June 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.


Black Americans killed by police twice as likely to be unarmed as white people – Jon Swaine, Oliver Laughland and Jamiles Lartey

“Steven Hawkins, the executive director Amnesty International USA, described the racial imbalance as ‘startling.’ Hawkins said: ‘The disparity speaks to something that needs to be examined, to get to the bottom of why you’re twice as likely to be shot if you’re an unarmed black male.’ ”

I’m a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing – Redditt Hudson

“It is not only white officers who abuse their authority. The effect of institutional racism is such that no matter what color the officer abusing the citizen is, in the vast majority of those cases of abuse that citizen will be black or brown. That is what is allowed. And no matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism, risk, and sacrifice that is available to a uniformed police officer by virtue of simply reporting for duty.”

11 ways white America avoids taking responsibility for its racism – Dr. Robin Diangelo

“When you understand racism as a system of structured relations into which we are all socialized, you understand that intentions are irrelevant. And when you understand how socialization works, you understand that much of racial bias is unconscious. Negative messages about people of color circulate all around us. While having friends of color is better than not having them, it doesn’t change the overall system or prevent racism from surfacing in our relationships. The societal default is white superiority and we are fed a steady diet of it 24/7. To not actively seek to interrupt racism is to internalize and accept it.”

Why don’t Americans call mass shootings ‘terrorism’? Racism – Jessica Valenti

“Despite the fact that Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said early on that “this is a hate crime” and that a witness reported that suspect Dylann Roof said to the black people he killed, “you rape our women and are taking over our country”, conservative columnist AJ Delgado maintained that the “odds would favor [the crime] NOT being racial”, Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham called him a “whacked-out kid” and suggested he was “looking for Christians to kill them, and USA Today referred to him as a “lone wolf”. The Daily Beast described the killer – a man who reportedly sat with a bible study group for an hour before he started to kill people – as “quiet and soft spoken”, averring that he had black friends on Facebook, even as his nine victims remained unnamed and uncelebrated.”


What we know about false rape allegations – Dara Lind

“Research has finally nailed down a consistent range for how many reports of rape are false: somewhere between 2 and 8 percent, which is a lot narrower than the 1.5 percent to 90 percent range of the past. But it’s also shown that the cultural debate over rape shapes the reality of how rapes are reported and investigated. The incidents that many people think of as “gray rape” — cases where the victim knew or even dated the offender, where the victim was intoxicated, where the victim didn’t fight — are the ones most likely to be treated as false by investigators. But in reality, the rape reports that turn out to be false are more likely to involve strangers and violence.”

Investigative Report: How Victim-Blaming Led to the Rape Kit Backlog – Sofia Resnick

“The discovery that victim-blaming attitudes dissuaded police and prosecutors from testing kits was not shocking to the study’s lead researcher, Rebecca Campbell, a professor of ecological-community psychology at Michigan State University. But what did strike her was how slim many of the Detroit police officers’ investigation reports in these sexual assault cases were. Campbell told RH Reality Check that in many of the cases her team studied, there was “virtually no investigation” conducted by police, particularly in cases where the suspect said the sex was consensual. “We could hold reports up that were a single page, and that was it,” she said. “There was no investigation ever taken on the case.” ”

What If We Treated All Consent Like Society Treats Sexual Consent? – Alli Kirkham

“Consent around sex is ignored all the time, and it’s not okay. These everyday examples of how we give consent for other things shows just how absurd it is to blame sexual assault survivors or to try to justify rape in any way.”

Politics and Policy: 

Waiting for the Conservative Jon Stewart – Oliver Morrison

“Six years in, Obama’s party has been thoroughly trounced in the midterms and publicly excoriated by right-wing politicians, yet there’s a dearth of conservative satirists taking aim, even though the niche-targeted structure of cable media today should make it relatively easy for them to find an audience. After all, it would have been difficult for Stewart or Colbert to find an audience during the era when three broadcast stations competed for the entire country and couldn’t afford to alienate too many viewers. But cable TV news programs need only find a niche viewership. Why then, hasn’t a conservative Daily Show found its own place on Fox?”

Hidden costs: Emotion responses to command and control – Cornell Food & Brand Lab

“The most successful public policies are those that are framed positively and support choice. “It’s clear that people value freedom of choice. When policies seem to encourage good choices, rather than limit bad ones, we see a much more positive response” says David Just. For example, in one study, 173 adults were told to select various meals for lunch reacted differently depending on how the price of each item was proposed. When changes in the price were framed as a tax on unhealthy items, more people chose the unhealthy foods. However, when the change was framed as a price discount for healthy foods, demand for healthy items went up. This shows that rebelling against noxious policies is an important driver of consumer demand and cannot be ignored in policy recommendations.”

The American Landscape: 

How Wal-Mart Became the Town Square in Rural America – Rachel Monroe

“In cities and city-adjacent places, people can refuse to shop at Wal-Mart as a political or aesthetic choice. In rural areas, that’s much harder to do. In some towns, Wal-Mart may be the only grocery store, or the only pharmacy, or the only place to buy books and DVDs. Wal-Mart’s supercenter stores are open 24 hours; in many small towns, they’re the only store with lights on after dinner time. All of this, of course, is part of the Wal-Mart plan: They move in, push other stores out of business while simultaneously expanding their services—at some supercenters you can get new tires, new glasses, and a teeth cleaning—until suddenly you find yourself buying everything at Wal-Mart because there’s nowhere else to buy it. So as Wal-Mart encroaches on more parts of life, more of people’s lives happen at Wal-Mart.”

Ideas and Beliefs:

No, Seriously, Don’t Politicize Anti-Vax Sentiment – Colin

“It’s a dangerous notion that creates an ideological split where there wasn’t one before…. Right now, most people support vaccination and reject anti-vaccine talking points. (I know that can seem implausible, given how visible those hoary anti-science stories are online. But vaccination rates don’t lie—the vast majority of parents reject anti-vax scaremongering.) If we start drawing party lines on top of the vaccine debate, people will start to use their party affiliation to define their position on vaccines. They won’t realize they’re doing it. They’ll honestly think they’re making decisions about vaccines based on the facts. But they’ll be judging those facts based on the community they belong to, the way we all do.”

‘Natural’ illusions: Biologist’s failed attempt to defend organic food – Iida Ruishalme

“When I looked at these studies one by one, my immediate reaction was: surely now that these results were available, where necessary, organic farming practices could be adapted so that they would continue to provide consumers with the best environmentally friendly sources of food. But that relied on an assumption I held that I had so far not even thought of checking.

I thought organic farming was based on evidence, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t designed by studying what would be best for the environment. On the contrary, to my surprise I found it’s roots were actually in biodynamic agriculture – a method that emphasizes spiritual and mystical perspectives on farming. What? How could I have missed such a point for a decade? The picture I was beginning to piece together was that being ‘organic’ was based on the idea that modern farming – industrial agriculture – was bad, and the old ways of farming were better. That whatever natural was, that was better.”

Researchers Find Everyone Has a Bias Blind Spot. Believing You’re Less Biased Than Your Peers Has Detrimental Consequences – Shilo Rea

“People seem to have no idea how biased they are. Whether a good decision-maker or a bad one, everyone thinks that they are less biased than their peers,” said Carey Morewedge, associate professor of marketing at Boston University. “This susceptibility to the bias blind spot appears to be pervasive, and is unrelated to people’s intelligence, self-esteem, and actual ability to make unbiased judgments and decisions.”

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