Jordanna Matlon sociology, culture, peripheries.

The Failure of Desegregation

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littlerock-580.jpgPhotograph by Thomas J O’Halloran/Universal History Archive/Getty.

The architects of Jim Crow were fixated by notions of white racial purity, but black people subjected to that dictatorship of pigment were concerned with a different question: In a hostile society, is it better to be isolated from those who view you with contempt or in close proximity to them? In retrospect, it is easy to see segregation as a moral evil unanimously despised by black people, but even its fiercest critics betrayed ambivalence about what its end would mean. In the thirties, W. E. B. Du Bois inspired rancorous debates within the N.A.A.C.P. by arguing, in his writing, that there were important economic benefits—the built-in market for black businesses, for instance—that came with segregation. James Nabrit, Jr., an attorney who handled a school-desgegration suit in Washington, D.C., that became one of the cases grouped with Brown, went on to become president of Howard University, a job that entailed the seemingly paradoxical task of preserving and furthering an all-black educational institution. Three of the other attorneys who worked on Brown, including Thurgood Marshall, had, in fact, met as students at Howard’s law school, and they began their desegregation work under the tutelage of Charles Hamilton Houston, the school’s dean. Black teachers in South Carolina, where another of the desegregation suits had been filed, worried, with some cause, that integration would end a state of affairs in which black children, though deprived of equal resources, at least benefitted from teachers who did not calibrate their expectations according to the color of their students’ skin.

The Supreme Court decision on Brown, in 1954, marked a moral high point in American history, but the practice that it dispatched to the graveyard had already begun to mutate into something less tangible and far more durable. What would, in the end, preserve the principle of “separate inequality” was not protests like the one staged by Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, who deployed the National Guard to Little Rock’s Central High School, in 1957, in order to keep black students out. Instead, it was policies like the Interstate Highway Act, whose passage one year earlier helped spawn American suburbia. In the wake of Brown, private schools, whose implicit mission was to educate white children, cropped up throughout the South. The persistent legacies of redlining, housing discrimination, and wage disparity conspired to produce segregation without Jim Crow—maintaining all the familiar elements of the past in an updated operating system.

To the extent that the word “desegregation” remains in our vocabulary, it describes an antique principle, not a current priority. Today, we are more likely to talk of diversity—but diversification and desegregation are not the same undertaking. To speak of diversity, in light of this country’s history of racial recidivism, is to focus on bringing ethnic variety to largely white institutions, rather than dismantling the structures that made them so white to begin with.

And so, sixty years after Brown, it is clear that the notion of segregation as a discrete phenomenon, an evil that could be flipped, like a switch, from on to off, by judicial edict, was deeply naïve. The intervening decades have shown, in large measure, the limits of what political efforts directed at desegregation alone could achieve, and the crumbling of both elements of “separate but equal” has left us at an ambivalent juncture. To the extent that desegregation becomes, once again, a pressing concern—and even that may be too grand a hope—it will have to involve the tax code, the minimum wage, and other efforts to redress income inequality. For the tragedy of this moment is not that black students still go to overwhelmingly black schools, long after segregation was banished by law, but that they do so for so many of the same reasons as in the days before Brown.

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Via newyorker.com
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Statues Also Die

Brilliant, difficult, multi-layered and thought-provoking.

Colonial Bastard Rhodes Typeface

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Osmund Tshuma’s “Colonial Bastard Rhodes” Typeface -

The Colonial Bastard Rhodes typeface is a post-colonial critique of both Cecil John Rhodes and the impact of Colonialism in South Africa. The typeface is based on identifying certain key characteristics of fonts and typography used during the Colonial Era. Taking the exaggerated serif and vertical stress of the typefaces as a starting point, the Colonial Bastard Rhodes typeface was born. An easily legible, post-modern heading font.

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Colonial Bastards

Colonial Bastards (Cecil John Rhodes, H. M. Stanley, Otto Van Bismarck & David Livingstone)

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Making the font
Using Fontographer 5, I was able to create each letter for the Colonial Bastard Rhodes Regular typeface. The screenshot shows the first stages of the font.

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Via behance.net

Couples Swap Genders In These Awesomely Awkward Prom Pics

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Via fastcodesign.com

Across Athens, Graffiti Worth a Thousand Words of Malaise

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In the gritty neighborhood of Exarcheia, a stronghold of anarchists, more than a decade’s worth of tags and graffiti have been leavened with a catalog of Mapet’s stencils and the work of other street artists, who paint violent yet graceful anti-Fascist images, grotesque caricatures of bankers and politicians, and intricate sticker work on street after street.

Such work has spread to the nearby working-class neighborhoods of Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos, where a growing number of so-called hipster artists, despised by hard-core graffiti artists, also have been leaving their mark. Many of the newcomers are trained at the Athens School of Fine Arts, which gives courses in street painting that have spawned edgy new outdoor works addressing racism, capitalism and exploitation.

Recently, even city authorities have gotten in on the act, as they have sought to capitalize on graffiti’s more artistic offshoots by handing out permits to encourage street artists to paint murals in blighted public spaces.

In Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos, a big real estate developer, Oliaros, is also working to gentrify the areas, partly by giving commercial building space to mural artists handpicked by the company.

Ideally, parts of Athens eventually would be transformed into a vast outdoor gallery, said Amalia Zeppou, an adviser to the mayor who helps oversee the permit program

“When a city collapses, and has been tagged everywhere, we have an obligation to stop it,” Ms. Zeppou said. But there is another message behind the campaign. “Once graffiti becomes commissioned art,” she added, “it is a signal of the beginning of the end of the financial or social crisis that a city has gone through.

Such thinking is rejected by many of the 2,000 or so graffiti and street artists who paint around Athens. They believe city authorities and developers are commissioning works as a way to quietly suppress artistic political and social expression. Effectively, they say, authorities are hijacking street art in order to whitewash its message.

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Via nyti.ms

Vintage Africa: meeting Namibia's hipsters

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Namibia hipster

Namibia hipster

Namibia hipster

Namibia hipster

KdG: Let’s talk vintage. By wearing old western clothing, are fashionistas like yourself imitating colonial trends or asserting a new kind of African identity?

LVG: Ha ha! No, I am certainly asserting a new kind of African identity. The clothes are western, sure, but I wear them ensuring that that all eyes are on Africa as a fresh source of creativity. In the same vein I am referencing the history of African dandy men, such as the sapeurs of the Congo.

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Via theguardian.com