Sunday, December 19, 2010

Small Consolation When Fighting Online: At Least it Wasn't Over Youtube

There are a lot of stupid things people do to procrastinate. Over the past week or so, as I've been avoiding writing papers and studying for final exams, I found a seriously disturbing website that ended up taking a lot of my time. The site was hosted by some Nation of Islam guys and it was basically about how Jews were responsible for the plight of the black person in America. I was incredibly steamed up, and I know, I know that it's never a good idea to get into a fight with people on the internet, but I fell for it and I did it anyway. I sent the guy an email in which I corrected a lot of his incorrect quotations (he, or the guy who sent him some quotes from Guide for the Perplexed, literally took out lines and words), objected to his comparison of Maimonides to Hitler (come on!), and some other stuff.

He wrote back, I wrote back, didn't go well. Didn't go well at all. If I can extract some of my favorite lines from his latest email, they would include:

1. "Believe me, it is only because we intend to use this to show our students what clowns you are that we even responded."
2. "You said Hitler killed millions. I say, he did not kill a single human being, except himself by suicide."
3. "I do not want to go with you to "Auschwitz, Treblinka, Berkanau". Last time you "chosen people" asked us to go with you on an overseas trip with you cost 100 million lives. No thanks."
And my favorite...
4. "You Stern are a racist. A blind, deaf, and really dumb racist--just above the level of the apes--like Maimonides. Only he was slightly smarter."

...I literally don't know what to say about this. I regret I got involved with it in the first place, to tell you the truth, but I just find it so difficult to believe that people like this actually exist. I already said I wouldn't respond to this last one, so I'm not going to, but it frightens me that this guy has "students." (Maybe it's like Glenn Beck's university?) I need to delete these emails so I stop looking at them every time I open my mailbox.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Divided America

A couple of months ago, my Black Politics professor showed us this incredible Flickr page. Eric Fischer (who seems to be some sort of digital cartographer) mapped Census 2000 information on to some major American cities to show the racial and ethnic divisions within cities. It's pretty mind-boggling stuff. Some cities are worse than others. For a sampling, here's Detroit, Atlanta, Miami and Newark.

Today, the NYTimes released this cool feature, with more recent data, where you can map towns and districts, even blocks, by race and ethnicity, household income, the furthest education received, and more fun stuff like that. I poked around a bit, and it's a very impressive way of communicating information. I checked out Teaneck- the black-white divide on either side of Washington Ave. and Teaneck Rd. is ridiculous. I also checked out 21218, Hopkins' zip code. About two blocks east of campus, there's an abrupt change, with basically no transition, from the racially mixed zone (probably primarily college students) to almost 90% black.

I don't have much of a comment. Racial zoning, intentional or not (that's another discussion entirely) is a real issue in America, and these maps use really some cool technology to show us a visual representation of that.

UPDATE: Sorry I didn't include this earlier: Heather Horn at the Atlantic rounded up people commenting on Fischer's maps.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Opening post! ...good thing I have no readership to let down. YET.

Well, first post! Aren't you lucky to read this. Welcome, America! Feel free to follow this. I recommend NetNewsWire for following blogs. My good friend Mikey (hi Mikey!) introduced it to me about a year and a half ago, and it has changed my life significantly.

Anyway, I found this neat MLK quote from his Letter from Birmingham County Jail. He wrote the letter from jail in response to an open letter, published by eight white clergy members (Christian and Jewish both) three months earlier, urging him to allow desegregation to be a battle fought in court, not with civil disobedience in the streets. I would encourage you to read the whole letter- it's only a 10 minute read- but I really enjoyed this part. Reverend King is always powerfully eloquent, but this section felt incredibly real to read, and I could feel his frustration, sadness and disappointment.

"I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, 'Wait.' But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness towards white people' when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: 'Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?'; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading 'white' and 'colored'; when your first name becomes 'nigger' and your middle name becomes 'boy' (however old you are) and your last name becomes 'John,' and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title 'Mrs.'; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of 'nobodiness'; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait."

Sorry this isn't the most fascinating first post, but as I promised, I will be consistently linking to and quoting from persons infinitely more smarter and interesting than I am. Get ready for a whirlwind, people, because there are a lot of those.

I know some people are into focused blogs, but my brain is too scattered for that. If I don't drop this in about a second, I'll probably have posts on all different kinds of things. Skip anything you're not interested in- I won't be offended, and even if I would be, I can't tell! Life is grand.