Chicago Sun-Times
Discussions across the racial divide

Race issues obscure nation's economic divide

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UIC News Release
October 11, 2006

CONTACT: Brian Flood, (312) 996-7681, bflood@uic.edu

BOOK ARGUES RACE ISSUES OBSCURE NATION'S ECONOMIC DIVIDE

A new book by a University of Illinois at Chicago literary theorist
explores American society's emphasis on cultural differences and the
resulting lack of attention devoted to economic inequality.

"The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore
Inequality" (Metropolitan Books, 2006) by Walter Benn Michaels, UIC
professor and head of English, examines diversity in America, the
growing divide between rich and poor, and the need for genuine social
justice.

"We love race -- we love identity -- because we don't love class,"
Michaels writes. "We love thinking that the differences that divide us
are not the differences between those of us who have money and those
who don't but are instead the differences between those of us who are
black and those who are white or Asian or Latino or whatever."

Michaels contends that the prevailing commitment to race and
anti-racism initiatives associated with affirmative action, university
enrollment, and corporate training allows society to overlook the need
for economic equality.

"Classes are not like races and cultures, and treating them as if they
were -- different but equal -- is one of our strategies for managing
inequality rather than minimizing it or eliminating it."

One example of the economic imbalance is the country's education
system, where Michaels maintains the rich have a built-in competitive
advantage over the poor.

"The kinds of solutions that might actually make a difference --
financing every school district equally, abolishing private schools,
making high-quality child care available to every family -- are treated
as if they were positively un-American," he explains in the book's
introduction.

While Michaels spreads blame across both sides of the political
spectrum for economic inequality, he believes liberalism has become
"the accomplice rather than the opponent of the right" in this matter.

He urges the Left to change its course.

"We must shift our focus from cultural diversity to economic equality
to help alter the political terrain of contemporary American life," he
writes.

Michaels, a UIC faculty member since 2001, is considered one of the
country's leading literary theorists. Much of his work examines
American literature and inequality, specifically issues of race and
class.

He is the author of "The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of
History" (2004); "Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism"
(1995); and "The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American
Literature at the Turn of the Century" (1987).

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research
funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students,
12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public
medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities
Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with
community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of
programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around
the world.

For more information about UIC, please visit www.uic.edu

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11 Comments

1) How will this theory overcome the negative influences of the home?

2) Abolishing private schools is akin to abolishing private property. Forget it.

This guy has not proposed any original or even plausibly workable theory. Academics are a dime per dozen.


be careful what you wish for. IF we implement this guys ideas, and the results are not what is expected, then we have eliminated his theory. Then what explains the "divide"?

I think there are some cultures that simply dont value education like others. We can embrace them or not. Telling blacks to do what white people do (i.e., go to college, talk, walk, dress like us. Dont be so animated, etc,etc.)is a bit offensive.

It's interesting from a pragmatic perspective, certainly.

My general feeling is that if the USA did do more to lift the lower economic classes up we would simultaneously be helping those who are still suffering from the side effects of slavery.

Mary, just curious...today's Sun-Times...this article, it bothers me...would you be compelled to share it with readers and state their opinions?

I really feel after reading that the Sun-Times exposed her past, where I once felt sorry, now I wonder. Would you be willing to post this as a topic to share with the bloggers? This woman is the reason why people turn the other way. Your opinion, please. Who's going to suffer? The baby. According to the investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times, it is obvious this woman was out for a self-serving purpose and it would not surprise me if Urlacher whatever his name is, got custody. I wouldn't trust my kid to her. This is the difference between a parent who really is out for the child and the parent who is out for herself. Your comment, please...correct me if I am wrong.

'That's why gold digger doesn't add up'
I refused cash for abortion, says mom of Urlacher's son

October 29, 2006
BY MARK J. KONKOL AND STEVE WARMBIR Staff Reporters
There are two images of Tyna Robertson.
The devoted, churchgoing mother.

And the conniving extorter of wealthy, gullible men, according to court papers.

A stunning ex-stripper from Joliet, Robertson insists she's not a gold digger -- only a struggling, misunderstood woman faced with raising her infant son on her own.


» Click to enlarge image

Tyna Robertson, Brian Urlacher's former lover -- and mother of his son.
(John Patsch/STNG)

RELATED STORIES
• Urlacher pays for dad days
• Settlement hinted in custody case
A Chicago Sun-Times review of hundreds of pages of court documents, however, paints a different tale of Tyna.
Robertson is dogged by years of allegations that she shakes men down for money.

She has had a long list of boyfriends, including boxer Andrew Golata, "Lord of the Dance" star Michael Flatley, several professional ballplayers, even a cabinetmaker and a physical therapist. She speaks Spanish and Polish.

Flatley is suing her and an attorney for $100 million for allegedly making a false allegation that Flatley raped Robertson in Las Vegas. Robertson insists she was raped and wasn't involved in any extortion. Her $35 million lawsuit against Flatley was tossed out of court.

These days, she's best known as the mother of Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher's 17-month-old boy, Kennedy.

Robertson says Urlacher never wanted to have the child. In fact, she told the Sun-Times that she turned down a six-figure offer to have an abortion when she was two months pregnant.

"That's why gold digger doesn't add up. If I just wanted money, I could have aborted the baby," she said.

Her powerhouse family-law attorney, Steve Lake, said: "I don't see her as someone who had a baby to extort money."

Robertson claims that the abortion allegation prompted a settlement in their bitter custody fight.

"They didn't really want anyone to know about that," she said.

Bears officials said Urlacher told them there is "absolutely no truth to it."


'I must be easy on the eyes'
Urlacher's attorney Donald Schiller denied the allegation, saying, "When weighing the truthfulness of her quotes, just look at the source."
Robertson grew up in working-class Joliet, a far cry from the lure of luxury along Rush Street, where she's well-known.

"I must be easy on the eyes," she says, explaining why famous men have courted her. "A lot of professional athletes ask me out, and I've turned them down."

For years, Robertson has had a taste for the good life while struggling financially.

She filed for bankruptcy in 1998, listing a 1998 Corvette valued at $35,000 as a top asset.

The year before, she made $12,000. She listed her occupation as "Sales/Entertainer" but was unemployed then.

She owed thousands of dollars to high-end department stores, including Neiman Marcus, and thousands more to casinos. She admits battling a gambling problem.

"Obviously, I'm not a good gambler," she said.

In a recent court affidavit, Robertson reported similar money woes. She reported about $12,270 a month in expenses -- including $3,000 for a nanny, $2,000 in clothes, $600 for clubs and entertaining, $1,300 for vacations and $500 in children's entertainment. She makes $500 a month.

In the past, to make money, Robertson worked as an exotic dancer at Thee Doll House in Stone Park.

"I'm not proud of it. I wasn't even a good dancer," she said.

The late, renowned private investigator Ernie Rizzo said in an interview before he died that Robertson graduated from stripper to parasite of the rich and famous. Rizzo had investigated Robertson extensively for a client he declined to name.

Robertson disputes Rizzo's conclusion, saying, "It's not in my heart to take advantage of anyone."

Robertson often finds herself in courthouses, whether she's suing someone or getting sued. She's had tiffs with her hairdresser, business partners and even the men she paid to paint her Dodge Viper.

A married west suburban millionaire clashed with Robertson in court.


Sued by businessman
Robertson told the Sun-Times she and the man were just business partners. But another source familiar with the matter said the two were romantically linked.
At first, records show, they appeared to be getting along, buying a Mitsubishi and a house together in west suburban Naperville in 1999.

Soon, the relationship soured.

The businessman sued Robertson in 2001 for $463,149 that she charged on a corporate credit card he had given her, records show. Most of it was gambling debt.

The businessman also got an order of protection against Robertson, ordering her away from his family and business.

The matter was settled out of court, with the businessman eating much of the charges, a source said.


Dancer countersues
Robertson got her first taste of national exposure when she alleged in 2003 that star Irish dancer Michael Flatley raped her in a Las Vegas hotel the year before. Flatley said the sex was consensual.
That lawsuit was tossed out, and Flatley countersued her and the lawyer representing her for $100 million for civil extortion and defamation. The lawsuit is pending. Robertson said she had nothing to do with any extortion alleged in the complaint.

Flatley contends Robertson "had followed a pattern and practice of extorting money and other financial benefits from men."

Flatley suggests Robertson was lining up witnesses even before they went to bed.

The two ate dinner at Lutece Restaurant, where Robertson ordered chocolate cake to come before her dinner and later made a fuss -- all to make sure the waiter remembered her and who she was dining with, Flatley alleges.

Robertson later noted the name of the hotel employee who showed her to Flatley's suite, Flatley alleges.


'Mr. Suave, he's not'
As for Urlacher, Robertson met him at a Chicago nightclub, where they hit it off and talked all night long.
"He was nervous and shy and everything. Mr. Suave he's not," she said.

They dated for a bit, but Robertson had her eye on someone else.

"I told Brian to kick rocks," she said. "Then I found out I was pregnant."

Robertson said when she broke the news to Urlacher, he asked her to have an abortion. When she refused, Urlacher asked her to move out of state, according to a court filing that includes a series of text messages that Urlacher -- who has two daughters -- allegedly sent to Robertson.

One message allegedly sent on Nov. 10, 2004, reads: "UR right I don't want anymore kids and its 2 bad U want 2 bring a child into this situation when it could B avoided," court records show.

Their son was born May 20, 2005, but Urlacher did not meet him until July 22 and only spent 15 minutes with the boy on that day, according to court documents.

But in September 2005, Urlacher sought to establish paternity and seek full custody of the boy, whom he proudly included in his Bears media guide biography. Through a Bears spokesman, Urlacher declined a request for an interview.

Despite the venomous court battle between them, Robertson says she still has a soft spot for Urlacher.

They flirted a bit and "played footsies under the table" during a sit-down with their child custody attorneys, she said.

She said she wants to make sure Kennedy has a good life and is putting her trust in God.

Her son "is like Bamm-Bamm from the Flintstones. If he picks up the couch some day it will not surprise me," she said. "He definitely is Brian's son."

"If it wasn't for God, I never would have made it through this. I go to church six to seven times a week for morning prayer. That's why I'm not angry at Brian," she said.

Robertson says she's not sure if they'll ever get back together. Still, she was interested in whether Urlacher was with an old flame, Paris Hilton, when Hilton was in town a few days ago.

In a text message to a reporter at 11:35 p.m. Thursday, Robertson asked, "Paris Hilton is in town are they together?"

mkonkol@suntimes.com

swarmbir@suntimes.com


I didn't bother reading past the first two posts. Do you realize that blacks and whites are now the minority? Hispanics/Mexicans out-populate us...wake up, Mary. Really. We are the minorities...they are the majority. They are living off your slaves, my white slaves and we are outnumbered. I almost think the black and white race may be extinct one day. Hispanics outnumber us. Doesn't that kind of make you want to write about that,instead of racism, slavery, etc.?We're the past, they are taking over the future. In other words, write about the Hispanics/Mex's taking over...

jean, you are absolutely correct. Hispanics (mainly, Mexicans) will take over, this is what we say. This is what we talk about in our gatherings, (family, social, political, etc.). The day is coming and neither the black or white man is prepared nor it will stop us. VIVA LA RAZA!!

to David: Yes, this Michaels guy is just a lot of talk. The only thing he is correct on is the fact the liberals have indeed been more the problem and he asks the 'left to change its course. We are entering a WORLD economy.Its WORLD workers competing for jobs and services now. And today's American education system is NOT preparing the young for this future. Why, because groups such as the teacher's unions, etc. are being tied down by partisan-party politics. Don't cry about how you are being cheated. Because your community votes 90% for one-party. The party thats first priority is to protect INCOMPETENT teachers and staffs. Rather then stress quality. It's YOUR child that will suffer. Its these groups that stress political-correctness rather than prepare YOUR child to compete successfully in this world market. Hey, here in Chicago, a public high school is more apt to leap praise upon a star basketball player then a student who wins a national science project. Even if the player can't communicate a sentence properly. We have school boards that gave awards to Ganstra Disciples in the past (Englewood H.S.) and then everybody is scratching their heads because children get shot in the community. The priorities need to change. Look at Mary's article today. She's asking young black men to marry their children's mothers. Show some responsibility. I got some news for you. I do notice Mary was careful NOT to mention that many Black Leaders have set poor examples when it comes to children out-of-wedlock. Black men in 1950 had it alot worse than you. No fair-housing laws, no affirmative-action on employment, the poll tax, and we can go on. But you know what, only 9% of the children were born-out-of wedlock despite these unfair standards. Not 70%-plus like today.A child from a one-parent household starts off with a disadvantage to begin with. And don't point fingers. The problem is 100% YOUR generation and not another community or older people...Also, your comment: "Telling blacks to do what white people do (i.e., go to college, talk, walk, dress like us.Don't be so animated, etc., etc.) is a bit offensive." I'll tell you what, nobody is asking you to be white. But guess what, you are going to live your life in America. Remember the old saying, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." So be uneducated and see how you fare in this coming world-economy which stresses modern technology and economic savvy. YOU only have yourself to blame. And to 'get respect, sometimes you have to give respect'. Its a 2-way street ! Go for a job interview and look like a hip-hop artist. Chances are you won't make it past the first interview. And YOU will only have YOURSELF to blame.

to RC: You feel the USA should do more to lift the lower economic classes. Hey, we all agree on that. Again, who do YOU ALWAYS vote for? Knowing that their first priorities are protecting bad teachers, lining their own pockets, pushing a PC-agenda rather then preparing YOUR children to compete in a fierce world market, and 'taking your community for granted'. Just asking? Also, see where THEY send there children to school?

to Jean: Lighten up ! Yes, the Mexican-American community is the largest MINORITY in the USA. But Jean, thats MINORITY and not MAJORITY.

john, I'll give you a hint -

I didn't vote for the party that gave tax breaks that overwhelmingly benefitted the upper 2% of our economic spectrum.

I find it interesting that in each of the comments to Mary's original post, people comment on race as a large contributor to identity. I think the fact that we are all people and the color of one's skin or "racial" reference is a very small fraction of what makes up a person is being pushed to the side. In response to David, race is a different issue from nationality, by the nature of participating in a culture one takes on characteristics and values of their social surroundings. It's not about forcing people to become educated, it's about giving all people the opportunity for success. And in terms of making people conform to "white peoples'" standards, I think that this issue has very little to do with the problem at hand. The problem is that there are many Americans who are stuck in a position of poverty and disadvantage. These Americans tend to be people who do not have white skin, and this is due to the historical enslavement and prejudice they have suffered. Even today, de-segregation has not truly been enforced in all of our public schools. New Orleans is a prime example of that as many of the impoverished neighborhoods are dominated by African Americans, and as students attend schools in their locality they are segregated. Ignorning this fact and the reasons for this fact inhibit our society from forward movement to gaining awareness on this issue. It is not about placing blame or being forced to take credit for actions of ancestors, but it is about raising consciousness and doing something about the problem at hand. We are all people, and without regard to the color of one's skin, need to take responsibility and learn to work together in making our communities healthier, stronger, and representative of the value system of equality America supposedly holds. "White" people may be a population minority, but they are also the top one percent of the economic majority, and that fact says something on its own.

Come on..a study from someone at UIC? UIC is a step below a bad junior college.

Yes, it is ironic it took a white may to force blacks, including the NAACP, (I am a lifetime member) to force black leaders to denounce the use of the n-word. Paul Munday
(sp?the comedian, I believe) even
referred to a white psychologist (Dr. Phil) in reference to Munday's not using the n-word again. How
sick is that? Why don't you write an article about that.

Walter Benn Michaels, UIC
professor states, "The kinds of solutions that might actually make a difference --
financing every school district equally, abolishing private schools..."

I agree with financing every school district equally, as soon as the residents that pay the school taxes are made to pay into this system equally. In my humble opinion, all businesses/corporations should pay into a state education fund, then these funds should be distributed equally to every school district throughout the state, regardless of which district these particular businesses/corporations are located. However, school taxes paid by private residents should remain within the school district in which they reside. Why should I, living in the suburbs, be forced to pay higher school taxes than someone living in the inner city, yet my children not recieve the benefit from my higher taxation? Lower my school taxes to the inner city levels, or raise the inner city school taxes to the suburban levels. Then if you still receive unequal funding after paying equally INTO the system, you have a valid complaint. If I pay $2500 more a year in school taxes than someone from the inner city, then my child should receive the benefit of that. If you think that its unfair that I live in the suburbs and therefore deserve to pay higher taxes, then I invite you to work the 80 hrs a week that I work in order to live my lifestyle. I guess my point is, I should not be penalized (excessively taxed) for my work ethic, but instead, my family and I should reap the benefits of my willingness to work as many hours as two people usually work in any given week.
Regarding eliminating private schools, I do believe that when a parent decides to send their child to a private school, they still must pay their public school taxes. If they choose to spend more money on their childs education out of their personal income, then so be it. Whether it be Jesse Jackson, or any number of persons that have acquired wealth though making right decisions in life, that is THEIR money to do so with it as they choose! This IS America, afterall. Not a Socialist society.

"The problem is that there are many Americans who are stuck in a position of poverty and disadvantage. These Americans tend to be people who do not have white skin, and this is due to the historical enslavement and prejudice they have suffered".
Posted by: akmitch25

To akmitch25,
West Indies black immigrants have (for the most part) skin that is as dark as, if not darker than most so called african-americans, yet their household incomes are slightly higher than that of white Americans, on average. If America is so patently racist against dark skinned blacks, how do you explain their overwhelming success in modern day "racist" America? Could it be that hard work trumps race? Oh, but you say that they were not enslaved and therefore do not have the stigma associated with people that had once been enslaved. Who is it that continues to remind American black youth of past injustices, therefore continuing this societal defeatism mentality on their young minds from generation to generation? Why is it that SOME American blacks (see New Orleans, pre-Hurricane Katrina) continue to fail so miserably when immigrant blacks have caught up with whites, and in some cases passed them? How did our beloved Mary (wink atcha, Mary) become such a success? How did the millions upon millions upon millions of other blacks in America find success in this so called racist society? Through affirmative action? Maybe, maybe not. I choose to think that they made it in this country by having parent(s) that cared about their education and who their friends were. Parents that were actively involved in their lives, read a book to them, then got down on their knees next to their child and said a prayer with them, kissing them on the forehead, before telling them that they love them and tucking them into bed. Parents that told them that they can be whatever they choose to be in this country, instead of telling them that life will always hold them down, regardless of their effort to become successful. I also think that blacks succeed by their own hard work and sheer will, setting and maintaining goals, and staying "on the straight and narrow", thereby succeeding in spite of obstacles placed in their path from time to time. There are some white people that lack these traits, too. I'm sure you've seen them. You can spot them from a mile away by their lack of social skills, and how they act in public, just as you can spot blacks that have had poor (not necessarily financial) upbringing and lacking social skills. You can also spot the people that will more than likely become a success in life, regardless of their ethnicity. It all starts with their upbringing, and how their mind was molded at an early age.

Mary, though I disagree with MANY of your opinions, and many of the opinions of your bloggers, I do enjoy the lively debate. Thank you for the forum. Keep up the good work. Through debate comes learning, and through learning comes understanding. Thanks again to you and ALL of your bloggers, including those with which I disagree.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on October 17, 2006 10:09 PM.

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