the long view: crafting new histories (5 May 2015)

How well do you know history? From how many different perspectives can you discuss the past? These measures of evidence and analysis have transformed the lives of thousands of students around the world over the last twenty years. Too many people believe that it is enough to simply acknowledge a single narrative of human civilization. This laziness energizes a number of myths – progress being one of the most dangerous and deadly over the last century. Only in the last decade has humanity become tentatively confident enough to challenge the simplicity of history, especially in mass media. When the BBC produced an exploration of “The Islamic History of Europe,” it opened a series of doors to show the similarities between the Islamic caliphates and the feudal domains of the Catholic Church. Historian Christopher Ehret advanced these efforts with his research on early Africa. Indeed, the moment to consider an “African History of the World” is fast approaching.

While many scholars have debated the kinds of evidence that brings the African continent into the European historical narrative, few have attempted to rethink this core timeline using any of the interpretations indigenous to these societies. Such an effort lies beyond the scope of a short column, but there is a lesson that applies to small towns and suburbs across the United States. Elementary and secondary educators can break free of the limited histories of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. that dominate local curricula. It is time to use African American history to animate teaching and learning new lessons about global citizenship.

One of the first tools in this process is Earl Lewis and Robin Kelley’s book, To Make Our World Anew. The authors effectively reinterpret African American history to emphasize popular movements for political and economic justice instead of relying on existing tropes of war and law to shape the understanding of history. This radical intervention brings ordinary people to the heart of the analysis. It makes history the province of the quotidian. More recently, historical works like The Suburban Reader, Suburban Erasure, and A World More Concrete build on this approach within the specific contexts of regions like Montgomery County. If every student in the region understood the use of the radical to understand their local community, they would be empowered to build new organizations and businesses to create a better world.

Southeastern Pennsylvania needs a sustained oral history project to tell the stories of the second half of the twentieth century to future generations. Consider the role of the Hadrick family in the local NAACP. Study the ways that the Culbreaths reshaped local and county government. Preserve the current moment when activists like Hakim Jones and Greg Scott took their first steps towards public service. An African-American history of Montgomery County (and the United States) has the power to free everyone who reads it.

Maghan Keita, author, Race and the Writing of History, Villanova UniversityMaghan Keita, author, Race and the Writing of History, Villanova University

Asset Policy 2025: Beyond Reparations, Digital Wealth for the Next Century (April 2015)

Advocates for President Barack Obama to champion a national movement for reparations have a significant struggle ahead. The entrenchment of a Congress dedicated to states’ rights and limited government may well persist deep into the twenty-first century. Even with dedicated activism over the next decade, there is little evidence that any branch of the federal government will undertake the solemn task of national reconciliation in substantive ways to repair the damage done by racial inequality over the last two centuries. However, there is a wider base of popular support for this conversation than has ever existed. More than sixty million voters chose President Obama to lead the country in 2012. The power of the coalition, especially the young, if it can avoid disillusionment, has the power to redefine the nation and the world. Humanity deserves reparations for slavery, colonialism, and, now, globalization. How do we move forward from the current political moment? Organized, popular movement is the fundamental answer.

 

In September 2014, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History issued a challenge to students of history around the world. Share your ideas about the long history of reparations. Publish your findings and conclusions. Return to the centennial meeting in 2015 to discuss the range of possibilities and organize for future action. At the heart of the preliminary discussion, a question about the form of reparations payments rose immediately. What currency would be acceptable for potential payments? Whether dollars, euros, yen, or yuan, each central banking system represented crippling and divisive contexts for any future movement towards liberation. A few months later in California, advocates for the use of crypto-currencies – digital money – to destabilize global central banking pitched proposals to eliminate the crippling debts that African and Caribbean nations have carried since their independence. Another alternative is the massive mobilization of human capital, beyond the scales that powered the civil rights and independence movements in the middle of the twentieth century. This effort would globalize the work of early twentieth century trade unions, while leveraging the unprecedented power of transnational consumption to harness trillions of dollars in capital toward a singular redefinition of sustainable ownership and management wherever families live.

 

Pioneering scholars like SalamishahTillet and Mary Frances Berry excavated the long and specific agenda regarding reparations for slavery that every person honestly concerned with freedom must address. Callie House’s effort to create a national, economic cooperative was a model not sufficiently duplicated in the decades following the accomplishment of landmark civil rights legislation. T. Thomas Fortune’s efforts to create the National Negro Business League at the end of the nineteenth century expanded on House’s initial vision by recognizing the paradigm shift toward manufacturing and industry as the basis for wealth in the United States in the early twentieth century. W.E.B. DuBois’ call for networks of economic cooperatives across the African diaspora in 1935 also failed to motivate the creation of a financial infrastructure to sustain autonomous enterprises through the era of globalization.

 

The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) has carried this legacy forward since 1987. Yet the organization has not generated sufficient interest and support, even among African Americans. Randall Robinson’s public reflection, titled The Debt, generated a brief spike in interest at the start of the twenty-first century, coinciding with a new generation’s engagement with the reparations debate through hip hop voices like KRS-One, Public Enemy, Dead Prez, and Black Star. Promising partnerships between activists and intellectuals (like the Black Radical Congress) did not create the institutions to follow in the footsteps of TransAfrica. The need to organize global political movements for economic justice only expanded in the last two decades. Worse, the breadth of the reparations agenda created a popular inertia, driving new supporters and possible allies away from the effort.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed this apathy squarely with his widely read essay – “The Case for Reparations” – in The Atlantic Monthly. Leveraging two generations of urban historical research, Coates moved the claim for repair away from the connection to enslavement in the Americas to the pervasive housing discrimination sponsored and subsidized by the federal government since 1937. Jamelle Bouie widened this opening with his short essay in Slatewhere he endorsed Coates’ claims and argued the moral imperative of reparations to heal the historic divisions in the United States. Other notable public voices to engage the topic include Melissa Harris-Perry, James Peterson, Peniel Joseph, Martha Biondi, David Freund, Nathan Connolly, Isabel Wilkerson, Michelle Alexander, William Darity,and Darrick Hamilton. Darity and Hamilton have developed a promising federal legislative initiative nicknamed ‘baby bonds’ to guarantee every child an opportunity build real assets (and avoid crippling debt) as they start adult life. Beyond the universal call to study the reasons for reparations in federal public policy, the time has come for an immediate, systemic intervention in the private sector to end the global crises of poverty and violence.

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Sir Partha Dasgupta has studied the function of social capital in developing economies for four decades. In his most recent work in conjunction with the United Nations, he has shown that the wealthiest nations distinguish themselves by the high levels of human capital that they develop. In his formula, human capital represents the monetary value of a population’s education and marketable skills. In 2012, he estimated the inclusive wealth of the United States to exceed $118 trillion USD. More than 70 trillion of that wealth came from the skills and education of the American people. As historians Walter Johnson and Ed Baptist have shown in the nineteenth century, African Americans constituted a major driver in the capital and credit markets of the pre-industrial United States. To solve the problem posed by the ASALH challenge to create real reparations, African Americans and their global allies cannot rely on the mineral or financial wealth of the G8 nations to build economic stability at the local level. The only immediate intervention is the mobilization of the total human capital held by the most marginalized populations of the African, European, Asian, and Chicano diasporas.

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One certain objection is the scale of the enterprise. How can anyone attempt to effectively organize some four billion people to thoughtfully participate in the global capital movement? It is a reasonable question. History and current events provide answers. In 2013, more than 200 million people left their homes to find new lives. This number has been stable for almost twenty years. Most of these efforts are dangerous, even deadly. A mission-oriented, multinational organization could both save lives and create greater economic stability by addressing the needs of the existing migrant pool. On a smaller scale in the United States, nearly 6 million African Americans left their homes in the South between 1910 and 1970. These Great Migrations transformed the American political economy, empowering the most inclusive governance and massive wealth generating legislation in the nation’s history. At the root of the American migrations were the editorials and advertisements in publications like Robert S. Abbott’s “Chicago Defender”. Newspapers and magazines provided popular discussion about the power and importance of working people moving. Without these courageous migrants, there would be no Harlem Renaissance, no New Deal, and no Civil Rights Movement.

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The answer is a coherent, cooperative, sustained asset policy that unites non-profit organizations, private firms, and all levels of government, based on mass family migration. This call reaches out to every household with less than 500,000 USD in net worth to participate in organizing local groups to reduce household bills, increase personal income streams, and create regional planning networks under the guidance of African-American civil rights leaders. The first goal of these networks will be to facilitate recurring patterns of regional and international migration so that families can save more income and create participatory investment funds. For a household earning 64,000 USD per year in a G8 nation, general living expenses will cost less than 20,000 USD per year in a developing region. Each household could save over 15,000 USD per year to create new investments and passive income streams. Where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement created a 70% increase in household income across the South between 1950 and 1970, this Asset Policy can create the first chance at universal economic stability in human history.

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Many of the formulations to repair historic and current injustices rely on the moral outrage that survivors and their descendants express. It is a successful technique, established between 1750 and 1870 by advocates for the abolition of racial slavery. Yet, this strategy has never been effective at generating popular support. At the peak of American abolitionism, only approximately 10 percent of Northerners favored an immediate end to slavery. A similar percentage of all Americans believed that federal legislation was necessary to end Jim Crow segregation in 1964. The Asset Policy does not rely on political popularity to move federal legislation; it is a local, individual commitment to use the framework of consumer markets to break down longstanding barriers to human equality. The greatest strength of this proposal is the economic necessity of voluntary participation in consumer capitalism. With conscientious limits on the availability of working families’ labor and consumption, the politics of institutional finance will change.

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Consider the scale of Black participation in local consumer markets. Chicago, Illinois, has an African-American population of nearly 33 percent, spending almost 6 billion USD annually, representing almost 900 billion in human capital. Los Angeles – only 10 percent Black – sees almost 35 billion USD in Black spending and relies on approximately 400 billion USD in skills and education. NYC (26% African American) receives more than 25 billion USD in Black spending and leads US cities with Black human capital worth 2 trillion USD. In contrast, Atlanta is a majority Black city that only spends 4 billion USD with a human capital value over 200 billion. Houston’s Black population makes a quarter of the total local population, spending 26 billion a year, and worth nearly half a trillion dollars in education and expertise. Across the diaspora, Black cities represent a huge driver of potential growth as partners to African nations. Nigeria and South Africa’s respective GDPs were 593 billion and 341 billion in 2013. Even smaller potential partners like Ghana (35 billion) and Jamaica (14 billion) offer the chance to substantially increase asset creation around the world for working families through sustainable, small enterprise growth. As I have taught in my classes for more than a decade, unionism and education provided upward mobility for the poor and working classes between 1936 and 1981. Over the last forty years, the exclusion of working and middle class families from the opportunities to own industrial and commercial property is the main driver of global inequality.

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A dynamic, mobile, working population across both regional and global scales is the key to a just world economy over the next century. Human capital provides the leverage that working people around the world need to correct the excesses of industrial and finance capital. Preventing the consolidation of digital enterprises as they attempt to reproduce the inequities of the last four centuries on an unprecedented scale is the immediate priority. The expansion of decentralized asset structures (and, as a result, passive income streams at the household level) is one path to economic stability for billions of people facing hunger, disease, and poverty. As a bonus, this kind of asset accumulation would create a class of global, propertied, working people whose political will would make traditional conceptions of reparations a symbolic concession. In this way, indigenous and marginal families in every nation could employ similar strategies to those used by displaced European Jews between 1897 and 1948 and interned Japanese Americans between 1970 and 1988. It is an opportunity to reset the global order in way that has not existed since the Black Death in the fourteenth century. Disaster need not be the pretext for revolution.

 

Sun City, South AfricaSun City, South Africa

the long view: losing in america (28 April 2015)

America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. Or so the lessons of countless middle school classrooms have convinced billions of people everywhere. At the root of the culture wars’ debates of the last forty years is this core argument. Is the United States exceptional among all human accomplishments, or is it just another tyrant – another empire – limiting the ways people can find peace, prosperity, and stability in their lives? From the conception of Manifest Destiny through the current global War on Terrorism, every major American engagement with the world and its people derives from these disparate perceptions of liberty and representative government. Sadly, these debates nearly always rely on the records and perspectives of the winning political coalitions. It is time to take a different look at the narrative timeline.

The Revolutionary War was fundamentally a debate about the control of property, dressed up in the philosophy of liberty. Should a divine sovereign dictate individual wealth, or should large property holders organize representative legislatures in their interests? George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin prevailed on the field of battle, constructed a temporary federation of states, and ultimately crafted the core of the U.S. Constitution that still guides legal debates today. Less famous, or losing, voices like Pennsylvania’s William Allen, New Jersey’s Colonel Tye, and New York’s David Matthews sided with the principles of negotiation, compromise, and abolition as the most stable foundation for prosperity and growth. These Loyalists either died or fled the newly independent United States after 1781. Yet many of their ideas survived in the philosophy of Federalism as the economic foundation for American liberty. Jefferson’s election in 1800 turned the Congress and Presidency away from these ideas for more than half a century, but the Supreme Court’s preservation of economic Federalism was the foundation of the Republican Party in 1854.

The sudden ascendance of the Republicans came at the direct expense of the anti-Federalist, Democratic Party that protected Jefferson’s legacy. Between 1864 and 1877, the losing Democrats were roundly condemned as traitors for instigating the Civil War. Even over the forty years that followed, the core Jeffersonian idea of a republic of small landholders, dependent on enslaving Africans, retained the stench of treason. Only with the election of Woodrow Wilson did some fundamental, national compromise take hold.

The reintroduction of the Democratic Party to national power marginalized the Republicans for more than 50 years. At the base of the nation’s rejection of Republican elitism was the failure to mobilize government to minimize the damage of the Great Depression. Where Democrats like Stephen Douglas and Andrew Johnson earned the scorn of the American public in the nineteenth century, losers like Herbert Hoover and Warren Harding remained albatrosses around the neck of the Republicans for most of the twentieth century. The irony of the Democrats adopting the aggressive use of the federal government (betraying its founding principles for many) fractured Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition and created an unthinkable political reality – a Republican Party based in the southern United States by 1968.

The geographic reorientation of the Republican Party created tensions between traditional Jeffersonians in the South and wealthy establishment bankers in the Northeast, but the contentious coalition persevered long enough to thoroughly undermine the emerging liberal coalition in American cities between 1981 and 2009. The rise of Ronald Reagan and Rudolph Giuliani came with the explicit losses of Shirley Chisholm and Ralph Nader. The American public shunned the ability of government to resolve longstanding, divisive, social and economic conflicts around gender, class, sexuality, and race. In the vacuum created by the constriction of government services, global conglomerates provided unparalleled low-cost consumer entertainment through cable television and the Internet.

Over the last year, leaders and innovators across every sector of education have noted the ebbs and flows of political fashion. Now is the time to take this accumulated knowledge from both the winners and the losers. It is time to build a range of inclusive institutions that reconcile these traditions for the good of every family and community. Norristown is an ideal place to start.

Dr. Walter Greason is available on LinkedIn, Twitter (@worldprofessor1/@icmgrowth), Facebook, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu).

Estamos perdedores?Estamos perdedores?

the long view: bought, sold, & jailed (14 April 15)

Bought, Sold, & Jailed

Dr. Walter Greason

Norristown Times-Herald

15 April 2015

For the first time in American history, the public has recognized the constant threat of execution that African Americans face on a daily basis. Some lament the fact that this situation has come into question, but most recoil from the reality that the core assumptions of law enforcement as a profession involve the degradation of black citizens. Police-involved killings have a long, and largely untold, history. Too much of the nation’s mythology, especially in the waning moments of broadcast television’s dominance through programming like Law & Order, relies on simple stereotypes of trustworthy, white authorities controlling dangerous, unstable communities of color.

In suburban Philadelphia, these stories play in constant repetition on the street, in the courthouses, and in the municipal halls. Norristown has suffered sustained disinvestment by private companies and the state legislature as a result of these assumptions. However, no relationship illustrates the contradictions of local governance for families of different backgrounds that a comparison of regional malls and local jails.  The King of Prussia Mall is a multi-billion dollar complex that symbolizes the affluence often associated with suburban growth. Anchored by global brands like Neiman Marcus, General Electric, and Sears, millions of visitors spend countless hours living lives of unlimited consumption with no thought of its consequences – or its fragility. Less than 10 miles away, hidden from most residents, the Montgomery County Correctional Facility controls the region’s criminals, an expanding segment of the local population with over 4500 bench warrants currently pending. Demographically, black and Chicano people are overrepresented at the jail, and underrepresented at the mall. American society neglects and ignores too many people of color in order to artificially maintain a racial sense of prosperity in prosperous, suburban locations like malls.

As suburbs spread to dominate the landscape in New Jersey, similar patterns of social segregation and racial control occur.  Seaview Square, Monmouth, and Freehold Raceway malls have all expanded over the last twenty years to serve an exploding population of middle class families. In ways that malls around the world have duplicated, these places rely on the architectural use of the “panopticon” – a structure where observation and response can unfold rapidly across multiple, complex geographies. Acute observers note that the malls obscure some hallways and doors to hidden chambers, while highlighting shops and food courts. The panopticon originated as a way for guards to better manage prisons. So when suburban malls adopt these structures to oversee and control their shoppers, they increasingly become similar to a jail like the impressive new complex for the Monmouth County (NJ) Sheriff’s Department. In both the language and architecture of consumerism and criminal justice, control has extended beyond people of color in the United States. It is now an ongoing commitment in most metropolitan areas that affects every working and middle class family.

Take a few minutes to consider the increasing investment in sites like Graterford SCI or East Jersey State Prison. Then, examine the exciting new commercial developments in Providence Town Center or the Mall at Short Hills. While these places lack the visual drama of the graphic killings seen over the last few years, their co-existence and unspoken connections reflect the evolving values of social inclusion and exclusion. They are the local government’s manifestations of the “carrot” and the “stick” for the twenty-first century. It is even more important that leaders and activists seek equal justice in these contexts. Do not wait for the next shocking video.

Dr. Walter Greason is available on LinkedIn, Twitter (@worldprofessor1/@icmgrowth), Facebook, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu).

 

Want a great research project? Investigate the connections between low-wage mall employees and surging arrest/incarceration rates at the county level.Want a great research project? Investigate the connections between low-wage mall employees and surging arrest/incarceration rates at the county level.

the long view: the end of swot (24 march 2015)

Leadership theory is the latest field attempting to distill history into a set of marketable, organizational tactics. As a set of ideas, it is a product of the end of the Cold War. Military and corporate veterans who negotiated the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and “glasnost” (the collapse of the Soviet Union) merged after 1991 to operationalize American globalization. At the time, President George H.W. Bush named this transition “a new world order.” It was the consolidation of a century’s work in foreign policy that stretched back to the Spanish-American War.

Arguably, the most pervasive idea to develop from this era was the process of doing a SWOT (or TOWS) analysis. This technique began as a relatively isolated intervention in corporate management, but has grown into a mantra, even a philosophy, as the digital world economy expanded. It is an acronym, of course – what Cold War relic wouldn’t be. Managers assess organizational STRENGTHS first, followed by WEAKNESSES. Then, a participatory process opens for employees to identify OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS, based on their experiences in the firm. At that point, the findings are documented and preserved to shape new priorities over the next quarter, year, or product cycle. Calling this process TOWS merely inverts the steps.

The bankruptcy of the technique at this point comes from its roots in the middle of the twentieth century. The perceptions and perspectives that shaped SWOT *as a tool* relied on a static range of pre-conditions that are no longer relevant. Most notable among these today is the existence of militarily unstable and economically evolving Europe. No matter the enormity of its recent sovereign debt crises, it does not rise to the scale of eight centuries dominated by religious and imperial warfare that defined the region from 1150 to 1950 CE.

So what can a dynamic nation or firm do to escape the pitfalls of antiquated ideas like SWOT? They can reconnect with the detailed analyses that created systems of industrialization and social advancement since 1750. A new, global Enlightenment is at hand — a Renaissance where every person, family, community, and nation can enjoy sustainable, economic stability. The key is the application of the humanities and social sciences through the professional training of engineering, sciences, medicine, and business. Systems like SWOT rely on measuring four variables in isolation at a single moment. There are better alternatives available.

One promising system considers FAILURES, ACCOMPLISHMENTS, CONTEXTS, and TIMELINES. For the C-Suite, a new acronym could be used – FACT. Where strengths and weaknesses fetishize medieval stereotypes from a Dungeons and Dragons game, failures and accomplishments rely on empirical data and reasoned analysis to shape future actions and decisions. Even more importantly, replacing opportunities and threats with contexts and timelines removes a hyper-competitive posture that can sabotage organizational productivity. Contexts and timelines provide the added benefit of more rapid adaptation across a wider range of unintended consequences (as well as unacknowledged assumptions). FACT analysis produces more dynamic organizations with greater transparency and accountability at every level.

Only the most recent graduates in fields like history, literature, politics, and anthropology have the skills and expertise to create adaptive leadership systems like FACT. Without them, all of the STEM reforms will replicate the inequalities and injustices of earlier forms of industrialization.

Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth and is the author of the award-winning book, Suburban Erasure. His work is available on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu).

 

What four variables would you use to make your organization more successful?What four variables would you use to make your organization more successful?

shame the devil: truth-telling at the end of the age of obama (march 2015)

Shame the Devil

Truth-Telling at the End of the Age of Obama

By Dr. Walter Greason

There is little profit in the truth. When Woodrow Wilson enlisted George Creel to persuade the American people to support involvement in“The Great War,” he imagined the stakes of his lies would outweigh the value of the truth. So, Creel organized the first national, coordinated advertising campaign, reshaping public opinion through the Committee on Public Information from 1917 to 1919. In the century since this pioneering effort, advertising has bombarded the American public with so many shades of partial truth that the very project of lying has become mythological. Fictional films like “Thank You for Smoking”, numerous documentaries like “Store Wars”, and the never-ending digital vomit of the Internet has nearly abolished any sense of veracity. If the sixteenth century sermon holds any insight, the Devil is proud, indeed, in 2015.

One of the worst casualties of a world without truth is the death of relevant public policy. Since the Reagan administration, Congress has increasingly lost its ability to govern in any coherent fashion. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich heralded the early stages of this transformation under the Contract with America from 1994 to 2006. The dissonance settled slightly between 2006 and 2010 as outrage surrounding the Second Iraq War mounted. However, the last six years of incoherent leadership in the legislatures at both the state and federal levels have revealed a deeper fissure. A majority of public officials have developed a rhetoric that rejects science, scholarship, and empirical evidence. There is no basis for truth. Claims to expertise become suspicious, if not outright criminal.

Charlatans and hucksters have become the celebrities of the day. It is more valuable to look like an expert on television and social media than it is to craft and enrich actual expertise. Dr. Phil wants to be Judge Judy, while she wants to be Donald Trump, while he wants to be Kim Kardashian. It is a giant carnival or circus. There is no barker or emcee to organize all of flashy, shiny diversions the liars have created to consume their audiences. These deceitful relationships derive from the mythological fantasies of the medieval world and modern interpreters ranging from Edgar Allen Poe and Mary Shelley to H.P. Lovecraft and Quentin Tarantino. The seductive lie has long been more compelling than the unvarnished truth. It is time to pull back Frank Baum’s curtain on the worst purveyors of systemic deceit – academics.

None of the fraud and misrepresentation described above would be possible without the false truths promoted as knowledge across much of the twentieth century. At the roots of nearly every field of knowledge are fundamental deceptions about African Americans, women, immigrants, and the poor. Yet most of the people teaching these subjects in the twenty-first century have little sense about the arrogant falsity underlying religion, law, philosophy, history, biology, anthropology, sociology, chemistry, and, especially, pre-professional fields like education, engineering, business, and nursing.  Each area consistently and constantly adapted itself to maintain slavery, colonialism, segregation, patriarchy, heterosexism, and xenophobia between 1850 and 1970. In many ways, the legacy of these intellectual fallacies still shape the elite standards of academic achievement from the first days of college enrollment through the final laureates of endowed emeritus status. The entire academic infrastructure of higher education must be rethought and redesigned to prevent racial and sexual conceits from continuing to evolve in the maintenance of oppression and privilege around the world. STEM initiatives are the most recent efforts to silence women, immigrants, African Americans, and indigenous people in higher education. Nearly every institution of higher education that has served to challenge academic elitism over the last fifty years faces elimination in the next decade. Unless the founders of interdisciplinary and intersectional study dedicate every penny they have earned and the current generations of academic leaders build global cooperatives to withstand and overcome the assault, the Devil’s lies will be the only truth in university life and in public affairs.

Elite institutions like Exeter, Deerfield, Lawrenceville, and the Ranney School preserved a sense of truth at the core of their academic identities in the twentieth century. Human character hinged on a strong sense of liberal arts skills, stretching back to Benjamin Franklin’s vision for the University of Pennsylvania. Without a variety of skills and knowledge, a person would fail in whatever profession they chose. Institutions like Villanova University and Temple University followed these examples by looking back to the legacy of St. Augustine who reimagined learning as a divine community or to the spirit of Russell Conwell who saw fields of diamonds where others rejected immigrants and people of color. Even more recent rising stars in the academic world – Drexel University and Rowan University – have kept the core value of the humanities and social sciences as a priority for the competitive success of their students and faculty. Without exception, though, none of these distinguished educational institutions has undertaken a careful scrutiny of the ways their policies and commitments maintained inequality over the last two centuries. The traditions are there. Celebrate pioneering leaders like Raissa Villanueva, Shaddy Younan, Zyad Younan, Ed Collymore, Nnenna Lynch, Isis Misdary, Bunmi Samuel, Peniel Joseph, Greg Carr, Kali Gross, William Carrigan, and Chanelle Rose. Their stories reveal a full and inclusive truth, transcending smaller motives of profit,employment, and expedience. Their voices shame the Devil and restore truth in public life.

Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (ICMG_International Center for Metropolitan Growth) and is the author of the award-winning historical monograph, Suburban Erasure.  He is also the primary instructor for the “Engines of Wealth” initiative at Monmouth University.  His work is available on Twitter (@worldprofessor / @icmgrowth), Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu). For bookings (workshops and speaking engagements), contact NJ History (njhistory350@gmail.com).

Imagine if telling the truth about the history of higher education was rewarded. We might actually reinvigorate democracy.Imagine if telling the truth about the history of higher education was rewarded. We might actually reinvigorate democracy.

the long view: norristown will not be next (10 march 2015)

President Obama’s speech in Selma, Alabama, is a Declaration of Independence for the twenty-first century. It is the beginning of a new American history – an inclusive one that does not presume the subjugation of one citizen under another. No longer does the slaveholding legacy of Isaac Norris prevail. Samuel Stouch’s poisonous vision of true Americanism has lost its mass appeal. Now is the time for every American town to examine itself, its elected officials, and its business community. With a dedicated effort, Norristown will not be another Ferguson, Missouri.
The crucial change must be the commitment of local officials, philanthropists, and business leaders to innovative partnerships with the NAACP and the Carver Community Center. At every previous juncture in American history when there was a chance to achieve a more inclusive society, the lack of institutional investment in African American organizations has crippled the ultimate outcomes. Between 1865 and 1877, substantial efforts to create new industrial ventures with integrated investment groups never materialized. As a result, rigid, pervasive, and national forms of racial segregation took root, causing a century of anger, resentment, and violence. Between 1948 and 1972, the only integration that occurred simultaneously dismantled local African American economies and isolated educated African Americans at the bottom of white institutions in every sector of the global economy. The consequences of these failures are manifest in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, just as they are in Orange County, California; DeKalb County, Georgia; and Monmouth County, New Jersey.
When senior citizens take the time to guide and mentor the most diverse group of young Americans in the nation’s history, the chance to develop the full potential of human capital in every metropolitan area will arrive. Human capital is the combined value of a people’s education and expertise. This mentorship cannot be limited to homilies about personal responsibility; it must extend into specific financial relationships to help students become entrepreneurs. The detailed knowledge of management, marketing, investment, and contracting must not remain secret from African Americans, women, and immigrants. Organizations from the Times-Herald through Conicelli’s dealerships must craft new internships and leadership opportunities for professionals under 35 years old to energize the region over the next decade.
Tonight, at the Carver Community Center, there is an important opportunity to take a first step together. At a Volunteer Fair, starting at 6pm, every part of the Norristown family has a chance to come together and break the habits of the past. It is a chance to heal, listen, learn, and build across the painful divides the country has seen in Selma, Alabama, and Ferguson, Missouri.
Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (ICMG_International Center for Metropolitan Growth) and is the author of the award-winning historical monograph, Suburban Erasure.  He is also the primary instructor for the “Engines of Wealth” initiative at Monmouth University.  His work is available on Twitter (@worldprofessor / @icmgrowth), Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu).  For bookings (workshops and speaking engagements), contact NJ History (njhistory350@gmail.com).

 

Will you step forward and build a better community?Will you step forward and build a better community?

the long view: robes of tradition (24 february 2015)

Most people think about a robe when coming out of the shower on a cold, winter morning. For scholars, robes are tangible symbols of their dedication to knowledge. Colors indicate institutions; chevrons indicate rank; position indicates seniority. A senior colleague once told a story about the man who held his leadership position before him. It was the story of a judge who called a young African American clerk into his chambers at the end of the day. The judge advised the clerk on the honor and humility of the young man’s new position. He took off his black judicial robe as he spoke. When he hung the robe in the closet, a white robe and hood of the Ku Klux Klan hung behind the black robe.

 

In much the same way, institutional authority has come to mask the relationship between Christianity and slavery in American society. Most Americans have forgotten the long and deep roots that show how the enslavement of Africans in the Americas could not exist without the written authority of the Christian churches of Europe. Still, there is no need to go back centuries to see this relationship. It shaped recent history in southeastern Pennsylvania.

 

John Morrison McLarnon’s valuable work, “Ruling Suburbia”, reveals some of the threads of this relationship in Delaware County. John McClure established dominance for the county’s Republican Party that persists to the present day.  The early twentieth century Republican Party in Delaware County created its machine in Chester, then consolidated its influence by guiding immigrants into ethnic suburbs before the Second World War. When John McClure succeeded his father as the party boss in 1907, he reigned nearly unchallenged for almost six decades that followed. At the heart of the political order was a racial hierarchy that kept African Americans marginalized, Catholic immigrants as organized subjects, and a few key families in charge of all local politics.

 

Although there is no comparable historical study of Montgomery County’s early twentieth century politics, there are a few important influences that indicate important similarities to the patterns McLarnon found. One of the region’s most important voices, Samuel Stouch, built a home for the Ku Klux Klan between Germantown and Reading from 1924 to 1940. Stouch was the leading voice for ‘true Americanism’ in southeastern Pennsylvania, influencing hundreds of elections and shaping local government throughout the region. Stouch was the Grand Dragon for the Klan state chapters in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. He used the tactics his predecessor, Arthur Bell (of New Jersey), established between 1915 and 1928. Most notably, Stouch and Bell recruited Methodist ministers aggressively to attract hundreds of members to the Klan in all three states. By 1940, Stouch had created a home for Klan policy in local law enforcement and criminal justice. His ideas created the coalition that would become the foundation for Frank Rizzo’s popular approach to law and order during the era of civil rights activism in Philadelphia between 1956 and 1980.

 

As Black History Month 2015 draws to a close, many people will return to the casual neglect of African Americans as part of the nation’s history. The opening of Women’s History Month gives another opportunity to engage in more careful scrutiny of the local organizations and government offices that carried out the vision of John McClure, Samuel Stouch, Arthur Bell, and Frank Rizzo. The dominance of the Klan, its influence on the region’s Republican Party, its nativist Christian Protestantism, and its inherent white supremacy defined local patriotism in ways that pressured many of Norristown’s immigrant families to assimilate in both public and private life. These forgotten chapters of Pennsylvania’s past deserve a sustained oral history project that can heal persistent wounds and foster greater community understanding in the twenty-first century.

 

 

Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (ICMG_International Center for Metropolitan Growth) and is the author of the award-winning historical monograph, Suburban Erasure.  He is also the primary instructor for the “Engines of Wealth” initiative at Monmouth University.  His work is available on Twitter (@worldprofessor / @icmgrowth), Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu).  For bookings (workshops and speaking engagements), contact NJ History (njhistory350@gmail.com).

 

Robes convey a visual authority; how carefully should we understand their significance?Robes convey a visual authority; how carefully should we understand their significance?

bonus: when facebook attacks

I try to stay away from discussing my research online. A recent thread trying to blame the British Empire for American slavery (and, then, celebrating the United States for abolishing slavery “as soon as it could”) pushed me to write a brief reflection.  For you, FB friends, here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been doing for the last three years.

When banks, local governments, law enforcement, and corporations (of every size) stop profiting from the discrimination and segregation against African Americans (as well as several other ethnic groups), then the smaller economic problems of African Americans organizing for household survival might be addressed effectively.

 

Every state had slavery at the start of the American Revolution. The British military moved to eliminate it because so many colonists relied on it for their financial stability in the late eighteenth century. The United States did not *need* slavery to grow; the states that adopted gradual emancipation profited from the irrational desire of other states to maintain and expand it. By 1850, the property in kidnapped Africans equaled approximately 44 billion USD, in today’s terms. This capital literally built the foundation of the American economy, yet it was grossly wasteful specifically due to the irrationality of the largest landholders – namely, white supremacy. The total asset value of the US related to slavery likely exceeded 150 billion USD, and still, this figure represents a contraction exceeding 60% from the potential value if VA, NC, SC, and other states had followed New England and Mid-Atlantic states by reducing the role of slavery at the local level by 1810. The contraction, if segregation and other forms of racial exploitation had been eliminated, comes to nearly 300% of national asset value by 1900.

 

In contrast, small enterprises dedicated to uplifting African American culture and families represented less than 1 billion USD in 2012. No state or federal subsidy exists to promote these causes through infrastructure creation, ownership, and maintenance. No private sector firms systemically partner with African American communities at the local level to increase participation in the most profitable trends in globalization. Trillions of dollars annually rely on the same patterns of local and regional investment that were established in the antebellum South.

 

At the peak of the national sentiment against slavery (1865), less than 10% of all Americans supported abolition. The continuing century of exploitation (now reproduced in the prison-industrial complex) affirms that slavery remains the spiritual heart of the American economic order – it was not a British creation to divide the colonies; it was (and is) a core, American virtue.

the long view: leading others (17 february 2015)

Sometimes you just can’t make anyone happy. In fact, it might be true that you can never make anyone else happy. After all, the power to become happy is never really in another person’s hands. Each individual has to find her own path to happiness. Even in the face of adversity, confident people will remain secure in the belief in a positive outcome.

 

President Barack Obama presents an illustration of this point. No matter how his critics attack him, he remains patient and determined in pursuit of his goals. New Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf would be wise to study this model of leadership. Even as he suspends the death penalty and secures the Democratic National Convention for Philadelphia in 2016, Governor Wolf should seek opportunities for bipartisan cooperation, when possible, with the legislature. Yet he must always be ready to take principled action to move the state forward, just as President Obama has done.

 

This approach avoids the silos that have come to dominate public and private life in the United States. Too many people, especially those in leadership positions, have adopted a perspective that reflects a tiny segment of their communities who hold nearly every opinion in common. At political extremes, in socio-economic status, in educational attainment, the American public has segregated itself thoroughly. No one really talks with anyone who disagrees with him. It is a process called “othering.” It is the antithesis of a strong community that values different perspectives.

 

The United States, and the nations aligned with it, faces the challenge of creating an inclusive, global civilization for the first time in human history. Since 2012, the Obama administration (in conjunction with central banks worldwide) has expanded the global asset ceiling by more than 160 trillion USD. There is an opportunity for the people most injured by slavery, segregation, patriarchy, sexism, and colonialism to build a just and equal world. Petty, obtuse debates filled with intellectual jargon only serve a selfish conservatism. These silos of insecurity and ignorance must be torn down to make room for an institutional architecture where no human being suffers exclusion.

 

The first people to understand this moment will be the ones who open the doors for equal justice. It is an uncertain, unpredictable frontier. Labels like American, European, African, Asian, billionaire, immigrant, graduate, and homeless will lose the meanings they have held. Some historians fear these moments as “the end of history.” The rest know it is just a great opportunity to begin writing again.

 

 

Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (ICMG_International Center for Metropolitan Growth) and is the author of the award-winning historical monograph, Suburban Erasure.  He is also the primary instructor for the “Engines of Wealth” initiative at Monmouth University.  His work is available on Twitter (@worldprofessor / @icmgrowth), Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (wgreason@monmouth.edu).  For bookings (workshops and speaking engagements), contact NJ History (njhistory350@gmail.com).

 

Can leaders like Barack Obama and Tom Wolf create a lasting standard of leadership?Can leaders like Barack Obama and Tom Wolf create a lasting standard of leadership?