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.

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.

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.

Minor Feelings

‘Minor Feelings’ and The Possibilities of Asian American Identity (Jia Tolentino)

In “Stand Up,” she asks, “Will there be a future where I, on the page, am simply I, on the page, and not I, proxy for a whole ethnicity, imploring you to believe we are human beings who feel pain?” The predicament of the Asian-American writer, as Hong articulates it, is to fear that both your existence and your interpretation of that existence will always be read the wrong way.

Is there a future of Asian-American identity that’s fundamentally expansive—that can encompass the divergent economic and cultural experiences of Asians in the United States, and form a bridge to the experiences of other marginalized groups? The answer depends on whom Asian-Americans choose to feel affinity and loyalty toward—whether we direct our sympathies to those with more power than us or less, not just outside our jerry-rigged ethnic coalition but within it.

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 Authoritarian Stamp of Jim Crow

The Authoritarian Stamp of Jim Crow (Jamelle Bouie)

Southern conservatives beat back Populism and biracial democracy to build a one-party state and ensure cheap labor, low taxes, white supremacy and a starkly unequal distribution of wealth. It took two decades of disruption — the Great Depression, the Great Migration and the Second World War — to even make change possible, and then another decade of fierce struggle to bring democracy back to the South.

If we look at the actions of the political party and president now in power, if we think of how they would behave with even more control over the levers of the state, then we might be on a path that ends in something that is familiar from our past — authoritarian government with a democratic facade.

Canada is Fake

Canada is Fake (Alex Verman)

The state itself is the best evidence we have for the claim that something can be both socially constructed and also terribly consequential — a border is an utterly unnatural thing, something that is so flimsy and nonsensical that states spend billions of dollars maintaining the illusion of their reality every year.

The eventual formation of Canada as “Canada” came about in the late 1800s for nakedly economic reasons, primarily to benefit the companies and conglomerates that were trading Canadian natural resources with the British, but also to facilitate railroad construction (using slave labor) in which civic leaders had investments.

The lands in question are technically unceded, meaning that they lie fully outside of the jurisdiction of the Canadian state — this land was never officially incorporated into the Canadian state, and the people there never entered into formal treaties with Canadian colonists.

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.