—Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy/affairs, international conflict (including US involvement abroad) and human rights issues abroad.
"Exploring Kashmir's Idyllic Meadow of Death," by Zahid Rafiq. VICE, April 2, 2014.
Kashmir is a place where I've often visited as a child, and a place where I've worked and reported on as an adult. It is also where my mother is from, and where many of the friends I have made over the years call home. I recently reread one of those friend's article. The story surrounds one of the many deadly consequences of having over half-a-million troops in your backyard. In this case, using that backyard as an artillery range.
Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and progressive critiques of Zionism.
“‘Honestly, it’s a revolution. It's so great taking control,’” by Lilah Raptopoulos. The Guardian, September 24, 2014.
Recently, The Guardian asked a number of people (mostly gay, cis-gendered men) for their thoughts on the more recent innovations on HIV preventative care, namely, PrEP, or Truvada as it is often called. The mainstream media has paid little attention to this new form of preventative care, as they rarely sound the alarm except when people, many of them queer and under privileged people, are already dying. Nonetheless, an interesting and at times heated argument over the ethics and efficacy of PrEP is circulating, revealing some interesting divides over the relative importance of access, and behavior when it comes to preventative care. Again, this is pretty limited sample, which notably appears to leave out disproportionately affected trans people.
Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.
“College Students Wage Campaign to Kick Teach for America Off Campus,” by Julianne Hing. Colorlines, September 30, 2014.
Alternative certification programs like Teach for America often rely on elite university campuses as fertile grounds for recruiting. But last week, student activists at Harvard and other schools around the country joined a growing list of the organization's critics, urging their colleges to end relationships with TFA unless it makes major changes. "At the heart of their concerns," Julianne Hing reports, "is what they see as TFA's role in the corporatization of education." As this campaign and others like it continue, many of us will be watching closely: will students and their allies be successful in challenging one of the most powerful players in the "school reform" movement?
Ted Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.
"Bias in the Box," by Dax-Devlon Ross. Virginia Quarterly Review, Fall 2014.
Dax-Devlon Ross’s latest piece starts small—a double homicide at a gas station in Statesville, North Carolina, where the defendant was condemned to die by an all-white jury. But the story is much bigger than just one defendant and one trial because Ross’s reporting shows in painstaking detail how the voir dire process is used to systemically exclude black jurors and how this affects the criminal justice system. And, though Ross brings a great deal of academic and empirical studies into the narrative, he never loses sight of telling the reader a compelling—and important—story.
Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.
“It's not just Bill Maher: Islamophobia on cable news is out of control,” by Max Fisher. Vox, October 8, 2014.
Islamophobia is mainstream. It is everywhere I turn, used as punchlines in pop culture, and especially last week, evidenced in all kinds of media coverage that is both news and news-like. Last week, Bill Maher, a noted hater of Islam and Muslims, went on his show to spout more Islamophobic nonsense. In a common tactic amongst Islamophobes, and although Maher regularly makes misogynistic statements that expose his deeply held sexism, he couched his Islamophobia in claiming to care about the lives and rights of women in the so-called Muslim world. I say so-called, because this phrase is so generalized and seems to only include the Middle East. It often avoids all of Africa, completely ignores South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, and the Southeast Asian population powerhouses of Indonesia and Malaysia. The phrase also makes invisible all the Muslims who live in the rest of the world in majority non-Muslim countries throughout North America, Europe, South America and Australia. Max Fisher, in his piece at Vox, details some examples of how acceptable and normal Islamophobia is throughout cable news. Fisher highlights how audience attitudes have hardened in the last thirteen years. With only 38 percent of Americans personally knowing a Muslim person, the majority of Americans rely on the racist media and pop culture for their impressions and beliefs about Muslim Americans and Muslims abroad. This has very real consequences for Muslim Americans in terms of racial profiling, hate crimes and discrimination in our jobs, schools and communities. Also, since the vast majority of American Muslims are people of color, the hate that Muslims encounter just multiplies the racism, sexism and classism they are already experiencing. This also impacts how non-Muslim Americans view US foreign policy towards Muslim majority countries. The dehumanization and othering of Muslims in American media and pop culture are constant, and as Fisher points out, Muslims are almost never invited to speak about our experiences, our own communities or ourselves. People who are usually white speak about us, make assumptions and perpetuate dangerous stereotypes. It is important that everyone becomes more aware of these Islamophobic ideas and opinions that many hold, often without realizing it, and the impact they are having on the lives of Muslim Americans and the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.
Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology
"Old Debts, Fresh Pain: Weak Laws Offer Debtors Little Protection," by Paul Kiel. ProPublica, September 16, 2014.
This story from ProPublica focuses on a reality often forgotten: the millions of workers who have part of their paycheck taken out to pay off an old consumer debt. Garnishment legislation dates back to 1968 and hasn't kept up with society's ever-evolving economic circumstances, leaving numerous people in the hole. It might be time for a change.
Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.
“[Op-Ed] Policing With Consent Would Require Throwing Away Our Freedoms,” by Gudjón Idir. TechPresident, October 8, 2014.
This opinion piece by the executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative explains why the UK's desire to implement increased Internet surveillance with the "consent" of the people is not a sudden shift to transparency, but fear-mongering, plain and simple. "Is the government testing the waters to see if the public really cares about our digital freedoms and our privacy?" Idir asks. "Is it counting on our naivety — that we are a collection of people with a nothing-to-hide attitude and so therefore, are blind to the overarching issues at play?" And will the public take a stand?
Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements (youth/millennial movements in particular), using an intersectional, Black feminist lens.
“Did a White Guy Steal a Popular Gossip Site from Three Black Teenagers?” by Mitchell Sunderland and Emalie Marthe. VICE, October 7, 2014.
My article this week is a really well executed investigative piece from VICE's Mitchell Sunderland and Emalie Marthe on the history and legacy of the Internet forum Oh No They Didn't (ONTD). ONTD, as it is known, was founded by a young woman who had creative control of the website she helped to start wrested away from her from by outsiders when her mother was ill with cancer. Meanwhile, the interlopers parlayed their involvement with the website into successful careers in digital media. If you know and love ONTD, this is a must read.
N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.
“Barack Obama's Safety,” by Jelani Cobb. The New Yorker, October 2, 2014
Last week an intruder jumped the White House fence, ran across the lawn and entered the South side of the East Room while possessing a gun. Thankfully, an off-duty Secret Service agent stopped him, and the First Family was not home at the time. This breach of security exposed the public to the vulnerability within the Secret Service and the American presidency. This incident confirms some of the anxieties blacks have always possessed. This poignant piece by Jelani Cobb mentions another event that reveals President Obama's susceptibility to danger every where he goes—even in an elevator. Cobb also highlights the anxiety that blacks have with Obama, stemming from his 2008 election presidential campaign. Blacks wrestled with their double consciousness with Obama. On the one hand, blacks revel in hope with him. Undoubtedly, blacks were unflinchingly excited of the possibility and progress of America when a black person born in Kansas, who worked in the community of the South side of Chicago, and earned degrees from Columbia and Harvard Law, could catapult to the presidency of the United States. Yet, at the same time, they also carried fear. Fear that Obama would not be alive to send his daughters off to college or high school. Fear that Obama would not be alive to celebrate his marriage anniversary with Michelle for another year. Fear that the list of political and civil rights leaders who were assassinated would include the name Barack Obama. This recent White House intrusion awakened this reality that blacks often suppress.
Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.
"The Price of Black Ambition," by Roxane Gay. Virginia Quarterly Review, October 3, 2014.
Roxane Gay is having a moment as a writer. This year, she published two books, both of which have been critically acclaimed. She is also having another moment, one that won't fade and has to do with who she is as a person, known as impostor syndrome. In this essay for VQR, Gay describes what it has been like for her to pursue success as a black woman in America. "I don’t even feel the flush of pleasure I once did when I achieve a new milestone," she writes. "I am having a moment, but I only want more. I need more. I cannot merely be good enough because I am chased by the pernicious whispers that I might only be 'good enough for a black woman.'"