A Q&A with Lara Bazelon | Experts believe that the men and women who have been exonerated are only a small fraction of those who deserve to be. Many wrongful convictions remain hidden, or if known, unprovable. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, “By any reasonable accounting, there are tens of thousands of false convictions each year across the country.” A 2015 study by the University of Michigan found that 4.1 percent of those on death row were falsely convicted, and conservative estimates in non-capital cases range from two to five percent. Using these percentages, on any given day, somewhere between 15,300-61,200 innocent people are languishing behind bars.
It’s an iconic moment that’s been seared into sports history and Black history. Fifty years ago, track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the Black Power salute during the American national anthem at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to protest racial inequality. That day, not only did Smith and Carlos win gold and bronze medals respectively; they also joined the ranks of Jackie Robinson and Paul Robeson in a long legacy of Black athlete-activists. Journalist Howard Bryant covers the trajectory of their sports careers in The Heritage.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass declared 161 years ago. Last week saw that truth on broad display as Amazon, facing growing political and organizing pressure, announced it was setting a minimum wage of $15/hour for its US workforce and also raising wages in England.
By Carol Fulp | When you think of dynamic, innovative, high-performance organizations, your local community bank doesn’t usually come to mind. But if you live in new England, it might. Founded in 1818, Eastern Bank is the country’s oldest and largest mutual bank, serving communities throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and beyond. It’s also one of the country’s most progressive banking institutions. Eastern provides fairly priced banking, investment, and insurance products and services for consumers, businesses, and underserved communities. since 1999, on average Eastern has donated at least 10 percent of its net income—seven times the national average—every year to charity and local organizations working on causes such as advancing women in the workplace, supporting immigrants, and advocating for social justice.
Eleven weeks on the New York Times best sellers list and still going strong! The success of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism continues to prove that Robin DiAngelo is dropping the truth bombs white people need to realize how they’re sustaining racism without realizing it. It’s an uncomfortable reckoning, but sorely needed nonetheless.
By Ayla Zuraw-Friedland | It’s back to school season. After several months of anticipation, worrying over first-year seminar selections, and at least one public melt-down in a Target parking lot while shopping for dorm room essentials, thousands of college freshmen across the country are packing up and doing the cross-country shuffle. There are communal bathrooms to scope out, clubs to sign up for, and perhaps most importantly, roommates to get acquainted with. This person can either be your partner in crime on a journey of self-discovery and youthful mischief, or your most treasured nemesis . . . or a semi-anonymous entity with whom you share mini-fridge space and see once every three days.
A Q&A with Sherrilyn Ifill | Our national engagement with this history of lynching is a process, and so I think it’s important to offer new opportunities to new generations of readers who want—or maybe will discover they need—to learn more about this important part of our past.
By Philip Warburg | Amidst all the reportage on swing states and swing districts crucial to the 2018 Congressional elections, I recently decided to buck the trend. I ventured instead to a remote community in north-central Kansas where Democrats seldom run for political office and rarely win if they do. In visiting Cloud County, I was hoping to find a few strands of hope that might span the chasm between red and blue America.
By Sharon Leslie Morgan | Debates are erupting across America over statues, flags, markers, symbols, buildings, and street names that honor people, landscapes, and events of historic import. Often, the person or event being commemorated is offensive. Especially repugnant are those that celebrate “heroes” who committed extreme acts of inhumanity. Some demand that these icons be removed. Others demonstrate a willingness to fight for their retention. Which ones should stay? Which ones should go? Is there a middle ground? Who decides?
In a world polluted by plastics that humankind just won’t quit, Starbucks plans on phasing out plastic straws in its 28,000 stores by 2020. Many applaud the company’s decision to do its part in reducing marine plastic pollution, even though the caffeine watering hole will be replacing the straws with sippy cup-like lids made from—you guessed it!—plastic. So how much of a dent will this make in the grand scheme of protecting our environment? We have less than two years to see the results. And what about those of the disability community who depend on straws? Did Starbucks think their decision through? We reached out to some of our authors to get a broader sense of the impact this will have on several fronts: environmental activism, consumer activism, and disability rights.
By Dolly Withrow | Long before time jerked me toward middle age with such haste it snatched my breath away, I looked forward to balmy evenings on our front porch. Sitting on weathered benches, my family and I faced the dirt road running past our house. Beyond the road where the heavens met a faraway hill, the setting sun fired the western sky with red and gold, intermingled with a veil of lavender-gray. We humans don’t get all bright days; we must take the gray, too, and we did.
A Q&A with Alan Michael Collinge | First: Let's look at the facts. TruTV rose to cable prominence airing shows including: America’s Dumbest. This is a series which features videos of people doing very stupid things. This has expanded to include World’s Dumbest and also Dumbest Criminals. These shows all ridicule, humiliate, and degrade their subjects.
By Steve Early | Since the election of Donald Trump and inauguration day protests against him across the country in January, 2017, some women involved in that nationwide movement have decided to run for office themselves. At the local, state, and federal level, first-time female candidates are challenging both conservative Republicans and corporate-backed Democrats. One of the most widely-noted examples of this electoral wave was last month’s New York City primary contest between a long-time Congressional incumbent and twenty-eight-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
We have a New York Times best seller! Hailed by Michael Eric Dyson as “a vital, necessary, and beautiful book,” Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism ranked number 8 on their list of bestselling Paperback Nonfiction within its first week of going on sale!
A Q&A with Margaret Regan | On a blazing 99-degree day, I visited the US Port of Entry at Nogales, the border town sixty miles south of my Tucson home. On the Mexican side, I saw something I’d never before seen on the border: a refugee camp. I counted forty-eight people living outdoors on a tile floor, mercifully protected from the sun by an overhanging roof. Half of these asylum seekers were mothers or fathers, the other half were kids: babies, young children, teenagers.
By William Ayers | The US Supreme Court ruled earlier this week in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and found in favor of Mark Janus, a child support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, who chose not to join the union, but was required under Illinois law to pay what are called “fair share” fees to AFSCME as the collective bargaining agent for all state workers. Janus argued that even though he was covered by the collective bargaining agreement, it was a violation of his First Amendment rights to force him to support the union. AFSCME con-tended that requiring workers who choose not to join the union to pay a smaller portion, or a “fair share,” is reasonable since they, along with their dues-paying colleagues, benefit concretely from collective bargaining. Without agency fees, those who don’t pay anything at all are essentially “free riders”—or “takers” to borrow a term-of-art from the conservative playbook—benefiting from the work of others, but neither participating nor contributing.
By Robin DiAngelo | The United States was founded on the principle that all people are created equal. Yet the nation began with the attempted genocide of Indigenous people and the theft of their land. American wealth was built on the labor of kidnapped and enslaved Africans and their descendants. Women were denied the right to vote until 1920, and black women were denied access to that right until 1964. The term identity politics refers to the focus on the barriers specific groups face in their struggle for equality. We have yet to achieve our founding principle, but any gains we have made thus far have come through identity politics.
By Carlos A. Ball | The Supreme Court’s recent ruling involving the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple reminds me of its decision almost fifty years ago to reverse Muhammad Ali’s conviction for refusing to be inducted into the Army. In 1967, when Ali was the professional heavyweight boxing champion of the world, he refused to join the Army on the ground that he was a conscientious objector. At the time, federal prosecutors claimed he was not entitled to the exemption from military service because his objections to fighting in the Vietnam War were not sincere.
Sandra Bland. Rekia Boyd. Decynthia Clements. Chikesia Clemons. Mya Hall. These Black women’s lives and others have been tragically cut short because of police brutality and the criminal justice system. This level of violence hasn’t stopped. It’s time to take a stance. During this year’s #SayHerName National Week of Action to End Violence Against All Black Women and Girls (June 11 through 17), Beacon Press is pleased to announce that all profits from this week’s sales of Andrea Ritchie’s groundbreaking Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color will be donated to Black Youth Project 100.
By Ben Mattlin | Here’s what I know going in: Christina, sixty-two at the time we speak, is a professor of English and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, and author of the memoir A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain. In October 2003, she suffered a severe bicycling accident—a twig got caught in one of her spokes, sending her flying. Yes, a twig. “My chin took the full force of the blow, which smashed my face and broke the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae in my neck,” she writes. “The broken bone scraped my spinal cord.”