Thinking about Race, Nationalism , and Mending the Color Line on the 4th of July

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Happy 4th of July. Because my work requires me to read more on black nationalism of late, I am going to chill today with Ralph Ellison and W.E.B. Du Bois and think about their concept of two-ness, while pondering Frederick Douglass’ “4th of July Speech” by the hotel pool here in Ft. Worth, Texas. There is much to celebrate as more and more Americans have crossed Du Bois’s proverbial color line here in the 21st century. This is reflected by the interracial solidarity following the Charleston massacre. Further, for the first time black Americans can embrace the notion that many of our white brothers and sisters are calling for the Confederate flag to be removed, seeing that flags are the greatest symbol of national identity. There are a few blacks that argue the 4th of July is a day blacks should not embrace since its inception was not about black national identity. I say it is about black identity.

Douglass spoke to enslaved Negros through his “4th of July Speech” about their plight, and questioned American churches, democracy, ideology, and the make up of capitalism as driving forces for stagnation. We have seen today that we have overcome the past complacent narrative and must now use today to think about our future narrative. Du Bois’s double-consciousness describes the two-ness of being African and American. Ellison’s “Invisible Man” ponders identity in thinking about the American journey of race. So, I say let us not party too much. Let us think about Du Bois’s problem of the 20th century, which he saw as the color line. How might we forge past the old calculus and start anew. Let us focus on one national flag: a flag that encompasses the ugliness of slavery, Jim Crow, and poverty; but a flag that is beautiful in its ability to advance multiracial gatherings and celebrations of how far Americans have mended the color line. Let us make the American flag one of love; it can be used to think about poor people, solving problems of homelessness and food insecurity, embracing Christians, Muslims, Jews, and non-believers. The flag is now mended in the equality of love for our LGBTQ neighbors; it offers hope as being a flag not seen by others as a driving machine for imperialism and the evils of capitalism, but one that seeks to advance all other nations.

TCU|Week One Down|2015

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I arrived in Ft. Worth on June 28th; I am here until July 10 leading an AP history institute. Week one was a blast, with another week left. So, I will be spending a total of 14 days here in Ft. Worth. The folks who attended my AP history institute this past week here at Texas Christian University were fantastic. They were engaging and intellectually curious. They sought me out for my expert opinions on how they should move forward under the history redesigns. I love TCU. I love the APSI director. I love the way I am treated while working to help teachers be better history instructors. There is not a better institute in the country. This place and its people are simply amazing.

 

The Father of Black Power

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As I read through a number of sources tonight, I concluded that W.E.B. Du Bois was the father of the 1960s Black Power movement, which shaped a well conceived independent thought of black retaliation. As I record his prophetic spirit, I am forced to marry his sound and profound assessment on race, class, and identity, through the veil of double-conscisnesss. It was this veil Ralph Ellison penned his classic work, “Invisible Man”. Du Bois’s, “A Negro Nation Within A Nation”, states:
“The colored people of America are coming to face the fact quite calmly that most white Americans do not like them, and are planning neither for their survival, nor for their definite future if it involves free, self-assertive modern manhood. This does not mean all Americans. A saving few are worried about the Negro problem; a still larger group are not ill-disposed, but they fear prevailing public opinion. The great mass of Americans are, however, merely representatives of average humanity. They muddle along with their own affairs and scarcely can be expected to take seriously the affairs of strangers or people whom they partly fear and partly despise.
For many years it was the theory of most Negro leaders that this attitude was the insensibility of ignorance and inexperience, that white America did not know of or realize the continuing plight of the Negro. Accordingly, for the last two decades, we have striven by book and periodical, by speech and appeal, by various dramatic methods of agitation, to put the essential facts before the American people. Today there can be no doubt that Americans know the facts; and yet they remain for the most part indifferent and unmoved.”

The Retired Teacher

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I most recently found myself engaged in an interesting conversation with a colleague and friend who teaches at a New England boarding school. The topic that emerged is one that I never considered: What happens to the faculty member once he/she retires? Sure, I have some time, but the extent of a faculty relationship to his or her campus once retired is an intriguing one. I realize that in most areas of employment, the worker moves on; however, I hope the climate of education and academic work never draws the same comparison; folks teach because it is not the real world, nor should it be. The real world sucks!

Though I do not have the miles under me when it comes to teaching and being a faculty member, I have witnessed over the years how some schools treat highly devoted faculty members once they decide to retire, or are forced to retire. My New England friend stated that a measure of treatment toward the retired faculty can be found on a campus at any given moment. Case in point: she mentioned to me that she desires boarding life at her school because she will be assured a place on campus once she retires; she will have access to its library, archives, athletic facilities, an office to work, and an act of involvement with decision making and mentoring new teachers.

However, it is this point that caught my attention: if your school cannot hold on to faculty members or if there is no desire for them to stay, then by time a faculty member approaches retirement, one might not know any of the surrounding faces (his or her colleagues). She went on to state that a measure of the retired faculty and its relationship with the campus can be seen in age; how often do you see older retired faculty members on campus and participating in campus life? What role does a school hold for those who are no longer actively employed, but who seek to contribute to the growth and tradition of the school?

I must confess that I have never considered any of this. I believe the topic of the “retired faculty” is one that all schools need to visit. At one of my previous schools, I watched them destroy its relationship with one of the most respected and legendary faculty members there. Its focus was on the now. There was no “sense” of tradition or legacy for the position of the “faculty member.” Though I promised I would not mention my New England friend or her school by name, she told me that her campus at one point was very cold; it operated too much like a Fortune 500 company instead of a place seeking to expand its intellectual and cultural vitality. It took their faculty senate to showcase why her campus needed to change. In the end, there has been a greater shift toward the position of being a “faculty member” rather than a mere skeleton. Thus, making retirement worth seeking.

Jim Crow, Minstrels, and Black Resistance

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My lecture at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge titled, The Gospel of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Radical Savior of His People, extended the narrative of class and racial alienation by offering examples of continual forces that have morphed color line tension. If you look at the screen beside me, you will notice an image of JJ from Good Times, as well as an image of  Jim Crow, which was a fixture of the minstrel shows that toured the South; a white man, made up as a black man, sang and mimicked stereotypical behavior in the name of comedy. This behavioral norm continued into the 20th century. The mammy and sambo depictions were felt throughout the television run of Good Times, a popular 1970s sitcom. Though the intent was to showcase black folks in a positive and less stereotypical fashion, it quickly turned into a modern-day minstrel show. One of the main characters, JJ, often depicted the stereotypical buffoon often symbolized in a world driven by white supremacy. There were some good things about this show, as it depicted a hardworking black family working to maintain their unity, even in a world where there were struggles.

jimcrow While speaking at the Center for Marxist Education on May 17th, I noted that W.E.B. Du  Bois addressed the centrality of evil, which was pervasive in an American society fueled with both class and racial divisions. He believed that capitalism was the culprit for such centrality. Du Bois articulated how little has changed in America. Being black and American is a measure in conflict with the ideals espoused by white America. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America 1860 -1880, pointed to three common themes presented to whites about blacks: All Negros were ignorant; all Negros were lazy, dishonest, and extravagant; All Negros created elements of bad governments. This attitude continued as society advanced into the 20th century; it was here that Du Bois pointed to “the problem of the 20th century is that of the color line.”

1343329785_dynomite Thus, the presentation of black folks to white society continued to illustrate such a problem. Good Times took off when JJ’s actions became reflective of the Jim Crow perceptions and writings found in Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction. White supremacy claimed, as Du Bois noted, that negroes were responsible for bad government during Reconstruction. There are those who further that line of thought today, articulating black dependency on the welfare state. Recent events in Baltimore points to such a message. It is the fault of black people for their suffering and urban condition. Yet, the willingness to link modern problems to the ancien regime of Jim Crow is absent. The progressive notion of American liberalism is cloudy. Although assumptions have been made about racial matters of the past, those past matters continue to look us in the face today. They are present on TV shows that remind us of America’s dark history. They are a reflective reality. So when riots take off, I am not sure why folks are surprised. I have been impressed by those who have sat down to look at the extent of deep cyclical pattens and imbedded racism that has remained a constant predator to the color line. Du Bois shared his thoughts here on the just and need for riots.

Herbert Marcuse “An Essay on Liberation”

I have been studying Marxist thinker Herbert Marcuse “An Essay on Liberation.” I guess I have read it three times in the past few days, as I aim to reconstruct my new vision for making people conscious of their plight. There is much to consider here as he notes with the “Great Refusal.” Elements of society are rejecting a projected norm, as we see with ill societal elements in need of advancement toward Marcuse’s New Socialism. I feel entrenched in the 1960s and today’s cultural wars with each read.

Prize Day 2015 at Brooks

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Prize Day 2015

Prize Day (or commencement) was great. Great speech by our head of school, and the rain held off; and it continues to be a no show. I got a nice Cuban walking across the lawn as there were many being smoked by graduates and their folks. We honored some cool faculty members, as well as my advisee, whom I am going to miss. Our students are going to do some nice things in life. Great job 2015!

Talking about Du Bois

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Janette and I enjoyed spending time at the Center for Marxist Education. I was able to discuss my passion for Du Bois and African-American Studies in relation to racism, radicalism, classism, and religion. That is a bit for one talk, but expansive as I think about the recent work I have started on Du Bois. CME Talk II Here is just the intro to my lecture:

“Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in my own house?” W.E.B Du Bois exclaimed in his essay, Of Our Spiritual Strivings, as he pondered being a problem: a seventh son after other civilizations. The Negro watched Indians, Romans, Greeks, and Mongolians take a position of authority over the simple Negro. This white world reminded Negros of their inferiority, yet promised them a place with God if they behaved. Du Bois, the prodigy of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was set to challenge the constructs put in place by WASPs. As a child in the Berkshires, he was reminded of his identity, particularly when it came to his encounters on the schoolyard with white females. Interracial companionship has always been one of the first casualties of puberty, as noted by historian David Lewis of Du Bois. And though early playground rejections would impact his later pathology toward Negro radicalism, it was his sense of understanding that equality in America could be achieved, though by his death Du Bois concluded America was not ready for the Negro. In Of Our Spiritual Strivings, Du Bois wrote…

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, —an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.”

Du Bois shaped this double-consciousness as a sense of racial awareness regarding the veil; it was within this metaphorical Veil that black people faced oppression. In order to deal with oppression and themselves as a race, Negros must become aware of the Veil. This point seems silly in that who would be unaware of their oppression; however, Du Bois speaks to years of Jim Crow, sharecropping, and tenant farming in which the Negro’s labor and welfare were exploited. Du Bois’s Veil was expressed in the literary piece, Invisible Man; here, Ralph Ellison introduces the American conscious to a Negro mind that becomes aware of why he is oppressed. Ellison wrote,

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.”

Carl Degler, historian and teacher

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I read my journals. I participate in the online discussion forums with other teachers and historians. I attend the conferences. Yet, I just learned today that one of the giants in the field, Carl Degler, passed away. I cannot tell you how much of his stuff I have studied and read. He is a model to all historians when comes to the relationship between teaching and scholarship. Though not as public or as political as the late Richard Hofstadter, Degler has been impactful on my own thinking and teaching. Degler represents the weakness of Hofstadter’s scholarship when it came to changes in historiography — particularly the advent of multiculturalism and gender studies.

See article here.

My Talk: “The Gospel of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Radical Savior of His People”

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I will be delivering a lecture on Sunday May 17 at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge. I am pretty darn excited about my work on Du Bois, black radicalism, and religion.

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Title: The Gospel of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Radical Savior of His People

Here is what the CME released about my intended lecture:

Social activist, educator, historian and Du Boisian scholar Edward Carson will engage participants in an interactive discussion on the problem of the twentieth century, which is the problem of the color line. African-American scholar and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois enshrined this iconic observation in July 1900, while speaking in London at the Pan African Congress. Du Bois repeated this phrase in his 1903 work, Souls of Black Folk, as he championed against Negro oppression, in a mythical democratic country. This gathering will bring Du Bois to life, as Carson discusses Du Bois’s transformation to the Communist Party USA, his critique of religion, and his expectations of elite Negros serving as a vanguard for an exploited race. Furthermore, Carson will offer an insightful conclusion regarding Du Bois’s response to the Baltimore riots and police brutality, based on Du Bois’s thoughts regarding capitalism as the cause of racism.

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The CME — as noted by the partial image of it above, and their statement here, aims to “…hosts reading groups, radical film showings, discussion groups, and public meetings, with more events being added to the calendar regularly.

Stalinism and House of Cards

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Josef Stalin would love Frank Underwood. This is a great speech from House of Cards. There are Americans who work hard and have committed their best, yet they watch folks enjoy lofty lives while they struggle day-to-day in silence. I like Underwood’s American socialism. It is aggressive and it puts folks with little money first. This is the best presidential speech yet. Too bad it is fiction. Most people want to work. They want to earn a living. People do not want entitlements. They want to make a living.

The Cross and LGBTQ Matters

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This past Easter Sunday I heard our school minister speak on Jesus as a person who championed diversity. He embraced all people and focused his efforts on love. I am one who greatly appreciates our chaplain’s wisdom, compassion, love, and empathy for all people. I am one who believes in the good of religion, particularly Christianity. I have seen its beauty first hand. Sure, I am not a highly religious person. And, I have just as much doubt as my fellow atheist; however, I have elected to work with Christians who value others and appreciate the beauty of love, empathy, and compassion for others.

My wife and her family represents Christians who love Jesus and believe in such teaching. I am troubled, however, by Christians who see otherwise. Further, I am bothered because they feel empowered to be the ponds of politicians who are playing a game for votes; we have seen this before. The manipulation of people for political gain. Now, there are those who are Christian that have their own agenda. I am sure Christ would warn them against using hate to advance his mission.

On the other hand, I am bothered by non-Christians who group all Christians, Muslims, and Jews together. Many have little to no knowledge of religion. They use poor Christopher Hitchens like examples to dismiss the good of religious people. I have even concluded that they, like some Christians, have their own agenda. And, some but not all is based on silly claims. I am also bothered by their lack of religious understanding.

In the end, I would like both sides to place their own interest aside for the good of love, compassion, empathy, and righteousness in a plural quasi-democratic society. As an academic who is well-balanced in terms of emotions, I have an obligation to help both parties. We shall see.

The End of Football

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I am a football fan; I love high school football and the NFL, but I am not much of a college football fan. This post has been on my mind for sometime now. Chris Borland’s recent decision to retire from the NFL after one very successful season reignited my thoughts.

How will the end occur?

The end will not be an overnight occurrence. The process is already underway with a number of former and prominent NFL players filing suit against the NFL. Retired players often cite not being informed of future brain trauma. These players once stated they feared not being able to walk upstairs or get out of bed one day, but many were caught off guard by what is now called CTE, which is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

The end will start with little league football players. Parents and guardians are now electing to either wait until their sons and daughters are older to play football, or they are encouraging them not to play. NBA player Lebron James recently announced he would not allow his sons to play football, citing health related concerns. With parents now directing their kids in a different direction, the early talent pool shifts to other sports. Thus, high school programs are the first to feel the impact. Very few middle school students will matriculate to the next level of play, forcing high schools to drop the program for other sports. In states where football is a big deal, the transition will look different. Schools will be reluctant to drop the program, but the talent and level of play will dissipate, creating greater disinterest. Middle class families will be ahead of lower income families due to means and information.

What About Colleges?

Programs outside of the Deep South, California, and Southwest will experience the impact first. However, much like high school programs in areas outside of the Deep South, DI type schools will eventually feel the impact. They will slowly see the decline of 4 and 5 star athletes. This will be noted in their football camps and via scouting. DI programs will recruit athletes they normally would not have recruited in the past. This shift along with declining interest in areas outside of the Deep South, California, and Southwest, will force smaller programs to close. This will later be seen at other levels and schools in different regions.

NFL

With a number of former players filing lawsuits and a diminishing pool to draft athletes, the NFL slowly transitions into a stage that looks more like boxing. I suspect the NFL will create programs and use greater safety precautions to garner more interest, but in the end, those actions will fail. Fans of the NFL have already grown concerned and annoyed by changes made. Even NFL players have voiced concerns related to new safety changes.

One player in this ESPN interview had this to say:

“I admire [Borland] for what he did. I admire him for being man enough and smart enough to know what’s more important in life,” Walker told ESPN.com’s Ian O’Connor. “If I had to do it over again, and I knew I’d end up in the amount of pain I’m always in, there’s no way in hell I’d play football again. With all of my injuries, including my neck, I took a chance of breaking my neck and ending up in a wheelchair. I look back and ask, ‘What was I thinking?’ ”

“Every individual has to make his own decision, and there’s so much money to be made these days. But is money more important, or is your life more important? I could never see myself hurting myself, but there have been times when I’ve thought, ‘God, I wish you’d just end this right now.’ I don’t sleep, I’m in constant pain, I haven’t felt my feet in 20 years. I feel like there are times when my whole body shuts down. Sometimes I feel like I’m 90 years old.

“[Commissioner] Roger Goodell is a good friend of mine. But I want the NFL to tell truth about what’s happening with players, and I think they sugarcoat everything.”

Selective Year

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As a master history teacher, I would like to take credit for the admissions numbers; in truth,  I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with me. I recall legendary Florida Gator coach Steve Spurrier once saying about UF professors, how many folks bought tickets to listen to a science lecture? Though I do not lecture much, I am pretty sure he is talking about my classes too.

This is good news for my classes. See article here.

Community Organizing

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If you know us ( Janette and I), you know that we believe the GREATEST lie preached is gradualism. We do not operate that way since it promotes stagnant behavior and complacency. Over spring break we are furthering our community efforts by volunteering time and action to be community organizers. We hope to gather folks who will act in a fashion to identify community issues and needs in a way that people will give their free time to eradicate social ill, vice, and hunger.

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