Monthly Archives: August 2010

Celluloid Blue and Green: How Bullfrog Films is Bringing Together Environmental and Working-Class Concerns

In 2009 Emagazine represented the coming together of labor and environmental activists as the marriage of “blue” and “green.”  Environmental journalist Ethan Goffman chronicled the new alliances being made between the two (previously opposed) camps, such as the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club’s BlueGreen Alliance.

Another place where blue and green are coming together is in the documentary films being distributed by Bullfrog Films.  The Reading, PA company was founded in 1973 by an Englishman, John Hoskyns-Abrahall (now an American citizen) and his wife, Winnie Scherrer.  The young idealists met in the early 1970s at the Annenberg School for Communication in Philadelphia, and, to their mutual delight, they have been able to make a living distributing progressive documentaries for the last three and a half decades.

Bullfrog Films tackle the core themes of environmentalism and sustainability.  The name of the company references the “chorus of bullfrogs” that Hoskyns-Abrahall and Scherrer hear around the pond at their home/business outside Reading, PA—on a plot of land that was once a turkey farm.  As the company website explains, the bullfrog is also a “symbol of survival and adaptability.”  One final reference:  the 1969 British independent film, Bronco Bullfrog, was the first film that Hoskyns-Abrahall worked on when he thought he was on route to become a solicitor.  Now a cult classic, Bronco Bullfrog chronicled the lives of down-and-out teens in the depressed back alleys of East London in black and white.

Today Bullfrogs Films has hundreds of eclectic titles on subjects ranging from the children of Mexican immigrants, Which Way Home, a film about an overlooked ubiquitous resource; Dirt!  The Movie; and a film that chronicles the high-stakes pranks of a group of crafty performance artists, The Yes Men Fix the World.  You can search their titles by “subject,” with subject keywords as diverse as Opera, War and Peace, Labor and Work Issues, Death and Dying, Genetically Modified Foods, Burma, Habitat, Recycling, Reproductive Rights, and Capitalism.

What impresses me about Bullfrog Films is the way in which they frequently put ordinary workers and immigrants at the center of their concerns about sustainability.  I have always rejected a certain kind of “Save the Spotted Owls” environmentalism that assumes that it is OK to make loggers extinct in the process of saving endangered birds.  Instead, the films distributed by Bullfrog Films connect the work of saving the planet to other political and economic issues.  You might see some doe-eyed baby seals in their catalog, but you will see some doe-eyed human beings, as well, crying out for justice in a time of economic and environmental disaster.

Two recent Bullfrog titles that address issues of class include The American Ruling Class (2007) and What’s the Economy for Anyway? (2010)  The American Ruling Class is a quirky genre all its own:  a “documentary musical.”  In fact it is a kind of inverted reality show, in which the characters are fictional but the circumstances are real.  The film was written by (and stars) the real life former Harpers Magazine editor Lewis Lapham as he tries to help two fictional Yale graduates.  Jack, from a wealthy family, accepts an offer to work for Goldman Sachs after graduation.  The other Yale man, Mike from a more modest background, works as a waiter and wants to be a writer.  Mike is the character we are rooting for to save the world, and most of the film consists of Mike’s tour of the ruling class, from Wall Street to Hollywood to Mexico.

Along the way the two young men meet an astonishing number of actual members of the ruling class, including Bill Bradley, James A. Baker III, Lawrence H. Summers, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., most of whom deny the existence of their own kind.  Mike also meets some of the great progressive intellectuals and artists, too, including Barbara Eherenreich, Kurt Vonnegut, and Robert Altman.  At the end of the film, one of our country’s greatest living treasures, Pete Seeger, plays the banjo while walking Mike down the path to either his job interview at Goldman Sachs or something more noble.  We’re not entirely sure.  What we are sure of, however, is that Lewis Lapham has an impressive rolodex. To see James A. Baker III placidly deny the existence of a ruling class is to see something rather extraordinary indeed.

The other film, What’s the Economy for Anyway? is more explicitly didactic, but I also found it to be more gripping.  What IS the economy for, anyway?  Is it for a small group of people to become wealthy?  Or is it for the greatest good?  The film’s creator and narrator, David Batker, is an ecological economist who is also bald and a bit of a goofball.  Throughout the film he combines startling facts with dopey animated graphics and corny sound effects in order to explore Gifford Pinchot’s (Secretary of the Interior under Roosevelt) assertion that job of the economy is to create “the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest run.”

Watching Batker’s film, I learned a lot.  Is the US really the only Western country that doesn’t have a law guaranteeing paid vacation time?  Yes.  Is the US really one of four nations in the world that has no federally mandated paid maternity leave?  Yes.  Are Americans more likely to be depressed and/or suicidal than Europeans?  Yes.

Batker’s profession of “ecological economist” is new to me, but it seems like a good idea.  It is high time Blue and Green to came together, in the political arena as well as on film.  It is also heartening to see an ecologically oriented film company that does not focus narrowly on butterflies, bees, water, and plastic.  Instead Bullfrog Films, like Gifford Pinchot himself, is interested in the greatest good—the idea that quality of life for ordinary workers must be conserved if we want the ultimate in sustainable living.

Kathy M. Newman

Kathy M. Newman is professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University.  She was involved in the effort to unionize Teaching Assistants at Yale University in the 1990s and she is currently finishing a book, Blacklisted and Bluecollared: How Americans Saw Class in the 1950s.

Debating Economic Development: Downtown versus the Neighborhood

Last week, the Center for Working-Class Studies distributed a commentary on how proponents of economic development and local government leaders were ignoring the continuing struggles of Youngstown’s neighborhoods.  “A Renaissance for Whom? Youngstown and Its Neighborhoods” attempted to capture community discontent over the idea that developing downtown would, in and of itself, solve the city’s problems.

What’s happening in Youngstown will, we expect, sound familiar to readers from around the country. Widespread job loss affects not just individuals but also communities, and for deindustrialized areas, the latest economic wounds exacerbate old injuries.  The same can be said for the tension between promoting economic development and addressing the needs of working-class people in urban neighborhoods.

Between us, we have been studying Youngstown for well over a decade.  In preparing our analysis of the current situation, we attended dozens of community meetings and interviewed over 50 local residents and community organizers. We found that long term unemployment (see the CWCS’s discussion of the de facto unemployment rate), the loss of unemployment benefits and savings, the housing crisis, and the reductions in social services were devastating to the area’s already struggling neighborhoods. The Youngstown area has lost over 9000 jobs since the beginning of the ”Great Recession” and has 22,000 vacant parcels of land and another 4000 homes in delinquency or foreclosure.  Yet local leaders have largely ignored problems of unemployment and housing in working-class neighborhoods, choosing to accentuate the so-called “Youngstown Renaissance” that has brought new high-tech jobs and several new restaurants and clubs to downtown.  Yet many economic development staffers and most of those who have moved to the area to work in new downtown businesses live outside of the city.  No wonder they prefer to tout the transformation their work brings to downtown rather than the conditions of neighborhoods they prefer to avoid.

Over the past decade, Youngstown’s media image has changed, as reporters have praised Youngstown’s 2010 plan to adapt to its shrinking population and identified the city as a good place to start a new business.  New business and more efficient local government do contribute to the overall strength of the local economy.  We applaud efforts to bring new businesses to town or support new restaurants and activities downtown.  But in order to thrive, deindustrialized communities need good working-class jobs and neighborhoods, not just professional jobs and nice suburbs.

Unfortunately, Youngstown’s efforts to shrink wisely have been uneven, and city government has too often failed to address local problems effectively.  In response, local neighborhood associations are growing, taking on the roles usually played by city governments.  These neighborhood associations, many formed with assistance from the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, have become the de facto community planning agency.  No doubt, similar moves are happening in communities around the country, especially as the recession decimates state, county, and local budgets.

Organizing around the goals of stabilization and sustainability, neighborhood groups are tackling everything from forming block watches to studying home ownership, the amount and quality of rental property, and vacant housing.  Yet, they have limited economic power.

In our commentary, we made a point of suggesting some strategies for addressing the community’s problems.  For example, small businesses can help stabilize neighborhoods, but community banking and support has been minimal. Local banks and governments could do much more to foster local microeconomies.

The area might also benefit from more efficient, consolidated local governance.  The county’s population has dropped to the point that it is now smaller than many urban centers that have a single local government.  But it is also highly balkanized, and racial and class divides have made even discussion of consolidation impossible.    A few Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDs) have been negotiated, but those efforts have been hard-fought, and most suburban communities in the Mahoning Valley reject that option, even though it’s been shown to work well in similar areas, such as nearby Akron.

What could happen in Youngstown and cities like it if not just city governments but also the creative, educated, technically sophisticated, and energetic young professionals who advocate for downtown development made neighborhood revitalization a priority?  What role do non-governmental institutions, like local universities, the media, and community groups, have to play?   Urban universities, like Youngstown State, should not just support research that could generate new businesses but must also pursue local community research involving urban blight, crime, and breaking down long-standing barriers of race and class. Local media should investigate neighborhood issues and serve as a watchdog for local development efforts.  Community groups must move beyond blockwatches and research to engage in community actions that hold economic and political leaders accountable.

The response to the article was somewhat predictable. Many called or sent us notes saying how much they appreciated the piece.  A few who generally agreed with the points expressed frustration that their own efforts were not acknowledged.  Some in local government and economic development organizations dismissed the piece.  Youngstown’s Mayor brushed it aside as the work of know-nothing “academics,” for example. This reluctance to engage with the broad arguments about neighborhood deterioration, racism, organizational inefficiency, crime, unemployment, vacancy, and high rates of concentrated poverty is disturbing. It suggests a refusal to recognize, never mind to address, the problems that continue to exist in Youngstown and America. Too many leaders are ignoring the decreasing access of most Americans to prosperity and the “American Dream.”

We see this most dramatically when critics dismiss policies aimed at ensuring equal opportunity and access to resources. The pattern played out in the health care debate and again as Congress delayed extending unemployment benefits.  It isn’t just that critics don’t seem to care what happens to poor and working-class people.  They define any effort to provide support for the have-nots as “socialism.”  So we shouldn’t have been surprised when a member of the Youngstown Office for Economic Development suggested that the idea that the city should force corner stores to carry fresh produce – something we did not advocate — was “Stalinist.”

The working class, and indeed much of the middle class, is erased and ignored every time someone claims that America is “recovering” from the current recession. Companies may be earning record profits, but millions remain unemployed, and the data consistently shows that the poor and working class have suffered most during the recession.

A healthy city demands that wealth, opportunity, and resources are shared as equitably as possible. While any “renaissance” of Youngstown is welcomed, such a rebirth must benefit the majority of people. Until we see declines in crime, poverty, and unemployment and increases in home ownership, education levels, and economic prosperity, then any talk of a renaissance is premature.  The same is true for the nation: until our leaders pay more attention to ordinary families than to the wealthy and privileged, until our economy creates not just profits for investors but also good jobs, until our neighborhoods thrive again, we haven’t recovered from the Great Recession.

John Russo is a professor of Labor Studies at Williamson College of Business Administration and codirector of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University.

James Rhodes is the Simon Research Fellow at Manchester University (UK) and visiting scholar at the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University.

Who Creates Jobs? Taxes, Spending, and Class War

Republicans oppose spending for unemployment compensation and for plugging holes in states’ Medicaid and education funding, but they fight to extend the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% of income-earners—those making over $200,000.  This, according to the Wall Street Journal, is not “class war,” but President Obama’s proposal for increasing taxes on that top 2% is.

The Journal opposes the President’s proposal because it “means raising [taxes] on the Americans most likely to take the risks that spur economic growth.”  The Journal pointedly asks: “Mr. Obama and Nancy Pelosi think they can play their usual class war card to justify raising taxes on the rich, but that’s risky political business with unemployment at 9.5%.  Who do they think will create new jobs—people making less than $200,000 a year?”

Rich people create jobs by investing in companies (little ones they own themselves or big ones they own stock in), and it’s these companies who actually hire workers and pay them a wage.  This is true.  But it’s like saying that the light coming from the ceiling of my office is caused by the light switch on the wall.  Without turning the switch on, there will be no light, but the ultimate creator of that light tracks back to a power station and a national electric grid that hooks into the wiring behind the walls of my building.  In an economy, consumer demand is the power station, the grid, and most of the wiring.  If there is not enough consumer demand, businesses have no reason to hire new workers—just as there is no reason to switch the light on if nobody is using the room.

The reason companies aren’t hiring more now isn’t that they don’t have the money.  It’s the lack of consumer demand.  Businesses are currently sitting on huge piles of cash.  According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the 3,000 largest publicly traded U.S. companies “have $2.9 trillion in cash and short-term investments” they don’t know what to do with.  Workers and consumers (and most state governments), on the other hand, are struggling to pay last month’s bills and to provide for basic necessities.  The latter is the primary cause of the former.  That is, not enough money in the hands of workers and consumers means a lack of profitable investment opportunities for business and rich folk.

That’s why extending unemployment compensation, among many other things, will create more jobs than any tax cut.   Using the Congressional Budget Office’s estimates of the job-generating capacity of different policy options, here’s the proposed cost and predicted job growth for the three policies currently in dispute:

POLICY

Amount passed or proposed Number of jobs likely created in 2010-2011
Increased aid to the unemployed $34 billion 300,000 to 600,000
Increased aid to states $26 billion 80,000 to 180,000
Tax cuts for top 2% $70 billion 70,000 to 210,000

Thus, given that the tax cut desired by the Journal is twice as big, extending unemployment compensation creates from 6 to 8 times the number of jobs as the tax cut would.  Aid to states creates about 3 times as many jobs.

You can turn this around and say that a $70 billion tax increase on the top 2% could lead to the loss of as many as 210,000 jobs, and that would be true (given the CBO estimates).  But if the government used that $70 billion in new revenues for increased aid to the unemployed, it would create more than 1.2 million jobs–or a net gain of about a million.  Why wouldn’t we as a nation want to do that?

On the other hand, you might note that the Obama 2010 “stimulus” package, totaling $60 billion, is predicted to produce a maximum of 780,000 jobs.  That’s helpful for some of the 14.6 million who are currently unemployed (as officially calculated), but it’s not enough.  Democrats are doing the right things to stimulate the economy, but not nearly at the magnitude necessary to get it growing strongly enough to reduce unemployment anytime soon.

As I pointed out in March, the Obama White House was dismissive of a much stronger 2nd stimulus plan proposed by a coalition of unions, the National Urban League, and the Center for Community Change.  That one would have spent $400 billion (on the same kind of things the administration is spending it on) and would have created 4 million jobs.  The White House dismissed it on political, not economic, grounds.  Something of that magnitude would never pass Congress, they said.

The problem with strictly political calculations is that it’s often politically stupid to propose and pass something that is not substantively adequate to the size of the problem.  After bitter fights with Republicans, the President added more accomplishments to his resume this summer by passing one more temporary extension of unemployment benefits and a state bail-out package that will leave states still woefully under water.  After his impressive string of legislative “victories,” however, he now owns the current state of the economy, which the majority of Americans see as “on the wrong track.”

The President should take advantage of recent bad economic data on GDP growth and unemployment to admit his mistake.  That by itself is always refreshing in a president.  And if he’s going to be accused of “class war” for merely restoring Clinton-era tax rates on the top 2%, why not do enough taxing and spending to deserve that charge?

As the Institute for Policy Studies and others have shown, the top 5% are good for at least $500 billion in various tax increases that could be put to productive uses in a wide variety of ways.   As the CBO estimates show, taxing the rich kills some jobs, but not nearly as many jobs as are created by bailing out the unemployed, state governments, construction workers, autoworkers, transit workers, homeowners, and many others.  With that kind of increase in consumer demand, the businesses currently sitting on trillions of dollars would start hiring to produce all the things they could profitably sell.  In other words, ironically, a more robust class war would be very good for business.

Jack Metzgar


Is the Community College Still the Best Bet for Working-Class Students?

Recently, a friend asked me whether I’d encourage my own children (if I had them) to attend a community college, the system where I teach sociology. I said “yes” immediately, but I know what thoughts lay behind her question. She was alluding to my grumbling about research that I’d been reading that suggests working-class institutions such as community colleges may not be the best place for working-class students. Though I initially said “yes” to my friend’s question, the more honest answer is “maybe.” I feel guilty saying this, but I feel ambivalent. I am a proud community college graduate, and teaching at a community college is wonderful, but the community college does have problems that make me wonder whether we are doing right by working-class students and upholding our mission to create pathways to success.

The research around student success suggests that community colleges do not challenge students and have low expectations. In the status hierarchy of higher ed, this means community college classes are perceived as “easier,” or less academically rigorous. Moreover, research shows that students who transfer from community colleges have frighteningly low graduation rates from four-year schools — an average of just 36% complete a four-year degree within 6 years. The analysis implies that the low graduation rate might be because community colleges do not foster cultures of achievement and that students do not feel motivated to succeed.

I cannot argue with the facts, much as they frustrate me, but there are other things going on. For example, many of these schools, like mine, have limited funds available to cover the costs of their expanding enrollments, even though, the California State University system has raised their fees and limited their enrollment for the next semester…again. That creates problems with class size, among other things. In my little notch of the world, increasing enrollment means that I will allow more students than I should to add my classes.

For about the past three years, community college faculty in California have received an email at the beginning of every semester about managing the increasing number of students in our classrooms. We’re encouraged to “hang in there” and understand that the system does not have additional funds to support these extra students. Lack of funding also means we are offering fewer sections of courses and less variety of courses, even as we enroll more students.

There will be heavy competition for seats the first week of school, which makes me worry that working-class students trying to add classes at the last minute but who can’t pay their tuition immediately might lose seats to someone who can pay that day. Whatever their reason for being there—to prepare to transfer to a four-year for a degree or for workforce development—the majority of students trying to get in need my class because their class schedules must be just so, to fit in between work and family responsibilities. Schedules that “fit” are important.

I worry about options for working-class students. I am concerned about low graduation rates, large class sizes, and rising fees, but I disagree with much of the research about the quality of community college education. First, it is a myth that classes at a community college are easier and that teachers have lower expectations then at a four-year university. I teach the same intro sociology course at the community college and the local four-year university, and students’ grades are similar in both groups.

Because community colleges serve a more diverse body of students, from those who want to transfer to a four-year school to students who want to learn to read better or gain job skills, people assume that we must have lower standards. We serve all levels of preparedness, but we are seen as less academic than our university neighbors are. The reality is that community colleges offer several levels of rigor, from honors courses to developmental reading and math. Students with lopsided skill sets–for example, proficient in math but not English–catch up in one area while taking more challenging courses in another.

Second, community college instructors focus on teaching instead of research, which is part of why we are not defined as “scholars” in the eyes of the system. For the academically vulnerable working-class student, however, this means more one-on-one time and an emphasis on the student-teacher relationship, which research suggests may have more of an effect on long-term student success than anything else we teachers do. Many students have written me after transferring to say how much they miss their relationships with their community college instructors not because four-year profs are “mean,” but because they have different responsibilities that leave less time for chatting about personal lives and asking about family.

Finally, the community college costs considerably less than a four-year school, which makes it easier for students to access education. Our slogan could be, “We’re ready when you are,” but that is not academic enough. Still, for working-class students, the community college is a valued cost saving option, students can graduate or transfer after two years with very little or no student loan debt. Yes, some students graduate/transfer from a two-year without debt, they piece together money from work, a grant or scholarship, and do a lot of financial juggling, but they do it and are proud to say so. When my colleagues from the four-year school wonder why their working-class students are “so stressed” all the time or miss school because they cannot miss work I think, “They don’t get it, but we do.”

In spite of my ambivalence, I say “yes,” I would encourage my hypothetical child to attend a community college and my main reason is simple: we get it. We teach students the same material but the education costs less and the teachers want to build relationships with our students. For the working class, community college is a first step, a pathway to improving one’s position; a practical choice in the midst of record high unemployment rates and ever-decreasing labor options for high school graduates. The success of working-class students is influenced by the academic culture and the kind of connections they make. Despite the community colleges’ institutional woes, those of us that teach there know that it is in the day-to-day interactions, calling students by name and lingering for after class conversations, that we create pathways to success.

Julie Garza-Withers

Julie Garza-Withers teaches Sociology at Butte Community College

In Defense of the Mullet

The banning of mullet hairstyles in Iran as “decadent” has spawned a surprisingly fast-moving discussion about the hairstyle in the United States. Across the country, people have been busily, and often colorfully, reflecting upon not just Iran’s cultural politics but the short-in-the-front, long-in-the-back hairstyle itself in every from of media you can think of.  Americans have been talking mullet in newspapers and blogs, on television and radio, via twitter and discussion boards.

It’s always true that our perceptions of style and fashion, and the ways in which we choose to talk about them, serve as expressions of our feelings about the group of people for whom that style matters, from the zoot suit on Mexican Americans in the 1940s to long hair on hippies in the 1960s to baggy jeans on African American youth in the present. The current mullet frenzy is no exception. As filmmaker Jennifer Arnold has shown in her excellent 2001 documentary American Mullet, the three groups of people who wear mullets in large numbers are working-class Southern men, lesbians, and Mexican Americans.

Conveniently—and, I would argue, dangerously— concealing the mullet’s class associations underneath its role as “just fashion,” commentators have used this piece of international news as permission to take part in the all-too-familiar stigmatizing of the U.S. working class (with more than a dash of homophobia and/or racism thrown in for good measure in some cases)— in this case through the also all-too-familiar marshaling of that slippery and pernicious category called “taste.” The result is an unspoken argument that, in the words of journalist Annalee Newitz, “class becomes a choice—just like a haircut.”

Here in New England, the mullet fantasy involves the symbolic denigration of poor U.S. Southerners. The local newspaper, the Boston Globe, has jumped on this bandwagon with both feet, running an editorial opining that the hairstyle “deserves to be banned” (“Iran: Ahmadinejad’s Fashion Police”) and a snarky feature article called, “Why Do We Loathe the Mullet?”

The derisive and elitist tone of these articles (and the numerous others like them) makes it clear that presenting the mullet as somehow humorous is operating here as permission to engage in out-and-out class-based mockery and dehumanization of the poor. For instance, “Why Do We Loathe the Mullet?” approvingly quotes an “expert,” Professor Tom Connolly of Suffolk University (a private university in downtown Boston). Connolly makes this banal but disgusting regionalism and elitism unusually explicit, “gleefully” imagining a mullet-wearer crawling out from under his trailer home in order to “grin at you through gray teeth.”

Connolly efficiently hits on two of the most iconic images of the supposed degeneracy of working-class and poor people: bad teeth and a trailer home. (Plastic versions of these “bad teeth” are sold every Halloween under names such as “hillbilly teeth,” and the term “trailer trash” is so significant as a term of class-based ridicule that it has its own wikipedia page, turns up millions of google hits, and a supports whole genus of supposed humor, from greeting cards to stand-up routines to facebook applications.) We’d all do well to remember that if you make fun of someone for having bad teeth—especially someone living in a trailer—what you are really saying is, “Isn’t it hilarious—that person doesn’t have access to health care! And I do!” As an experiment, I would like to suggest to Professor Connolly that the next time he wishes to make a contemptuous comment about people living in trailers, he stick the word “FEMA” in front of the word “trailer” and see if he still wants to utter the sentence. I’m afraid he still would, though: the suffering in New Orleans after Katrina has only served to amplify class-based mockery of its residents from some quarters; Connolly, here—and by extension the Globe—has placed himself on the far end of this particular spectrum of ridicule by imagining his mullet-wearer crawling out from under his trailer—what the hell would he be doing under there?—which casts him as something inhuman, like a lizard.

The article’s glib use of “we” in the title—in which it is far from alone—is revelatory as well. When my students use that word, I always ask them if they can tell me exactly who “we” is—and who is the implied “they.” “We” cannot hate the mullet unless “they” are wearing it. This establishing of the working class as permanent and inferior “other” has practical implications, the most important of which is, of course, how much easier it becomes to justify their continued economic exploitation.

The class-based ridicule of mullet-wearers has regional particularity that is further divisive. In Boston, the focus may be on working-class Southerners, but in California, a number of satirical blogs and columns have men of Mexican ancestry in their sights. For instance, the author of the blog “Weird Fresno” writes:

Apparently they are banning several hairstyles and one of those is the ever-popular mullet. Now normally I’m for freedom of expression…but the fact that they are banning the mullet is probably the best thing that country has done in a long, long while… Maybe others will take note and follow the example that Iran had started. Imagine if Chowchilla banned the mullet?

Since Chowchilla is a city in the San Joaquin valley, one of California’s most important centers of Mexican and Mexican American life since World War II, when Mexican workers were brought to the region to provide cheap farm labor through the government’s bracero program, it is plain here how “mullet” is operating as a code—if barely.

I should disclose my personal stake in this. My brother in Raleigh sometimes wears a mullet. He hasn’t really had one since 2006, though, when he cut off his long-in-the-back hair so he could join his pre-teen daughter in donating to Locks of Love. He’s like that. In his honor, I invite readers to take the small but emphatic step of singing this petition to call the Boston Globe, at least, to account.

Rachel Rubin

Rachel Rubin is a professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the author of Immigration and American Popular Culture (with Jeffrey Melnick).