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Letter from a wing nut : idiots are out there! Keep working!

This is the letter I received yesterday in my campus mailbox

hate letter

Because it was written on a typewriter it is difficult to read. But the author who identifies himself only as F. S. Adams rants on about blacks, using the word nigger frequently and calls me a “race pimp” and a “political whore.” He also praises some of the black conservatives and calls himself a “selective racist.” He is a truly disturbed individual and I have sent a copy of his letter to the local Sheriff, the police chief in the  city he lives in and the local FBI office. We live in strange times folks.!sa

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

A deeper look at racists and racist apologists

I read Mona Charen’s article in the DDN recently. . I think I read articles about black people by racists for the same reason one pokes one’s tongue at a sore tooth, to see if it really is still as bad as you thought. Charen and George Will, and the other dog whistlers of the right on the question of race, have decided that racism is not a problem for blacks, it is unwed mothers that are the problem. This facetious argument is based in bias and built upon bigotry. The implication is that if blacks would only get married there would be no racism. In their convoluted minds evidently the reason for racism is because some black people have babies without benefit of marriage. In other words we are racist because you deserve it since you are immoral and do not meet our standards of purity.

No doubt made nervous by the increased interest in racism in America fueled by various publicized events like the shooting in Beavercreek, the finding of racist tweets by policemen and politicians and other blatant cases of obvious racism the protectors of white supremacy are scuffling to find ways to make racism the fault of blacks and other minorities. They have reached back and grasped hold of Daniel Moynihan’s study of the black family from more than forty years ago. The irony of that is that Moynihan actually was trying to combat racism, but like many white researchers did not grasp that simple numbers do not tell the story of what happens when you are a minority in America. Like many before him and many after him Moynihan confused correlation and causation.

The new racism apologists totally ignore the information shared by demographers that last year , for the first time since record-keeping in America , more babies were born on the other side of the blanket, so to speak, than were born to married couples. The vast majority of those babies born to single mothers were not black. But percentages are used to try to make points that put blacks in a negative light, again justifying racism.We do not deal with percentages in dealing with human beings’ needs, or societal issues, we deal in numbers. Are those white babies born to unwed mothers going to be targeted as victims of disparate treatment and truncated opportunities as well? Or is this disdain and punishment only reserved for minorities?

Racism deniers presume that their readers and followers are stupid enough to not know the difference between the very real impact that single parenthood has on family economics and racism. Singing songs about lynching blacks on a fraternity outing, black males being 21 times more like to be shot and killed by police than white males doing the same things, interest rate inflation for blacks with the same credit rating as whites, the fact that in blind studies a white male with a felony conviction and no college education is more likely to be hired at a job than a black man with a clean record and a degree, inferior education in schools that are predominantly black are not things caused by your folks not having jumped the broom.

In the area of education in particular many black students are doomed to failure by schools that are not controlled by black people even when the upper level administration is black. Schools are controlled by lots of factors beyond the scope of the principal or even the superintendent and if you trace the real power in decision making about schools to its source rarely will you find black men and women.
But the racists have made it seem that blacks are doing badly academically because they are black, and ,of course, that is exacerbated if they are from single parent homes.

Saying racism is caused by unwed black mothers is like hitting someone with a rock and telling them the reason it hurt was that their parents were not married. This flawed argument would have no traction in a thinking population. Unfortunately, the forces of ignorance are over-represented in America. Nothing done by black people, nothing said by black people can be used as the root cause of racism. If you are a racist it is because you have an all too common disease of the brain. Maybe it is because your parents were married but failed to teach you better, or weren’t married and, we all know what that leads to/
Melva E. Newsom, PhD
Retired Director of Diversity Education and Assessment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, current adjunct professor of education at Central State University.
Dear Editor:
I read Mona Charen’s article in the DDN recently. . I think I read articles about black people by racists for the same reason one pokes one’s tongue at a sore tooth, to see if it really is still as bad as you thought. Charen and George Will, and the other dog whistlers of the right on the question of race, have decided that racism is not a problem for blacks, it is unwed mothers that are the problem. This facetious argument is based in bias and built upon bigotry. The implication is that if blacks would only get married there would be no racism. In their convoluted minds evidently the reason for racism is because some black people have babies without benefit of marriage. In other words we are racist because you deserve it since you are immoral and do not meet our standards of purity.

They totally ignore the information shared by demographers that last year , for the first time since record keeping in America , more babies were born on the other side of the blanket so to speak than were born to married couples. The vast majority of those babies born to single mothers were not black. Percentages are used to try to make their point, but we do not deal with percentages in dealing with human beings’ needs, we deal in numbers. Are those white babies born to unwed mothers going to be targeted as victims of disparate treatment and truncated opportunities as well?

Racism deniers presume that their readers and followers are stupid enough to not know the difference between the very real impact that single parenthood has on family economics and racism. Singing songs about lynching blacks on a fraternity outing, black males being 21 times more like to be shot and killed by police than white males doing the same things, interest rate inflation for blacks with the same credit rating as whites, the fact that in blind studies a white male with a felony conviction and no college education is more likely to be hired at a job than a black man with a clean record and a degree, inferior education in schools that are predominantly black are not things caused by your folks not having jumped the broom.

Saying racism is caused by unwed black mothers is like hitting someone with a rock and telling them the reason it hurt was that their parents were not married. This flawed argument would have no traction in a thinking population. Unfortunately, the forces of ignorance are over-represented in America.

Sincerely,

Melva E. Newsom, PhD
Dr. M. Cookie Newsom

“Be Ashamed to die until you have won some victory for mankind”…Horace Mann

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Article on Black Faculty I wrote in 2010: Still true, no progress.

Protecting the Monocultural Status Quo: Is the Desire for a Racially Diverse Faculty a Myth?
By Dr. M. Cookie Newsom

Note: The footnotes and references and tables and graphs I left out. If you want a copy of the entire article email me. I will send you the full text. 🙂
If one does a search for the topic “faculty diversity” on any online database you can pull up dozens, if not hundreds of papers and articles on the subject. They range from analytical papers full of statistics to interviews with minority faculty to accounts of so-called best practices in recruiting and retaining minority faculty. Noticeably lacking, however, is any general acknowledgement that whatever presidents and chancellors at Research 1 universities are doing to lead the charge in the recruitment and retention of minority tenured faculty—particularly Black faculty, it is not working.  When the subject is recruiting Black, American Indian or Hispanic faculty it seems that the term best practices may be inaccurate, perhaps best attempts would be closer to the truth, best rationale for not being able to racially diversify the faculty would be the most accurate. There are articles that decry the lack of presence of Blacks and other minorities in tenured faculty ranks, but they all too frequently come to the same conclusion: “We are trying, but it is difficult, and it is not our fault if we are not succeeding.” Exactly whose fault it is depends on who you ask, there is plenty of temporizing about the reasons for the lack of results.
I hope to encourage those in higher education to turn a lens of inquiry onto the state of racial and ethnic diversity in higher education tenured faculty ranks. And perhaps actually see if they can stop making excuses and make progress instead.  Specifically I am interested in encouraging an analysis of why those of us in academe, despite our frequent, sometimes strident, claims that we want a diverse faculty, seem to be unable to hire Black, American Indian and Latino/a professors in tenure and tenure track faculty positions in representative numbers. In order to accomplish this I plan to examine the facts, offer some observations and recommendations in four sections: Section I looks at what Is, looking at the racial and ethnic demographics of ten Research 1 institutions; Section II attempts to explain some of the reasons for why what Is, is, why is this problem so persistent despite stated efforts to diversify the professorate; Section III offers some ideas and strategies for possibly changing what Is, garnered from a literature review, personal experience and conversations with colleagues who are faculty of color at Research institutions ; and Section IV provides a summary of the three previous sections  and calls for more research on the subject of faculty diversity, or lack thereof.
Section I: What Is
I came to higher education later in life, having taught high school until my children were old enough to require less of my time. After transitioning to higher education, I came to realize that I had an inaccurate view of higher education. I have been an adjunct professor, assistant professor, program manager, and director at both small regional colleges and at a Research 1 University.  At each institution, I observed forms of racial bias and truncated opportunities although I was rarely personally the object of the oppression.
I had frequent access to colleges and universities as a child; my mother was the president’s secretary at a historically Black university in Ohio which was next to  another historically black university .  Spending a lot of time on at least these two campuses, I had bought into the idea–the myth of—an academic meritocracy almost hook, line, and sinker. I presumed academics were appreciated, given access to what they needed to succeed, and limited only by their intelligence and work ethic.  My experiences while working in higher education are not, however, congruent with my former belief in the system.  I have seen favoritism, nepotism, subtle and overt racism, and a general disregard for fairness.  It is also obvious that I am not the only one to have noticed the inequities seemingly inherent in being a person of color in academe. It is not difficult to find journal articles that chronicle the macro and micro aggressions that faculty of color frequently have to endure. People who are favored with promotions, raises and increased opportunities are those who do not cause “problems”, i.e. those who  support or at least stay mute concerning the status quo. This is particularly true for employees of color.
In 2002 a southern Research 1 university contacted me to interview for an administrative position in diversity affairs. Although I had some reservations about moving to the South, and leaving the professorate for administration, I hoped that my observations of inequity were limited to the experiences of minority academics at small regional colleges. I decided to take a chance in order to redeem my beliefs in  , a community that valued the life of the mind, and rewarded those willing to put in the thought, scholarship, and work to contribute significantly to this community.

One of my first duties in the new job was to plan and conduct, with the help of some other campus leaders, the university’s first diversity assessment.  A Task Force of thirty-six faculty, staff, and students was formed to create a survey. The Task Force recommended the university  create a university-wide diversity plan and adopt five diversity goals.  I next  served as the co-chair of the committee charged with designing the university’s inaugural diversity plan.  I appreciated this appointment and presumed I was now in a place where I could make a difference, e. g. bringing some level of accountability to the management of diversity on the campus. One of the major components of the diversity plan was the requirement that each administrative and academic unit on campus submit a report to our office every spring that outlined its diversity efforts for the past year and described the projected diversity efforts for the next year in support of one or more of the five adopted university diversity goals.
In the first three years of the report, more than 90% of the units identified Goal 2 as a priority: “Achieve the critical masses of underrepresented populations necessary to ensure the educational benefits of diversity in faculty, staff, students and executive, administrative and managerial positions.” Several of the reports specifically mentioned wanting to racially and ethnically diversify their faculty.  Despite this articulated desire, the number of faculty of color, except for Asian Americans, did not seem to ever increase significantly. After the third year of receiving reports from units that professed an interest in increasing faculty ethnic and racial diversity I began to question why the change in Black faculty, American Indian faculty, and Latino/a faculty continued to be so small.  My university has some of the best minds in all of academe, if all of these units were really trying to recruit and retain more tenure and tenure-track faculty from these populations, why weren’t they able to do so?
I began to look at statistics from other peer institutions and immediately noticed a disturbing trend. Although theoretically higher education institutions specifically pursue Blacks, Latinos and American Indians, these pursuits are not reflected in the numbers of these groups in tenure track faculty positions at virtually any institution.   Therefore I decided to select some Research 1 institutions like my own to do a little more investigation.  I selected nine Research 1 universities in different areas of the country to see if I could find a trend in faculty tenure-track hiring of Blacks, Latinos and American Indians. The universities were selected based on three criteria, that they were Research 1 universities, that they were in different parts of the country, with more institutions selected from the large population centers on the two coasts, and that I had a colleague who was an administrator or professor at the institution who could answer more in-depth questions if necessary.
I selected the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Florida, Harvard University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Illinois, Stanford University, Berkeley, The Ohio State University, and the University of Virginia. Looking at the statistics it quickly became clear that there is a pattern to minority hires, or lack thereof. Simply put, Blacks, American Indians and Latino/as are not being employed as tenure or tenure track faculty in representative numbers at any of the above campuses, stated differently the number of tenure/tenure track faculty members hired by the institutions in those states is not congruent with the population demographics.

Blacks, for example, make up 6.7% of the population in California, 15% in Illinois, 19.1% in Virginia, 5.3% in Massachusetts, 14% in Florida, 11% in Texas and 20% in North Carolina. Of states in the sample, Florida, Texas, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio all rank in the top 15 demographically in terms of Black population. Yet, Black faculty does not account for more than around 3% of the faculty at any of these Research 1 institutions.  Three states, California, Texas and Florida all have Hispanic populations of 20% or more, yet the largest percentage of Hispanics in the tenure and tenure track faulty in the sample is the 5% of UCLA. Please see Table 1 in the appendix.
So the question immediately arises: Why are the faculties so monocultural at both public and private institutions of higher learning in these racially diverse states? During and after my doctoral studies, I had the opportunity to work on a major research project that involved the achievement gap. I had seen some of the K-12 educational disparities up close during field research, but now I had to wonder if perhaps those disparities were being continued even into the college experience. Certainly one of the myths that plague Black K-12 students could potentially be a problem for Black faculty, e.g. the common idea held by some white people in American society that Blacks are not as intelligent as whites. This, like the achievement gap itself, is frequently based on the disparate average scores achieved by whites and Blacks on standardized tests.  The prevailing wisdom seems to be that those who do not score well on the tests are not intelligent, or at least not as intelligent as those who do. However, as one article points out, the only way that a negative correlation can be drawn between diversity and merit is when merit is strictly defined as high test scores.  If the concept that Blacks are less scholarly than whites and some other minorities is prevalent on college campuses as well based, at least in part,  on disparate test scores on standardized tests like the GRE, then the difficulties of hiring Black faculty at selective universities could be exacerbated by that stereotype. There is also a bias in favor of people who graduate from elite universities, elite in the fact that they reject more students than they admit and are lauded for that fact. These institutions are not generally that friendly to people of color unless they can jump high or run fast.
Unfortunately, whatever the reason given it seems that if you are an African American, American Indian or Latino/a with a Ph.D. your odds of receiving tenure at a Research 1 university are between slim and none. There are those that do, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Historically, Blacks and American Indians were denied access to higher education and the impact of that is still an issue today, as evidenced by the continuing achievement gap. Today, battles are still being waged in some  areas over both Hispanic access to education and the de facto re-segregation of public schools. As recently as 2008, 31% of whites over twenty-five years old held college and advanced degrees while only 18.5% of Blacks held such degrees. Even with that disparity, however, in 2004  Blacks made up 7.1% of all Americans receiving a  Ph.D an increase of 9% over the previous year.   Despite these increases in degree attainment relatively few  Blacks holding a terminal degree are tenure or tenure-track professors at Research 1 institutions. According to Uma Jayakumar et al., “a report issued by the National Center for Educational Statistics stated that in the last four decades (1976-2004), the number of black graduate students has increased dramatically from 78,000 to 220,000.” It is worth noting–again, however, that there has been no concomitant dramatic increase in Blacks in the professorate.

Table 2 ,see appendix, shows the lack of progress between 2001 and 2007 in increases in employment of Black tenure-track faculty. Most Blacks in the professorate continue to teach at historically Black universities, whose faculties are generally 75 percent Black, compared to 13 percent at majority white colleges. In fact, if the HBCU Black faculty members are removed from the statistics the numbers become dismal indeed.   While there is certainly no one factor that can be identified to account for this failure, there are some things that need to be considered that might help give university leadership and researchers on the topic at least a starting point for further inquiry.
First, there is a striking similarity in the numbers of Black tenure/tenure track faculty at the institutions chosen for this paper. There was no design manipulation; I did not select Research 1 institutions that had similar numbers of black faculty. After compiling the   numbers  it was impossible to ignore  the  surprising consistency of the representation of blacks in the faculty ranks at all of the institutions chosen.   The range of the presence of Black faculty shown in Table 2 was quite small, ranging from3.9% at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to 2.4% at Harvard, or a difference of only 1.5 percent.  All of the colleges reported that Blacks make up either 2% or 3% of their Black faculty ranks.
In addition none of the institutions managed to add even a single percentage point to their Black faculty numbers between 2001 and 2007. It is difficult to accept that these extremely consistent figures of the percentages of Black tenure and tenure track faculty at the selected Research 1 institutions are the result of coincidence. If all of these institutions consistently have Blacks represent similar numbers of their tenured or tenure track faculty, could this reflect a pattern of just having enough Black faculty to be in  compliance with your peers? I have noticed in my tenure at a Research I an unfortunate propensity to look at peers to determine the efficacy of institutional progress rather than setting one’s own goals and priorities. I have frequently raised the question of how progress is made if the standard used is to be doing as well as everyone else, rather than striving to achieve the optimum result even if that is not being attained by other peer institutions.
The static nature of the hiring of some faculty of color has not been true for all populations. In the same time period, 2001-2007 another minority, Asian American tenure and tenure track faculty, experienced a very different pattern. While BlacksHispanics  and American Indians  showed a virtually flat increase in faculty appointments, in nine of the ten selected universities (90%), Asian-American faculty presence has grown by at least one percent; in four universities it has grown more than two percent during the time period.See Table 3 in the appendix. There are, it must be noted, slightly more Blacks holding advanced degrees than Asian Americans, 1.4 million to 1.3 million. However, demographically there are almost three times as many Blacks as those identified as Asian American in America according to the Census. Unfortunately, however, educational attainment in the two groups is not equivalent.   Only 17% of Blacks in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree or greater. In contrast, 47.2% of Asian Americans in the U.S. have earned a bachelor’s degree or better.  The reasons for that will be the topic of another article addressing historic racism against Blacks, the disparate educational opportunities based on both race and income, and the role of teacher expectations, among a teaching force that is overwhelmingly white, in K-12 school systems that are frequently based on racial stereotypes. .
I want to make a point that I am not suggesting that we indulge in the Oppression Olympics, with its common tactic of pitting one minority against another. I am simply pointing out some statistics that university leadership needs to consider if they want a truly racially and ethnically diverse faculty and are not simply trying hiring people of color without consideration of equitable hiring of the different groups that make up that category. In order to achieve academic excellence and provide an environment where a diverse student body can thrive and achieve representative faculty of color from all of the groups identified as minorities needs to be recruited, hired and retained.
In America today faculty of color (Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans and American Indians) make up only 16% of all full time employed professors. Only 5.3% of full  professors, not associate or assistant, in the United States are of color. Although I have used the term “faculty of color” generally, the primary subject of this article is Historically Underrepresented Minorities or HURMs. HURMs are generally defined as Blacks, American Indians and, more recently,  Hispanics. ADD Citation
In summary, HURMs are not doing very well in achieving the status of tenured faculty at our Research I majority institutions as shown in the above statistics. This raises several questions. Are there not enough of the HURMs receiving Ph.D.s to provide candidates for the positions? Are the HURMs who achieve a Ph.D. not interested in the professorate? Are those who do hold a doctorate and are interested in being a professor not sufficiently scholarly or academically skilled to warrant a position at a Research 1 institution? Where is the process lacking?  In other words, at what stage of the three-part process necessary to hire a faculty member do the HURMs disappear? Are they not applying, not being selected for interviews or inclusion in final hiring pools, not being hired? Or are they being hired and not being retained?
Obviously much more research to examine the above questions is required if academia is truly interested in achieving racial diversity in the professorate. There are a few scholars who have already ventured into that territory. The explorations have been, for the most part, spotty and disjointed—looking at such diverse issues as debt, climate and mentorship. There is little doubt that any or all of these factors may have an impact on hiring and retaining HURMS, but I think there is a more fundamental problem. Few, if any of this scholarship delves extensively into the role and impact of bias and racism, and none of them took a systemic look at the different stages required for hiring faculty of color, from pipeline development to tenure.  I did not find any national studies of the reasons behind the dearth of racial and ethnic diversity in the ranks of tenured professors. MIT has recently compiled a very impressive report on the issues that institution faces dealing with the issue of faculty diversity, however, the report is very specific to MIT. While it is quite possible that the conclusions reached and the suggestions made to ameliorate the problems inherent in racially and ethnically diversifying their faculty may be extrapolated to apply to other institutions, it is obvious that a broader sample needs to be examined in order to truly make systemic and institutional recommendations.
With the pressure to publish in academia, why is there not a huge body of literature on the subject?  It would seem to be a valued addition to the literature considering the number of universities that profess a desire to achieve more racial and ethnic faculty diversity. Could it be that nobody is actually that interested? Perhaps, considering the scarcity of faculty of color, it is too much to ask of white faculty to wonder why their colleagues, or potential colleagues, of color are absent.  Or, could it be that they are afraid of what they will discover? In Section II I will suggest some reasons for the dearth of racial diversity in our Research I faculties.  I am certain there are variables that I am unaware of, however, I am hopeful that at least some of my observations may be of use in developing a framework for further exploration by university leadership and researchers.
Section II: Why what is, Is
Why are there so few Blacks, American Indians, and Hispanics among the ranks of the tenured faculty? As noted in the previous section, HURMs are attending college and going on to graduate school in record numbers. Yet, the number of Black, Hispanic, and American Indian professors, particularly at Research I institutions remains small and unchanged from year to year.  This begs for an examination of why there are so few faculty of color. In my experience there seem to be several offered explanations, three of which are fairly standard responses when I have asked the question of college administrators.  The first explanation for the dearth of HURM faculty is that there simply are not enough Black, American Indian and Hispanic holders of terminal degrees. The above statistics suggest that among Blacks and Hispanic that is not true. American Indian populations are, admittedly, small. However, between 1985 and 2003, 9,950 American Indians were awarded PhDs.
The second reason offered is that even if HURMs hold a Ph.D., they are not necessarily sufficiently: scholarly, published, or articulate. In none of the many instances when I have been offered this excuse from various college provosts, administrators and faculty members has there been any expression of a need to engage in examination of exactly why they are not (see list) or, even more importantly, if the fact that they are considered not to be is subject to interpretation or perhaps is being interpreted thusly due to cultural bias. As Angela Onwuachi-Willig describes this phenomenon:
1. There were no, or hardly any, applications from qualified minority candidates to consider. 2. There was no point in even trying to interview the few, qualified minority candidates on the market because they would never accept an offer from the department. These candidates are in such demand that there will be many bidding wars between institutions over them.
The third, and final defense, offered only if the other two have failed to be accepted, is, as noted in the citation above, even if  they do hold a PhD and  are clean and articulate and agreeable, quiet and scholarly and published, we cannot afford them. Note that this is usually said before an offer has been made. The myth that quality PhD. holders of color, particularly HURMs are frantically sought after and offered obscene amounts of money has been a common one for at least two decades. I have found absolutely no literature to support this perception, no studies to demonstrate that universities have tried to hire Black, Hispanic or American Indian faculty only to be outbid by other institutions on a regular basis. There are always isolated cases that can be cited, but a national study that examines data from a large sample of institutions  and statistically documented how many times an HURM has been offered a tenure-track faculty position and been lured away by the offer of a lot more money from another institution would be a welcome addition to the discussion.
One of the issues that both feeds this misconception, and in some ironic ways validates it, is the propensity of majority institutions to go after minority “star” faculty, those who are already well established and attempt to lure them from their home institution to the new university. This does nothing to improve the overall numbers of minority faculty, but does, I suppose make certain stellar minorities very expensive to pursue.
One of the underlying societal misconceptions that continues to lend this myth traction is that there can only be a limited number of quality HURM faculty available to begin with and that the laws of supply and demand would require that they would be highly sought after and offered large salaries.  As suggested earlier in the article the concept that Blacks in particular are not as intelligent as whites has long been an issue in the area of the professorate. If an institution is lucky enough to identify one of the presumably rare intelligent blacks, then it is incumbent upon them to try to hire him or her.

As Donnetrice Allison states:
With regard to some specific stereotypes, related to Black professors in particular, the notion that Blacks are not intellectually capable remains common. For instance, students at PWI(Predominantly White Institutions) regularly question the credibility of Black professors and hold them to more stringent standards than they do White professors.

Certainly institutions of higher learning, particularly Research I institutions are aware of the issue raised about white student perception of Black professors. To keep from having this problem arise it is quite possibly deemed prudent by Research I deans and provosts to hire a Black scholar whose academic pedigree is unimpeachable. If there is a presumption among search committee members that Blacks or other minorities are inherently intellectually inferior there is little doubt that in order to be a successful candidate the HURM would have to be not just “qualified,” but exemplary in order to debunk the perception. Just as all white faculty members are not exemplary, neither are all HURM faculty or potential faculty. That does not mean that HURM potential faculty members could not be highly effective, contributing members of a Research I faculty.
Finding out why candidates are not successful is a difficult endeavor.  Very few search committee members would admit to having rejected a minority faculty candidate because of his or her race or ethnicity. Adding even more difficulty is the fact that many raced based biases are so normative in American society that the members of the search committee may not be aware that they hold them.
If the search committee makes an offer to an HURM and the offer is rejected it is often difficult determine why the HURM declined to accept. Most minorities have a fine tuned ability to sense hostile or unwelcoming environments, but how do you report that in an exit interview or inquiry as to why you turned down a position. Additionally, in my experience (and I have been told this by two Equal Employment Oportunity directors as well), follow-up interviews with candidates asking them why they turned down a position at an institution, if they are solicited at all, tend to be inconsistent at best. How honest do you suppose a person of color would be with an institution they may one day need, if they turned down your job, not because of salary or other employment issues but because of cultural issues that indicated it was not a good place for people of color? Who would want that to go either on the record or along the networks that connect higher education institutions? Higher education is in many ways an inbred, closed society. Due to the nature of the professorate and administrative jobs almost all of us know people at many other institutions. What is said on one campus can travel at amazing speeds to other campuses, and ergo to other search committees.  It would be difficult to express the feeling that the environment of the institution making the offer might be a hostile environment for people from your ethnic or racial group without sounding either hyper sensitive or paranoid. Certainly it would be unprofessional to report having been told of problems for HURMs at the institution, either by current or former employees.

I suspect some of the presumed too expensive minorities are assigned that category when they have turned down an offered position at an institution. After all, not having sufficient budget to hire an impressively credentialed HURM puts responsibility on the funding source rather than the search committee, chair or dean. It is by far the easiest and most harmless explanation for why you were unable to seal the deal.If, on the other hand either overt or covert racism were to blame the institution would have to take a serious look at itself, its staff and its practices. But, that is the last thing anyone wants to engage in, preferring to blame the failure to hire the HURM on some other variable, such as being too expensive. It is the rare institution that asks coherent, logical questions about its racial climate or reputation in regard to being a place where minorities can thrive.
In much of America today we have managed to shift the onus from being racist to pointing out racism. The “troublemaker” is not deemed the person or persons creating a hostile environment for faculty or potential faculty of color, it is the faculty of color who point it out. In fact, one has to carefully examine statements from search committees that declare one of the reasons a candidate was not chosen was “fit.”  Institutions must learn to ask incisive questions about what exactly did not fit, especially when the candidate is an HURM.
What is rarely discussed in polite academic society is whether or not it is possible that the members of the search committee hold views that are biased at best or racist at worst. Inclusion on a search committee, as far as I have seen, does not come with any vetting of the social justice pedigree of the members. If having a racially and ethnically diverse faculty is as important as many institutions profess it is then why are the search committee members seemingly taken on faith as being unbiased?
As Yolanda Moses states:
The first observation is that folk beliefs about the fixed, immutable nature of biological ‘race’ are alive and well in American culture today. Anthropologists have made pronouncements that there is no such thing as biological race, that and that race is socially and culturally constructed. But I contend that recent academic policies and or/state initiatives (for example in California and Washington State) that in effect restrict access by people of color, women and poor whites to higher education are not logical from an educational, quality-of-life, or economic perspective. They neither correlate with national polls on diversity nor do they correlate necessarily with the values of the presidents, faculties and staffs on campuses across the country that must enforce these policies. Something else is going on. I am concerned that well-meaning educators may unwittingly buy into social Darwinist theories, which will then be used by those who want to keep ‘the other’ (minorities and women) in their place.
The adoption, either overtly or discreetly, of the idea that the fact  HURMs are not represented in the faculties of higher education is due to some personal deficiency does, indeed, lend credence to the charge that a form of Social Darwinism is being embraced by some of those in positions to hire or influence the hiring of HURMs. It also conveniently removes any burden from the institution to take action to ameliorate the deficiency. If the candidate is deemed unworthy due to some inherent flaw it is not the fault of the institution that he or she does not measure up.
Of course, even if the HURM candidate makes it through the interview and selection process and is offered the job, it does not mean the relationship is going to last. Achieving tenure is a dicey business for anyone, but particularly for HURM faculty. The best way to navigate the tenure process is with a senior faculty mentor. Lacking that advantage and the varying, and sometimes capricious, nature of the tenure process makes the lot of those so deprived rather dire. Besides the frequent lack of senior faculty mentors, there are other issues at play that make the landscape of academe in general and tenure in particular more fraught with peril for HURMs than for majority faculty.
For example, before HURMs even begin their jobs they are often confronted with financial barriers involved in moving to the location of the institution where they have been offered a position and in obtaining housing. When compared with white candidates, HURMs often lack inherited wealth and owe more money in student loans.  Thus, HURMs are confronted with more than just deciding where to live, they might be confronted with how to live where they are going to be teaching.  Coming to a majority white institution as a HURM, it is highly unlikely you would be willing to bare your financial issues early in your relationship with the institution. I have personally seen junior faculty of color fail to get tenure because they could not fund their research sufficiently to publish in time to beat the ticking tenure clock, and lacked mentors to help them navigate the ways to raise the money they needed.
Other problems confront HURMs with partners or children. If they are married to a fellow academic the issue of being able to have a spouse offered a job at the same or a nearby institution may be an impediment. HURMs with children seek a school environment that will provide a good education where their child will not be marginalized, due to lack of other people of color or by being relegated to “basic” classes upon the presumption of being viewed as less than academically capable..
Presuming they negotiate the hiring process, find affordable housing, are not living hand to mouth, find a decent school for the kids, and are not having difficulty funding research, there are still problems to overcome. Being interested in race or other minority-focused issues such as institutional racism, is often considered a subject not worthy of scholarship. As Christine Stanley states, “Therefore, research on the experiences of faculty of color is sometimes viewed by traditional, often white scholars as lacking in rigor.” I was on a dissertation committee three years ago for a young black woman. She wanted to examine the dual role of black female administrators, what is demanded of them beyond administration, e.g., advocacy and social justice championship, and how it adds to the complexity of their duties.  The chair of her committee, a white female, was not in favor of  this proposal and wanted it expanded to include all women administrators, which was not feasible.  As the only person of color on the committee I worried that I would have to raise an objection to this untenable suggested change, another instance of the type of challenges faced by people of color in the academy, representing a viewpoint that might not occur to  or concur with our white colleagues. That did not prove to be the case this time, however, it was the consensus of the rest of the committee that the original proposal should be retained.  The chair eventually agreed with the rest of the committee but the young lady ended up having to do two literature reviews before we could correct the situation, which resulted in the requirement of her completing another semester.
Anthony Antonio , Assistant Director of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research , includes the lack of respect for research focusing on issues of race in his list of difficulties facing potential and current faculty of color:::
The slow progress being made by higher education to diversify its faculty has been widely recognized, and much research and debate have been focused on the factors that may be stifling efforts for increased minority representation. These factors include a small and decreasing pool of minority Ph.D.s, the persistence of racist perceptions on institutional and individual levels that restrict access and impede the professional progress of faculty of color, the devaluation of the qualifications of minority Ph.D.s not trained in the most elite, prestigious colleges and the difficulties of surviving in a predominantly white academy due to poor mentoring, disproportionate advising and service loads stemming from frequently being the only faculty of color in a department, an isolating work environment, and the lack of scholarly recognition given to research focusing on ethnic minority populations.
In addition to the commentary concerning the disdain with which much of academe views research focusing on minority population issues, the citation above points out yet another obstacle facing many HURM faculty aspirants.  The topic of , graduation from elite institutions,  is a good one to further explore. There seems to be a presumption that if you went to an elite institution you are smarter than those who did not. Opportunity, income, race and geography are all contributing variables that seem to be ignored. People in higher education who would clutch their chests in horror at being labeled elitist will still favor candidates who have one of the holy of holies in higher education on their vitae. If America is a true meritocracy that practice makes sense. If any smart kid can graduate from Harvard or Yale (as all of our Supreme Court Justices did) then certainly let’s reward our best with the best jobs. If, however, some animals are still considered to be more equal than others in America, across a broad spectrum of differences, race and ethnicity only constituting one, then presuming someone who graduated from Snakes’ Navel State College must be intellectually inferior is hardly fair.
To pronounce someone inferior because they did not attend an elite college is a common and unfortunate practice in higher education. Like many Blacks I completed my education in stages, most of my degrees were earned after I was the mother of three children. My options for institutions definitely had to be limited to those universities within driving distance. My husband is not an academic and his job was not transferable to other locales. When historic inequitable economic factors that impact HURMs are considered it also becomes apparent that attending an elite college is not necessarily congruent with the resources of many minorities.
Once again we have to confront the myth of the academic meritocracy, that any bright student can get a full scholarship to an Ivy League institution and all of his or her financial aid needs will be met. Even if we accept that faulty premise and presume that this intelligent child of color was somehow fortunate enough to attend a high school where upper level math and science courses were offered, and if offered were taught by instructors who actually majored in the subjects, there are still enormous economic barriers to overcome for lower middle class and poor Black, American Indian and Hispanic students.
If the HURM PhD does manage to amass a sufficiently impressive vita to pass muster in the application phase of the process, they still have to be prepared to deal with misconceptions, stereotypes and biases, which may emerge, at any point in the hiring process. To address another point raised by Antonio, it is well known that once the HURM faculty member is ensconced he/she will be tapped for every committee, task force and board that needs a person of color to provide the point of view of whatever minority they represent.  This practice ignores the fact, of course, that service is frequently the least valued part of the triad of teaching, research/publishing, and service. If a faculty member is require to be on several different committees to provide  “diversity,” then they have less time for research and publishing. As Bryan Brayboy says:
Faculty (or scholars) of color are required to implement diversity through hidden service agendas and curricula that do not necessarily exist for white faculty. Indeed, specific forms of service are performed by faculty (or scholars) of color and –in doing so—they encounter implicit and explicit forms of racism in their work. They also view themselves as being taken for granted in the work they do. If faculty of color just teach big classes, serve as a barometer for diversity in a department, assuage white people’s guilt, mentor the students of color and the radical white students interested in race, serve on committees as a diversity member, and address any other diversity issues, they are only doing their job.
In addition to all that, sometimes the evaluations by white students of faculty of color are not positive for a variety of reasons, including either their discomfort with the difference of their professor, with some of the subjects broached by the professor, or the manner in which they are broached by the professor of color. Disabusing white students of what they have always thought was correct may result in poor class evaluations. Either the students presume that the professor does not know what he or she is talking about, lending support to the stereotype of some people of color being less academically or intellectually skilled than whites, or the white student may resent being confronted with facts, particularly about race or ethnicity, that they would rather not have to deal with and that are not congruent with their own world view.
Contributing to the problem of hiring a diverse faculty is the dearth of minorities in decision-making positions such as provost or department chair. . In order for diversifying the faculty racially to be considered a priority by search committees, it must be an expressed priority by those who the members of the search committee report to. If upper level administrators truly do not care about diversity it is no wonder progress is being not being made.  One certainly does not have to be a person of color to care about racial diversity, however, it is fairly well documented that people of color are far more race conscious and think about race in far more contexts than white people.   The percentage of full time administrative positions in higher education held by whites was 87.6, see Table 4 in the appendix.
So, the arena of academe is full of unique pitfalls for the HURM faculty member. Getting hired, getting settled, getting tenure, all while representing my entire ethnic and racial group, and negotiating the environment that provides me with less than stellar resources and support. If the HURM also happens to be female we can add representing one’s gender to the laundry list of responsibilities. Currently, with our sparse number of HURM professors, members of that population frequently find themselves overwhelmed with the need to mentor, role model, serve on committees to give the minority point of view, and to help their white colleagues with everything from learning cultural taboos to strategies for diversifying their curriculum.
Having pointed out at least some of the obstacles facing HURM faculty and potential faculty, let us begin an examination of how some of it can be addressed, changed and improved based upon systemic, research driven strategic planning.
Section III: How to change what Is
The need to address several of the issues raised in the first two sections of this article is obvious.  The issues need to be addressed and changed in order to facilitate racial diversity in higher education’s faculties. Put simply the issues are:
Making a true institutional commitment to faculty diversity and insisting that those involved in interviewing and hiring faculty members understand the seriousness of the commitment. Expressing a desire is not sufficient, issuing a mandate is much more likely to produce results.
Make certain that the commitment is not only clearly stated and supported by upper level administration (President/Chancellor and Provost) but also has appropriate metrics to permit objective evaluation of both the results and those charged with getting results. No, we are not talking quotas here, but if a dean has been made aware that his/her department lacks ethnic/racial diversity in its faculty, and that this is unacceptable to the institution, some measures of accountability are appropriate. There should be no difference in the consequences of failing to diversify one’s faculty and those associated with failing to accomplish some other strategic institutional or administrative goals.
Facilitate whatever research is necessary to see where the hiring process is flawed. Are minorities not being reached via advertisements? Not choosing to apply? Not being chosen to interview? Not being hired? Not being granted tenure? Wherever the process appears to have broken down, dissect the problem and correct it. Each of the suggested areas of failure above require specific actions to ameliorate.
Hand in hand with recruitment must go efforts at retention of those already employed, and attention to their progress.  Of course, looking at demographics it must be noted that there are always going to be fewer HURMs available than white PhDs for faculty positions. This means that in order to build a diverse faculty the institution has to make a commitment to keep the faculty of color already employed as well as recruit and hire additional Black, American Indian and Hispanic tenure and tenure track faculty. Because it is both expensive and disruptive to replace faculty members who leave for reasons that may involve hostile work environments or disparate treatment, more attention must be paid to making certain the minority faculty member is not left to his or her own devices,  without sufficient support and mentoring. Detaching from the faculty member once they are hired may lead them to feel isolated or marginalized. To keep the HURM faculty member from feeling marginalized includes the establishment of policies  making certain that the faculty member is not overburdened with being asked too frequently to represent his or her race and ethnicity on committees and other service category endeavors, Recruiting and retaining more faculty of color will also help prevent this well documented issue as there will be more faculty of color to tap for service.   Other retention strategies include helping newly hired faculty of color find a senior faculty mentor, paying attention to subtle and not so subtle incidents of racism or insensitivity in the institutional climate, making certain that the faculty and administration of the institution do not view research interests that focus on diversity issues as less scholarly than other topics,  reviewing the tenure process and those charged with conducting it to make certain both are as free of racial/ethnic bias as possible. This last item requires developing some level of sophistication in determining when bias is demonstrated. Unfortunately, many white people do not understand how demoralizing and upsetting overt actions and micro-aggressions of racism can be and the cumulative effect they have on the ability of the faculty member of color to navigate the tenure process. Far too many individuals and practices at majority institutions tend to blame the victim for being too sensitive rather than address the legitimate complaints of the person offended.  Non-group members are standing on shaky ground when they attempt to assess whether or not someone from a certain group should be offended. The history of the group, cultural taboos, and language all need to be taken into account and there are frequently nuances that non-group members may not be aware of. Here it should be noted that no one is suggesting special treatment. The ability to thrive and achieve without artificial barriers erected due to someone else’s bias should be the right of every faculty member, not just certain ones. The above recommendations are summarized in a chart in Appendix II.
Beyond these recommendations, however, there is a more important imperative. Insitutions of higher learning must commit themselves to helping improve the kindergarten-12th grade experience for many HURMs. The result of twelve years of inferior education cannot be fixed by any student services program on a college campus. As long as students who attend certain schools have a less than fifty percent chance of being taught math or science by a person who majored in those fields inequities in preparation will continue. Universities have a duty to stop viewing potential students as having,come into existence at the junior level in high school .  If there is ever to be a true commitment to having a racially and ethnically diverse faculty it has to start with pipeline issues Some of thse pipeline issues include socio-economic status, geographic location of populations,  unfamiliarity with the process of going to college, and most importantly, inferior kindergarten-12th grade education. If a student receives poor instruction beginning in kindergarten, by the time he or she is in fifth grade the die is cast for his/her academic future in almost all cases.  If students do not finish high school they cannot go to college. If they do not go to college they cannot  go to graduate school, if they do not go to graduate school they cannot become professors. Ergo, if institutions of higher learning truly want a racially and ethnically diverse faculty they have to begin the process of examining not only what parts of the hiring process are failing, but what parts of the pipeline are hemorrhaging potentially gifted  future professors.  University schools of education in particular should be charged to help improve the educational opportunities of students from historically underrepresented populations.
Section IV: Conclusion and call for more research
Race and ethnicity remain one of the final unexplored frontiers for higher education as for the rest of the institutions in the country. Very few institutions are skilled in providing guidance in ways to talk about race, ethnicity, power and privilege coherently,  or how to reach decisions and establish institutional protocols to deal with difference. Despite claims of this being a post-racial world with its accompanying presumption of a level playing field as long as good decisions are made by the individual, there is no doubt that disparities, biases and racism still exist. It is not just the bane of a few toothless, backwoods dwellers that are of no importance; exposure to some form of bias is a daily experience for most minorities.  As previously noted, however, the lingering persistence of racism has resulted in a growing impatience with the entire topic on the part of many of the majority culture. In attempts to downplay or ignore incidents that are evidence of bias or racism many universities and university employees declare the minority who is offended to be overly sensitive, defensive or simply a troublemaker. As the frustration level of the faculty member grows and their complaints become more strident the labels change to aggressive, angry and difficult.
Research must be supported to find out why faculty diversity goals are not being realized, if those goals are genuine. This needs to be as broad as possible and include some exploration of biases and prejudices that might be impacting the searches at any point. Trying to shift the reasons for failing to have an ethnically diverse faculty onto the faculty of color—they do not apply, they do not measure up, they are too expensive—is simply smoke and mirrors.

In order to actually compose a racially and ethnically diverse faculty colleges and universities have to:
Have unequivocal and consistent support from upper level administration to accomplish the goal of a racially and ethnically diverse faculty.
Have racial and ethnic minority representation in higher level, decision-making positions, not just relegated to diversity offices which rarely have any power in faculty hiring.
Examine their advertising policies and check them for efficacy.
Hold those responsible for hiring faculty accountable, truly accountable for hiring racially and ethnically diverse faculty, or for developing a measurable timeline with specific action steps and evaluation methods for hiring a racially diverse faculty.
Train search committee chairs and members to be aware of their own cultural biases and misconceptions about minorities.
Not abandon the employee once they are hired, develop effective retention practices and programs.
Provide resources and staffing to conduct research on each phase of the process and to monitor results and provide an annual report on the progress or lack thereof that is available to the campus community.
Form alliances with local school districts to improve the future pipeline.
If a racially and ethnically diverse faulty is a true goal for institutions of higher learning they have to approach achieving it as they would any other strategic goal, with resources, personnel and evaluation methods. Saying you want something is not the same as taking the necessary steps to make something happen. If colleges and universities value an ethnically and racially diverse faculty they will make a true commitment rather than just stating their goals without providing any concomitant actions to achieve them.  The title of this paper asks if the desire for a racially diverse faculty is a true goal or a myth. At the moment I am afraid the evidence points to the latter rather than the former. I hope in the near future to be proven wrong.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The American Stupidity CultThe largest danger to America is not terrorism, it is anti-intellectualism

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dumb

Since 9/11 Americans have become a country of Chicken Littles. Instead of viewing the tragedy as what it was, the misguided and heinous actions of religious zealots Americans chose to miss the lesson entirely. Instead they became paranoid about nebulous forces beyond our comprehension bent on destroying us. Why, people asked, mainly white people, because people of color and other minorities are used to being hated for their individual characteristics, do they hate us when they don’t know us and we have done nothing to them? Because it was inconceivable to many of them that people can hate you for no reason, never having experienced it before and having denied it exists except in very isolated cases for so long they could not understand the very real issues that contributed to the event. So, in typical American style they made things up and bought into any explanation that allowed them to hold onto their own world views, including the fact that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with it. According to a Psychology Today article about a third of the American people still believe that Hussein was involved even though it has been proven he was not. They want , perhaps need, to believe it so they do. And that combined with a long standing anti-intellectual movement in America is the crux of our problem.

Partially because of the advent of the internet and social media we now have platforms were people dumber than Belem;’s donkey can spout ignorance and if it is congruent with what people want to believe is true they will swallow it whole and thank the moron for giving them misinformation to comfort them. When corporations took over media truth and reason lost out to entertainment and succor for those who hold outlandish, false and fiction based belief systems. This desire to have belief trump fact is, actually, older than the internet. In his 1964 book Anti-intellectualism in America , Richard Hofstader, a Pulitzer Prize winner describes how anti-reason and anti-science have been infused into the political and social systems of America. The internet and social media and the corruption of the media by corporate greed has only exacerbated what he described.

This is especially true in politics. A prominent Republican governor himself has dubbed his party the party of stupid people. All Republicans are not stupid and certainly there are Democrats who are not in danger of being recruited by MENSA, but the Republican Party in my view cultivates ignorance. According to statistics the more educated you are the more likely you are to vote Democrat. If statistics do not impress you look at the allegiance of many Republicans to Fox News, an entity that no one rational believes is “fair and balanced” or particularly interested in telling the truth. One of their mainstays, Bill O’Reilly just recently was exposed as an habitual liar. Will that lessen his popularity with his base? I do doubt it. If the right wing of the Republican Party had a slogan it would surely be “ We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!”

But the erosion of reason in America is not confined to politics or politicians, they are just the beneficiaries. According to a Gallup poll 18% of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth—sorry Copernicus your research and the grief you took for it does not matter to these folks, but then they probably never heard of you anyway so don’t feel bad. The Theory of Evolution, a basic tenet of western education has been called into question not because of new science or new discovery but because people do not want to believe it, just like some people did not want to believe it more than a hundred years ago There are people who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and they have no interest in any fact that contradicts that. There is a museum about 60 miles from my house that shows dinosaurs and people interacting, in other words they believe The Flintstones was a documentary.

Part of the rapidity of the decline of reason in America is due to the decades old idea of balanced reporting. This made it incumbent upon news outlets to tell the other side, even if the other side was presented by a lunatic. As a result there was an erosion of belief in facts and science. You can always find a supposedly reputable scientists who is trying to make a name for him or herself by pushing forward some different interpretation of data. Lacking the skill to make real discoveries they, instead, try to pick apart the findings of other scientists. This is one reason we have people who do not understand evolution or that the sun does not revolve around the earth. If they understood the Theory of Relativity they would have that in their cross hairs as well, but as stupid as they are they pick their fights carefully. It is easier to convince the gullible that Pebbles rode a small dinosaur to kindergarten than it would be to explain Einstein’s work, it is import not to tax their little brains too much or they might mistake you for one of those evil thinner who are seeking truth and dashing dearly held myths in the process. And lord knows we don’t want anything to do with truth seekers, they are dangerous!

This anti-intellectualism means that our society is in a permanent state of uncertainty. No one is accepted as an expert anymore without having to pass litmus tests of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation , and other qualifiers. No matter what degrees are held ( actually holding a lot of degrees is cause for some people to distrust you automatically) or what research you have done if your person characteristics are not congruent with my beliefs then you are just not to be trusted or believed in.

The very people who scream about religious freedom are the same ones who believe if President Obama actually was a Muslim that would be cause to remove him from office. These same people want to put God back in schools as they so eloquently put it, although that image makes me think of a white haired deity sitting in a school desk, but are horrified and outraged if the same school adds Muslim or Jewish or any other holidays besides Christian to their school calendar. The same people who constantly cry about their freedoms being eroded and the government being too intrusive want to ban gay marriage and abortions. The same people who want to stop all social welfare programs are the ones who are living on food stamps and collecting the earned income credit.

Logic is not a flower that grows in most of their gardens needless to say.
We have to reclaim our intelligence in this country. Stop allowing people who are trying to provide erroneous facts or information a platform so that they can make money. If they have a valid discovery or invention or idea, let them publish it, that is easy now on the internet. No interviews with people who can “prove” that aliens built the pyramids or that the moon walk was filmed in Arizona. We have to go back to a time when reason, logic and facts dominate the discussions and intellectualism is not viewed as something to be feared.

If we do not turn this ship of fools around we will not have to worry about any terrorists, we will be destroyed from the inside out.
The American Stupidity Cult:The largest danger to America is not terrorism, it is anti0intellectualism

Since 9/11 Americans have become a country of Chicken Littles. Instead of viewing the tragedy as what it was, the misguided and heinous actions of religious zealots Americans chose to miss the lesson entirely. Instead they became paranoid about nebulous forces beyond our comprehension bent on destroying us. Why, people asked, mainly white people, because people of color and other minorities are used to being hated for their individual characteristics, do they hate us when they don’t know us and we have done nothing to them? Because it was inconceivable to many of them that people can hate you for no reason, never having experienced it before and having denied it exists except in very isolated cases for so long they could not understand the very real issues that contributed to the event. So, in typical American style they made things up and bought into any explanation that allowed them to hold onto their own world views, including the fact that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with it. According to a Psychology Today article about a third of the American people still believe that Hussein was involved even though it has been proven he was not. They want , perhaps need, to believe it so they do. And that combined with a long standing anti-intellectual movement in America is the crux of our problem.

Partially because of the advent of the internet and social media we now have platforms were people dumber than Belem;’s donkey can spout ignorance and if it is congruent with what people want to believe is true they will swallow it whole and thank the moron for giving them misinformation to comfort them. When corporations took over media truth and reason lost out to entertainment and succor for those who hold outlandish, false and fiction based belief systems. This desire to have belief trump fact is, actually, older than the internet. In his 1964 book Anti-intellectualism in America , Richard Hofstader, a Pulitzer Prize winner describes how anti-reason and anti-science have been infused into the political and social systems of America. The internet and social media and the corruption of the media by corporate greed has only exacerbated what he described.

This is especially true in politics. A prominent Republican governor himself has dubbed his party the party of stupid people. All Republicans are not stupid and certainly there are Democrats who are not in danger of being recruited by MENSA, but the Republican Party in my view cultivates ignorance. According to statistics the more educated you are the more likely you are to vote Democrat. If statistics do not impress you look at the allegiance of many Republicans to Fox News, an entity that no one rational believes is “fair and balanced” or particularly interested in telling the truth. One of their mainstays, Bill O’Reilly just recently was exposed as an habitual liar. Will that lessen his popularity with his base? I do doubt it. If the right wing of the Republican Party had a slogan it would surely be “ We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!”

But the erosion of reason in America is not confined to politics or politicians, they are just the beneficiaries. According to a Gallup poll 18% of Americans believe that the sun revolves around the earth—sorry Copernicus your research and the grief you took for it does not matter to these folks, but then they probably never heard of you anyway so don’t feel bad. The Theory of Evolution, a basic tenet of western education has been called into question not because of new science or new discovery but because people do not want to believe it, just like some people did not want to believe it more than a hundred years ago There are people who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and they have no interest in any fact that contradicts that. There is a museum about 60 miles from my house that shows dinosaurs and people interacting, in other words they believe The Flintstones was a documentary.

Part of the rapidity of the decline of reason in America is due to the decades old idea of balanced reporting. This made it incumbent upon news outlets to tell the other side, even if the other side was presented by a lunatic. As a result there was an erosion of belief in facts and science. You can always find a supposedly reputable scientists who is trying to make a name for him or herself by pushing forward some different interpretation of data. Lacking the skill to make real discoveries they, instead, try to pick apart the findings of other scientists. This is one reason we have people who do not understand evolution or that the sun does not revolve around the earth. If they understood the Theory of Relativity they would have that in their cross hairs as well, but as stupid as they are they pick their fights carefully. It is easier to convince the gullible that Pebbles rode a small dinosaur to kindergarten than it would be to explain Einstein’s work, it is import not to tax their little brains too much or they might mistake you for one of those evil thinner who are seeking truth and dashing dearly held myths in the process. And lord knows we don’t want anything to do with truth seekers, they are dangerous!

This anti-intellectualism means that our society is in a permanent state of uncertainty. No one is accepted as an expert anymore without having to pass litmus tests of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation , and other qualifiers. No matter what degrees are held ( actually holding a lot of degrees is cause for some people to distrust you automatically) or what research you have done if your person characteristics are not congruent with my beliefs then you are just not to be trusted or believed in.

The very people who scream about religious freedom are the same ones who believe if President Obama actually was a Muslim that would be cause to remove him from office. These same people want to put God back in schools as they so eloquently put it, although that image makes me think of a white haired deity sitting in a school desk, but are horrified and outraged if the same school adds Muslim or Jewish or any other holidays besides Christian to their school calendar. The same people who constantly cry about their freedoms being eroded and the government being too intrusive want to ban gay marriage and abortions. The same people who want to stop all social welfare programs are the ones who are living on food stamps and collecting the earned income credit.

Logic is not a flower that grows in most of their gardens needless to say.

Let me make it clear that I am not writing this from the point of an academic snob. Intelligence and educational attainment often have very little to do with each other. I am simply tired of people who are stupid and proud of it. They do not let any facts, no mater how well documented interfere with their beliefs. That is simply unacceptable. The collection of information and facts accomplished by the works of generations of scholars, thinkers and just plain folks should not, must not, be discarded because it is not congruent with what you wish was true.
We have to reclaim our intelligence in this country. Stop allowing people who are trying to provide erroneous facts or information a platform so that they can make money. If they have a valid discovery or invention or idea, let them publish it, that is easy now on the internet. No interviews with people who can “prove” that aliens built the pyramids or that the moon walk was filmed in Arizona. We have to go back to a time when reason, logic and facts dominate the discussions and intellectualism is not viewed as something to be feared. Stop attacking colleges by trying to turn them into online ignorance mills churning out diplomas. Much of what you learn in college is from other people, not from books.  Stop trying to take down public school systems so  for profit schools can be established by the 1% to make more money.

If we do not turn this ship of fools around we will not have to worry about any terrorists, we will be destroyed from the inside out.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

UNC Scandal: It is about race, racism and institutional racism, not athletic skullduggeryy

I went to work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003. I was thrilled to get a chance to work at such a badass four year university only three years after I had finished my doctorate. I came to higher education late, having taught high school until my kids no longer needed as much from me. So, to be able to get a gig at a well thought of four year institution was quite a coup. My dean at my current small regional college was so jealous he stopped speaking to me. Finally, I thought, I am getting a chance to show what I can do. I often ponder now if knowing then what I know now would I have taken the job?

At the beginning they all treated me like I was a piece of Jesus. I had turned them down the first time they had offered me the job. The initial visit was just too Southern in not a good way. They put me up in the Carolina Inn which looks like Tara from Gone with the Wind and had about as much racial progress. There were lots and lots of pictures, all of white people and the staff was as white as a blizzard in Antarctica. There was a large statue of a Confederate soldier proudly displayed in one of the main green spaces. When I had spoken to the man who would become my boss,, who I will call Mr. Step and Fetchit or Mr. SF, early on in the negotiations I had expressed my sincere doubt that they really wanted me. I was, I told him a plain spoken black woman who had never had to, or been inclined to, watch what I said, particularly about race. I was, I told him, not prone to shooting off my mouth without data to back up my assertions, but I would, no pun intended, call a spade a spade when I saw something that was not right. He promised me that UNC was a liberal college that would welcome my vociferous advocacy for justice. That was only the first lie he told me.

Shortly after I arrived, within a few weeks, people black and white, who agreed with me and liked me began to sidle up to me and whisper for me to be careful what I said. The black people generally couched their advice in some version of ” don’t make the white people mad or they will fire you.” They seemed amazed when I told them that the road to Ohio still ran and if they did not want me there I would go back home. My ancestors, I told them, had not choice as slaves but to keep the white folks happy. Due to the sacrifice of many I no longer had that requirement. The white people generally offered advice of the type that implied they understood and liked/loved me, but there were a lot of powerful people on campus who did not get that speaking truth to power should be encouraged and not punished. This they told me was The Carolina Way. I soon learned that the Carolina Way consisted of pretending everything was fine, everyone loved everyone else and as long as the basketball team was winning what was not to love? It did not include transparency, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, truth, honesty or justice.

In many ways, even though I was a woman of a certain age when I went to Carolina, I was naive. I had only experienced living in southwest Ohio. Although you could hardly call the Miami Valley a bastion of social justice, we have our struggles, and it is a very white part of the state except for Cincinnati.  Cincinnati itself  is about as racist as any northern city comes, maybe even as any city comes. But, people here do not dispute the fact that there is racism and even though they do not often want to hear about it, and sometimes do not recognize it, when you make your case with facts they generally, sometimes grudgingly, admit you have a point.  I presumed the same truth would hold up in my new “liberal” college. One of the first things I learned to disabuse me of this was that it was considered heresy to speak ill of the University, even when it was obviously wrong.

The allegiance to Carolina is quite akin to a cult. Black people are not immune amazingly. I have had students literally on the floor of my office crying because they have found ot to their great chagrin that their beloved school is not only not free of bias, but is jealously guarding its privilege to remain so. Then two years later I will see these same students at the Black Alumni Reunion singing Carolina’s praises both in song and in speech. The same is true of black employees. They would turn up in my office with often egregious instances of discrimination. When i suggested they take some action they were horrified. They, too, would be right there at the BAR saying what a fantastic place it was. I never understood it. They winked at buildings named after Klansmen, the statue honoring the Confederacy, the dismal graduation rate of black males, the exodus from the University of any black woman who had not learned not to talk back, all of it rolled off  them like water off a duck’s back.

I, on the other hand, was told by quite a few white folks that they found me intimidating. How, I asked them, could I be intimidating them? I had not power to hire or fire, I never insulted anyone, cursed at anyone, belittled anyone. What I got down to finally was that I was able to make my point, back it up with facts and that as a black woman I had too good of a vocabulary.  Translation: I was intimidating because not only didn’t I know my place, I refused to stay in it!

Fast forward now to the so called Athletic/Academic scandal. Carolina has been not only accused but found to have offered bogus classes to over 3,000 students and for decades. About 47% of the students in these classes were athletes, not all revenue sports ( football and basketball) so not all black. Fifty-three percent of the students were not athletes, and there is some claim that fraternities, read white boys, were heavily enrolled in these non-class classes as well. Yet, the profile of the case has been football players, read black males. The only department implicated, although probably not the only one involved, has been the African/African American Studies department. In other words in the true Southern tradition it is a black mess according to the powers that be, caused by the lack of intelligence and honesty of black people. What is not to love about that?

The AF/AM department had been objected to before it came into being. The fact that it was chosen as the repository of organized academic fraud gives you a very good idea of what the University thought of the study of black people. Pretty much the same thing it thinks of black people in general: They are sometimes a necessary evil, but can be managed so as to have as little impact on the status quo as possible.

One of the icons of Carolina, Bill Friday, has been widely praised for standing up against corruption in revenue sports. Dr. Friday had a very checkered past when it comes to race and oddly enough he and his fellow defender of the white, Bob Knight, never found their appalled button until said sports began to be dominated by blacks. Coincidence I am certain. So we already had someone saying not so obliquely , that these sports needed to be purged and purified. This is way before according to some reports the University leadership  had recently told the football coach to stop recruiting inner city blacks because they gave the team the wrong flavor.

The problem has been caused, at least in the athletic arena, by a heart-felt and dearly cherished belief that black athletes ( and generally black people) are not to be expected to be the intellectual equal of white folks and need to have some “help” in order to succeed academically. Instead of channeling their efforts into ameliorating any academic difficulties the black athlete might appear on campus with they decided to let him concentrate on what he was good at, that being physical activity that would make the University money. Why bother him with pesky details like learning? Oh I know, the reason they do not pay these ebony money machines is because their pay is a fine, upstanding, first class education. I mean heck, how many people can get an A in a class they don’t ever go to? That has to be worth something, right? The other students who took advantage of the no-show classes were just the beneficiaries of the solution to a race based dilemma, how to bring those black boys up to snuff, at least on paper. .

When I was the Chair of the Black Faculty Staff Caucus I invited the then Chancellor to a meeting. I asked him, given the statistics I had collected, and shared with him before the meeting, about black athletes and their abysmal graduation rates, what kind of academic interventions or personalized remediation plans were in place? I reminded him that some of our black athletes are recruited from places where the schools they attend do not offer higher level math and science, yet they are expected to sit in classes with students from elite schools that offer AP  courses and International Baccalaureate Curricula. His response ? ” I don’t know.”  Nor, I suspect did he want to.

The roots of the problem at Carolina are in racism. Unless they acknowledge that and take steps to root it out, which will includes eschewing their habit of hiring blacks who keep their mouths shut to protect their jobs, the problem will crop up in other areas repeatedly. You have to kill the entire plant, not just trim off the ugly parts that are above ground. Get to digging Carolina.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Speaking Truth to Power: Black students at PWIs

indexI went to a southern PWI ( Predominantly White Institution) more than ten years ago as an administrator just certain that I was on a mission of truth, justice and the un-American way of social justice. I was not on campus long before both blacks and whites with my best interests in mind began sidling up to me telling me to be careful what I said. Their message was basically one of, people are listening to you and if they don’t like what you say they will get rid of you, and we don’t want that to happen.

I was happy they liked me and wanted me to stay, but puzzled by this seeming fright that if I said something the people in power did not like they would get rid of me. After all, I was a diversity officer, wasn’t part of my job to point out injustices, work against injustices and advocate for change to remedy injustice? The veterans, those who had worked there for a while, knew what it took me several years to find out. The administration was only interested in protecting the status quo–white supremacy–not in making changes. They were however, very interested in getting help pretending to change things or to care about about social justice.

During my tenure I was fascinated at the cooperation of the black folks on campus with this charade. Not only did they do what they were told, they usually pretended to like it. When I asked them things like why there were not more black professors or why some of the programs like study abroad seemed to be virtually without minority representation or why women kept getting leapfrogged by men who had been their subordinates until those men were now their superiors, they all tsk-tsked and shook their heads, ducked and covered and collected their paychecks.

So, this missive is to black students at PWIs. You are on your own. In the vast majority of circumstances the black people on campus as powerless. They have choices, keep their mouths shut, please their superiors, always a white person, and keep their jobs, or advocate for real change and be sent packing. They are not bad people, they want to do better, they simply are not allowed to, it is a binary situation: Stand up–get removed, go along-keep your job. They are powerless and kept that way on purpose. If you do not believe me ask them to give you a list of what they have changed for black people on their campus in the last five years. Do not be fooled by ” We hired a new black director of…..”, unless you see evidence that the new black director of …..has actually done something besides be the new black director of…..As one sage said sometimes we have met the enemy and it is us. In my home school district of Xenia, Ohio we hired fewer black teachers when we had a black head of personnel than before or since. Because he was in the position he was able to help make the district proof against discrimination. “See we are not prejudiced, our personnel manager is black!” Of course, the fact that principals actually do the hiring and the personnel head only rubber stamps was ignored. Thus it is on your campus. Look to see who actually hires and what kind of people they actually hire.  The black head of……. is only as good for the rest of us as he or she is allowed to be, again they are generally powerless. If they really try to effect change they are going to be marginalized or removed.

You on the other hand are not powerless. You can raise questions about why there are so few or no black professors, why things do not change, why committees are formed and people are hired without anyone of color being involved in the decision. You will have to do your homework, of course. Ask questions frequently and of anyone you can find who might listen. Ask why there are no black trustees, or blacks on the board of visitors , if that is true. If there are black folks on these bodies ask them why there are so few black professors or other staff. Ask they why the names of slave owners and klan members adorn some of your buildings without comment, ask them where the voices are of black folks on the campus. Ask they why certain areas of study are considered more scholarly than others, like African American Studies. Ask  any question that comes to mind about the state of black folks on the campus, and for that matter what are they doing to foster and promote and encourage and effect social justice on campus, in the state, in the country, in the world. The fights these days are more subtle. There are no signs that say ” no blacks allowed”, but look around your campus and see how many clubs, choirs, organizations, honors, etc, are monochromatic. Who sits in the fancy boxes at football games? Whose kids and grandkids get to be ball boys and ball girls at the basketball games? Whose pictures are hung in the hallowed halls? .

Our white administrations are good at making pretend changes with pretend front folks ( we called them house niggers in my day) who assure you all is well. Yet, when you are in class and find yourself the only black in class,expected to represent your race as all faces turn towards you when the subject of race comes up  is all well? When you have been at an institution for four years and have never had a black professor, is all well? When honors days come and go without anyone black being on the podium is all well?

Beware the grateful blacks who think they do not belong at this prestigious school and are lucky to have been admitted. Quite a lot of them work there. They are convinced they have been honored to be allowed to sit at the foot of the table and they show up at reunions singing the praises of the school, forgetting the times they were insulted, ignored, passed over, denigrated and devalued. They too will tell you all is well, you just have to try your hardest and love your institution even if it does not love you back.

Speaking truth to power is rarely, if every, popular, but it is necessary if things are going to change for those who come after you. At one point in our history black people stood up and demanded that places supported by common monies serve everyone and serve them equally. We have now sold out to the point where success is not making progress for your race or your gender or your sexual orientation or citizenship status, but whether or not you can make money. If you cannot fight for social justice and make money then you should not fight for social justice. Or, put another way, it is better that I have a nice fat paycheck and the hell with the rest of y’all.

Audre Lorde said ( read her if you are unfamiliar) “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” The black people you have on most campuses are the master’s tools. If they were not they would not be there. That means if you see things that you believe are unjust you have to be the power that changes it. It can be done. Even on the most docile campuses there are some folks, and they may not be black, who will help you. But, you need to lead and you need to be heard. Think something is wrong? Change it.  Think something is missing? Say so. You are standing on the shoulders of people who did or you would not be there.  Make up your mind whether you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem.

Don’t join the ranks of grateful blacks unless you can be grateful that you made real change, change that will benefit future students, faculty and staff of all colors by making the institution more equitable and welcoming and not afraid to take a stand for what is right, even if it costs.

 
 

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Tales of Xenia: The tornado

Xenia LivesForty years ago we were a young family. Mike was 6, Chris was three months old and Nicole had not been thought o yet. We were looking forward to a lot on April 3, 1974. We were going to visit Wayne’s sister Gloria in Alexandria, Virginia during Spring Break, which was the next week. Her husband was working at the Pentagon and we were going to do the DC tourist thing. Take Mike to see the sights and spend some time with family members. Besides that to look forward to ( it may have been the first time Mike was going to fly and definitely the first time for Chris) we were getting a second car that day, Wayne was picking it up after work.

The day was uneventful, typical Ohio spring, warm to hot one day, cold and snowy the next. Shortly after 4:00 Wayne pulled in with the new car and Mike and I, with Chris in arms, ran out to see it and inspect it. It was not really new, but used, but a nice car and new to us. We were standing outside looking at the car when the weather got odd. A strange stillness seemed to be in the air, and then an odd kind of high whistling. Our house was at the end of the cul-de-sac or dead end depending on your view, and surrounded on three sides by trees. We looked towards town, I am not sure why and saw an enormous black cloud that seemed to be roiling. It did not look anything like the tornado in the Wizard of Oz, it was just a huge, huge black cloud that appeared to be full of things tumbling and turning.

Mike, of course, had a basketball in his hands and was bouncing it in the driveway and heading towards the goal Wayne and Bud Walker , our neighbor, had put up at the end of the street so that Mike and Randy Walker could play basketball. i called him back and said ” We better go in the house.” By the time we got in the house the noise became incredible. Tornadoes really do sound like freight trains, at least that one did, but it also had a high whistling whine which seems to accelerate the closer it got. We  did not have a basement so we went into the bathroom since I had heard that that was one of the safest places because of the large amount of plumbing that would help stabilize the walls.

I got in the bathtub with Chris, Wayne sat on the closed toilet and Mike sat on the floor still bouncing the basketball. I remember thinking that if that noise got any louder we were in serious trouble. Soon we heard the snapping of branches as the tornado hit the woods, then breaking glass, groaning of wood, the Florida room that my parents had added to the back of the house when they bought it in the 1960s was torn away with a humongous sound of breaking things. Things began to hit the house, the roof, windows were broken out, the train was upon us.

Then as suddenly as it had come it was gone. The eerie silence following that tornado is still with me today. We went out into the rest of the house. There were broken windows in the living room and kitchen, there was a hole in roof where something had hit it and there was water everywhere since the windows were broken. We went outside to a scene that was incredible. Looking towards Rte 42 we realized that the house and barn that had blocked our view of the road were now gone. The closer to the highway and the fewer trees around the houses the worst the damage. The Dudgeon’s house on the corner was down to the basement, no house left. The Smith house facing 42 was no more, the red barn was leaning almost to the ground. The Wray’s house on 42 was also down to the basement. We took off running to the Wray’s because they ran a daycare and we envisioned toddlers in the rubble, but they had gotten them all to the basement.

Going back home I decided to do some cleanup. I started to put Chris down on the couch, Wayne was inspecing the cars, including our main car that the carport had collapsed on. Fortunately I looked first, the couch was covered with broken glass, twigs, leaves, etc. None of our bedrooms had been damaged so I put him in his crib and was mopping up the kitchen when my mother burst in the door crying. Of course the phones did not work, she had been trying to find out if we were okay and people have told her that Tremont Road was flat, the houses all gone. Which was true if they only looked at the top of the street. She had flattened all four of her tires trying to get to us. I’m sure she was happy we were okay but a little nonplussed to find me mopping the floor.

I am not sure what we thought the aftermath would be, but in a couple of days when the roads were clear enough so that we could take the new car ( thank goodness it was not damaged and was not under the carport yet) and go to town the devastation was amazing. We did not have water, or heat, but my Mom’s house on Lexington Avenue had both so we shut up the house as best we could and went over there.  All kinds of aid was coming in, you could pick up fresh water at several places, the national guard was in town. religious groups form all over came and repaired and rebuilt houses, it was a giant outpouring of help both from Xenia citizens and others, but the broken trees, the downtown that was virtually in ruins, the smell–those who have been through a devastating tornado will never forget the smell, and the worst, not knowing who was alive and who was dead.

I was teaching at Warner Jr. High in those days. Warner sits in the Arrowhead housing development, one of the hardest hit areas of town. Listening to the radio announcers reading lists of people who were missing was excruciating since some of the names read belonged to my students. Fortunately, none of my students were among the dead, although some of them were injured, but I did not know that for quite a while. Electronic media was in its infancy as far as communications and we had no way of gathering information from people who had simply left town because their houses were no more.

We decided to accelerate our trip to DC and get out of town for a few days. Those were different times, it only took one call to the airlines to change our reservations from Monday to Saturday,  We left Wayne to deal with at least boarding up the house and Chris, Mike and I flew off to DC where there was no rubble, no smell, they had hot water and you could go home without the National Guard stopping you to see if you legitimately lived there.

When we came home to the house the lights were back on, the water was hot hot again, we had heat. But, there was no way you could forget the storm, from the buildings being gone, to the piles of rubble everywhere, there were lots of reminders.

The woods that surrounded most of our house had been damaged, but had stood up to the storm well overall. They looked as if they had been toilet papered. Aluminum siding ripped from houses all over town was deposited in the trees, draped over the branches of nearly every tree. The trees were also festooned with clothing, all of it with the sleeves ripped off. It looked like some avant garde arboreal fashion statement. On the ground we found papers, deeds, birth certificates, bills, letters, all sucked out of houses and deposited at the first barrier that could pluck them from the maelstrom.

There was, of course, no school. XHS was gone, Central Jr. Hi was gone and several elementary schools were either destroyed or damaged. We finished the year teaching in the evenings at Fairborn high school about 8 miles from Xenia. My main memory of that time was that the Fairborn students decided to indulge in the current fad of streaking and we could count on looking out of our classroom windows in the disk and seeing a few of them running naked across the lawn.

The town has never really recovered from the tornado. Our spirits are good, but the demographics changed. People who had money and owned nice homes that were destroyed often decided to take their insurance and federal disaster money and move to Beavercreek or Kettering or somewhere where the houses were all standing already rather than build. Some homeowners fixed up or rebuilt but the town definitely lost some of our higher professional residents to greener pastures. The downtown, which used to have a J. C. Penny store, a Kresges, a Montgomery Wards, all the small town staples, along with local businesses, at least five women’s clothing stores, from Lord’s at the bottom of the spectrum on up to Singer’s which carried designer clothes. There may be one clothing store for women left but I think it specializes in formal and wedding wear. We had four furniture stores, Adairs, Daums, Blacks and Cherry’s.A few days after the tornado Cherry’s furniture store, where we had bought our living room furniture, our first new furniture, blew up.  We never had to pay a dime, although we inquired about it afteward. We were told the insurance would pay for anything outstanding since the records had been lost in the blast. Now I we do not have a place in town where you can buy new furniture. Of course, locally owned businesses in small towns were soon to be gobbled up by Malls and Walmarts anyway, perhaps the tornado just hastened our fate.

The decision to turn the middle of town into a strip mall was ill advised. About all small towns have to offer these days is their charm. We are trying to bring charming back and I am somewhat encouraged that there does seem to be a new spirit of “can do” among some of the folks in town, including some fairly young people, but I am afraid it will never be the vibrant, successful, bustling small town it once was. Many small towns are endangered species, but we can hope that between bicycling and our historic district we can at least keep up the fight.

After all as the signs said that were posed days after the tornado, XENIA LIVES!

 

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2014 in Uncategorized