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13 posts from October 2016

By Maya Fernandez

I have always believed I’m Black. Both of my parents are Black, the majority of my immediate family identifies as Black, so essentially, I am Black. While race was a continuous topic of discussion in my household, colorism—discrimination or prejudice based on skin color—was left unattended. Similar to racism, colorism establishes a hierarchy in which lighter skin is treated with higher regard than darker skin. My father, a cultural proficiency consultant, made sure my sisters and I understood how society would see us as black women, but somehow forgot to give us the tools to navigate a world also plagued by colorism. It wasn’t until I stepped outside the comfort of my front door that I was fully able to grasp the concept of colorism. Read more →


By Thich Nhat Hanh

In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality. The person who practices mindfulness should be no less awake than the driver of a car; if the practitioner isn’t awake he will be possessed by dispersion and forgetfulness, just as the drowsy driver is likely to cause a grave accident. Be as awake as a person walking on high stilts—any mis-step could cause the walker to fall. Be like a medieval knight walking weaponless in a forest of swords. Be like a lion, going forward with slow, gentle, and firm steps. Only with this kind of vigilance can you realize total awakening. Read more →


By Steven Hill

Social Security is not going broke, not by a long shot. The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report to Congress in July 2015, and among all the tables, charts, and graphs in that big fat report, it would be easy to miss the most important take-home message: Social Security is one of the best-funded federal programs in US history. That’s because it has its own dedicated revenue stream, which is composed of the insurance premiums paid by every worker (deducted from our paychecks by what is called “payroll contributions”), which are automatically banked into the Trust Fund. Even the Pentagon and the defense budget do not have their own dedicated revenue stream. Read more →


By Richard Hoffman

When an ideology is dying, its final throes include a ferocious and defiant last stand. I believe we are witnessing that right now, the last stand of a discredited idea of masculinity that was long in the making but took its most rigid and brutal form amid the atrocities of the last century of warring bullies. Standing up to a bully like Trump might begin, for men, with the simple declaration that we are our mothers’ sons as well as our fathers’, a declaration that acknowledges our original wholeness. And then we ought to think hard about what that really means and what it might require of us. Read more →


By Melissa Range and Tracy K. Smith

Each of the poems in Scriptorium is a marvel. What may likely strike you on the first read is Range’s remarkable facility with form. She moves nimbly, naturally, with com­fort and acrobatic delight through the rigors of sonnets, villanelles, anagrams, cento, and the like. She submits joyfully to the whims of rhyme, allowing music to ex­ert its will upon her train of mind, and she does so with such virtuosic ease that you may not even detect it on a first read. But what you will feel more than any of this, I am certain, is an urgent usefulness. These are poems for which form is not an end in itself. Read more →


Throughout this election cycle, we’ve seen the rise of the radical right reminiscent of the pull of ultraconservative organizations from the past; increasing calls to prevent new immigrants from entering our country; increased calls to improve gun control legislation; a resurging wave of religious intolerance against Muslim Americans; and nationwide protests imploring racial justice and economic progress. These issues and others that have made headlines in the news have become focal points in this year’s presidential debates. To help inform the conversation about these topics, we’re recommending a list of titles from our catalogue. Read more →


By James W. Russell

The ad from TIAA-CREF, the company that administers university and other retirement plans, which ran alongside my Yahoo inbox was too enticing to ignore. I clicked on the bait: “You could get ninety percent of your income and maintain your lifestyle in retirement.” The click brought me to another eye-catching claim: “On average, participants in TIAA-administered plans are on track to replace over ninety percent of their income in retirement.” These were eye-catching claims because I had been in TIAA for over thirty-five years and would be replacing nowhere near ninety percent of my preretirement income. Nor would anyone else I knew who was in TIAA. Read more →


By Stephen Kendrick

Autumn: New England’s residing glory, what people from all over the world come to see. Maybe we are used to it, or sim­ply through familiarity do not realize our trees produce the greatest profusion of fall color in the world—but there it is. Nowhere else in the world are concentrated such orange-tinged russets, golds, and vivid reds. Our trees do us proud. There is only a short time to see all this; “leaf-peepers” are simply seekers of something rare and ephemeral. Mount Auburn, although a small player within these thousands of miles of burning fall tints, asserts itself every year as one of the special sites in the midst of nature’s color show. Read more →


By Lyn Mikel Brown

As philosopher Peggy McIntosh, historian Howard Zinn, and others remind us, the history taught in school is told from the perspective of those in power, and for the most part this version has “left out the female half of humankind, and excluded the knowledge of most people of color worldwide about their own cultures and their versions of history.” It also deemphasizes how women, working people, and people of color have worked together within organized social movements to shape history. If social change “is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions,” as the Zinn Education Project website proclaims, then our “own choices and actions matter.” Read more →


A Q&A with Michael Bérubé

A capacious and supple sense of what it is to be human is better than a narrow and partial sense of what it is to be human, and the more participants we as a species can incorporate into the determination of what it means to be human, the greater the chances that we will enhance our collective capacities to recognize each other as humans entitled to human dignity. Read more →


A Q&A with Lori L. Tharps

The answer to eradicating colorism is not colorblindness. What we need to do as a society is learn to appreciate the great diversity of human skin colors. It’s that easy and that hard. We love different colored flowers and different colored candies—why can’t we love different colored skin in the same way? Different just means different, not better or worse. Read more →


By Dina Gilio-Whitaker

I am a person of Native American heritage, and I also happen to love surfing. I began board surfing as a young adult thirty-six years ago, but in reality I grew up riding waves as a kid born and raised in coastal Southern California. I spent lots of time on the beach, bodysurfing and riding various types of bodyboards. At twenty-two I moved to Oahu’s North Shore in Hawaii, which unbeknownst to me at the time was—and still is—the epicenter of global surf culture, and it was there I learned to surf. Being Native American and a surfer sometimes seems like a contradiction in terms, and there is virtually no literature on how surf culture intersects with Indigenous peoples in the continental United States. But I have made it my personal mission as a scholar to begin this conversation, and here I share with you some of my ever-evolving thoughts on it. Read more →