Where Are You From?

How place determines race for racially in-between immigrants. July 4, 2002, was a particularly humid Independence Day in Boston. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I had stayed on campus to work, and for the first time my family had come to visit me in New England. That year, we found ourselves among the thousands of revelers who descended in undulating waves down to the banks of the Charles River to see the fireworks. My mom and little sister scrambled onto the first available patch of grass while I unrolled a blanket I had snatched off my twin-size dorm room bed hours earlier. My aunt unpacked almonds, cantaloupe, and soda from a plastic shopping bag; my … [Read more...]

The Last Adults Left in the Room

At Georgetown University, Jeff Sessions accused American universities of having ties to Russia. At William and Mary, Black Lives Matter protestors labeled the ACLU a white supremacist organization. And in Indianapolis, Vice President Mike Pence staged a walk out of an NFL game rather than witness black athletes kneeling during the national anthem. Trigger warning: irony can no longer contain our politics. We are beyond an Age of Fracture, a Politics of the Absurd. The most recent dust-up over campus free speech happened at William & Mary College in Virginia, where ACLU lawyer Claire Gastañaga was scheduled to give a talk. Given that the ACLU helped white supremacists get a permit to … [Read more...]

Take Me Down to the Sanctuary City

For our last big episode of the season, Doomed to Repeat is touching on one of the most polarizing issues in American politics: immigration and so-called "sanctuary cities." In the age of the Dreamsicle President, matters of law and migration have taken a vastly greater political, economic, cultural, and emotional valence that at any time in recent memory.  In dissing Trump, we do not mean to belittle the issue at all.  People are afraid.  One of our two co-hosts, in fact, has family who are now unable to flee violence and disorder in Libya and come to join their relatives in the United States because of the administration's appalling "Muslim ban." But it's hard to recall a time when people … [Read more...]

What Smokey & the Bandit Can Still Teach Us about the “New South”

In the summer of 1977 a movie hit the multiplexes, twin cinemas, and dwindling drive-ins of America like a storm, making over a hundred million dollars (in 1977 dollars at that!) and leaving a lasting mark on the pop cultural landscape. The film I am talking about, of course, is Smokey and the Bandit. Overshadowed in memory by Star Wars, the other big hit of that summer, it shared some DNA with that much more idolized movie-cum-phenomenon/religion. Both feature extended, masterfully executed chase scenes. Both glamorize truckers. (Admit it, Han and Chewie are basically space truckers.) Both have rural hicks as heroes. (Luke bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 is the space equivalent of … [Read more...]

Say Her Name! Confronting Erasure & Rethinking Possibilities for a Democratic Future

The auditorium was at capacity in Tampa Bay, Florida for the 2016 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport annual conference in anticipation of Dr. Harry Edwards.  I had made it a must to attend this conference so that I could hear and possibly meet him.  Dr. Kimberly Schimmel provided the first keynote the day before that brought together a brilliant, expansive, critical exploration of sport in addressing issues of space, cities, gentrification, surveillance, and prisons. Now in a packed house with hundreds of people in the audience, Dr. Edwards provided a keynote lecture. His prior scholarship and activist work, especially with regards to the 1968 Olympics, inspired me.  His … [Read more...]

What Modern Monetary Theory Can Teach Us about Criminal Justice

I delivered the talk published below as part of a panel at Yale’s annual Rebellious Lawyering Conference, on February 17th, 2017. The panel, entitled “Financing Criminal Justice”, co-hosted by The Modern Money Network, focused on the connections between fiscal austerity and the horrors of the U.S. criminal legal system. I was joined on the panel by Thomas Harvey, Co-Founder and Executive Director of ArchCityDefenders, Judge Jaribu Hill, Director of the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights, and Mitali Nagrecha, Director of Harvard Law School’s National Criminal Justice Debt Initiative. Together, we discussed how financially-strapped local government entities, charged with public … [Read more...]

Katherine Dunham: The Artist as Activist During World War II

Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) was a world-renowned choreographer who broke many barriers of race and gender, most notably as an African American woman whose dance company toured the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia for several decades. In Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora (Oxford, 2017), author Joanna Dee Das argues Dunham was more than a dancer; she was an intellectual and activist committed to using dance to fight for racial justice. At the same time, Dunham struggled to balance these social justice goals with her artistic career, financial needs, and personal desires. The following excerpt is the introduction to Chapter Four, which explores how … [Read more...]

White Poverty and the Legacy of Slavery in the US South

While the moonlight-and-magnolias myth of the Old South continues to persist, the region’s history actually is much more sinister and grim – even for many white Southerners. Recently scholars have revealed the brutal, bloody realities of slavery in the late-antebellum Deep South. Yet to truly understand the gross inequalities endemic to slave societies, it is also important to acknowledge what happens to excess workers when a capitalist system is predicated on slave labor. With the rising global demand for cotton, and thus, slaves, in the 1840s and 1850s, the need for white laborers in the American South was drastically reduced, creating a large underclass who were unemployed or … [Read more...]

Ansley Erickson and Kevin Kruse on the Many Histories of Segregation

A few weeks ago, we shared the first episode of the new podcast series Doomed to Repeat with a circle of our friends and colleagues--a sort of "soft open."  But we're ready to begin rolling out episodes of the first season on a regular basis over the next few months.  We're hoping to offer conversations with historians and other experts on issues as different as the history of craft beer, the anti-vaccination movement, and the long and fascinating evolution of America's relationship with Russia.  And we hope to do so in a loose and informal way, with a bit of humor and an eye toward how these histories intersect with the problems facing the world today. In our first episode, we get to chat … [Read more...]

How the Labor Movement Shot Itself in the Foot: Rock Edition

“Ambition makes you look pretty ugly,” Thom Yorke sneered on Radiohead’s seminal 1997 album OK Computer. He did not mean aesthetic ambition, of course—the band had that in spades—but the crass materialism of a yuppie careerist, the proverbial “kicking, screaming Gucci little piggy.” The next year, rapper Amil made a very different declaration on a classic Jay-Z track: “Ambition makes me so horny… My hoochie remains in a Gucci name.”  Their two perspectives on material aspiration could not be more different—the art-rocker disdains the trappings of consumerism, while Amil is totally frank about the fact that she wanted her art to succeed commercially, to bring the comforts that upward mobility … [Read more...]