Kai Wright’s article “A Demand, Not a Plea” [August 31/September 7] states that the August 8 event at which two Black Lives Matter activists interrupted Bernie Sanders was a Sanders rally. That is incorrect: Senator Sanders was a late addition to the event, which was titled “Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid: Celebrating Decades of Success.” I am the chair of Social Security Works Washington, the primary sponsor of the event, and I initiated the invitation to Sanders. The event had been planned for over six months and was intended to highlight the success of the programs in serving the diverse communities of the Puget Sound region on the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid and the 80th anniversary of Social Security, as well as the need to expand them. Sanders was invited because of his advocacy for the preservation and expansion of the programs, but we only learned that he would be attending the event—which would have proceeded with or without his presence—on Friday, July 31. It was decidedly not a Sanders rally (although, for full disclosure’s sake, I do support him).
The event began with an address by Gerald Hankerson, the NAACP’s regional president, on the critical nature of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for the African-American community in the context of Black Lives Matter. Other speakers—including Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant; State Senator Pramila Jayapal; Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer of the State Labor Council, AFL-CIO; and Marcelas Owens, the 11-year-old boy whose mother died due to a lack of health insurance—addressed the connection between the much-needed expansion of these three programs and communities of color.
Finally, as co-MC of the event, I cooperated with the demand of the two activists and asked people to engage in four and a half minutes of respectful silence to commemorate the life of Michael Brown. It was the right thing to do. I was told by one of the people on the stage (although not one of the activists) that after the period of silence, the disruption would end. Unfortunately, that turned out to be incorrect.
The subject of the protest is very legitimate and rightfully emotional: What has been happening in the United States to African-Americans is intolerable. Institutionalized racism is a plague on our country. At the same time, I am deeply sorry that the message of the event—the need to expand Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which would assist literally tens of millions of people in our country—was lost in the media accounts of the protest. But our struggle will continue.
Kai Wright argues, “White people of all political stripes will be challenged, even shaken by this movement. That is a cost worth bearing.” Wright’s eloquence and indignation are well earned in that concluding line; it packs such a punch for the reader. I confess this article made me rethink posting a video on Facebook that was critical of this moment for Black Lives Matter. Bravo.
The Fox Report
Thank you so much for your coverage of New Orleans 10 years after Hurricane Katrina [August 31/September 7]. Parade magazine had a full-page article on the anniversary by Shepard Smith, the Fox News Channel anchor. He spends lots of ink describing how horrified he was at the damage and how he has returned to the city many times, then concludes: “It’s still not exactly the same city it once was. The character, the flavor, is just slightly different. It’s evolved, somehow. But importantly, it still stands—a decade after Katrina did her damnedest to drown it.” I guess he never, in all those visits, ventured into the Lower Ninth Ward. Those homes, and lives, apparently don’t matter to him.
Alan B. Cormack
This Is Not a Hoax
In his farewell to E.L. Doctorow, Victor Navasky mentions how the two of them helped spawn the brilliant bestselling satire Report From Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace by my father, Leonard Lewin [“E.L. Doctorow, 1931–2015,” August 17/24]. I remember well the impact of The New York Times’s front-page story reporting that it was “possibly a hoax and possibly a secret government document”—as well as the FBI’s interest. Of course, the US economy is more dependent on war now than when Iron Mountain appeared during the Vietnam War era. To further the grave discussions that my father’s book hoped to provoke, I’ll donate bulk copies for use in political-science, history, sociology, and peace-studies courses (and Bernie Sanders–associated groups!), charging only for shipping. Please send your full contact info to Six Long Hill Farm, Guilford, CT 06437.
Julie E. Lewin
Et Tu, Nation?
I read William Deresiewicz’s article “How to Lower the Cost of Higher Ed” [July 20/27] with great interest. I was particularly struck by his recommendation that we should fund free higher education using “tax money not from the 1 percent alone, but from the whole of the top 10 percent, whose share of national income now stands at 50 percent, an all-time high.’’
I believe he is pointing at a profound flaw in our conversations about inequality. The problem is not just the 1 percent; it is the highly educated 10 percent—many of us readers of this very journal—who oil the wheels of a system in which the 1 percent are able to amass such wealth. Casting the conversation as the 99 percent versus the 1 percent ignores the role of the upper 10 percent in creating and maintaining this unequal society.
Pedro Noguera writes, “In all likelihood, charter schools are here to stay” [“Pre-K Isn’t Enough,” August 17/24]. Talk about surrendering without a fight! It is a dark day in New York City.
new york city
In Stuart Klawans’s review of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (September 14/21), the date of Fred Hampton’s murder was mistakenly given as December 1966. Hampton was murdered in December 1969.
Eric Alterman’s “Inequality in Campaign Mode” (September 28/October 5) described a study that asked Americans to guess the ratio between the average Fortune 500 CEO’s earnings and their workers’ wages. The study asked about the CEOs of S&P 500 companies, not the Fortune 500.