By Polly Price | Heartening news from Alabama—Governor Kay Ivey ordered face coverings be worn in public, an emergency measure to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus there as the state reached a new record daily death toll. A recognition in the midst of a still unfolding disaster that face masks work.
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By Cornel West | Ida B. Wells is not only unique, but she is the exemplary figure full of prophetic fire in the face of American terrorism, which is American Jim Crow and Jane Crow, when lynching occurred every two and a half days for over fifty years in America. And this is very important, because Black people in the New World, in the Diaspora, Brazil, Jamaica, Barbados, were all enslaved, but no group of Black people were Jim Crowed other than US Negroes.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Sociologist James O. Young writes that cultural appropriation happens when people from outside a particular culture take elements of another culture in a way that is objectionable to that group. According to Young’s definition, it is the objection that constitutes appropriation, as distinguished from cultural borrowing or exchange where there is no “moral baggage” attached. Native American cultural appropriation can be thought of as a broad range of behaviors, carried out by non-Natives, that mimic Indian cultures. Typically, they are based on deeply held stereotypes, with no basis at all in knowledge of real Native cultures.
By Howard Bryant | America prefers to view itself as a civilized society and, as such, the latter is the obvious, proper, and decent response. Yet judging by its obsession with law enforcement, America acts as if the former is its natural order—that violent crime is but a bad mood away and only the shield, the Glock, and the squad car stand between life and senseless death at the hands of our neighbors. Americans cling to this contrived state of emergency despite decades of research confirming that killing as a primary instinct is extremely rare, a dystopian fantasy compared to the socioeconomic factors that drive people to violent crime.
By Lori L. Tharps | I feel like celebrating! More than five years ago, I wrote a post that then led to an opinion piece in the New York Times, advocating for journalists and publishers to capitalize the B in Black when referring to Black people. On Friday—yes, Juneteenth Day—the Associated Press officially announced that they would be making the change in their stylebook, signaling a universal change as almost every single news organization in the United States follows the guidelines set by the AP. I feel like a major victory has been won.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | Twenty years ago, in the middle of historic mass protests against the World Trade Organization, police chased hundreds of peaceful protesters out of downtown, north on First Avenue and surrounded them just half a block beyond Seattle’s iconic Labor Temple, preparing for mass arrests. It was December 1, 1999. As the police roundup unfolded, a group of us meeting inside the Labor Temple spilled out into the street. Ron Judd, the head of the King County Labor Council, whom I worked for at the time, was aghast to see the protesters essentially held at gunpoint.
By Ryan Lugalia-Hollon | After forty years of mass incarceration and roughly 150 years of police brutality, we are being called to imagine a public safety system without policing. But do our minds even let us go there? Do they let us dream beyond surface-level reforms? Can we envision a wildly new and just infrastructure for peace and protection?
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 Philip Warburg | Despite its momentous impact on global warming, air travel continues to fly beneath our environmental radar. Plastic straws and idling cars draw righteous ire, but how many of us take to the skies with unthinking abandon? Left unabated, commercial aviation by mid-century may produce up to a quarter of the carbon emissions that our planet can tolerate if we are to avert the more devastating impacts of climate change.
By Crystal Marie Fleming | While each person’s individual path will differ, here are ten suggestions for steps we can all take, right now, to build a less racist—and racially stupid—society. Most of these recommendations can also be implemented by organizations, communities of faith, businesses, and other groups that are ready to begin the hard work of undoing racism.
By Imani Perry | I turned eight the year Stevie Wonder’s album Hotter Than July was released. My favorite song from that album was “Master Blaster.” Like most people, I imagine, I called it “Jammin,’” from its refrain, “Nobody ever told you that you / would be jammin’ until the break of dawn.” A reggae-influenced jubilant song, it makes you want to dance and laugh. And I was listening to it, nostalgically, the day before I heard that the former and first Zimbabwean prime minister, Robert Mugabe, had died.
By Philip Warburg | Before the age of COVID-19, a steady drone of jets could be heard on a typical spring morning outside our home, a dozen miles from Boston’s Logan Airport. Today, we hear a chorus of birds. With air travel down ninety-four percent and half the US commercial plane fleet grounded, members of my family—like millions of other Americans—have sought new ways to communicate and connect. Once the pall of this pandemic has lifted, will we resort less readily to the hypermobility that, until recently, was so integral to our lives?
A Q&A with Dan C. Goldberg | I stumbled upon an obituary for one of the men, and it mentioned the Golden Thirteen. It was not something I had ever heard of before, and I was curious. I had passing familiarity with the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo soldiers but never heard of the Golden Thirteen. I looked for a book on the subject and realized that the only substantive work was Paul Stillwell’s oral history. That’s a fascinating book but it didn’t answer the question that gnawed at me. Namely, how did the Navy go from only allowing Black men as messmen in March 1942 to commissioning Black ensigns in March 1944?
By S. Brent Plate | “Let’s get in touch.” “I feel like I’m losing touch with you.” “That was a touching tribute.” The English language is littered with metaphors of touch that tend to revolve around connection between people. Such word use creates an almost psychic understanding that communication, even when conducted over Wi-Fi and satellite transmissions, can still allow us, as the old AT&T commercial had it, to “reach out and touch someone.”
A Q&A with M. V. Lee Badgett | The inspiration to write “The Economic Case for LGBT Equality” came from the many LGBT activists I’ve met and worked with who wanted to use the economic case to promote human rights. I have been making that economic case for LGBT equality for a long time and have seen the argument also appeal to policymakers, businesses, development agencies, and other groups. I decided to write this book to reach all of these audiences with the evidence and stories that show how stigma and discrimination against LGBT people hold back economies.
Who says books are not essential? Where would we be without them during the pandemic? In the fallout of all but “essential” businesses being shutdown or closed to the public, books were deemed “nonessential.” So. Not. True. Along with the shows and movies we binge-watch, books are helping us keep our sanity. They are a lifeline as we continue to shelter in place. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Not to mention, we cannot forget all the bookstores working hard to make sure we get the books we order delivered to our homes or ready to collect at curb-side pickups. The COVID-19 pandemic may have curbed our contact with the outside world, but it won’t curb the importance of reading.
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.
Like many people in publishing, I’ve just always loved reading and have always been interested in the entire book publishing process. I had my first internship in publishing when I studied abroad in college. That solidified my interest, and publishing became what I actively wanted to pursue. While that internship was in children’s editorial, I also worked as a publicity and editorial intern at PublicAffairs and was able to learn a lot more about the different sides of publishing, specifically in serious nonfiction. This led me to Beacon when I noticed an opening for an editorial assistant position last fall and applied.
Can you taste it? The taste of joy when quarantine ends, the panic shopping eases up, and we can get on with the new reality of civilian life. The coronavirus pandemic will change the way we live. However the new reality takes shape, we’ll be ready and eager to get back outside. Not to mention delirious with relief. Until then, safety first. But at least we have plenty of books to turn to as resources and for escape during quarantine!