#354: Can Difficult Conversations Create Justice?
In classrooms where white and Black students examine racism, who benefits?
Hi Loyal Readers,
Before launching in, I’d like to welcome the many folks who have subscribed to the newsletter over the past month. Thank you for joining our thoughtful reading community. Please make yourself at home. I hope that you find that The Highlighter Article Club offers you an opportunity to read and discuss great articles on race, education, and culture.
One thing I like about putting this newsletter together is trying to find the highest quality writing from a variety of publications — not just The New York Timeses and The New Yorkers of the world. This week’s issue is no different. Leading the way is “Can Difficult Conversations Create Justice?” a provocative piece in The Forum, a publication of the African American Policy Forum. The author argues that American schools should teach young people about race but challenges the assumption that white and Black students should learn about racism together.
Also in this week’s issue: an outstanding profile on Chris Smalls, who defeated Amazon; a riveting podcast on the Unabomber; and a witty reflection on the benefits and drawbacks of tanning. I hope you find at least one selection worth your time and attention (they’re all good), and I hope you have a great week!
ARTICLE CLUB: Big thanks to everyone who joined our discussion of “When the Myth of Voter Fraud Comes For You” last Sunday. Our conversations covered a range of topics, including how to practice hope in the face of despair. We ended the session by creating a list of actions we can take to fight against voter suppression. I’ll reveal August’s article next Thursday. Hope you’re all in!
READER ANNOTATIONS: Several of you let me know that you listened to “Discrimination & Gaslighting,” in which the hosts of Teenager Therapy recounted their appalling experience at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Loyal reader Xuan-Vu astutely noted the issues of equity, dignity, and comfort zone that the episode explored and invited us to consider this question for discussion.
What can we adults do to create/nurture a more equitable environment for young people living in economic hardship? What does it really mean to support young people from these realities to break the poverty cycle?
Thank you for the great question, Xuan-Vu. Loyal readers, did you listen to the podcast? If so, would you like to contribute your thoughts and ideas? Click on the button below and leave a comment!
White high school teacher Willie Randall used to think the best way to move toward justice was to engage his students in meaningful discussions on race. But then he noticed that his Black students were doing far more emotional work than his white students. “They just sit there,” one Black student said. “Why do they just sit there?”
It’s not all white students, Mr. Randall makes sure to emphasize. “Many white students respond with open hearts and brave minds.” But some remain trapped in a state of paralysis. Mr. Randall is left wondering, “Who benefits? Who are such discussions designed to help? Is it possible to create a racial curriculum where all students benefit? I once said yes. Now, I’m no longer sure.”
His shift in perspective becomes stronger after speaking with a former Black Panther. She says, “Let Black families and Black teachers teach Black children and let whites deal with whites.” (8 min)
You’ve taken on Jeff Bezos, an army of anti-union consultants – the veritable behemoth of Amazon – and won. What’s next for you? For labor organizer Chris Smalls, who unionized the first Amazon facility in the country, the answer is not to rest on his laurels. The battle has just begun, he says. After all, now comes the actual negotiating-a-contract part. Meanwhile, Mr. Smalls is faced with the challenges of celebrity, with critics questioning if the fame has gone to his head and lobbing accusations of financial impropriety. (38 min)
+ Why are Amazon warehouse workers called “pickers?” Mr. Smalls asks, calling Mr. Bezos a slave master. “Amazon is definitely the new-day slavery.”
3️⃣ Project Unabom (podcast)
You think Attorney General Merrick Garland has it tough, deciding whether to prosecute the former president? Try Janet Reno, rest in peace, my attorney general growing up, who had to deal with Waco, Elián González, and of course, the Unabomber. In this fascinating podcast series, Eric Benson tells the riveting saga of how Ted Kaczynski grew to despise the harmful effects of technology, how he became radicalized to believe that terrorism was a solution, and how FBI agents finally cracked the case – with the help of his brother. (38 min)
4️⃣ Should I Be Tan?
More friends than usual this summer have commented on my tanned skin. They seem taken aback and have demanded an explanation. My two go-tos: (1) My hearty Mediterranean stock, (2) I’ve gone outside from time to time. But Kelly Conaboy, whose childhood nickname was “pale girl,” wonders if being tan should be a goal in the first place, and if so, whether spray tanning is the way to go. In this hilarious piece, Ms. Conaboy shares her experience with Glow2Go, which conveniently brings a tanning tent to your place, ready to make you sorta orange (with purple and green undertones). The biggest problem? You can’t take a shower, or sweat, or have your dog lick you, or else the tan fades fast. (11 min)
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