Month: June 2020

Parenting Black Teenagers

Carvell Wallace for The New York Times on what it’s like to be a black parent to teenages.

Her generation has known nothing but chaos and impending doom. She was in third grade the first time our minivan was diverted from the road on the way home from school by a phalanx of officers in riot gear. She was 6 the first time she asked me about climate change. Her white, male sixth-grade science teacher said the N-word with a hard “R.” Her seventh-grade science teacher gave their class the New Yorker article about the West Coast’s inevitable city-destroying earthquake. She was 12 when an 18-year-old black woman was murdered in what many feared was a racially motivated attack, on the same BART platform where she catches the train to school. She has lived through school-shooting drills, neo-Nazi rallies in the park where she used to play, police murders, car break-ins, sexual predators lingering outside her schoolyard and weeks of wildfires that turn the sky orange and make it impossible to breathe outdoors. A global pandemic that shuts down the world was not news to her. It was the opposite of news. It was something as old as her life.

Wallace, Carvell. (2020, June 15). Trying to Parent My Black Teenagers Through Protest and Pandemic. The New York Times.

The New Normal for Journalists

Yasmeen Serhan, writing for The Atlantic on the assaults journalists have come under in modern America.

Being a Washington correspondent is among the most prestigious postings available to international journalists—a reward that is typically reserved for an outlet’s most senior or highest-profile journalist. To be a Washington correspondent means keeping up with the unpredictable and tumultuous pace of American politics and, more recently, making sense of President Donald Trump’s broadside attacks on both the countries they report from and, often, the media itself.

Still, the role has never been considered a particularly risky one. “The worst thing they would have to do is sit through interminable hours in the Senate waiting for [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell to say something,” Robert Mahoney, the deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told me.

No longer. In recent weeks, journalists—both domestic and international—have been subject to unparalleled attacks on press freedom across the U.S. Several of these incidents have involved the detention and arrest of people who identified themselves as members of the press. Others have been considerably more violent, involving the targeting of journalists with rubber bullets and chemical irritants. A photojournalist was permanently blinded in one eye as a result. Like Floyd’s death, many of these incidents have been caught on camera.

For foreign media, who have been among those assaultedtargeted with rubber bulletsand tear gas, and arrested, the government’s response to the protests—upwards of 400media-freedoms violations have been reported since the demonstrations began—is shifting perceptions of what it means to be a journalist in America.

Serhan, Yasmeen. (2020, June 19). The ‘Absurd’ New Reality of Reporting From the U.S.. The Atlantic.

What It’s Like to Be a Black Journalist in America Today

Carvell Wallace on why the George Floyd murder resonates so much with the nation.

My observation over the years has been that when it comes to issues of race, white people don’t respond to our pain; they respond to theirs. And I think that for all the reasons you just mentioned, Jelani, this caused pain in white people in a way that maybe these other things didn’t. But I also think, against the backdrop of COVID, one of the things that really strikes me is that this is the first time a lot of white people have ever experienced the America that we experience all the time. An America in which forces you can’t control are controlling you, are threatening your livelihood, are threatening your health.

Cobb, Jelani, Haines, Errin, Hampton, Rachelle, Samuels, Alex, & Wallace, Carvel. (2020, June 23). “White People Don’t Respond to Our Pain; They Respond to Theirs”: What it’s really like to be a Black journalist in America. Slate

The Three Degrees of Racism in America

Organizations cannot be meritocracies if their small number of black employees spend a third of their mental bandwidth in every meeting of every day distracted by questions of race and outcomes. Why are there not more people like me? Am I being treated differently? Do my white colleagues view me as less capable? Am I actually less capable? Will my mistakes reflect negatively on other black people in my firm? These questions detract from our energy to compete for promotions with white peers who have never spent a moment distracted in this way. I wager that 90 percent of the white executives who read these last sentences are now asking, particularly after recent events, “How did we miss that?” This dimension of racism is particularly hard to root out, because many of our most enlightened white leaders do not even realize what they are doing. This is racism in the third degree, akin to involuntary manslaughter: We are not trying to hurt anyone, but we create the conditions that shatter somebody else’s future aspirations. Eliminating third-degree racism is the catalyst to expanding economic power for people of color, so it merits focus at the most senior levels of education, government, and business.

Rice, John. (2020, June 21). The Difference Between First-Degree Racism and Third-Degree Racism. The Atlantic.

11 Reasons Why White Privilege Doesn’t Exist

A little humor, courtesy of McSweeney’s, at the expense of white privilege. It’s a 3-year-old article, but has aged really well.

4. I fought against a history of social stigmas and systemic biases to get to claim the tiny space I occupy.
Oh no, wait, this might be getting away from me.

5. I have been judged on name alone when applying to get my house and job.
What? That’s not a thing. Is that a thing?

6. I had my entire life plotted out in statistics before I even began making my own decisions.
Oh come on… is that… I’m just going to google for a second.

Caron, Matt. (2017, June 22. 11 Ways That I, a White Man, Am Not Privileged. McSweeney’s.

Don’t Call Slaves “Immigrants”

Powerful piece by Dionne Ford in LitHub on equating slavery and immigration.

My parents grew up in Oklahoma and Louisiana. Their parents were from Arkansas and Mississippi. I’d been to the farm where my maternal grandpa used to grow soy and cotton and to the immaculate little house surrounded by red clay dirt where my maternal great-grandmother made fresh buttermilk biscuits in a kitchen so clean you could eat off the floor. (Cozied up under her square Formica table, I sometimes did). But I was no Alex Haley. How was I supposed to figure out how my grandparents got to these far-flung parts of the USA? When I asked my dad later that night what country in Africa he thought we came from or if there was some representative flag for the entire continent, he breathed a heavy, frustrated sigh.

“Between the Indian blood and the slave blood, we’ve been here longer than anybody. Who’s more American than us?” 

Ford, Dionne. (2017, March 31). Don’t Call Slaves “Immigrants”. Literary Hub.

The Protests in Photos has a powerful photo essay by Rachel Cobb of images from the protests in NYC.

The most powerful pieces aren’t necessarily the ones where there’s a lot of action taking place; it’s the solo portraits, like the one of Marie Blanchard, 34, that will take your breath away. This is a must-see portfolio.

Rachel’s Instagram is also a must-follow and features other powerful imagery, like this portrait of Jibril Morris.

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At the Memorial Prayer for George Floyd at Cadman Plaza 6/4/20, Jibril Morris says: “I have five younger siblings and I promise they will not have to face the injustices I have. Not one more.” 2: At Barclays Center in Brooklyn 6/6/20, Nysheva-Starr would like to see “the implementation of a policy that will hold officers accountable whenever they take a life.” 3: At a rally at Washington Square Park, Manhattan, 6/6/20, Ibrahim Diop: “The principles of how this country was founded – the stolen land, the people who were stolen from Africa – this country is rooted in racism. I would like everyone to be aware of the skeletons they’re walking on.” Link to full essay published in LitHub in my bio. Thank you Lit Hub.

A post shared by Rachel Cobb (@rachelcobbphoto) on

White Americans Are Waking up to Racism

One recent afternoon, while washing his car, Greg Reese, a white stay-at-home dad in Campton, Ky., peeled off the Confederate flag magnet he had placed on its trunk six years earlier. He did not put it back on.

It was a small act for which he expected no accolades. It should not have taken the police killing of George Floyd, Mr. Reese knew, to face what he had long known to be true, that the flag he had grown up thinking of as “a beautiful trophy” was “a symbol of hate, and it’s obviously wrong to glorify it.”

Harmon, Amy, & Burch, Audra, D.S. (2020, June 22). White Americans Say They Are Waking Up to Racism. What Will It Add Up To? The New York Times.

It’s a start. A very long-delayed, often denied, much needed, very obvious start.

“Many People…want to Walk by Institutionalized Racism”

Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on the topic of removing a statue of Robert E. Lee in New Orleans:

There is no defense for having a monument in a place of reverence to a person who fought to destroy the country in order to preserve slavery. The whole point of reverential monuments in public spaces is to encourage people to be like that person. That’s the whole point! Why shouldn’t we use the names of our military bases to honor American heroes or people who lift us up? Why in the world would we want our young kids, Black or white, walking by names that communicate to them that you don’t belong here or, if I would have had my way, you wouldn’t currently be capable of reading or writing? The war is over. The United States won. Thank God.

Smith, Chris. (2020, June 23). “Many People…want to Walk by Institutionalized Racism”: Mitch Landrieu, Former New Orleans Mayor, on the Hard Work of Uprooting the Confederacy. Vanity Fair.

The Healing Power of Black Art

Alex Castro at The Verge has a fantastic list of Black artists to follow.

Before, during, and after times of hardship, many in the Black community create art to take in the pain and struggle and release a beauty that heals and teaches. Black creatives are always working, trying to find some understanding, envisioning a better world. Some of my most pleasant moments in the past few weeks were when a close friend and I just listened to music. We sat in its energy, each new song reflecting on our reality. We’d jump from Erykah Badu to 21 Savage to Rico Nasty to Buju Banton then back around again. From R&B classics to trap to gospel. Each twist in the playlist turns a new page in our own stories.

Castro, Alex. (2020, June 19). THE HEALING POWER OF BLACK ART. The Verge.

including Nikkolas Smith, who created this gripping sketch.

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