Not In Our Town Princeton

Sensitivity to Moral Flavors

“One of the most robust findings in social psychology is that people find ways to believe whatever they want to believe.” 

This comes from a Jonathan Haidt column in The Guardian, which investigates why blue-collar voters, around the world, ally themselves with the political right. It was quoted in the October 1 discussion, in the monthly series of Continuing Conversations on Race at the Princeton Public Library on “Race and the Elections.” 

From the article: 

From the point of view of moral psychology: politics at the national level is more like religion than it is like shopping. It’s more about a moral vision that unifies a nation and calls it to greatness than it is about self-interest or specific policies. In most countries, the right tends to see that more clearly than the left. In America the Republicans did the hard work of drafting their moral vision in the 1970s, and Ronald Reagan was their eloquent spokesman. Patriotism, social order, strong families, personal responsibility (not government safety nets) and free enterprise. Those are values, not government programmes.
The Democrats, in contrast, have tried to win voters’ hearts by promising to protect or expand programmes for elderly people, young people, students, poor people and the middle class. Vote for us and we’ll use government to take care of everyone! But most Americans don’t want to live in a nation based primarily on caring. That’s what families are for.

The column provoked 500 comments. 

The next Continuing Conversation on Race will be Monday, November 5, the night before the general election. Topic to be announced. 

Race and the Election: October 1

The topic for the October 1, 2012, Continuing Conversations on Race and White Privilege will be, not surprisingly, “Race and the Election.” Since the election of President Obama in 2008 there has been, in some quarters, a great sigh of relief saying something like “at last, we have moved into a post-racial era”. However, is that true?

Some other quarters aren’t about to give up their racism, whether they acknowledge it or not. Still other quarters, who really want to get to a true post-racial era, know that we are not there yet and that getting there will take a lot of time, effort and thoughtful and compassionate openness. Not In Our Town belongs to this last group.

We will consider various aspects of this election that are connected to racism. The really obvious one is the selection of the next president. There seems to be no doubt that President Obama’s race is a big factor for many. We can discuss some of those factors and how they are manifested or how they are hidden. But also there are less obvious factors – the role of race in the Tea Party and how it promotes its views and its candidates. What are the general undercurrents regarding race and government? How can we be alert to what they are? Some of these seem to relate to the idea of the “new jim crow” and some may relate to new current contest between traditional public schools and charter schools.

Bring your observations and ideas and join this discussion. Newcomers are most welcome. These sessions are a safe, secure place to discuss difficult issues. 

7:30 pm to 9:00 pm Monday, October 1
Second floor conference room of the Princeton Public Library

Or possibly in the “Princeton Room” also on the second floor.

— Ann Yasuhara

Princeton’s Roots: anti-bullying program

Princeton University academics offer an anti-bullying program — who knew? It’s called The Roots Program, an anti-harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) program,

And the school from Manasquan qualified to get it, to have it work in their school. Courtesy of Patch. 

Betsy Levy Paluck and Hana Shepherd are in charge of this program. 

The Cross and the Lynching Tree: September 8

“The prison industrial complex is a reflection of the worst of  our institutions, says Rosemary Cilenti, who represents Trinity Church for Not in Our Town and is helping lead the efforts for Princeton to study The New Jim Crow book. “Hopefully our efforts will help redefine its final meaning.”

Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning,” according to the publisher’s review.

“While the lynching tree symbolized white power and “black death,”the cross symbolizes divine power and ‘black life,’ God overcoming the power of sin and death.

“For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era. 

“In a work that spans social history, theology, and cultural studies, Cone explores the message of the spirituals and the power of the blues; the passion and of Emmet Till and the engaged vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.; he invokes the spirits of Billie Holliday and Langston Hughes, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ida B. Well, and the witness of black artists, writers, preachers, and fighters for justice. And he remembers the victims, especially the 5,000 who perished during the lynching period. 
“Through their witness he contemplates the greatest challenge of any Christian theology to explain how life can be made meaningful in the face of death and injustice.”

Top Read in Princeton: The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander’s Book, The New Jim Crow, is “a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.”

Not in Our Town will focus on this “cradle to jail” trend, the entrapment in “a parallel social universe,” and urges everyone — those participating in a faith congregation and others — to read the book.It will be the Princeton Reads book for 2013.  Labyrinth Bookstore will discount the book to those who mention this blog. The commentary below came from the book’s website .

“Since its publication in 2010, the book has been dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by
numerous commentators, including Cornel West, and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.

As the United States celebrates its “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of black men in major urban areas are under correctional control or saddled with criminal records for life. Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights— including the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. Today, it is no longer socially
permissible to use race explicitly as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet as civil rights lawyer-turned-legal scholar Michelle Alexander demonstrates, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against convicted criminals in nearly all the ways in which it was once legal to discriminate against African
Americans. Once labeled a felon, even for a minor drug crime, the old forms of discrimination are suddenly legal again. In her words, “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

Alexander shows that, by targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in
America.”

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