The South Side: Not actually an unmitigated sea of misery

“…ask that media outlets in Chicago and nationwide consider how their coverage of crime on the South Side has contributed to this situation. If you spend years telling your readers that the South Side is a “war zone,” then you don’t get to be surprised when your readers treat it like a war zone.”

In other words, what is the Jackie Robinson West neighborhood really like? Hint: it’s not what you think.

via The South Side: Not actually an unmitigated sea of misery.


Suffer the little children

In response to the border crisis, hymn-writer Carolyn Winfrey Gillette wrote the following for the Presbyterian Church. In my opinion, it is a very powerful reflection. The melody is Finlandia, 10-10-10-10-10-10, the same tune as “This is my Land” and “Be Still, My Soul.”

The Children Come

The children come, not sure where they are going;

Some little ones have seen their siblings die.

They’ve traveled north — a tide that keeps on growing,

A stream of life beneath the desert sky.

Their welcome here?  Detention, overflowing.

O Lord of love, now hear your children’s cry!


The children come in search of something better;

They’ve traveled here with nothing in their hands.

On one boy’s belt, a number carved in leather

Leads to a phone, a brother here, a plan.

They come alone—or sometimes band together;

They bring a plea that we will understand.


O Christ our Lord, you welcomed in the stranger;

You blessed the children, telling them to stay.

Be in the desert, with the tired and injured;

Be at the border where they are afraid.

Be on each bus where children sense the danger,

As angry crowds are shouting, “Go away!”


God, let each one know justice, peace and welcome —

And may your gift of mercy start with me.

For unto such as these belongs your kingdom,

And in each child, it is your face we see.

May we, your church, respond in truth and action,

And with you, Lord, say, “Let them come to me.”

Academic freedom or Anti-Semitism? The Salaita Case

The short story: On October 9, 2013, Dr. Steven Salaita signed an offer letter with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program.

Starting in June, when the conflict in the West Bank escalated, Salaita began tweeting about the crisis in Palestine. The tweets were highly critical of the attacks by Israel that killed Palestinian civilians, as well as the pro-Israel involvement of the United States. The tweets also used profanity. You can read some of them here.

Salaita’s stance on the conflict, though controversial, was not unknown to UIUC. After all, Salaita is the author of six books, including “Israel’s Dead Soul” and “Anti-Arab Racism in the USA.”

On August 2nd, 2014, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise informed Salaita that a Board approval of his position was impossible, and that his job offer was officially rescinded.

Salaita and his supporters maintain that the principles of academic freedom permit him to share his views without fear of censure or reprisal. The rescinding of the job offer is a violation of First Amendment rights. At first, even UIUC defended Salaita’s tweets on this ground.

Opponents argue that Salaita hadn’t officially been hired yet, so he was not protected by academic freedom. Additionally, the tweets cross the line into anti-Semitism, and thus should be viewed as hate speech.

Several hundred UIUC professors have joined a boycott against the university’s decision to “un-hire” Salaita. Even visiting scholars (including Dr. Kavka, a professor of Jewish philosophy, life and culture) have joined the campaign, and there is a petition gaining momentum.

What do you think? Should Dr. Salaita be protected for his free speech, and re-offered his position? Or did he cross a line, and therefore the university has the right – nay, responsibility – to reject him?

Thursday news roundup

Three articles of note have recently been published, and I couldn’t decide which was more worthy of my limited time. So, here’s your Thursday news roundup.

First up: When attending a multicultural job fair, such as the Career Expo at the National Black MBA Association conference, it’s not uncommon to have up to 30% of the demographic be job seekers who are not the target audience (e.g., Black MBAs). However, it’s fairly obvious to the hiring employer that the person they’re interviewing is not a member of the minority group in question. It’s not as obvious at LGBT job fairs, which have now been “infiltrated” by non-LGBT (straight; cisgender) job applicants. Why is this a problem? Aren’t the employers there to show that they are inclusive – and doesn’t that mean inclusive to everyone? Well, yes and no. Employers are there to hire from a minority group, one with an invisible difference that cannot be asked in interviews or recorded on HR forms (unlike ethnicity). They are looking to increase their diversity of background. Job fair attendees who willfully misrepresent themselves are not the kind of people they want to hire.

Next up: “Is the word ‘Negro’ an offensive word or just an outdated word?” That’s what police in Western New York would like to know. See, Negro is still a category on their intake forms. The defense? They didn’t know it was an offensive word. Really? How hard would it have been to use African-American instead? Or Black? What does it say about our culture at large when an entire police department regularly used the word Negro and didn’t think about it? Pretty sure there’s not only a case for sensitivity training, but could I come teach your English and History classes in middle and high school, too? Civil Rights Movement, anyone?

Finally: “Freedom of religion is not the same as enforcement of religion,” notes a very astute commentator in response to this article on Bob Eschliman, who is suing the Newton Daily News in Iowa for firing him. The short story: Eschliman was the Editor of the paper. On his personal blog, he wrote: “It’s pretty easy to brush off a nonsensical contrived version of the Bible, but that’s not the deceivers’ end goal. No, they want all Christendom to abandon their faith. They do that by ‘proselytizing’ to church leaders to change their view on homosexuality. If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way. We must fight back against the enemy.” The News fired him on the grounds that this post demonstrated that he was not able to be an impartial journalist and he had lost his credibility. Eschliman, of course, argues that his freedom of religion is being attacked (ironically, not his freedom of speech). He expressed his religious opinion on a personal page. Now, you know that I think a lot about this public/private debate; see my posts here and here and here  for more examples of this. That said, in this case, profession matters. Also, what the hell form of Christianity does he believe in? Certainly not a Christ-centered one. Plus, I have no tolerance for Nazi comparisons. There’s no justification.

A case for paternity leave

A recent article in The Economist on paternity leave in Sweden helped to solidify what, to me, is one of the foremost  things we can do to simultaneously help women get ahead in the workplace and address gender stereotypes in our society (yes, the latter intimately affects the former, but I thought in this situation they deserved to be two separate things, rather than a causal relationship):

Encourage fathers to take paternity leave. Make it worth their while financially, and help them to see how it’s in their interest in other ways as well (if necessary). Notes the article, “One of the most powerful arguments in favour of splitting parental leave more equally is that it has positive ripple effects for women. Since Swedish men started to take more responsibility for child rearing, women have seen both their incomes and levels of self-reported happiness increase. Paying dads to change nappies and hang out at playgrounds, in other words, seems to benefit the whole family.”

According to the 2013 World Happiness Report, Sweden is the #5 happiest country in the world (the United States is #17). I’m not saying there is necessarily a direct correlation between paternity leave and overall happiness, but of the top five countries:

1. “The Danish Parental leave system is among the most generous and flexible in the EU with a total of 52 weeks (one year) of leave containing maternity, paternity and parental.”

2. “In Norway, a key element of success has been the combination of 12 months’ paid parental leave with universal access to childcare at highly subsidised rates.”

3/4. Okay, Switzerland and the Netherlands aren’t quite as good as the Scandinavian countries, but they’re still better than the U.S. 

What would parental leave mean for U.S. parents? For a start, it would signal a shift in the childrearing burden, from mother to mother/father (or parent/parent, though LGBT couples often express a greater balance in home “work,” so for the purposes of this argument let’s focus on dual parent, dual sex households). Creating a culture in which the home burden was more equally shared would hopefully usher in a shift towards balance in the career world: if men and women both see themselves as equally responsible for both home AND career, and are supported in this by government and business policies, we can take a major step towards balancing the gender equation in the workforce. And, maybe, making everyone happier.