These are excerpts from two longer statements written by Ida Thomas, an older Black woman who only completed the ninth grade and considers herself uneducated. She and I are members of the same racial disparities task force. She has a son who has been in prison. She wrote up her ideas because she wanted me to speak for her at a meeting she could not attend. Most of her writing focused on concrete recommendations relevant to the task force agenda. But I was blown away by some of what she said and wanted to share it. She specifically asked me to edit what she wrote so it would sound good, and I have complied by doing minimal editing for spelling and grammar. All the ideas and word choices are hers. I am posting this to my blog with her permission after reading it to her and receiving her approval. She wants her name used.

What we Blacks fail to realize is that we have invaded their town. We are on their turf now. It’s do like we say or go to prison, for sometimes petty stuff. And we did wrong by coming here, trying to change their ways. They only know how to protect their own color. They are not used to us. Especially the way we think or act. Every race has its own culture. I don’t think this will ever change here if you ask me, Ida. They really want us to go away like the wind, rain, winter and summer.  It’s a nice place to live if you can stay out of their system. But can you be sure to do that here? No. It’s like in the slave days here. Yes Madam, yes sir, you are right. Every Black person here is living on borrowed time for freedom. You have to walk a straight and narrow line. Please let’s change this.

. . .

Many White people do not know how to deal with Blacks here in Wisconsin — they look at us like we are from another planet. Their culture is much different than ours. We think differently, look at life differently. We need people in our culture that will defend us, that understand our way of thinking.  Where are those people for us to communicate with?  .  .  . * Your best bet is to stay out of trouble if you can here, or you will end up with your back up side the wall like so many have done before. It is said, come down here on vacation, go back on paper.**  But that’s not true about going back on paper, because sometimes they want you to stay down here and finish your paper here. That’s unfair because if you sneeze the wrong way you will be going to prison to finish up some of your time. You are never free here.  .  .  .  It’s is a beautiful place to live but there is a price that you have to pay to live here. Myself, I love it here.  But Madison keeps you walking a straight line on a narrow path. Let’s live and let live.

* The omitted material talks at length about the lack of Black judges, district attorneys, public defenders, and police.

** To be “on paper” is to be on probation or parole, i.e. living in the community but under correctional supervision.

the scatterplot effect

E-mail lists are dying. So says the Chronicle (thanks for the heads up, Dana!). Why? Because of blogs. I personally welcome fewer emails. Then again, I think it’s kinda fresh that I pretend like unwanted emails take up oh-so-much-time and therefore complain about them when, really, keeping up on blogs is far more time-consuming. As for the scatterplot effect, there is none. Unless you were planning on joining an email listserv that discusses the mundane issues of a few people’s lives. Orgtheory: those guys are the real murders. Are we losing anything with these deaths?

proposition 8 would have changed my life

Prop 8 was a 1978 statewide ballot initiative that proposed to ban gay men and lesbians (as well as their supporters) from being employed as teachers in public schools. I didn’t learn about the proposition, which was defeated, until I was all grown up. But way back in 1978, I was in a California elementary school, sitting in the classroom of my 5th-grade teacher, who I am pretty sure is gay. I don’t know if I knew he was gay at the time, but by the time I hit middle school, everyone gossiped that his partner was the vice principal there, and I imagine that was the true story, though I of course will never know for sure.

But I never suspected that my 2nd-grade teacher was a lesbian until someone posted this photo from a school picnic on facebook. Continue reading “proposition 8 would have changed my life”

hey! where have you been? the san bruno library

I’m in sunny (and hot!) California, visiting my mom for a few days, and whenever I visit my mom, I get a chance to watch a LOT of television. All kinds: true crime, animals attacking people, court television, all at maximum volume. Imagine my surprise when I see this gem of a local commercial:

I was just at the library today, as a matter of fact, but alas, the San Bruno Library is not open on Sundays, so I had to go to Millbrae. Do they have a commercial? No, but they do have lovely tables and free wifi.

correlation, or causality (a: the latter)

From SLACer John’s blog:

I haven’t reviewed many papers, so I am hoping that I have just had bad luck so far, but it seems that every time I agree to review a paper it has serious flaws.

This is not a matter of luck. Papers that a priori seem likely to suck are disproportionately sent to younger reviewers and/or reviewers at less esteemed institutions. In retrospect, I can’t believe that I agreed to review some of the papers I did as an assistant professor (in terms of papers that were both maniacally written and not on a topic I knew anything about), and I certainly wouldn’t do review those papers if asked now.

reference puzzle

The last two times I have been asked to provide a telephone reference for someone, the person asking for the telephone reference began the conversation by informing me that they had decided to make X an offer (and, indeed, at least in one case X already been informed of this decision). I suspect that this not peculiar employer behavior but that there is a rationality to handling telephone references this way. But what is it?

One possibility, I suppose, is it makes the conversations a good deal shorter than they might be if a recommender felt s/he needed to lobby on the applicants’ behalf.