aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The Post-Civil Rights Fallacy
Salim Muwakkil writing in In These Times comments on the notion of a post-civil rights era:
[T]he media has been awash in assessments of a new cohort of black leadership. These neophytes are generally described as well-educated (often Ivy Leaguers), non-ideological coalition builders-in that they were not nurtured in the race-tinged battleground of the civil rights movement.
The star players in this coterie are Obama, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, Philadelphia mayoral candidate Michael Nutter and a few others.
These attractive newcomers are being cast as the harbingers of a new America, a nation untroubled by the ogre of rank racism. Race-focused leadership, like that expressed by the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jackson, are to be relegated to another era, a 20th century paradigm.
These ideas are part of a hardening notion that the protest mode is an ineffective way to redress the racial problems of the 21st century. Increasing numbers of commentators are stressing the need for African Americans to place more focus on internal social and moral reform than on external protests for civil rights. This is hardly a new debate. In fact, it was the core disagreement between W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Jena protest revealed that the currency of civil rights remains high in the black community in 2007. And although the protest was remarkably decentralized, many of the young organizers eagerly sought the expertise of the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton and welcomed their participation.
Black America is under assault by a biased criminal justice system, and the Jena protest was a spasm of its collective consciousness. This system, correctly labeled “the prison-industrial complex,” is the primary site of racial oppression today, and one of its most corrosive aspects is what many activists call the “school-to-jail pipeline.”
The Jena Six case revealed that pipeline in all its perverse glory: white students’ punishment for hanging nooses remained within the context of school discipline, while the black students’ cases were exported to the criminal justice system. Protesting this disparity is exactly the role of the civil rights community.
Obama is a black politician seeking national consensus. If he responded to every expression of racial bias, he would alienate his supporters who believe we live in post-civil rights America. However, some African Americans are uncomfortable that Obama’s prospects for success are enhanced by a state of racial denial.
I absolutely think it is too easy and facile of liberals, most especially white liberals, to criticize black Civil Rights leaders “because the current dead shell of a civil rights movement makes them too much money,” as one wrote to me.
For one thing, the white establishment is complicit in keeping them there. (I saw Sharpton on the Today Show this week. There’s no question he was easy to book - they had his number and knew where to send the limo - and he’d be predictably provocative and pithy and neatly fit right into their 3-minute format.) For another, those leaders speak for those whose stories are too messy for the media and the establishment to fathom as legitimate champions of justice.
Someone’s got to; I’m glad they do.
When I say we need a newly imagined Civil Rights movement, I am not criticizing the old; and emphatically NOT urging “African Americans to place more focus on internal social and moral reform than on external protests for civil rights.” Rather, I am acknowledging that the challenge now is much more complex. When there is a thriving middle and upper class of blacks it’s easier for critics to blame the victims and deny the reality of an unjust system; and more difficult for advocates to articulate the gross injustice. Statistics are not nearly so powerful as the iconic images that accompanied the fall of Jim Crow.
When Glenn C. Loury asked in The Boston Review last summer, Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? he observed:
Slavery ended a long time ago, but the institution of chattel slavery and the ideology of racial subordination that accompanied it have cast a long shadow. I speak here of the history of lynching throughout the country; the racially biased policing and judging in the South under Jim Crow and in the cities of the Northeast, Midwest, and West to which blacks migrated after the First and Second World Wars; and the history of racial apartheid that ended only as a matter of law with the civil-rights movement. It should come as no surprise that in the post-civil rights era, race, far from being peripheral, has been central to the evolution of American social policy.
The political scientist Vesla Mae Weaver, in a recently completed dissertation, examines policy history, public opinion, and media processes in an attempt to understand the role of race in this historic transformation of criminal justice. She argues-persuasively, I think-that the punitive turn represented a political response to the success of the civil-rights movement. Weaver describes a process of “frontlash” in which opponents of the civil-rights revolution sought to regain the upper hand by shifting to a new issue. Rather than reacting directly to civil-rights developments, and thus continuing to fight a battle they had lost, those opponents-consider George Wallace’s campaigns for the presidency, which drew so much support in states like Michigan and Wisconsin-shifted attention to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime.
We deny the racial cleansing that occurred again and again on American soil and show no signs of the political will to stop the inhumane and unjust incarceration of our black male population.
I like those emerging black leaders and I hope they can move us forward; I think the left took the easy way out in the pivot to the war and away from more forcefully confronting the brutal reality of what happened in New Orleans. I care about the war, I care about gay rights, I care about women’s rights. But because of the particular past of this place, these United States, I believe we must first salve the open wound of race. Then, with our clear national conscience, we can more easily confront and solve those other rights issues.
Jekyll Island, GA
Ubuntu eye candy
I’m all for it. Whatever it takes:
Wednesday, a new version of Ubuntu-code named Gutsy Gibbon-will be introduced sporting the sort of three dimensional effects that are the trademark of Windows Vista and Apple’s OS X Leopard.
Until now, according to Net Applications, a group that tracks operating system market share, there has been no dramatic uptick recently and Linux desktop share may still be less than one percent.
But there have been recent signs of new life. Dell Computer, for example has begun offering both a desktop and a portable computer with Ubuntu pre-installed as an alternative to Microsoft’s operating systems. At the same time, there are some signs of resistance to Microsoft’s Windows Vista, with some corporations moving back to Windows XP.
Ubuntu, moreover, is looking past computers to other devices that will likely be developed using Linux, said Mark Shuttleworth, the South African entrepreneur - and astronaut - who founded the Ubuntu Linux project in 2004.
“What’s really interesting is that a lot of consumer electronics products that are being designed now are essentially a little PC,” he said in an interview “We’re not there yet, but we’ll be there by mid to late 2009. Your impulse buy will be running Linux.”
“Once you can take that kind of capability and stick it in your pocket, it will get interesting,” he added.
Mr. Shuttleworth, who is also the chief executive of Canonical Ltd., a company that does business by offering service and support for Linux, said he believes the community of people developing Linux can keep up with the major operating systems and even be more innovative. There are about one hundred full time developers for Ubuntu and thousands of part time contributors.
What he’s not certain of is whether three dimensional effects will have any impact on user productivity.
“The really interesting question is whether there will be productivity effects,” he said.
Amazon one-click patent struck down
In a recent office action, the USPTO has rejected the claims of the Amazon.com one-click patent following the re-examination request that I filed on 16 February 2006.
My review resulted in the broadest claims of the patent being ruled invalid.
In its Office Action released 9 October 2007, the Patent Office found that the prior art I found and submitted completely anticipated the broadest claims of the patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411.
I had only requested the USPTO look at claims 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21 and 22 but the Office Action rejects claims 11-26 and claims 1-5 as well!
Amazon has the opportunity to respond to the Patent Office’s rejection, but third party requests for reexamination, like the one I filed, result in having the subject patent either modified or completely revoked about 2/3 of the time.
Via Cory Doctorow.
Tim Wu on “Tolerated Use”
The video is a companion piece to Part 4, Tolerated Use: The Copyright Problem, of Wu’s five part series on American Lawbreaking, “areas in which our laws are routinely and regularly broken and where the law enforcement response is Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ nothing.”