The University of California Land Grab: A Legacy of Profit from Indigenous Land—A Report of Key Learnings and Recommendations
For the past year and a half I have been working with a team to 1) learn more about the University of California's founding as a land grant university with an endowment resulting from taking Indigenous land, 2) share that history with a wider audience, and 3) advocate for accountability from the university. We just released our report with recommendations for action. Read and download the full report and an executive summary here or in the cool viewer above! The videos from the amazing event series we held are also at the same link.
When I was in Kenya in 2004-2005, I became an informal adviser to a club at the university for women students with children. I quickly learned that they faced severe challenges to completing their education and decided to do some research together with my colleague Rose Odhiambo. Recently we wrote up that project and updated our findings with new information from Sam Martin Odhiambo. That article is now available for free download, and I hope it might lead to some change.
"Narratives of Morality: Shame, Righteousness, and Gender Equity among Kenyan University Students who are Mothers."
Since my youngest went off to college, people are always asking me about the empty nest. Having the kids out of the house is fine/sad/different, but having people talk about this stage of my life as the "empty nest" is driving me crazy. My nest is not empty. I’m still in it (and so is my spouse, and the dog, and the fish, but I would argue that nests with one parent in them are not empty either). Parents are not nothing. My children are a big part of my life, but they do not define me.
Empty nest is such a negative term, but my experience of this stage of my life is much more complex. I am in a new stage of life that I call being a post-launch parent. Each parent’s experience of this stage could be different, which is why we need a more neutral term.
So don’t ask me about the empty nest, but I am happy to tell you what it is like for me to be a post-launch parent. Each time after they leave I feel depressed and miss them terribly, but after that acute good-bye phase, I kinda like it. I can focus on my partner and my work (not at the same time); I’m excited to see my kids grow and learn and have new experiences; I sleep better—no more waking up in the middle of the night to check if they are home (yes, I realize they could be out all night on the other side of the country, but that doesn’t keep me awake at night). My life as a post-launch parent is full of work, love, volunteer commitments, friends, family, an activity I generously call jogging, cooking, reading, and lots of time planning the next time I will see/talk to/send a care package to my kids.
As a young, White, upper-middle class woman from an academic family, Alice Goffman moved into a low-income African American neighborhood and began researching the way the police state shapes the lives of young Black men. Her book, On the Run, has received much critical acclaim, and I think some of that is well-deserved. The book is beautifully written and she paints a nuanced picture of how policing practices work to criminalize young Black men and their families. She makes a strong argument that the policing serves to perpetuate the criminality, not vice versa.
Her book has also been criticized, especially for pathologizing the community where she did her research. I agree with Betts’s argument that she seems to dwell on drugs, guns, and cockroaches, saving for very late in the book the lives of neighborhood residents who are not involved in criminal activities. She relies on what Victor Rios calls the “jungle-book trope” of urban ethnography (2011: 174).
My biggest concern about the book is Goffman’s lack of attention to her White privilege. She has a section in her appendix where she discusses her privilege, but she focuses on the privileges that accrued to her from growing up in a family of social scientists (2014: 228-229). When she talks about race, she describes how out of place she felt at first in the community and the time it took to establish herself and gain residents’ trust. I can relate to this, since as a young, White, upper-middle class woman from an academic family, I too did research in a predominantly African American neighborhood. But I think her lived experience of race as a problem that she had to overcome in her fieldwork blinded her to the privilege that she carried.
As she did become accepted by the group of young men, she joined them in running from the police; she was interrogated by the police; she had a gun pointed at her by the police; she was roughly pushed to the ground and hand-cuffed by the police; and she came to fear them in a deeply embodied way. But what she never talks about is that the stakes were so different for her; the police do not kill white women. Unlike the young man strangled by the police whose death she witnessed, unlike Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, and Dante Parker, and so many many others, she never had to fear being killed by the police.
The lack of attention to her White privilege mirrors her lack of engagement with race as a structuring principle of the US. Her book is about people who live in a specific racial category, but it is not about race. In fact, in the conclusion, she implies that class matters more than race in shaping the outcomes and processes she observed. While I don’t think it is productive to argue over whether race or class matters more, her choice to emphasize class over race suggests to me that unlike the Black boys and men who do face death from the police, she has not yet reckoned with the terrible power of race in the US today.
I have been consulting on this project. It's been wonderful to do focus groups with Californians who are new to the computer--they are so eager for knowledge and skills.
A piece I wrote with Kenzo Sung was included in a new anthology.
I was happy to get this attention for two causes I am passionate about: the African Library Project and CASA.