#299: If We Can Soar
Good morning, loyal readers, and thank you for reading today’s issue of The Highlighter. If you like history, or acknowledge history’s impact on the present, you’ll appreciate how this week’s articles talk to each other. “If We Can Soar,” the lead article, focuses on flight and liberation, telling the story of Cornell Norwood and other fanciers of Birmingham Roller pigeons in South Central over the past 50 years. If you’ve never seen these birds roll, you’ll be astonished.
Scared of birds? No problem. Take in a thoughtful essay about what history is (and isn’t), or spend time with another thoughtful essay considering which history we should (and shouldn’t) teach. Or skip those pieces, head all the way down to the bottom, and celebrate one woman’s journey of body positivity. Please enjoy!
+ You can listen to Article Club favorite Barrett Swanson, author of Lost in Summerland, on this week’s episode of the Longform podcast. He talks about his new book, a compilation of articles, three of which I have featured in the newsletter. “Lost in Summerland” (#225) is still my favorite, but “The Anxiety of Influencers” (#294) and “Men at Work” (#218) are pretty great, too.
Shanna B. Tiayon: “Cornell Norwood was a renowned Birmingham Roller breeder in the South Central community. Cornell was introduced to pigeon fancying at age 12 by his older brother and made quite a name for himself in the Birmingham Roller space. He would become a mentor, big brother, second father figure, and friend for many other Black boys and young men in South Central between the 1970s and 1990s, ushering them into the magical world of the Birmingham Roller and offering them knowledge that unlocked their birds’ potential, and their own.
“When asked why they became interested in pigeons, many of the South Central men link their interest in the birds to the adrenaline rush of seeing the birds’ acrobatics, a thrill similar to watching a fast car or motorcycle, or to the perceived instinctive gravitation of children to animals. But there’s a deeper story behind what the birds offered them then and still offer today, with men entering their fifth and sixth decade raising Birmingham Rollers. A why shaped by race, place, and gender. A why that traces the plight of Black men in the U.S., landing us squarely in the prevailing systems of inequality that still exist today.” (30 min)
If you’re a conservative and believe in The 1776 Report, you’re wrong about history. But if you’re a liberal and believe in The 1619 Project, you’re also wrong. In this outstanding essay, Prof. Matthew Karp argues that we shouldn’t be fighting about whether Critical Race Theory should be taught in schools. Rather, we should understand that history isn’t a linear story with clear origins and defined root causes. “We must come to see history not as what we dwell in, are propelled by, or are determined by,” Prof. Karp writes, “but rather as what we fight over, fight for, and aspire to honor in our practices of justice.” (26 min)
Highlighter favorite MJ enjoys naps, doing tricks for treats, and peeing in the apartment when his owners, Angelina and Clem, are not around. Want your pet to be featured in the newsletter? hltr.co/pets
The Importance Of Teaching Dred Scott
One of the biggest decisions as a teacher is what to include and what to leave out of the curriculum. For many reasons, you’ll no longer find Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird on too many syllabi. But what about slavery, Jim Crow, and other challenging topics that may traumatize students and contribute to a racist narrative of history? Providing her reasoning why she begins her course with Dred Scott, law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen explains that the case emphasizes the founding injustices written into the Constitution and the false hero narrative of the Supreme Court. (11 min)
Why I Shared My Nude Photos On The Internet
Sam Juric spent most of her teenage years hiding behind oversized sweaters, turning from the mirror when she got dressed and wearing sports bras to avoid seeing the shape of her breasts. But in her late 20s, Ms. Juric wanted her relationship with her body to change. “I wanted to look at my naked body without wincing. I wanted to think about my naked body without thinking about a man and how he would perceive it. How and if he desired it. I wanted to explore a question I had always been too scared to seriously ask: Was I ugly? I wanted to not care about the answer.” So Ms. Juric did what felt right: She took nude photos of herself and posted them on Instagram. (10 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Loyal reader Matt shared that he appreciated last week’s article, “Abolish High School.” But he rightfully questioned the piece’s title, given that author Rebecca Solnit calls for reform rather than eradication. “I do see how using abolish in the title is much more gripping than reform or something of that nature,” Matt wrote. “But I feel like that word is too bold and has too many other morally significant associations historically than to use in this article’s context.” You’re right on it, Matt! Thank you for reading the piece closely and offering your perspective. Loyal readers, if an article moves you, hit reply and let me know.
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