History 2216

In light of election season, Dr. Jerry W. Ward, Jr. speaks about getting serious about our nation’s problems in 2016.

“A Tribune Editorial: Let’s Get Serious” (The New Orleans Tribune 32.1, January 2016, p. 4) urges us to use 2016 as “a chance to regroup, refocus and demand more of all our leaders — and ourselves. We ought to be tired of making do, giving up, settling for less or selling out to serve selfish desires.” It would be a godsend if Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond exercise is imprimatur and declared that the editorial must be required reading at all Masses during February 2016. The editorial might also help us to decide whether a cross named Ted, a woman named Clinton, a card named Trump, or Sanders of the River will be the next President of the United States. Let’s get very serious.

This is a year of terrible struggle and mercy. We should avoid, as much as possible, walking forking paths in a digital world. We do need to notice that families matter. We should ask why social scientists and mass media write endlessly about the African American family, but seldom explore the enormous complexities of Jewish, Islamic, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, and Catholic families. Those families matter and give shape to demographic shifts. And we may understand little about unemployment in our nation unless we understand American families, unlevel playing fields, and the serious questions regarding global economies raised by Jeffry A. Frieden in Global Capitalism: Its Fall and Rise in the Twentieth Century (2006).

We need to get serious about the flaws of the criminal justice system and the ascent of privatized prisons, inadequate attention to mental health issues and police irresponsibility, and the love affair with privatized public education (consult “The State of Public Education in New Orleans 10 Years After Hurricane Katrina” by Patrick Sims and Vincent Rossmeier, recently published by the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives). We need to get serious about why the male-specificity of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010) is a clear signal that the new Jane Crow enables American females to be more at risk than they were in 1916. Can we transcend our capitalist miseducations enough to read Alondra Nelson’s The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparation and Reconciliation After the Genome (Boston: Beacon Press, 2016)? “Genetic ancestry testing,” Nelson concludes, “is but one implement in an entire tool kit of tactics that, marshaled together, must be brought to the project of building racial reconciliation and social justice” (166). When we get serious, we are forced to ask if reconciliation can manifest itself in a republic that thinks it is a democracy and if social justice in anyone’s lifetime will ever be more than a beautiful theory.

I completely agree that we must “get serious about the laundry list of problems and nuisances our community faces on the local, state, and national levels” and that we must save ourselves before we can save Flint, Michigan and New Orleans. Yes, let us get serious as the editorial wisely advises about getting serious.

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.    February 2, 2016