Tearing Down Walls

Tearing Down Walls



Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Can Philosophy Teach Us About LGBT Discrimnation?

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that gay people have the right to marry, those upset by this ruling have shifted their strategy from denying the right to limiting its enforcement.
Even if gay people have a right to marry, they argue, people also have the liberty to practice their religion as they wish. Accordingly, they claim, they cannot be forced to “aid or abet” those seeking to marry partners of the same sex.
This argument obviously has some persuasive power, for statutes that claim to protect religious liberty in this sense have recently been proposed in 26 states.Some have even been enacted. And just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) that brings this supposed conflict between marriage equality and religious liberty to the fore.
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Saturday, July 29, 2017

When It Comes to Gay Rights, Are There Trump's 'True Colors'?

When President Donald Trump was a candidate, he pledged his support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people immediately after the mass shooting last summer at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  
“They have been through something that nobody could ever experience,” Trump said at an event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on June 13, 2016, delivering a hastily drafted speech that was originally intended to be about Hillary Clinton.  
“Ask yourself who is really the friend of women and the LGBT community, Donald Trump with actions or Hillary Clinton with her words?” he said. “I will tell you who the better friend is, and someday I believe that will be proven out, big-league.”  
Such proof did not come Wednesday. But the president’s words were repeated with anger and frustration by a number of gay rights advocates who were angered by Trump’s abrupt decision to bar transgender people from any military job.  
“We’re seeing the president’s true colors,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “This is who he is.”
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Friday, July 28, 2017

Can We Make America Great for Immigrant Students Again?

We’ve received what seems to be a daily dose of misery in the form of misinformation about immigrants and immigration for well over a year now. As intended, those messages appear to have left their mark. International student enrollment is down, while at the same time hate crimes, hate speech and fear is up. Is there a connection?
I’m not here to address the relentless negative rhetoric on immigration or why it exists. Rather, I offer you facts, because facts don’t lie. Here’s one: immigrants are good for America.
Why would we think otherwise?  Our nation was built by immigrants, and if America wants to continue to be a world leader, particularly in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), we need to acknowledge the positive impact and contributions made by immigrants and continue to do what we can to attract them to our country and welcome them into our communities.
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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Is Justice Department Really Arguing That Civil Rights Law Doesn't Protect Gay Employees?

The US Justice Department on Wednesday argued in a major federal lawsuit that a 1964 civil rights law doesn’t protect gay workers from discrimination, thereby diverging from a separate, autonomous federal agency that had supported the gay plaintiff’s case.
The Trump administration’s filing is unusual in part because the Justice Department isn’t a party in the case, and the department doesn’t typically weigh in on private employment lawsuits.
But in an amicus brief filed at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, lawyers under Attorney General Jeff Sessions contend that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, does not cover sexual orientation.
"The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination," says the Justice Department's brief. "It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts."
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Upcoming Sci-Fi Film 'Bright' Looks at Class, Racism, and Police Brutality

Fantasy in entertainment is often seen as a means to escape harsh realities and truths. Yet fiction and the fantasy genre are also a creative way to explore controversial issues that affect our everyday lives. From the exploration of race and gender in Octavia Butler novels, to social commentary on systemic power in Night of the Living Dead, stories about monsters and the supernatural “other” have often been used to discuss the human condition. Movie superstar Will Smith’s latest film Bright, set to premiere exclusively on Netflix this December, follows in these footsteps. Using an alternative reality where the supernatural is the norm, Brightexplores racism, class dynamics, and police brutality.
The first full length trailer for the movie was shown this past weekend at the 49th annual San Diego Comic Con. A panel of the film’s stars showed up to discuss the project at the popular event. In the world of Bright, elves are at the top of the food chain – the 1 percent.
Humans are seen to be part of the working class, along with the orcs. Yet the orcs are at the bottom of the social hierarchy:  they are the most discriminated against and exploited. The racial profiling portrayed in the film isn’t based on skin tone, but on if an individual has pointy ears. The movie may take place in a world with mystical orcs and fairies, but the hierarchies, oppression, and cop drama of the inner city is reflective of the world we live in today.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just What Is 'Racial Subordination'?

In “Stamped From the Beginning,” Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning chronicle of racist ideas, the author moves past racism and anti-racism to call out the “assimilationists” throughout the nation’s history, those who have sought to combat racial disparities but have found fault in both oppressors and oppressed. 

And Carol Anderson’s “White Rage,” which received the National Book Critics Circle prize for criticism, contends that, since emancipation, black breakthroughs have been followed by white backlashes, usually with the imprimatur of courts and legislatures.

I don’t foresee Roy L. Brooks’s “The Racial Glass Ceiling” receiving similar attention, nor should it; this is a less gripping or ambitious work, and its prose is often dense and meandering. But the book offers a provocative counterpoint to the country’s current debates over race. 

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Could Reality TV Actually Increase Empathy?

THERE’S a popular theory that people watch reality TV to see others humiliated — by sarcastic judges, malicious contestants, cheating partners and challenges designed to defeat them.
But that is not the reason record numbers of Australians are tuning into the phenomenon that is Ninja Warrior.
Sure, we gasp, laugh or scream when an elite athlete face-plants in the water — and we quietly reassure ourselves that everyone is human, even these finest specimens of fitness — but that’s only part of a broader allure.
At a time when some reality TV programs are being punted out of prime-time slots — Channel 7’s Little Big Shots and Channel 9’s The Last Resort spring to mind — Ninja Warrior is rating its sports socks off for Nine.
Sister shows in the US, UK and its birthplace of Japan have done the same.
Why? Aside from the sheer athleticism that astounds, it’s because we are empathetic.
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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Yes, It's Bad Now But Is This Really the Most Uncivil Politics Has Ever Been?

Between the Russia scandal and the legislative impotence, I keep hearing from people who are demoralized and exhausted from the mind-numbing whirlwind of news and controversy confronting us each day.
It feels like America is going through a very difficult time, but we already have been through a lot in our history. From time to time, it’s important to reflect on our past, lest we indulgently believe that these times are uniquely bad
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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Would An Alternate History Show About a South Now Still with Slavery Be Racist?

No scripts have been written, not even an outline.
But HBO's announcement on Wednesday that the creator-showrunners of "Game of Thrones" will follow up that massive hit with an HBO series in which slavery remains legal in the modern-day South drew fire on social media from those who fear that telling that story will glorify racism.
The series, "Confederate," will take place in an alternate timeline where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union and formed a nation in which legalized slavery has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows "a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone," HBO said — "freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall."
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Is It Fair and Just That CEO Pay Has Soared 937% In the Past 40 Years?

Wages for most American workers have remained basically stagnant for decades, but a new report published on Thursday by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the CEOs of America's largest firms have seen their pay soar at a consistent and "outrageous" clip.

Between 1978 and 2016, CEO pay rose by 937 percent, EPI's Lawrence Mishel and Jessica Schieder found. By contrast, the typical worker saw "painfully slow" compensation growth—11.2 percent over the same period.
"Simply put, money that goes to the executive class is money that does not go to other people." —Lawrence Mishel, Economic Policy Institute
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Do Empathetic Students Do Better Academically?

Students who feel better about themselves, their relationships, and their ability to constructively contribute to their community perform better academically and socially at school. 

This data, collected by a review of over 300 studies, would surprise no educator, anywhere. 
As global educators, we observe firsthand the qualitative impact that a sense of wellbeing and a positive mindset can have on educational outcomes. Fortunately, recent attention to the quantitative research on social-emotional learning (SEL) has provided many schools with a framework to help.
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