Month: August 2015

2 Reasons Why Finn “Galfridian” is a Jedi Knight

***Disclaimer: Please note, this is our hypothesis of who Finn is in the new Star Wars episode. If you want a “virgin” experience of Episode VII, discontinue reading right now. No seriously. Don’t be a dick! Stop reading. Our hypothesis will probably ruin the movie for you. You’ve been warned.

By Matt Johnson and Joe Wickner

Photo Courtesy of - Jedi Knight Finn Galfridian
Photo Courtesy of – Jedi Knight Finn Galfridian


What is the saying, “Hollywood has no new ideas?” Well, J.J. Abrams has no new ideas either and neither does Disney. At least they don’t have much more than J.J. As a consequence, we believe we have a pretty good idea of what is going on with the new Star Wars movie, and since Hollywood stories are pretty simplistic nowadays, they are designed for popcorn and ticket sales and not much else, we do not think our hypothesis is a stretch.

That is, Finn is already a Jedi Knight. Yes! We said it. Do you really think that Master Jedi Luke Skywalker has been sitting on his hands for the past 30 years? Really? Here are our two reasons why Finn Galfridian is already a Jedi Knight.

Battle of Endor

Photo Courstey of - Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, and Sit Lords Darth Vader and Darth Sidious
Photo Courstey of – Skywalker, Vader and Sidious confrontation during the Battle of Endor

It’s a Jedi beach party. 30 years ago, in both our world and the Star Wars universe, the Rebel Alliance defeated the Empire at the Battle of Endor. There were three fronts in this epic battle: the fleet campaign led by Admiral Ackbar aided by General Calrissian, the ground campaign led by General Solo, and the Jedi/Sith battle between Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, and Sith Lords Darth Vader and Darth Sidious. All three fronts were decisively won by the allies.

Afterwards, it was assumed that the rebel victory concluded the ultimate demise of the empire. However, as Episode VII illustrates through its first three teasers, the victory was not so clear cut and dry, and it appears as though the empire survived in some sort of capacity. But even though the empire survived in one form or another, the alliance was given some breathing room. In addition, this victory allowed Skywalker some much needed space to grow into a master while taking on the responsibilities of training the next generation of Jedi. Thus, Finn Galfridian is introduced.

Expanded Universe

Photo Courtesy of - Jedi Knight Finn Galfridian, Star Wars Legends
Photo Courtesy of – Jedi Knight Finn Galfridian, Star Wars Legends

Yes, you heard us correctly. Finn, who is known as Finn Galfridian in the Star Wars expanded universe (EU) which is now known as Legends, is a Jedi Knight in Episode VII and his master is Luke Skywalker. Finn is also a Jedi Knight in the expanded universe and his master is Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. As Wookieepedia explains, Finn was rescued by Master Skywalker during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion. After the attack on Galfridian’s homeworld of Artorias by the invading Yuuzhan Vong forces, he becomes a prominent part of the expanded universe story line as a Jedi Knight.

Although this story line is now a part of the Legends’ series, it explains why Finn could be ready and willing to take on Kylo Ren in the snowy forest of Narnia, which can be viewed from the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser and the most recent 15 second teaser trailer released on Instagram. In the 15 second trailer, it appears as though he is a willing and able young Jedi Knight ready to take on the member of the Knights of Ren by himself. In other words, he is an established Jedi Knight. Remember, it took Luke almost two movies of preparation for his first confrontation with Darth Vader. Considering this assumption, perhaps Finn is chasing Kylo Ren?

Final Thoughts

What a great way to provide the audience with new blood while including the expanded universe for Star War nerds all around the world. Okay. Maybe Disney has a few good ideas left in the tank, if this can be considered a good idea.

To add disagreement throughout the blogosphere, we believe that Luke’s lightsaber is not actually what Kylo Ren is seeking. And because Finn is a Jedi Knight, he is never a stormtrooper although we understand how this could have been perceived by racist and non-racist fans alike after only one teaser trailer. A black stormtrooper? Really? That conversation happened? In the words of Master Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi after using the blaster to put down General Grievous, “So uncivilized.”

Furthermore, we disagree that Finn is the son of General Lando Calrissian or the distant relative of Master Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobe as some bloggers have asserted. And one final thing, we agree with the casting of John Boyega as the new Jedi Knight for three reasons. First, John Boyega was great in Attack the Block. Second, he looks badass with that blue lightsaber. And finally, it is a different direction of casting than the historic casting decisions of George Lucas, which one would think that Disney would continue to perpetuate the perceived “white, straight, privileged male” continuum of Jedi Knights. We admit that this tasteless crack at Social Justice Warriors may fall flat. Simply put, Boyega is a great choice.

In our next article, we will be discussing how Jedi Knight Finn Galfridian plays into the plot of being portrayed as a stormtrooper and what it means for his interaction with Rey. In addition, we will be discussing in a future article what appears to be a hooded white man with an upside down burning cross aledgedly chasing a black man through the forest. There is nothing antebellum about that sequence now is there?

Rebuttal: Planned Parenthood is “More than just abortions”

Photo Courtesy of Center for Medical Progress
Photo Courtesy of Center for Medical Progress

Life, and the right to life, this is the current predicament facing our American morality. This is about the sanctity of a new and precious being; this is about the sacredness of a priceless and defenseless unborn baby. These are the moralities by which those of us who espouse such conservative principles live by while those who do not, fail to comprehend or recognize such righteous indignation – those admirable moralities – time and time again.

It is our moralities that allow us to hold ourselves responsible for those who are not yet able to hold themselves responsible. These are the moralities that bind us as a community; these are the moralities that bind us as a society; and these are the moralities that bind us as a nation. This is the content of our character.

In a recent opinion piece in the Iowa State Daily titled More than just abortions: Planned Parenthood provides health insurance, testing for STDs, birth control, Angelica Lawson attempted to pass off and rationalize Planned Parenthood as some sort of justifiable and reasonable organization despite the recent, morally problematic event of selling baby parts.

For example, she rationalizes her position with par for the course rhetoric, “…there is more good than bad that comes from Planned Parenthood.” Does this make selling baby parts okay? Is she saying that because Planned Parenthood does so much good, it is okay for them to sell baby parts? She continues her grandiose position with the common left leaning exposition that somehow defunding Planned Parenthood “…would only perpetuate the war on women’s rights.”

But there are three very simple and obvious problems with this rationalization for Planned Parenthood. First, selling baby parts has nothing to do with women’s rights. It is rhetorical nonsense and logically incoherent; it does not follow. Second, there is the obvious discrepancy of selling baby parts. There are many scientists who object to testing on animals and consider it unethical. Is selling baby parts ethical? Should voters accept this as the norm? Should this be standard business practice for scientists and Planned Parenthood?

And third, it says a lot about the current character of the American people who support such disgusting and insidious doings along with those who would sit idly by in great numbers and let this kind of action take place. Does America not consider life to be sacred anymore? Is America willing to shamelessly thrust aside its most valuable treasure, its future, for convenience?

Dear reader, have you bothered to watch the videos published by the American Center for Medical Progress? Have you? There is an American organization selling baby parts for 70, 80, 100 dollars per part.

Have you even seen the wanton nature of such immorality and desecration of a precious and helpless human being by those bartering and dealing their parts over dinner and wine? They make it look so easy. The rationalization and acceptance by the political punditry and those who espouse such a political position and attempt to defend it is astonishing and frankly morally crippling.

No matter how one cuts and edits the videos, it still does not change the fact that Planned Parenthood is slicing and dicing parts like some sort of sick, perverted psycho in a Hollywood horror film. Is Planned Parenthood really the sick scientist from the Centipede movie? Not only is liberal morality mute on this point, it is filled with righteous hypocrisy.

I am sure that you have heard of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)? Such an organization is fanatic when it comes to the rights of animals. I am also sure that you have heard about the recent and unfortunate circumstance of Cecil the lion, yes? No doubt he is, or was, a beautiful animal. But astonishing public outpouring for that majestic creature compared to the countless lives that have been wiped from existence through the annals of Planned Parenthood is mindboggling.

Consider this short narrative. The baby part sold once belonged to a sentient being; a being who will not get the opportunity to experience growing up, going to college, making friends, playing sports, meeting a future wife or husband in school, having kids, and in some distant future, returning to college (say Iowa State University) with their children and passing on the legacy of opportunities and adventures to their loving children.

But this is okay because as Ms. Lawson explained in her article, “Planned Parenthood…provides health care, birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and health insurance.” In other words, do not worry about the sacredness that binds our communities or allows us to protect the most vulnerable. Planned Parenthood gets a pass because they provide other essential services. This is astonishing rationalization, just astonishing.

Fika: Mel-O-Glaze Bakery

Photo Courtesy of
Photo Courtesy of – Mel-O-Glaze Bakery, South Minneapolis

Mel’s Prelude

Free coffee? Indeed. Open from 6 am in the morning to 6 pm in the evening, Monday through Friday, Mel-O-Glaze is located on the Minnehaha Parkway within walking distance to both Lake Nokomis and Lake Hiawatha. The bakery is also open on the weekends and is a great option for family outings or for early Saturday morning coffee and reading.

Mel-O-Glaze is a large and spacious bakery. There is plenty of room to hang out and admire and ponder the wide variety of pastries. While you are pondering your next tasty adventure, the bakery provides a complementary coffee. Yes! You read that correctly. A complementary coffee is on the house. But the bakery’s hospitality does not stop there.

Just like most other bakeries, Mel-O-Glaze’s selection can be a bit overwhelming. This is when knowledge and relationship management (the ability to interact with other people) comes in handy. During my first visit for this review (yes! I visited multiple times), I had many questions and Vicki helped me greatly. With a warm, hospitable, and engaging personality, Vicki answered all of my questions with thorough knowledge of the tasty products and explained some of the differences between some of the similar products; for example, the chocolate cake donut and the chocolate glazed donut.

Chocolate Cake Donut

Photo Courtesy of Matt Johnson - Mel-O-Glaze, Chocolate Cake Donut
Photo Courtesy of Matt Johnson – Mel-O-Glaze, Chocolate Cake Donut

If you are a fan of chocolate and donuts then the Mel-O-Glaze chocolate cake donut is for you. Mel-O-Glaze does not hold back on this chocolate beast. From the very first bite to the last, chocolate is your thesis. Each bite is a chocolately, tasty experience. Even the smallest bite accentuates the chocolate prominence of this cake donut. In other words, it’s noticeable. However, there is one downside to this cake donut.

Its strength is also its weakness. Make no mistake, this chocolate cake donut is a chocolate cake donut. It is tasty and it is delicious, although small bites are recommended. And feel free to share the donut with those around you. This is by no means a down side. However, it is a bold and beastly chocolate cake donut created, with love I’m sure, for a bold and beastly chocolate cake donut lover. It is indeed an experience.

If you choose to be better than everyone else in south Minneapolis, then consider a good bold, strong coffee as a perfect complement for this chocolate beast.

Yummy Assortment

Mel-O-Glaze has plenty of delicious options. If you are a person who likes to nibble, then the bakery can provide you with a tasty assortment. For a morning treat, or breakfast, or Fika, your taste buds will appreciate you taking the time to provide it with deliciousness.

Photo Courtesy of Matt Johnson - Glazed Donut, Plain Cake Donut, and Chocolate Baklava
Photo Courtesy of Matt Johnson – Glazed Donut, Plain Cake Donut, and Chocolate Baklava

For a different and tasty experience, an assortment of sweets is highly suggested. It is the assumption of this author that no matter what combination of sweets are brought together for a tasty medley, the patron will not be disappointed.

The glazed donut is the signature donut and it does not under perform. This is a tasty donut. It may not pack the punch of its cousin the chocolate cake donut, but there is no doubt that it is an exceptional donut for personal time with coffee. In addition, it plays well with others. The glazed donut was not hampered by the plain cake donut, nor was it hampered with the combination of the chocolate baklava. Neither was the plain cake donut hampered by the glazed donut or the chocolate baklava. The plain cake donut, simply put, is deceptively delicious. But by no means is this a problem. It is fresh and it is tasty, especially when dunked in coffee. Yum!

The chocolate baklava is very good and it is better than most. Absolutely this tasty adventure could be consumed at any time during the day, but honestly the chocolate baklava would be a superb and delicious companion for an afternoon Fika session.

Final Thoughts

Out of 28 Google reviews, Mel-O-Glaze has a 4.3 rating. Out of 73 reviews on Yelp, the bakery as a 3.5 rating. Personally, my taste buds tell me that Mel-O-Glaze is much tastier than the ratings on either site illustrate.  Thus, no matter if you go solo with your own sweet and coffee, or if you enjoy breakfast, dessert, or Fika with family or friends, I believe that your palate will not be disappointed. Besides, Mel-O-Glaze provided complementary donut holes during each of my visits, and they were tasty!

A Quick Economic View of Minneapolis, MN

No doubt Minneapolis is a recreational city with beautiful lakes, creeks, rivers, and parks. It is an outdoor paradise for the nature enthusiast. But one reason why residents of Minneapolis are able to appreciate these natural settings is because of their economic stability. Hence, Minneapolis sports a low, nationally competitive, unemployment rate and a highly diversified portfolio of industries.

According to the Department of Numbers, an informational website, the June unemployment rate in Minneapolis was 3.6 percent compared to the national unemployment rate of 5.3 percent. In addition, the total number of unemployed decreased from 72,222 workers in May to 69,581 workers in June. Since the unemployment peak of approximately 150 thousand persons in 2009 during the Great Recession, unemployment in Minneapolis has been trending downward at a fairly constant rate towards its pre 2001 unemployment levels of about 50 thousand persons. But what helped Minneapolis ride the storm between 2008 and 2011 was its industry diversification.

Minneapolis’ economic stability is partly due to its highly diversified industry portfolio. This means that the city does not have all of its eggs in one basket. As Edward Glaeser explains in his book Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, a city that is industry diversified is better able to weather economic storms whereas a city with a monolithic economic portfolio like Detroit cannot.

Photo Courtesy of the Department of Numbers
Photo Courtesy of the Department of Numbers

This was because Detroit’s portfolio was mostly composed of auto industry firms. In other words, the vast majority of Detroit’s economy was invested in the auto industry. Detroit did not have enough of the other industries to ride the market wave of the Great Recession. Of course Detroit’s downfall from greatness stemmed from before the recent market violence. It had also previously suffered, along with its citizens, from government and private sector discriminatory practices in the form of redlining and educational policies, and low wages and the lack of job opportunities for disenfranchised groups. Thus, Detroit’s economic system was never built to withstand unfortunate market forces.

On the other hand, Minneapolis has solidified a fairly stable economy. For the year 2014, and according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, the city averaged 308,441 workers in both the government and private sectors. Of those 308,441 workers, 264,306, or 85.7 percent, resided in the private sector whereas the local, state, and federal governments employed 44,135 workers or 14.3 percent of the local work force. Local government averaged 21,444 workers for 2014, the largest population by far of the three levels of government.

So what does Minneapolis’ diversified portfolio look like? First, and as illustrated, it sports a substantial private sector work force. Second, in 2014, 9 Fortune 1000 companies called Minneapolis home: Target, U.S. Bancorp, General Mills, Medtronic, Ameriprise Financial, Donaldson Company, The Valspar Corporation, Xcel Energy, and Thrivent Finanacial for Lutherans. And third, the work force is distributed throughout construction, manufacturing, retail trade, finance and insurance, educational services, and healthcare and social assistance to name a few. For example, the finance and insurance, and professional, scientific, and technological services industries combined encompass about 20 percent of the private sector in Minneapolis. Although these sectors are not the largest sectors in Minneapolis, they are included in the top-tier of “[a]verage [w]eekly [w]ages.”

Photo Courtesy of

Now this economic stability and success ought to be congratulated. However, it is not all roses for many potential Minneapolis workers. For example, according to both Bring Me The News and the City Pages, the unemployment rate of “black” Minnesota citizens was approximately 4 times higher than “white” Minnesota citizens in 2014. The unemployment rate was found to be a bit lower in the metropolitan area, but Minneapolis’ unemployment rate between these two American groups is more than likely to be similar to the rest of the state.

This discrepancy in unemployment rates is important to consider. This is because this unemployment rate perpetuates a continued feedback loop onto the system and those most affected by it.

This means a given unemployed Minneapolis resident, for example, from a traditionally disenfranchised group is less likely to obtain a job, which means she, or he, is less likely to receive a living wage to sustain a family. This also means that her child is more likely to receive less food, and clothing, which means the child could potentially go hungry. This hunger, which would affect the health and psychology of the child, in turn would greatly influence the child’s performance in the classroom and thus affect the child’s performance in school over the duration of the education. And finally, this deficiency in school performance would affect the child’s potential to compete for college. Hence, maintaining this otherwise immoral and resovable experience.

Indeed, there are other reasons for why Minneapolis currently is doing well economically. This author hopes that this economic stability and vitality continues. But there are other economic discrepancies in the Minneapolis system and there are people not reaping the current economic upswing, for example the 69,581 unemployed workers and this needs to be addressed. Minneapolis should be recognized and congratulated for this post-Great Recession recovery, but it should also be criticized for not doing enough. Minneapolis is looking pretty good, but it can be better and it can bring all of its workers with it. Once this happens, then all workers will be able to appreciate “the great outdoors” that is Minneapolis.

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Copyright ©2016 – The Systems Scientist

The Train Spotting Math Conductor

Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics -38th St. Station, Minneapolis, MN
Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics – 38th St. Station, Minneapolis, MN

Introduction to Math-itis

Calculus, and its concepts, are perceived to be unattainable by the general public. In addition, the basic ideas of Calculus, the derivative and the integral, are perceived to not be understandable or straightforward and with good reason. Calculus appears to be painfully difficult. But the basic ideas of calculus are fairly straight forward. And they do not require a classroom or symbols. They are simply ideas that are used everyday, implicitly and intuitively, by all 7 billion inhabitants of this planet (see Go Tell It to the Mathematicians for an indepth explanation of intuition and mathematics).

In short, I am speaking to the general American who has not had years of mathematical training. I am speaking to those Americans who may have an appreciation for math but never studied it beyond high school and those citizens who have diagnosed themselves with the contagious phobia, math-itis. I do not want to leave any of you at the train station. I have written this for you.

In this explanation of calculus, I will use the Minneapolis Light-rail station on 38th St. in South Minneapolis, laxatives, and a Go-Kart. In addition, I have provided two photo sequences: one inbound to the 38th St. station and one outbound from the 38th St. station. Feel free to refer back to either of these two slide shows at any point while reading this article.

Perspective #1 – Inbound Train

First, take the time to view the first slide show one or two times before reading further. Are you familiar with the picture sequence in the slide show? Good. As you can see, the train arrives to the station in stages. In other words, each picture illustrates the train getting closer and closer to you. It’s speed decreases as it comes to a complete stop. You know this from experience. If you remember back to grade school math or physics class, I know it’s painful, you may recall that distance is measured by two points. In this case, you use the point of the train in the first picture and the point of the train in the last picture. This is called the integral in calculus. That is it. The integral is simply the distance between one point and another point. If you need do not quite get this idea, and that is okay, view the slide show as many times as you like.

Again, we can see that the train gets closer and closer with each picture. The idea of the integral allows us to compute, intuitively, that with each picture, our distance decreases with each picture. Thus, we see that each integral, distance, decreases as the train comes towards us.

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Perspective #2 – Outbound Train

Before we discuss this other basic idea of calculus, the derivative, please take the time to view the second slide show one or two times. As you noticed, the train is departing from the station. In addition, you noticed the distance, integral, increasing with each slide. This is where the second idea of calculus occurs. This other basic idea is called the derivative. To help make this second idea personal and salient, we are going to take a slight detour.

The derivative computes an instantaneous point in time. It also computes an instantaneous rate of speed. For example, you are sitting at your desk right now, reading this article, and your speed is zero, unless your desk is on a Go-Kart. Then, cool!

Anyway, zero is a speed, right? 0 mph? However, if you get up to go to the bathroom, each step you take is an instantaneous point. Each step you take illustrates your rate of speed. If you really have to go to the bathroom, say someone put a laxative in your coffee, your instantaneous speed, while your running, at each step will be higher. Now lets return to the train.

As you watched the train move away from the station at each point, you not only noticed the distance, integral, increase, but you also recognize that each point in time illustrates a rate of speed. See! Laxatives do come in handy. This is the perfect example of the derivative. Each picture shows the train at an instantaneous point and you know from experience that a train increases speed when it departs a train station. Thus, each point also illustrates a rate of speed. This is the derivative.


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Final Thoughts on Your Former Phobia

If you understand these two basic ideas, then you have a basic understanding of calculus. But most importantly, it should be salient to you that you use these two ideas every day, and throughout the day, in your life. When you are driving you slow down if the car in front of you slows down or when coming to a red light or a stop sign. This is your brain, intuitively, computing the integral for you. Your distance is decreasing correct?

When you are driving on the city streets or on the freeway, you are keeping an eye on your speedometer.  If you are on Highway 62 in South Minneapolis (Crosstown), you keep your rate of speed at the speed limit, 55 mph (speeding tickets are bad). You understand now that when you look down and view your speedometer, your speed is instantaneous at that point in time. You look down a few seconds later, your speed is what you see at that instantaneous point in time. This is the derivative. However, there is something else going on with these two ideas.

Did you notice that they are happening at the same time in each perspective; that is, both the inbound and outbound trains?


Social Justice: An Author’s Introduction

Law Enforcement
Photo Courtesy of – Detroit Race Riot, June 20, 1943


Welcome and thank you for visiting the Social Justice page of Urban Dynamics. Social justice is an important component of the success of urban dynamics. This is because urban environments are highly dynamical with many interactions and relationships taking place every second throughout the day.

Urban environments are dynamical, not static. For example, the elements, say an advanataged population and a disenfranchised population, interact quite often even if their respective spaces (neighborhoods) are partitioned. This is visible in the redlining and Jim Crow policies of urban environments in the United States from before the Civil War to after the Civil War and reconstruction to the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s, and even today (more on the continuation and connection of these events will be addressed in future articles and postings).

Thus, the respective existences of populations in urban environments are not static. They are interactive and distinct. They also relate – there are relationships – and this all happens within the boundaries of the urban system. These are some of the systems issues that will be addressed and explored throughout the writings of Urban Dynamics.

Social Justice Progressives and SJWs (Social Justice Warriors)

Photo Courtesy of - Tim Wise, anti-racist speaker and advocate
Photo Courtesy of – Tim Wise, anti-racist speaker and advocate

Social justice progressives? Social justice warriors? My social justice writings will include an exploration and criticism and praise of the historical and modern social justice movements. No doubt social justice is an idea that is as old as the republic itself, although this concept has manifested and has been practiced in different ways. But where does it derive from and why? Immediately, it was a philosophy formulated and used to argue economic and political equality and equity by early unrepresented, disenfranchised American groups. Another topic I will explore is why social justice is important; and what progressive whites can do to contribute and participate in the endeavor to maximize well-being for all Americans. These are but a few of the issues I will address from the social justice progressive perspective.

Social Justice Conservatives and the perceived Uncle Tom

Social justice tends to be viewed as a leftist/liberal/progressive movement. This is not an unreasonable observation. However, this begs the question, what would an exploration of social justice look like from a conservative perspective? And more importantly, are conservative intellectuals already making social justice arguments, but nobody is listening? Now many leftists/liberals/progressives may find this exercise in philosophical exploration silly and an intellectual waste of time, but I disagree and my disagreements will be made salient throughout my writings.

Photo Courtesy of - Thomas Sowell, economist and conservative intellectual
Photo Courtesy of – Thomas Sowell, economist and conservative intellectual

In addition, I will explore why some social justice movements have indeed actually been conservative; for example, the early 19th century abolition movement (moral suasion), the Black Power movement, and the Nation of Islam. Actually, Robert C. Smith argues in his book Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same that all political movements have been conservative. Only recently has a true form of progressivism emerged. Of course, you and I have to agree that political and social justice movements are one in the same, or do we? I will also explore a modern critique of progressive social justice perceptions on conservativism. Indeed, social justice seems like a one way conversation; that is, liberals are socially enlightened and conservatives are racists. Finally, I will explore an introspection of what it means to be white in the social justice movement as a conservative and what it means to be white and conservative in modern America. The topics of  “race-holding” and “white guilt” will also be addressed and explored in great depth.

Final Thoughts

Other questions of interest that will be addressed and explored include why there is a social justice page on this site, what social justice has to do with systems science and urban dynamics, and does the ontology of slavery and racism live on the United States system in some form or another. Surely slavery and racism has dynamically evolved and morphed into something else, correct? Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow asserts as much. She argues that the current prison system is the new American slavery and that systemic oppression is a cause of this new penal system. Or is racism, and slavery as a legal practice, as Shelby Steele asserts in his book The Content of Our Character (See Book Review), dissolving, and desolved, respectfully, into American history as the United States moves forward into the future? These and other questions and topics will be addressed throughout the evolution of Urban Dynamics.

Here is the link for the Social Justice articles that have already been published in Urban Dynamics. They are an exploration of social justice from the perspective of a leftist/liberal/progressive position. Social justice explorations and arguments from a conservative point of view are forth coming. Articles will continue to be published so check back regularly for updates.

Book Review: The Content of Our Character by Shelby Steele

Photo Courtesy of

Shelby Steele is a professor of English. He is also a writer. He is an activist, and was an activist in the 1960’s. He is also a conservative intellectual. Many refer to him as a “black conservative.” He is, as Cornel West defines, a “Conservative behaviorist.” That is, professor Steele argues that the current economic and political discontinuities of Americans of African descent can be attributed to the self rather than the system. To complete this picture, the counter argument, by liberals, is what professor Cornel West calls, “Liberal structuralists.” That is, the current discrepancies, and previous plight, of Americans of African descent can be attributed to the system and not the self.

This does not mean that Dr. Steele ignores America’s dark past. He does not ignore the more than 300 years of systemic slavery or the Jim Crow follow-up. He acknowledges these realities. He acknowledges that he has faced racism in his own life from time to time but at less frequency as he has moved through his life. He attributes this to the civil rights movement, and to some extent, the Black Power movement. He acknowledges this very fact in this book, which is often lost on people who are not familiar with his work. In other words, many liberals/leftist/progressives do not read his work and so many opinions of Dr. Steele are based off of the writings and rhetoric of others and probably to some degree add to the misunderstanding and ignorance of his arguments.

In his book The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, themes develop over the course of the book: individualism versus collectivism, behaviorism versus structuralism, and development versus entitlement. Hence, these concepts are important to keep in mind because they are at the core of the opposing arguments between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives argue for individualism (this is a Lockean derived argument also known as classical liberalism), behaviorism, and development; whereas, liberals argue for collectivism, structuralism, and entitlement.

Photo Courtesy of
Shelby Steele, Conservative intellectual

I think that these perceived and often accepted as dichotomous notions bear further exploration. Indeed, they are very fascinating subjects. But I would like to focus on just one idea that is really a sub-topic of these greater perceived dichotomies; that is, race-holding. As a white, straight, male, who is perceived Christian based off of recent social justice rhetoric which derives from some research and is often applied incorrectly by non-academics, I find the philosophical arguments presented by Dr. Steele to be fascinating and thought-provoking, especially considering recent events with the Black Lives Matter movement and other modern social justice organizations.

An immediate observation of the liberal/conservative contrast is that liberals tend to view social problems as structural. But more than that they view it as systemic. Hence it is collectivistic struggle. Conversely, conservatives tend to view social problems as behavioral. But more than that they view it as individualistic. Another way to view individualism is as microscopic, linear, and static. As an example, Steele proposes the idea of “race-holding” and how it perpetuates a conflicting and chaotic experience of the self in the post civil-rights era. First, Steele defines “race-holding” thusly,

as any self-description that serves to justify or camouflage a person’s fears, weaknesses, and inadequacies.

This is as Steele explains an opportunity to focus on one’s own deficiencies in the classroom, in the social context, in the political process, and in the market place. Possible examples of this could be a self-defeating attitude of a “black” student in the math and sciences; the lack of success in relationships with a diverse group of individuals from different American sub-cultures; the self perception that one is not good or smart enough to successfully run for a political office outside of the “black community” because of personal perceptions; or maybe that one does not view him or herself as intelligently capable of competing in a corporate structure or as a small business owner. But as Steele explains, this is really an issue of self-actualization and not an issue of structural racism or systemic oppression. Today’s America is much different even from the America of the 1960’s. As Steele illustrates,

The difference between the race-holder  who merely complains and the honest protester is that the latter keeps the responsibility for his condition in his own hands…His purpose is to realize himself, to live the fullest possible life, and he is responsible for this, like all [people], regardless of how society threats him.

Photo Courtesy of
Shelby Steele, Conservative thinker

Thus, in the end

Whites must guarantee a free and fair society. But blacks must be responsible for actualizing their own lives.

Again, Steele is aware of the American atrocities of the past. He is aware of America’s dark past and who that greatly effected. But he is also past holding present day “whites” hostage for those past atrocities, although “whites” are an important part of the healing process. This does not mean that racism does not exist in some corners of society. Examples of these corners could be individuals, certain groups, or sub-systems of sub-systems; that is, the culture of a particular police department from the chief down to the patrol officer.

Despite these examples of the existence of racism in the American system, Americans of African descent, as Steele argues, are still responsible for their own lives and “white guilt” will not help the upward mobility of “black” Americans. In the end, Americans of African descent are responsible for their own awareness to self-actualize their own existence in this society.


Matt Johnson is an economics and science writer for The Systems Scientist. You can connect with him directly in the comments section, and follow him on Twitter or on Facebook

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