Category Archives: Society

Be Thankful for These Women

It takes a lot of courage to come forward.  More courage, quite frankly, than most people have.  You need to be more courageous than me, maybe than you too.

First, you have to have the courage to let other people know.  This is much more difficult than you might imagine.  The prospect of family, friends, and co-workers knowing you were assaulted or harassed is intimidating.  These are very deep and intimate details of your life, the kind you normally would never share with most folks.  But coming forward means many people will find out what you’d rather they didn’t know.  And if your accusations are against a famous man, then just about everyone will know, right up to the stranger  who recognizes you while walking down the street and mutters something to his or her friend.

You also need to the courage to deal with the deniers.  The asshole you accuse?  Yeah, good chance he (most likely a “he”) will deny it.  And he’ll also have his defenders (not necessarily a “he”).  These may be individual defenders, such as his family, friends, and co-workers.  They may also be institutional, like a private arbitrator picked by your boss, who’s handling this because of the contract you unwittingly signed or couldn’t afford not to sign.  Or the legal system that features a defense team hell bent on publicly destroying your name and character by informally putting you, the victim, on trial.

And then, finally, you’ll need the courage to deal with some of your so-called allies and supporters. Continue reading Be Thankful for These Women

Louis CK and Roy Moore Walk into a Bar

At first glance, the disparity is stark.  Over the past two months, a litany of powerful men have been accused of sexual assault. Yet reactions from their supporters have been very different.

By and large, Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have staunchly condemned all sexual predation, including predators with whom they are likelier to stand politically, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and most recently Louis CK.  Meanwhile, many Republicans have not only defended, but even embraced men who brag about being sexual predators (Donald Trump) or face very serious and well investigated accusations of criminal sexual behavior (Roy Moore).

It’s tempting to point out that the GOP has not simply lost the moral high ground, but has impatiently discarded it.  It’s tempting to proclaim that Progressives, Liberals, and Leftists have remained true to their values in a way that many Conservatives seem unwilling or perhaps even unable to do.  It’s tempting to say that Democrats do not tolerate sexual predators, either within their own ranks or without, while Republicans have pioneered new heights in hypocrisy by readily condemning sexual predators outside their ranks, yet making every conceivable excuse for sexual predators within their ranks, right up to equating the sexual molestation of children with the parenting of Jesus Christ.

It is very tempting indeed. But yet, I wonder. Continue reading Louis CK and Roy Moore Walk into a Bar

How to be Racist in Today’s America

A new poll reveals that 55% of white people believe white people face discrimination in today’s America.

At first glance, this seems to set new records for irony.  A majority of white people are worried about racism against white people.  It’s hard to make that up.  But in fact, it’s not ironic at all.  It’s actually predictable.  And more than predictable, it’s a fundamental precondition for white racism to exist.

Why?  Because nobody wants to be the bad guy.  Nobody wants to be the villain.  Everyone wants to justify their beliefs and actions.  It’s human nature.

And so victimizers often cast themselves as victims.  And more subtly, those who profit from an unfair system paint themselves as the real losers in grand social equations.

That’s why open racists have long complained that they are on the short end, they are the ones suffering, they are the ones unfairly penalized by the very group they are oppressing.

Nazis blamed the Jews for ruining their economy.  Early Americans blamed the Indians for wasting valuable land and preventing hardworking Americans from using it properly.   Slave owners blamed slaves for being childlike incompetents who required white people to support them.  Nativists blamed poor, non-white immigrants (including even the Irish, who at one point weren’t considered “white”) for taking their jobs.

Now a majority of white Americans think they’re the real victims here.  It makes perfect sense.

Most people need to justify their ugliness.  That’s true of Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals, men and women. Continue reading How to be Racist in Today’s America

Yes, I’m Defending the Millennials, Goddammit

Generational analysis, when done poorly, is half-a-notch above astrology: All the people born at this time are like this!

Of course there’s plenty of good generational research and analysis by demographers and other social scientists.  However, most people don’t delve into that stuff.  Most people simply absorb generational analysis from popular culture.  That’s unfortunate, because you can often get more penetrating insights from a Chinese restaurant paper place mat.

Worse yet, a lot of pop culture generational analysis is passively racist and classist.  You know who we’re really talking about when we say “Baby Boomers,” right? It’s hardly every American born between 1946-1964.  Black people? Latinos? Most immigrants? The deeply impoverished? Pushaw.  For the most part, we’re just talking about the white MCAU (middle class and up), and whoever can pass through their circles.  And we’re not even talking about them smartly.  By and large, we just rehash dumb stereotypes.  This generation sacrificed.  That generation navel gazed.  Bla bla bla.

For example, when I Googled “Baby Boomers are,” the auto complete came up:
selfish
the biggest
entitled

When I Googled “Millennials are,” the auto complete came up:
lazy
the worst
screwed

Indeed, pop culture generational analysis is often so shallow, haphazard, and/or commercialized, that it typically only blathers about every other generation.  There’s an accordion discourse, which fixates on alternating generations (Greatest, Boomers, Millennials) while largely ignoring the generations between them (Silent, X, Z).  As a result, Baby Boomers dominated popular discourse for a long time.

However, Baby Boomers have recently been knocked off their demographic perch.  There are now more Millennials than boomers in the U.S. population, and these relative youngens are increasingly the subject of America’s generational fascination.  As such, they catch a lot of flak, much of it head smackingly stupid.  I recently came across a stunning example of this vapid chatter while drinking a blueberry beer in a Lake Placid, NY tavern.

Yes, that Lake Placid, two-time Winter Olympic town and scene of the 1980 Miracle on Ice.  And yes, blueberry beer.  It was actually quite good, thank you very much, Judgy McJudgerson. Continue reading Yes, I’m Defending the Millennials, Goddammit

Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, and America’s Quest for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

It began with Emmett Till.

He was a fourteen year old black boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1954 when two white men lynched him to death for whistling at a white woman.  That in itself, sadly, wasn’t so unusual.  Thousands of African Americans were lynched to death during the first half of the 20th century.  What was different about this particular lynching was his mother’s response.

Till’s mother demanded her son’s body be returned to Chicago instead of getting a quick burial in Mississippi. She then insisted upon an open-casket funeral so the world could see what they had done to her boy.  The black press covered the funeral as upwards of 50,000 mourners passed by the coffinJet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper published photos of his body, mutilated almost beyond recognition.  Afterwards, mainstream (white) national publications also ran the pictures and covered the story in depth, and Emmett Till entered the larger white consciousness as a martyr of racial violence.

Needless to say, there have been countless black (and Latinx and Indigenous and Asian) victims of racial violence in America over the last four centuries.  How many black people have been killed or maimed by whites for, essentially, being black? The number is impossible to know.  As an American historian, I suspect that tens of thousands would be an underestimate.  When considering the ravages of slavery and decades of subsequent lynch violence, the number could easily be in the hundreds of thousands.

Yet prior to Emmett Till, almost none of them ever entered white consciousness as martyrs.  Till became the first, the token black, the only one from among the countless thousands who most white people ever learned about in school or could cite by name.  That Slavery and Jim Crow repression wrought horrible violence was no secret.  But upon whom, specifically?

In the 1960s, Till was joined in this sad canon only by Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers (briefly), and Malcolm X (but only to a minority of whites).  However, with the death of King in 1968, white consciousness considered the civil rights era over, largely went into hiding on the issue of race, and stopped acknowledging new black martyrs of white racial violence.

Why? Continue reading Charlottesville, Heather Heyer, and America’s Quest for White Martyrs of Racial Violence

Man-Child Author of the Google Memo

I finally got around to actually reading the now-infamous internal Google memo about women in the workplace.  The first thing that strikes me is that The Atlantic is absolutely correct: The press coverage has largely been atrocious.  In fact, it’s the kind of thing that really gives the press a bad name.
 
In short, the memo is decidedly NOT an attack on diversity as so many outlets have erroneously reported.  Quite to the contrary, the memo’s author goes out of his way to say that he supports diversity in the work place and wants there to be more of it.  Shit, he even offers up a bunch of solutions to “reduce the gender gap” at Google.  Just read this quote from the memo and tell me it’s a “screed against diversity” like so many articles have claimed.
I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority.

But why let that stand in the way of lazy reporting and inflammatory headlines?

So what exactly is the problem with this this memo [full text here]?

The author, former Google Senior Software Engineer James Damore (he’s since been fired), goes off the rails with his explanations for why there isn’t enough gender diversity at Google specifically and in the computer world more generally.

He makes a series of sexist claims about how women are different from men, and in the process spouts a bunch of pseudo-scientific gibberish about biological determinism of the sexes.  Among other things, Damore states that women relative to men supposedly:

Continue reading Man-Child Author of the Google Memo

My History Lecture on C-SPAN: Victorian Culture

C-SPAN has a series of televised lectures on American history by college professors.  A colleague was kind enough to recommend me to them.  C-SPAN then asked for a list of potential lecture topics.  I submitted the list, and to my surprise, they asked to film my lecture on Victorian culture in America.   The producer said they she selected this lecture because it’s a bit different from the usual topics they get on the Revolution, the Civil War, and such.

I wrote this lecture a few years ago for the freshman introduction course on U.S. History since the Civil War.  The topic is pretty far from my research area, and nothing I actually specialize in, but I included it on the list because it’s gone over well in the past.  Maybe because it includes a discussion of sex.

So for those of you who have ever wondered just how boring it would be to sit and listen to me ramble on about history for an hour, here’s your chance.  Highlights include photos of dazzling Victorian fashions for men and women, some botched spelling and word history, and a nice cutaway shot of a student yawning.

The lecture was filmed on February 23, 2017 at Towson University.  It originally aired on C-SPAN 3 at 8pm, and then again at midnight opposite Saturday Night Live.  I haven’t checked the ratings, but I’m pretty sure I crushed them.

C-SPAN Lectures in History: Akim Reinhardt on Victorian Culture Continue reading My History Lecture on C-SPAN: Victorian Culture

Why I’m Not Writing this Essay

I’ve been writing blog posts at this website for over six years now.  Well over 500 to date.  But I’m not doing it today.  I’m not writing an essay today.

Why, you ask?  Why am I refusing to entertain my loyal dozens (and countless accidental readers) with yet another rambling jeremiad today?  Well, there’s a whole bunch of reasons, really.  Behold.

I’m a Lazy Bastard: My whole life I’ve loved nothing better than doing nothing.  Sometimes I come clean and admit my lethargy.  Yet people often refuse to believe me.  “You have a Ph.D.  You’ve published three books.  You helped negotiate the Peace of Westphalia.  You can’t possibly be lazy.”  I wave off their protestations.  I insist that I am really quite slovenly.  I remind them that professors are notoriously lazy, barely rousing themselves to fabricate random grades for their students.  But the skeptics just pshaw and in insist I’m energetic.

Yeah?  Well not energetic enough to write this essay.

There’s a Stray Cat on the Back Porch: I think he might be part Maine Coon.  He’s got pointy ears that sprout tufts of hair.  He’s not fully grown but looks to be getting quite large.  And he doesn’t seem to mind the cold.  Hell, I think he enjoys it.  A few weeks back it got down to 14F at night.  For you fancy people with your hip, scientific measurements, that’s some big negative number in Celcius. Continue reading Why I’m Not Writing this Essay

The Counter Revolution

The United States boasts a deeply conservative economic tradition.  From its origins as a colonial, agricultural society, it quickly emerged as a slave holding republic built on the ethnic cleansing and occasional genocide of Indigenous peoples.  After the Civil War (1861-65), it reshaped itself in the crucible of unfettered laissez-faire capitalism straight through to the Roaring ‘20s.  A post-Depression Keynesian consensus led U.S. leaders to reign in the most conservative impulses during the mid-20th century, but the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s set the stage for the current neo-liberal moment.

Consequently, ever since the industrial revolution, the United States has typically trailed other developed nations in establishing a basic social welfare system.  It has never fielded a competitive socialist or labor party.  It was the last major nation to implement an old age pension.  More recently, ObamaCare made it the last major nation to mandate that all of its citizens receive some sort of healthcare coverage, even if it’s quite wanting in many cases.

Amid its overriding conservativism, the United States has had only three presidents with any real socialist tendencies: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-45), Harry S. Truman (1945-53), and most recently Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose presidency (1963-69) ended before half of current Americans were born (median age 37.9)

The election of Donald Trump as president and, just as important, the impending Republican dominance of Congress, make certain that the United States will not correct its social welfare shortcomings anytime soon.  Indeed, the nation may take significant steps backwards.

However, a quick review of America’s stunted progressive history suggests that the opportunity for a progressive counter-revolution may be closer than it appears at this dark moment.  And not because Trump’s victory represents the last gasp of an aging generation or the violent undulations of a shrinking white electorate.  But rather, because Trump and his Grand Old Posse have the potential to wreak so much damage and engender so much ignominy upon the national consciousness as to generate the kind of rare and extreme circumstances that have previously led the United States to make genuine progress in developing modern social welfare.  The chaos and horrors of a Trump presidency may yet produce opportunities for improving the nation. Continue reading The Counter Revolution

Dear Readers: Let’s Make Me Bad

professor-plumApparently there’s a new sheriff in town, and its name is Professor Watch List.

In case you hadn’t heard, its a website dedicated to spying on and publicly decrying liberal college professors.  Its mission is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Anti-American values?  That’s my middle name!

So far they’ve outed about a couple of hundred college professors, a rambling list that is organized by the professors’ first names because maybe  . . . they couldn’t manage anything more sophisticated than hitting the Sort button?

From this long and growing list, highlighted for ridicule on the site’s home page are: a white woman, a Latino, a Jew, two blacks, and an Italian American who, gasp, is “an admitted socialist.”

Diversity!

A look at the longer list reveals some odd choices.  Continue reading Dear Readers: Let’s Make Me Bad