By Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks | After years of basking in the glow of a flattering limelight, by the fall of 2011 the very rich were experiencing something new and altogether jarring: the glare of a harsh spotlight trained directly on them. The temptation to bark orders like: “Dim that light, or else!” was natural enough, but perhaps unwise. After all, those shining the spotlight were not their employees and were swarming in large numbers through the streets of lower Manhattan, behaving like the sort of unruly mob one finds in faraway places where the ways of the free world are insufficiently appreciated.
This year’s Human Rights Day marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the perfect day to reflect on the US’s treatment of the immigrant community. And let me tell you: It’s going to be a stark reckoning. Just look at some of this year’s headlines. Many migrant families are still separated. Border patrol agents fired tear gas at migrant families at the US-Mexico border to disperse them. This is inhumane treatment. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the “inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being—regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” That’s not what we’re seeing. Where are the inalienable rights for this community?
The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis | The New Testament documents a moral movement of the poor and rejected. It portrays the survival struggles of the marginalized, the solidarity and mutuality among different communities, and the critique of a social, political, and economic system that oppresses the vast majority of people. Given his leadership in that movement, it is not surprising that the main theme of many of Jesus’s teachings and his ministry in general is bringing good news to the poor and marginalized, standing up for righteousness, and ending all forms of discrimination and oppression. Nor is it surprising that Jesus was recognized by Rome as a threat to the status quo and crucified, the punishment reserved for revolutionaries and those deemed insurrectionists.
By Mary Frances Berry | Protest movements began to shift tactics in the late 1980s. Unlike earlier movements, which had identifiable leaders who demanded specific policy changes, political protests increasingly relied on creative expression to influence the public and public policy. Using storytelling, graffiti, alternative music, street theater, puppetry, and new media technologies, protests sought to change popular culture and mobilize support for progressive change. The medium became the message, as Marshall McLuhan had recommended decades earlier. Now there was rap music, zap actions by the Guerrilla Girls, and Critical Mass, which brings hundreds of people together for bicycle riding in the streets, and which San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was finally forced to accept. Disruption remained the aim of these gatherings; however, it would be misleading to draw sharp distinctions between protest styles of the 1960s and 1990s.
By Linda Schlossberg | Like many white Americans, I read To Kill a Mockingbird in junior high and loved it. Published in 1960, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is told from the point of view of young Scout, whose father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, defends a black man falsely accused of rape. Scout’s innocent and appealing voice is an accessible vehicle for discussing race relations, and the novel has become a staple of school curricula. Gregory Peck won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Atticus in the 1962 film. The novel’s previously unpublished and controversial sequel, Go Set A Watchman, hit bestseller lists a few years ago. And Aaron Sorkin’s highly-anticipated Broadway adaptation, produced by Scott Rudin and starring Jeff Daniels, is certain to sell out. It’s no wonder that Mockingbird, published almost sixty years ago, emerged the winner of PBS’s The Great American Read television series, where viewers could vote, American Idol style, for their favorite novel.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Robin DiAngelo’s brilliant 2018 manifesto on white fragility was a much-needed truth bomb at a time when it’s more clear than ever that we are light years away from the “post-racial state.” Perhaps most important about the book was its clarity that racism is systemic and structural, that no white people are immune from it, and that their fragility about it is based on a belief that they are being judged as bad people (the good-bad binary). In this second part of a two-part series (see part one here), I take on the similar but very different concept we in Indian country call settler privilege and its companion, settler fragility.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | November is Native American Heritage Month, when we as American Indian people get to have the mic for a little while. So, I’d like to take my turn at the virtual mic to talk about settler privilege, something you likely have never thought of, or have never even heard of. What you have undoubtedly heard of, however, is white privilege.
By Alexandra Minna Stern | It’s been widely reported that Robert Bowers, the man who gunned down eleven congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, was active on the platform Gab. Although it went offline after the massacre, Gab has consolidated itself as the Wild West alternative to Twitter, where anything goes. Its message boards are awash in a constraint stream of obscene, demeaning, and dehumanizing memes and messages about Jews, women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.
By Mary Collins | I have a transgender son, Donald Collins. Let’s start by erasing the D and make that onald Collins just to show how distorted this sentence becomes with that one edit, with that one irrational erasure. Let us now move on and erase onald and only use Collins, because the Trump Administration wants to define gender solely on the basis of genitalia at birth.
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.