Computer classes at a library in San Mateo, California. (Flickr/San Mateo County Library's photostream.)
In this year's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama envisioned a new era of American education and prosperity that comes with being a full participant in the digital age: "Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn't just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age." In classic Obama style, he referred to a future where rural farmers in states such as Iowa and Alabama could become successful by selling their wares online, where students would be free to enter any classroom, and where patients could have video chats with doctors.
"Fresh, farm-made jams and sauces," trumpets a small, hand-lettered sign hanging over a veritable cornucopia of ruby-red salsas, assorted dips, and strawberry preserves. It is the beginning of farmers market season in Washington, D.C., where modest stalls bearing fruits, vegetables, and pastries seem to sprout overnight and take root in small corners of the city. They always attract crowds, most often young, urban professionals. The open-air markets have become a familiar part of the summer landscape, but the shoppers most often browsing the stalls reflect just a tiny, wealthy segment of the city. Why isn't everyone shopping here?
On March 18, 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama gave a speech on race in Philadelphia designed to lance the boil of the Jeremiah Wright controversy and provide a thoughtful commentary on the current state of race in our nation. Less than a year later, on Jan. 20, 2009, Obama was inaugurated president. Buoyed by his thoughtful prose and the promise of a progressive approach to race and race relations, he rode a tide of change into the Oval Office.
How much do deeply embedded stereotypes play into our decisions? On May 28, undercover officer Omar J. Edwards was shot and killed by fellow officer Andrew Dunton. Edwards was black and Dunton was white.
The reports from the scene paint a blurry picture: Edwards was off-duty and in plain clothes with his gun drawn in pursuit of a suspect he believed tried to break into his car. Dunton and two others had arrived on the scene in an unmarked car and had reportedly called out "Police! Stop!" before opening fire. While the autopsy states that the bullet entered through Edwards' back, implying that he had not heard the officers, Dunton and his colleagues claim Edwards had turned to face them weapon in hand.