Monthly Archives: July 2013

doggerel by a dad

“O aid me ere I err!” bade he.
“Nay, nay, I’ll not,” said she.
“I’ll aid ye not–you’re overwrought,” she sputtered in her tea.
“Avail me, please, I’m on my knees,”
Beseeched the lad, awailing.
“Peace,” said she, “your tears they’ll be completely unavailing.”
“I am,” said he, “a wretched me, with only this petition …”
“Your prayer,” said she, “moves not me, nor will I grant permission
To drip upon my tattered shoe your salty drops o’ woe.”
“I’d only note,” the laddie quote, a-pointing to his toe,
“That you have ta’en seat upon a steamin’ pot ‘o stew.
Underneath that very pot is set a hot fondue
And as you settle in, you see, the one flows in t’other
And both begin to drip upon my only little brother.
As he shakes, our boat it quakes, and o’er the gunnels flow
The last of the drips off the honeyed lips o’ the Bonghi-Donghi-Do.”
“Cease!” cried she. “Prattle not. I care not what you say.
I’ll sit right here and pull yer ear and watch the driplets flow.
I care not a wit for the Bonghi-Do; let him do what ere he may!”

a useful definition of civility

(Logan airport, trying to get to Chicago) Because I study civic engagement and civil society, people often expect me to favor civility. My actual view is more complicated; not only civil dialogue but also contentious speech is important in a democracy. Citizens should be able to express righteous anger; parties and candidates should face zero-sum competitions that necessitate sharp debate. Yet there is a reason to care about civility: it helps us to learn from other people. That is why I like the norm that the Civic Commons expects of its online participants: “We’re as interested in each other’s opinions as we are in our own. And we act like it.” That works for me as a definition of civility. For more on the context, see Dan Moulthrop’s remarks at Frontiers of Democracy.

taking a break

For me, the last week has meant: the end of the Summer Institute of Civic Studies (6.5 hours of graduate-level teaching every day), the Frontiers of Democracy conference (150 excited guests at my institution), Albuquerque, a day back in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. At this point, I feel an urgent need to go offline. I’ll blog again on Tuesday–from Chicago.

police as community-builders

(San Francisco) The short presentations from Frontiers 2013 are all available in video form here. As an enticing example, I present the police chief of Brooklyn Park, MN, Michael Davis. Brooklyn Park is one of the most diverse communities in Minnesota. Chief Davis argues that police forces must move beyond merely engaging their communities; they must help to build communities. He nicely summarizes the work of Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson, which I have described on this blog before. Sampson has shown that, holding other factors constant, neighborhoods with more “collective efficacy” see considerably less violent crime; and networks of nonprofit associations can boost collective efficacy. Chief Davis argues that police can help them do that.

young people on the Zimmerman verdict

(Chicago) According to the latest Pew poll, a majority of young White people are dissatisfied with the Zimmerman verdict, in contrast to older White people, who approve. Nevertheless, just 32% of Whites between 18 and 29 think that the trial “raised important issues about race that need to be discussed,” whereas a majority (52%) say that “the issue of race is getting too much attention.” Pew doesn’t break out young African Americans’ views of those issues, but overall, 78% of Blacks think the trial raised issues about race that need discussion. (See my recent argument that we should be talking about racism in relation to the case.)

According to previous research, a majority of young White people wrongly believe that discrimination is worse against Whites than against African Americans. The age group as a whole is diverse, but young Whites are pervasively segregated from people of color. Only 15% of white students attend multiracial schools. They don’t have much direct exposure to African Americans or much opportunity to observe inequality.

Jonathan Chait wrote recently, “Obama believes America’s racial problem has not only gotten dramatically better over the course of his life — it will continue to do so. Younger people are less racially biased than older people, and Obama believes that process will continue to rapidly transform America’s approach to race.” I think by some definitions of racial bias, that is true. But young White people seem especially prone to believe that racism is a thing of the past, and that may be barrier to actually doing something about it.