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Mitchell Duneier Explains the Invention of the Ghetto, as Place and as Idea

By | May 15, 2017

When sociologist Mitchell Duneier was growing up in the 1960s, he said, “references to the word ghetto were references in my house and in my segregated Jewish community on Long Island to the Nazi ghettos.”
A half-century later, Duneier, a Princeton University sociologist, explained to an overflow audience at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles that the word’s meaning has become vastly different. …

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Pledging Allegiance to Our Different—and Shared—Ideals of Citizenship

By | May 3, 2017

Citizenship in the United States is distinguished by how many different and contradictory abilities and actions it requires of citizens, said panelists at a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It Means to Be American” event.
The evening’s discussion, which took up the question, “Do We Still Know How to Be Good Citizens?” unfolded before a large audience at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
“We are at our best …

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Trump Isn’t the First to Grab More Presidential Power

By | April 26, 2017

King George III imposed taxation on the American colonies without representation. Franklin D. Roosevelt unilaterally exiled Japanese Americans to internment camps. Barack Obama declared his intent to bypass a perpetually gridlocked Congress by exercising executive power: “I have a phone and I have a pen.”
Since the earliest days of the United States, America’s commanders-in-chief have sought to increase their power to act as they pleased—despite …

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Art Can Help Us Understand Reality, Even While Transforming It

By | March 30, 2017

In their different ways, David Simon and Jamel Shabazz both have transformed gritty reality into art, drawing inspiration from the complex, often troubled urban-scapes of places like New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans.
On Wednesday night, Simon and Shabazz came together before a packed auditorium at a Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” event to consider the question, “Does Art Capture Reality Better Than the News?” It’s a subject that Simon, …

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Globalization Doesn’t Have to Be a Winner-Take-All Deal

By | March 16, 2017

California has benefitted greatly from globalization—from cheap T-shirts, to leaps in technology, to proximity to Asia, to its agricultural exports. Why, then, is it disparaged by political leaders—as dissimilar as President Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders—as a boon to very few, at the expense of most? This was the question at the heart of a lively Zócalo/UCLA event entitled “Does Globalization Only Serve Elites?” before …

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If TV Wants to Bring America Together, It Needs to Avoid “Preachiness and Condescension”

By | February 22, 2017

“Can television bring America together?” asked writer John Bowman, the moderator of a panel posing that question. He immediately answered his own query with, “God knows I’ve tried.” And so began a lively and engaged conversation between Bowman and several other writers and creators of television shows that have challenged traditional cultural and social boundaries.
The discussion, before a full house at a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What …

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If the Central Valley Wants to Grow up, It Needs to Bridge Its Urban-Rural Character With Unity and Planning

By | February 16, 2017

“Are we urban or are we rural?” moderator Dan Morain asked at the start of a lively Wednesday panel discussion on the future of California’s Central Valley.
“Both” was the answer that emerged over the course of the hour-long exchange among Morain, editorial page editor and political affairs columnist for The Sacramento Bee, and a panel of civic, education, and community leaders before a packed audience …

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Could a “Trigger Moment” Imperil Civil Liberties?

By | January 19, 2017

In December 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor was the “trigger moment” that eventually led the U.S. government to herd tens of thousands of Japanese Americans into internment camps. If some explosive incident were to occur during Donald Trump’s presidency, could it provoke a similar mass round-up of Muslims, immigrants, or some other ethnic or religious group?
On Wednesday night, a standing-room-only crowd gathered to …

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Go Ahead: Eat Your Genetically Modified Vegetables

By | December 15, 2016

“So you know this topic isn’t controversial or anything,” joked chef and KCRW Good Food host Evan Kleiman as she launched a spirited conversation about genetically modified organisms—also known as GMOs—and their impact on food and agriculture today.
But at the recent Zócalo/UCLA event, “What’s So Bad about GMOs?”, held at MOCA Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, three food and agricultural experts argued that …

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Is Political Correctness Making Comedians More Creative Than Ever Before?

By | December 7, 2016

When New York Times Magazine contributing writer Carina Chocano was initially approached to moderate a Zócalo/UCLA event on political correctness and humor, she was intimidated by what she thought was the title: “Has Political Correctness Killed Humor?” On learning that the title was, in fact, “Has Political Correctness Really Killed Humor?”, she felt great relief. “I found it interesting that one little word would make …