April Recommended Reading

At the end of each month I compile links to articles I found thought-provoking over that month, categorized with pull-quotes for your perusal and edification. Each of these is a story that made me stop and think, and hopefully one or two of them will do the same for you.

Racism and Classism: 

Being White Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry – Chloe Angyal

“When white people misbehave, however, they rarely represent more than themselves, even when they’re members of an organization like, say, SAE. But just the responsibility of being held accountable for how one’s individual behavior and thoughts is still too great for so many of the white people who have been caught out engaging in racist behavior. They are routinely defended with excuses of inebriation, misspeaking, and unintentional bigotry. Even then, being white often means doing wrong without the perception of bringing your entire race into enough disrepute that it has consequences for you. This is what privilege is: to speak and act only for yourself, and even then only when you feel like it.”

Abolish the Police. Instead, Let’s Have Full Social, Economic, and Political Equality – Mychal Denzel Smith

“Ninety percent of an officer’s time isn’t devoted to our safety, but rather to things we may find annoying (or in the case of things like untaxed cigarettes, create a black market for goods that threaten the profits of businesses), inserting the potential for violence where there is cause for none. And when it comes to preventing heinous acts of violence (or holding the perpetrators accountable) that should be condemned by all, like domestic violence and sexual assault, the police are largely ineffectual. The police are not performing the function we say they are, and there are real ways to achieve a world with less violence that don’t include the police. We simply haven’t tried.” 

The Fall And Rise Of U.S. Inequality, In 2 Graphs – Quoctrung Bui

“In theory, it should be possible for incomes to rise for everyone at the same time — for the gains of economic growth to be broadly distributed year after year. But the takeaway from these graphs is that since World War II, that’s never really happened in the U.S.”

New York City Just Outlawed Running Credit Checks on Job Applicants – Michelle Chen

“The rationale behind the ban is simple: it’s unfair and useless to use a person’s credit history, which is often inaccurate or misleading, when assessing their job qualifications. When corporations use massive data screenings to hire and fire en masse, credit checks can drastically narrow an applicant pool and subsequently be held as a cudgel over desperate job seekers and compel them to expose private background information. There’s nothing meritocratic about this practice. But it is racially biased, and very cruel to the poor.”

Misogyny: 

Wordless Ads Speak Volumes In ‘Unbranded’ Images Of Women – NPR

“ ‘I think what happens with ads — when we put text and logos on them, we do all the heavy lifting of making them make sense to us,’ he tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer. ‘But when you see the image naked, or unbranded, you start to really ask questions.That’s why we can almost never tell what it’s actually an ad for, because ads really aren’t about the products. It’s about what myths and generalizations we can attach, and the repetition of imagery of a certain type.’ ” 

See Priya Cook: Gender Bias Pervades Textbooks Worldwide – Maanvi Singh

“ ‘If aliens beamed onto Earth and read our school textbooks, they wouldn’t have a clue about what women contribute to our society,’ says Rae Blumberg, a sociologist at the University of Virginia. Blumberg has spent years looking at textbooks from all over the world. In almost every country she has studied, women are either completely written out of texts — or they’re portrayed in stereotypical, often subservient roles.” 

Mental Illness:

Some Advice on Supporting Friends With Depression – Miri

“For many people, depression causes a pervasive sense of disconnection from the world and from other people. When I’m having a depressive episode, I feel like I’m not part of anything, like I’m just one person and I don’t matter, like I could disappear and nothing would even change, etc. I feel like there’s a glass wall between me and everyone else. I feel like I can’t do “normal” things like laugh at a sitcom or make someone happy or fall in love. I feel like an alien sent here to try to learn how to act like a human being only I’m completely failing. So for me, the most helpful thing that someone can do is to help bring me back into connection with others.”

Religion: 

The Right’s Made-up God: How Bigots Invented a White Supremacist Jesus – Brittney Cooper

“As a practicing Christian, I am deeply incensed by these calls for restoration and reclamation in the name of religious freedom. This kind of legislation is largely driven by conservative Christian men and women, who hold political views that are antagonistic to every single group of people who are not white, male, Christian, cisgender, straight and middle-class. Jesus, a brown, working-class, Jew, doesn’t even meet all the qualifications.” 

Food:

The Logical Failures of Food Fads – Alan Levinovitz

“Processed food is evil. Natural food is good. Evil foods harm you, but they are sinfully delicious, guilty pleasures. Good foods, on the other hand, are real and clean. These are religious mantras, helpfully dividing up foods according to moralistic dichotomies. Of course, natural and processed, like real and clean, are not scientific terms, and neither is good nor evil. Yet it is precisely such categories, largely unquestioned, that determine most people’s supposedly scientific decisions about what and how to eat.” 

Environment:

Five Years After The BP Oil Spill, The Industry Is Still Taking Big Risks – Ben Casselman

“Five years later, there are signs of progress. There is little doubt that today’s oil industry is better prepared both to prevent and, if necessary, recover from a Deepwater Horizon-style disaster. Watchdogs inside and outside of government are observing more closely and asking tougher questions. But there is also evidence that companies continue to push the limits of technology and continue to take risks as they do so. And it’s less clear that the industry has learned the deeper lesson about preventing low-probability events.”

Politics and Politicians:

A Checkbox On Your Tax Return Helped Kill Public Campaign Funding – Andrew Flowers

“When you agree to the $3 tax checkoff, it funds the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF), a common pool of money that matches the fundraising of eligible presidential candidates in primary and general elections, for those who choose to take it. The $3 does not come out of your taxes; it’s just $3 less the government receives in tax revenue. Almost from its inception in 1976, participation in the program has been on a steady downward trajectory.”

Texas lawmaker refuses to meet with constituents who don’t share her views, staff says it is ‘a waste of time’ – Eric Dolan

“White’s staff had initially greeted Frank Carlson of Equality Texas, before turning him away upon learning who he represented. Her staff told Carlson, who works on behalf of the largest LGBT rights organization in Texas, to ‘drop off your literature and leave.’ White’s staff informed Carlson that the lawmaker ‘is against anything LGBT.’ ”

Technology:

To Mars – Phil Plait

“Musk’s answer was simply stated, plainly obvious to him, but to the public it’s not. It seems like science fiction. But with his immense factory sitting directly behind me, there was no doubting this was not the wild dream of a sci-fi fan. This is reality. The dichotomy between public perception and what was really happening here was never clearer to me.”

Popular Culture:

Game of Thrones and the End of Marxist Theory – Sam Kriss

“Something very different is happening with Game of Thrones. At first, it’s just a historical drama on an unfamiliar geographic terrain. The supernatural is alluded to, but most characters seem to maintain an attitude of Enlightenment skepticism. There are dragon skulls in the worming crypts of King’s Landing, but they’re only bones, relics of a time before the thinning process reduced everything to mere power play.

But then the unthinkable occurs: magic starts to come back. As the new season dawns we’ve seen dragons and demons, faceless men and fire gods, elfine creatures in weirwood trees and the armies of the undead. For all the social collapse, it’s not the land itself that’s in decay, but rather the comforting falsehoods about a rational society.”

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