Say Her Name

The Reckoning Will Be Incomplete Without Black Women and Girls (Tamara Winfrey-Harris)

Even though there is now a nationwide outcry against systemic racism and its by-products—the over-policing, incarceration, brutalization, and murder of black people—the discussion and activism almost always center men and boys. By minimizing the trials of black women and girls, the country will miss the full picture of devastation that the American police state imposes on African Americans.

Built-In Oppression

America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress (Bryan Lee Jr.)

For nearly every injustice in the world, there is an architecture that has been planned and designed to perpetuate it.

Rebellion is a response to a prolonged dehumanization of a people unwilling to be participants in their own demise; it is often the soft power of the built environment that provides the preconditions for that dehumanization and the atrocities that follow.

Is Prison Necessary?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner)

Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer.

We Can’t Ride it Out

Eugenics Isn’t Going to Get Us Out of This Mess (Sarah Jones)

They’re asking [willing death] of your grandparents, and of your neighbor with cancer; they ask it of me and of you, too, if your body is flawed or simply unlucky. The views…are eugenics. They separate human life into categories. In one box, there are people worth saving. In the other, there are people we ought to let die. Believing this makes them eugenicists. What they contemplate is not quite mass murder, but a sort of planned, negligent homicide….Let nature take its course. The fit will survive the cull.

[The] obsession with market forces was not about human flourishing, productivity, and abundance, but about something else. Supply-side economics gave them a way to intellectualize their own amorality. Markets care nothing for ethics. They aren’t governed by justice and they don’t feel mercy.

What today’s eugenicists are unwilling to admit is that there is one, less deadly way to rescue the economy from this pandemic. It’s redistribution, not just of resources but of power. The government will have to massively expand its tiny welfare state, and grant workers rights they do not currently have. It has the financial capacity to do so, but the project would force it to reconsider its priorities.

The Right Thing

A Public Health Doctor and Head of Corrections Agree (Brie Williams, Leann Bertsch)

Because COVID-19 is highly transmissible, including by asymptomatic carriers, the thousands of people each day who leave their homes, enter a correctional facility and interact in close proximity with colleagues and incarcerated people in these often overcrowded, chaotic environments are at considerable risk of transmitting the virus back to their families and into their communities when they return home. 

Changing the Story

I Found a Job that Honored My Latina Voice and Was Instantly Tokenized (Jessica Hoppe)

The cultural trend toward inclusion shone a spotlight on the Latinx experience, with eager capitalists preying upon bland curiosities….Interest isn’t translating to opportunity for us, it’s just further commodifying our culture. Diversity is leveraged as an asset to the dominant class — entertainment for white audiences and a social service for people of color.

Prep for Prep

Prep for Prep and the Fault Lines in NYC Schools (Vinson Cunningham)

For some, this emphasis on the individual ability of a handful of students is a fundamental flaw in the program’s design. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times journalist who created the 1619 Project, told me that programs like Prep obscure the system’s deep inequalities.

Class mobility via élite education is not usually an up-from-nothing story. What is more common, in the relatively rare instances of mobility which our society currently provides, is a series of institutional incursions, which lend a kind of jerry-rigged privilege to a chosen few.

The Billionaire Election

The Billionaire Election (Anand Giridharadas)

The debate is testing abiding American assumptions. A country more ardently capitalist than most is asking itself, as seriously as at any time in the modern era, whether the ultrarich, just because they are ultrarich, endanger democracy. And a country just as committed, contrarily, to its founding ideal of equality is asking whether to resign itself to a gilded revolving door in which you unseat billionaire leaders you hate by electing billionaires you don’t mind.

Do we wish to be a society in which wealth purchases fealty? Are we cool with plutocrats taking advantage of a cash-starved state to run their own private policy machinery, thus cultivating the networks required to take over the state from time to time, and run it in ways that further entrench wealth?

Six Decades After the Civil Rights Act

Nearly Six Decades after the Civil Rights Act, Why do Black Works Still Have to Hustle? (Tressie McMillan Cottom)

The hustle is an idea, a discourse and a survival strategy often glorified as economic opportunity. It is an ode to a type of capitalism that cannot secure the futures of anyone but the wealthiest. But its popularity lies in how hustling can feel like an equal-opportunity strategy. The term originated as a code for illegal activities, but according to Lester Spence, author of Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics, today we have all been turned into hustlers, trying to monetize our “human capital” for economic advancement.

While we do not think of the middle-class pitch and the low-wage hustle as the same thing, they are responding to the same reality. For black Americans, achieving upward mobility, even in thriving cities that compete for tech jobs, private capital and national recognition, is as complicated as it was in 1963.

Sotomayor Accuses Conservative Justices

Sonia Sotomayor Accused the Supreme Court’s Conservatives of Bias Towards the Trump Administration (Mark Joseph Stern)

When some of the most despised and powerless among us ask the Supreme Court to spare their lives, the conservative justices turn a cold shoulder. When the Trump administration demands permission to implement some cruel, nativist, and potentially unlawful immigration restrictions, the conservatives bend over backward to give it everything it wants. There is nothing “fair and balanced” about the court’s double standard that favors the government over everyone else. And, as Sotomayor implies, this flagrant bias creates the disturbing impression that the Trump administration has a majority of the court in its pocket.