Sunday, August 18, 2019

The all too rare story that talks about privilege in terms of class more than in terms of whiteness

It's this New Yorker story about Jeffrey Epstein and how he got away with what he got away with--for decades.  An excerpt follows:
For years, Epstein was able to operate and be fĂȘted in the social, financial, and academic worlds, despite barely bothering to conceal his illicit activities. Visitors to his various homes would see young women there who looked as if they should still be in school. In Florida, in 2008, he had secured a shamefully lax plea deal, which U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta signed off on. (Acosta later became the Labor Secretary for Donald Trump, who had had his own interactions with Epstein; so, as Trump has practically been shouting on Twitter, did Bill Clinton.) Prosecutors there knew of dozens of alleged victims who were minors, but Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to a pair of state prostitution charges, which both hid and distorted the girls’ stories. The lack of respect for young victims is another pathology that extends beyond the Epstein case. Before the Miami Herald published an investigation of that deal last November, Epstein had managed to return to his life in New York, and to evade accountability. 
Money offers one explanation for why people seemed to ignore what was plain to see. But money, here, is really shorthand for a range of ways to exert influence.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Kurgman conflates working class whiteness and rurality (or, a return to The Geography of the Class Culture Wars)

Krugman asserts in his column, "A Racist Stuck in the Past," that Trump is stuck not in the antebellum period, Reconstruction or even Jim Crow--but in 1989, a mere 30 years ago.  It's an interesting rhetorical strategy--to talk about the relatively recent past as "the past."  Krugman's point is that Trump conflates the urban with blackness and black dysfunction, and he dates this back at least to Trump's response to the brutal 1989 beating of the so-called Central Park Jogger:  Trump called for the death penalty for the so-called Central Park Five, the five men arrested for the crime.  The five were later exonerated, in 2002, but Trump has never admitted he was wrong about the men.

Krugman uses those events as a jumping off point to talk about how urban black dysfunction has evolved into rural white dysfunction in a short three decades, a trend he says Trump is in denial about:
[Trump's] vision of “American carnage” is one of a nation whose principal social problem is inner-city violence, perpetrated by nonwhites. That’s a comfortable vision if you’re a racist who considers nonwhites inferior. But it’s completely wrong as a picture of America today. 
For one thing, violent crime has fallen drastically since the early 1990s, especially in big cities. Our cities certainly aren’t perfectly safe, and some cities — like Baltimore — haven’t shared in the progress. But the social state of urban America is vastly better than it was. 
On the other hand, the social state of rural America — white rural America — is deteriorating. To the extent that there really is such a thing as American carnage — and we are in fact seeing rising age-adjusted mortality and declining life expectancy — it’s concentrated among less-educated whites, especially in rural areas, who are suffering from a surge in “deaths of despair” from opioids, suicide and alcohol that has pushed their mortality rates above those of African-Americans. 
And indicators of social collapse, like the percentage of prime-age men not working, have also surged in the small town and rural areas of the “eastern heartland,” with its mostly white population.
Note that Krugman's definition of rural is quite broad--seemingly any place not the inner city.  

Krugman goes on to explain how these events confirm what William Julius Wilson wrote decades ago: the problem of three or four decades ago was not "some peculiar problem with black culture."  Rather, the catalyst for the decline of African Americans was poor job opportunities and the attendant decline of the traditional family.  Krugman asks how one might test Wilson's hypothesis:   
Well, you could destroy job opportunities for a number of white people, and see if they experienced a decline in propensity to work, stopped forming stable families, and so on. And sure enough, that’s exactly what has happened to parts of nonmetropolitan America effectively stranded by a changing economy.
Krugman concludes:
What the changing face of American social problems shows is that people are pretty much the same, whatever the color of their skin. Give them reasonable opportunities for economic and personal advancement, and they will thrive; deprive them of those opportunities, and they won’t.
The colorblindness aspect of the first part of conclusion will annoy many, but I generally like Krugman's argument.  What I'm less comfortable with is his conflation of rurality with whiteness and white dysfunction.  Indeed, his column seems to me a terrific illustration of what I called, in my 2010 article, "The Geography of the Class Culture Wars," a progressive tendency to project what's wrong with America onto rural people and places, who are implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) raced white.

Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Are rural and working class white women re-thinking their support of Trump?

Recent focus groups conducted by Stanley Greenberg (the Democratic pollster) and colleagues in Bangor Maine and perhaps some other places (on this point, the sources are not absolutely clear to me) suggest that working class white women may not be as loyal to Trump as working class white men.  In particular, working-class women are put off by Trump's crassness and bombast, while their male counterparts tend not to be.  Ronald Brownstein summarized in The Atlantic a few days ago, under the headline "Will Trump's Racist Attacks Help Him?  Ask Blue-Collar White Women"
And a new set of focus groups in small-town and rural communities offers fresh evidence that the gender gap over Trump within this bloc is hardening.

In the Rust Belt states that tipped the 2016 election to Trump—Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—few things may matter more than whether Democrats can fan doubts about Trump that have surfaced among blue-collar white women or whether the president can rebuild his margins among them with his polarizing racial and ideological attacks. 
“The white working-class men look like they are approaching the 2016 margins for Trump, but not the women,” says the veteran Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, in a judgment supported by public polling. “Clearly the women are in a different place.” Greenberg conducted the focus groups, whose findings were released today, for the American Federation of Teachers.
The Intelligencer also ran a story on the focus groups, quoting liberally from the Brownstein story.  Here's a link to the Greenberg survey/focus group docs

And here is my own 2018 law review article about rural and working class white women in the era of Trump.  I speculated that most working class white women see their economic well being (if one could fairly use the word "well" to express what I'm thinking about) as so connected to the jobs of their husbands and boyfriends that they are not troubled by Trump's bad behavior, including his crass language.  In other words, to quote James Carville, "It's the economy stupid."  I sure hope I'm wrong.  Interestingly, the Brownstein story above includes the following, which suggests that people are not voting based solely on their pocketbooks--that Trump's "exclusionary racist and cultural messages" are off-putting to them:
In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll released earlier this week, fully one-third of adults who said the economy is working for them personally still said they disapprove of Trump’s job performance. An equal share of these voters said they now intend to vote against him for reelection. To offset that unusual defection among the economically content, Trump must maximize his margins—and turnout—among the groups that have been most receptive to his exclusionary racist and cultural messages: older, nonurban, evangelical-Christian, and non-college-educated white voters.
And speaking of blue-collar whites, here's a feature story from today's Des Moines Register out of Clinton County, Iowa (population 49,116), whose electorate twice backed Obama only to flip for Trump in 2016.  The headline is "Democrats' Hope for White House Success Run Through this Iowa County."  The story by Brianne Pfannenstiel features the chair of the county's Democratic Party, Bill Jacobs, who takes campaign organizers for the various presidential candidates on tours of his county:
When a new campaign organizer arrives in his corner of Iowa, he meets the person in the gravel parking lot outside the party’s headquarters, they climb into his gray Toyota minivan, and they set off for a drive. 
With the radio tuned to classic rock, Jacobs drives northeast along Liberty Avenue past the looming Archer Daniels Midland Co. plant, where a constant procession of grain trucks loops through to drop off corn for processing. 
He follows the curve of the Mississippi River where the city has invested in recreation and tourism. He points out the boarded-up retail shops on Main Avenue. 
"So much of the tour I give is talking about things that used to be here," Jacobs said. "We're really looking for the next big thing." 
He drives past the recently renovated lodge at Eagle Point Park, where the unions hold their annual Labor Day picnic.  (emphasis mine) 
Note the focus on what the county previously had and the need for economic revitalization.  The feature also touches on race--of course--and is well worth a read in its entirety. 

Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism

Monday, June 24, 2019

On "Trump Country" economics in the era of Trump

This post is an effort to collect some of the many recent stories on what's happening economically in the areas associated with high degrees of support for Trump.

Here's Thomas Edsall in the New York Times on April 17, 2019, "If Trump Country Soars, Will the President Glide to a Second Term?"
In small but politically significant ways, the economy under President Trump has favored regions and constituencies that supported him in 2016. These are the men and women whom Trump called forgotten Americans. 
The emerging pattern of economic growth reverses a trend that held from the 2008 recession to 2016, in which Democratic-leaning states and counties far outpaced Republican-leaning sections of the country.
Edsall notes that the more red states than blue ones are setting records for low unemployment.

As a related matter, this May 11, 2019,  New York Times story, dateline Colfax, Wisconsin (population 1,158 or 909, depending on whether you're talking about the village or the town), is headlined "Trump Has a Strong Economy to Proclaim.  In Wisconsin, It Just Might Work."  Here's the lede:
President Trump came to Wisconsin late last month to boast about the state’s unemployment rate, which has been at or near 3 percent for more than a year. “It’s never been this low before. Ever, ever, ever,” he said. (Fact check: true.) 
It’s a message that strikes a chord with Bubba Benson, who lives paycheck to paycheck but says that is still better than where he was a few years ago after getting laid off from a shoe warehouse “when all the jobs went to Mexico.” His new job at a plastics manufacturing plant covers the bills and pays good overtime. There are even a few extra bucks in his paycheck now, which he credits to Mr. Trump’s tax cut.
Journalist Jeremy Peters quotes Benson:
It didn’t let me go out and buy a new house. But that wasn’t what it was for.
The point seems to be that even a slightly improved economy is enough to keep many rural Wisconsin voters on Trump's side.  Many see an economy that is "stable, robust and meaningfully, if marginally, benefiting their lives."  

Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post on May 1, 2019 wrote "Why Democrats Should Visit Farm Communities."  She quotes a U.S. Dept. of Commerce Report:
A new report confirms that President Trump is causing the most pain in areas of the country that were the most supportive of his 2016 campaign.
Personal income for farmers fell by the most in three years in the first quarter, as losses to U.S. agriculture mount from President Donald Trump’s trade wars.  
The Commerce Department on Monday cited the steep decline in farm proprietors’ income as a key factor weighing on the nation’s overall personal income growth in March, even though agricultural producers represent only about 2 percent of total employed Americans.
That last statistic is true, but the services that support them, the local governments that depend on their tax revenue and the communities in which farmers live feel real economic pain.
Rubin also quotes a Bloomberg report:
One-time subsidy payments from the Trump administration to compensate producers for some of their trade-war losses helped prop up farm income in the previous quarter, but earnings plunged by an annualized $11.8 billion in the January to March period, according to seasonally adjusted data.
Providing a more ambivalent perspective is Sabrina Tavernise, writing for the New York Times on May 27, 2019.  The dateline is Lordstown, Ohio (population 3,272), where a massive General Motors plant closed a few months ago.  The headline is, "With his Job Gone, an Autoworker Wonders, 'What Am I as a Man?'"  Tavernise's story features Rick Marsh, a middle-aged white man who lost his job at the plant when it closed several months ago:
For Mr. Marsh the plant is personal, but in the three months since G.M. stopped making cars there, it has become political. A parade of presidential hopefuls has come through, using the plant to make the point that American capitalism no longer works for ordinary people. 
Tavernise quotes Marsh: 
To me, it’s another flagrant sign that these people, [the political class] really don’t have a clue.  They are so out of touch with reality and real people. All of them.
* * *  
[Marsh] made no exception for Mr. Trump. Mr. Marsh voted for him, as did a majority of voters in Trumbull County, a small square on the map of northeast Ohio that hadn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1972. 
The path to the White House next year runs through places like Lordstown, and Mr. Marsh and many of his neighbors, far from knowing how they will vote, say the G.M. plant shutdown has only left them more at sea politically. They tried voting for Barack Obama, then Mr. Trump.  Now they don’t know where to turn.
This seems promising for those of who would like to see Trump deposed--a critical white, working class perspective on Trump.

And finally here's a March 30, 2019 story from NPR about small-town newspaper editor and Pulitzer Prize winner Art Cullen's role in drawing U.S. presidential candidates to Iowa.   In particular, Cullen seems to be drawing them to his home town, Storm Lake, population 10,600, in the affluent and conservative (Steve King is the representative for the area that includes Storm Lake and surrounding Buena Vista County) northwest part of Iowa.  When the story was written, Cullen was about to host a candidates forum, in which Amy Klobuchar (MN), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Julian Castro (TX), and John Delaney (MD) were committed to participate.  Journalist Clay Masters quotes Cullen "wondering aloud":
Beto? Where's he at? Is he out in Taos or is he dancing with Oprah? Joe Biden? He's trying to make up his mind. Well, why doesn't he come and make up his mind with a bunch of Farmers Union members in Storm Lake? They'll help him make up his mind real good.
Cullen is, of course, not rural America's only erudite advocate, though to read most mainstream media, one would have an opposite impression.  Of course, to read mainstream media, one could also assume that all rural Americans support Trump.  The truth is more complex.

Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism.    

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Rural California wins one (a rarity) in special election

Calfiornia's most rural politician has just defeated an urban (or, at best, suburban) politician for State Senate District 1.  The winner is not college educated.  The loser has a Bachelors degree from Harvard and a J.D. from Yale Law School.  Brian Dahle, the winner, has been mentioned in five prior blog posts here, one of them mentioning the occasion of his visit to my Law and Rural Livelihoods class several years ago.  Dahle garnered 53.4 % of the vote, and  his Ivy-educated opponent just 46.6%  One striking fact is that Dahle carried every nonmtro county by a considerable margin, while Kiley carried every metropolitian county--except Shasta County, the least metro of the metros, in the would-be State of Jefferson, which I'll discuss below.

As I have written elsewhere, it's hard to gain traction on rural issues in California because only about 2% of the state's population live in rural places, at least as "rural" is defined (admittedly, narrowly) by the U.S. Census Bureau (population clusters of less than 2,500 or open territory).  That trend was defied a few days ago when Brian Dahle of Lassen County (population 34,895, population density 7.39/square mile) defeated Kevin Kiley of Placer County (population 348,432, population density 230/square mile) to become California's newest State Senator.  Just as telling in terms of where these candidates come from spatially and culturally, Dahle is a seed farmer from Bieber, California, population 312.  (While Bieber is in Lassen County, it is on State Hwy 299, in the corner that connects Shasta County to very sparsely populated Modoc County, which may say something about the Shasta County vote; see below).  Kiley lives in the Placer County suburb of Rocklin.

District 1 includes all or part of 11 California counties and stretches from north Lake Tahoe to the Oregon state line.  Among the counties included in the district are all or parts of four metropolitan counties, including Sacramento County (1.4 million)Placer County (population 348.432), El Dorado County (population 181,058), and (much farther north), Shasta County, (population 177,223).

The California Secretary of State's page about this special election is here.  The Sacramento Bee's minimal coverage of the election is here.  The Redding Record Searchlight's coverage is here.  The Lassen County Times is here, though I was unable to click through to a story about the election, which might have been interesting since Dahle served on the Lassen County Board of Supervisors for 16 years before he was elected to the California General Assembly.

Here are the (approximate) votes (and population counts) for the Senate District's nonmetropolitan counties:

Lassen County, population 34,895Dahle got 81.5% of the 4,000 votes.
Alpine County, population 1,175:  Dahle got 73.5% of the 223 votes.
Sierra County, population 3,240Dahle got 67.2% of the 860 votes.
Plumas County, population 20,007Dahle got 65.7% of the 4,400 votes.
Modoc County, population 9,686:  Dahle got 87.1% of the 1,857 votes.
Siskiyou County, population 44,900Dahle got 69.7% of the 7,331 votes.
Nevada County, population 98,764:  Dahle got 67.1% of the 15,000 votes.

And here are the votes for the metropolitan counties--well, parts of some of those counties:

Sacramento County (partial 10.2%):  Kiley got 71.8% of about 21,000 votes.
Placer County (partial, 62.9%): Kiley got 60.8% of 38,000 votes
El Dorado County (all):  Kiley got 56% of about 31,000 votes.
Shasta County (all):  Dahle got 82.2% of about 28,000 votes.

The prior State Senator for this district was Ted Gaines, who lives in El Dorado Hills, a posh suburb/exurb of Sacramento, just over the Sacramento/El Dorado County line.  Thus, the election of Dahle, the seed farmer with a high school education, is quite a shift culturally and experientially.

In the run up to this run off, some controversies about the Senate District 1 election were reported in the Bee here and here.  Regarding the former, I can't help wonder if the lack of anonymity associated with rural people and places played a role in its possible efficacy (leaving aside, for now, the very dodgy ethics) of the mailer threatening to disclose folks' voting records.  The latter story describes how two Republicans (Dahle and Kiley) were the top two vote getters in the primary, while the Democrat, a woman from the Truckee/Lake Tahoe area, came in third.

Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism

Saturday, February 2, 2019

On escapes, literary and otherwise, from Trump country

Don't miss Timothy Egan's op-ed piece in the New York Times today, in which he brings together Hillbilly Elegy (by J.D. Vance) and Educated (by Tara Westover) as documenting how to escape from "Trump country"--namely by access to education.  The piece is titled, "A Hillbilly and a Survivalist Show the Way out of Trump Country."  Here's a short excerpt:
The two great literary bookends of President Trump’s half-term of grift and chaos have come from survivors of the most broken white communities that helped put him in office. They also show us the best way out of the basement of American despair. 
How J.D. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” and Tara Westover, who wrote “Educated,” escaped physical and psychological horror is the dose of Charles Dickens that makes these two memoirs so memorable.
I admit I liked Westover's Educated better than Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, though each resonated with me in powerful ways.  As for the latter, I have written a published response, which is included in a collection of essays just out from West Virginia University Press, Appalachian Reckoning:  A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy.  The book is available for pre-order now and has received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Forward Reviews, which called it "[s]tunning in its intellectual and creative riches." Publishers's Weekly also gave it a very positive review.  My chapter is called "What Hillbilly Elegy Reveals about Race in 21st Century America." 

I'll be on a panel discussing the book in March at the Appalachian Studies Association meeting in Asheville, North Carolina.  Below is a screenshot of a Tweet by one of the volume's editors, Meredith McCarroll.  I think we're all still in shock that Ron Howard has paid $45 million for one man's very skewed and partial insights into his upbringing.   


Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Army plans to up recruitment in liberal cities, Sacramento included

The Army fell 6,500 soldiers short of its nationwide recruitment goal in 2018, the first time it has done so in the past 13 years. The New York Times attributes the shortfall to two primary factors: a hot job market that lures potential recruits away from enlistment, and a shrinking pool of eligible recruits due to drug use or poor physical fitness. Despite these challenges, the Army hopes a new strategy will attract enough recruits to meet its 2019 goal.

While the Army has traditionally relied on conservative regions to fill its ranks, instead, it plans to turn its focus to liberal-leaning cities where enlistment has been scarce. The 22 cities the Army intends to target include Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. However, if the Army is worried about hot job markets, it will face the greatest challenges in these places since all are listed in the top 10 best cities for job seekers in 2018. Recruiters will be up against the Bay Area's 4-million-job economy, Seattle's $16 per hour minimum wage, and Sacramento's low cost of living and projected growth. Annual salaries of $19,660 for active duty soldiers are unlikely to entice residents to enlist in places like these where high paying jobs are plentiful.

The Army hopes that its new pitch will prove attractive to liberals despite the low wages. In the past, the Army played down combat and emphasized job training, but this approach only works when civilian opportunities are scarce. Instead, it now plans to depict enlistment as a sort of gap year
The Army wants to frame enlistment as a patriotic detour for motivated young adults who might otherwise be bound for a corporate cubicle — a detour that promises a chance for public service, travel and adventure.
In left-leaning cities, however, a promise of "patriotic detour" is unlikely to land with liberal students who oppose the federal government's discriminatory military policies. One commenter on The New York Times's article posits that the current administration will deter potential recruits:
With our current Commander in Chief who doesn't respect human life or sacrifice, one would be foolish and almost unpatriotic to enlist while he is the [President of the United States].
Many people consider the Army to be synonymous to the Trump Party, a commenter from Connecticut suggests:
The Army might think of no longer allowing Republican politicians to use troops as political props for right-wing rallies and giving the public impression that the Army is merely a subsidiary of the Trumpist Republican Party.
Accordingly, the Army might have better luck recruiting from conservative areas. As a commenter from New England suggests, enlistment may prove more popular among white working class youths:
In his memoir Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance spoke eloquently about how his time in the Marines jolted him out of his dead-end Appalachian experience.
Wouldn't it be great if Vance could go on tour to extol the virtues of military service to young people, especially folks who share his socioeconomic background?
I'm not suggesting that only low income kids should serve.  But I do think that rural, economically disadvantaged white youth might be more inclined that higher income young people to sign up. And their hometowns and families would benefit from them doing something productive rather than languishing.
Here in Sacramento, I doubt many young people will be inclined to enlist in the Army while Donald Trump is President. I too find that enlistment would be unpatriotic under the current Commander in Chief—who has threatened to use military force against immigrant families attempting to enter the United States (among other outlandish things).

Most law students I know have expressed distain for the current administration and are reluctant to participate in government associated activities. For example, after Trump's election, friends of mine pulled out of the UCDC Law Program which places students in Washington, D.C. externships for a semester. And students were less inclined to attend Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG Corps) presentations on campus. Even the Dean of UC Davis Law School, Kevin R. Johnson, emailed students the following statement regarding military recruitment on campus:
On August 25, 2017, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security to prohibit the accession of transgender individuals into the United States military.
[. . .] 
 Despite AALS By-Law 6-3(b) and Law School policy, federal law . . . requires UC Davis School of Law to allow the military to use our facilities for recruiting law students. Although mandated by law to do so, the School of Law strongly condemns the U.S. military's decision to limit the ability of transgender people to serve in the U.S. armed forces. UC Davis students who have served, are serving, and wish to serve in the military have earned our deep and enduring respect. We firmly believe that this opportunity should be available to all, regardless of their gender identity or expression. 
UC Davis School of Law provides its non-discrimination policy to every employer­ including military employers-when they sign up to conduct on-campus interviews. We prominently post our non-discrimination statement when employers visit campus, which is designed to remind all employers of its terms. We will continue to enforce our non­discrimination policy with all non-military recruiters. We urge the federal government to end its discrimination against transgendered persons.
If the Army desires to recruit liberal soldiers, I believe it needs a lot more than a new recruitment strategy—it needs an entire rebranding. The military is currently associated with discrimination, the right-wing extremist federal government, and Donald Trump—the three least attractive things to many liberal youths. Without any major changes, I suspect the Army's numbers will continue to decline.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

What does this story have to do with the White Working Class? if anything?

I'm copying and pasting from my other blogs, but here I pause to ask:  are the hunters the white working class?  or are the white female strippers?  or are both?  If both, does this come down to a story about gender or is there a component of intersectionality?

A friend drew my attention to this story in South Dakota's Argus-Leader last month.  The headline is "Stripping, sex-trafficking, and small towns looking the other way," and it seems to support my long-standing argument that law and legal institutions are less present, less effective in rural areas, in part for socio-spatial reasons.  That is, material spatiality disables law because of the challenge and cost of policing vast, sparsely populated places.  Further, material spatiality reinforces (and is reinforced by) social expectations of law's anemic presence and role.

Here's an excerpt from Jeremy Fugleberg's story in the Argus-Leader.
Pheasant hunting season was once a homespun South Dakota tradition. But increasingly it is a commercial enterprise, one that comes with a dark side: sex trafficking and pop-up strip clubs that cater to hunters here for a good time.

The hunting season's dark side stands in stark contrast to South Dakota’s friendly, clean-cut image. It can be easy to overlook by small farm towns that increasingly rely on hosting a flood of rich pheasant hunters to offset losses from troubled agricultural markets. 
Pop-up strip clubs, while legal, have their own place in the shadow. They can trap freelance dancers in a web of exorbitant fees, throwing them into debt and making them vulnerable to being illegally exploited by traffickers and hunters. 
The story features Frank Day's bar in Dallas, in Gregory County (population 4,271), which has "become legendary as a South Dakota destination for groups of hunters, mostly male, sometimes wealthy, looking for after-dark entertainment." 
South Dakota is dawning to the realization that human trafficking isn’t just a big-city problem. It’s essentially modern slavery that does happen in the state, as (usually) men, control and manipulate (usually) women and sell their bodies for sex. 
It’s a shocking practice, one that can be masked as simply providing entertainment for hunters in remote communities. 
“These small towns allow this to happen because it’s a social norm, right? 'Boys will be boys,' that’s what we tell ourselves,” said Tifanie Petro, co-chair of the South Dakota West River Human Trafficking Task Force. “There’s this social acceptance because, ‘that’s just what happens here, that’s just what goes on during the rally, or during the pheasant season.’”
Fugleberg suggests that Gregory County authorities turn a blind eye to exploitation of strippers by establishments like Frank Day's, which becomes "No Wives Ranch" during pheasant season.  Fascinating.

So, what is the onus on local government to protect the women who come to work as strippers?  What would government protection look like in that context?  Is the exploitation mostly economic?  or is it something else?

The story suggests that these are the secret ingredients to sex trafficking:
South Dakota’s two largest tourist events, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and pheasant hunting season, both have the ingredients that attract sex traffickers: lots of men a long way from home, looking for a good time, with money to spend.  (emphasis added)
Interesting.  Maybe so.  I always assumed there was a pimp or profiteer or clear-cut criminal who was making a lot of $$$.  Is Frank Day's Bar making a lot of money during the period it is the "No Wives Ranch"?

Are these the ingredients to a patriarchal society, turning a blind eye to women not earning what they deserve.  But does that equate to sex trafficking?

I noticed a few years ago at conferences that what we previously called prostitution is now widely labeled "sex trafficking."  Hmmm.  Is all prostitution sex-trafficking?  To be more precise, is all sale of sex for $$$ sex-trafficking?  or only when a man or men are involved and are making the profit.

I really appreciate Fugelberg's reporting, but I'm trying to sort things out here. 

Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism and Feminist Legal Theory.

Obituary of country songwriter Jerry Chesnut notes his "Blue-collar hits"

Here's the obituary in today's New York Times.  Of course, country music is often associated with working-class whites, as are the lyrics of the genre.  But it seems Jerry Chesnut, who died this week at 87, had real blue-collar credibility based on his roots in Kentucky's coal country. 

The obit reads: 
Mr. Chesnut, who grew up in rural eastern Kentucky, came by his working-class sensibilities honestly. 
It quotes Chesnut's 2009 interview: 
I was born and raised in the coal-mining camps and the railroad center where they all came together. 
To say the least, it was a very poor place to be from. When you’re from Harlan County, there’s no way to go but up.
Harlan County, among other distinctions, is one of the poorest places in Kentucky.  The poverty rate is 41.5%. It's iconic coal country and also the setting for parts of the series "Justified"; it's the home county of protagonist Raylan Givens. 

I only recognize a couple of the Chesnut songs listed in the obituary, so it's a little hard to say what made them oriented to the working class, except in a few instances specified in the obit:
Mr. Chesnut had a gift for illuminating the struggles of working people, like the beleaguered factory hand in “Oney,” a song, drawn from his experience with a tyrannical employer, that became a Top 10 country hit for Johnny Cash in 1972. 
“Looking at the World Through a Windshield,” a two-stepping country hit for the singer Del Reeves in 1968, portrays a solitary trucker speeding through the night, longing for home.
At least 30 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame have recorded Chesnut's work, as did Elvis Costello in a 1981 album, Almost Blue, in which he covered a number of "hard-core country" hits.  And this causes me to ponder the attraction of country music--including that oriented to the working class--by pop artists like Costello and his fans.  I suppose there is an element of voyeurism. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A focus on working class youth displaced by the Camp Fire

A great deal of coverage of the Camp Fire has focused on the elderly and those with disabilities, who made up a disproportionate percent of the residents of Paradis, California, and a disproportionate percentage of those killed in the fire.  Now, Dan Levin reports today in the New York Times under the headline, "After Wildfire, Class of 2019 Faces Uncertain Future."  As a student in this class and I suggested in posts a few weeks ago on Working Class Whites and the Law (here and here), Paradise, the small city destroyed in the so-called Camp Fire last month, was very much a working class town, and its population was predominantly white.  Here's a data point from Levin's story that reinforces the point:
  • 67 percent of Paradise High School students qualify for free or reduced lunch
The story features many profiles of Paradise High students.  One profile in particular reminds me of my Legal Ruralism post from a few days ago regarding the struggles of rural students in the higher education context:   
[Elie] Wyllie, 17, grew up in Paradise “way below the poverty line,” she said. Problems at home motivated her to get stellar grades. Her zeal for perfection made her Paradise High’s top tennis player and earned her the nickname The Comeback. She dreamed of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, believing that college was the sole path to changing her family’s fortunes.

She was in the midst of applying to a dozen colleges, including Yale, when the inferno reduced her home to ashes. While California state schools extended their application deadlines, she still does not have all the paperwork they require.
Levin quotes Wyllie:
Everything is crashing down.  Now I’ll be the only person in my family to have a future. They’re going to expect me to take care of them when I can barely take care of myself. 
Wyllie has moved in with her now-retired AP history teacher, the only way she could complete homework and her college applications.

Here's another sobering quote from Ms. Wyllie:
The Camp Fire tore up more than just my town; it took away my peace of mind.  Everything for the rest of my life is going to be affected by this.
Cross-posted to Legal Ruralism.  

An appeal to liberals: we seek to be culturally attuned abroad...surely we can do that at home, too

Those who live in liberal areas on the coasts of America have doubtlessly heard of (and probably support) ideals such as celebrating diversity, practicing cultural sensitivity, and finding culturally appropriate solutions for problems. These values are generally mentioned when talking about interactions with people from different countries – “cross-cultural encounters.” Why are the same principles not applied to interactions among Americans? It’s clear that people in America live and think in very different ways. In one of my earlier posts, I discussed the “culture war” which seems to exist between the liberal coasts and the rest of America and the impact that it may have had on the 2016 Presidential election  and the 2018 midterms. Our political polarization and vilification of the other side show that “cultural sensitivity” between Americans is lacking in many cases.

I’ve spent most of my time lately at universities in California, which tend to be bastions of the liberal coastal elite, so I will primarily address those on that side of the “culture war.” The values we hold regarding diversity and cultural sensitivity can and should be applied to our fellow Americans. I dare say that those values would have the same positive effects intra-nationally that they have when we apply them internationally.

Consider the value placed on finding culturally-appropriate solutions. We’ve come to recognize that imposing the American way of solving problems on our friends abroad often backfires. At best, it’s less effective because of its blindness to culturally important factors, which are left unaddressed. At worst, it’s colonization and oppression. We recognize that locally-led efforts which are culturally informed are far better.

Similarly, culturally informed solutions can be applied to domestic problems. Rural and white working-class populations have been struggling with drug epidemics. The impacts of meth on rural and WCW people have been depicted in films such as "Winter’s Bone" and the documentary "Meth Storm", and  the opioid epidemic has also hit hard in these communities (see responses by the USDA and CDC). What would a culturally sensitive effort to address this problem look like? At least one already exists. Teen Challenge is a faith-based addiction recovery center. The Central Valley chapter, based in the Fresno area, has been around for three years and has grown rapidly in that time. It now has 170 beds.

This recovery program is attuned to Central Valley culture in at least two ways. First, it is faith-based. Coastal liberals tend to be suspicious of anything that adds religious practice to another activity, such as addiction recovery.  Yet Teen Challenge has been quite successful using this model. Moreover, an additional cultural benefit flows from this: community support. Because faith is a value for many people in the local community, Teen Challenge has strong community support. This is crucial and brings us to the second point of cultural sensitivity.  Many rural communities are marked by a lack of anonymity. Last Sunday, Teen Challenge gave a presentation at a Central Valley church that has supported their efforts. Two of the young men who spoke at the presentation had attended the local school and were known to the church congregation. Because Teen Challenge enjoys strong community support, the lack of anonymity was less of a hindrance to them entering the recovery program. In fact, community members referred them to the program and supported them along the way. The program is able to use the interconnectedness of these communities to its advantage.

Despite the fact that Central Valley Teen Challenge is locally-led and culturally attuned, I imagine that many coastal liberals would be very reluctant to support it because faith-based programs are not a part of our culture. Colleagues and friends, don’t let cultural difference lead to antagonism. Our culture has done a lot of work in building an appreciation of cultural difference and working to learn from those who are different from us. In some ways, the difference here is smaller – the people on the other side of the “culture war” are our fellow Americans, people with whom we share history and government and future. Please don’t let the fact that this culture is a domestic one prevent you from using the valuable skills of cultural understanding that you have developed in different contexts.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

New developments in low-income (and rural) students' access to higher education

Access to higher education is one of my pet causes--in part because I am aware of the huge difference that it has made in my own life.  I'm really grateful that several students have blogged about the issue this semester, and I want to highlight in this post some excerpts from recent coverage of the issue.

First, Susan Dynarski (University of Michigan economist and one of my Twitter heroes) and colleagues have just released the results of their study of an inexpensive intervention aimed at getting low-income students to apply to the prestigious, flagship University of Michigan:  In short, they invite the low-income, high achievers to apply and let them know that, if admitted, tuition, room and board, and living expenses will be covered.  Here's part of the abstract of their paper:
We contact students (as well as their parents and principals) with an encouragement to apply and a promise of four years of free tuition and fees upon admission. Materials emphasize that this offer is not contingent on completing aid applications (e.g., the FAFSA or PROFILE). Treated students were more than twice as likely to apply to (67 percent vs. 26 percent) and enroll at (27 percent vs. 12 percent) the University of Michigan. There was no diversion from schools as (or more) selective as UM. The enrollment effect of 15 percentage points (pp) comprises students who would otherwise attend a less selective, four-year college (7 pp), a community college (4 pp), or no college (4 pp). Effects persist through two years of follow-up. The intervention closed by half the income gaps in college choice among Michigan's high-achieving students.
This came to my attention because David Leonhardt of the New York Times, long attuned to college access issues for low-income students, made it the subject of his daily newsletter yesterday.  His description of the findings is slightly more accessible to the layperson.  First, he provides this background:
Unfortunately, most working-class and poor teenagers, including many who excel in high school, still don’t graduate from college. They often enroll in colleges that have a high dropout rate and never finish.
Then he describes the study's findings in context:
In truth, the packet wasn’t promising anything new to most students. Those receiving it typically had good enough grades and test scores to be admitted to Michigan, as well as a family income low enough to qualify them for a full scholarship. 
And yet the experiment nonetheless had a huge effect. 
Some 67 percent of students who received the packets applied to Michigan, compared with 26 percent of a control group of similar students who did not. And 28 percent of recipients ended up enrolling in a top university (most of them at Michigan), compared with only 13 percent of the control group. Many members of the control group didn’t attend any college, despite being excellent high-school students.
A somewhat similar study from a few years ago is noted here.  It suggests that who gets recruited to attend an elite college has a lot to do with where one lives and goes to high schools.  Some high schools attract recruiters from elite colleges; most don't.  (Spoiler alert:  I don't know of any really rural high schools that do).

With this big news out of the University of Michigan yesterday, it may not be a coincidence that NPR today ran this story on the first-gen college experience at Michigan.  The headline plays up "rural," however:  "'Going to Office Hours is Terrifying, and Other Tales of Rural Students in College." Here's an excerpt from Elissa Nadworny's long feature that reflects another theme of the story--the similarities of first-gen students, even across racial boundaries:
Two students share a laptop in the atrium of the chemistry building at the University of Michigan. One, Cameron Russell, is white, a freshman from a rice-growing parish in Louisiana; the other, Elijah Taylor, is black, a senior and a native of Detroit. 
They are different, yes, but there is much that unites them. 
Both are the first in their families to go to a four-year college, a tough road Taylor has already traveled. Now he's serving as a mentor to Russell, whose rural background brings with it struggles that only a tiny handful of universities, including this one, are beginning to acknowledge and address.
* * *
Taylor says neither student can "call home and say, 'Mom, how do I navigate the college experience?' "
Then there is the part of the story that focuses on rural, and acknowledges the difference that the 2016 election has made to the amount of attention paid to the rural sector:
Many colleges and universities were caught by surprise when frustration among rural Americans spilled over into national politics during the 2016 election. That, in addition to steady declines in enrollment, has pushed some schools to pay more attention to rural students — and to recognize that these students need at least as much help navigating the college experience as low-income, first-generation racial and ethnic minorities from inner cities.
Again, this focuses on what low-income students have in common, not that which divides them.  I sure wish we saw more of this sort of hopeful, cross-racial bridge building.  There's lots more in this story about rural students and their particular struggle.  It features students from Au Gres, Michigan, population 889Charlotte, Michigan, population 9,074Lake Linden, Michigan, population 1,007 on the Upper Peninsula; and an specified town near Holland, Michigan, in the western part of the state.  All of these students from places that are rural to one degree or another are fascinating to me, perhaps especially Kendra Beaudoin, the eldest of five children raised by a single mom in Michigan's UP:
"I'm still intimidated by professors. Going to office hours is terrifying," she says. "There were definitely moments when I was like, 'I'm only going here to fill a diversity quota and I don't really belong here and everybody else is so much smarter than me.' "

Other obstacles are more mundane. Take crosswalks. "Those don't exist where I lived," Beaudoin says. She stops and waits for the light to change while other pedestrians brush past her. When her phone broke, leaving her without one for several months, she used a paper map to find her way around campus. She still has trouble figuring out the bus system. Yet, as someone from a rural place where self-sufficiency is valued, "The idea of going to someone and asking how this works ... it was almost like I felt bad for not knowing."
The story also includes information about the University of Georgia, Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and Appalachian State University in North Carolina.  And it pays a lot of attention to class, including this quote from a first-gen, rural student:
"Everybody else has got the coin that I don't have. Those Canada Goose jackets? You're kidding," Schwiderson says, referring to the brand of parkas other Michigan students wear, which can cost up to $1,550. "I'm walking down the road and I see people with Gucci or Versace."
The NPR feature continues:
Students say they're acutely aware of the socioeconomic divide at the University of Michigan, where the median family income of students is $156,000, or three times the state average, according to the Harvard-based think tank Opportunity Insights. Ten percent come from families in the top 1 percent of earners, and only 16 percent from the bottom 60 percent.
Sadly this NPR piece also suggests the rural brain drain--that is, it features students who don't want to go back to their rural home towns--at least not any time soon, and sometimes not even for the holidays.  One reason for that is political differences the students have with those in their home communities.  The story also tends to confirm negative stereotypes about rural places as racist and intolerant, and it certainly confirms that many assume rural folks to be racist and intolerant.

Another higher education story that implicates class ran last week, also part of NPR's series, The Changing Face of College.  It's about how top colleges, including Princeton University, are taking transfer students for the first time in decades, including transfers from community colleges.  Elissa Nadworny also reports this story:
In reinstating the school's transfer program, they wanted to encourage applicants from low-income families, the military and from community colleges. 
It's a part of the wave of attempts by elite schools to diversify their campuses. Just 3 percent of enrollment at these top colleges are students from low-income students. And a proven ground for recruiting smart, low-income students is through transfers, especially from community colleges. 
Nadworny quotes Keith Shaw, the director of Princeton's transfer, veteran and non-traditional student programs, regarding these populations. 
They're bringing perspectives out of their experience that would otherwise be lacking here.
Of the thirteen offered admission last fall, nine accepted.  They included military veterans, older students, and students with young families.  More from Shaw:
It's not like you admit nine students, and it's suddenly wildly changed the campus culture. [But, having those students on campus] goes a long way towards changing the campus culture and making it a little bit more reflective of the broader American public that it's drawing on.
This story also discusses efforts at Amherst, long a leader in efforts to achieve greater socioeconomic diversity.

Finally, this in the New York Times by Jennifer Medina and Jill Cowen talks about the first-gen experience at University of California, Irvine.  And this is a story from last month that talks about "when the wheels start to come off" at Thanksgiving, meaning students often start to think about giving up on college near the end of their first semester or quarter.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Affirmative action for new minority group: white males

According to a recent Newsweek article, being a white male might put a college applicant at an advantage, but not the one that you might think. Apparently, white males are now considered a minority group among British universities. Statistics show that white men are underrepresented at approximately 10% of all higher education institutions in the United Kingdom—especially in fields of business and science where ethnic minority groups make up 70% of students. In response, the University of Essex and the University of Aston have announced plans to recruit more white men, putting them on a par with Black students and women engineers.

Aston and Essex's initiatives controversially follow a September warning by the Office for Students (which regulates British universities) that:
Institutions could be punished unless they give a higher proportion of top degrees to Black students,
The Telegraph reports. Despite the warning, Aston and Essex still found white male representation to be lacking in their institutions. The colleges relied on research published by the Higher Education Policy Institute which also indicated that more needs to be done to encourage young white males to apply for college, according to the Atlanta Black Star.

Notably, these statistics do not account for the class of the underrepresented men, only their race. However, Oxford University does intend to consider class status in a new initiative. The world renowned institution has introduced a plan to recruit specifically white men of working-class backgrounds. This too is subject to controversy since Oxford was accused of "Social Apartheid" last year after data showed 10 of its 32 colleges failed to admit a single qualified Black student with Advanced Levels or A–levels (a secondary school qualification).

Recent research indicates that some university staff have mixed reactions to recruitment schemes aimed specifically at white males because they fear the programs may lead to accusations of racism on the part of admissions offices, The Telegraph reports.

For example, a 2016 study led by education and youth development group LKMco (King's College of London) stated that, in response to initiatives addressing the underrepresentation of white working-class boys in higher education,
We found that people were quite uncomfortable with the idea of running a targeted activity with this group, in a way that we've not encountered, for example, targeting young black African men.
The low number of white males applying for colleges is an issue not unique to the United Kingdom. In America, too, males are enrolling in college at alarmingly low rates, according to The Atlantic. By 2026, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that 57% of college students will be women. The feminist in me wants to see this as a good thing—more women and less white men becoming educated might shift the current power dynamic over time. But, I think this statistic (and the United Kingdom studies) identifies a larger issue: working-class white males' aversion to education. This aversion must be addressed since better educated voters should result in better policy and (hopefully) more rationality.

American universities could address the decrease in WWC enrollment in a similar fashion as Aston, Essex, or Oxford. However, such an initiative would likely be met with skepticism in the United States—especially if the plan focused solely on recruiting white men without attention to class. Americans (myself included) probably question whether the dwindling numbers of white males in business and science is even really an issue. Wasn't attracting more women and people of color—and therefore fewer white men—the goal of affirmative action programs in the first place? Even so, people are quick to forget that working-class whites from rural communities face crippling disadvantages in pursuing education. Yet, the WWC is left out of racially-based affirmative action programs which purport to level the college application playing field. Are class-disadvantaged white applicants entitled to affirmative action? Or will they prosper because "if you're white, you'll be alright"?

White male privilege appears to be rampant in the United States where white males, quite literally, control the government and most major corporations. So, the belief that white men will be successful simply based on the color of their skin is somewhat understandable. But, as this course has illustrated, working-class white men are underrepresented in all facets of prestigious modern life—especially in elite education. I posit that it is time to abandon the traditional notion of white privilege when applied to the WWC. In the context of higher education, universities must consider an applicant's socio-economic background rather than racial-minority status alone if the educational system is to be improved and diversified. That, or, expand affirmative action programs to assist a new minority group: the white working class.