How to sit down, for those who need a little help

I have now been told I have no talent by somebody clearly FURIOUS about the Smartest Boy Urbanist send-up, which only kind of proves my point. Smartestest is the coin of the realm for the smartest of the smart; there’s no way to know anything about urbanism unless you smart; they soooo smartttttttt that they KNOW when they are confronted with a minor mind, such as mine because, as pointed out, I would haven’t to rely on mean meanypants stereotypes to make my points rather than REAL ARGUMENTS, like theirs.

Or they might be proving my point for me.

Because this isn’t about who is smart and who isn’t, who has talent and who does not. This is about your heart and how you conduct yourself.

The smartest boy urbanist in the room is VURRRRRRRRY SERIOUS and

The Smartest urbanists do not like being called out.

And that’s unfortunate, because I am not backing down. Because some of us need to learn to sit down more often, even if we have read all the pages from Jane Jacobs.

Sitting down and shutting up can be a radical action. Why? Because it’s hard for oppressed people to be heard as it is, without people who possess privilege hogging all the air time and oxygen in the room. Privilege gives one a platform that other people don’t have; it gives us a microphone and amplifiers that other people do not have.

So some radical humility is in order, and it’s pretty easy to practice. Here’s a guide:

1. When somebody who, unlike you, actually experiences injustice and oppression speaks about it, sit down and listen to them.

2. When somebody who experiences injustice and oppression speaks about how to change it, sit down and listen to them.

3. Believe people when they tell you that things that work for you do not necessarily work for them. Instead, sit down and listen to what they say might work for them.

Now, there are additional steps here, but those go beyond “sitting down” into “learn to ally with people seeking racial justice.”

Ultimately, whether I have any talent is, of course, probably not debatable. I can’t tap dance or sing worth a crap, which is a source of some sadness to me, as I always wanted to sing Wotan.

But if you really want to show me–I mean *really* make me feel like a fool for making you uncomfortable with my Smartest Boy Urbanist snark–then retweet and quote black urbanists just as often as you do Market Urbanism and Alon Levy. Don’t get me wrong. These are very bright people who have written and, I’m sure, will continue to write fine things. But they do not know everything. Robert Bullard (@DrBobBullard ) is on Twitter. That guy is important.Julian Agyeman (@julianagyeman). Kristen Jeffers (@blackurbanist). Manuel Pastor (@Prof_MPastor). Lots of people are out there generating important ideas about cities from perspectives other than your own. And trust me, these folks are smart, genuinely smart, real-deal smart, and worth more of your time than shaking your little fist at me through the computer screen.

Anger at the City and Donald Trump: Katherine Cramer in the Chronicle

I’m an avid reader of the Chronicle, but I don’t always stay current with reading it, so I am not sure if it is this week’s edition or last week’s edition (I usually read the print version, as I spend entirely enough time staring at screens.)

And it’s unfortunately behind a paywall.

But, I am going to share enough of the piece to maybe get you interested in Cramer’s book, as I definitely am. The short piece is called The Politics if Resentment, and here’s the money quote.

The resentment I heard toward the cities in this so-called outstate part of Wisconsin had three main components. First, many people in small towns felt they were not getting their fair share of power. Second, they believed that public funds were not distributed fairly. Many voiced their view that tax dollars were being spent on Madison and Milwaukee and not shared with the rest of the state. Finally, they sensed that they did not get their fair share of something else: respect. Many told me that city people just do not understand rural folks. “I mean, we are, like, strange to Madison,” one woman in the far northern part of the state said during one of my first visits to her group.

Cramer’s book is The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

Honestly, I hope it’s something deeper than this because it sounds like so much bootyhootyhootyhoo to me. Most rural residents get disproportionate state funding because of stacked state legislatures and many public services scale readily (i.e., sidewalks cost less per person in New York City than it does in Winthrop, IA.) It also sounds like a cloaked racial comments. (Those welfare queens in Milwaukee, taking all my tax dollars, while I get none, even though it’s super-inefficient to maintain the rural farm to market system, etc. ) I hope it’s not…but I am pretty tone deaf about the dog whistle racism stuff simply because I am so clueless about social cues. I’m going to have to read Cramer’s book to find out.

My favorite About-Dad writing from the weekend’s surfeit

Father’s Day is a trial for those of us who do not have dads, and who will never have them again, especially if we ourselves have not been parents. This entire past two weeks has a been horrible. I’ve dealt with the email blowback of “The Smartest Boy Urbanist in the Room” which was, in general, quite mild tone policing more than anything. (I am not so foolish as to not know that puh-lenty of smartest boy urbanists are just a-waiting for their chance at a Dr. Lisa take-down. I’m sure the opportunity will arise for y’all soon enough. I am often wrong.) I also lost a friend, a man who helped me a great deal with rescue, who clearly didn’t plan for his own exit and who also hid a great deal from his friends. The result was that his passing became a nightmare for the rest of us he left behind. Most of last week was spent dealing with that heartbreak and work.

And then Father’s Day, and then the bloody heat started. And I’m working on a think piece that is going precisely bloody nowhere. The old horse isn’t walking, not even for me, not even for a July 1 deadline.

One happy pick-me-up in the weekend of sadness and grief was this marvelous piece from The Hairpin by Rosa Lyster entitled “My Father Reads Withering Heights for the First Time”. It is endlessly charming, if a little meandering in parts, about the relationship her father has with books, and in particular, with books written by women, including one of my favorites, Middlemarch and Jane Eyre:

My dad, naturally, admires all this without qualification. He doesn’t find her weird or boring in any way; he just thinks she is magnificent — a woman to look up to. He once sent me an email with the subject line “Jane Eyre: I love her.” He likes her spirit, and her independence, and how she doesn’t let anyone push her around. He even thinks she’s funny. He read Jane Eyre twice in a row, and then he read Villette (subject line: AAAARGH BELGIUM). He read Wuthering Heights (subject line: What is Hindley’s problem?), he read Agnes Grey (and then, of course, he read twelve books about the Brontës, and has ordered several more), and he will read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall before the month is out. He is probably reading Wuthering Heights again as we speak.

June Jordan’s I Must Become A Menace to My Enemies

Maria Rosales mentioned this poem on Facebook, and it strikes me as just the thing for a day like today, where we are somehow supposed to go on despite the fact that the people who hate us do not want us to go on. Please go check out June Jordan’s web page, too. And buy her book to support the work.

I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies

Dedicated to the Poet Agostinho Neto,
President of The People’s Republic of Angola: 1976

1
I will no longer lightly walk behind
a one of you who fear me:
Be afraid.
I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits
and facial tics
I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore
and this is dedicated in particular
to those who hear my footsteps
or the insubstantial rattling of my grocery
cart
then turn around
see me
and hurry on
away from this impressive terror I must be:
I plan to blossom bloody on an afternoon
surrounded by my comrades singing
terrible revenge in merciless
accelerating
rhythms
But
I have watched a blind man studying his face.
I have set the table in the evening and sat down
to eat the news.
Regularly
I have gone to sleep.
There is no one to forgive me.
The dead do not give a damn.
I live like a lover
who drops her dime into the phone
just as the subway shakes into the station
wasting her message
canceling the question of her call:

fulminating or forgetful but late
and always after the fact that could save or
condemn me

I must become the action of my fate.

2
How many of my brothers and my sisters
will they kill
before I teach myself
retaliation?
Shall we pick a number?
South Africa for instance:
do we agree that more than ten thousand
in less than a year but that less than
five thousand slaughtered in more than six
months will
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?

I must become a menace to my enemies.

3
And if I
if I ever let you slide
who should be extirpated from my universe
who should be cauterized from earth
completely
(lawandorder jerkoffs of the first the
terrorist degree)
then let my body fail my soul
in its bedeviled lecheries

And if I
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me
out.

I must become
I must become a menace to my enemies.

Barbara Jordan’s 1976 DNC speech , Black history, Women’s history, LGBTQ history getting made, all at once

With HRC’s presumptive nominee status, people have been remember Shirley Chisolm, who was the first woman to run for president (in 1972). These conversations, and the upcoming convention, have me thinking about Barbara Jordan. I remember her 1976 convention speech like it was yesterday: I was only just in elementary school, but my father was a local politician and he watched the conventions, both sides, obsessively. I thus did, too. To a little kid with a bad stutter and poor diction, she lit up my mind.

Barbara Jordan’s speech was a work of art. And I loved it: I loved the way crowd came alive. I loved the Texas theme song. I loved her pastel mint suit with the unapologetically frilly neck doodad. I loved how the crowd loved.

I still make my students in my social policy class watch the speech because it wasn’t always shameful to discuss the welfare state in American politics, and people should see and remember the work of Black of politicians. I still point people to it whenever I can because she was incredible. It’s also good to remind people that many of the problems we think we only have today have been with us awhile.

Less well known is that Ms. Jordan seems to have had a lifelong partner, which makes me happy.

She only lived another 19 years after this speech, which she gave when she was 40. Too young, damn it. Neither she nor Representative Chisolm lived to see President Obama in the Oval Office, which makes me sad, because they helped him get there.

It was a historic moment, it was a very good vision for the welfare state, and she was magnificent:

Part I

Part II

Part III

I am the worst scholar in the world, the very worst.

Soooooo yesterday I had a big block of time to do research. Took out the book I am working from and found: ACK. I have two index card left.

Briefly consider going to the bookstore to get some, but they will charge $400 per card. So no.

So I decide to start cleaning my drawers looking for cards. There have to be some in here somewhere, right?

Nope. Old, dead packages of mustard, check. Cords and little dongle things from long-dead computers, check.

Pull everything out of the drawers in a fit of pique, tell self I am going to organize the drawers.

After a half-hour of pulling stuff out of drawers, become overwhelmed by the job, get filled with despair at the mess I have made.

Begin reading The Letters of Peter Abelard and Heloise.

There is no scholarly reason for doing this.

Finally manage to work up the gumption to throw away what needs throwing away, put away what needs to be put away, and….

Get a call from somebody. There is a doggie emergency. Spend all last night dealing with a dog who has a ruptured eye (poor thing) and obsessively checking California primary returns.

Spend this morning arguing about politics on Facebook about how Sanders’ loss might be good for the far left, remember after multiple hours that it is not technically my job to argue pointlessly about national politics, but rather, my job to argue pointlessly about URBAN politics;

Sit down to work.

Realize I have no index cards.

But Hillary Rodham Clinton is historic, and that does make me smile.

Time to do a special study on gentrification books

I’ve finished with revisiting Aristotle for now, and I was casting around for something new to read seriously, and I noticed today that there seem to be lots of new, wonderful books about gentrification out there published over the last five years. So that’s where I’ll start reading next.

Suggest any you think might be good. Happy to look at bunch of ’em.