Whiteness is not an abstraction; its claim to dominance is fortified through daily acts which may not seem racist at all precisely because they are considered “normal.” But just as certain kinds of violence and inequality get established as “normal” through the proceedings that exonerate police of the lethal use of force against unarmed black people, so whiteness, or rather its claim to privilege, can be disestablished over time. This is why there must be a collective reflection on, and opposition to, the way whiteness takes hold of our ideas about whose lives matter. The norm of whiteness that supports both violence and inequality insinuates itself into the normal and the obvious. Understood as the sometimes tacit and sometimes explicit power to define the boundaries of kinship, community and nation, whiteness inflects all those frameworks within which certain lives are made to matter less than others.

Broadband Access in Alameda County

The digital divide is a very real and very stable reality in communities like Oakland, California.  Knowing which neighborhoods have solid access to high speed internet is a critical aspect of planning for government and nonprofit provided online services- if we want low income folks from Oakland’s flatlands to use a new digital application, we’d damn sure better know how many households in the target areas likely have decent speed internet hookups at home!  Luckily for us the FCC collects reliable data on this and they publish it freely at a local level

http://open-oakland.cartodb.com/viz/1d8f9768-d7b9-11e3-b620-0e73339ffa50/embed_map?title=true&description=true&search=true&shareable=true&cartodb_logo=true&layer_selector=false&legends=true&scrollwheel=true&fullscreen=true&sublayer_options=1&sql=&sw_lat=37.655014078010716&sw_lon=-122.55455017089844&ne_lat=37.91224232115994&ne_lon=-121.67564392089844

Do yourself  a favor and view the fullscreen version: http://cdb.io/1jq8wDq

I took the raw tract level data and joined it to census tracts in QGIS, calculated a new string field called “res_fhsc_per_1000hhs” and calculated the real rate values to display in the map legend and popup- the raw data contains coded values that correspond to real numbers- so 5 means a rate of 800-1,000 per 1,000 households. The GeoJSON file was then loaded into a CartoDB mapping system. 

As with most social phenomena, Oakland’s east and western flatlands stand out as parts of the county with quite low home broadband. Those communities may have internet via very slow services that many modern web sites won’t run well over (these data include all services providing over 200kbps – try using the web on a 256k plan in 2014!).  The data are for 2010 Census tracts and were last collected and published for December 2012. Many households will have improved access since then and we also know from Pew research that many minority communities use mobile devices as a primary means of internet access.

Google Bussing

Stamen Design’s talented Eric Rodenbeck wrote a very illuminating piece for Wired on the work they did surveying the tech bus route and usage patterns recently- it’s a fantastic example of mapping and data work to provide clarity on a complex issue that affects equity, justice and urban change. Read it here and check out their map below- nothing like hard(ish) data to inform a public discourse!

Farewell to the Achievement Gap?

Dr Royal talked about the history of this phrase and the clear and present meaning conveyed when it is used most commonly to describe the performance difference between white kids and kids of color in our public schools (and mostly just for black and brown students).  This paragraph states the reality quite well:

Because of America’s racial history and legacy, the cross-racial comparison that holds up white student achievement as the universally standard goal is problematic. Further, the term “achievement gap” is inaccurate because it blames the historically marginalized, under-served victims of poor schooling and holds whiteness and wealth as models of excellence. And, as with all misnomers, the thinking that undergirds the achievement gap only speaks of academic outcomes, not the conditions that led to those outcomes, nor does it acknowledge that the outcomes are a consequence of those conditions.

At the Council we worked heavily in partnership with OUSD in setting up the African American Male Achievement initiative in Oakland last year, and there was a huge focus on the achievement gap that we pushed back on with all the goal indicators- the assumption that our black and brown boys must be achieving to the same level as white boys just did not make any sense- if the bar is set low then reaching the goal is a BS waste of time. There were some instances where white males had great outcomes, and in those cases the District chose to keep them as the benchmark…

When we look at California school districts like Oakland, the outcomes for white males are not GOOD, so why would we seek this for our most disenfranchised students?  We instead pushed for a quality standard that required all students to improve outcomes.  It lead us to develop a new Equity Framework at the Council- we’re talking now about how equity requires a measure of quality before there is measurable, meaningful equality.

Equity

We also use language that communicates the disparities between ethnic groups- we want people to understand there are differences that are not healthy, but it is not as you say correctly just about those student’s performance- they don’t exist in a bubble, they exist in neighborhoods with unequal conditions and have historical issues to face.  In the end, putting it all on those kids as being under-achievers does in fact diminish the wider scope of responsibility that we conveniently ignore as a system and a society.

Check out our equity framework concept here http://urbanstrategies.org/equity/

To get an idea of how place and other factors impact out kids take a look at the map of suspension rates for African American males in Oakland.

suspensions

The last Democrat in the White House said we had to have a national discussion about race. There’s been total silence around issues of race with this president. But, as you see, whether there is silence, or an elevation of the discussion of race, you still have polarization. It will take more generations, I suspect, before we eliminate these deep feelings.

Fredrick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University