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?

Black History Month: A Reflection on American Immigration (February 2015)

Basil Bruno won election as the Sheriff in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 1925 after he declared his membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Bruno was the child of Italian immigrants who were the primary targets of the Klan’s attacks on Catholics in the United States during this time period. Red Bank, as a community, rigorously segregated Italians with African Americans in the first three decades of the twentieth century. It was racial politics like this policy that persuaded Carter G. Woodson to organize Black History Week celebrations to challenge dominant ideologies supported by the Ku Klux Klan. However, with the ascendance of Black History Month as an annual celebration of inclusive democracy in the United States, the impact of African Americans as civic actors on behalf of immigrants has been lost. Indeed, without the African American struggle for justice and equality, the United States would not be the “nation of immigrants” President Obama often describes.

 

“Any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States.” When the Congress adopted this language in 1790 it set a standard that has persisted (and adapted) in American law for the last two hundred and twenty-five years. “Free” and “white”, as qualifiers, have numerous meanings and interpretations. In fact, the former is probably easier to understand than the latter. Freedom, then, was the ability to prove that no one held legal documentation of ownership over your body. Whiteness was a function of European heritage, but it was mostly applicable to people born in Germany, France, Great Britain, or Scandinavia. People from Spain, Russia, Portugal, and other parts of Europe were, somehow, less “white.” Irish people were a particular oddity in this formulation. Subject to British authority, they were certainly not “white” by conventional standards. However, they were cheap labor, so many came to the United States between 1790 and 1870 to make better lives. Thus, as the Northern states sold their kidnapped Africans into Virginia and North Carolina in this time period, the Irish became the new “blacks” of the emerging urban commercial markets in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

 

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Congress expressly abridged the early naturalization language to protect the descendants of kidnapped Africans and allow all people the full protection of the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment is an unprecedented expansion of freedom in human history. Most importantly, it established the “equality” of legal freedom for all citizens of the United States – extending a protection only previously offered to the states themselves – in 1868. As an idea, this amendment creates the twentieth century concept of “freedom.” It is the promise that drew tens of millions of immigrants into San Francisco and New York between 1870 and 1924. The unwavering disruption of the Confederate economy led by enslaved Africans between 1861 and 1865 was the foundation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the opportunity for freedom that attracted couples like Basil Bruno’s parents. Catholics and Jews remained outsiders to full, social inclusion as white Americans throughout this time period, but the legal promise of equality made several paths to assimilation more possible by 1964.

 

“No person acting under the color of law shall … apply a [different procedure from existing local standards].” In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the responsibility for equal protection became very specific. People given the power of civic leadership must use the same standard for judgment and inclusion for every American citizen. The law goes further in sanctioning private enterprises for any discriminatory acts or policies. Beyond the revolutionary potential of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act forbade any form of public, racial discrimination in the United States. It was the absolute repudiation of the conceit that the United States existed only for “free, white persons.” Just as the Reconstruction efforts of kidnapped Africans opened the door of freedom for European immigrants in the nineteenth century, the Civil Rights Movement created unprecedented new opportunities for Latino and Asian immigrants in the twentieth century. The decade of legislation that followed the Civil Rights Act abolished the National Origins system that attempted to preserve some sense of “white” or “European” hegemony in American politics. It was an era that invented the concept of “globalization” in the private sector in ways that both exploited world markets and destroyed the limited, imperial commercial networks that caused both World Wars.  Where Jewish and Catholic families became white by 1968, Latinos, Chicanos, East Asians, South Asians, and even some African Americans have followed.

 

So, as Black History Month unfolds in 2015, how have the ideas of “free” and “white” continued to change? Paragon historian Nell Irvin Painter conceives these changes as “enlargements of whiteness” in her book, “The History of White People.” The inclusion of Catholics and Jews after 1945 forms the third stage of this process and the transformation of the American public since 1965 constitutes a fourth stage. The ability of the American public to rally in support of President Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, in contrast with the resistance of the Republican Party in defense of early versions of whiteness, may create a fifth stage in the evolution of racial perceptions and economic inequality. Immigrants from Turkey, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and central Asia have formed new communities in the metropolitan United States over the last decade. Scholars and pundits alike wonder if Islam and Eastern Europe can adapt and join western, global markets. Are Muslims and Ukrainians the most recent “blacks”? Will the continuing efforts to liberate and uplift African American communities in the United States translate into unimaginable opportunities in these distant, diverse regions? Perhaps everyone will take another step towards simply being “free,” instead of limiting humanity with standardized and arbitrary tests of whiteness.

 

 

Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (www.icmetrogrowth.com) 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).

Has Black History Month expanded opportunities for organizations like the Gulen Movement? Why is there no discussion of the ways African Americans have created freedom and equality for billions of people around the world?Has Black History Month expanded opportunities for organizations like the Gulen Movement? Why is there no discussion of the ways African Americans have created freedom and equality for billions of people around the world?

the long view: unique teaching (10 february 2015)

 

  • How do you honor the best teachers in your life? Do you name streets after them? Are there statues built to remind future citizens about their lessons? Schools and universities themselves are symbolic monuments to the teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Under this model, questions are more important than answers. The search for new knowledge is the priority. Too often, the attempt to standardize instruction and learning leads school boards and administrations away from these goals. Assessment and measurement become replacements for rote learning that dominated teaching before 1950. These approaches betray the purpose of education and dishonor every generation of students that suffers them.
  • Unique teaching recognizes that students are the center of every classroom. Teachers that understand and connect with their students make learning the joy it was conceived to be. It is the students’ questions that drive the most dynamic classrooms. Responsive instruction establishes the existing knowledge a classroom shares, then it organizes the learning organically in response to the values of the audience – not the instructor or the administration. In this way, past knowledge is a foundation – not a limitation – on the possibilities for growth. Start each class with questions, not answers, and encourage discussion and exploration of the reasoning underlying every subject. Help every student understand that extraordinary privilege of school and give them the tools to create projects celebrating their new knowledge.
  • Experience remains the best teacher. Endless lectures on the arcana of accumulated information are useless today. Process is more important than product, as Father Edmund Dobbin of Villanova University often said. The ways that teachers model their own learning processes are priceless. Demonstrate the intense focus of lab work, critical reading, or program design. Techniques like” research simulation tasks” let students learn about their own strengths and weaknesses, while also acquiring the most relevant data they need to move forward. For more than a decade, “supervised research experiences” have provided a transformational bridge into academic excellence for lifelong learners at every age. They challenge both students and instructors to maximize their intellectual efforts with sustained consistency.
  • Educators like Sonia Nieto, Karin Sconzert, and Vidhu Aggarwal have demonstrated a variety of strategies to energize classrooms around the world. For Nieto, attention to the structural inequalities that marginalize girls and students of color opens the door to both honesty and integrity among teachers to create inclusive excellence in education. Sconzert shows the importance of metropolitan geography in shaping the classroom experience as students and teachers must account for their cultural backgrounds in making a positive learning experience. Aggarwal is one of the leading scholars and artists using digital formats like “Specs” – an online literary journal – to raise difficult questions, leading to provocative and unexpected answers. Every community can look to these innovative models to celebrate local teachers through events each year. The teachers who reinvent their classrooms in constant response to the widest range of students deserve celebrity status. Take more time to publicly thank and honor them at their schools, in the malls, and in your homes.

Dr. Walter Greason founded the International Center for Metropolitan Growth (www.icmetrogrowth.com) 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).

 

Civil rights pioneer, Lillie Hendry, inspired thousands of students with her unique approach to education.Civil rights pioneer, Lillie Hendry, inspired thousands of students with her unique approach to education.