TIME Culture

A Way to Move Past Implicit Bias

Bias may tell us more than we thought about inequality, violence, and the need to embrace humanity

We love data in America with a passion I’ve seen firsthand. As part of a team of scholars from the New School, Duke Center for Social Equity, and Insight Center for Community Economic Development who study inequality, I’ve also seen an abundance of groundbreaking data on racial and wealth disparities. While recent acts of police brutality and racial terrorism may lead many to despair about the disparities in our communities, our data also points to promising approaches that could enable more people – both back and white – to live their lives to their fullest potential.

As detailed in our recent report, Umbrellas Don’t Make It Rain: Why Studying and Working Hard Isn’t Enough for Black Americans, black families face significant obstacles to economic achievement in this country. Centuries of social and political choices, from slavery to Jim Crow to subprime lending, stymie black families in their efforts to achieve economic advancement through just working and studying hard. Blacks with a college degree have two-thirds the wealth of whites who are high-school dropouts and blacks with full time jobs have about half the wealth of whites who are unemployed. Black Americans are half as likely as their white counterparts to be given job opportunities and are selectively targeted for mass incarceration and “poverty violations” such as driving with a suspended license and failure to provide proof of insurance.

In this context, the recent video that surfaced of a McKinney police officer (which shows him dragging a black girl by her hair and pulling his weapon when two young men ran to her defense) became for me just one more demonstration of how power is not only withheld from but also enforced against people of color. This incident, now overshadowed by the staggering violence in South Carolina, is among a multitude of troubling indications that, contrary to claims of “color-blindness” (especially among Millennials), we as a society are not becoming more progressive on the issue of race.

However, I do believe – in part because of what I’ve seen from the data my team analyzed – that a deeper look at Officer Casebolt as an example can help us better understand why we as a society are stuck and potentially open up pathways toward a more equitable future.

Unlike his actions at the pool party, you’ve probably read less about what Casebolt’s day was like before the events recorded on video. Before the incident took place, Casebolt had responded to a suicide call where a black man shot himself in the head in front of his wife and children. After this incident, he responded to another call where a teenage girl was threatening to jump from the roof of her parent’s home. Why does any of that matter? Because this backstory suggests that Officer Casebolt’s behavior might have been a result of both internalized racism and external emotional trauma.

While it’s impossible to know what was in Casebolt’s mind, it’s a fact that while many white Americans are ideologically opposed to racist prejudice, experts say that may not prevent them from displaying racist behavior. NYU psychology professor David Amodio, who researches prejudice, explains that while white participants in his studies “might write down on a questionnaire that they are positive in their attitudes towards black people,” you can see the influence of their implicit prejudices in a variety of behavioral measures. These biases can be very difficult for even the most well-intentioned to control, and in Casebolt’s case, were likely even more challenging to keep in check after a traumatic day on duty.

Some might ask: so what? As a trustee of the state, Casebolt had a sacrosanct obligation to “protect and serve” all people, regardless of whether he was having a tough day. At the same time, given how pervasive implicit bias is in the United States, we miss an opportunity if we focus on Casebolt solely as an anomaly to be fired and forgotten. Instead, we should view him as both a creator and victim of multiple overlapping systems that deprive most people of the opportunity to express their humanity.

As Brigid Schulte’s brilliant analysis shows, in a society in which people are increasingly overwhelmed and have decreasing leisure, we have less capacity to feel and be human. At the same time, research suggests that having insufficient financial resources decreases our ability to connect with those who are outside our immediate circle of community. If alienation and stress lead to the manifestation of implicit bias, then we should expect empathic connection and joy to be effective antidotes. The data bear this out. Specifically, “the active consideration of other’s mental states and subjective experience” is a powerful means to combat intergroup bias, as well as “loving-kindness” meditation, a Buddhist practice in which people focus on developing warm and friendly feelings toward others.

In the context of policing, Casebolt’s example highlights the importance of prioritizing emotional welfare and positive coping strategies in our efforts to address entrenched racism. Last year the Wall Street Journal reported on efforts to help police officers cope with job-related stress and emotional trauma. As one expert put it, “the culture of policing historically has been that cops…engage in the worst bloody things and when they are done, they’re supposed to be fine, to go home and have a beer.” What if Officer Casebolt had access to more resources and support? It is certainly possible that he might have responded more appropriately to the Texas teens’ pool party.

To be clear, I do not mean to suggest that making more room to be human at work or finding ways to keep financial stress from compromising our empathy ought take the place of direct action and organizing for ending mass incarceration, implementing aggressive job and income supports, and scrapping tax policies that redistribute wealth from the bottom to the top. What I am arguing is that both sets of concerns need to be on the table when we talk about how to address the structural inequalities that our data so starkly reveal. In particular, while both conscious and unconscious biases have created significant obstacles for black families to live their lives to their fullest potential, each requires a more creative and responsive strategy in order to pursue our shared hopes for a better future.

Vishnu Sridharan is a former member of New America’s Asset Building Program who has worked on international and domestic anti-poverty platforms for the past decade. He is a member of the Experts of Color Network at the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

When Rioting Is the Answer

The Boston Boys throwing tea from English ships into Boston harbor in historic tax protest (a.k.a. the Boston Tea Party).
Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images The Boston Boys throwing tea from English ships into Boston harbor in historic tax protest (a.k.a. the Boston Tea Party).

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

From the Boston Tea Party to Ferguson, Americans have employed violence to improve their lot. But does it work?

America was founded on riots. From as far back as the days of tar-and-feathering British tax collectors, citizens have resisted power by fighting back, using fists when their voices weren’t heard.

This violent tradition lives on in the country, boiling up at times in our cities. In places like Los Angeles in 1992, and Ferguson and Baltimore in the past year, urban tensions—often the result of racial and economic inequalities—have exploded into a mess of arson, looting, and police brutality.

What sort of progress is made in these periods of unrest? Do they actually make conditions better? In advance of the Zócalo/UCLA event “Can Urban Riots Cause Change?” we asked people who study, write about, and are deeply engaged with sometimes-violent protests: Have urban riots ever improved the lives of a city’s residents? If so, when and how? If not, why not and what happened?

Sherry Hamby — They work sometimes, but aren’t great solutions

From the Boston Tea Party to the Los Angeles riots to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, violent resistance has sometimes led to positive social change. Most often, rioting has drawn attention to oppressive authoritarian rule (sometimes by kings, sometimes by police). In some cases, it has also spurred investigations into law enforcement or other government systems. Occasionally, it has even forced corrupt or incompetent leaders to surrender or resign.

But rioting—or other violent resistance—does not always make people’s lives better. The 2005 French riots surrounding Paris led to deaths, injuries, car burnings, and arrests. The aftermath was a crackdown on immigration and blaming of musicians instead of a frank assessment of ethnic and religious tensions.

Nonviolent resistance is a relatively new path to social justice. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., were some of the first to convince large groups of people to protest without physical fighting. Gandhi accomplished something that the early Americans did not; he got rid of British colonial rule through peace, not war.

Riots are not great solutions, but riots are usually caused by real injustices. Thousands of people do not take to the streets for no good reason. That was true during the American Revolution, and it is true today. Riots are often the desperate response of people who feel they have no other recourse. We can reduce rioting by providing better access to justice for everyone.

Sherry Hamby is editor of the journal Psychology of Violence and director of the Appalachian Center for Resilience Research. Her most recent books are Battered Women’s Protective Strategies: Stronger Than You Know and The Web of Violence.

Lawrence Grandpre — Their value depends upon whom you ask

If one had asked the white residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921 whether urban riots improve the lives of a city’s residents, they likely would have responded with a resounding “yes.” Fresh off burning down the town’s thriving black business district (the so-called “Black Wall Street”) in retaliation for alleged black criminality, residents would have described the event as necessary for the safety and stability of their communities. As might have the rioters in 1860s New York who attacked more than 200 black men in anger over being drafted to fight for the Union, or the pro-Confederacy rioters in 1860s Baltimore.

But the recent black urban uprisings aren’t seen in the same way. Even though they show a historical continuity between America’s past and present, the constant reality of drug raids, pat downs, and “jump outs” is often not taken seriously as a justification of violence, because these violations of bodies usually aren’t violations of law.

It’s presumptuous to assume those who have not experienced 400 years of anti-black violence have a right to moralize on the black community’s expressions of grief and rage. As such, to the extent to which urban rebellions help expand the range of askable questions and speakable thoughts on race in America, these actions have value.

To debate whether riots help blacks win the proverbial “game” of politics ignores that the existence of such conditions should be proof enough that the game itself is not just rigged, but broken.

Lawrence Grandpre is the director of research of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Baltimore-based social justice think tank. He is co-author of The Black Book: Reflections from the Baltimore Grassroots.

John Hope Bryant — They signal the need for change

Can urban riots cause change? It’s a bit of a paradox. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in 1968, “I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.” Sometimes it takes a riot to bring attention to needed change. Unfortunately, the new action often comes as a reaction to old pain.

As a witness to the riots sparked by the Rodney King beating some 23 years ago, I chose not to be driven by blind rage, but by a determination to change the very chemistry of this volatile brew of anger, recrimination, and recoil. The difference to my approach is that I was looking for the problem that lay underneath the problem. I wanted to unpack power and money and prosperity and repack it with poor people in mind, because it dawned on me that middle-class neighborhoods no matter their racial makeup didn’t riot; only poor ones did.

In the wake of the Rodney King riots, I founded Operation HOPE, a plan to empower the financially ill-equipped and struggling in America to participate in the only system we have: capitalism. The path I chose was based on the power of free enterprise to change lives—no different from what President Abraham Lincoln did in 1865 after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, when he called forth the Freedman’s Bureau, which created the Freedman’s Bank, chartered to teach newly freed slaves about money.

I subscribe to the simple premise that rainbows only come after storms, and I see a shining light of opportunity emerging from the dark night of tragedy and tears. Let us resolve to erase the impediments to equal economic opportunity, and strife will subside, tempers will cool, and a clearer morning of hope will break through the clouds of animosity and rage.

John Hope Bryant is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. He is a member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Youth for President Barack Obama.

Noche Diaz — Rioters do what’s necessary

After 1967’s “Long Hot Summer” with Detroit’s 12th Street riots, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders found that (surprise!) blacks are systematically mistreated. After 100-plus rebellions following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, additions to the Civil Rights Act passed.

Was it right for Baltimore youth to rise up? Or Ferguson youth before that? Will it be right the next time people are sick of police killing them off?

Yes, yes, yes!

Eric Holder has said, “peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations… have led to the change that has been most long lasting and the most pervasive.”

Get real. Tell that to police committing illegitimate violence on the regular—murder and brutality that destroys lives, futures, and whole people. Holder, and the system he represents, care more about CVS and broken cop cars. They greenlight police terror. A black president, a black attorney general, and still no federal prosecutions of cops killing unarmed black people!

Baltimore rises, suddenly six cops are charged. A light was shined on generations living under police crosshairs. Everyone is now forced to relate to the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” This is improvement.

A Baltimore teenager said to me, “I know Freddie [Gray]’s family didn’t want rioting… and people don’t want us destroying our community… but we don’t want police killing us. If they won’t stop, we do what we have to.”

Society was shaken. Lines got drawn. Where this goes is on us.

Noche Diaz is freedom fighter who splits his time between Baltimore and New York City. He is currently facing jail time for protesting killings by police.

This article was written for Zocalo Public Square

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME fashion

Watch 100 Years of Men’s Fashion in Under Three Minutes

From the newsboy caps of 1915 to the slim-fitting jeans of 2015

We’ve seen plenty of videos highlighting the evolution of beauty trends for women — but now, here’s a video that outlines 100 years of men’s fashion.

Mode Studios grabbed a male model and dressed him up in the most iconic looks from the past 100 years, beginning in 1915. Things start off kind of charmingly retro and dapper, with sharp suits and spiffy hats. Then, we’re reminded of some of the more unfortunate looks that became popular for men (primarily in the 1970s and 80s.)

Note how the stylists nail it with the ’90s look, particularly when it comes to facial hair and accessories. And when it is time for 2015’s modern style, they do a great job of making the model look like every guy you work with.

Read next: Watch 100 Years of Russian Beauty Trends in Less Than 2 Minutes

TIME Innovation

How to Go From Evaluation to Inspiration

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The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

Inspiration can be activated, captured, and manipulated

We live in a culture saturated with evaluation.

In school, we learn to take tests. We take the tests, and depending on the outcome, either feel really smart or really stupid. We then prepare for college entrance exams. And then graduate entrance exams. And then occupational entrance exams. Then on the job, we are constantly being evaluated, evaluated, evaluated. With all this evaluating, we have little time left for inspiration. We have little time left to explore the full range of possible roles in life, and see which really activates us.

This matters.

In a culture obsessed with measuring talent, ability, and potential, we often overlook the important role of inspiration in enabling potential.

Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities. Inspiration may sometimes be overlooked because of its elusive nature. Its history of being treated as supernatural or divine hasn’t helped the situation. But as recent research shows, inspiration can be activated, captured, and manipulated, and it has a major effect on important life outcomes.

Inspiration has three main qualities. Psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot have noted these core aspects of inspiration: evocation, transcendence, and approach motivation.

  1. Inspiration is evoked spontaneously without intention. People are usually inspired by something, whether it’s an inspiring role model, teacher, or subject matter. Which is all the more reason why we ought to create the conditions for inspiration.
  2. Inspiration is transcendent of our more animalistic and self-serving concerns and limitations. Such transcendence often involves a moment of clarity and awareness of new possibilities for oneself as well as others. As Thrash and Elliot note, “The heights of human motivation spring from the beauty and goodness that precede us and awaken us to better possibilities.” This moment of clarity is often vivid, and can take the form of a grand vision, or a “seeing” of something one has not seen before (but that was probably always there).
  3. Inspiration involves approach motivation, in which the individual strives to transmit, express, or actualize a new idea or vision. According to Thrash and Elliot, inspiration involves both being inspired by something and acting on that inspiration.

Inspired people share certain characteristics. Thrash and Elliot developed the “Inspiration Scale,” which measures the frequency with which a person experiences inspiration in their daily lives. They found that inspired people were more open to new experiences, and reported more absorption in their tasks. Openness to experience often came before inspiration, suggesting that those who are more open to inspiration are more likely to experience it. Additionally, inspired individuals weren’t more conscientious, supporting the view that inspiration is something that happens to you and is not willed. Inspired individuals also reported having a stronger drive to master their work, but were less competitive, which makes sense if you think of competition as a non-transcendent desire to outperform competitors. Inspired people were more intrinsically motivated and less extrinsically motivated, variables that also strongly impact work performance.

Inspiration was least related to variables that involve agency or the enhancement of resources, again demonstrating the transcendent nature of inspiration. Therefore, what makes an object inspiring is its perceived subjective intrinsic value, and not how much it’s objectively worth or how attainable it is. Inspired people also reported higher levels of important psychological resources, including belief in their own abilities, self-esteem, and optimism. Mastery of work, absorption, creativity, perceived competence, self-esteem, and optimism were all consequences of inspiration, suggesting that inspiration facilitates these important psychological resources. Interestingly, work mastery also came before inspiration, suggesting that inspiration is not purely passive, but does favor the prepared mind.

Inspiration is not the same as positive affect. Compared to the normal experiences of everyday life, inspiration involves elevated levels of positive affect and task involvement, and lower levels of negative affect. Inspiration is not the same state as positive affect, however. Compared to being in an enthusiastic and excited state, people who enter an inspired state (by thinking of a prior moment they were inspired) reported greater levels of spirituality and meaning, and lower levels of volitional control, controllability, and self-responsibility for their inspiration. Whereas positive affect is activated when someone is making progress toward their immediate, conscious goals, inspiration is more related to an awakening to something new, better, or more important: transcendence of one’s previous concerns.

Inspiration is the springboard for creativity. Inspired people view themselves as more creative and show actual increases in self-ratings of creativity over time. Patent-holding inventors report being inspired more frequently and intensely than non-patent holders, and the higher the frequency of inspiration, the higher the number of patents held. Being in a state of inspiration also predicts the creativity of writing samples across scientific writing, poetry, and fiction (as judged by a panel of fellow students) independent of SAT verbal scores, openness to experience, positive affect, specific behaviors (e.g., deleting prior sentences), and aspects of the product quality (e.g., technical merit).

Inspired writers are more efficient and productive, and spend less time pausing and more time writing. The link between inspiration and creativity is consistent with the transcendent aspect of inspiration, since creativity involves seeing possibility beyond existing constraints. Importantly, inspiration and effort predict different aspects of an activity. Individuals who exerted more effort writing spent more of their time pausing, deleted more words, wrote more sentences per paragraph, and had better technical merit and use of rhyming in poems, but their work was not considered more creative.

Inspiration facilitates progress toward goals. In a recent study conducted by Marina Milyavskaya and her colleagues, college students were asked to report three goals they intended to accomplish throughout the course of the semester. They then reported on their progress three times a month. Those who scored higher on the Inspiration Scale displayed increased goal progress, and their progress was a result of setting more inspired goals. Therefore, people who were generally more inspired in their daily lives also tended to set inspired goals, which were then more likely to be successfully attained.

Importantly, the relationship between inspiration and goal progress was reciprocal: goal progress also predicted future goal inspiration. As the researchers note, “this suggests that goal progress and goal inspiration build on each other to form a cycle of greater goal inspiration and greater goal pursuit.” Finally, inspired individuals reported experiencing more purpose in life and more gratitude.

Inspiration increases well-being. In another study, those who were exposed to Michael Jordan’s greatness experienced higher levels of positive affect, and this increase in positive affect was completely explained by their score on the Inspiration Scale. This inspiration was not transitory though, predicting positive well-being (e.g., positive affect, life satisfaction) three months later! Inspiration was more strongly related to future than to present satisfaction. The extent to which inspiration lasted was explained by self-reported levels of purpose and gratitude in life.

These findings show that inspiration matters a lot, which may cause someone to feel pressure to become inspired and helpless to do so considering the evocative and spontaneous nature of inspiration. The writer Elizabeth Gilbert rightly expresses this concern in her inspiring TED talk. I agree with Gilbert that one should not put pressure on oneself to become inspired. These key scientific findings suggest that inspiration is not willed– it happens. Knowing this should free you from the pressure to make inspiration happen.

This does not mean that inspiration is completely outside your control. Contrary to the view of inspiration as purely mythical or divine, I think inspiration is best thought of as a surprising interaction between your current knowledge and the information you receive from the world.

There are things you can do to increase the likelihood of inspiration occurring. Research shows quite clearly that preparation (“work mastery”) is a key ingredient. While inspiration is not the same as effort, effort is an essential condition for inspiration, preparing the mind for an inspirational experience. Openness to experience and positive affect are also important, as having an open mind and approach-oriented attitude will make it more likely that you will be aware of the inspiration once it arrives. Small accomplishments are also important, as they can boost inspiration, setting off a productive and creative cycle. Another incredibly important, and often overlooked trigger of inspiration is exposure to inspiring managers, role models, and heroes.

To become personally inspired, the best you can do is set up the optimal circumstances for inspiration. As a society, the best we can do is assist in setting up these important circumstances for everyone. An easy first step is simply recognizing the sheer potency of inspiration, and its potential impact on everything we do.

It’s time to shift from a culture of evaluation to a culture of inspiration.

I personally can attest to the power of inspiration. As a child in special education, I had no identity, purpose, or passion. I was thoroughly uninspired. Until one day, a special education teacher questioned my place in the school hierarchy, causing me to question my own perceived and self-imposed limitations. That moment changed everything.

This article was originally published by The Aspen Institute on Medium

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

A Letter to Millennials: Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution

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The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

It is time to wake up and begin to think about a digital renaissance

In my last letter, I told you there was a time in the late ’60s when the most critically acclaimed movies and music were also the best selling. The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper album or Francis Coppola’s Godfather film were just two examples. I said that that is not happening anymore, and I wanted to explore with you why this change occurred. Because I spent the first 30 years of my life producing music, movies, and TV, this question matters to me, and I think it should matter to you. So I want to explore the idea that the last 20 years of technological progress — the digital revolution — have devalued the role of the creative artist in our society.

I undertake this question with both optimism and humility. Optimism because I believe in the power of rock and roll or movies to change lives. Certainly witnessing Bob Dylan go electric at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 changed this Princeton freshman who was intent on being a lawyer into a passionate follower of the Rock and Roll Circus who managed to make a good living from the entertainment business for the rest of his life. My optimism also showed itself in 1996 when I helped found the first streaming video on demand service, Intertainer. Anyone crazy enough to found a service that needed broadband in 1996 had to be an optimist. That led to humility, because the diffusion of broadband was much slower than I thought, so I know that predicting the future is a humble man’s game.

In the last few years I have run the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, I confess that I often feel like a cork tossed into a rushing technology stream. While I have no doubt of the wonders of the Internet revolution, I think it’s time to take stock of where this stream is carrying us.

We have become convinced that only machines and corporations make the future, but I don’t think that is true. In thinking about the role of the humanist in our technology-driven future, I was drawn to a sermon Martin Luther King preached at the National Cathedral in Washington two weeks before he was killed. At the outset he told the story of how Rip Van Winkle had passed a sign with a picture of King George III of England on the way up the mountain where he fell into a long sleep. When he came down the mountain, the same sign bore a picture of George Washington.

This reveals that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept 20 years, but that he slept through a revolution. While he was peacefully snoring up in the mountain, a revolution was taking place that would change the course of history — and Rip knew nothing about it. He was asleep. Yes, he slept through a revolution.

I doubt that anyone would quarrel with the notion that the last 20 years of technological disruption have constituted a revolution, but I want to understand just who has been sleeping through this revolution and who has been awake, creating the moral, political, and technical architecture of the world our children will inhabit.

The beginnings of the “cyber revolution” that King referenced in his sermon were already moving forward in 1968 as he was speaking. The origins of that technology revolution were clearly located in the counter-culture, as Fred Turner and John Markoff have shown, and the idea (in Nicholas Negroponte’s words) was to “decentralize control and harmonize people.” That the earliest of networks, like the Whole Earth Lectronic Link (WELL) organized by Stewart Brand, grew directly out of the hippie culture was a natural progression from both the political and cultural growth of ’60s counter-culture.

But within 20 years, starting with Peter Thiel’s cohort at Stanford University, the organizing philosophy of Silicon Valley was far more based on the radical libertarian ideology of Ayn Rand than the commune-based notions of Ken Kesey and Stewart Brand. Thiel, the founder of PayPal, an early investor in Facebook, and the godfather of the PayPal mafia that currently rules Silicon Valley, has been clear about his philosophy.

He stated, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” his reasoning being: “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.”

This is a pretty extraordinary statement, and I have reread the interview he gave to the Cato Institute several times. It appears that most women, in Thiel’s judgment, fall into Ayn Rand’s notion of “takers” as opposed to Thiel’s vaunted male “makers.” So for Thiel, in a true “capitalist democracy” only the makers should get to vote, and the women and the welfare recipients will take what the makers chose to give them.

Whew! It gets worse. Thiel has made it clear that his preference (along with Google CEO Larry Page) for a “free cities” model — in which polities are privately owned and unregulated by states — would be an ideal way for capitalists to avoid the “mob mentality” of democracy. He has even suggested that companies could set themselves up off shore (out of the reach of government) on platforms that would give them true freedom to operate.

Like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, he has built his fortune on enterprises that were not taxed or regulated. He also does not believe in competition, havingstated in the Wall Street Journal that “competition is for losers. If you want to create and capture lasting value, look to build a monopoly.”

Peter Thiel, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg have not been asleep at the revolution, as their inclusion near the top of the Forbes 400 list of America’s billionaires will attest.

Since the introduction of Napster in 2000, global recorded music revenues have fallen from $21 billion to $7 billion per year. Newspaper ad revenue has fallen from $65 billion in 2000 to $18 billion in 2011. Book publisher operating profits have fallen by 40 percent, and the revenue from DVD sales of movies and TV (of the top 100 titles) has fallen from $7 billion to $2.3 billion.

The astonishing fact of the precipitous declines in revenue has nothing to do with the idea that people are listening to less music or watching fewer movies and TV shows. In fact, all surveys point to the opposite. Consumption of all forms of media is rising. So where did the money go? Two places: into the pockets of Digital Monopolists and Digital Thieves.

While the revenues of movie, music and news purveyors were falling rapidly, the revenues of the “internet platform” providers were exploding. Google’s revenue went from $1.2 billion in 2001 to $66 billion in 2014. Amazon went from $4.8 billion in 2002 to $89 billion in 2014. Apple went from $7 billion in2002 to $199 billion in 2014. One could argue that a massive reallocation in the order of $50 billion a year from creators and owners of content to platform owners has taken place since 2000. Make no mistake, while the movie studios, record companies, newspapers and magazines operate in a very competitive environment, the platform providers are monopolists or, at least, oligopolists. Competition is for suckers, and by now Negroponte’s notion of decentralization and harmony has been replaced by Thiel’s beneficent monopoly.

But this does not account for the role of the Digital Bandits. There is a wonderful picture of Kim Dotcom, who made $200 million in two years off of the stolen music and video of countless artists on his Megaupload pirate site. In the picture, the fat German thief stands on a picturesque beach with his “Playmate of the Year” girlfriend sprawled on the sand in the foreground and his 200-foot mega yacht in the background. Kim, in an attempt to fight the lawsuits against him, has appropriated the message of Martin Luther King, assuming the stance of the man who freed everyone from the slavery of having to pay for creative works. Exactly how the hard work of artists got exempted from the notions of the market economy escapes me, but for Kim to pose as some new sort of freedom rider brings us back to the whole fallacy of the libertarian economy. Ayn Rand’s most famous quote is “the question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.” This is how Kim Dotcom has functioned from day one.

The larger question then becomes, who enables the Kim Dotcoms of the world? Type into your Google search box the words “watch (your favorite movie) online free” and you will have the answer.

Whether it is illicit drugs, stolen music, or jihadist lessons on how to blow up an airplane, Google, with a 70 percent market share of all global searches, is the beginning point of a great deal of online criminal activity.

Of course, for most of your generation, the idea of getting your music or movies for free from pirates like Kim Dotcom doesn’t seem like a big deal. But you are studying at USC to (hopefully) become the next generation of journalists, filmmakers, and musicians, so the future of the business is in your hands. Somehow you have to let go of the idea that this is a victimless crime. As I said to you in my last letter, I’m not worried about Jay Z or Beyoncé. I’m worried about the middle class musician, the journeyman that used to be able to ply his trade and make a living selling 25,000 CDs. That does not exist anymore.

But perhaps this tolerance for criminals like Kim Dotcom is part of a larger problem. As the Associate Chancellor of UC Berkeley, Nil Gilman, has written, we are plagued by a twin insurgency: “From below comes a series of interconnected criminal insurgencies that route around states and seek ways to empower and enrich themselves in the shadow of the global economy. From above comes the plutocratic insurgency, in which globalized elites seek to disengage from traditional national obligations and responsibilities.”

Just how we distinguish between the criminal, the warlord, and the rogue state actor will become harder, as Robert Kaplan pointed out many years ago in his prescient book, The Coming Anarchy. What was the nature of the massive hack on Sony this fall? Will we ever know if it was a state-sponsored act or that of an angry laid-off employee? The on-rush of the much-heralded “Internet of Things” will make the possibilities of cyber crime even more profitable. Imagine the now-prevalent cyber blackmail (“pay me $1000 to unlock your data”) played out on a larger scale: “Pay me $200 million to bring the Los Angles Department of Water and Power back on line.” Forbeshas reported a software program being sold on the Dark Web that can ostensibly hack into the “connected car” and take over the acceleration and braking functions.

Here we run into the tricky area of free speech. Google says it can filter out child porn from YouTube but not the Jihadist videos from Anwar al-Awlaki that were the entrance point of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists into the al-Awlaki network.

Just where Google draws the line seems important. Should they block al-Awlaki’s Inspire online magazine, which last month published detailed instructions on how to build a bomb that could pass through airport screening undetected? I don’t really have the answers, but I hope we can begin to have a dialogue around this issue.

Abraham Lincoln supposedly was the first to say, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” Certainly the fact that there are 3000 ISIS videos on YouTube and 10,000 ISIS accounts on Twitter should give you pause. Clearly this is a tricky area, and I don’t believe this is necessarily a matter for government regulation.

The use of their automated content identification technology could be employed to filter content being uploaded to their servers before it is ever displayed on YouTube. But then they couldn’t be selling paper towels in front of ISIS videos.

At this point you might be asking why the loss of billions in the media and entertainment sectors is worth worrying about in the face of the benefits ubiquitous Internet technology has brought you. My feeling is that media is just the canary in the coal mine, and that in the next 20 years, millions of the jobs you are training for might be automated. The Economist recently ran an article in which they projected the probability of your job being taken by a robot in that time period. Citing work from two Oxford University economists, they wrote that “jobs are at a high risk of being automated in 47 percent of the occupational categories into which work is customarily sorted.”

Larry Summers recently said that those who think that the answer to the jobs crisis is just higher education are “whistling past the graveyard.”

What a life awaits you. You can loan your car out on Relay Rides or become an Uber driver. If you can afford a house, you can rent your extra room out on Airbnb and find extra work on TaskRabbit.

We are only a few years into the sharing economy, but one thing is clear: As with Google, most of the economic gains will flow to those who own the platform rather than to those who do the work. Uber is currently valued at $41.2 billion, making it one of the 150 largest corporations in the world. That’s a capitalization larger that Delta Airlines or FedEx, all built on Ayn Rand’s motto: “The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.”

With such economic power comes political power. Uber recently hired Obama campaign svengali David Plouffe to help it navigate the political lobbying waters of Washington, taking a page from Google’s bible. Google outspends all but a few financial and military firms in its lobbying efforts. The main financial backers of the Libertarian movement, the Koch brothers, have vowed to spend $900 million in the 2016 election cycle to ensure that the “no regulation, no taxes” principles of the movement are sacrosanct in the corridors of power.

The digital monopolists are not above using the rhetoric of libertarianism to spread the message that they alone are the guardians of freedom in the world. When the media companies tried (in an admittedly ham-handed fashion) to pass a law (Stop Online Piracy Act) that would require Google to block sites that were making millions off of stolen content, Google unleashed an online campaign stating this would amount to censorship. The uproar from the crowd quickly killed the bill.

Perhaps it is time to ask the question of who benefits from this technological revolution. Who is awake and steering the boat, and who is asleep below decks? As The Economist pointed out, the ability to substitute capital for labor has profound implications for the future of our society. In early 1929, before the stock market crash that set off the Great Depression, the top 1 percent earned 23.9 percent of national income. By 1976, because of 30 years of changes in tax policy as well as regulation, the 1 precent earned 8.9 percent of national income. But the Reagan era reversed both the tax and regulatory policies that had brought on more income equality, and today the top 1 percent earn 24.2 percent of national income.

What is clearly visible is that the great productivity gains brought on by technology, which used to benefit the ordinary workers’ paycheck, now only flow to the owners of capital. The work of Thomas Pinketty, the French economist, shows that this growing income inequality will only get worse in the coming years. The irony is the John Maynard Keynes envisioned this substitution of capital for labor in the ’30s but thought that the result would be an average work week of 15 hours, with a great deal of paid leisure for the common man.

Some have suggested a guaranteed income, but without some discussion, we risk a kind of social unrest that we have not experienced since the ’60s.

If the technology revolution has failed to bring the average worker increased prosperity, it has also created a vast new set of industries built on mining that worker’s most private data, with questionable return benefits. By the end of 2016 there will be 5 billion smartphones in the world, every one of them a vast treasure trove of personal data that can be mined by both the surveillance state and the corporate data brokers who sell your digital life for immense profits. This is where Martin Luther King’s “asleep at the revolution” metaphor seems most telling. Clearly the current corporate narrative about privacy is that it is a sort of currency to be traded to corporations in return for innovation. But Georgetown University Professor Julie Cohen argues that privacy has meaning in and of itself. Jonathan Sadowski describes her argument in The Atlantic:

What Cohen means is that since life and contexts are always changing, privacy cannot be reductively conceived as one specific type of thing. It is better understood as an important buffer that gives us space to develop an identity that is somewhat separate from the surveillance, judgment, and values of our society and culture. Privacy is crucial for helping us manage all of these pressures — pressures that shape the type of person we are — and for “creating spaces for play and the work of self-[development].” Cohen argues that this self-development allows us to discover what type of society we want and what we should do to get there, both factors that are key to living a fulfilled life.

Do you think your shrinking zone of privacy is altering your behavior? Are the pressures of social media keeping us from finding this fulfilled, authentic life? What keeps us asleep at the revolution? Could it be that drinking from the firehose of big data is a sort of deep distraction that prevents us from even asking the humanistic questions of what makes for an examined, authentic life? In the ’30s Aldous Huxley imagined a future in his Brave New World — a future in which the average citizen would take his dose of Soma (a kind of hybrid Prozac/Viagra) and go out to the Feelies, a form of entertainment so all-engrossing that the “prole” never had any sense that he was not a free human. Chris Sullentrop of the New York Times recently reported that several experts told him the virtual reality porn was going to be the killer app. Huxley would smile.

After I gave a speech on this topic, I got a note from Jimmy Bartz, the minister at the small Episcopal Church, Thad’s, that I attend. He, too, agrees that we are asleep at a revolution:

However, I don’t believe enough people can be inspired to endure what it will take to change things if they are “asleep.” You mention the uptick in opiate addiction. There are also soooo many more people on mood altering medication (some need it, but not as many as take it), then, we have food, credit, media, devices. Our ability to endure what we’d have to endure to create the change you espouse (and I espouse) has atrophied to the point that we don’t even have consciousness around it. There’s a level of “insobriety” we’ve never experienced before — data, food, pharma, credit — we’re so doped up on that stuff that we’ll never have the will to legislate the change, and Washington’s too doped up on cash to have the will to do the right thing.

This sense that we are too doped up to care is distressing, but what’s more worrying is that we are building whole sectors of the digital economy on the concept of addiction. I recently picked up a book called Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, in which the author shows how you too can build the latest Snapchat. The schematic of a “trigger, action, reward, investment” sequence is curiously close to that of the Skinner box we all studied in Psych 101.

Like the poor lab rat in pursuit of happiness clicking on the bar for a reward pellet, we spend hours looking for the “like” reward on our social networks. Those with the most likes can turn it into currency, as was demonstrated at the myriad “gifting suites” at the Sundance Film Festival, where popular YouTubers like iJustine collected thousands of dollars worth of free merchandise in exchange for posting about the swag on their social networks. iJustine, whose fames stems from having posted a video on YouTube about her 300-page iPhone bill, noted to the New York Times, “I love products, and I love sharing if I love something. Like, you can probably guarantee that it’s going to be posted, especially if I love it.”

It would be easy to diss iJustine’s blurring of the line between her own opinion and what she is getting paid to like if it weren’t the basic currency of the Internet age. What is any hip hop star but a walking product placement opportunity? How would the TV and movie business survive without “brand integration” dollars to top up the budget? And how would Vox, BuzzFeed or even the vaunted Atlantic survive without the “native advertising” that totally blurs the line between editorial content and paid advertising? If indeed the author of Hooked is on to something, and we really are building powerful addictions to social network apps, then is Peter Thiel’s almost-spiritual commitment to “liberty” really the same as Thomas Jefferson’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? I don’t think so.

Here I am just a guilty as you. I surrender all of my personal data to Facebook in return for the ability to post my vacation photos to my friends.

I have no doubt that innovative developers can continue to build addictive products. Just try to walk down any sidewalk in this university while you constantly dodge people staring at their smartphones. I’ve told you that the Innovation Lab has studied Twitter and politics, and what we found was pretty disturbing. The anonymity that Twitter provides a shield that brings out the worst in humans. Plato told a tale of the Ring of Gyges that when put on would render you invisible. He asked the question: If we were shielded from the consequences of our actions, how would that change the way we act? We know the answer. As David Brooks says, we have created a “coliseum culture” in which some new celebrity gets thrown to the lions on a weekly basis. Of course, I know that writing you to resist the instant riches that might flow to you if you invent the newest addictive app, like Yik Yak, which allows students to shame each other anonymously, is probably a fool’s errand.

My deeper question comes from my position as a professor here for the last 12 years, where I have watched the lure of Silicon Valley grow stronger. If the best and the brightest of you are drawn to building addictive apps rather than making great journalism, important films, or literature that survives the test of time, will we as a society be ultimately impoverished? I was lucky enough to be involved with some artists like Bob Dylan, The Band, George Harrison, and Martin Scorsese, whose work will surely stand the test of time. I’m not sure I know what the implications are of the role-model shift from rebel filmmaker to software coder.

This brings me back to the question of what the tech plutocrats mean by freedom. Martin Luther King led the March on Washington for “jobs and Freedom.” It’s obvious now that the new freedom brought to us by the libertarian elite will not come with jobs. The fact that Facebook generates revenues of $8 billion with less than 9000 employees speaks volumes. Is Peter Thiel’s idea of corporations, free to reap monopoly profits free from government regulation, what we want for our country? Thiel’s icon Ayn Rand defines freedom as “to ask nothing. To expect nothing. To depend on nothing.” How far is this from Jefferson’s great inspiration, the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who defines the good life in these terms?

  • The company of good friends.
  • The freedom and autonomy to enjoy meaningful work.
  • The willingness to live an examined life with a core faith or philosophy.

I worry that our universities are being turned into trade schools in the pursuit of the almighty tech dollar. Are we forsaking the humanities and a basic liberal arts education all in promise to prepare students for the shark tank that awaits them in Silicon Valley or on Wall Street? As I said at the outset, I have no answers, but another phrase from Dr. King’s sermon calls out to me: “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and unguided men.”

Let us not assume that this technological revolution we are living through has but one inevitable outcome. History is made by man, not by corporations or machines. It is time to wake up and begin to think about a digital renaissance. As my colleague Ethan Zuckerman said, “It’s obvious now what we did was a fiasco, so let me remind you that what we wanted to do was something brave and noble.” Your generation does not need to surrender to some sort of techno-determinist future. Let’s try and “rewire” (Ethan’s term) the Internet.

This article was originally published by The Aspen Institute on Medium

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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This Is How You Build a Conscious Capitalism Movement

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The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

The most important word in a democracy is "we"

It’s been almost two years since I started my job as U.S. Secretary of Labor. And during that time, I’ve met a lot of business leaders who are combining idealism and pragmatism to create and expand opportunity.

Take Kip Tindell, CEO of the Container Store, as an example. Kip recently stopped by my office to talk about his belief in “conscious capitalism” — the idea that businesses can look out for the best interests of their communities and workers without hurting their bottom line.

Container Store employees earn well above the minimum wage and bonuses each year based on their performance. The company’s turnover rate is just 10 percent, compared to the 70 percent retail industry average. This approach has earned the Container Store a spot on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 15 straight years because they understand that investing in their workers is good for business.

More and more companies are discovering that an innovative high-road business model improves their bottom line. It reduces turnover and training costs and it makes for more productive employees who provide better customer service.

The goal is to build an economy that works for everyone. How do we do that? How do we ensure that the wind at our back propels everyone forward? How do we create broadly shared prosperity? I believe that government at all levels plays a critical role, but government simply can’t do it alone. We need leadership from a business community that recognizes shareholders are best served when all stakeholders are well-served. We need even more employers to embrace the idea that we all succeed only when we all succeed.

Adopting and updating the Sullivan Principles, a simple code of conduct for companies, could be a catalyst for the change we need. The Sullivan Principles were developed in 1977 by the Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan, the first African-American in our nation’s history to sit on the board of directors of a major corporation. They included: equal pay, non-segregation, training opportunities, and quality of life in housing, transportation, education and health.

The Sullivan Principles were updated in 1999, but I think it’s time for another version. I have a few ideas of what might be included in a set of 21st-century Sullivan Principles for shared prosperity:

1. Reject false choices.

Do I treat my workers with dignity or grow my business? That’s a false choice. It’s possible and profitable to do both. Companies like the Container Store, Costco, Shake Shack, and others have proven that the right decisions lead to win-win-win scenarios where you can do the right thing by your workers, your shareholders and your customers.

2. Shareholder return is not the only metric of a successful business.

It’s an important outcome, but not the only important outcome. We need a stakeholder, rather than a shareholder, model. Doing business in America is a great privilege; employers benefit from a great number of public services like schools and roads to make their businesses grow. So your responsibility has to be not just to quarterly earnings, but also to the common good.

3. Lifting up worker voice.

“Worker voice,” defined in many ways and taking various forms, is indispensable to business competitiveness and a growing economy. One example is Volkswagen, which uses a works council model. For New Belgium beer company, it’s employee stock ownership. Proctor & Gamble has done it with profit-sharing for decades. Unions run organizing campaigns and engage in collective bargaining. But for all of them, regardless of the vehicle, the value proposition is the same: We’re stronger together; we prosper because we embrace the power of we.

4. Fair pay leads to “countrywide prosperity.”

If you work full-time in America, you should be able to support your family without being on public assistance. Higher wages actually reduce employer costs in the long run, and the benefits reverberate throughout the economy. Henry Ford figured that out this virtuous cycle more than 100 years ago. “If we can distribute high wages,” he said, “then that money is going to be spent and it will serve to make storekeepers and distributors and manufacturers and workers in other lines more prosperous and their prosperity will be reflected in our sales. Countrywide high wages spell countrywide prosperity.”

5. Respect work-life balance.

If you really believe family comes first, don’t just pay lip service to it, put it into practice. Twenty-first-century workers, in order to be productive and add value, need the same paid leave enjoyed by their counterparts in every other advanced economy on earth. Companies should help people meet their obligations at work and at home. Something is wrong when families have to pay, in many cases, more for infant day care than for in-state tuition at a public university. We live in a Modern Family world; let’s not live byLeave It to Beaver rules.

6. The most important word in a democracy is “we.”

America has often mythologized individualism, but in reality the nation became great and can only become greater when we work together, strive together, and overcome hardship together. That’s true not just of social justice movements — it’s true of our most successful businesses too.

That’s my back-of-the-envelope attempt to enumerate Sullivan Principles for the world we live in today. I consider it a work in progress, and I challenge everyone to build on it by creating an accountability measure for the businesses you work for, spend at, and invest in.

We have a growing movement of business leaders and others who are committed to building human capital, who believe they can prosper by harnessing the power of we. The sooner we upscale this movement, the sooner we can expand opportunity for all Americans.

This article was originally published by The Aspen Institute on Medium

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Banks Are Right To Be Afraid of the FinTech Boom

FinTech offers users an array of financial services that were once almost exclusively the business of banks

Americans across the economic spectrum struggle to manage their money. We spend too much, save too little, and wait too long to invest. While we could all be more responsible, access to services that facilitate sound financial decision-making is often concentrated at the top of the economic ladder. Each rung down, those resources get a little harder to come by, with those at the very bottom are often locked out of the financial mainstream. Poor and minority families historically have gotten caught between the rock of discriminatory practices like redlining and high-risk lending and the hard place of debt traps. Without access to banks, they find themselves subjected to the to the exorbitant fees and charges by providers of alternative financial services, such as check cashers and payday lenders.

Policymakers should take steps to ensure that all Americans have access to secure, functional, and affordable financial services, as these commodities are crucial to financial wellbeing. But in absence of policy action, the market has moved to fill the need. Financial technology companies (known collectively as FinTech) are broadening access to a range of services that they claim can help us manage our spending, save more money, and make investments in our long-term financial security.

FinTech offers users an array of financial services—from transactions to underwriting—that were once almost exclusively the business of banks. Personal finance apps like Acorns, Digit, and Mint help users track their spending and stay on budget without the assistance of a financial advisor. Personal lending innovators like Lending Club and Prosper enable users to bypass traditional intermediaries with a peer-to-peer lending platform. Companies like Betterment and Wealthfront that facilitate investments, financial planning, and portfolio management have emerged as popular alternatives to traditional wealth managers.

Investors have responded favorably to FinTech companies. Just six months into 2015, FinTech startups have raised nearly $12.4 billion from venture investments and are on track to double their backing over the previous year. While FinTech is booming, it’s unlikely to replace banks altogether, and many FinTech companies actually rely on existing bank accounts. But it is sapping away the banking sector’s profitability, which has raised concerns among traditional banks about their capacity to maintain low-margin services and in a rapidly changing marketplace.

Generally, banks follow a loss leader pricing strategy: They provide certain products (checking accounts) at a cost below their market value to stimulate the sales of more profitable products (loans) and to attract new customers. Now FinTech companies are extracting the most profitable portions of the banking model, leaving banks stuck with high overhead and less profitable products. To recoup their resulting market losses and mitigate the threat of FinTech insurgents, traditional banks and other legacy players in the financial sector are discussing a range of strategies, including charging more for low-margin services, closing bank branches to cut costs, and acquiring FinTech companies. Unfortunately, the impact of some of these strategies has the potential to disrupt the financial lives of low-income households.

The worst-case scenario for low-income families is FinTech’s drain on their profitability prompts banks to abandon their loss leader strategies. For people at the margins of the financial mainstream, the loss leader strategy is a financial lifeline that enables them to maintain checking and savings accounts. If banks compensate for lost revenue by raising fees and charges on current accounts, account ownership is likely to decline. Currently, over a quarter of American households are un- or underbanked. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, one in three unbanked households reported high or unpredictable account fees as a reason for not owning an account and approximately 13 percent reported this to be the main reason. Raising the cost of owning a bank account could drive even more people away from the banking system entirely.

While life with banks can be rough, life without banks can be brutal. Without access to a transaction account, households often turn to alternative financial products that charge exorbitant fees. The average underbanked household spends a staggering $2,412 each year on interest and fees alone. For many households, access comes down to proximity to a brick-and-mortar branch. But as banks look to slash costs, branches are closing in droves (nearly 2,599 in 2014). Low-income and minority neighborhoods are often the first areas targeted. Since late 2008, an astounding 93 percent of the bank branch closings have been in ZIP Codes with below-national median household income levels. And the rise of digital banking may contribute further to this trend as regulators consider a new proposal that would give banks more latitude to decide where they have physical branches.

If the threat to their business grows, banks could opt to use their superior resources to buy up FinTech companies. With the five biggest banks controlling nearly $15 trillion in assets, FinTech’s $12.4 billion in venture investments this year look like peanuts. Acquisition was the approach Capital One took earlier this year when it bought Level Money, an app that helps users track their spending. If proven profitable, it’s likely that other banks will start buying up the competition. While usurping the threat of FinTech by co-opting it may relieve immediate pressure on the banks, it won’t necessarily stop them from trying to cut costs in other ways that disproportionately impact those at the bottom rung on the income ladder. With the last 50 years of history at our backs (or even just the last 10), do we really want banks annexing every potential rival?

Competition is good, as is innovation, especially if they create inroads for new and currently underserved consumers to access and use traditional financial services. And for all their insurgent disruption, some FinTech startups have vision that traditional banks have lacked. They see underserved consumers as an emerging market, especially in developing countries where technological advances like mobile banking have been a key driver of financial inclusion.

The rise of FinTech gives policymakers a good opportunity to take stock of where we have been and where we should be going when it comes to providing the means for low and medium-income Americans to save for the future. As these market forces unfold, policymakers should be designing and supporting ideas that promote more financial inclusion, whether that means more community credit unions, subsidies and tax credits for financial services, or a government-run option like postal banking. Regardless of the provider, legislators need to make access to secure, functional, and affordable financial services for all Americans a bigger priority—and FinTech’s impact on the banking industry is bringing that need into sharper relief by the day.

Patricia Hart is a program associate with the Asset Building Program at New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

World’s Oldest Man Dies in Japan at Age 112

The next title holder appears to also hail from Japan

Sakari Momoi, the world’s oldest living man, died at 112 from kidney failure at a Tokyo nursing home, Saitama city official Aya Kato said Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

A former high school principal who loved Chinese poetry, he has said in the past that sleep was his secret to long life.

The title of world’s oldest living man would now go to another 112-year-old Japanese man, Yasutaro Koide, according to the most recent chart tracking super-centenarians compiled by the Gerontology Research Group.

On the opposite side of the globe, the world’s oldest living woman, Susannah Mushatt Jones, turned 116 on Monday in Brooklyn, New York. She eats four strips of bacon a day and has told TIME her faith in God is the secret to long life.

 

 

TIME Race

Why the Rhetoric of the Past Is Still Present

The Confederate Flag flies on the South Carolina State House grounds in Columbia, S.C. on June 24, 2015.
Jim wAtson—AFP/Getty Images The Confederate Flag flies on the South Carolina State House grounds in Columbia, S.C. on June 24, 2015.

An age-old stereotype has returned

This month, members of the Ku Klux Klan plan to rally in South Carolina in support of the Confederate flag. Claiming that the flag should not be taken down because “it is part of white people’s culture,” James Spears, the head of the Loyal White Knights chapter of the KKK set to host the rally, expressed support for Dylann Roof as well.

Spears told the South Carolina television station WHNS that he thinks Roof “picked the wrong target. A better target for him would have been these gang-bangers, running around rapping, raping and stealing.”

While Americans are now split on whether the flag is a racist symbol that should be removed from public spaces, the KKK’s defense of its values comes as no surprise. What is equally frightening but more surprising, however, is the return of an age-old stereotype that people of color, particular men of color, disproportionately and uncontrollably rape white women. Like the Confederate flag, this stereotype reproduces a violence that is not only racist but also deeply sexist.

On June 17, before Roof murdered nine African American members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., including six women, he allegedly told a witness that “you rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

A mere day before, when Donald Trump declared his bid for presidency, he invoked a similar refrain of scare tactics against Latinos: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Despite losing a series of endorsements and business partnerships due to his comments, Trump has doubled, if not quadrupled, down on this rhetoric. Just last night on CNN, he told Don Lemon, “Well if you look at the statistics of people coming, you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country it’s mind-boggling!” Trump went to ask, “Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don! I mean somebody’s doing it! Who’s doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?”

The success of Trump’s diatribes, which has quickly earned him the No. 2 spot among GOP presidential candidates according to recent polls, is not only happening because his outbursts play well with the far right today. It also pulls on our nation’s history, in which these racial and sexual stereotypes of men and women have served a dual purpose: as a rhetorical shorthand to determine who and who does not deserve to be counted as an American citizen and as a longstanding justification for domestic terror against people of color.

In her book, Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation, Stanford historian Estelle Freedman reveals that cultural and legal understanding of rape have always been tied to “the very meaning of citizenship in American history.”

According to Freedman, the rhetoric that African American men were disproportionately rapists became solidified in the late 19th century, while a similar typecasting occurred for immigrant men, Asian men, southern European and particularly Mediterranean men, whose cultures were depicted as threatening to both white women and young white boys alike. Perpetuated by court cases, news media, and racist popular culture, many African American men and immigrant men were unfairly criminalized in these trials and effectively shut out of the rights and benefits of full citizenship.

By contrast, many of the white men who wrote rape laws, determined who would be arrested and charged with these crimes, and served as judges and jurors on sexual assault cases, not only perpetuated these stereotypes but used them to protect their own status as full citizens. Consequently, rape laws, as Freedman writes, actually “contributed to the immunities enjoyed by white men who seduced, harassed, or assaulted women of any race,” and by doing so, reinforced their own “sexual privileges.”

The result of this double bind was another double harm: to those men who were disproportionately accused of rape because of their racial or cultural “otherness” and to the women, but particularly women of color, who remained vulnerable to sexual violence with little recourse for legal protection or public complaint.

Anti-lynching activist and suffragist Ida B. Wells most forcefully sought to expose and redress this double bind almost a century ago in the pamphlet “The Red Record” when she exposed how the myth of the black male rapist served to justify the widespread lynching of economically and politically mobile African American men and to safeguard white men who sexually assaulted African American women impunity from prosecution or public persecution.

Those who will gather this month to protest the removal of the Confederate flag will likely not be thinking of this history when they do, but its legacy seems alive and well. This double vulnerability was especially true as Roof invoked the stereotype of the black rapist as he murdered his victims, but Trump’s easy application of it in a press conference to other vulnerable groups – undocumented workers from the Caribbean and Central and South America and by extension, Latino Americans themselves – shows that neither the myth nor the violence that it once served to justify is a relic of the past.

Today, as more survivors come forward and politicians, activists, and students organize to reform sexual violence on college campuses and in U.S. military culture, the image of those accused of rape is slowly changing.

It would be easy to pair this progress with the rapid fallout in response to Trump’s dangerous remarks and Roof’s violent actions and conclude that these individuals are mere hangovers from a bygone era of racial and sexual terror.

But, that would be a misread of where we are as a society. Just this weekend, feminist comedian Amy Schumer took to Twitter to stave off criticism from piece in The Guardian that took her to task for a set of racially insensitive jokes. This was on the heels of another piece in the Daily Dot by Anne Thériault that took Schumer for task for a bit where she says, “‘I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual!’” Thériault wrote, “No matter how you parse this joke, it’s racist and awful. It’s not a smart critique of rape culture. It’s a white woman blithely saying that all Latino men are rapists.”

In response to these critiques, Schumer tweeted, “I ask you to resist the urge to pick me apart. Trust me. I am not a racist. I am a devout feminist and lover of all people. My fight is for all people to be treated equally.”

Given Schumer’s comedic repertoire and its progressive politics, we can assume that she believes that her off color remarks were taken out of context and were simply meant to be funny and not exclusionary or incendiary. Maybe.

But like just like the tired Confederate flag in which Roof draped himself, this rhetoric—in any context—continues to marginalize and harm people of color, particularly the women with whom Schumer claims solidarity. That these tired stereotypes came out of the mouth of racist killer shows how little we have progressed, that a wannabe conservative president and feminist comedian continue to stand by their own similar comments, shows how far we have to go.

Salamishah Tillet is an associate professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of “Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post–Civil Rights Imagination” and is currently working on a book about Nina Simone. She is also the co-founder of A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national nonprofit organization that uses art to empower, educate, and mobilize young people to end violence against all girls and women.

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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Bree Newsome’s Confederate Flag Pole Climb Was an Artistic Statement

Here's why Bree Newsome's pole climb was an act of public art

On June 28, in the early hours of the morning, 30-year-old helmeted activist Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole at the South Carolina State House and cut down the controversial Confederate flag, which was first raised there in 1961, almost 100 years after the Civil War.


Bree Newsome takes down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina State House.

It’s easy to dismiss Newsome’s actions as a social media stunt. Many have ridiculed it as pointless (or worse, harmful) theatrics that might derail legal action to take down the flag permanently. For example, The Baltimore Sun quoted two South Carolina lawmakers – Democratic State Senator Marlon Kimpson and Republican State Senator Shane Massey – who called the action counterproductive:

Yes, Newsome was arrested and the flag went right back up.

But Newsome’s climb can be viewed as a significant piece of socially engaged performance art that brought attention to the flag issue. And in the long run, it will work to get it removed, while encouraging people to think about what the flag means, particularly to African Americans.

Two types of socially engaged art

Let’s take a closer look at why this is the case.

Socially engaged art can be divided into two categories: symbolic practice and actual practice. (Newsome’s climb is the latter.)

The ideas of symbolic and actual practice are key concepts in artist and performer Pablo Helguera’s book Education for Socially Engaged Art. Helguera, who’s also the curator of public programming for New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, sees symbolic practice as socially motivated representations of ideas or issues in an artwork.

An example of symbolic practice would be artist Sonya Clark’s timely pieces “Unraveled” and “Unraveling,” which went on display at New York’s Mixed Greens gallery just days before the Charleston murders occurred.

In the work, Clark presents two Confederate flags. With volunteers, Clark completely unraveled one during performances in the space, with the threads bundled into separate piles of red, white and blue. The other is partially unraveled.


Sonya Clark: Unraveling the Confederate flag.

As the website Mother Jones pointed out, Clark uses the flag unraveling “to evoke the slow, patient work of unraveling racism.” Her work encourages contemplation and calls attention to what the Confederate flag represents.

Actual practice projects, on the other hand, involve direct action that can have an impact outside of gallery walls. For example, Rick Lowe’s Project Row Houses preserved and revitalized an historic Houston neighborhood. Meanwhile, Tania Bruguera’s Immigrant Movement International provides public workshops, events, actions and partnerships with immigrant and social service organizations in Queens, New York.

These projects are large in scale, and are grounded in art and aesthetics. They provide actual social and community services in addition to gallery, performance and gathering spaces.

Public expression promotes change

In his book, Helguera highlights the importance of both types of practice. He also looks at Jürgen Habermas’s Theory of Communicative Action, which proposes that social change can happen after individuals engage in public conversations that are rationally argumentative in nature. In other words, people need to “duke it out” publicly in civil disagreement.

Helguera notes that communicative action “can have a lasting effect on the spheres of politics and culture as a true emancipatory force.” It’s more than just talk.

Activist artists like Favianna Rodriguez, whose work is grounded in empowering people around issues of inequality and racism, point out that artists and other cultural workers are essential to creating significant and lasting social change. They do this by changing hearts and minds through culture, and by eventually shifting power in communities. Rodriguez sees legislative and policy change as a two-step process, and insists that “before you change politics, you have to change culture.”

In the case of the Charleston shooting, connecting the Confederate flag’s symbolism with the killer of nine black people at Bible study in their church provides an opportunity for this kind of national conversation.

So here’s why Newsome’s climb was a work of performance art: even though it happened in real life and in real time, it acted as a metaphor for the dismantling of institutionalized racism. Her Superwoman-styled action added a collective exclamation point to the demands to remove the Confederate flag, while tapping into the deeply rooted American mythology of individual heroism.

Individuals can galvanize large groups of people, leading to permanent change – that part of the myth is true. Newsome’s actions spoke to people who are tired of waiting for racial justice, and reenergized them for the rest of the battle.

Though her act of cutting down the divisive flag from the South Carolina State Capitol failed to permanently remove it, it drew waves of continued media attention to the issue. She performed an action movie gesture as a vicarious and thrilling experience for anyone who wanted this symbol of the Confederacy – synonymous with racism for so many people – removed, even for a brief time.

The ConversationColette Gaiter is Associate Professor, Art and Social Change at University of Delaware.

This article was originally published on The Conversation

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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