Segregation in Baltimore

This is an editorial from the New York Times that pursues what I found earlier about segregation in DC and elsewhere.

How Racism Doomed Baltimore

 

Opinion

EDITORIAL

 

How Racism Doomed Baltimore

By The Editorial Board

May 9, 2015

 

The Baltimore riots threw a spotlight on the poverty and isolation of the African-American community where the unrest began last month. The problems were underscored on Friday when the Justice Department, in response to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s request, started an investigation of the Police Department, which has an egregious history of brutality and misconduct.

 

Other cities are plagued by the same difficulties, but they have proved especially intractable in Baltimore. A new study from Harvard offers evidence that Baltimore is perhaps the worst large city in the country when measured by a child’s chances of escaping poverty.

 

The city’s racially segregated, deeply poor neighborhoods cast an especially long shadow over the lives of low-income boys. For example, those who grew up in recent decades in Baltimore earn 28 percent less at age 26 than otherwise similar kids who grew up in an average county in the United States.

 

As shocking as they are, these facts make perfect sense in the context of the century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers, all of whom worked to quarantine black residents in ghettos, making it difficult even for people of means to move into integrated areas that offered better jobs, schools and lives for their children. This happened in cities all over the country, but the segregationist impulse in Maryland generally was particularly virulent and well-documented in Baltimore, which is now 63 percent black.

 

A Southern City

 

Americans might think of Maryland as a Northern state, but it was distinctly Southern in its attitudes toward race. In the first decade of the 20th century, for example, the Legislature approved amendments to the State Constitution to deny the vote to black citizens. Voters rejected these amendments, not out of sympathy for civil rights, but because of suspicion that the political machine would use disenfranchisement to gain a stranglehold over state politics.

 

The segregationist effort in Baltimore gained momentum in 1910, shortly after a Yale-educated black lawyer bought a house in the well-heeled Mount Royal section of the city. The uproar among whites led to an ordinance that partitioned the city into black blocks and white blocks: No black person could occupy a home on a block where more than half the people were white; no white person could move into a block where more than half the residents were black. In 1910, The New York Times described this as “the most pronounced ‘Jim Crow’ measure on record.”

When the courts overturned the ordinance, the city adopted a strategy, already successful in Chicago, under which building and health department inspectors lodged code violations against owners who ignored the apartheid rule. Civic leaders then imposed restrictive covenants that barred black residents.

 

‘House Not For Sale’

 

The Federal Housing Administration, created in 1934 by Congress to promote homeownership by insuring private mortgages, could have staved off housing segregation by enforcing a nondiscrimination policy. Instead, as the historian Kenneth Jackson explained in “Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States,” the agency reflected “the racist tradition of the United States.” It insisted on a rigid, white-black separation in housing. It openly supported racist covenants that largely excluded African-Americans — even the middle class and well-to-do — from the homeownership boom that took place between the 1930s and the 1960s. And it typically denied mortgages to black residents wherever they lived.

 

As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote last year in The Atlantic, this policy meant that the federal government had endorsed a system of financial apartheid under which “whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport.”

 

African-Americans who were cut off from legitimate bank mortgages paid a price. But the penalty was especially high in Chicago and Baltimore, where laws allowed the worst kinds of financial predation. Black buyers often resorted to what was known as the contract system, run by sellers who were the subprime sharks of their time. They rigged up ruinously priced installment plans and financial booby traps with the express aim of repossessing the home when the buyer missed even one payment and then selling it again. To meet the outrageous costs, borrowers sometimes subdivided apartments and skimped on repairs, allowing properties to fall into decay.

 

The system accelerated urban decline and ghettoization. It also prevented a generation of black citizens from gaining the wealth that typically flows from homeownership. Writing of Baltimore just last month, Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, argued that “the distressed condition of African-American working- and lower-middle-class families” in Maryland’s largest city and elsewhere “is almost entirely attributable to federal policy that prohibited black families from accumulating housing equity during the suburban boom that moved white families into single-family homes from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s — and thus from bequeathing that wealth to their children and grandchildren, as white suburbanites have done.”

 

Trapped in the Neighborhood

 

Segregation that traps black families in dangerous, decrepit neighborhoods continues to be an issue in Baltimore. As recently as 2012, for example, the United States District Court in Maryland approved a settlement in the long-running public housing desegregation suit, Thompson v. HUD, which sought to eradicate 100 years of government-sponsored segregation in the Baltimore region. The settlement called for expanding a housing mobility program that helps black residents move to low-poverty neighborhoods that are racially integrated in the city and surrounding region.

 

Against this backdrop, the data showing diminished life chances for poor people living in Baltimore should not be startling. The tensions associated with segregation and concentrated poverty place many cities at risk of unrest. But the acute nature of segregation in Baltimore — and the tools that were developed to enforce it over such a long period of time — have left an indelible mark and given that city a singular place in the country’s racial history.

 

A version of this article appears in print on May 10, 2015, on Page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: How Racism Doomed Baltimore.

Published in: on April 19, 2019 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Did Restrictive Racial Housing Covenants in America Begin in Washington, DC?

I knew that my block of Randolph Street in NE DC at one point had legal, racially exclusive covenants built into the deeds of the houses, stating that the houses could never be purchased or rented by blacks, Jews, or Mexicans. I was glad that such restrictions have been swept away.

However, I didn’t realize that DC was sort of an epicenter of such racial redistributing and oppression of disfavored minorities. This article, which I found on the Ward 5 list-serve, takes the case of nearby Bloomingdale and shows how that nasty social cancer was developed and spread, with the government and white businessmen at all levels fostering it.
Kudos to the African-American folks who fought against it. It is sad that so many white folks agreed with this sort of nasty business for so long and failed to protest it alongside black people.
https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/racially-restrictive-covenants-bloomingdale/

A quote from that article:

During the first half of the 20th century, the number of areas in which black people could live in D.C. shrank as new whites-only housing, playgrounds, and schools were developed. The growth of the federal government, and corresponding demand for new buildings and infrastructure, added to the problem.

Washington had not always been so spatially segregated. In fact, African American and white families had often lived in close proximity to one another throughout the 19th century, especially within the city’s urban core and in neighborhoods along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. However, the city grew increasingly divided along racial lines through a series of city planning efforts.[4] D.C. did not legally assign neighborhoods to one racial group or another—a policy introduced in Baltimore in 1911 and copied by more than a dozen cities across the upper South—but nearly the same thing was accomplished by other means.[5]

 

By the way, my Brookland neighbor Jim Loewen is mentioned in the article: he wrote perhaps the best book in existence showing how “sundown towns” like Greenbelt and Chevy Chase were developed.
From another paper:
In its 1948 decision, Shelley v. Kramer, the U.S. Supreme Court held that racially restrictive covenants could not be enforced, but the practice of inserting such covenants into title documents remained common. Finally, in 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act made the practice of writing racial covenants into deeds illegal. However, nearly seventy years after Shelley and 60 years after the Fair Housing Act, racially restrictive covenants remain common features of deeds. This may be for several reasons. First, since covenants run with the land, they become part of the land title in perpetuity. Second, the process to remove covenants is expensive and time-consuming. Third, the majority of owners may not be aware that their properties are subject to racially restrictive covenants.
You are probably aware that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue began his career in real estate by enforcing the racist housing practices of his racist father.

The Three R’s That Helped Mango Mussolini Succeed

Mark Naison wrote the following on Facebook. I think it sums up a lot of Individual 1’s success, but not all of it. DJT has developed an uncanny ability to lie convincingly.

Ruthlessness, Racism and Riches: Are These the Most Important Keys to Success in the USA?

When I learned from Michael Cohen’s testimony that Donald Trump threatened to sue Fordham to prevent them from releasing his grades and SAT scores, it not only reaffirmed my perception of Donald Trump’s character, it also gave me telling evidence of his chosen path to success.

Here is a person who constantly boasts of his intelligence and athletic ability who goes bat shit crazy at the though of anyone researching whether his college record matches his rhetoric

As someone who is the same age as Donald Trump, attended similar colleges, and likes to think of himself as a scholar athlete, I find Mr Trump’s indignation both amusing and revealing. Anyone who knows how to use Google can find evidence of my athletic career at Columbia, the fellowships I received or the academic awards I earned. You don’t have to ask Columbia for that information, it’s all there on the internet. By contrast, a Google search of Mr Trump’s college years will find no evidence of academic or athletic success. What’s going on?

That someone whose record displays a modest level of athletic and academic success ends up as a professor and the one whose record is shrouded in myth, if not outright fabrication, ends up being President is a telling commentary on where our country is at at this historical moment.

Although I have an unbelievably happy life and not the slightest desire to trade places with Mr Trump, the comparison does lead me to examine what traits he possesses that helped elevate him to his current exalted position- traits that I seem to lack

And I’ve come up with three—Ruthlessness, Racism and Riches. First ruthlessness. In ways that I could never imagine, Mr. Trump was able to betray friends, stiff creditors, and destroy rivals without a moments grief. No conscience, no consequences, no limits. Then there was racism, institutionalized in the way his family companies did business during his formative years, in his private discourse, and his ability to mobilize xenophobia and shite supremacy to advance his ambitions. And finally there were Riches, the hundreds of millions of dollars his father used to bail him out when his businesses failed

Because of the three R’s, Donald Trump could have a mediocre college record, hide it behind lies, deception and threats, and still rise to the highest office in the land,

There is a lesson here for the nation’s young people, but not one many of us would want them to learn

Chavez Charter Chain Teachers, Newly Unionized, Decry School Closing

Last night I attended a hearing at the ‘Public’ Charter School Board on 14th St NW here in Washington DC to support the teachers at Chavez Prep Middle School, which the un-elected chain’s board has decided to close.

Mark Simon wrote on Facebook,

“Chavez teachers did an amazing job last night! PCSB members asked some good questions of trustees, but avoided the Obvious role of Ten Square, which was simultaneously advising on contract negotiations and bank loan negotiations. Getting no concessions from the bank conveniently busts the union. Coincidence? Victory Ten Square. So why is the PCSB pushing Ten Square on schools anyway? Could preventing charter unionization from spreading be a bigger agenda than keeping one successful school open?”

I wrote:

I was there too, but didn’t stay until the very end- my back hurt from standing so much. (in the overflow space out in the hall) It’s definitely not a coincidence that they closed those particular schools; it’s clearly union-busting, just like McDonald’s or Walmart closing the few of their stores that unionized.
I didn’t hear anybody mention that, though they may have done so after I left.
BTW about 8-9 years ago I attempted to mentor a young math teacher at Chavez Parkside (Anacostia) through the Math for America [which is pretty much the diametric opposite of ‘Teach for Awhile’ in policy and training]. I was appalled at how poorly run the program was for both the students and the teachers.
So while on the one hand, I am pleased that all these young teachers united and joined the WTU and organized to fight back over their administration’s malfeasance, on the other hand I think as an institution, the Chavez chain leadership is morally and educationally bankrupt and SHOULD be closed down and revert to the actual public schools of washington DC.
IMG_3166
I could also have written:
These are not the stereotypical veteran, burned out, lazy teachers trying to shirk their responsibilities. These are passionate young people, mostly in their 20s or early 30s, who have a real desire to help young people, especially the poorest, those of color, and the most oppressed. They pointed out how their management seems able to spend millions on consultants who meet only with administrators, not teachers, not students, and not parents, yet the chain’s board claims that money problems forced them to close  two of their schools.
Yeah, right.

The Myth of the Super TFA Teacher is Crushed by TFA’s Own Research

A study conducted in Texas with the cooperation of Teach for America claims to pretend that TFA teachers are more effective than their peers. We’ve all heard this claim before, including from frauds like Michelle Rhee, who made up fables about her mythical and fantastic successes during her three years as a TFA newbie in Baltimore.

However, the facts and tables in the report itself shows exactly the opposite, at least for TFA members who are in their first two years (and for many of them, their only two years) in the classroom.

For example, look at the following tables, which I cut and pasted from the report:

how TFA teachers compare with their peers

Notice what the data is saying in the first four bar graphs above. Dark blue means that the students of that group of TFA teachers were significantly more likely to pass the STAAR test than the students of other, matched, non-TFA teachers. Black means that the students of that group of TFA teachers were NOT more likely to pass, and that this is statistically significant.

Also notice that they do NOT ask the question of whether students of TFA teachers do significantly worse on that test than do students of other teachers. We can only guess.

(1) During the first year that a TFA ‘corps member’ is in the classroom, in 44% to 46% of the cases, their students do NOT do significantly better than their peers on a state-wide standardized test than do the students of non-TFA teachers. We don’t know for a fact that the students actually did WORSE than those taught by non-TFA teachers, but it is certainly a strong possibility. Only in 1/6 to 1/4 of the cases (16% to 26%), do the students of the TFA first-year teachers do significantly better than the students of other, comparable teachers.

(2) Apparently students of second-year TFA teachers in Texas do even worse than those of first-year TFA teachers, especially in reading, because the dark blue sections of the third and fourth bar graphs are significantly smaller than those for the first and second bar graphs, and the black section of bar graph 3 (reading) is much larger than it was in bar graph 1.

Bar graphs 3 and 4 include both first year and second year TFA teachers; since the combined figures for both years 1 and 2 are much worse than for just year 1, that must mean that TFA teachers get worse at preparing their students for the STAAR test during their second year.

(3) However, the relatively few TFA corps members who successfully exit TFA and go on to remain as classroom teachers apparently do much better than the peers that were selected by this study (that’s bar graphs 5 and 6; note the dark blue sections are much larger).

However, let me quote the conclusions written by the authors of this report concerning this graph:

“Students of TFA alumni were significantly more likely to pass STAAR Reading and Math in 77% and 82% of all Reading & Math analyses, respectively. TFA corps members are more effective in Math than Reading. ”

I will let you, the reader, make your own decision as to whether preparing students to pass tests like the PARCC or the STAAR is a worthy goal. But it’s almost all the data that we have.

Thanks to Gary Rubinstein for his blog post, pointing me towards this study.

Why ‘De-Facto’ Segregation is a Myth: Richard Rothstein Explains

The terrible and vicious segregation we see in cities all across America did not happen by accident. It is a myth that placing black, brown and white folks into neighborhoods segregated by race and income just ‘growed’ naturally.

In fact, the government, at levels from towns and counties to the state and federal, made sure that certain benefits (such as low-interest home mortgages) would only accrue to white families and be denied to African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, or Asian origin – often violently.

Richard Rothstein explains many of the details in this article at the Phi Delta Kappan.

He also asks, “How can we ever sustain a common national identity if so many of us live so far apart from one other that we cannot possibly understand or empathize with the life experiences of people from other races? “

He continues:

There are many possible ways to desegregate housing, which might enable the most disadvantaged children to grow up in diverse, higher-opportunity neighborhoods. Further, when researchers have looked closely at the handful of experimental programs that have assisted low-income families with young children to move to integrated housing, they have observed positive effects on those children’s performance in school. 

Such reforms might range from subsidizing first-time homeownership for working families to modification of zoning ordinances in affluent suburbs that prohibit construction of town houses or even single-family homes on small lot sizes to the revision of programs that help low-income families rent apartments. (For example, the “Section 8 voucher” program is long overdue for a redesign. As it stands, it reinforces residential segregation because vouchers tend to be usable only in already low-income neighborhoods.)  

But such reforms will never become politically or constitutionally feasible if we hold onto the myth of de facto segregation. That’s why it’s so critical, for example, to challenge those who would misinform young people about the country’s recent past. Even today, the most widely used middle and high school history textbooks neglect to mention the role of public housing in creating segregation, and they portray the FHA as an agency that made home ownership possible for working-class Americans, with no mention of those who were excluded. Likewise, they describe state-sponsored segregation as a strictly Southern phenomenon, and they portray discrimination in the North as the result of private prejudice alone, saying nothing about the active participation of local, state, and federal governments. 

Such miseducation — though I’m tempted to call it indoctrination — undermines the possibility of future progress toward residential and educational integration. As New Orleans’ Mayor Mitch Landrieu put it, referring to the glorification of Confederate generals who fought to maintain slavery, “We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial.” The next generation will do no better than the present one unless we teach young people an un-sanitized version of the past. And if we do not, they too will wonder why the achievement gap so stubbornly persists, and they too will pursue flawed policies that attempt to raise the performance of segregated schools without addressing its underlying cause — the ongoing segregation of the neighborhoods in which those schools are located.   

Why Does Jeff Bezos Get to ‘Earn’ in One Year Twice as Much as All of His 560,000 Employees, Combined?

I’ve done blue-collar and white-collar labor of all sorts in factories, farms, offices, and roads before, but honestly, no job I ever had in my 60+ years compares with the exhausting pace of work that I hear about going on at Amazon “fulfillment centers” today.

According to this review, there is an entire YouTube genre of videos where people describe what their first, exhausting and dehumanizing day of work was like at an Amazon warehouse, often followed up by a later video describing why they quit. (The workers are not permitted to bring their cell phones to work, so we can’t see actual pix or videos of the work being carried out.)

The scientific precision of Amazon’s success at speeding up the process, and the constant surveillance reminds me* of how American slaveowners were able to use scales, math, and ledgers to manage to squeeze three times more cotton-picking labor out of every single enslaved worker in 1860 than they had been able to do in 1820. Former slaves described how incredibly dehumanizing the pace of work was, and how each of them was forced to reduce themselves to a pair of hands and fingers picking cotton boll after boll, filling the bag over their shoulder with today’s and this week’s quota, lest they be physically tortured by savage whippings with rawhide …. knowing that next week’s quota would be a bit higher still… This process is described by Edward Baptist inThe Half Has Never Been Told (using the slaveowners’ own documents) and is also featured in 12 Years a Slave (both the movie and the original book from the 1850’s).

One positive thing I took from this article is that Amazon warehouse workers do seem to be organizing themselves. But it’s a tough fight!! Bezos being by far the richest human in the history of the entire planet.

To give you some idea of his wealth: in the past year, despite the massive drops in the stock market last month (Dec 2018), I calculate that Bezos’ wealth increased by an amount greater than DOUBLE THE EARNINGS OF ALL HIS WORKERS, PUT TOGETHER.

Can anybody with a straight face claim that Jeff Bezos’ contribution to getting your packaged orders, last year, was equal to twice the contribution of ALL AMAZON WORKERS COMBINED?

Perhaps Bezos’ contribution is really amazing, and is equivalent to the work output of twenty, or 200 workers. (Not sure how you’d measure that, but still, dollars are the usual criterion). And he should definitely be rewarded for having bet correctly on the Amazon delivery system and model. But his contribution to the system is NOTHING LIKE THE contribution of all of those other folks all put together!!!!

Here are the computations:

An article in Time magazine says that Amazon reports having about 560,000 workers world-wide and that their median total compensation (including overtime, stock options, etc) is about $28,000 per worker per year. Multiplying those two numbers gives us $15,680,000,000 in total worker earnings at Amazon per year, according to the company’s figures (that is, 15.7 billion dollars)

Bloomberg has data on rich folks’ estimated wealth, and they say Bezos is worth about $140 billion as of last Friday, January the 17th, 2018, mostly thanks to his ownership of his company’s stock, which is $31 billion more than it was one year earlier ($109B on 1/21/2018).

Notice that $15.7 Billion, the amount earned by ALL of the employees at Amazon combined, is almost exactly HALF of the wealth gained (you can’t say “earned” with a straight face here) by their boss, Jeff Bezos.

Or in other words:

If he were to be truly magnanimous and donate to his workers his entire gain in wealth for the year, THEN EACH ONE WOULD SEE HIS/HER EARNINGS 💥💥💥TRIPLE💥💥💥.

(He could afford it, I think. Do you think that such an act of capitalist generosity have any chance at all of happening? Personally, I doubt it. But anything that the workers could do to reduce Bezos’ share should be applauded!)

Or, you could say that one individual, Jeff Bezos, earned two-thirds of all the income generated by his company. The half-million or so other Amazon employees split up the rest.

Meanwhile the workers, who earn basically a pittance, are instead sped up and dehumanized for the benefit of one Jeffrey Bezos.

Has Such a level of extreme wealth disparity ever occurred in history? Did kings or emperors or 1890’s Robber Barons have, individually, more wealth and income than all their subjects or employees, combined?

Is this new?

It’s certainly shocking.

I wonder if maybe the Amazon workers could wage a sit-down strike where they occupy the warehouses to improve their wages and working conditions, as did the brave GM workers led by left-wingers in the United Auto Workers union in 1937 in Flint, Michigan? There are real advantages in waging an effective sit-down strike, taking over the warehouse etc, as opposed to picketing peacefully (and often vainly) outside while scabs are escorted past the picket lines by police.

 

============

* it is MLK’s birthday, after all …

Why A New Generation of Teachers is Angry at Self-Styled Education ‘Reformers’

This is an excellent essay at Medium that I learned about from Peter Greene of Curmudgucation. I copy and paste it in its entirety in case you don’t like signing into Medium.

Why New Educators Resent “Reformers”

Let’s consider why so many young educators today are in open rebellion.

How did we lose patience with politicians and policymakers who dominated nearly every education reform debate for more than a generation?

Recall first that both political parties called us “a nation at risk,” fretted endlessly that we “leave no child behind,” and required us to compete in their “race to the top.”

They told us our problems could be solved if we “teach for America,” introduce “disruptive technology,” and ditch the textbook to become “real world,” 21st century, “college and career ready.”

They condemned community public schools for not letting parents “choose,” but promptly mandated a top-down “common core” curriculum. They flooded us with standardized tests guaranteeing “accountability.” They fetishized choice, chopped up high schools, and re-stigmatized racial integration.

They blamed students who lacked “grit,” teachers who sought tenure, and parents who knew too much. They declared school funding isn’t the problem, an elected school board is an obstacle, and philanthropists know best.

They told us the same public schools that once inspired great poetry, art, and music, put us on the moon, and initiated several civil rights movements needed to be split, gutted, or shuttered.

They invented new school names like “Green Renaissance College-Prep Academy for Character, the Arts, and Scientific Careers” and “Hope-Horizon Enterprise Charter Preparatory School for New STEM Futures.” They replaced the district superintendent with the “Chief Educational Officer.”

They published self-fulfilling prophecies connecting zip-coded school ratings, teacher performance scores, and real estate values. They viewed Brown v. Board as skin-deep and sentimental, instead of an essential mandate for democracy.

They implied “critical thinking” was possible without the Humanities, that STEM alone makes us vocationally relevant, and that “coding” should replace recess time. They cut teacher pay, lowered employment qualifications, and peddled the myth anyone can teach.

They celebrated school recycling programs that left consumption unquestioned, gave lip-service to “student-centered civic engagement” while stifling protest, and talked up “multiple intelligences” while defunding the arts.

They instructed critics to look past poverty, inequality, residential segregation, mass incarceration, homelessness, and college debt to focus on a few heartwarming (and yes, legitimate) stories of student resilience and pluck.

They expected us to believe that a lazy public-school teacher whose students fail to make “adequate yearly progress” was endemic but that an administrator bilking an online academy or for-profit charter school was “one bad apple.”

They designed education conferences on “data-driven instruction,” “rigorous assessment,” and “differentiated learning” but showed little patience for studies that correlate student performance with poverty, trauma, a school-to-prison pipeline, and the decimation of community schools.

They promised new classroom technology to bridge the “digital divide” between rich, poor, urban, and rural, while consolidating corporate headquarters in a few elite cities. They advertised now-debunked “value-added” standardized testing for stockholder gain as teacher salaries stagnated.

They preached “cooperative learning” while sending their own kids to private schools. They saw alma mater endowments balloon while donating little to the places most Americans earn degrees. They published op-eds to end affirmative action but still checked the legacy box on college applications.

They were legitimately surprised when thousands of teachers in the reddest, least unionized states walked out of class last year.

Meanwhile……

The No Child Left Behind generation continues to bear the fullest weight of this malpractice, paying a steep price for today’s parallel rise in ignorance and intolerance.

We are the children of the education reformer’s empty promises. We watched the few decide for the many how schools should operate. We saw celebrated new technologies outpace civic capacity and moral imagination. We have reason to doubt.

We are are the inheritors of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” We have watched democratic institutions crumble, conspiracies normalized, and authoritarianism mainstreamed. We have seen climate change denied at the highest levels of government.

We still see too many of our black brothers and sisters targeted by law enforcement. We watched as our neighbor’s promised DACA protections were rescinded and saw the deporters break down their doors. We see basic human rights for our LGBTQ peers refused in the name of “science.”

We have seen the “Southern strategy” deprive rural red state voters of educational opportunity before dividing, exploiting, and dog whistling. We hear climate science mocked and watch women’s freedom erode. We hear mental health discussed only after school shootings.

We’ve seen two endless wars and watched deployed family members and friends miss out on college. Even the battles we don’t see remind us that that bombs inevitably fall on schools. And we know war imposes a deadly opportunity tax on the youngest of civilians and female teachers.

Against this backdrop we recall how reformers caricatured our teachers as overpaid, summer-loving, and entitled. We resent how our hard-working mentors were demoralized and forced into resignation or early retirement.

Our collective experience is precisely why we aren’t ideologues. We know the issues are complex. And unlike the reformers, we don’t claim to have the answers. We simply believe that education can and must be more humane than this. We plan to make it so.

We learned most from the warrior educators who saw through the reform facade. Our heroes breathed life into institutions, energized our classrooms, reminded us what we are worth, and pointed us in new directions. We plan to become these educators too.

“And forgive our debts, as we forgive those who owe us!”

The title of this post might remind you of part of the so-called Lord’s Prayer, which in English is usually rendered “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”

This sounds like forgiving sins, but in Latin, which I studied for about six years, the prayer is really about forgiving debts:

“et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris”

I don’t know enough Greek to be able to comment on the original meaning of the words as apparently written down in the New Testament in that language, but it is generally accepted that Jesus (if he really existed) spoke Aramaic – but only a few of his (alleged) words were recorded in that language, since the entire NT was written in Greek, not in Hebrew or Latin, and definitely not in English!

The following book makes the argument that forgiving debts, wholesale, was essential if you wanted to avoid stratification of society into a class of oligarchs and a class of everybody else, who were essentially little better than slaves. They make the point that compounded interest grows exponentially and without limit, but economic growth does NOT: it follows a logistic curve at best, which means that there are certain limits.

For example, while bacteria growing in a petri dish appear to grow exponentially for some hours, perhaps for a few days, eventually, there is no more uncontaminated agar for the bacteria to eat, and they start drowning in their own waste products. So despite what one learns in most Algebra classes (including my own), bacterial growth is in actually logistic, not exponential. However, unless debt is periodically forgiven – which seldom if ever happens these days – the debtors end up drowning in debt, as you might be able to discern from this little graph I made:

logistic versus exponential growth

I haven’t read the book, but the review is most interesting. Here is a quote:

Nowhere, Hudson shows, is it more evident that we are blinded by a deracinated, by a decontextualizedunderstanding of our history than in our ignorance of the career of Jesus. Hence the title of the book: And Forgive Them Their Debts and the cover illustration of Jesus flogging the moneylenders — the creditors who do not forgive debts — in the Temple. For centuries English-speakers have recited the Lord’s Prayer with the assumption that they were merely asking for the forgiveness of their trespasses, their theological sins: “… and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us….” is the translation presented in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. What is lost in translation is the fact that Jesus came “to preach the gospel to the poor … to preach the acceptable Year of the Lord”: He came, that is, to proclaim a Jubilee Year, a restoration of deror for debtors: He came to institute a Clean Slate Amnesty (which is what Hebrew דְּרוֹר connotes in this context).

So consider the passage from the Lord’s Prayer literally: … καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν: “… and send away (ἄφες) for us our debts (ὀφειλήματα).” The Latin translation is not only grammatically identical to the Greek, but also shows the Greek word ὀφειλήματα revealingly translated as debita: … et dimitte nobis debita nostra: “… and discharge (dimitte) for us our debts (debita).” There was consequently, on the part of the creditor class, a most pressing and practical reason to have Jesus put to death: He was demanding that they restore the property they had rapaciously taken from their debtors. And after His death there was likewise a most pressing and practical reason to have His Jubilee proclamation of a Clean Slate Amnesty made toothless, that is to say, made merely theological: So the rich could continue to oppress the poor, forever and ever. Amen.

How do Putin’s Russia and Trump’s USA Compare?

A screenwriter whom I knew back in junior high school here in DC, and who, like me, was an anti-war activist back during Vietnam, and with whom I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, wrote:

Retweeted Doug Henwood (@DougHenwood):

Anyone left of center who took the Russia paranoia seriously, look where it’s taking us. This is extremely bad news. https://t.co/64ZUUe4p9K

I replied as follows (edited by me for clarity and accuracy):

======================================

I cannot find any actual facts in that tweet. (And yes, I followed the link)

On the other hand, here are a few things that I think are objectively true, and a few that are my own opinion:*

the Russian government is… (1) oligarchical,

(2) a kleptocracy on every level,

(3) steals from its own people and rapes its environment for the benefit of a small group of billionaires,

(4) murders, muzzles, or imprisons people who dissent,

(5) supports friendly dictators abroad,

(6) builds and sells military weapons all over the world, and

(7) meddles in the internal affairs of foreign countries.

By contrast, the American government has recently been adjudged by experts (not me) as

(1) an oligarchy that systematically works for the benefit of a small wealthy class of businessmen to thwart the wishes of the majority,

(2) assassinates lots of people (mostly overseas; the murders of black men by police seems to be a local, not an explicitly national, policy),

(3) while the billionaires have been quite successful in breaking labor unions in the US and reducing wages for working people, we have had over time all sorts of vigorous [and sometimes somewhat successful] movements [which are now under hard attack from the current party in power] to preserve the rights of workers, consumers, and the environment,

(4) the US does in fact allow critics [for example, I’ve been to any number of anti-government demonstrations over the past 50 years and have only been arrested a couple of times for it, never beaten up by police; however, there have been plenty of times when the power of the State lined up firmly on the side of corporations to help break labor unions],

(5) supports friendly dictators abroad [of course proclaiming them to be lovers of freedom,

(6) builds and sells more weapons than anybody, and

(7) meddles in foreign elections and so forth [I recently saw a very long list of countries where the US had interfered with internal affairs or overthrew the government since WW1].

There are a couple of differences, though:

In many countries, you can’t get ANYTHING done at any level of government (from the head of state down to dog-catcher) without bribing somebody. That is not (yet) true in the US. However, it looks to me like Trump and his family are working hard to bring the US up to the level where our corruption is even higher than in Russia, China, India, the Philippines, or Nigeria. And 45 has certainly called for beating up protesters like myself, and praised corrupt, murderous foreign dictators like Putin and Duterte. However, there is still a lot more freedom of the press and assembly here than in the four countries I named!

Vive la resistance!

===

* which statements are fact, which are opinion? I type – you decide.

%d bloggers like this: