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.

Abolish the Police

Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police (Mariame Kaba)

When people, especially white people, consider a world without the police, they envision a society as violent as our current one, merely without law enforcement — and they shudder. As a society, we have been so indoctrinated with the idea that we solve problems by policing and caging people that many cannot imagine anything other than prisons and the police as solutions to violence and harm.

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.

Looking Forward

How the Pandemic Will End (Ed Yong)

Rudderless, blindsided, lethargic, and uncoordinated, America has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis to a substantially worse degree than what every health expert I’ve spoken with had feared.

It’s likely, then, that the new coronavirus will be a lingering part of American life for at least a year, if not much longer. If the current round of social-distancing measures works, the pandemic may ebb enough for things to return to a semblance of normalcy.

Veterans of past epidemics have long warned that American society is trapped in a cycle of panic and neglect. After every crisis—anthrax, SARS, flu, Ebola—attention is paid and investments are made. But after short periods of peacetime, memories fade and budgets dwindle. This trend transcends red and blue administrations. When a new normal sets in, the abnormal once again becomes unimaginable. But there is reason to think that COVID-19 might be a disaster that leads to more radical and lasting change.

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. 

A Description

A Medical Worker Describes COVID-19 (Lizzie Presser)

Since last week, he’s been running ventilators for the sickest COVID-19 patients. Many are relatively young, in their 40s and 50s, and have minimal, if any, preexisting conditions in their charts. He is overwhelmed, stunned by the manifestation of the infection, both its speed and intensity. The ICU where he works has essentially become a coronavirus unit. 

“And once I saw these patients with it, I was like, Holy shit, I do not want to catch this and I don’t want anyone I know to catch this.”

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.