To the Fore

Racism’s Hidden Toll (Gus Wezerek)

“An epidemic shows in a short period of time what’s been going on for hundreds of years,” said David Ansell, who directs community health equity at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

What’s been going on for hundreds of years is the systematic neglect of Black Americans’ health. In 2018, Black people died at higher age-adjusted rates than white people from nine of the top 15 causes of death.

Different Strategies

Black Women Need to Unlearn the Pattern of Martyrdom (Christina M. Tapper and adrienne maree brown)

But how do we start to make a movement culture in which the workload is truly shared? To me, one of the deepest wounds of colonization and chattel slavery is this sense that there’s constant work that we need to be doing to earn our right to exist in any way. So that feels like one piece.

The second piece is we have to unlearn the idea that we have to earn pleasure. That we have to earn the right to rest. That we have to earn the right to be desired, to be loved, to be seen. That someone else has to give us permission to feel good.

This Isn’t New

The Feds Have a Long History of Snatching People Up (Morgan Godvin, Leo Beletsky)

The federal criminal justice system is terrifying. The potential sentences are incomprehensibly long, often many times longer than the state would give, if the state would convict at all. When Black and brown people were getting plucked out of their cities by federal police and sent to federal prisons and detention facilities across the country, the nation did not cry foul. 

But the people getting arrested in Portland haven’t committed any crimes, you say? They are being arrested for little more than exercising their first amendment right! It’s almost as if people are getting arrested not based on their conduct or any notion of public safety, but rather what is politically popular at the moment. It’s almost as if this is the way it has always been … but today’s political pawns are mostly white, often educated, and politically active.

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.