The first Fisher Center event of the spring 2010 semester kicked off with “Constructing Pookie: The Neoliberal Politics of the Black Male Crisis,” a lecture by Lester Spence, author and assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.
Brought to campus by Cedric Johnson, director of the Fisher Center and associate professor of Political Science, to “help attack the theme of economic crisis and black male crisis from different angles and to transition from the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to Black History Month,” Spence addressed a variety of issues, including economics and sociology, race and politics-and the gray areas between.
In his lecture in the Geneva Room, Spence addressed these crises, explaining how the embedment of market principles into the fabric of society promotes a debilitating culture of competition among individuals. According to Spence, this inundation has partially led to certain problems in society as a whole, in particular the current plight of the black male and the inability of the government to recognize those detrimental patterns in society which will have everlasting consequences.
Spence was quick to point out that the plight-that African American males represent a large percentage of those currently incarcerated, dropping out of high school or college and abstaining from their roles as fathers-cannot be explained solely by years of oppression but are indicative of dangerous patterns sweeping across the United States.
“We would see the same dynamic in different degrees if we studied other groups such as the Latino population,” Spence said, “because the ills of our culture permeate across social, political, economic or racial boundaries and are rooted in a ‘hustler’s mentality’ neoliberalism in which there are only winners or losers.”
Exploring the avenues that could be paved by free health care, cutting the military budget, investing in the social capital of individuals through free higher education and proposing resources to uplift women and reduce strictly patriarchal notions, Spence covered a lot of interconnected ground and the possibilities that have yet to be sealed.
“This is one of best times to be alive,” Spence said, referring to President Barack Obama’s election and what it means for the unity of the U.S. in terms of race relations and meritocracy.
Spence received his bachelors’ and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan, and specializes in the study of racial/urban politics as well as public opinion. Spence’s work has also been published by numerous scholarly channels such as The American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly, Political Analysis, the National Political Science Review, and the WEB Dubois Review; he also can be heard regularly on NPR.
For more information, visit Spence’s blog at www.blacksmythe.com.
The Fisher Center was endowed with a $1 million gift from Emily and the late Richard Fisher, whose son Alexander graduated from Hobart College in 1993. Creation of the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men reflects a perfect intersection of the Colleges’ coordinate history and trends in the study of gender throughout academe.