Tuesday Reading List: Confirmation Hearings and a College Class on Outkast

Senate Republicans have delayed confirmation hearings for Trump's pick for secretary of education, Besy DeVos. Russell Berman at The Atlantic has the story:

DeVos, a conservative education activist and wealthy philanthropist, was set to testify on Wednesday along with four other Trump nominees even though she had yet to sign a certified ethics agreement detailing how she planned to resolve potential conflicts of interest—a step that traditionally occurs before a nominee receives a confirmation hearing ... In addition to highlighting the ethics issue, Democrats had complained that Republicans had jammed several confirmation hearings into a single day to dilute public attention and make it easier for Trump nominees to survive a rocky hearing.

At some level, this is about the Democrats in the Senate trying to get Trump, and all of his nominees, to abide by normal ethics rules. That said, there are reasons to apply greater scrutiny to DeVos in particular, as Philissa Cramer at Chalkbeat notes. She provides a primer on what to look for at the DeVos hearing, zooming in on both ethics and conflicts of interest :

As philanthropists, DeVos and her husband have given away more than a billion dollars. Her education policy political action committee has handed out even more. She has stepped down from the PAC’s leadership and provided substantial information about her finances and campaign contributions, but her official ethics review is ongoing. Senators could reasonably ask whether those longstanding ties can so easily be severed, and whether any of them could continue to influence her judgment. (On the other hand, she’s also given to many of them.)

Her political largesses, combined with her philanthropy, involve many potential potential entanglements, all of which need to be examined and unwound. It's also worth nothing that no president-elect in history has nominated a cabinet slate with this much potential for conflict.

Sharif El-Mekki and Charles Cole, III, writing at Philly's 7th Ward, argue that now is not the time to disengage from the political and policymaking processes:

There is an emerging crop of Black and Brown leaders that have risen from the underbelly of America and sat in classrooms that did not move them forward on the educational spectrum yet they have clawed and built their own seat at a table where they were not wanted or welcomed. As part of this group, we cannot fully disengage, to do so would be a slap in the face of those that were murdered for learning how to read, voting, raising their voice in the face of bigots ... Fully disengaging would be resting in our newfound warmth of privilege and leaving children out in the cold without as much of an attempt to bring them out of the blizzard that is the pervasive educational outcomes we continue to see for Black and Brown children. 

El-Mekki and Cole apply this logic to everything from protest, to working with moderate Republicans in the administration. The piece is a good reminder that the past is packed with examples of overcoming the biases of powerful, prejudiced people.

Finally, on a lighter note, LaVita Tuff at Blavity discovered that Armstrong State University in Georgia is offering a class on Outkast. Panama Jackson at VSB caught up with the professor, Dr. Regina Bradley, who situates the group's particular approach to hip-hop in the history of Civil Rights:

People have written about Nas, Tupac, Wu-Tang, all them. Folks have only whispered bout the ‘Kast and southern hip hop. We off that. We need to make sure we’re represented in the academy. Hip hop isn’t one-region-fits all. Southern hip hop didn’t start in the 1980s in New York. It started in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement ... I’m still working out the logistics of the course, but it is an advanced seminar so students are required to write a 12-15 page research essay. In addition to the final paper, there will also be an annotated playlist assignment, where students will use critical listening skills and research to create a playlist that addresses the question of how hip hop helps black folks living in the south update and shift conversations about race and identity after the Civil Rights Movement.

My first reaction to this is, "Shit, I'm old." My second reaction is utter jealousy. I thought I was spoiled, because I got to take a class on funk music, but this is the next level. Have a great day!