2016 is a year that speaks for itself. It’s been a rough and tumultuous one, culminating in a divisive presidential election that has many people afraid of what’s in store for the country once the new administration takes office on January 20. When we’re in need of wisdom and guidance during troubling and unpredictable times ahead, we turn to our authors, who continue to offer their time and insights to give us perspective and commentary on the condition of our world. Our blog, the Broadside, wouldn’t be what it is without them. As always, we’re so grateful to them. We’ll need their thought-provoking essays as we head into 2017. Before the year comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the Broadside’s most-read posts. Happy New Year!
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: “A Skirmish Between Colonizers”
In January, a group of armed militiamen, including Ryan and Ammon Bundy, broke into and took over the headquarters and visitors’ center of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. The reason for the take-over was to protest the imprisonment of two local rangers for committing arson on public lands in 2001 and 2006. The take-over, though, has more to do with the ongoing US system of colonialism and the illegal seizing land from Native communities. Providing some historical threads to understand the present, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz calls for all the sacred sites and “public” lands to be returned to the stewardship of Native peoples.
David R. Dow: “The Myth That Scalia Matters”
Before the rumors of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death were confirmed, he was already being lauded as a transformational figure, eulogized as a jurist who made originalism a respectable mode of constitutional interpretation. His views were regressive, but he expressed them in memorable prose. During oral argument, he made people laugh. Law professor David R. Dow argues, however, that Scalia’s interpretive philosophy is the equivalent of climate change denial. It will be forgotten in a generation and laughed at in two.
Christopher Emdin: “For the Folks Who Killed Black History Month...and the Rest of Y’all Too”
Ten years ago, rapper and producer Kanye West said “...I make Black History everyday, I don’t need a month.” It’s a declaration, says For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood author Christopher Emdin, that signals the tensions between Black History Month and the youth to whom it should mean most. In his visits to classrooms, Emdin discovered that black students were disengaged from Black History Month celebrations because they didn’t feel connected to it. For them, it was a relic whose historical significance they recognized, but had no personal import. Emdin proposes a radical approach to making Black History Month relevant for the new generations.
Social media filled with outrage as well as tributes for Melissa Harris-Perry when MSNBC silenced her show and dismantled her editorial control. Her show was important, and for many viewers Harris-Perry was their first and often only national exposure to a broad range of issues. It raised uncomfortable, needed questions about American politics and enduring sites of injustice; it hosted a diverse array of experts for an informed national conversation. Jeanne Theoharis, who discussed her book The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks on the show, celebrates Harris-Perry and the inclusive forum an entire nation lost.
Suzanne Kamata: “The Boy Abandoned in the Woods of Hokkaido”
Japan and the United States have differing cultural standards when it comes to parenting. That became apparent when seven-year-old Tanooka Yamato made international news as the boy whose parents abandoned him in the bear-infested forest of Hokkaido. Many Americans were incensed, fearing the worst that could have happened to the child and blaming his parents for negligence. But are we missing something as far as cultural differences are concerned? Suzanne Kamata, editor of Love You to Pieces and American expat who lives in Japan, addresses the other side of the story from the Japanese perspective.
In July, biblical literalist Ken Ham opened his controversial “Ark Encounter” theme park in Williamstown, Kentucky. Here, visitors come in contact with a full-sized wood ark, built according to the dimensions provided by the Bible, and the events of the myth of Noah and the flood. Scientists have expressed concern about the project promoting pseudoscience. Biblical scholars have objected to the park’s treating the myth as a historical event. Karl Giberson, author of Saving the Original Sinner, argues that with the park, Ham has done a great disservice to Christianity and thinking people in general.
Suzanne Kamata: “Say Their Names”
In Japan, there is still stigma attached to people with disabilities and they continue to be marginalized. This July, disabled residents died or sustained injuries by knife attack in a care facility, but their names were never made public. Police didn’t disclose their names on the grounds that their relatives did not want to have them identified due to their disabilities. In her second post about Japan, Suzanne Kamata points out that this is the opposite of what happened when a driver of a rampaging truck killed eighty-four people in Nice, France on Bastille Day. Names and photos of the truck victims were publicized. Kamata asks: How can we mourn those who are denied their humanity?
Richard Hoffman: “Do Bullies Have Mommies?”
We’ve heard plenty about President-elect Donald Trump’s father during the course of his campaign, but not a word about his mother. That’s because, as Love & Fury author Richard Hoffman writes, women in Trump’s macho bully’s world are worth their fetishized bodies and nothing else. In fact, Trump’s inherited and antiquated brand of masculinity is designed to shame boys into rigid gender compliance and into identifying with a tangle of anxieties that can only be assuaged with violent behavior. But this ideology is on its way out. You can tell by the ferocious backlash of its death throes.
“Why We Need the Secular Gospel of James Baldwin in Our Times”: A Q&A with Rich Blint
In response to the persistent racial injustice and the renewed spirit of activism represented by the Black Lives Matter movement, we released the eBook Baldwin for Our Times to help us understand and confront the inequalities in our times. This collection features specific selections from James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son and his poetry collection Jimmy’s Blues. We reached out to prominent Baldwin scholar Rich Blint to provide notes and an introduction for the publication. In this Q&A, Blint chats with us about the project and why Baldwin’s sharp and lucid social criticism will be imperative during the upcoming administration.