#108: Forever Yesterday
Welcome to The Highlighter #108! You’re going to like the articles in today’s issue. They run the gamut. There are pieces about the extraordinarily high mortality rate of African American babies, the role poverty and ignorance play in American hate, the impossible quest to understand a harrowing disease, the sacrifices poor people of color make to get health care, and the intricacies of this year’s smash hit. (Also, check out the helpful hourglasses, perfect for planning reading sessions.) Please enjoy!
This is a quiet, touching first-person account by a man whose mother has Alzheimer’s. Kevin Sampsell strives to understand the disease, asking his mother questions, helping her to feel comfortable, trying not to avoid opportunities to connect. Mr. Sampsell is tender in his approach, and as a result of the time he spends with his mother, he realizes that people suffering from Alzheimer’s live largely in a state of anxiety — about what’s “out there,” what’s seemingly new and foreign. For his mother, who has lived the past two years in a facility, there is a deep yearning for a return home. ⏳⏳
What's Killing America’s Black Infants?
Our divided country allows one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. While white babies die infrequently, African American babies die at a staggering, appalling rate. A Black mother in San Francisco is six times more likely to lose her baby than a white mother in the same city. The cause for this disparity? The prevailing notion is poverty, but Zoe Carpenter disputes that claim, arguing that chronic stress from institutional racism is the core cause. Tonda Thompson, who lost her son, said, “We do have a stigma of ‘She’s not married; she messed up; she’s young—she ain’t going to be nothing.’ And that attitude gets into her mind and goes to the baby.” ⏳
At an Arkansas Mosque, a Vandal Spreads Hate and Finds Mercy
This is the story of a poor young white man named Abraham who vandalizes a mosque in western Arkansas. He doesn’t even dislike Muslims, he says. This well-written, well-paced piece by Sabrina Tavernise tells Abraham’s story from five different perspectives. What emerges is how little we know about our community, how ignorant we are of our neighbors, particularly when they look different from us. (Also prominent: how there’s still forgiveness and mercy in our country — with people of color doing the forgiving and white people receiving the mercy.) ⏳⏳⏳
MJ, who belongs to loyal subscribers Angelina and Clem, rules The Highlighter. This is his second appearance (see #81). MJ has certain feelings when there is reading happening nearby.
Marcos Santiago Gonsalez is a queer Brown man who wants to protect himself from contracting HIV. Because he is on Medicare, he must answer personal questions about his sexual behavior in order to receive PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. Mr. Gonsalez finds this experience dehumanizing. He writes, “The corporatization of care becomes a means of engineering sexual relations and sexual promiscuities into predictable variables of cost benefit and loss.” ⏳
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About ‘Despacito’
Sometimes headlines do not accurately describe what you’ll find in the article after you click. This headline, on the other hand, is entirely accurate. All things “Despacito” are contained within — and this is a very good thing. Berklee College of Music professor Wayne Marshall analyzes the song in depth — its structure, its chord progression, and its “bourgeoification of the genre” raggaeton. Mr. Marshall makes sure to point out that most of the song’s views came well before Justin Bieber got involved. ⏳⏳
This Week’s Podcast: After a one-week respite, The Highlighter Podcast was back in full force on Sunday. I got to chat with middle school principal Tim Reidy about last week’s article, “When Should a Child Be Taken From His Parents?” With his background in counseling and his work with special populations in San Francisco, Mr. Reidy knows firsthand the complexities of child protective services and the foster care system. I’m pleased with the enthusiasm that loyal subscribers have shared about the podcast, and I’m hoping it’s another way to bring our community together. Please let me know if you’d like to be on the show. Don’t be scared!
Thank you for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter! I’m pleased to announce that last week’s issue achieved a big milestone: 100 opens! On the other hand, sadly, my birthday month is almost over. But there is still time to demonstrate your generosity by encouraging a close friend or family member to subscribe to the newsletter. While you think of whom to ask, let’s please welcome new subscribers Ling, Deborah, Todd, Juliana, and Christsna. Readership is picking up! Let me know what you thought of today’s issue (thumbs are below), have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you again next Thursday at 9:10 am.
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