#219: Spaces Without White People
Happy Thursday, Loyal Readers! Today’s issue is two parts race, two parts economics. This week’s lead article, which I highly recommend, focuses on why people of color need and deserve their own spaces, separate from white people. The second piece discusses why some white people become radicalized into far-right ideologies and what can be done to change their beliefs.
If those two articles don’t interest you, and if you’re thinking of buying a home, especially in the Bay Area, check out the last two articles, which will confirm that it’s pretty much impossible, and how maybe it shouldn’t be a goal in the first place, particularly if you’re a millennial. Please enjoy!
+ It’s time: Highlighter Happy Hour #12 is coming soon! Join me and ~50+ fellow loyal readers at Room 389 on Thursday, December 5, beginning at 5:30 pm. It would be great to see you there! Please lock in the date and secure your free ticket now. (Prize if you do.)
In mixed-race spaces, according to Ijeoma Oluo, white people cause harm by centering their voices, controlling the discourse, and protecting their comfort. That’s why people of color need spaces distinct from white people. In this outstanding essay, Kelsey Blackwell explains the healing that comes from meeting in racial affinity. She writes:
We need places in which we can gather and be free from the mainstream stereotypes and marginalization that permeate every other societal space we occupy. We need spaces where we can be our authentic selves without white people’s judgment and insecurity muzzling that expression. We need spaces where we can simply be—where we can get off the treadmill of making white people comfortable and finally realize just how tired we are.
Later in the piece, Ms. Blackwell challenges the argument that affinity spaces prevent opportunities for inclusion. She cautions white people from assuming that integration is the ultimate goal. Even at their best, mixed-race spaces are “engineered” — awkward, fake, and harmful. (20 min)
+ Want to read this article later? Save it to Pocket. It won’t get lost that way!
No Longer A Nazi: Making Amends For A Life Of Far-Right Radicalism
From the time she was 15 to the time she turned 20, Shannon Foley Martinez was a skinhead. She attended Klan rallies, dated neo-Nazis, and prepared herself for race war. Then a teacher helped her out of her hate. Since then, Ms. Martinez has worked to deradicalize white nationalists and members of hate groups. Along the way, she’s found that most radicals suffer from longstanding, unhealed trauma, and that the only pathway to transformation is through emotion, not ideology. (16 min)
Charli, who belongs to loyal reader Eva, reads The Highlighter on Sunday mornings with her favorite warm beverage. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter? hltr.co/pets
Gimme Shelter: Living In The Bay Area
In 2016, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, investigative reporter Wes Enzinna lived in a 32-square-foot shack in West Oakland. A 33-year-old transplant from New York, Mr. Enzinna clearly describes the challenges of living in the Bay Area and the intractable gaps between the rich and the poor. But in his discussion of gentrification, he doesn’t mention his race, focusing instead on his working-class background. Given the length of this otherwise excellent piece, it’s a curious omission. (37 min)
+ If you read last week’s lead article, also from Harper’s Magazine, open this one in a new browser to avoid the paywall. Or subscribe!
American Dream, American Nightmare: The Obsession With Homeownership
Now that I (partly) own a home, I have opinions about homeownership. For instance: I like it. But for many millennials, buying a home is untenable, undesirable, and no longer associated with the American dream. If you’re paralyzed with debt, not planning on having kids, and worried about climate change, you may find homeownership “boring” and “mundane.” You might connect with 35-year-old Erik, who said, “I like that my life isn’t following a set pattern.” (20 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Last week’s lead article, “Men At Work,” caused a stir. VIP Michele wrote, “Holy moly! It’s incredible the lengths people will go to to avoid doing the real work of self- reflection and connecting themselves to a larger picture toward systemic change.” Loyal reader Lisa wrote, “Ooof, the Evryman piece was hard to read. And so hilarious in places. And sad.”
On “The Porch Pirate of Potrero Hill,” loyal reader Sophie wrote, “I used to live on Potrero Hill right around the time of the events surrounding Ms. Fairley. My roommates and I had NextDoor accounts and we had a lot of thoughts and feelings about how our neighbors characterized other residents and described the goings-on in the neighborhood. I think the article did an excellent job capturing the tone of the hill at that very moment in time.”
On “Dolly Parton’s America,” loyal reader Daniel wrote: “Being a life-long devotee of mid-20th-century country music, I was pleased to have my attention directed to the podcast regarding Dolly Parton. I would encourage you to reevaluate the label “abusive” as a descriptor of Porter Wagoner in the context of his work with Dolly Parton. It is easy, and perhaps satisfying, to view the on-stage/on-camera dynamic between Wagoner and Parton through a 21st century lens (as the contemporary journalist quoted on the podcast seems to have done). Indeed, hiring a female singer to be a “pretty little gal” on a TV show seems awkward (to say the least) by today’s standards, especially here in urban California. Viewed now, Wagoner certainly seems patronizing, and he appears to play into gender roles which were then much more mainstream. Regarding Parton’s departure from the Porter Wagoner Show, as Parton herself explains, it was understandable that Wagoner would be frustrated to lose his top protégé. Parton also concedes that the show belonged to Wagoner — it was his show and she was, in fact, hired to be something which, ultimately, she did not want to be. In the podcast, Wagoner seems to be depicted as something akin to the folkloric Rumpelstiltskin; Parton herself seems much more aware and magnanimous.”
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Michele, Lisa, Sophie, and Daniel. I invite all of you to hit reply and tell me what you think! It pushes me and improves our reading community.
Must yet another issue of The Highlighter come to an end? It must. But there will be another one soon. In the meantime, use the thumbs below to tell me what you thought. Also, let’s please welcome this week’s 3 new subscribers, including Wade and Jeannette. I hope that you find the newsletter a welcome addition to your Thursday email inbox.
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