Read Opinion | A Brief Guide to 21st-Century Blackface (nytimes.com)
Twenty years ago, Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” skewered America’s love of minstrelsy. Has Hollywood learned anything about blackface since?
There’s apparently been a lot more blackface in the past several decades than I was aware of. I’d love to read some of the more academic treatises on the topic from a media studies perspective.
Read A White Male Professor Reportedly Faked Being a Woman of Color, This Time to Troll Scientists on Twitter (Jezebel)
Somehow, beyond all reason and understanding, another person has been caught pretending to be a woman of color. At least this time around, the story has an extra fucked-up layer. Anonymous internet sleuths uncovered Professor Craig Chapman, who teaches chemistry at the University of New Hampshire, posing as a woman of color on Twitter under the name The Science Femme. According to The New Hampshire, Chapman was brought down by his own hubris when he tweeted about his brother’s brewery from both his fake account and his real account. The Science Femme and Chapman’s personal account have both been deleted, but unluckily for him, screenshots exist.
A good reminder that I really should unsubscribe to “people” I don’t know personally or have an exceptionally high expectation of who they really are and what content I’m actually consuming.
Read Soul Man (film) (Wikipedia)
Soul Man is a 1986 American comedy film about a white man who takes tanning pills in order to pretend to be black and qualify for a black-only scholarship at Harvard Law School. The film was directed by Steve Miner and stars C. Thomas Howell, Rae Dawn Chong, Arye Gross, James Earl Jones, Leslie Nielsen, James B. Sikking, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
I’ve  been thinking lately about how well this film has stood up to the test of time. Might be interesting to re-watch it and compare/contrast it to the Wayans’ brothers’ White Chicks with respect to the passage of time.

I also appreciate the contrast put in here with respect to Tootsie, which has a similar plot structure.

Read Jessica Krug (Wikipedia)
Krug was an associate professor of history at George Washington University (GWU) (2012–2020) until becoming the focus of controversy after she disclosed in an essay that she had lived for years under assumed racial and ethnic identities (including that of being half-Algerian-American and half-German-American and of being a Bronx-bred Afro-"boricua" (Afro-Puerto Rican) who went by the self-described "salsa" name of "La Bombalera"). In a September 3 2020 blog post, Krug confessed that: "I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness."
Annotated Appointment and confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States (Wikipedia)
The modern practice of the committee questioning nominees on their judicial views began with the nomination of John Marshall Harlan II in 1955; the nomination came shortly after the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, and several southern senators attempted to block Harlan's confirmation, hence the decision to testify.[1][8] 
Interesting that this practice stems from the imposition of what looks like racist policies.

I wonder if it could really be used in reverse to help break down racist policies on the next nomination?

Read The Californian Ideology by Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron (Mute)
The California Ideology is a mix of cybernetics, free market economics, and counter-culture libertarianism and is promulgated by magazines such as WIRED and MONDO 2000 and preached in the books of Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and others.

Lacking the free time of the hippies, work itself ho become the main route to self-fulfilment for much of the,virtual class’. 

They’re right that overwork and identification with work has become all too prevalent over the past several decades.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:11AM

Community activists will increasingly use hypermedia to replace corporate capitalism and big government with a hi-tech ‘gift economy’ in which information is freely exchanged between participants. 

I know the idea “gift economy” was around in the late 2000’s and even more prevalent in the teens, but not sure where it originated. This is one of the earliest sitings I’ve seen.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:15AM

In this version of the Californian Ideology, each member of the ‘virtual class’ is promised the opportunity to become a successful hi-tech entrepreneur. 

In retrospect, it’s really only made a much higher disparity between the top and the bottom.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:19AM

Almost every major technological advance of the last two hundred years has taken place with the aid of large amounts of public money and under a good deal of government influence. The technologies of the computer and the Net were invented with the aid of massive state subsidies. 

examples of government (public) funding for research and it’s effects
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:23AM

Americans have always had state planning, but they prefer to call it the defence budget. 

Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:24AM

Entrepreneurs often have an inflated sense of their own ‘creative act of will’ in developing new ideas and give little recognition to the contributions made by either the state or their own labour force. 

Techbro hubris
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:25AM

When Japanese companies threatened to take over the American microchip market, the libertarian computer capitalists of California had no ideological qualms about joining a state-sponsored cartel organised by the state to fight off the invaders from the East! 

A good example of so-called capitalists playing the do as we say and not as we do game.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:27AM

In American folklore, the nation was built out of a wilderness by free-booting individuals – the trappers, cowboys, preachers, and settlers of the frontier. Yet this primary myth of the American republic ignores the contradiction at the heart of the American dream: that some individuals can prosper only through the suffering of others. The life of Thomas Jefferson – the man behind the ideal of `Jeffersonian democracy’ – clearly demonstrates the double nature of liberal individualism. The man who wrote the inspiring call for democracy and liberty in the American declaration of independence was at the same time one of the largest slave-owners in the country. 

Some profound ideas here about the “American Dream” and the dark underbelly of what it may take to achieve not only for individuals, but to do so at scale.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:29AM

Working for hi-tech and new media corporations, many members of the ‘virtual class’ would like to believe that new technology will somehow solve America’s social, racial and economic problems without any sacrifices on their part. 

In retrospect, this has turned out to be all-too-true.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:31AM

Slave labour cannot be obtained without somebody being enslaved. At his estate at Monticello, Jefferson invented many ingenious gadgets – including a ‘dumb waiter’ to mediate contact with his slaves. In the late twentieth century, it is not surprising that this liberal slave-owner is the hero of those who proclaim freedom while denying their brown-skinned fellow citizens those democratic rights said to be inalienable. 

This is a powerful example
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:33AM

Abandoning democracy and social solidarity, the Californian Ideology dreams of a digital nirvana inhabited solely by liberal psychopaths. 

And nearly twenty years later, isn’t that roughly what we’ve got? (aside from the digital nirvana, which didn’t work out so well.)
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:35AM

Read Francis James Child (Wikipedia)
Francis James Child (February 1, 1825 – September 11, 1896) was an American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known today for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. Child was Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard University, where he produced influential editions of English poetry. In 1876 he was named Harvard's first Professor of English, a position which allowed him to focus on academic research. It was during this time that he began work on the Child Ballads. The Child Ballads were published in five volumes between 1882 and 1898. While Child was primarily a literary scholar with little interest in the music of the ballads, his work became a major contribution to the study of English-language folk music.
Interesting that Johns Hopkins tried to recruit him and Harvard created a new position and title in an effort to keep him.

Child considered that folk ballads came from a more democratic time in the past when society was not so rigidly segregated into classes, and the “true voice” of the people could therefore be heard. He conceived “the people” as comprising all the classes of society, rich, middle, and poor, and not only those engaged in manual labor as Marxists sometimes use the word. 

Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:31AM

Though there were no graduate schools in America at the time, a loan from a benefactor, Jonathan I. Bowditch, to whom the book was dedicated, enabled Child to take a leave of absence from his teaching duties to pursue his studies in Germany. There Child studied English drama and Germanic philology at the University of Göttingen, which conferred on him an honorary doctorate, and at Humboldt University, Berlin, where he heard lectures by the linguists Grimm and was much influenced by them. 

Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:33AM

Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett), the first enslaved African American to sue for her freedom in the courts based on the law of the 1780 constitution of the state of Massachusetts, which held that “all men are born free and equal.” The Jury agreed and in 1781 she won her freedom. Her lawyer had been Theodore Sedgwick. 

Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:35AM

A Short Essay on the Relationship of STEM and Racist Ideas

I’ve seen many tweets today with the hashtag #shutdownSTEM. Some of them included some people asking why such a thing would be necessary. What does STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have to do with racism they ask? 

I find myself seeing some immediate and excellent historical examples in Dr. Ibram X. Kendi‘s book Stamped from the Beginning. In chapter nine of the book he discusses the variety and flavors of racism espoused by Thomas Jefferson in his book Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), which would become the most  consumed American nonfiction book until well into the mid-nineteenth century.

Shortly afterward Samuel Stanhope Smith countered portions of Jefferson’s racist ideas in the 1787 annual oration to the august American Philosophical Society. This annual lecture was already one of the most heralded scholarly lectures in America and was attended by the wealthy and elite leaders and thinkers in the country. The lecture would be published as the influential Essay on the Causes of Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species

While Smith used the lecture to attack the abhorrent racist idea of polygenesis, he did espouse a wide array of other racist tropes including assimilationist climate theory. Dr. Kendi specifically notes that he may have picked up this idea from James Bowdoin’s opening oration of the newly established American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston on May 4, 1780.
 
To quote Dr. Kendi:
 

Samuel Stanhope Smith joined those preeminent intellectuals in Boston’s American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society in attacking polygenesists, in reviving climate theory in America. His scholarly defense of scripture was quickly printed in Philadelphia, in London, and in Lord Kames’s back-yard, Edinburgh. By the time he sat down in Princeton’s presidential chair in 1795, he had amassed an international scholarly reputation.

So in just a few pages Kendi lays out some serious evidence of the direct spread of a wide variety of racist ideas by not only by the academic elite, but the leaders of multiple influential universities and scientific and philosophical institutions in America. The reverberating echos of these wrongs are still haunting us today. They still need to be addressed and righted. We need to use our moral alembic and distill these racist ideas out of science in America.

Lest one wonder about the influence of Samuel Stanhope Smith’s essay, I’ll note that Noah Webster cited Smith directly in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary in the definition of philosophy. The citation was from  Smith’s second edition of his Essay on the Causes of Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species (1810). The quote as given: “True religion, and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.”

We’re obviously still seeking both true religion and true philosophy.

While you’re thinking about #shutdownSTEM on June 10th and long thereafter, I recommend you spend some time sitting with the ideas that have been handed down to us and question them closely, for this is what science and philosophy are all about. If you find you can’t do that hard work–and it is hard, then perhaps read a bit of Dr. Kendi’s excellent and ardent text Stamped from the Beginning.