People go to college because not going to college carries a penalty. College is a purchased loyalty oath to an imagined employer. College shows you are serious enough about your life to risk ruining it early on. College is a promise the economy does not keep - but not going to college promises you will struggle to survive.

Muslims face prejudice, but Muslims from the Caucasus face a particular kind of prejudice - the kind born of ignorance so great it perversely imbues everything with significance. “There is never interpretation, understanding and knowledge when there is no interest,” Edward Said wrote in Covering Islam , and until this week, there was so little interest in and knowledge of the Caucasus that the ambassador of the Czech Republic felt compelled to issue a press release stating that the Czech Republic is not the same as Chechnya.

Knowing nothing of the Tsarnaevs’ motives, and little about Chechens, the American media tore into Wikipedia and came back with stereotypes. The Tsarnaevs were stripped of their 21st century American life and became symbols of a distant land, forever frozen in time. Journalist Eliza Shapiro proclaimed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was “named after a brutal warlord”, despite the fact that Tamerlan, or Timur, is an ordinary first name in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Her claim is equivalent to saying a child named Nicholas must be named in honour of ruthless Russian tsar Nicholas I - an irony apparently lost on New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who made a similar denouncement on Twitter (to his credit, Kristof quickly retracted the comment).

Other journalists found literary allusions, or rather, illusions. “They were playing the nihilists Arkady and Bazarov in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons ,” explained scholar Juan Cole, citing an 1862 Russian novel to explain the motives of a criminal whose Twitter account was full of American rap lyrics. One does not recall such use of literary devices to ascertain the motives of less exotic perpetrators, but who knows? Perhaps some ambitious analyst is plumbing the works of Faulkner to shed light on that Mississippi Elvis impersonator who tried to send ricin to Obama.

Still others turned to social media as a gateway to the Chechen soul. Journalist Julia Ioffe - after explaining the Tsarnaevs through Tolstoy, Pushkin, and, of course, Stalin - cites the younger Tsarnaev’s use of the Russian website VKontakte as proof of his inability to assimilate, then ranks the significance of his personal photos.

“The most revealing image of Dzhokhar is not the one of him hugging an African-American friend at his high school graduation, but the one of him sitting at a kitchen table with his arm around a guy his age who appears to be of Central Asian descent,” she writes . “In front of them is a dish plov , a Central Asian dish of rice and meat, and a bottle of Ranch dressing.” Again, it is difficult to imagine a journalist writing with such breathtaking arrogance - why is the Central Asian friend more “revealing” than the African-American one? What, exactly, are they “revealing”? - about the inner life of someone from a more familiar place.

One way to test whether you are reading a reasonable analysis of the Tsarnaev case - and yes, they exist - is to replace the word “Chechen” with another ethnicity. “I could always spot the Chechens in Vienna,” writes journalist Oliver Bulloughs in the New York Times . “They were darker-haired than the Austrians; they dressed more snappily, like 1950s gangsters; they never had anything to do.” Now substitute the word “Jews” for “Chechens”. Minority-hunting in Vienna never ends well .

—  Sarah Kendzior, “The Wrong Kind Of Causcasian,” Al Jazeera 4/21/13
In America, education has become a prize for people who have already won. Those with money, connections, and access to technology travel a path that starts with private preschools, continues through SAT tutors and exorbitant enrichment activities, and culminates in college that costs more than the national median income. Washington University in St. Louis, for example, charges $63,373 in tuition, room and board, with tuition alone costing $47,300. (The next step for the children of the educated class is an unpaid internship or expensive and required graduate school degree, a grown-up sequel to the pay-to-play childhood.) By contrast, most American families struggle with a lack of early childcare options, subpar and underfunded public schools, after school jobs for teenagers meant to pay household bills, and massive university debt. There are two tiers and the divide begins not with the child’s ability, but with his or her parents’ income.
—  Generations Left Behind - Sarah Kendzior
36 days, 22 hours since Mike Brown was killed.

In Ferguson, Still-Boarded Windows Signal Fears of More Trouble (Translation: Businesses in Ferguson are not replacing windows before grand jury decision is made.)

Quote of the week: “U.S. citizens have the shortest paid vacations in the world, unless you’re Darren Wilson and you get five weeks off after killing a teenager.” – Sarah Kendzior

There will be calls to black Americans to stay calm and conceal their rage at the slaughter. But the real question is why white America’s reaction is not also rage and grief. Anger is not the same as hostility or violence. Anger on behalf of others is a form of compassion. One should ask not why black Americans are angry, but why so many non-black Americans remain unmoved.

Here is what it is like to be a mother in the post-employment economy.

You have a baby. From 2004 to 2010, cost of childbirth rose by 50%. Average out of pocket costs: $3400. That’s with insurance. Most pay more.

Now you decide whether to work. Average cost of daycare is $11,666 per year. You have two kids, pay more for childcare than average rent.

If you keep working, you’ll lose money now. If you stop working, you lose money later, b/c financial desperation viewed as “opting out”.

You think, I’ll compromise, work part-time. Most part-time jobs have no health insurance. Paying out of pocket costs more than salary.

Mothers with high-paying jobs go back to work to earn money for kids. Mothers with low-paying jobs quit to save money for kids.

Mothers who work full-time for terrible wages and cannot afford daycare are called “lazy”. They are told to “work their way up”. But how?

All mothers are sacrificing. No one is “opting” to do anything. Choices made out of fear are not choices.

American mothers are not “leaning in”. American mothers are not “opting out”. American mothers are barely hanging on.

—  a series of tweets from @sarahkendzior in response to an article from the NYT on moms who “opt out”
The surest way to keep a problem from being solved is to deny that the problem exists. Telling people not to complain is a sure way of keeping social issues from being addressed. It trivializes the grievances of the vulnerable, making the burdened feel like burdens. Telling people not to complain is an act of power, a way of asserting that one’s position is more important than another one’s pain. People who say “stop complaining” always have the right to stop listening. But those who complain have often been denied the right to speak.
—  Sarah Kendzior, In Defense of Complaining
Piers Morgan, Janet Mock, transphobia, Sarah Kendzior on Twitter feminism and bullying
  • Piers Morgan, Janet Mock, transphobia, Sarah Kendzior on Twitter feminism and bullying
  • Citizen Radio

Allison and Jamie discuss Piers Morgan (#FriendsOfPiers), Janet Mock, and transphobia, and then interview Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) about Twitter feminism and who the real bullies are.

We highly recommend you follow these people on Twitter: @sarahkendzior, @janetmock, @Lavernecox, @karnythia, @thetrudz, @suey_park, @HoodFeminism, @thewayofheid.

Citizen Radio is a member-supported show. Visit to sign up and support media that won’t lead you to war, and keep CR Productions growing!
Surviving the post-employment economy

“If you are 35 or younger - and quite often, older - the advice of the old economy does not apply to you. You live in the post-employment economy, where corporations have decided not to pay people. Profits are still high. The money is still there. But not for you. You will work without a raise, benefits, or job security. Survival is now a laudable aspiration.”

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Higher education was supposed to be a way for poor, smart kids to increase their professional options, not to be punished for how they were born. And now it is a system that makes poor kids even poorer through debt, which will carry on to the next generation and curtail that generation’s opportunities as well. I wrote about this recently for Al Jazeera.

If college tuition were affordable, many social and economic problems in America would be solved. But there is a segment of society that does not want these problems solved, because the immobility of the majority benefits that small but influential sector. True meritocracy frightens elites, especially in a time of diminished job opportunities. This is a way to kill the competition.


Sarah Kendzior, in an interview on policymic entitled “Why You Should Never Have Taken That Prestigious internship" 

i really recommend reading the whole article. i just learned about sarah through this interview, but i’m reading her other articles, as well as her twitter + blog, and everything she writes is just so on point and interesting. 

I think what bothers people more is actually that these women are not living up to the stereotypes that they like to assign to them. They like to portray people like Mikki [Kendall] and Sydette [Harry] as mean, as bullies, but if you actually follow them, if you actually read what they’re saying it’s a lot of very thoughtful, structural critique. I’m drawn to their accounts because of their intellect, because of their insight into political affairs, into issues like gender and the economy and of course into issues of race. And the fact that my admiration of them - not mine but any white person’s - is framed as a “performative” act is really insulting. If people are reading The Nation article, I encourage them to follow the accounts and listen to what they’re saying because I think the characterization that Goldberg is putting out there is very easily discredited by simply by listening to their words.

Graduate students live in constant fear. Some of this fear is justified, like the fear of not finding a job. But the fear of unemployment leads to a host of other fears, and you end up with a climate of conformity, timidity, and sycophantic emulation. Intellectual inquiry is suppressed as “unmarketable”, interdisciplinary research is marked as disloyal, public engagement is decried as “unserious”, and critical views are written anonymously lest a search committee find them. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by the Academic Jobs Wiki.

The cult mentality of academia not only curtails intellectual freedom, but hurts graduate students in a personal way. They internalize systemic failure as individual failure, in part because they have sacrificed their own beliefs and ideas to placate market values. The irony is that an academic market this corrupt and over-saturated has no values. Do not sacrifice your integrity to a lottery — even if you are among the few who can afford to buy tickets until you win.

Savage Minds Interview: Sarah Kendzior

n November 24, hours before the grand jury decision in the case of Darren Wilson was announced, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon reassured St. Louis that all would be well. “Together, we are all focused on making sure the necessary resources are at hand to protect lives, protect property and protect free speech,” he declared.

By the end of the night, all three promises were broken. Arsonists destroyed buildings on the small commercial strip in Ferguson where protests had taken place since August. The body of 20-year-old DeAndre Joshua, a friend of Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, was found the next day. Demonstrators practicing their right to free speech found their safe houses raided by police firing tear gas, including an incident where police burst into a coffeehouse that had long been a protester sanctuary.

But the resources Nixon touted were certainly at hand. Since early November, St. Louis has been host to 1,000 extra police officers, 100 extra FBI agents and an unknown number of officials from the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, and other government agencies. On November 17, Nixon declared a “state of emergency” and called in the National Guard, who parked their hulking vehicles in places like Dairy Queen and the Galleria mall. Some in St. Louis condemned the employment of military power as a prejudicial reaction to over one hundred days of largely peaceful protest. (During the comparatively brief period of violent protests this summer, public outrage was focused as much on the overreaction and militarization of the responding police as it was at rioters.) In recent days, the now ubiquitous armor was terrifying in its own right, indicative of the brutal force that could be employed in the name of protection.

On Monday, Ferguson got the worst of both worlds: militarized police who brutalized protesters and still did not protect a vulnerable business community. In both cases, black citizens disproportionately suffered.

No piece of property compares to a human life. No loss of a business compares to the loss of a son. But whose property is protected says a lot about whose life is valued.

Ferguson officials had a choice on Monday night—who to protect, how, and where. They evidently made the same decision that Ferguson officials have made for years: Protect the white residents and forget the black residents.

Though falsely characterized as a ghetto, Ferguson is a small, economically diverse suburb, in much better shape than its decaying St. Louis county neighbors. The two main avenues where protests are held, West Florissant and South Florissant, run parallel to each other, but cater to different publics. South Florissant has a historic district with quaint shops and restaurants. It is the kind of place the city decorates with holiday decorations (under which police officers tear gas visitors).

West Florissant, in contrast, is a commercial strip of dollar stores, nail salons and beauty parlors that were owned by and catered to a majority black low-income community. On Monday, many of these stores burned to the ground, along with the headquarters of Heal STL, a civic organization whose West Florissant location was intended as a symbol of hope for an area that had witnessed turmoil. By Tuesday, a multi-block stretch of West Florissant was declared a crime scene and blocked to traffic. The police chief said Tuesday that there was “nothing left” on West Florissant. Meanwhile, South Florissant, with the exception of a torched shopping plaza that held an antique shop and a Little Caesars, remained largely intact.

Given the sheer number of law enforcement officials and the prolonged police planning that preceded the grand jury decision, Ferguson business owners wonder why they were left unprotected. “We were told all of that policing was going to take place," Kaye Mershon, the owner of a West Florissant barbershop, told St. Louis Public radio. "But when I arrived they were standing out here. No one was doing anything; they weren’t policing.”

The burning of West Florissant is in keeping with a long tradition of abandonment, lack of investment and resource denial to black St. Louis communities. St. Louis’s geography is carved by racial politics. The city has only about 300,000 residents, down from over 800,000 at its mid-century peak when white flight intensified.

As white families fled to St. Louis county suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s, the city became majority black, and its remaining residents, struggling to survive with limited opportunity and decaying infrastructure, were largely abandoned. In the 1980s and 1990s, black families fled St. Louis city for a better life in the northern suburbs, prompting white flight from the suburbs to the exurbs. Hit hard by the loss of its tax base as well as the closure of major businesses, St. Louis’s northern suburbs began to decay. The reaction of most of white St. Louis was to turn away and run.

Today some majority black suburbs, like Kinloch, are nearly devoid of enterprise. Others have economies based on hustle: payday loans, title loans, pawn shops. Possessions are not what you own but what you trade to survive. The economy is poor because people are poor, and there is little opportunity to change that in areas of failing schools, rotting infrastructure, and few employment sectors that allow one to work one’s way up.

St. Louis’s response to economic erosion—often precipitated by black migration and accompanying white flight—is to view certain neighborhoods as eyesores and the people who live in them as a burden, instead of viewing their suffering as a crisis. When areas are gentrified, the needs of long-suffering residents tend to be ignored in favor of wealthier, whiter proprietors. Prior to the Brown killing, one of St. Louis’s biggest controversies this summer was the planned construction of a Dollar General in a revitalized neighborhood. White elites in the area viewed it as an imposition. Poor black families declared it a need. These phenomena—white flight, decaying poor neighborhoods, struggles over gentrification—are not unique to St. Louis, but understanding their history has made it especially tragic to watch the black neighborhoods of Ferguson be victimized all over again in recent weeks, losing in many cases, what businesses they did have.

When St. Louis burns, it does not rebuild. All around the region are ruins of what was: rotting homes, shattered windows, empty factories, broken communities. West Florissant’s destruction is not London in 2011 or Seattle in 1999: it is the destruction, possibly permanent, of the resources of the vulnerable. Whether one condemns or condones arson and looting in a time of understandable rage is irrelevant to the pragmatic consequences. St. Louis does not bounce back. St. Louis runs from itself, calls its poorest people problems, and leaves them behind. West Florissant is the latest chapter in a long story.

As I write this, over 2,000 additional National Guard troops are descending on St. Louis to prevent the rest of the region from sharing West Florissant’s fate. Guess where they went first? When I walked down South Florissant on Tuesday afternoon, troops had already assembled to protect a local establishment: the Ferguson police department.  They surrounded it in a circle, wielding heavy weaponry, as less than a dozen protesters watched outside.

The National Guard guards the police, just like the St. Louis police guarded Darren Wilson. Meanwhile, West Florissant is left to suffer, much like nearby residents, whom police often target instead of defend.

Serving and protecting, in Ferguson, is selectively applied. 

h/t: Sarah Kendzior at Politico Magazine

With elite university admissions disproportionately weighted toward the richest US families, and elite professions increasingly requiring expensive credentials and unpaid labor, huge numbers of American kids are being shunted onto a lower track, their potential capped by the circumstances of their birth. This has always been the case in the US, but the new normal works to further restrict and refine the group at the top. Helicopter parenting is opportunity hoarding repackaged as parental devotion.