This summer, the uprisings for racial justice and the marches for Black lives have been heartening. And believe me, we need something to root for during our pandemic timeline. This wake-up call to reckon with systemic racism and to dismantle it—and there have been many before—is ringing loud and clear. Now we need that same momentum to carry into the classrooms—all virtual please!—with the same gusto. Because schools are part of the system, too.
A Q&A with Mark Warren by Stephen Abbott | The school-to-prison pipeline refers to a systemic problem that disproportionately affects students in low-income communities and communities of color. It often begins with zero-tolerance discipline, where children, and particularly Black and brown children, are suspended and often expelled for minor behavioral infractions. Once they’re expelled, they’re not in school learning, and they’re often out on the streets where they get caught up in the juvenile criminal-justice system—that’s the pipeline.
This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act has a thirtieth candle to blow out on its birthday cake. The ADA is the widest-ranging and most comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation ever passed in the United States, and it has become the model for disability-based laws around the world. We reached out to some of our authors to reflect on the impact of this landmark in disability history and on the ongoing fight for disability rights. We share their statements with you below.
There is no other way to put it. The start of this year’s Pride Month was painful. We can’t stop thinking of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and of too many before and after them. Witnessing modern-day lynch mobs during a pandemic is soul-crushing. Do not be tempted to say the upheaval happening now is “unique” or “unprecedented.” Because it is not. The US has centuries of history inflicting violence and death on Black bodies. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his “The Other America” speech, “the riot is the language of the unheard.” And the US has not listened since the days of slavery and settler colonialism. So the protests and riots rage on.
We support our authors, Black communities, and all those fighting against racial injustice and police violence. We can’t stop thinking of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and of too many Black lives before and after them, and as such, we recognize this is an extremely traumatic time for many. This is exacerbated by the fact that the coronavirus pandemic rages on, disproportionately affecting communities of color. We remain committed to publishing resources to help expose and dismantle the systems of white supremacy and the carceral state. With this in mind, we put together this list of racial justice resources.
By Rosemarie Day | As Mother’s Day approaches, this year feels different. In a time of coronavirus, we need more than flowers and a day off. We need more than traditional self-care. We need recognition, deep and lasting recognition, that the work we do as caregivers is invaluable. We need recognition from society as a whole, not just our families. The pandemic has shown everyone that we are essential—women make up over half of the workforce deemed “essential,” including 77% of healthcare workers.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | May 1 is here, which means rents and mortgages are due, and tens of millions of Americans will be unable to pay. Officially, thirty million people are newly unemployed. But the real number is higher, as government statistics fail to account for the 1.5 million-plus app-based drivers, other gig economy workers, independent contractors, and workers in the informal economy who have suddenly found themselves without work or income.
By Wen Stephenson | As I write, it is six weeks since everything changed where I live, in eastern Massachusetts, when the schools closed and businesses began sending their employees home. Today the Boston Globe reports 39,643 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, and at least 1,809 deaths, more than 400 of them in my county. The US now has more than three-quarters of a million confirmed cases and at least 37,000 deaths, most likely far more, with 2,000 or more dying per day—and unconscionably disproportionate losses in Black and Brown communities. Globally, at least 166,000 people have died. The old and infirm, the poor, the vulnerable, the racially marginalized, suffer most. As always.
If you’re jamming and head-bobbing to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Jewel, Rihannon Giddens, and Miley Cyrus, you’re listening to the one and only Odetta. These folk roads lead back to her. She’s one of the most important singers of the last hundred years who’s influenced a huge number of artists over many decades, like the ones listed here. Where’s her Grammy?
She led a sit-in to ensure protections for people with disabilities and laid the groundwork for the Americans with Disabilities Act. She’s calling on all of us to act radically to build a different kind of future for cinema—not only for the women being actively hurt inside the industry but for those outside it, whose lives, purchasing decisions, and sense of selves are shaped by the stories told. She’s proving how a groundswell of activism, led by everyday women, could create the incentives our political leaders need to change course and make affordable healthcare accessible for everybody.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Long before there was ever a concept called “feminism” in the US settler State, there was the knowledge of women’s power in Indigenous communities. The imposition of foreign cultures, and Christianity in particular, was corrosive to societies that were typically matrilineal or matrifocal, were foundationally equitable in the distribution of power between the genders, and often respected the existence of a third gender and non-hetero relationships. As Christianity swept over the continent, it instilled Indigenous societies with patriarchal values that sought not only to diminish women’s inherent cultural power but also to pathologize alternative gender identities, relationships, and marriage practices outside the bounds of monogamy, establishing a general pattern of gender and relationship suppression that constructs modern American society and reordered Native societies.
By Nicole Aschoff | Many of the critiques about smartphones stem from the myriad ways they are used to perpetuate and obscure coercive and unjust relationships. Our pocket computers are used in ways that reconfigure, and often reinforce and renew, existing power inequalities. We see this power inequality most starkly in the relationship between corporations and workers, and between corporations and consumers. In the gig economy our hand machines mediate the employment relationship, encouraging app workers to view their phones as their boss. But our phones are not the boss; companies are.
We’re going two for two—our second author to appear this year on The Daily Show! On March 4, Trevor Noah interviewed disability rights activist Judith Heumann on The Daily Show in honor of Women’s History Month. And we’re squeeing again like the book groupies we are! “Reading this book, I expected to be impressed by it, but I wasn’t quite expecting how much of a badass you would be,” Noah told Heumann. And he’s right: she’s a total badass!
We’re in a time when the most powerful institutions in the United States are embracing the repressive and racist systems that keep many communities struggling and in fear. As the effects of aggressive policing and mass incarceration harm historically marginalized communities and tear families apart, how do we define safety? It is time to reimagine what it means.
By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor | Howard Zinn wrote one of the most popular books on American history ever. A People’s History of the United States has sold an astonishing two million copies since its first publication in 1980. The success of the book can also be measured by the way that it spawned a new genre of “people-centered” renditions of history. Zinn’s approach to history essentially inverted the traditional approach that placed the rich and powerful, along with the institutions they governed, as the central motors in the development of society. It was history told from above. Alternatively, Zinn championed an approach to history from the bottom up or from the perspective of “the people.”
It’s not often that our authors appear on The Daily Show, but when they do, we flip out and rejoice! Mary Frances Berry, former Chairwoman of the US Commission on Civil Rights and a lifelong activist, was invited to speak on the show on January 20, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She was the only guest on the program that evening. You’d think that this meeting of the minds would have happened sooner.
As Coretta Scott King wrote in the introduction to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Strength to Love,” “Love, truth, and the courage to do what is right should be our own guideposts on this lifelong journey. Martin Luther King, Jr., showed us the way; he showed us the Dream.” He sure did! The entirety of Dr. King’s speeches and activism embodies love, truth, and the courage to do what is right. It’s a radical vision of ridding the world of what he identified as the triple evils of poverty, racism, and war—which we still have to work very hard to make a reality.
A Q&A with Carlos A. Ball | I was struck, a few years ago, by the ways in which large corporations were coming out (no pun intended) against the passage of anti-LGBTQ laws, such as so-called religious freedom laws and transgender bathroom laws. Partly in response to strong criticism by corporate America, several states, including Arizona, Indiana, and North Carolina, rescinded the anti-LGBTQ laws. That made me start wondering why corporations were taking such public stances in favor of LGBTQ equality, while remaining generally neutral on other so-called hot button social issues.
By Jude Casimir | By now, you’ve probably heard of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish activist who’s credited with bringing much-needed attention to the climate crisis and reinvigorating youth environmental activism. You’ve most likely heard about how she passionately and bravely took the stage in September in the midst of the worldwide climate strikes to address the highly esteemed attendees of the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
By Paul Ortiz | I wrote An African American and Latinx History of the United States because I believe that history has an indispensable role to play at a time when many of our leading politicians are again invoking anti-Latinx and anti-Black hatred in order to garner votes. I was born in 1964. I grew up in the 1970s, a time of “backlash” against the Mexican American and African American civil rights movements. Politicians like California’s Pete Wilson, Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, and New York’s Donald Trump rose to political power by blaming immigrants and African Americans for society’s problems.