Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring 2014

Well, pardon the latest unintended hiatus…

One year after the Boston bombings at the Boston Marathon, it was great to see that Patriot Day of 4/21/14 was such great marathon day, with people taking back that finish line.  A big plus: Meb Keflezighi as the men’s champion! I remembered rooting for  Meb back when he was close to winning the gold at the Athens Olympics (still silver – no slouch), and it was great when he won the 2009 NYC Marathon, getting to be the first American in years at the time to have done that, and how he has kept alive elite American long distance running/marathoning. If anyone was going to try to pull it off to be the first American in 30 odd years to win the Boston Marathon, it’s terrific that Meb did it (since he did it before in NYC).

See here for the post I had on Meb’s winning the NYC Marathon 2009.  I saw there that I had a link to the NY Times article on Meb’s 2009 victory – and how poignant that it still reverberates these years later – that a great American story of victory lifts an American event (if you can pardon my being patriotic about this).

Meb is that great American story – an immigrant who keeps persisting, a lesson we can all learn. Boston Strong, indeed. (and kudos to Rita Jeptoo of Kenya for winning again and breaking a new women’s record at the Boston Marathon, and everyone who ran and supported the efforts!).

NY Times’ art/architecture critic Michael Kimmelman on an idea (just an idea) of a modern streetcar through the waterfront of Brooklyn-Queens, making more mass transit. I like the idea (I’m someone who is not impressed by the lack of bus frequency, especially on weekend/weeknights), since this could be a great alternative. But again – just an idea…

I’m not sure what to make of the US S.Ct’s decision, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action et al. – a plurality,  it surely is – upholding Michigan’s ban against affirmative action in public universities. I suppose I’d have to dive into reading the opinions therein, but I still find troubling Chief Justice Roberts’ belief that the way to deal with discrimination is not think/do it (well, I’m paraphrasing); it’s a nice idea, but it’s hard to get people to be colorblind when they’re not actually colorblind (or certainly not there yet).  The majority decided to defer to the Michigan voters, so, ok, democracy wins; but I don’t necessarily think that voters always do the right thing.

Slate’s Emily Bazelon did a review of the decision, and comes to the conclusion that I couldn’t help having:

 

I can’t read this without noting that in previous cases, Roberts has expressed his preference for color-blindness. This is where the conservatives on the court lose me. Good faith or no, it is at odds with reality to imagine that race no longer matters. I hope the states that ban affirmative action continue to enroll more low-income students as they also find ways to admit black and Hispanic applicants. But we still live in a world of race and class considerations. Not either/or.

Emil Guillermo also breaks down the plurality, with the twist reflecting on the climate we are in concerning, say, campaign financing:
But it’s likely that we will see future electoral battles over state and local propositions, now unfettered by campaign finance limits from special interests.  But will people of color be affirmed or will we see the tyranny of the majority? If it’s the latter, then this will be the 6-2 decision that cleared the way.
(h/t AALDEF’s home of the Guillermo post).
So, what’s next?  NY Times’ Tamar Lewin covers the question of how to tackle diversity.  The anti-affirmative action crowd seems to have race stuck in the brain, when there is a way to define diversity as more than race and when it is actually about getting as much people (critical mass, one would think) together, even listening to opinions that are really disagreeable. The article closes with a clincher for me:

Kati Haycock, president of the liberal Education Trust, said she could not deny that most people who follow the Supreme Court believe the clock is running out on race-based admissions policies.

“I just keep wishing that the people who spend so much time trying to end racial preferences in higher ed would work to end the racial differences in the education we provide K-12, which is why we need the racial preferences,” she said

That’s a big issue: if primary and secondary education in this country weren’t of such varying qualities, college readiness and people’s jobs options would be a hell of a lot better. We could say that the American dream is there for us all, except for some reason, it isn’t.  If, say, NYC, weren’t so socially and demographically segregated (de facto, not de jure), maybe we wouldn’t wonder why discrimination (as a matter of social practice, forget as law) wouldn’t still be on our minds (at least for those of us who feel it’s still going on).  I’m rambling, but I feel kind of down about how diversity can still be a real thing (and I believe that it is a good thing, and that affirmative action as a remedy shouldn’t be gone yet).

Meanwhile, Above the Law‘s Elie Mystal seems to be optimistic, citing three reasons why there is still hope for affirmative action: (1) “It’s up to the voters” (i.e., this case was about process, not the substantive policy itself); (2) “College Admissions Committees are smarter than voters” (i.e., they’re looking for students who actually want to be in their schools and make their schools great places – so the holistic approaches are still around, and admissions processes are way more complicated than we think – and it’s not just GPA’s and SAT’s or ACT’s – we’d hope); and (3) “Private Colleges are still awesome” (because this case only affects pubic institutions; a voting initiative isn’t necessarily going to tell a private school what to do).  Elie Mystal says it with a lot of sense, closing:

Today’s decision was “bad” for supporters of affirmative action, but the program is going to continue in various forms.

You know why? Because it works. Affirmative action has been wildly successful, both at giving minorities opportunities and for creating a better, more diverse learning environment. Schools aren’t going to easily give up something that works so well, even if the Court says that they can.

Last but not least: the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but in some ways, because we still have his writings and the legacy that they have – well, he has become a little immortal, much like other great writers who have reached a pinnacle and have an impact. I liked listening to the NPR remembrance; in discussing Garcia Marquez’s work, it included actor Hector Elizondo’s reading an excerpt of a Garcia Marquez book.  It just sounded so good – good writing and a good voice actor. I read Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold earlier this spring – and while it wasn’t as much of magic realism, the (lack of) social justice and other questions made it quite a read.  I still have ways to go to read more of his work (One Hundred Days of Solitude is still on my perpetually long to read list), but I’m glad that I started an effort and maybe I should keep going with it.  It’s spring and it’s time for some renewal and re-energizing.