Tag Archives: trump

An Interview with Jay Pearson

 

Jay A. Pearson, Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy
Source: Duke University, 2017

Jay Pearson is an assistant professor at Dukes Sanford School of Public Policy, with research focusing on the health disparities between distinct social groups.  He recently published a challenging op-ed in the L.A. Times titled Donald Trump is a Textbook Racist, in which he comprehensively explains how the presidents behavior fits every academic definition of racism. 

The op-ed was the first of a planned series which will next address our misguided notion of extreme vetting.  The last installment will address the Trump administrations likely poor health legacy for the nation, with a special emphasis on how his policies are likely to most impact those demographics which disproportionately voted for and continue to support him. 

Q: How would you characterize the responses to your L.A. Times op-ed?  

A: As you might imagine, the responses were incredibly varied. My contemporary colleagues – and not just at Duke but around the country – and students – and not just students who are in my course right now but students from the past – were congratulatory, supportive and encouraging.

In fact, the single most consistent message that I got from my junior faculty colleagues – again, from across the country – was, “Thank you for doing something that we all believe should have been done.”  We all had the same or at least similar training in terms of these social constructs and the conceptual definitions of them.  We teach this stuff in our courses, and we have frequently wondered why no one had done something in a public forum.  Because, you know, this issue of whether or not the president is a racist is not open to debate.  He meets and exceeds the formal definition.

Q: There’s an apparent disconnect between the academic definitions of racism and the understanding of the term among a large segment of the populace.  How do you think we bridge that gap, both individually and as a society?

A: I think we can do a significantly better job of teaching these concepts and constructs in both formal settings – that is schooling – and in informal community settings.  I am firmly of the opinion that this is stuff we should be teaching in schools fairly early on.  The interesting thing for me is the basic conceptual definition – the idea that it’s a negative prejudicial bias combined with sufficient power to leverage action – has been around since at least the ‘60s in the academy.  And so I can’t think of any good reason why it should not be incorporated into the history and social studies curricula, and not just offered to a select group of students at elite institutions like Duke.

And there are a few good models, I think, in other places of the world.  For instance, in Germany, every kid who goes to public school gets a fairly rigorous course of study on the Holocaust.  That makes sense to me.  That is not asocial.  Folks are willing to acknowledge the history, and the contemporary impact on life chances of different segments of the broader population. 

Q: What specific policies do you believe would be most effective in addressing our country’s white supremacist past and its current institutional racism?

A: It’s important for me to make a distinction here, because you introduce two constructs: one is white supremacy, and the other is institutional racism.  And I think before we can move forward with good policy on the white supremacist piece, we need to have good research and begin to systematically test the most effective strategies to communicate that concept, and communicate those in such a way that people are willing to acknowledge that white supremacy actually exists.  The literature in that area is conspicuously impoverished.

So interestingly, ironically, I suspect that Donald Trump and his administration are inspiring many of us to take more seriously the business of engaging in this particular course of scientific inquiry, that is: “What does white supremacy look like?” and what the various dimensions are, and how we go about designing effective intervention strategies to counteract its impact.

Q: In your courses you discuss the need for greater representation and retention of people of color as a means of achieving equity.  Do you have any best practices around this idea for future policy practitioners?

A: I do.  I think that first we need to not be afraid of engaging in discussion and dialogue about the value of diversity across multiple settings.  The literature here is fairly rigorous.  The findings suggest that in areas as diverse as the military and multinational corporations, leaders are stepping forward to both acknowledge the value of and encourage engagement in the process of bringing social diversity across multiple dimensions to bear.  So it’s not just racial diversity; it’s gender, it’s socio-economic position, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  The research suggests that productivity and quality of the product are both enhanced when multiple perspectives are represented.

Research also suggests that the success of diversity efforts is largely contingent upon the willingness of these very same leaders to step forward and make it a priority.  That is absolutely the case in university settings, and while I don’t know this literature nearly as well, I suspect that it’s the case in the military also.

Q: What would be your advice for policy-makers and students with respect to weighing the effects of institutional racism on their potential policy outcomes?

A: First, I would say: assume and accept that that particular phenomenon is more pervasive and impactful than most people can potentially imagine or get their heads around. This implies that you need to have some humility and listen to the voices of folks who are actually contending with the imposition of this particular phenomenon. So that’s a first.

Second, I think it is important for all of us – and we all can benefit from this – to get some more formal training, so that we have at least a rudimentary appreciation for just how pervasive this racism thing is.  So: humility and additional training.

Blake Rosser is a first-year Master of Public Policy candidate interested in political corruption and social justice.

Opinion: The Trump Presidency as a Catalyst for Millennial Activism

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Sanford Journal of Public Policy.

Source: National Gallery of Australia

No election in modern history has so publicly exposed the political divide between the young and the old as the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Millennials voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton, who garnered 55% of the 18-29 vote, while Donald Trump only picked up 37%. On the flip side, 53% of those aged 65+ voted for Trump and 45% voted for Clinton. This glaring divide in American politics between the young (18-29) and the old (65+) has widened dramatically since George W. Bush’s first election when there was only a two percentage point difference between the young and the old that voted Democrat. The historic Millennial unfavorability for Trump, his cabinet, and his policies may well serve as a catalyst that spurs an increasingly generation-divided electorate to activism.

Clinton’s electoral defeat came as a complete surprise to the majority of the country, especially Millennials. The loss was particularly surprising because Clinton’s odds of winning had been projected at 95% by Reuters/Ipsos three weeks before the election and 71.4% by Millennial statistical soothsayer Nate Silver, up until the day of the election itself.

The fact that Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes, mostly from the Democratic and economic stronghold state of California, but lost the Electoral College is one manifestation of the specific characteristics that set Millennials apart from older generations. At 28.7%, Millennials make up the largest share of the US population, and are notorious for their lack of political participation.

Despite this, Millennials are ripe for activism not only because of Trump, but more broadly because of their youth, diversity, education, and discontent with their social and economic situation. Even though Millennials are the most well-educated generation, they are also underemployed and earn 20% less than their parents did at the same stage of life. Among Millennials themselves, there is a growing income gap between those with college degrees and those without, fueling a cultural gap as many college graduates head to liberal and economically powerful states on the coasts or to larger cities with relatively more job opportunities than the more rural or blue-collar communities from which they migrated out. For these non-urbanite Millennials, many of whom supported Trump, a common hope was that he would change the way Washington politics were “stacked against them.” However, by May of this year, only 40% of people said Trump had made such progress in changing the way Washington worked, while a majority 54% said he hadn’t. No wonder trust in the President to do the right thing has reached a nadir of just 24% among Millennials.

Only 32% of Millennials approve of Trump’s performance thus far, according to a poll released by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. A new Pew study has identified a massive 23% shift of young Republicans (under 30) to the Democratic Party since December 2015, further emphasizing the fact that Millennials are dropping the GOP like hotcakes.

Here’s where my opinion comes in. In my view, my generation is one that is increasingly feeling isolated from society, disaffiliating from organized religion, and suffering from mental illness, bleak economic prospects, and manufactured crises, such as the opioid epidemic. Despite the unprecedented challenges we face from global warming and other man-made disasters, older generations have dismantled the very social institutions, specifically education and housing, that made them the most prosperous group of people in American history, to the detriment of my own. They brought about the election of Donald Trump who many Millennials believe won the election illegitimately. In fact, a majority of Millennials oppose a great many of Trump’s policies, including climate change, tax reform, legalized marijuana, the Muslim ban, and healthcare.

The latest decision of Trump to back out of the Paris Agreement is indicative of the entire presidency not only in its short-sightedness, but also in terms of its backlash. Every generation that faces immense global challenges, such as the Greatest Generation, must have a catalyst that spurs them to action, a crucible that forges their will and inspires them to organize. The Millennial backlash can be seen in the Women’s March in DC, which shattered the previous US record for largest one-day protest, and in the insurgent grassroots rise of special election Democrats, such as the razor thin losses in Georgia and South Carolina.

Despite the worrying trajectory that Trump’s presidency has taken thus far, perhaps the silver lining is that this presidency has and will continue to galvanize this country’s young into political participation and give them the tools to face the immense challenges of the next half century head on.

Phil Hah is a 2017 Master of Public Policy graduate interested in politics, renewable energy, innovation ecosystems, and international affairs.