By James W. RussellThe 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.
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By Stephen KendrickAutumn: 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.
By Lyn Mikel BrownAs 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.”
A Q&A with Michael BérubéA 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.
A Q&A with Lori L. TharpsThe 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.
By Dina Gilio-WhitakerI 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.
By Marc BekoffI am always incredulous that the AWA does not consider rats of the genus Rattus and mice of the genus Mus to be animals. Other animals also are conveniently tossed out of the animal kingdom. When I tell people this they are shocked. We know from detailed scientific research that they have highly evolved cognitive and emotional capacities, they experience empathy, and rats laugh and like to be tickled. And, we know that tickling laboratory rats is good for science. What more do we need to show that these are sentient beings with rich and deep emotional lives?
By Dennis A. HeniganFor the first time since 2000, the Presidential election promises to be pivotal for the politics of gun control. Both for supporters of stronger gun laws, and for “gun rights” partisans, the stakes could not be higher. It was not long ago that the political death of gun control was accepted as an incontestible truth by pundits of every ideological stripe. For the Democratic Party, although much was made of the alleged impact of the gun issue on the Gingrich takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, the real turning point was the 2000 Presidential election.
By Kay WhitlockThe August 2016 announcement by the Obama administration that it will phase out or “substantially reduce” contracts with private prisons to house federal prisoners provides a master lesson in the political benefit of the magician’s art of misdirection. Hailed by many as a definitive step forward in criminal justice reform and a severe blow to the continuation of mass incarceration, the focus on private prisons hides more than it reveals. It raises false hopes, offers false promises, and points many who want transformative change in the wrong direction.
A Q&A with Eileen PollackMany science professors think that they treat their male and female students equally. But studies have shown that they actually encourage white male students in subtle (and not so subtle) ways, while subtly discouraging women. And society itself discourages women and minorities through the images and signals that our culture constantly is sending out.
By Ashlyn EdwardsGrowing up, I was very awkward, very smart, and very un-feminist. If you had asked me at thirteen what I thought of feminism, I would have recited some hackneyed cultural stereotype about bra-burners and told you that gender equality was achieved when women won the right to vote—mostly because I had hardly learned anything about feminism in school. It wasn’t until I was seventeen and started following feminist bloggers that I began to understand that many of my deepest insecurities and feelings of inferiority were actually the byproducts of structural inequality and internalized sexism.
By Roxanne Dunbar-OrtizThe first international relationship between the Sioux Nation and the US government was established in 1805 with a treaty of peace and friendship two years after the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory, which included the Sioux Nation among many other Indigenous nations. Other such treaties followed in 1815 and 1825. These peace treaties had no immediate effect on Sioux political autonomy or territory. By 1834, competition in the fur trade, with the market dominated by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, led the Oglala Sioux to move away from the Upper Missouri to the Upper Platte near Fort Laramie. By 1846, seven thousand Sioux had moved south. Thomas Fitzpatrick, the Indian agent in 1846, recommended that the United States purchase land to establish a fort, which became Fort Laramie. “My opinion,” Fitzpatrick wrote, “is that a post at, or in the vicinity of Laramie is much wanted, it would be nearly in the center of the buffalo range, where all the formidable Indian tribes are fast approaching, and near where there will eventually be a struggle for the ascendancy [in the fur trade].”
By Nicholas DiSabatinoDear Sister Sonia: We’ve never met in person, yet we’ve spoken on the phone dozens of occasions since I joined Beacon Press back in 2012. I’ve been so blessed to work with you as your publicist these past few years. It’s a strange feeling to “know” someone only via the phone. I feel in some ways like we’re long distance pen pals, even though you’re only in Philadelphia and I’m in Boston. I’ve come to expect that particular warmth in your voice whenever we speak and I hear that familiar “Brother Nicholas, any calls?” from you. It’s part of who you are as a person and an artist
By Deborah Jiang-SteinIn our fame machine culture of “Look at me, look at me!” where fame is marketed as a drug of choice, we’re consumed by the notion that the only light worth seeking is the limelight. I recently had the privilege to witness another way to hold the light. With Gloria Steinem at my side last spring, we entered the state prison for women in Minnesota to share a tour and speaking engagement. She was in Minnesota on a generous acceptance when I invited her to a fundraiser for the nonprofit I founded, the unPrison Project, so that we could raise funds to reach the thirty-one states that have requested my speaking and our programming into their women’s prisons.
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.Graduate students have been attempting to organize labor unions for decades. Until recently, those at private universities and colleges have been blocked from unionizing largely due to a Supreme Court decision from 1980, NLRB v Yeshiva University, that placed graduate students into the camp of managerial personnel and, therefore, ineligible for unionization and collective bargaining. The National Labor Relations Board has shifted the entire discussion with a decision affecting Columbia University graduate students. Just recently, Yale University students filed a petition for union recognition.
By Marc BekoffA number of people have asked me to weigh in on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recent announcement that they would like to lift the ban on research on animal-human chimera research. Basically, a chimera “is a single organism composed of cells from different zygotes. This can result in male and female organs, two blood types, or subtle variations in form.” I’m against this sort of research for any number of reasons.
By Lynn HallThe wilderness is where I continuously re-establish my present-day safety. Here I reduce my survival to basics: Have I had enough to eat? Where will I find more water? Can I stay warm enough or cool enough? Even in these untamed places—with bears and snakes, lightning, cliffs and exposed ledges—I prove again and again that I am no longer the girl of my past. I reconnect with my most true self who has grown into her strength and confidence. I know my past is behind me.
By Dennis A. HeniganThe suggestion of politically-motivated violence against public officials is terrifying on its face, but it is certainly nothing new. Indeed, Trump’s comments are a specific application of the “insurrectionist” view of Second Amendment rights that has long been a core tenet of the ideology of the National Rifle Association and the far right. According to that view, the overriding purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee the populace the arms it may need to resist government tyranny.
By José OrduñaOne convention featured the jingoistic speeches of retired generals, and ex-CIA director Leon Panetta, of protestors chanting “No more war!” being out shouted by people chanting “U-S-A!” The other convention was the Republicans’. As a Mexican immigrant naturalized as a US citizen in 2011, this is the second US general election for which I am eligible to vote.
By Alondra NelsonAs a wide-eyed girl watching Roots, and wondering about mine, I never could have dreamed a future where one day I’d have the surreal experience of having my genealogical results revealed to me before a crowd of African diaspora VIPs and civil rights leaders, and with a prominent actor, Isaiah Washington, as master of ceremonies. Although this experience elicited mixed emotions in me, I can personally attest that new branches on ancestral trees are the undeniable graft of genetic genealogy.