Yes, we’re all supposed to come together after an election, let bygones be bygones, and march forward unified as neither Democrats nor Republicans but patriotic Americans celebrating the triumph of the democratic process. But it’s difficult to link arms when the home of the free embraces the leadership of a racist.
Here’s what we need to understand: This has happened before. For 10 brief years after the Civil War, a coalition of ex-slaves and white farmers worked to forge democracy in the former Confederacy. With the help of the federal government, they scored real victories and made significant gains. But their success spurred a backlash of angry whites, furious at sharing power with blacks and their Northern allies, murderous at the very idea of social equality. Those whites fought a war against Reconstruction governments, and when they won, they declared the South redeemed.
Source: White won.
What old men know, too, is that all that is gained can be lost. Lost just as the liberation that the Civil War and Emancipation brought was squandered in Reconstruction, by a white America grown morally weary, or bent on revenge. Lost as the gains of our labor unions have been for decades now, pushed back until so many of us stand alone in the workplace, before unfettered corporate power. Lost as the vote is being lost by legislative chicanery. Lost as so many powerful interests would have us lose the benefits of the social welfare state, privatize Social Security, and annihilate Obamacare altogether.
The men feminism left behind pose a threat to the country as a whole. They are armed with their own facts and heaps of resentment, and one electoral loss, even a big one, will not mean widespread defeat. Other Republican candidates are no doubt observing Mr. Trump’s rabid fan base and seeing a winning strategy for smaller races in certain conservative, homogeneous locales.
To be sure, the real world is full of anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and racism. The question is: Do we prepare students to accept the world as it is, or do we prepare them to change it? Telling students either explicitly or implicitly that they should grin and bear it is the last thing one should do as an educator. Yet that is essentially the gospel that the “wait until the real world” parishioners would have many of us adopt.
When I saw this article in Sunday’s NYT about a pop up coffee shop in the Bronx where the main premise was a precursor to Starbucks’ Race Together project it brought to mind another coffee shop that I continue to hold fondly, Oakland’s Coffee With A Beat.
According to the NYT:
Months before Starbucks’s much-derided “Race Together” initiative, [Vernicia Colon] ran the Mix Coffeehaus, a South Bronx pop-up shop that used the act of ordering coffee to get customers to explore their own racial identity.
Coffeehaus was Colon’s thesis project at Parsons, The New School of Design. In a sense it was a variation of the campaigns exploring microaggressions. But instead of leaving the culprits to passively look at responses to their microaggressions via a photo exhibit or a video, Colon’s Coffeehaus incited a provocative dialogue in real time.
It is hard to imagine building a business in this manner, nor was that Colon’s vision.
Starbucks on the other hand in conceptualizing Race Together was envisioning a scenario where the corporate bottom line would not be hampered by encouraging its front line employees to engage in conversations about race. A number of commentators argued that Race Together would slow down lines, cause the baristas undue burdens, and force a conversation that most people just do not want to have with the person pouring their coffee at 8AM.
Ironically enough, these frank explorations of race and politics were two of the things that I enjoyed most about my time spent at Coffee With a Beat during my various stints in Oakland. Every morning the owner Nate would often slide from behind the counter and join in with a crew of locals to discuss the day’s news. Everything from race to US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan to the sorry state of the Oakland Raiders was fair game. I remember telling my friends back east that Coffee With a Beat was like a mix between a barbershop and a coffee shop.
Reflecting on Coffee With a Beat within this context of Starbucks’ Race Together campaign, what derailed this initiative was not Starbucks’ heavy-handed/aloof assumptions that they’d be doing something new or different as the NYT profile appears to be suggesting. Rather, where Starbucks fell short was that Race Together exposed Starbucks’ tenuous relationships to the communities within which it resides. It is a chain that is at once everywhere and nowhere.
And in so doing by launching Race Together, Starbucks laid bare that these conversations are not taking place within its stores.
This is neither a good or bad thing per se.
It just goes to serve as a reminder if you want your coffee with a beat, then you should look somewhere other than Starbucks.
When Michael Bloomberg and John Corzine were running for their respective posts in New York and New Jersey both succeeded by making a strong case that their wealth gave them a decided advantage over their respective opponents. Being successful businessmen did not make Bloomberg or Corzine smarter or more patriotic than their opponents, but rather both candidates pointed to their fortunes as a shield against political corruption. They were too rich to succumb to special interests or pay to play schemes.
Few recall that George Bush made similar inferences in his 2000 campaign against Al Gore. During that campaign Bush often talked about restoring honor to the office, an inference that was as much a dig on Bill Clinton’s sexual exploits, as much as it was a knock on the sleepovers that Clinton and Gore were fond of hosting at the White House for Democratic donors. Throughout his campaign Bush sought to make the case that his Harvard MBA, his
sterling business credentials, and his personal wealth gave him an insurmountable amount of leverage over Washington’s notorious special interest groups.
Bloomberg, Corzine and Bush all won elections in the early aughts, and seemed to have laid a blueprint for other wealthy individuals seeking political office. And if you look at most congressional and senate races of the last decade you will see an uptick in millionaire candidates and victors. This is not only because campaigns have become more expensive, but also because in many instances the allure (particularly on the GOP side) of candidates too rich to be bought has proven irresistible. Such a political climate would seem like a golden opportunity for a quasi-billionaire former CEO like Mitt Romney who can also tout being the first governor to pass universal healthcare in his state oversaw and chairman of an Olympics in another state.
Instead, Romney has largely struggled. First getting battered by his Republican opponents during the primary as they consistently referred to him as a “vulture capitalist” and “the worst republican candidate to run against Barack Obama.” Still Romney has managed to win his party’s nomination by a wide margin, only to now compromise that victory with his peculiar defiance about releasing his tax returns for fear of political harm, and having to suffer the indignity of hearing the last republican presidential nominee John McCain say he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate because “she was the better candidate.”
In no short order Romney has managed to fail at making a case for himself as a capable CEO, much less comporting himself like one, but he has successfully managed to inspire disdain from both sides of the political aisle. It’s not because he’s been successful that both republicans and democrats don’t like Romney’s, but it’s that he epitomizes the worst of this nation’s last gilded age, the 1990s. After spending much of the last decade you would think Romney would have realized this fact, but he has not and continues and will continue making the same political mistakes over and over again.