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Barack Obama thinks 'woke' kids want purity. They don't: they want progress

Barack Obama thinks 'woke' kids want purity. They don't: they want progressThe former president took black and progressive movements to task, without understanding his own failure to deliver change • Call-out culture: how to get it right (and wrong)Former president Barack Obama speaks with actress, model, and activist Yara Shahidi during the Obama Foundation summit in Chicago, on 29 October. Photograph: Ashlee Rezin Garcia/APOn Tuesday, in Chicago, former president Barack Obama joined actress Yara Shahidi in a conversation with activists from his Obama Foundation program. Over the nearly 1.5-hour Obama Foundation summit event, the beloved political figure deployed his trademark charm and humor while discussing the challenges of movement politics.Media attention has focused on a particular part of the conversation – Obama’s criticism of call-out culture and what he perceived as an excessively strident activist left. “We can’t completely remake society in a minute,” Obama said, “so we have to make some accommodations to the existing structures.”He added, “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids and share certain things with you.”He then made a separate point about social media activism:“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself. ‘Man you see how woke I was, I called you out.’” But “that’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change.”On its face, these are fair remarks. During the session, both Obama and Shahidi drew from examples of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the early 1960s, which required enormous faith, patience and compromise from its activists in the face of threats to their lives and livelihood. Today, as social justice activists’ material conditions have relatively improved, they will encounter people in positions of power with wealth and access, and they have to learn to work with them on some level, Obama implied. And no, tweeting about a verb probably won’t bring about change.However, we can’t look at Obama’s remarks in a vacuum. From 2016 – as he prepared to exert his influence over who would be the next Democratic nominee – to the present, Obama has often aimed his political critiques at youth-led, black and progressive movements. While upholding the necessity of nuance, Obama himself seems to force these movements into a box, cherry-picking anecdotes for a strawman: that these movements expect purity and demand perfection.> This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke … you should get over that. The world is messy. There are ambiguities> > Barack ObamaIn an early instance of this ideological pattern, at a 2016 youth town hall in London, Obama spoke generally of Black Lives Matter while referring to the handful of activists who confronted the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her role in criminalizing black youth:“Once you’ve highlighted an issue and brought it to people’s attention … then you can’t just keep on yelling at them. And you can’t refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position. The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room.”A few months later in a Howard commencement address, with Chicago protests of the police killing of Laquan McDonald not far in the distance, he told the audience of mostly black students about his criminal justice reform as a state senator:“I can say this unequivocally: without at least the acceptance of the police organizations in Illinois, I could never have gotten those [criminal justice reform] bills passed … If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want.”And earlier this year, Obama again raised the amorphous specter of purity politics as people have embraced a leftward policy shift:“One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States … is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’ and then we start … a ‘circular firing squad’, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.”Obama has offered these platitudes without much evidence that progressives, Black Lives Matter activists or young voters expect purity. Impatience with the status quo is not purity. A consistent political project is not purity. And being patient has its limits.> For many Americans, the normalization of genuinely leftwing policies is providing the hope and change Obama campaigned onYou can gather from the general direction of Obama’s career, from turning down a route in corporate law to his community organizing, that he has some commitment to social justice. However, his remarks indicate discomfort with more radical tactics in achieving it, reducing them to petulant zeal and not a legitimate strategy among the broad scope of tools needed to dismantle oppressive systems.While discussing Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King as examples of patient progress, he freezes them in time. He failed to note either King’s or Parks’s evolutions. Over time King became more radicalized and questioned integration. When Parks was forced to Detroit to retreat from the backlash against her bus boycott activism, she became a proponent of the Panthers’ self-defense demands and identified Malcolm X as her personal hero.Obama also failed to discuss how, despite King’s strategies negotiating with Lyndon Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress waffled in passing further civil rights measures until the 1968 riots after King’s assassination, when Congress was forced to swiftly pass the Fair Housing Act.Or go back further: despite the negotiations and patience of abolitionists in the 1800s, it was a steady stream of black uprisings, and an entire civil war, that gave abolition laws and the Emancipation Proclamation any teeth.Obama’s fundamental problem is in confusing a strategy of pragmatism with the strategy. Pragmatic approaches can coexist with more radical politics. But Obama’s pattern of dismissing radical demands altogether shows a serious unwillingness to appreciate the times. Obama is committed to a notion of reaching across the aisle that may have seemed necessary in 2012, but not so much in 2019.Americans in the throes of economic struggle and social oppression have been advised to hold their nose for so long that they’re suffocating. The labor movement is experiencing more worker strikes now than in the past 40 years. We’re in a 1968 moment, not 1963. But Obama has not accepted this evolution.As people demand universal policies for basic needs of shelter, food, freedom from police terror, and economic security, and when wealth inequality is the worst in a century, Obama has to reckon with his own questions. How is his form of calling out – scolding black, young and progressive movements – bringing about change? Is he part of the solution or part of the problem?For many Americans, the normalization of genuinely leftwing policies is providing the hope and change Obama campaigned on. This is the time for him to finally help achieve it.



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Kids of U.S. Immigrants Move Up Just Like Those 100 Years Before

Kids of U.S. Immigrants Move Up Just Like Those 100 Years Before(Bloomberg) — Children of U.S. immigrants tend to earn more than their parents and have higher rates of upward mobility than their American-born peers.Those are some of the conclusions in a working paper circulated this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research that explores how immigrants often improve their children’s prospects in life — and shows those born to recent immigrants are moving up just like those who came to American shores a century before.Many immigrants earn less than U.S.-born workers upon arrival, and while they don’t completely catch up in a single generation, their children do, according to the research by Ran Abramitzky of Stanford, Leah Platt Boustan and Elisa Jacome of Princeton University, and Santiago Perez of the University of California at Davis.“Children of immigrants from nearly every sending country have higher rates of upward mobility than the children of the U.S.-born,” they said.They also directly take on the politics around immigration, which was a central theme during the 2016 election that installed Donald Trump as president and remains a controversial topic as the country gears up for the 2020 campaign.“Although some politicians have a short-term perspective on immigrant assimilation, our findings suggest that this view might underestimate the long-run success of immigrants,” they wrote. “Our findings are more consistent with the idea of the ‘American Dream,’ by which even immigrants who come to the U.S. with few resources and little skills have a real chance at improving their children’s prospects.”The analysis tracks immigrants using historical data that stretch back more than 100 years. The first earliest groups consist of 4 million first-generation immigrants and their children in the 1880 or 1910 censuses, with the first group mostly from northern and western European nations such as Ireland or Germany, and the second including more from the southern and eastern parts of the continent who are thought to have faced more initial disadvantages in the labor market.The researchers then follow the children of those groups to the 1910 and 1940 censuses using information on their names, ages and birthplaces. The historical data show “immigrant families were more likely than the U.S.-born to move to areas that offered better prospects for their children,” the researchers wrote.To contact the reporter on this story: William Edwards in Washington at wedwards29@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Margaret Collins at mcollins45@bloomberg.net, Jeff Kearns, Alister BullFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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More severely obese kids should get surgery, MD group says

More severely obese kids should get surgery, MD group saysThe guidance issued Sunday by the American Academy of Pediatrics is based on a review of medical evidence, including several studies showing that surgery in teens can result in marked weight loss lasting at least several years, with few complications. In many cases, related health problems including diabetes and high blood pressure vanished after surgery. While most of those studies involved teens, one included children younger than 12 and found no ill effects on growth, the policy says.



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'She stole their lives': Woman convicted of passing school bus, killing 3 kids in crash

'She stole their lives': Woman convicted of passing school bus, killing 3 kids in crashAlyssa Shepherd was found guilty of three felony counts of reckless homicide for the Oct. 2018 crash that killed three siblings.



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A 97-year-old woman with dementia went missing. Four kids banded together to find her

A 97-year-old woman with dementia went missing. Four kids banded together to find herPolice in California are thanking a group of "junior detectives" who recently helped locate a missing 97-year-old woman with dementia.



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4 feet deep: Historic 'winter' storm means September snow day for kids in Browning, Montana

4 feet deep: Historic 'winter' storm means September snow day for kids in Browning, MontanaKids in Browning, Montana, were gifted with that rare September snow day Monday after a historically early winter storm pounded parts of the West.



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Michigan school bus driver fired after kicking kids off bus for sharing bag of chips: Officials

Michigan school bus driver fired after kicking kids off bus for sharing bag of chips: OfficialsA Michigan school bus driver and bus aide have both been fired after they forced "several" students to exit the bus early, officials say. 



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#NoFutureNoChildren: Teens are pledging not to have kids until the government acts against climate change

#NoFutureNoChildren: Teens are pledging not to have kids until the government acts against climate changeThousands of teenagers are pledging not to have children until the government takes greater steps to steps to combat climate change. 



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'90s kids were asked to do 'simple things' to save the Earth. Gen Z is thinking bigger

'90s kids were asked to do 'simple things' to save the Earth. Gen Z is thinking biggerA 1990s book told kids of the "simple things" to do to affect the environment. Today, many say bigger changes are needed to stop climate change.



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No future, no children: Teens refusing to have kids until there's action on climate change

No future, no children: Teens refusing to have kids until there's action on climate changeCanadian Emma Lim is pledgeing NoFutureNoChildren until her government takes serious action against climate change. And it's cathcing on globally.



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