—Hélène Barthélemy focuses on the criminal justice system, activism and culture.
“Facebook for Space? Airbnb’s Weird Corporate Nationhood,” by Kate Losse. Dissent, July 26, 2014.
This article in Dissent looks at the oddness of corporations’ constant appeal to emotional ties through the case of Airbnb: you no longer simply pay for a room, you actually belong to a community. The odd sense that you have to love the person you rent a room from hides the purely transactional nature of the company. It is not only tedious and slightly shallow, but it also makes bargaining harder and fundamentally transforms the way we think of payment, concealing it.
—Summer Concepcion focuses on race, gender and criminal justice.
“Whiteness is Still a Proxy for Being American,” by Peter Beinart. The Atlantic, July 27, 2014.
The thought that someone might mistake me for a foreigner has crossed my mind many, many times since I was a child. Despite my Filipino ethnicity, my nationality is American, since I was born and raised here. Although the dialogue of America as a “melting pot” is a well-known one, it seems that the default image of an American has always been that of a white person. White people are the “norm” in society, which is evident from beauty standards to the fact that they’re more likely to uphold the image of the “American dream.” Let’s make this clear: race and ethnicity don’t devalue how “American” someone is.
—Erin Corbett focuses on national security and reproductive rights.
“‘Water, Water Everywhere’: Racial Inequality and Reproductive Justice in Detroit,” by Cortney Bouse and Elizabeth Mosley. RH Reality Check, July 22, 2014.
This piece situates the water shutoff in Detroit in a larger sociopolitical context. The authors begin with the story of a woman named Kendra, who must push a cart several blocks every morning in order to access water, a basic human right, from a friend whose water hasn’t yet been shut off. They take this seemingly isolated story and draw connections to a rural area in Western Uganda where Mosley often saw women having to make these same daily trips for water. Mosley and Bouse also draw on the European colonization of East Africa in the twentieth century, “characterized by depletion of resources, exploitation of communities of color, and underinvestment in social infrastructure,” similar to what is currently happening in Detroit. And as if it wasn’t enough to make connections between the two “populations of color [facing] similarly devastating consequences from the inherently intertwined systems of capitalism and racism,” Mosley and Bouse tie the water shutoffs to reproductive health and justice.
They state how such water shutoffs “carry significant consequences for the health of racially and economically marginalized women,” and are “life-long assaults against personal autonomy endured by women.” This piece had my attention right away with its multilayered discussion, uncovering various intersections of gender, race and class regarding access to reproductive health and the movement for reproductive rights. I would go even one step further and consider the deteriorating situation of Detroit in the larger context of America’s “War on Terror,” just one example of the incarcerated “other” here at home. In an essay titled, “Detroit: Incarcerated and Disappeared in the Land of the Free,” by Trinh Minh-ha, the author states, “The war on terrorism has crystallized many of our phobias and prejudices. It gives racial profiling a new twist, while highlighting issues of immigration, identification,…as well as cultural and gender discrimination,” but “[c]olor, class, gender, culture are not categories, but an ongoing project and dimension of consciousness.”
—Victoria Ford focuses on African-American identity, feminism/womanism and the arts.
“‘Even If You Don’t Like It, You’re Supposed to Appear That You Do,’” by Noah Berlatsky. The Atlantic, July 28, 2014.
As of late, increasing attention has been paid to women’s social justice movements, and along those lines, this week The Atlantic interviewed Feminista Jones, a writer, activist, social worker and founder of the street harassment hashtag campaign #YouOkSis. The interview centralizes around what every person can do to support victims of street harassment and highlights the failure of both law enforcement and public policy on this issue. Street harassment, as Feminista Jones articulates, has not always amplified black women’s voices (as many women’s movements have historically framed themselves to be) and the consequence of this history is as follows: “[Black women] have not been given the opportunity to express the pain that we feel. What happens when we’re walking down the street is that people will harass us and see us being both women and also black, and they understand that nobody gives a shit about us.”
—Douglas Grant focuses on labor and income inequality, gender politics and American politics.
“I’m Sick of Hearing About Political Polarization,” by Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg View, July 30, 2014.
The media’s driving narrative about Washington mostly focuses on political polarization, and rampant partisanship has become almost a cottage industry with new charts and studies coming out, it seems, on almost a weekly basis to show just how far apart the two parties are, harkening to a golden age of civility that never really existed, at least in the way that the press often presents it. Jonathan Bernstein discusses how the focus relies on how we got here—which is, admittedly, fascinating—but never on how to affect change through the framework of our representative government. Bernstein is right, too, that the focus on the trend of the conservative coalition (of southern Democrats and conservative Republicans) from the 1930s through the 1960s was an anomaly in what has been a history that’s rife with partisanship. (It should be noted, of course, that this coalition is what thwarted civil rights legislation for decades). Bernstein doesn’t provide any answers, but he does at least ask questions, the first step toward progress.
—Hannah Harris Green focuses on South Asian Culture and Politics, and Sexual Assault.
“Got Your Back.” This American Life, July 25, 2014.
Hamida Gulistani of Ghazni, Afghanistan was exactly the type of woman that the US wanted in its camp. Since 2005, she has been fearless about advocating for women’s rights, often intervening in abusive family relationships, using a combination of religious leadership and the press to shame men into treating their wives and daughters more humanely. With US support, she became a known figure in Afghanistan—a spokesperson for women’s rights who felt she could speak her mind in the public arena. Now that the US is leaving Ghazni, Gulistani is in a lot of danger—she’s been shot at in a mall, and her driver was shot in the arm. Kevin Sieff, the Afghanistan bureau chief for The Washington Post, reported her story for This American Life.
—Alana de Hinojosa focuses on immigration, race and racism, Latin@ identity and feminism.
“The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings,” by Maximo Anguiano. independentcreativeservices.tumblr.com, July 9, 2014.
The title says it all: “The Unknown History of Latino Lynchings.” A summary of Richard Delgado’s 2009 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review article, Maximo Anguiano brought this predominantly unknown history back onto the online stage this week via his Tumblr page, Independent Creative Services. In doing so, he reminded America of its deep roots in multiracial racism, where Latin@s and African-Americans were being lynched alongside one another from 1846 to 1925. (Which, when you think about it, wasn’t really that long ago.) Unfortunately, as Delgado points out, Latin@ lynchings were edited and minimized out of documented history since most lynching accounts were reported in Spanish language newspapers—sources that few mainstream American historians consult. Interestingly, Delgado goes on to wonder if remnants of Latin@ lynching may still be present today in the form of current movements to make English the official language of the US, attempts to end bilingual school and/or enforcing English-only speaking at jobs. It’s absolutely fundamental, Anguiano writes, that people of color and whites alike educate themselves on this history and refuse to be quite about the modern day “lynchings”—like the school-to-prison pipeline, stalled immigration reform, deportations, etc. “In order to achieve our full capabilities,” he says, “we need to reject a fragmented history and seek a personal revolution, which starts with ourselves.
—Crystal Kayiza focuses on the African diaspora, immigration, black feminist thought, and police brutality.
“The Girls Obama Forgot,” by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.
For too long, to be black in America has meant to be black and male. The struggle of men of color in this country is now broadcasted more than ever through Obama’s My Brothers Keeper program. The discourse in the United States today is about “fixing men of color—particularly young black men…[and] this hits a political sweet spot among populations that both love and fear them.” But while “liberal” advocates clench their purses and tend to the needs of men, women of color remain in crisis. To be black and female in America means that you are both absent and exploited. Black women’s bodies and experiences are continually appropriated to entertain the masses, but when it comes time to create racial justice policy, women of color are continually forgotten. As Kimberle Crenshaw states in her op-ed for The New York Times, “The median wealth of single black and Hispanic women is $100 and $120, respectively—compared with almost $7,900 for black men, $9,730 for Hispanic men and $41,500 for white women.” But what has been overlooked is that the women and girls of color who put the president in the White House refuse to be viewed as stepping stools for their male counterparts. My Brother’s Keeper advocates addressing individual circumstances and not systematic inequality. As Crenshaw outlines, it’s the classic analogy of the canary in the coal mine. Men of color have been used to alert everyone of the toxic environment in the mine, and policy creators and advocates have created narrow solutions to only alleviate the of distress of the canary. Women and girls have been left to survive in the mines toxic environment—holding their breath while continually being told that they are strong enough to endure. But systematic oppression is not the Olympics. Men of color must realize that their experiences are intricately bound to the women in their lives. Because this movement—that allows patriarchy and not gender equality to dominate—will never be sustainable.
—Agnes Radomski focuses on labor, mass incarceration, the war on drugs and the military industrial complex.
“McDonald’s Ruling Could Open Door for Unions,” by Steven Greenhouse. The New York Times, July 30, 2014.
The Fight for $15 campaign just won a small victory that could lead to big consequences for the McDonald’s franchise. On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the fast-food giant could be held “jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators.” The ruling was a result of the labor board’s legal team’s investigation of complaints from fast food workers accusing McDonald’s and its franchisees of unfair labor practices. The cases stemmed from the five one-day strikes demanding a $15 wage in November of 2012, when over 100 workers complained that they were retaliated against for protesting, either by having hours cut or losing their jobs entirely. The ruling is significant on many levels, one being the prospect of companies finally being held accountable for violating worker’s rights. As temp agencies proliferate, blame for workplace abuses is constantly tossed between employer and contractor, ending ultimately with no action. With this latest ruling, however, McDonald’s will no longer be able to partake in that model by diverting blame onto its franchisees.