May 14, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Yesterday, President Obama nominated United States Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Few were surprised by the choice, as Kagan has long been viewed a frontrunner for the high court. While many observers have applauded Obamaâ€™s decision, others like myself were left with a lingering question.
Is this really the best we could do?
Letâ€™s be clear, I am not questioning Kaganâ€™s basic qualifications as a nominee. Unlike those who have questioned her â€œtemperamentâ€ and â€œintellectual curiosityâ€â€”loaded queries that only seem to get raised in relation to women and minority candidatesâ€”I have little doubt about Kaganâ€™s fitness for the job. Rather, I am concerned about Kaganâ€™s ability to fill John Paul Stevensâ€™ shoes as the progressive anchor of the Supreme Court.
Although she undoubtedly shares the same political persuasion as Justice Stevens, Kagan is considerably less progressive on major issues of the day. While Stevens has filed numerous dissents in an effort to challenge the Bush (and now Obama) doctrine of endless executive power, Kagan has dutifully argued in favor of policies that undermine the spirit and letter of the Constitution. For example, during her confirmation hearing for Solicitor General, Kagan offered unequivocal support for the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists as well as the bizarre belief that the entire world is a battleground. On other issues, from gay marriage to civil rights, Kagan has done nothing to inspire confidence that she would continue Stevensâ€™ tradition of principled and rigorous resistance.
April 21, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
On April 15, 1995 Timothy McVeigh, a U.S. army veteran and disgruntled citizen, detonated a truck bomb in downtown Oklahoma that killed 168 people, making it the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the nationâ€™s history.
As we mark the fifteenth anniversary of the tragedy this week, we must not only remember the lives that were lost due to senseless violence, but also recommit ourselves to preventing similar acts of terrorism. To do this, we must pay careful attention to the rising tide of domestic extremism that threatens to replicate the tragic outcomes from fifteen years ago.
While it is tempting to dismiss McVeigh as a lone extremist, such a claim would be both counter-factual and dangerous. In reality, McVeigh was part of a small but dangerous minority of right-wing radicals who were angry at the direction in which the country was headed. Similar conditions exist today, as the election of President Obama and the current economic crisis have led to a rise in anti-immigrant vigilante groups, citizen militias, and other â€œPatriotâ€ organizationsâ€” the same violent movements that inspired McVeigh in the 1990s.
Ironically, these extremist groups are comprised of poor and working class white males, like McVeigh, who largely benefit from the very policies to which they are vehemently and violently opposed. This has been a consistent trend throughout American history, as disadvantaged whites have supported everything from slavery to welfare reform, all of which undermine their own economic prosperity, in order to garner what W.E.B. Dubois called the â€œpsychic wages of whiteness.â€ Rather than organizing in ways that reflect their economic interests, these individuals instead elect to close ranks around Whiteness by joining violent extremist groups, thereby promoting the interests of white elites.
April 21, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Over the past month, New York State Senator Eric Adams has drawn national headlines by unveiling the â€œStop Saggingâ€ campaign, a series of billboards and viral web videos that decry the hip-hop fashion trend of wearing pants below the waist. Although Senator Adams is the most visible opponent of sagging, he is far from alone. In states like Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, politicians have taken the anti-sagging movement to the next level by passing laws that criminalize the fashion trend by creating public decency ordinances.
The outrage over sagging pants is rooted in a belief that the trend is an outgrowth of prison culture, where inmates are forced to sag their pants because they arenâ€™t permitted to wear belts. Others argue that sagging pants are a sign of prison homosexuality, as gay inmates expose their buttocks to let others know that they are sexually available.
While the claims about prison culture may be true, there is little credible evidence that they provide the origins of the current hip-hop trend. There is even less evidence that the youth who wear this fashion are consciously or unconsciously attempted to mimic the practices of prisoners. Instead, these arguments are nothing more than red herrings that play on a cynical, unsophisticated, and reactionary vision of our youth.
By linking sagging pants to prison culture, opponents are able to scare the public into believing in a one-to-one relationship between fashion choices and social deviance. By connecting it to homosexuality, they are able to play on the homophobic myth that being gay is a social contagion that can be avoided through the use of a sturdy belt.
April 8, 2010 by Marc Lamont Hill
Like every year, the nation has spent the last month captivated by the NCAA basketball tournament. In addition to showcasing the nationâ€™s top basketball talent, the tournament also exposes us to one of the most unconscionable economic arrangements in American history: the failure to pay college athletes.
Every year, the NCAA finds new ways to extract economic value from the sweat of its athletes. From shoe deals to video game licensing to television contracts, the labor of college athletes generates billions of dollars every year for TV networks, schools, coaches, apparel companies, hotels, airlines and countless other entities that do not have to lace up sneakers, miss class, or risk injury. In fact, the only people who do not benefit from the ever-expanding â€œathletic industrial complexâ€ are the athletes themselves.
The primary argument against payment has been that they are student athletes who are being rewarded with a full ride to college. If tainted by money, proponents argue, collegians will lose their innocence and be hastily hurled into the dark world of profit-making. Like any effective pimp, the NCAA pretends to protect its athletes from the harsh realities of the â€œreal worldâ€ while exploiting them in the most extravagant ways imaginable.
While the romantic notion of the â€œstudent-athleteâ€ may have been authentic 50 years ago, todayâ€™s college player is markedly different. Todayâ€™s athlete is expected to practice 4-6 hours a day, work out 12 months out of the year, and miss out on many of the personal, social, and intellectual experiences that color our idyllic memories of college. In nearly every way, todayâ€™s college player is much more like an overworked semi-professional than an amateur student in need of protection from corporate bloodsuckers.
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