S, I needed a broom to sweep away discarded bagels, broken glass and occasionally dead pigeons. That was the only way I could keep Sara competitive with the suburban kids who had public courts everywhere or the rich Manhattan kids who could afford lots of private coaching
And when my son became a serious baseball player, who needed to excel as a hitter as well as a pitcher, I would take him at 7 AM to Prospect Park where I put him in front of the pitchers mound to hit hundreds of tennis balls I threw to him into the backstop, teaching him how to make contact with two strikes by shortening up his swing, and training him to the ball to the opposite field on outside pitches.
This is the unseen work that made all three of us into college athletes, going from the schoolyards and parks of Brooklyn into the fierce and glorious world of Division One College Sports.
Some may call this a form of sacrifice, but I see it as the heart and soul of the athletic experience, the place where the courage and persistence of champions is forged.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Danger! Personalized Learning!


The new danger word in education policy is "Personalized Learning." Whenever you see that featured at a conference, a seminar, or on the website of an organization, you should put your guard up, as the influence of billionaire investors is behind the scenes promoting this attempt to put every child in front of a computer and reduce classroom instruction to computer tending, all in the name of respect for individual aptitudes and abilities.
The goal here is to completely remove relationship building in the classroom, whether between students and teachers, or among students themselves, and transform data accumulation on students into a daily task, shredding civil liberties and personal privacy. It is a pathway into a Brave New World of manipulated students, manipulated employees and manipulated citizens.
So, put "Personalized Learning"on the top of your list of education policies which threaten democracy and enlightened citizenship, along with "Data Driven Instruction," "Data Walls" and "Common Core."
It is starting to pop up everywhere! So watch out! And fight back!