The essay brings up a number of interesting issues surrounding the program. For instance, Price talks about how the book club has historically been a white, middle-to-upper class pastime, and how this program redefines those demographics. She also talks about the idea of literature-as-escape. Traditionally, reading has been associated only metaphorically with escape from confinement. In this program, literature becomes a vehicle of escape literally.
While the positive aspects of such a program can't be overstated, one can't help but think of the (Foucauldian) irony in this situation: how elements of the education system can so easily be interchanged with elements of the prison system.
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"Immokalee’s population is 70 percent Latino. Per capita income is only $8,500 a year. One third of the families in this city of nearly 25,000 live below the poverty line. Over one third of the children drop out before graduating from high school."
Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area’s largest communities of farmworkers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is “ground zero for modern slavery.” When asked if it is reasonable to assume that an American who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store or food-service company during the winter has eaten fruit picked by the hand of a slave, Molloy said, “It is not an assumption. It is a fact.”
Professor and critic Henry Giroux sees the case as symptomatic of a larger cultural malaise, one that specifically affects youth marginalized by class and race. In his article "Locked Out and Locked Up: Youth Missing in Action from Obama's Stimulus Plan," Giroux criticizes the "thunderous silence on the part of many critics and academics regarding the ongoing insecurity and injustice experienced by young people in this country, which is now being intensified as a result of the state's increasing resort to repression and punitive social policies." The idea of a "post-racial Obama era," Giroux says, is "meaningless" as long as race- and class-based prejudices and objectification through consumerism continue to dictate the lives of young people in the United States.
Giroux includes the following statistics from the Children's Defense Fund Annual Report from 2007:
The current decline in the economy and quality of life, and the racialized criminal justice system, argues Giroux, is only worsening the situation of marginalized children in the US.
Almost 13 million children in America live in poverty - 5.5 million in extreme poverty. 4.2 million children under the age of five live in poverty. 35.3 percent of black children, 28.0 percent of Latino children and 10.8 percent of white, non-Latino children live in poverty. There are 9.4 million uninsured children in America. Latino children are three times as likely, and black children are 70 percent more likely, to be uninsured than white children. Only 11 percent of black, 15 percent of Latino and 41 percent of white eighth graders perform at grade level in math. Each year 800,000 children spend time in foster care. On any given night, 200,000 children are homeless - one out every four of the homeless population. Every 36 seconds a child is abused or neglected - almost 900,000 children each year. Black males ages 15-19 are about eight times as likely as white males to be gun homicide victims. Although they represent 39 percent of the US juvenile population, minority youth represent 60 percent of committed juveniles. A black boy born in 2001 has a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison in his lifetime; a Latino boy has a 1 in 6 chance. Black juveniles are about four times as likely as their white peers to be incarcerated. Black youths are almost five times as likely and Latino youths about twice as likely to be incarcerated as white youths of drug offenses.
Read Giroux's entire article at Truthout.org.
Laura Carlsen from Americas MexicoBlog gives an overview and some analysis of the report, as well as thoughts on Obama's actions.
Read the entire report here.
The goal of the commission report is to build a united Latin American platform on drug policy. When asked if they thought they could accomplish that by the time the
conference is slated to reach an agreement on a new 10-year UN policy, Commission members noted that only the Colombian government has explicitly balked at the proposed paradigm shift. Vienna
But it also targets its message to the
government, which in the past has tried to impose the drug war model on its Latin American allies: U.S.
"[The U.S.] policy of massive incarceration of drug users, questionable both in terms of respect for human rights and its efficiency, is hardly applicable to Latin America, given the penal system's overpopulation and material conditions. This repressive policy also facilitates consumer extortion and police corruption. The
allocates a much larger proportion of resources to eradication and interdiction as well as to maintaining its legal and penal system than to investments in health, prevention, treatment and the rehabilitation of drug users." United States
The Commission's message coming at this time reflects the hope that the Obama administration will have a more open attitude toward re-evaluating the failed policies.
And read Carlsen's article here.
Image: Coca Leaves in Bolivia, stopthedrugwar.org
As consumers of both sex and food, today’s people in the advanced societies are freer to pursue and consume both than almost all the human beings who came before us; and our culture has evolved in interesting ways to exhibit both those trends.
We recently came across this interesting speech about community gardens presented at Duke University on January 19th by Tom Philpott. With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the focal point, Philpott brought out many other current issues facing economically and racially marginalized people in the United States. He addresses both structural, class-based problems and the problem with U.S.-brand individualism.
Of particular note are the following passages:
In our society, there's a strong focus on individual solutions to the problems I'm laying out here. Commentators focus on personal choice; we are urged to "transform our food system one bite at a time" by exercising our consumer power to buy fresh, local, sustainably raised food.Read the entire speech at grist.org.
But the choices we have are limited by structural forces. Yes, people need to take responsibility for their food choices, but if we're really going to throw off the dead hand of industrial food, we need to transform the conditions under which people make their food choices. ...
Now, if I argue that an emphasis on personal virtue is inadequate, I can't claim that creating structural change is easy. The forces I've laid out here -- wage stagnation, corporate consolidation, farm subsidies, monoculture agriculture -- are vast. They're well designed to make individuals feel impotent.
And that's where community gardening comes in. Community gardening is an individual act that puts people into direct contact with their neighbors -- inviting people to interact, make decisions by consensus, hash out differences. And by collectively transforming urban land into a resource for growing fresh, healthy food, community gardeners are creating small-scale, on-the-ground solutions to the large-scale and abstract problems I've laid out here.
Image: Neighborhoods Garden Assoc.
President Barack Obama could swiftly improve U.S. relations with Latin America by announcing the death of the Monroe Doctrine and then presiding over its funeral. Such a statement would cost him little domestically, and win him praise and appreciation throughout Latin America and much of the world.Continue Reading>>>
Most Americans don't know the details of this 185-year-old policy and could care less about it. Latin Americans, in contrast, not only can describe the Monroe Doctrine, but they revile it. In effect, it has become nothing more than hollow rhetoric that offends the very people it purports to defend.
Image: U of TX