November Recommended Reading

liquidlinks_viaDesiraeAt 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.


When People Flee to America’s Shores – Jamelle Bouie

“The broad point—the reason to focus on the these patterns of hostility—is to emphasize the extent to which they are part of the American tradition. In calling for acceptance of Syrian refugees, President Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, and others are voicing one set of American values—the ones we want to hold ourselves to. But the same goes for Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott, and the other Republican governors and presidential candidates who want to reject them—those too are American values.

The question of the refugees isn’t if we’ll honor our values; it’s which ones we’ll choose. Will we embrace our heritage of inclusion or reject it for nativism? Will we be a country of actual open arms or one where our rhetoric is in recurring contrast to our actions?”

They Are Us – Nicholas Kristof

“Thank goodness that when my father came to America as a refugee from Eastern Europe in 1952, politicians weren’t fearmongering. My dad sailed to New York, bought a copy of the Sunday New York Times to teach himself English, and took the train across the country to a welcoming Oregon. When Indiana today shuns desperate refugees, it is shunning people like my family.

The Islamic State is trying to create a religious divide and an anti-refugee backlash, so that Muslims will feel alienated and turn to extremism. If so, American and European politicians are following the Islamic State’s script. Let’s be careful not to follow that script further and stigmatize all Muslims for ISIS terrorism.”

From Beirut, This Is Paris: In A World That Doesn’t Care About Arab Lives – Elie Fares

“I woke up this morning to two broken cities. My friends in Paris who only yesterday were asking what was happening in Beirut were now on the opposite side of the line. Both our capitals were broken and scarred, old news to us perhaps but foreign territory to them.

Today, 128 innocent civilians in Paris are no longer with us. Yesterday, 45 innocent civilians in Beirut were no longer with us. The death tolls keep rising, but we never seem to learn.

Amid the chaos and tragedy of it all, one nagging thought wouldn’t leave my head. It’s the same thought that echoes inside my skull at every single one of these events, which are becoming sadly very recurrent: we don’t really matter.”

Now Our Demons Come Out – Hamilton Nolan

“It would be nice if the advanced societies of the West—we who pride ourselves on commitment to democracy, personal freedom, rule of law, and steady progress—would at some point become able to absorb these terrorist attacks without reacting with insanity. We should not fail to mourn. We should not fail to do everything necessary to prosecute those who carry out these crimes. But we should not be drawn into the temptation to change our society into what we claim to despise in a misguided effort to seek revenge and to seal ourselves in a cocoon of safety that is nowhere to be found in this world.”


Race and the Free-Speech Diversion – Jelani Cobb

“The default for avoiding discussion of racism is to invoke a separate principle, one with which few would disagree in the abstract—free speech, respectful participation in class—as the counterpoint to the violation of principles relating to civil rights. This is victim-blaming with a software update, with less interest in the kind of character assassination we saw deployed against Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown than in creating a seemingly right-minded position that serves the same effect.”

What To Do If Your Workplace Is Too White – Stephanie Foo

“A diverse staff will lead you to a broader range of ideas. And new ideas bring new listeners. If you’re in storytelling or media, new, competitive, different ideas are the pillars your entire business rests on. Again: I’m glad that slowly, institutionally, public radio is realizing this value. What I’m not so glad about is the follow-up question that people ask me. ‘I can’t find any producers of color,’ they say. ‘POC don’t want to be in public radio. So aren’t we trapped in a Catch-22?’

The shocking thing about this question is that it’s often asked by mind-blowingly talented journalists. Journalists who in their professional lives know that you cannot wait for your characters to come to you. You have to go out looking for them. You call one person, four people, ten. You scroll through the forum, read the book, take the subway ride, knock on that door to find the person who does and says exciting things and is just right for your story. Finding talent for your show is no different.”


Views on bias can be biased – Bethany Brookshire

“ ‘Their article showed men and women hold these biases to the same degree, no blaming here, not just one gender at fault,’ Smith says. But she soon realized that not everyone saw the study the same way. Many of the men she passed the paper to ‘started picking apart the study design and the flaws they saw with the paper.’ Smith often ended up trying to convince the scientists that there were many other papers out there showing gender bias in science. ‘I was very surprised,’ she recalls. ‘I thought it was going to seal the deal. You can’t argue with data.’ But it turned out that many scientists could, and did, argue with the data.”

How Companies Make Women Less Ambitious Over Time: First you lean in, then you give up – Bryce Covert

“It’s not because women aren’t trying. In a recent global study, equal numbers of men and women asked for a promotion over the last year. Among American MBA grads, roughly equal shares of women and men asked for promotions and raises.

Some might attribute this to ambitious women being derailed by career obstacles of their own choosing: pregnancy and homemaking. But Bain found no evidence that parental or marital status had anything to do with the drop-off. If that’s the case, why do more men come out on top? Women are quick to say that their workplaces are biased against them. More than 40 percent say they have fewer opportunities than men at their jobs, compared to just 12 percent of men who agree that women get left out.”

3 Depressing Findings From A Huge New Study Of The Gender Pay Gap – Bryce Covert

“On the whole, the average woman with a year-round full-time job can expect to make just 79 percent of what a man doing the same makes in a year. There are many factors that go into the disparity. Some conservatives even argue that these factors — that women getting grouped into different jobs than men or perhaps not pursuing education and advances as aggressively — are really what’s behind it.

But new data released from PayScale on Thursday tells a different story. The numbers come from a survey of about 1.4 million full-time employees over the course of two years. The company doesn’t just report the raw numbers, but also controls for various factors such as marital and family status, job, industry, seniority, geography, education, and generation.

What it found is that even with all of these variables taken into consideration, women in the survey made 2.7 percent less than men. And they make less even in a number of areas where one might think the gap would be nonexistent.”


No, cheese is not just like crack – Bethany Brookshire

“You can’t explain away your affinity for cheese by saying you’re addicted. The study in those stories, published earlier this year in PLOS ONE, did investigate which foods are most associated with addictive-like eating behaviors. Pizza did come out on top in one experiment. But the scientists who did the research say this has little to do with the delicious dairy products involved. Instead, they argue, the foods we crave the most are those processed to have high levels of sugars and fat, and it’s these ingredients that leave us coming back for another slice. The cheese? Probably superfluous.

‘I was horrified by the misstatements and the oversimplifications … and the statements about how it’s an excuse to overeat,’ says Ashley Gearhardt of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who led the study. ‘Liking is not the same as addiction. We like lots of things. I like hip-hop music and sunshine and my wiener dog, but I’m not addicted to her. I eat cheese every day. That’s doesn’t mean you’re addicted or it has addictive potential.’ ”

Changing Your Mind:

How I Went From Being a Pro-Life Activist to Being a A Pro-Choice Christian – Samantha Field

“At that point, I did what any good pro-life woman would: I called the local Crisis Pregnancy Center. When I tried to explain my situation—that I was afraid of my fiancé, that I didn’t know what to do because my Christian college would expel me if they found out I was pregnant, that I didn’t know how my parents would react—the woman on the other end of the phone told me that “this is the natural consequence for not keeping yourself pure.”

I hung up and called Planned Parenthood, the reproductive health clinic I’d picketed just a few months before. They comforted me, soothed me, directed me to websites that had all the information I needed to make any decision, abortion or not. I read it all, every single shred of it, and I realized that the pro-life movement had lied to me about a lot of things.”


The Needless Complexity of Academic Writing – Victoria Clayton

“Experts find it really hard to be simple and straightforward when writing about their expertise. He calls this the ‘curse of knowledge’ and says academics aren’t aware they’re doing it or properly trained to identify their blindspots—when they know too much and struggle to ascertain what others don’t know. In other words, sometimes it’s simply more intellectually challenging to write clearly. ‘It’s easy to be complex, it’s harder to be simple,’ Bosley said. ‘It would make academics better researchers and better writers, though, if they had to translate their thinking into plain language.’ It would probably also mean more people, including colleagues, would read their work.”

English is not normal – John McWhorter

“In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.”


Image Credit: Desirae

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