Protests and raised fists have come to life to San Jose State University. For those who have not heard, three white students at San Jose State University have been charged with hate crimes—and a fourth has been suspended—after their African-American roommate was subjected to a series of racist torments that have shocked the entire community. The young man, whose name has not been revealed, had a heavy U-shaped bike lock put around his neck, had racial slurs and swastikas scrawled on dry-erase boards placed around the room and was renamed by the students with whom he was forced to live as “three-fifths” or “fraction”, after the Compromise of 1787, which deemed slaves to be three-fifths of a human being.
At SJSU, there is outrage that a school, which was the incubator of the black athletes’ revolt in the 1960s, could be a place where such a crime could occur. There is also frustration that residential assistants were conscious enough of the situation to ask the alleged tormentors to take a Confederate flag off their door but did not alert anyone in the administration that their black roommate might be in trouble. Then there are doubts that the administration would have even taken it seriously, or whether it all would have been covered up if not for the dogged reporting of the San Jose Mercury News. After the attacks, student leaders asked school president Mo Qayoumi to discuss what could be done. Instead, he chose to keep his commitments at a science and engineering conference in Wisconsin. Students have also gone public with complaints that they cannot get a sit-down with the man about what happened. “This president, unlike the six or seven presidents I’ve seen at SJSU, has the most top-down management style,” Jonathan Karpf, an anthropology lecturer said to the San Jose Mercury News. “He’s not somebody who handles dissent very effectively.”
Now there are students marching with their fists raised like the statue of 1968 Olympic protesters John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the center of their campus.
But if people had been listening, then Ron Davis could have told them that was not only possible but even inevitable. Ron Davis was hired to coach the cross-country team in 2012. But he was more than just another coach. In November of 1962, Ron Davis ran cross-country for San Jose State as part of the first integrated team to win the Division I championship. He was also the student assistant for the 1969 team that won the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship. Davis was at the heart of the era that saw people like Dr. Harry Edwards, Tommie Smith, Lee Evans and John Carlos make history at the school. Over the next four decades, Davis coached around the world from Canada and Ireland to Mozambique and Nigeria, as well as in colleges across the United States. Here is what the interim athletic director Marie Tuite, said upon hiring Mr. Davis. “He’s a great Spartan. He has such an affection for San Jose State. It’s really an honor for him to recruit young men and women to this university.”
This job was supposed to be a great homecoming and the culmination of a remarkable career. Instead, after one season, one last-place finish (in line with the previous year’s performance), and the hiring of a new athletic director, Ron Davis was not reappointed. He is now suing the school for discrimination, saying that the school draped in civil rights history fired him because of the color of his skin. The school was not content to merely dismiss Mr. Davis. They humiliated him out the door, with written evaluations that mocked his intelligence and his communication abilities, and tried to make this man who had been coaching for over forty years sound like an incompetent.
I was able to get in touch with Mr. Davis, and he e-mailed me the following note.
As a San Jose State University graduate, hall of fame member, and member of the first “integrated” team to win the NCAA National Cross Country Championship I am appalled that such a deplorable racist attack occurred. I appreciated your article last week on the racist attack at San Jose State last week. It exposed the truth about what has been happening at San Jose State regarding on going social injustice to students and faculty. What they practice and what they convey to the community is a dishonor to the statue of Dr. John Carlos and Dr. Tommie Smith who were advocates of human rights. Why did it take so long for the terrorism and humiliation experienced by the Black student to be reported and acted on by the San Jose State Administration?
This question is going to need to be answered. But questions about how administrators handled—or didn’t handle—the racist incident is inextricable from how a school like San Jose State could so casually disrespect its own history by treating Ron Davis so poorly. Using your history only as public relations, and not as a call to arms to build an institution anchored by principles of anti-racism, can no longer cut it. It is no different from Cal Berkeley in 2011 boasting about its history of dissent on its website, while having students tear-gassed in the quad. The 1968 Olympic protests are not a brand. Students are saying that if you are going to be the home for this statue, you need to earn that right every day.
Mychal Denzel Smith talks about how it isn´t about how far we´ve come on racism, but how far we still have to go.
Editors' Note: This post originally stated that unnamed student suffering abuse had a "bike chain" placed around his neck. We have now corrected this to reflect that it was actually a significantly heavier U-shaped bike lock.
The United States and Iran, in conjunction with the P5+1 world powers, have struck a historic accord that paves the way for a final settlement of the long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. On the fourth day of the most recent round of talks, in bargaining that lasted until 3 am, the P5+1 and Iran concluded an interim agreement, as widely expected, to freeze Iran’s nuclear program at roughly its current state. In exchange, the United States and the P5+1 have agreed on a modest but significant relaxation of economic sanctions on Iran. The next step, which the parties expect to take up to six months, is to complete a deal in which an end to sanctions is exchanged for a continued freeze and partial rollback of Iran’s program, in a way—guaranteed by more intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—that provides clear assurances that Iran is not on the path toward nuclear weapons.
The substance of the accord reached in Geneva is a breakthrough, but the politics of the agreement is equally important. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry signed the deal in explicit, full-frontal defiance of American hawks, neoconservatives and hardliners, the Israel lobby, and anti-Iran partisans in Congress. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his team, backed by President Hassan Rouhani—elected in June with a mandate to do exactly this—have similarly defied their own country’s hardliners and skeptics, led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and by what Zarif calls Iran’s own Tea Party. And the United States struck the deal despite outright hostility, bordering on hysteria, from its two chief allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
According to the terms of the agreement, Iran has agreed to halt all uranium enrichment above the range of 3.5 to 5 percent purity, which is low-enriched, fuel-grade uranium. Its stockpile of medium-enriched, 20 percent purity uranium will be neutralized by conversion into a product that cannot be used for weapons. It will not produce any new centrifuges except those needed to replace ones that break down, and it will not start spinning those now in place, including advanced centrifuges, that aren’t currently in use. It will not add to its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium, either, although it can continue to refine uranium to 5 percent purity as long as some of it is converted to fuel rods and other, nonmilitary product. Its heavy water reactor at Arak, which could produce material to process into plutonium, will be frozen. And Iran has agreed to far more intrusive IAEA inspections, including daily inspections at Natanz and at the underground facility at Fordow.
Both President Rouhani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, have endorsed the accord, in part because for the first time the United States and the P5+1 have tacitly recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium under the terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed, by agreeing to permit Iran’s continuing enrichment to 5 percent. Rouhani said that the deal seals Iran’s “nuclear rights,” and, according to Al Arabiya, Khamenei said: “The nuclear negotiating team should be thanked and appreciated for this achievement. God’s grace and the support of the Iranian nation were the reasons behind this success.”
Obama, speaking from the White House early Sunday, said:
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges—which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
Interestingly, a statement from the White House early today explicitly rules out the imposition of additional sanctions, which is a direct message to leaders of the US Senate, including majority leader Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who’d hinted that they’d move ahead with yet another round of sanctions in December. The accord, says the White House, commits the parties of the P5+1, including the United States, to “not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.”
But the White House, trying to sell the accord to domestic skeptics, including the hawks, risks sounding a little triumphant by touting the sanctions relief provided to Iran as “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible.” That’s all true—but, of course, Iran’s commitments are equally “reversible.” In fact, the sanctions relief is important in its own right, but it also provides the first movement in the opposition direction in regard to economic sanctions on Iran since the mid-1990s. Under the terms of the accord, Iran will gain access to billions of dollars in frozen accounts over the next six months; it will gain specific relief for its suffering auto and aviation sectors; and the accord will “allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels.” That last phrase means that although the onerous oil and banking sanctions will remain in place, there will be no more pressure to reduce Iran’s oil exports further.
Israel’s reaction is, predictably, apoplectic. Naftali Bennett, Israel’s economic minister, said, “If five years from now a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the deal that was signed this morning.” But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have trouble playing that card for long, since Israel is drastically isolated from the rest of the world and risks an open break with Washington. Already, some Israel leaders, such as President Shimon Peres and the newly installed leader of the Israeli Labor Party, have issued mild to moderate statements that undermine Netanyahu’s bluster. And, ironically, though, the harsh reaction from Israel will help Rouhani and Zarif sell the deal in Iran, since they can point to Israel’s criticism of the deal as a sign that it was, indeed, a victory for Iran’s “nuclear rights.”
In a background briefing, a senior US official laid out the sanctions relief that Iran will get via the accord. It’s an impressive list:
The components are as follows: We will pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales. This means Iran’s oil exports will remain steady at their current level of around 1 million barrels per day, which is down 60 percent since our oil sanctions took effect in late 2011. And with one exception, the revenue that Iran earns from these sales over the next six months will continue to be restricted by our sanctions, meaning that those funds will not be available to Iran for repatriation or cross-border transfer.
The one exception is that we will allow Iran to transfer $4.2 billion in revenue from these sales in installments over the six-month period.
We will suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports. This could allow Iran to generate some revenue, which we estimate to be a maximum of a billion dollars in new revenue over the six-month period. We will suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran’s trade in gold and precious metals. There is no economic value to Iran from this provision because Iran will have to spend its limited unrestricted foreign currency for any gold purchases. Iran cannot use restricted oil earnings to buy gold.
We will suspend U.S. sanctions on exports to Iran’s auto industry. This could provide Iran some marginal benefit on the order of about $500 million if Iran is able to resume its prior levels of production and revitalizes its auto exports. However, Iran’s auto industry suffers from many problems beyond sanctions, many of which would have to be solved for Iran to benefit from this provision. Moreover, Iran would need to use some of its limited foreign currency to pay for car kits it would import from abroad.
We will allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds overseas directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students. We will license safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines, and we will establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade in food, agricultural commodities, medicines, and medical devices for Iran’s domestic needs. Humanitarian transactions have been explicitly exempted from sanctions by Congress, so this channel will not provide Iran access to any new source of funds.
Finally, to the extent permissible within our political system, we have committed to refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. That does not prevent us from implementing and enforcing our existing nuclear-related sanctions, which, of course, we will do, or from imposing new sanctions targeting Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism or its abysmal human rights record.
Greg Mitchell dissects the media's response to the historic Iran deal.
The Nation’s first regular column was introduced in 1918 under the headline, “In the Driftway.” Some have identified the writer as Carl Van Doren, literary editor from 1919–22, but it is more likely the “Drifter” persona—who always wrote of himself in the third person—was a composite of several contributors writing under that name during the column’s seventeen-year run.
In 1931, the Drifter, describing himself as “usually suspicious a priori of all traditions, hallowed or otherwise,” wrote that it was his “sad duty to report certain misgivings” about President Herbert Hoover’s proclamation for Thanksgiving that year.
With the third winter of widespread unemployment nearly upon us, in all its ugliness, want, and distress, Thanksgiving Day has not a genuine ring. Somehow it sounds ill-suited to the times. The President’s counsel that ‘our people rest from their daily labors’ brings to the Drifter’s mind some ten million jobless to whom that advice will seem more than slightly ironical. And he wonders how many of that army stopped work on Thanksgiving Day in 1929, not realizing that they would still be resting two years later. Will they be duly appreciative, as the President is, that ‘the passing adversity which has come upon us’ is a ‘spiritual’ blessing?
The height of irony, the Drifter felt, was in Hoover’s statement that the country had been “widely blessed with abundant harvests.” The truth was that the 1931 harvest had been so bountiful that crop prices were depressed even further. As one local politician wrote to the governor of Kansas, bemoaning bottomed-out wheat prices, “This is the first time I have ever seen a bumper crop year leave farmers more discouraged than if they had a complete failure.”
“Under our topsy-turvy economics,” the Drifter wrote, “abundant harvests assure us nothing. They are a dubious blessing indeed when rich surpluses leave the farmer poor and the destitute hungry. It were better had the harvest been lean. The well-stocked storehouses would not then present a tantalizing mockery of the knowledge that has multiplied.”
The Drifter then suggested renaming the holiday to “Fact-facing Day,” to reflect “a more realistic purpose.”
Instead of offering spiritual consolation to the needy and expressing pious hopes that by another year the Almighty might have matters adjusted to normal, the nation would unite in facing the facts of our adversity. The Drifter believes this might lead to action which would make abundant harvests mean abundance for all. And should that happen, you would see an ardent campaign to change the name of Fact-facing Day back to Thanksgiving Day.
Presumably the Drifter was more satisfied by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first Thanksgiving proclamation in November 1933:
May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all peoples to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the common bettering of mankind.
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The Life magazine dated November 22, 1963, which would have arrived on newsstands around November 15, featured a terrifying story by Theodore White, author of the groundbreaking bestseller The Making of the President 1960. Titled “Racial Collision,” and subtitled “the Negro-white problem is greatest in the North where the Negro is taking over the cities—and being strangled by them,” it was a terrifying intimation of an imminent racial holocaust. The first of two parts, the conclusion ran in the issue dated November 29—which ordinarily would have appeared on newsstands on November 22 but was held back to put the martyred President Kennedy on the cover, and to include, inside, several thousand words of what must have been some very speedily written copy about his death. That second part was even scarier. It reported terrors like Adam Clayton Powell’s call for “ ‘a Birmingham explosion in New York City’ this fall”; Communist infiltration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle; a civil rights group’s fears that it would be labeled “a front for the white man” unless a peaceful march was turned into “a violent putsch on government offices”; and some protesters&rssquo; demand for cash reparations for slavery—“There is a warning if such sin-gold is not paid by white Americans to black Americans, the ‘power structure’ is inviting ‘social chaos.’ ” And it quoted James Forman of the Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee reaching the following unsettling conclusion: “85% of all Negroes do not adhere to nonviolence.”
Such foreboding was entirely typical of that very tense summer and fall—and the culmination of fears that had been mounting ever since the Bay of Pigs and the Berlin Crisis and the Cuban missile crisis and the Oxford, Mississippi, crisis of 1961 and 1962. The fear escalated after Bull Connor’s fire hoses in Birmingham in the spring of 1963 unleashed what felt to whites like an uncontainable torrent of black rage across the country: in Columbus, Ohio, two men chained themselves to furniture in the state Capitol; in Boston, a black parent told the segregationist city school board “it is too late for pleading, begging, requesting, or even reasoning.” Whites thereby reacted against the rage: George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama. Medgar Evers was shot. Barry Goldwater began looking good to Republicans—and rival bands of Goldwaterites turned the Young Republican National Federation’s convention into a near-riot.
It felt like riots were breaking out everywhere.
On September 15, Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was bombed by Klansmen, killing four little girls.
In Dallas, on October 24, United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson was shouted down, spat upon, and physically assaulted on the street by right-wingers.
In Saigon, on November 2, South Vietnam’s president Ngo Dinh Diem was assassinated in a US- backed coup.
And in Dallas, on November 22, President Kennedy was supposed to give a speech addressing the widespread feeling that America had become a very scary place, specifically as regarded the 1963 version of Tea Partiers, who had become so scary that many people presumed that they had been the ones that shot him. “In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations,” ran the text he was killed before he could deliver, “voices are heard in the land…preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that…vituperation is as good as victory and peace is a sign of weakness…. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants, far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.”
This was the world that Theodore White, in his next article in Life after his near-prediction of race war proclaimed, until the day John F. Kennedy was killed, “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”
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The story of how the myth of Camelot was invented is wonderfully told in a great little book from 1995 that I’ve never seen referenced before, Theodore H. White and Journalism as Illusion, by media scholar Joyce Hoffman. It begins:
Theodore H. White was in a dentist’s chair on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on a Friday morning in late November 1963, when he learned that Jacqueline Kennedy had telephoned to say she needed him. One week had passed since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, and now his widow was beseeching the journalist, whom she considered an old friend, to come to Hyannisport. She had something she wanted Life magazine to say to America, and White, she insisted, had to bear the message…. She had summoned White because she was angry, very angry. All week newspaper pundits had served up their instant appraisals of the brief and abruptly ended Kennedy administration. Arthur Krock’s New York Times column had especially rankled her…a lament about the failure of ‘even advanced democracy and self-government to extirpate in mankind the resort to anarchy…. Walter Lippmann’s “Today and Tomorrow’” column just four days after the assassination had spoken of the forces of hatred and ungovernability and how “habit of intemperate speech and thought had become deeply ingrained. It is deepened by the strains of war and the frustrations of this revolutionary age.”
In other words, commentators commentated accurately on the mood of the country. But “Mrs. Kennedy wanted White to rescue her husband’s memory from these men. History should celebrate the Kennedy years as a time of hope and magic, she insisted. White sat mesmerized for more than two hours, listening to the rambling and disjointed monologue…. She sneered at the ‘bitter old men’ who wrote history.” (That’s me!) “Finally, she came to the thought that had become her obsession, a thought embodied in the lyrics of the the Broadway musical—Camelot. Over and over again, she and the president had listened to the words sing out of their ten-year-old Victrola…”
What came next is pretty damned astonishing, a nadir in the history of court journalism, something that better belongs in the annals of the Kremlin. White retreated around midnight to draft his article in the maid’s room, “mindful that Life was holding its presses at a cost of $30,000 an hour. When he finished, Mrs. Kennedy took a pencil to White’s work, crossing out some of his words and adding her own in the margins. She hovered near the kitchen telephone—adamant that her Camelot portrayal remain the dominant theme—as he dictated the revised version to his editors.” The article came out. Arthur Schlesinger, baffled, said, “Jack Kennedy never spoke of Camelot.” One Kennedy hand said, “If Jack Kennedy heard this stuff about Camelot, he would have vomited.”
The whole thing is a great object lesson in the horrors of access journalism—and access history. (“The notes of White’s interview with Jacqueline Kennedy,” writes Joyce Hoffman, “known as the ‘Camelot Papers,’ which White donated to the John F. Kennedy library in 1969, remained under restriction until May 19, 1995, one year after the death of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis.”) If you hate the kind of writing Bob Woodward does now; if you hate Politico or, going back further, if you hate the kind of things Sally Quinn wrote on Monicagate (“ ‘He came in here and he trashed the place,’ says Washington Post columnist David Broder, ‘and it’s not his place.’ ”), or the childish abuse and systematic distortions meted out to Al Gore in 2000 because he didn’t fit into the Washington insiders’ village, blame Camelot—or “Camelot.” If you heard the public radio documentary this morning We Knew JFK: Unheard Stories from the Kennedy Archive and were as astonished as I was at how many journalists blithely based their admiration for the thirty-sixth president on the nice cocktails he and “Jackie” poured in the White House, or if you’ve seen David Auburn’s neat Broadway play from last year, The Columnist, which depicts the incestuous coziness between Joseph Alsop and John F. Kennedy, you know what I mean.
Teddy White, about whom I have complicated feelings, was a crucial conveyor belt in advancing this awful cultural trend—“High Broderism,” some of our better bloggers used to call it—and Hoffman’s book is an important primer for anyone who wants to learn how it happened. A child of Boston’s Jewish ghetto, Teddy (or, in his parents’ Yiddish-speaking mouths, “Tuddy”) White made his way as a scholarship boy to Harvard, where he came to identify with the clubby culture of the WASP with the zeal of the convert, with all the pseudo-aristocratic abuses of democratic culture that entailed. “White’s style of journalism,” Hoffman explains, “fit a model established by a generation of influential column and reporters who had functioned as a subsidiary of government during World War II and the postwar years…a patriot first and a journalist second.”
Twenty-five years before his “Camelot” coup, she notes, “he had written stories from China that had portrayed Chiang Kai-shek as a similarly heroic character.” Then he realized he was wrong, but it was too late—he had helped create the Frankenstein’s monster’s of America’s romance with Chiang, and thus the McCarthyite reaction to China’s fall to Communism, too; he then had to watch helplessly as that reaction devoured some of his friends. Hoffman argues White then helped created the myth of the presidency itself as some sort of American regency. He was the first to capitalize “Oval Office.” She tells an amazing story of how an interview with Kennedy there, for the last chapter of Making of the President, in which the new president, in his underwear being fitted for a suit, gossips altogether un-presidentially, coarsely insults Nixon and obsesses over how much money White will make on his book. Out of that unpromising raw material, White crafted a panegyric to a godlike man who commanded the eighteen-button telephone console on his desk like “the sword and the mace in the politics of the middle ages.”
White had identified so closely with JFK on the 1960 campaign trail that he wore a Kennedy campaign button. When the manuscript was complete, he showed it to both “Bobby” and “Jack,” acceding to RFK’s requested revisions. He didn’t extend the same courtesy to Nixon. But then again, Nixon didn’t invite Teddy White to his cocktail parties. Here’s a diary entry from 1962: “Mad night at Bobby’s great fun. He set the Caroline [the Kennedys’ pet name for Air Force One] up from Washington, we got aboard at 5:00 followed by Harry Belafonte and his wife Julie…”
This sort of thing had real consequences for the country. It is one of the Big Ideas of my first book, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, that just this sort of consensus-besotted denial of the roiling tensions beneath America’s consensus facade in the early 1960s—the time “before the storm”—made the storms of the later 1960s so much nastier than they would have been, had Americans been better been prepared to accept the ineluctably divisive reality of American life. Instead, the tension burst forth like the return of the repressed.
Anyway, here’s a new Big Idea: journalist sycophants like White helped give us Watergate.
Consider: White felt so guilty at having slighted Nixon in Making of the President 1960 that he turned Making of the President 1968 into a virtual love letter to him, and sent him the book with a fulsome apology. Making of the President 1972 sucked up to Nixon even worse. But then, oops—I discovered this in research for the book I’m finishing now—White had to postpone publication so he could tack on a chapter about a little thing called Watergate, whose seriousness caught him completely by surprise.
Indeed, it was largely the clubbiness of the Washington village press corps that let Nixon get away with Watergate and still win his landslide in 1972. (Read Tim Crouse’s Boys on the Bus for the full story.) Call it Camelot’s revenge: the class of court scribes who made it their profession to uphold a make-believe version of America free of conflict and ruled by noble men helped Nixon get away with it for so long—because, after all, America was ruled by noble men.
Don’t let that be forgot. For who knows what latter-day sycophants and suck-ups in the media might let our leaders get away with next.
Chicago’s deportation blockade. (Credit: Sarah Jane Rhee)
1. On Deportation Day, Youth Blockade the Bus
On November 19, twelve undocumented immigrants and allies temporarily stopped a bus that was headed toward O’Hare Airport to drop off a group of people set to be deported that day. Six of the participants, including myself, stopped the bus by attaching ourselves to one another and to the vehicle with lock-boxes. Inside the bus was Octavio Nava-Cabrera, who several participants in the action had gotten to know through the work and support they had provided for his anti-deportation campaign. Also on the bus was Brigido Acosta, who has a decades-old removal order. After an hour, the participants were detached and the bus made its way to O’Hare. Octavio and Brigido, along with the others on the bus, were deported. We will continue to support our families and continue to demand deportations stop.
2. As UC Stalls, Grad Students Strike
On November 20, graduate students in the UAW Local 2865 Academic Workers union at the University of California held a statewide strike in solidarity with striking service workers. AFSCME 3299 represents custodial staff, shuttle drivers, nurses’ aids and other workers throughout the UC system, and has been in contract bargaining with the UC for more than a year. Last Spring, AFSCME 3299 patient care workers at UC medical facilities held a two-day strike to draw attention to dangerous short-staffing. According to workers, UC managers engaged in a number of unfair labor practices in the run up to that action, including threats and intimidation; the November 20 strike was a response to those tactics. The tutors, teaching assistants and instructors of the UAW 2865 stood on the picket lines to denounce management’s actions. After UAW members announced our intent to walk out in solidarity, management began to harass us as well. In such moments, the truth of that old slogan really shines: an injury to one is an injury to all.
3. In Albuquerque, a Reproductive Justice Majority
This summer, out-of-state activists gathered signatures to place a measure on the Albuquerque ballot that would ban abortion after twenty weeks, the first of its kind to be introduced in a municipal-level election. Alongside other organizations, Young Women United lead the Respect ABQ Women campaign, reflecting the experiences of New Mexican communities of color, people of faith and young people. Leading up to November 19, when voters rejected the measure, young women of color played a key role in mobilizing the student population, leading the campaign’s social media strategy, canvassing and coordinating rides to the polls. Now, with growing energy and support from our communities, we are launching a public education campaign to decriminalize substance use in pregnancy.
4. In Honolulu, a Generational Alliance for Equality
“Hawaii can either be the fifteenth state (to legalize gay marriage) or the fiftieth.” This line stuck with me throughout the many days of legislative testimony from the people of Hawaii. On November 2, after days of waiting—I was 3,942nd in line—I joined other Gay-Straight Alliance members to speak in front of the House, the most liberating experience I’ve had in my life. Although the battle for marriage equality is over, barriers to full equality in Hawaii remain, especially for young people—from social media bullying to derogatory language in daily conversation. In my GSA Club, we are working to address these problems by holding weekly meetings for members of the LGBTQ community, and straight allies, at my school.
5. Athlete’s Death Sparks a Southern Groundswell
In January, 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson walked into Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, with a book bag and came out in a body bag. The star athlete was found headfirst in a rolled up wrestling mat. From the beginning, the details of the case have been murky. In the initial autopsy, Johnson’s death was labeled “accidental”—he fell into the wrestling mat and choked. But a second autopsy revealed there was definite trauma to his body. Two weeks ago, the coroner’s report was released, stating that the evidence was compromised. Meanwhile, Johnson’s family has been sitting outside the courthouse for ten months, Monday through Friday, demanding the truth. On November 8, Dream Defenders journeyed from Tallahassee to Valdosta to meet with Justice For KJ, a group that formed at Valdosta State University. The following week, some Dream Defenders returned to Valdosta to document the faces and factors involved, which will be pulled together to create a video.
6. Dean’s Resignation Puts Race on Trial
On November 15, a coalition of students rallied for racial equality at the University of Cincinnati. For the first thirty minutes, ten students held signs expressing concerns about racial tension. Within the next hour, fifty more joined them. Among the 42,000 students at UC, 9 percent are black and 84 percent of the newest class of incoming students are white. Racial tension has always existed, but it became more palpable in the recent case of Dr. Ronald Jackson, the first black dean of UC’s largest college, the College of Arts and Sciences. This fall, Jackson resigned amid constant scrutiny, a lack of support by university officials and a racist cartoon.
7. Oregon’s Agenda
On November 15 and 17, more than 500 students from across Oregon, as well as a delegation from Washington, came to Eugene for the annual Oregon Students of Color Conference, this year themed “Opening Eyes in a Colorblind World: Connecting the Dots Between Shared Oppressions.” We addressed violence against women of color, the history of OSCC, grassroots organizing strategy and our statewide legislative agenda. Following this year’s passage of tuition equity, OSCC will be moving forward with public safety reform, focusing on reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, finding more funding for victims’ services, fighting recidivism and implementing cultural competency training for K-12 faculty and staff. We are also supporting the Oregon Students Equal Rights Alliance to add teeth to K-12 bullying policies.
8. CUNY’s Charade
From skyrocketing tuition, to the appointment of General Petraeus at the Macaulay Honors College, to the eviction of the Morales-Shakur Center from its student and community-run space at City College, CUNY students are facing an increasingly militarized, less accessible university. Throughout the fall semester, campus leaders have been working across the CUNY system to build alliances that target the Board of Trustees and campus administrators for their complicity in these policies. This week, students from across CUNY launched a week of action against debt, corporate power, militarism and racism. On Monday, November 25, this will culminate in a direct action at the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, where we will theatrically crash the wedding between our administrators and corporate interests.
—New York Students Rising
9. When Will ED Act on Gender-Based Violence?
Student organizers continue to push the US Department of Education to improve enforcement of civil rights law regarding gender-based violence. The ED ACT NOW campaign kicked off last July with a rally in front of department headquarters in Washington, where student activists delivered a petition signed by more than 174,000 supporters, followed by meetings with officials from ED, the Department of Justice and the White House. We’ve seen some important initial victories: in August, ED instructed regional investigators to speed up their work so that survivors don’t have to wait years for justice, and just this month, department officials promised to post the findings of future investigations online. But this is only a start. This winter, ED ACT NOW is ramping up demands for transparency regarding current and past investigations into colleges and the results of those investigations; and a guidance to improve universities’ responses to same-sex violence and male survivors. We are calling on students and supporters to take further action online.
—ED ACT NOW
10. What Can Congress Do About the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
Over the past six weeks, North Carolina students have marched, spoken out and mobilized at school board meetings to end the school-to-prison pipeline. On November 21, Ramiyah Robinson, a 14-year-old member of NC HEAT, joined organizers from across the country to brief Congress about school pushout policies. The Dignity in Schools Campaign organized the speakers for a Senate briefing sponsored by Dick Durbin and Chris Murphy. As more students than ever are being suspended, expelled and arrested at school, students will continue advocating for federal policies such as the Youth PROMISE Act and the school discipline provisions of the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, as well as local policy that promotes restorative justice.
—Youth Organizing Institute
Because I write about race and racism in the United States, I’m often asked some variation of this question: are things better now?
I don’t mean to be condescending when I answer, but usually my response is frustrated laughter followed by a firm “no.” It’s the most polite thing I can think to do in the moment. At least, it’s more polite than saying, “That’s a stupid fucking question.”
But that’s how I actually feel. It sounds harsh, but I truly believe “Are things better?” is one of the most useless questions in a discussion about racism. It’s another in a repertoire of rhetorical tricks we use in this country to avoid the hard work of addressing racism in its modern form. By reframing the conversation around how much progress has been made, we further the false narrative that racism is a problem that belongs to history. While we pat ourselves on the back for not being as horrible as we once were, we allow racism to become further entrenched in every aspect of American life.
Of course we’re doing better than chattel slavery. Of course we’re doing better than legal segregation. But what material benefit do we get from the comparison?
What good is better to Renisha McBride, Trayvon Martin or Aiyana Stanley-Jones? Does better bring back Jordan Davis, Rekia Boyd and Jonathan Ferrell? Do the millions of black youth who experience stop-and-frisk console themselves by noting how much better things have gotten since the 1860s? Is chronic unemployment made better because there are no longer “whites only” signs decorating the South? Will children in Chicago, Philadelphia and DC sleep well at night knowing that even though their schools are closing and their educational opportunities are being ripped away from them, things are better? Does a racist, for-profit, prison-industrial complex really count as better?
That’s what gets swept aside when we focus so much of the narrative of progress. We absolve the evil of racism in its current form. I don’t wish to contend that we should not look back at our history. We should, and often. Nor am I saying we shouldn’t celebrate our progress. There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing so. But I do believe we keep relearning the wrong lesson.
When we look at how far we’ve come, we conveniently omit what got us here: the tireless and thankless work of people with a radical vision of a society based on fairness, the blood of young people willing to die for their right to assert themselves as full human beings, and a mix of compassion and political opportunism that turned powerful people into unlikely allies. And it will likely take more of the same to get us where we need to go.
We delude ourselves into thinking that, with time, things just get better. Insomuch as we’re willing to admit that racism is still a problem today, we conclude that it will no longer be such once older generations die off. At our peril, we ignore how invested we have become in those racist institutions those older generations created. It’s not just a matter of changing attitudes about skin color. We have to be willing to challenge systems of power. So long as we’re caught up in celebrating our “progress,” we neglect the opportunity to do the necessary work required to actually uproot racism and white supremacy.
It may not be true when I tell people who ask that, no, things have not gotten any better with regards to racism. But I’m also tired of having to say “we’ve made a lot of progress” a dozen times in order to get people to listen about the issues that plague us today. But I will stop saying, “No,” as much as I may want to out of frustration. And I won’t be rude and say, “That’s a stupid fucking question.” I will start saying, “Yes, but it really doesn’t matter.”
Mychal Denzel Smith on the murder of Renisha McBride.
“The right to vote in a free American election is the most powerful and precious right in the world—and it must not be denied on the grounds of race or color. It is a potent key to achieving other rights of citizenship. For American history—both recent and past—clearly reveals that the power of the ballot has enabled those who achieve it to win other achievements as well, to gain a full voice in the affairs of their state and nation, and to see their interests represented in the governmental bodies which affect their future. In a free society, those with the power to govern are necessarily responsive to those with the right to vote.”
—John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights, 1963
There has been much honoring of the memory of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy this week, and rightly so. He was dynamic figure who preached a “new generation of leadership” vision that still serves as an antithesis to the listless, austerity-burdened rhetoric of so many of today’s political figures—including some in Kennedy’s own Democratic party.
Kennedy saw himself as a liberal reformer, declaring in 1960: “If by a ‘Liberal’ they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people—their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties—someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a ‘Liberal,’ then I’m proud to say I’m a ‘Liberal.’ ”
Kennedy was ardently in favor of religious tolerance, respect for immigrants and labor rights (in 1962 he signed Executive Order 10988, which established the right of most federal workers to bargain collectively). Yes, in his service as a senator from Massachusetts and later as the nation’s thirty-fifth president, Kennedy was a politician of his times, which meant that he could disappoint; surely, he was slower than need be when it came to challenging Cold War dogmas and in calling out Southern resistance to social and economic justice. But Kennedy evolved, as did the nation he led, during the course of his short but transformational presidency.
Kennedy devoted much of the last year of his life to advocacy on behalf of voting rights. His great civil rights address—delivered in the last year of his presidency from the Oval Office to a national television and radio audience—argued that “it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.”
Fifty years after his assassination, Kennedy can be honored in many ways. But a renewal of his liberal commitment to voting rights would surely be a fine place to begin. The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which eliminated the poll tax, was placed on the national agenda by Kennedy, who made it his personal mission to eliminate the wealth barrier to voting.
Politically savvy, the president knew that enacting a constitutional amendment would be difficult, but he argued for going “the hard way” because of an understanding of the need to go around Southern resistance in the Senate and because of a determination on lock in voting-rights gains.
Kennedy promoted the amendment in speeches and letters to the Congress, and then in a steady stream of telegrams and phone calls that prodded governors and legislators across the country to get their states on board.
In the last months before his death, Kennedy was in the thick of the struggle for voting rights, telling Americans: “Finally, the 87th Congress—after 20 years of effort—passed and referred to the states for ratification a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit the levying of poll taxes as a condition to voting. I urge every state legislature to take prompt action on this matter and to outlaw the poll tax—which has too long been an outmoded and arbitrary bar to voting participation by minority groups and others—as the 24th Amendment to the Constitution.”
Beyond the bully pulpit, the president exchanged notes with governors such as Wisconsin’s John Reynolds regarding the details of legislative debates and votes. To a far greater extent than was known at the time, Kennedy personally managed the ratification process.
Thirty-six states ratified the amendment before Kennedy’s assassination—two short of the needed total. Kennedy and others hoped that Texas might break with other states and support the amendment. A statewide referendum on November 9, 1963, proposed to repeal that state’s poll tax and the campaign was intense. Opponents of repeal argued that people of color would “flood the polls” if the economic barrier to voting was removed. Supporters distributed literature that declared: “President Kennedy Wants You to Vote Saturday, November 9, to Repeal the Poll Tax.”
A special message from Kennedy read: “I share the conviction that the right to vote should not be denied or abridged because of the failure to pay a poll tax.”
The literature made the connection to the civil rights movement, urging a “yes” vote: “For Better Job Opportunities, For Better Housing, For Equality and Dignity, For Freedom.”
Unfortunately, a majority of Texas voters saw the change as a threat. The rejected repeal less that two weeks before Kennedy made his trip to Dallas. Yet the president continued his advocacy, getting prominent Texans such as Vice President Lyndon Johnson and US Senator Ralph Yarborough to lend their names to the effort.
Kennedy died without seeing his amendment added to the Constitution.
But his labors were not in vain.
The final states, Maine and South Dakota, signaled their approval in the weeks after the president’s death
When the Twenty-fourth Amendment was added to the Constitution in January 1964, the change in the founding document was heralded with front-page headlines in newspapers and broadcast reports from coast to coast—except, notably, in Southern states where too many media outlets had aligned themselves with the massive resistance to civil-rights legislation, even when that legislation took the form of a constitutional amendment.
The constitutional elimination of the barrier Kennedy derided as “the property qualification” for voting signaled the arrival of what the late president had hoped for: “another turning point in the history of the great Republic.” With the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, it seemed, finally, that the nation might move “beyond the new frontiers” of which Kennedy had spoken.
Unfortunately, as the historian Eric Foner reminds us, the history of the right to vote in America is one of expansion and contraction. And the rights Kennedy and so many others fought to expand have been contracting with the passage of restrictive “Voter ID” laws, attacks on early voting and same-day registration, and a US Supreme Court move to gut the Voting Rights Act. Responding to the legislative and judicial assaults on the voting rights, Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison have returned to the constitutional route that John Kennedy charted when he set out to end polls taxes and property qualifications as a barrier to voting.
With support from groups such as FairVote and Color of Change, the struggle for a constitutional guarantee of voting rights has gone national. Communities across the country are passing resolutions urging Congress to approve the amendment and send it to the states. As in the period before Kennedy embraced the campaign for an amendment banning the poll tax, there is a burgeoning grassroots campaign for constitutional intervention on behalf of voting rights.
The Pocan-Ellison proposal states in simple language the values that voting-rights campaigners have championed for decades: “Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides,” and “Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.”
Or as John Fitzgerald Kennedy put it in 1963: “It is necessary [to] free the forces of our democratic system…promptly insuring the franchise to all citizens, making it possible for their elected officials to be truly responsive to all their constituents.”
Ari Berman describes the contemporary resurgence of Jim Crow throughout the United States.
There are times when the line between shock, rage and sadness become so blurred it is impossible to know when the flow of emotion ends or begins. The shock and rage come from hearing about an African-American student violently tormented by his three white housemates at San Jose State University. Thrown together randomly as first-year students tend to be, Logan Beaschler, 18, Joseph Bomgardner, 19, and Colin Warren, 18 found common cause in acts of racist sadism against their fourth housemate. They at times forced a bike lock around the neck of this young man. They barricaded him in his room. They nicknamed him “three-fifths” or “fraction” in reference to the three-fifths Compromise of 1787 that decreed slaves to be less than a full person. They hung confederate flags outside their room. They scrawled swastikas on white boards and hung pictures of Adolf Hitler. Let’s say their names again: Logan Beaschler, Joseph Bomgardner and Colin Warren, three people who made their dorm into a fascist chamber of horrors for their own amusement.
Arrests have been made, the school is holding its own investigation, and students are rallying, and that is all well and good. The shock and rage becomes sadness, however, because this is not just any old university. This is San Jose State, also known as Speed City, also known as the place where John Carlos and Tommie Smith won NCAA national championships, learned the skills to set Olympic sprint records, and learned the politics to compel them to raise their fists at the 1968 Olympics. It was the place where Dr. Harry Edwards combined anti-racist militancy with sociology and sports, to create a synthesis that led to the formation of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. It is the place where Lee Evans and Ron Davis showed the world that athletic excellence could be used as leverage to fight for dignity and make history. It is the place where that history is commemorated by the remarkable twenty-eight-foot statues of Carlos and Smith that stand in the middle of campus.
I spoke to John Carlos and I cannot do justice to the sadness in his voice.
“This is a heartbreaking situation,” he said. “At San Jose State that monument was established to promote diversity, love, understanding and respect. It is very difficult for me wake up and think that the school would be a place where students feel they can act in such a manner and think they can just abuse a person of color in such a way. Once again we are bitten by the ugly bear of racism. I would hope San Jose State would deal with this in as firm a matter as possible. This cannot stand.”
Pressure to make sure San Jose State truly confronts what has happened will be necessary. In recent years, San Jose State has made a concerted effort to cut itself off from its history and anti-racist traditions. It is currently being sued by former cross-country coach Ron Davis, the same Ron Davis mentioned above who was a part of those historic teams of the 1960s and a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame. Mr. Davis is claiming racial bias and discrimination led to his firing. He was fired after the school hired Gene Bleymaier, the fired former athletic director of Boise State, who turned that school into a national football powerhouse. Bleymaier is attempting to transform the San Jose State football team into a similar kind of cash cow and a haven for sponsors. Anti-racist history and corporate football don’t mix, and Ron Davis believes that he was a casualty of a new administration with new priorities.
A school that disrespects its own history and its own legacy as an iconic center of African-American liberation reaps what it sows. In this case, several residential assistants apparently knew to some extent what was happening, saw the Confederate flags and did nothing. Yes, Messrs. Logan Beaschler, Joseph Bomgardner and Colin Warren deserve to be punished to the fullest extent. But this is a school that needs to take a long, hard look at itself. If you are going to be home to “the statue,” you had better be worthy of what it represents.
Dave Zirin looks at the legacy of John Carlos and Tommie Smith.
—Aaron Cantú focuses on the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, social inequality and post-capitalist institutional design.
“The new debtors’ prisons.” The Economist, November 16, 2013.
To be ensnared within the mass incarceration system means to be either in prison, on parole or probation. In most places, the public offices that manage these three services are overburdened and broke, so private ventures have picked up the extra slack for profit. Private probation companies are especially nefarious, extorting payment from probationers to not only cover municipal court costs but also to enrich their own bottom line. They are a debt collection industry. Worst of all is if probationers can’t pay, they often end up in jail—even if their original charge was a non-jailable offense. Ironically, this usually ends up costing the presiding municipality more money, since it is so expensive to imprison somebody.
—Owen Davis focuses on public education, media and the effects of social inequality.
“Detained border crossers may find themselves sent to ‘the freezers,’” by Rachel Bale. The Center for Investigative Reporting, November 18, 2013.
Immigrants arrested by US Border Patrol have heard tell of what awaits them: las hieleras, or "the freezers." These are frigid, fluorescent-lit chambers where detainees are crammed for days without bedding or privacy. Though some immigrants will fight deportation or rightfully claim asylum, such as the Salvadoran family fleeing gang violence profiled in the piece, detainees are kept in a harsh confinement that likely violates international human rights standards. Meanwhile, our brave lawmakers in the Senate have stripped language from immigration legislation requiring "limits on the number of people held in a cell, adequate climate control, potable water, hygiene items and access to medical care" for detained border crossers.
—Omar Ghabra focuses on Syria and Middle Eastern politics.
"Lebanon and the Long Reach of Syria’s Conflict” by Dexter Filkins. The New Yorker, November 20, 2013.
The recent bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut is the latest of many ominous signs that Hezbollah and Iran's decision to intervene in Syria has made this a regional, sectarian conflict. Filkins puts this latest bombing into the context of the events in Syria over the past year, since the Iranians and their proxy militia in Lebanon turned the tide of the Syrian war in Assad's favor.
—Hannah Gold focuses on gender politics, pop culture and art.
“Radical Hospitality,” by Danya Lagos. Hypocrite Reader, November 2013.
Lagos astutely points out in her manifesto that the Radical Hospitality movement (coming to a museum near you), with its emphasis on giving its guests the choicest, most transporting experience possible, has become the moral equivalent of a hipster beer tasting. In these "artist-directed meal installations" that have come to define the movement, the bourgeois fantasy of sourcing the most exotic ingredients possible has merely transitioned to a new focus on ingredients that are so local they are not to be believed. This manifesto suggests a new paradigm for radical hospitality: the art of caring for others, as opposed to the art of impressing others. Radical hospitality could do so much more—it could welcome outsiders and strangers, create communities rather than produce waste, promote gender equality, "transmit emancipatory ideals" and fill bellies.
—Allegra Kirkland focuses on immigration, urban issues and US-Latin American relations.
"Border Patrol International," by Todd Miller. TomDispatch, November 19, 2013.
My college history professor used to say that borders are something that strong states impose on weaker ones. These imaginary lines, drawn on contiguous landmasses, define the spaces in which we live and who belongs inside them. In countries like the United States, however, such physical manifestations of hard power have morphed into a more abstract global project. This fascinating piece documents how interpretations of national defense have evolved since 9/11, with immense sums now spent on establishing, equipping and training border patrols in areas of US interest, from the Dominican Republican to Afghanistan. As Miller writes, "'Homeland security' no longer stays in the homeland: it's mobile, it's rapid, and it's international."
—Abbie Nehring focuses on muck reads, transparency, and investigative reporting.
"Heroes and Crusaders,” by Bill Keller. The New York Times, November 17, 2013.
If you're curious about the genesis of the word "muckraker" as it's used today, I suggest Doris Kearns Goodwin's latest book, Bully Pulpit, or perhaps at least Bill Keller's review in this week's New York Times Book Review. It asserts that, like Team of Rivals, Goodwin's earlier book about how Lincoln built his cabinet, this volume invites surprisingly contemporary comparisons to present day through its portrayal of the relationships between power, profit and the scrutiny of the press. Bully Pulpit masquerades as a dual biography of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, who shared one of the greatest friendships of the century, but the thread that runs throughout is the rise of the muckraking journalists who challenged them at every turn and were allowed to question Roosevelt even "during his midday shave." There's even a great illustration by Paul Rogers that seems to sum up the zeitgeist of the early 20th century as narrated by Goodwin.
—Nicolas Niarchos focuses on international and European relations and national security.
“Last Jew in Afghanistan faces ruin as kebabs fail to sell,” by Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni. Reuters, November 12, 2013.
The Jewish community in Afghanistan has dwindled from several thousand strong at the beginning of the 20th Century to one—Zabulon Simintov. And now he’s closing his Kabul kebab shop, which also houses the nation’s only synagogue. Donati and Harooni’s piece artfully mixes Simintov’s story with the on-the-ground realities of life in Afghanistan today: the security situation is so bad there that customers have dwindled and it’s too risky to run a business. Simintov blames his woes on the US-led invasion in 2001. “It is better to see a dog than to see an American,” he said. “If the situation in the country gets worse, I will escape.”
—Andrés Pertierra focuses on Latin America with an emphasis on Cuba.
“A Lesson From Cuba on Race,” by Alejandro De La Fuente. The New York Times, November 17, 2013.
Renowned Cuban intellectual Alejandro de la Fuente debates the relationship between race and economic inequalities, using post-1959 Cuba as case study. Cuba has done more than any other country in the hemisphere, he says, to eradicate racism and economic inequalities that reinforce it, yet the culture of discrimination is still is alive and well today. This culture is just as important as material differences and should serve as a lesson for other countries in the Americas.
—Dylan Tokar focuses on Latin America, politics and literature.
“Inside The One-Man Intelligence Unit That Exposed The Secrets And Atrocities Of Syria's War,” by Bianca Bosker. Huffington Post, November 18, 2013.
The subject of Bosker's profile is Eliot Higgins, better known as the blogger Brown Moses. Higgins began writing about Syria in 2012, and he has since become an expert at identifying the weapons used in the conflict by mining the social media that has been pouring out of the country via the Internet. See also Patrick Radden Keefe's profile in The New Yorker and this multimedia presentation by NGO Tactical Tech.
—Elaine Yu focuses on feminism, health, and East and Southeast Asia.
“Udacity's Sebastian Thrun, Godfather Of Free Online Education, Changes Course,” by Max Chafkin. Fast Company, November 14, 2013.
This may not be an open critique (or a casual Foucauldian one) of MOOCs, but the essay shows why Massive Open Online Courses aren't the revolution its founder envisioned, why tech-innovation-branding giants are contradicting themselves (there's only so much you can corporatize out of education), and why it does little to address the structural problems of uneven access and other inequalities, despite the alluring premises of free or low-cost education, and of celebrity professors being commercially (but not personally) accessible.