Education, San Francisco style

There is no doubt that the poor live in bad neighborhoods. If they weren’t poor, they’d move someplace nicer. Neighborhoods that smell bad, are unsafe, have falling down houses and are near industry are invariably going to be more affordable than some nice suburban green stretch. This isn’t some evil capitalist plot against poor people, its economic fact, and has been true for all time in all places.

Sadly, economic logic is has never been something taught in San Francisco schools (a fact to which I can personally attest). Instead, class and race warfare is alive and well:

When it comes to walking tours of San Francisco, energetic tourists can choose among dozens. They can take a literary tour of North Beach, stroll past the famous Victorian mansions on Alamo Square, view murals in the Mission or wander through the colorful alleys of Chinatown.

But one walking tour is different. It’s in Hunters Point, a part of town largely ignored by publishers of tourist guides. And it’s not centered on art, architecture or food. It’s all about the pollutants and chemicals that contribute to what local public health authorities consider a neighborhood health crisis of major proportion.

It’s the Toxic Tour — and if it doesn’t sound like fun, that’s the point. It’s intended to show participants — mostly school groups — what happens when a largely poor, minority population lives on a swath of land containing 325 toxic sites.

“It’s an equation that doesn’t start to make that much sense health-wise,” explained Rachel Pomerantz, 29, who leads the tours on behalf of the Hunters Point nonprofit Literacy for Environmental Justice.

On a recent morning, she huddled in the fog just outside the Hunters Point Shipyard with a group of teenagers from Downtown High.

She told them that more than 90 percent of residents of the broader Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood are minorities and that many of them live in poverty. She added that the neighborhood’s residents, who make up about 5 percent of San Francisco’s population, contend with a third of the city’s industry and 30 percent of its hazardous waste sites.

“Is that a coincidence?” she asked them. “Have you guys ever heard of the term environmental racism before?”

“Does that still go on?” a boy asked her.

“What do you think?” she responded. (Emphasis mine.)

The news story’s author has the intelligence to point out that “claims of environmental racism are controversial and debatable.” However, the captive audience of students receiving this Marxist, race-based cant aren’t reading the paper — they’re getting nonsense right from the horse’ mouth.

Please don’t read this and come away believing that I think it’s okay for people to live in toxic waste dumps. I think this is a problem of poverty that a humane society should try to addresss. However, I don’t the problem has its roots in racism or class warfare. Instead, it’s simple economic reality, and affects all poor people in all societies, regardless of their racial make-up as compared to the richer people in their community.

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  • kevin

    “It’s intended to show participants — mostly school groups — what happens when a largely poor, minority population lives on a swath of land containing 325 toxic sites.”

    What an absolutely brilliant albeit subtle concept for teaching kids a valuable lesson. I think they should drive the point home; however, by telling the kids to stay in school and work hard towards their education lest they end up living there too.

  • JJ

    Yeah. Or stuck in Iraq.

  • greg

    Ah yes, those subtle economic forces that concentrate toxins in neighborhoods where politically marginalized populations are free to choose a cleaner environment for their kids by simply cleaning up thier own act and MOVING! The solution to pollution is upward mobility, isn’t it?

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    Greg, do you ever actually read what I write? I don’t argue that there is a problem. I just argue with the facile Marxist conclusion that this is a form of racism, with economics used to oppress people of color. My point is that market realities in all times and places mean that poor people, no matter their color, are going to live in less nice places. There’s no capitalist conspiracy nor is there a racist animus. That is, no one has transported black people and forced them to live in allies behind factories. Nor in recent years, has anyone specifically targeted Hunters Point as a great place to dump toxins, simply because black people live there. In fact, black people ended up living there because they were chasing jobs. During WWII, Hunters Point was an important part of the ship building side of the defense industry, and there was a huge need for workers. Blacks came from all over America for economic opportunities. When the ship building went away, a slum was left behind.

  • greg

    Just like “gender animus” has/had nothing to do with differentially concentrating one gender in less well paid jobs?

  • kevin

    “The solution to pollution is upward mobility, isn’t it?”

    In an industrial nation, there will always be pollutants of some kind; there will also always be poor and the latter will typically live near the former. The solution to not living near these areas IS upward mobility. A healthy respect for education and a good work ethic will do more to help raise people out of poverty and the corresponding bad neighborhoods than a million liberals offering caring platitudes. If the thought of this causes you grief, however, the wonderful thing about America is that you have the freedom to invite them to come live with you.

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    By George, I think Greg’s got it. Since the 1960s, Greg, it’s been illegal to bar women from certain types of employment. Heck, we now have firefighters incapable of carrying people out of burning buildings because fire departments all over America had to lower their standards for women. One great stride for women, one painful burn for fire victims. But I digress….

    The fact is, women still tend to concentrate in certain areas because their goals are different. Teaching remains popular among many women because it means they work the same hours as their children do. Women like jobs with flexible hours because of that pesky little kid thing. That these jobs pay less well than more male dominated jobs is because of market forces, not because of any planned gender discrimination.

  • greg

    I’ll share those charming thoughts with my friend who last year filed and won her gender-discrimination lawsuit against her employer.

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    Pish-tosh, Greg. One case does not a social construct make. I especially know that as a lawyer. There are always going to be bad apple employers, or effective lawyers and credulous juries. I also know that state employment agencies invariably side with employees, especially when, as in California, the laws are set up so that it benefits the agency economically to do so.

  • greg

    As a lawyer you probably also appreciate the irrelevance of your former comments, inasmuch as the childrearing by some women operates indepdendently from the gender animus affecting others.

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    Greg, you’re assuming in that statement that I accept that there is broad gender animus in the American workplace. I don’t. I do accept that there are enormous numbers of women who take lower paying jobs to accommodate their parenting requirements, and that these jobs are lower paying precisely because they do allow those accommodations. I also acknowledge that there are employers who are jerks and who take advantage of women’s different market needs, but these case by case acts of meanness or bigotry are only a very, very small part of the economic equation for working women in America.

  • greg

    Not for a second did I think you saw gender animus as a factor influencing women’s employment. What I’ve dinged you for is your argument that parenting (along with the actions of renegade employers) drives gender disequalities in the workplace. Neither of those factors prevents other factors — gender animus being an important one — from contributing to a woman’s glass ceiling. To argue otherwise (as you do) is to deny the scalar dimensions of social structures.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Greg, do you ever actually read what I write?

    Yes. Because Neo gets the same treatment with her long posts, which she tried to clarify but then realized it was just a waste of time for some people.

    One great stride for women, one painful burn for fire victims.
    I really shouldn’t type this, but as Mancow says. Slow burnnn.

    There are always going to be bad apple employers, or effective lawyers and credulous juries.

    I noticed that ; )

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    What I ding you for Greg, is assuming without any proof beyond one anecdotal piece of evidence that gender animus is an important factor in creating gender disequalities in the workplace. If that’s all the evidence you have your case is weak, indeed.

  • greg

    I haven’t offered any evidence whatsoever, Q, none. Kindly find other grounds for defending Book’s sloppy thought.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Shouldn’t greg be saying that Bookworm hasn’t offered any evidence, or is Greg using the dialectic approach here blogged on by Neo?

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Greg, see your own comment number 8 above for the single anecdote I referred to. Book’s comments are in no way sloppy and are certainly better thought out than your assertion made (according to you) with no supporting evidence whatsoever. As I said in an earlier thread, judge yourself by the same standard you apply to others.

    What you have done here, similar to what you did repeatedly in our earlier exchange, is accuse Bookworm of saying something she never said, then “dinging” her for the “sloppiness” of the thought that you put in her mouth, but she never actually said or thought. Specifically, here you ding Book for “your argument that parenting (along with the actions of renegade employers) drives gender disequalities in the workplace. Neither of those factors prevents other factors — gender animus being an important one — from contributing to a woman’s glass ceiling.” In fact, in arguing that parenting drives gender disequalities, Bookworm never suggested that other factors were prevented from contributing to the glass ceiling. Quite the contrary, Bookworm acknowledged that “that there are employers who are jerks and who take advantage of women’s different market needs.” It is not Bookworm’s analysis, but your own misrepresentation of it which is “sloppy.”

  • kevin

    Class warfare and environmental racism to gender animus–seems like Greg likes to argue beside the point.

  • greg

    I appreciate your effort, Don Q, to defend Book’s position. But I don’t think this is the place to do it. Regardless, you misrepresent Book’s comments.

    Bookworm attributes workforce inequalities to women’s parenting decisions and to the bad behavior of individual employers. She offers these causations as explanatory of gender differences, and she denies the operation of gender animus (although she concedes that such animus does describe the action of individual employers, apparently without besmirching the behavior of employers as a class — either at present or historically). Which is an odd way to think — that the bias shown by some employers against women has no aggregate consequence that we can measure and rectify through policy. Or to put it another way, Book is silent in explaining (and acknowledging) the glass ceiling experienced by women for whom parenting is not a factor.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com/ Don Quixote

    Hi Greg. You are nothing if not amusing. You suggest I find other grounds to defend Bookworm then tell me this is not the place to do so. What better place? Bookworm’s comments, especially the ones I quoted, speak for themselves and others can judge who has misrepresented them. But I can tell you from many personal conversations from her that her thinking on this and all issues is much more complex and intelligent than you give her credit for.

    The issues is not “no aggregrate consequence,” which Bookworm never claimed and you made up, but which causes predominate. As for that, you assert gender bias plays an important role even today but, you proudly tell me, you present no evidence to support this contention. You further try to confuse things by talking about “present and historically” when nothing Bookworm or I have to say on the matter has anything to do with historical patterns of gender animus. We live in a very different world today than we did even 20 or 30 years ago. Your comments completely ignore that fact.

    Again, just apply the same standard to your own comments that you apply to mine or to Bookworm’s and you will see how wanting they are. I invite you to engage in serious discussion, but mere setting up of strawmen that do not accurately portray Bookworm’s thinking and knocking them down hardly qualifies as serious discussion.

    And yes, Kevin, Greg takes pride in the fact that he uses our comments to jump off and talk about what he wants to talk about, without the slightest regard for the usual conversational conventions of also talking about what the other person want to discuss (he was quite explicit on this point in an earlier conversation).

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    Greg, you keep thinking a few experiences here and there create a trend. That some bosses are lousy doesn’t create a trend. However, the fact that statistically significant numbers of women make job decisions based on parenting needs does, in fact, create a trend. You’re trying to make something out of a few bad apples so that you can compare it to an overwhelming tide of maternal oranges. (And apologies for the strained metaphor, but it does make my point.)

  • kevin

    But Bookworm is correct in her analysis that one determination of pay for any given job is the experience and dedication exhibited by the particular employee. A female employee, who chooses to take time off to have children and additional time to be with them in their early (bonding) years, has competing priorities as opposed to the man whose work history is uninterrupted. He has also acquired experience over those years that the woman hasn’t. This is also a basis for promotions into the higher echelons of a business that usually occurs at the pinnacle of one’s career. The decision to choose one person over another for these increasingly rarefied positions is usually based on both capability (as shown by experience and history) and the dedication of the person being promoted. A woman with gaps in her career history for child birth and rearing indicate less dedication and less experience than a man who has worked continuously.

    So, if you feel that you were promoted over a woman who really should have gotten your position—step down, I’m sure she’d appreciate it. And if you are working side-by-side with a woman who you feel is not being paid the same pay for the same work—take a pay cut to level the playing field; you’ll be able to sleep better at nights knowing you really made your point.

    As an aside (and since you changed the direction of the post,) suggestion #1 is also my viewpoint on affirmative action. On the very first day of college they should gather all of the incoming students together into one giant auditorium and ask, “Who believes that affirmative action should apply to college admissions–raise your hands.” Once all the supporters have raised their hands, tell everyone, “Those of you with your hands up–you’ve just been disenrolled so that affirmative action candidates can have your spot.” The problem is, this will only work once; I’ll guarantee that next year no one will raise their hand.

  • kevin

    The last comment was obviously to Greg.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Neo still takes the cake with her response to people like greg.