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Leading from the middle

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One of my mentors has a leadership philosophy framed around leading from the middle. The concept, while very simple, is ultra complex. If you take a position that is on one end of a spectrum, you alienate those who are on the other end. How do you reach those who you disagree with if you are already miles apart? Leading from the middle means that you don’t get to take sides. It means that you are not going to be seen in a positive light by a lot of folks.

The recent legislative happenings in Arizona are a great example of the strains of what it takes to lead from the middle. Am I upset about everything that is going on in Arizona right now? You bet I am. I am saddened and angry. A lot of people seem to be forgetting what it means to be human. Humanity and dignity are being swiftly stripped away from marginalized populations in Arizona. Is it about racism? I think so. It’s about xenophobia, discrimination and power. Overall, those who are in charge of making laws in Arizona are doing horrible things right now.

How does this relate to leading from the middle? The protests that have been taking place in and outside of Arizona make a lot of people feel good. It makes me feel good to know that movements of people are joining together to fight for justice. However, I doubt that the lawmakers in Arizona are listening. I doubt that those who agree with the new laws are listening. Listening, in the sense that you are really processing, takes an awareness and openness that is lacking right now. Activism is important. Movements need to happen, but I wonder how we move forward when we seem to move backwards so much. How do we lead and live in the middle when things are so polarized right now….

Written by Eric Stoller

May 13th, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Furloughs and Privilege

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Furlough days at Oregon State University plus privilege by Robert P Garrett

It was almost two weeks ago when the Oregon State University faculty senate voted for furloughs for all faculty (grant-supported salary is exempt) in 2010. It should be noted that the Oregon State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors “came out in support of furloughs provided that a number of important principles be included in the resolution.” I agree with the OSU AAUP’s suggestions. The top income tiers for furloughs need to be modified so that people who make more than $14,000 per month take more furlough days. If you make $168,000 pre-tax, I think you can handle a bit more of a cut. If you can’t make ends meet, then perhaps you should hire me to manage your finances.

Speaking of privilege…OSU Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Robert P. Garrett, decided that the best way to address the furlough situation was to attack Oregon State’s multicultural support programs via a letter in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. According to “Bobby,” OSU’s programs that support underrepresented and/or historically marginalized groups represent a redundant financial burden on our predominantly white campus. In summary, a white male professor on a mostly white campus says that there are just too many campus groups that support women, people of color, and LGBT folks. I wonder how many groups/organizations/offices at OSU are made up of a majority of straight white men. Anecdotally, I would offer that there are a lot…more in fact, than the “redundant” orgs of which Robert writes.

Here are few of the choicest bits from Robert P. Garrett’s letter with a few added thoughts from yours truly:

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Tim Wise and Historical Memory

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Tim Wise on white folks and historical memory:

There is none so dangerous as the white American who waxes nostalgic about what he or she likes to call “the good old days.” Or, alternately, those “simpler” times, or the era of so-called “innocence” remembered from their childhoods, memorialized in a Norman Rockwell painting, or via televised re-runs of the Cleaver family, or Opie Taylor casting a line down at the ol’ fishin’ hole.

None so dangerous because such persons, through their lamentations about having lost the nation they so fondly remember, disregard as if they were a mere annoyance, unworthy of consideration, the lived experiences of millions of their fellow countrymen and women: peoples of color for whom so many of those days were anything but good, far from simple, and part of an era that can only be thought of as innocent by a people utterly inured to suffering, wholly incapable of even defining innocence, let alone identifying it, and unable, for reasons of their own racial narcissism, to stare truth in the face. In this case, the truth that their recollections are the very definition of selective memory. Perhaps worse, delusion itself.

Written by Eric Stoller

October 22nd, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Tim Wise and Larry Wilmore

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Tim Wise and Don Lemon break down “white racial resentment / white racial paranoia” that is occurring at town hall meetings and the inflammatory rhetoric (e.g. comparing Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler) spewing out of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchannan et al.

Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore, from the Daily Show, satirize “white fear.”

Glenn Beck – disingenuous idiocy

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If a certain family member wonders why I stopped reading their blog, it is due to their defense of (and site link to) Glenn Beck. Rather than engage in a fruitless back-and-forth (like last time when my life experience was called into question), I will simply post these recent videos. Glenn Beck’s rhetoric is blatantly racist and disingenuous. The first clip is of Glenn Beck appearing on the pro-eugenics FOX & Friends. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart once again provide commentary on the idiocy that is Glenn Beck.

Call on advertisers to drop sponsorship of Glenn Beck.

Written by Eric Stoller

August 16th, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Iowa: the home for immigrants

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From Iowa, the home for immigrants by the Iowa Board of Immigration:

Native American populations in Iowa were conveniently “reduced” to make room for white settlers according to the text in this Iowa immigration advertisement from 1870.

The lowas, next to the Sioux, were once the most numerous and powerful of all the tribes between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. But before leaving the “Beautiful Land” to join their fortunes with other remnants of their race beyond the Missouri, they were reduced by wars, whiskey, and small-pox, to about 1,300 souls.

Whiskey: A gift from the white man
Small-pox: A tactical tool for genocide
Wars: This is what happens when other populations of Native Americans are bumping into your nation because of territorial moves/flight due to white settlement, murder, rape, etc.

Perhaps it is time to re-frame what happened to Native American populations in Iowa. “Leaving” just sounds a bit like a lie when you know what really happened.

When we consider that Iowa is the youngest sister of the seven—that the moccasin marks of the Indian are scarcely yet obliterated from her soil—we can justly claim that the above comparison reflects great credit upon her, and that she has achieved an enviable rank among the great agricultural and stock-producing States of the Union.

Wow. They didn’t have any issue with saying that Native American populations were literally being “obliterated.”

I guess it should be no surprise that my hometown actively celebrates Columbus Day… especially when you grow up in a whitewashed system that frames Native genocide as “leaving”.

If you ever wonder why present day Iowa is made up predominantly of white people, look no further than this:

The present English edition of this pamphlet is 35,000 copies. We also print in German 15,000 copies; Norwegian, 6,000 copies; Swedish, 4,000 copies, and Holland 5,000 copies.

The Iowa Board of Immigration targeted people in predominantly white parts of the world. Iowa’s whiteness is not an accident. It is an institutionalized (by the state) system of privilege for white people that is at the core of present-day Iowa. A discussion about present-day Iowa that is devoid of this context is a discussion that is devoid of awareness and reality.

Iowa, the home for immigrants

Written by Eric Stoller

August 9th, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Iowa: whiteness romanticized

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Driftless - Stories from Iowa
via Driftless: Stories from Iowa

Driftless: Stories from Iowa, is a MediaStorm project that features stories from rural Iowa from the point of view of photojournalist Danny Wilcox Frazier. Frazier, a white guy from Iowa City, Iowa, frames Iowa from a majority white, romanticized point of view.

I was raised in Southeast Iowa near Iowa City and have been to a lot of the towns that are featured in Frazier’s project. The project is split into distinct sections: Family Farm, Town Bar, Jumping Rock, Migrant Labor, Country Butcher, and Harry & Helen.

Kalona and Conesville are a couple of the towns that are featured in the project. I grew up in that part of Iowa – East of Kalona and West of Conesville. The film includes many of the things that most people associate with Iowa: farming, cows, hogs, cornfields, gravel roads, guns, tractors, and white people. Associating Iowa with white people is not a difficult thing to do as the latest U.S. Census numbers show that Iowa is 94% white. However, Iowa is not 100% white and I think that Frazier is barely aware of this fact.

Frazier’s interviews in the piece construct rural Iowans as being all white and that people of color, predominantly Latinos, are “newcomers” or semi-permanent residents. People from Mexico immigrated to Iowa as early as the 1800′s. Frazier’s subjects who are older than 50 are all white and are depicted as “true Iowans.”

Whiteness is romanticized. The video clip titled “Migrant Labor” and the transcript of the video provides ample fodder for critique:

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Neutral Man’s Burden – Colbert on White Privilege

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Stephen Colbert on white privilege.
“In America, white is neutral.” Colbert describes white privilege via scathing satire. Brilliant.

Written by Eric Stoller

July 18th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

California targets undocumented immigrants

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The state of California has done a horrible job of managing its budget. Perhaps it’s due to having Conan the Barbarian as its governor. Perhaps it’s due to a lack of responsible budget governance. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that whenever the economic status of California is undergoing a gloomy situation, the state likes to target its marginalized populations as the reason for why things are the way they are….

For example:

As the state tries to dig its way out from under a massive deficit, some say cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants should be part of the solution. One proposal would stop welfare payments even to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. via NPR.

The majority of undocumented immigrants in California are Latino. According to the quote from NPR (via an unattributed proposal) the suggestion was made to eliminate welfare payments to U.S. citizens because their parents are undocumented immigrants. That seems to be just a tad bit illegal and racist.

You are a citizen of the U.S., however, because your parents are brown and undocumented, well, we just want to lump you all together and penalize you. What??!!

If you are born in the United States, then you are legally entitled to all of the privileges that accompany being a citizen of the U.S. Apparently, Californian’s have just decided to stop veiling their racism and come out with an overtly discriminatory proposal that targets immigrants of color. Also, the parents of these U.S. citizens contribute ridiculous amounts of money to the Californian economy. California is targeting marginalized populations and using lies to attempt to pass and/or create overtly racist public policies.

Written by Eric Stoller

July 16th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Pat Buchanan = blatantly racist

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Dear Pat Buchanan,
I’m still not a fan. Why are you on TV spewing such racist rhetoric?

Sincerely,
Eric

PS: You are a racist asshat.
PPS: Your racist asshattery is phenomenally disgusting.

Written by Eric Stoller

July 16th, 2009 at 6:08 pm