A Call for Reparations: How America Might Narrow the Racial Wealth Gap
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones on the racial wealth gap — and why she believes it’s time for reparations. Her new piece published in New York Times magazine.
The killing of George Floyd has ignited protests and inspired conversations — and changes — across the globe. But New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones says more needs to be done to address America’s racial wealth gap.
“Very few Americans have created all of their wealth on their own; it’s passed down through generations and then built upon,” Hannah-Jones says. “Black Americans never really had a chance to do that.”
Hannah-Jones traces the wealth gap to slavery, and the fact that enslaved people were not allowed to own property. She notes that the legalized segregation and racial terrorism that followed slavery exacerbated the problem and “prevented generation after generation of Black Americans from acquiring the type of wealth or foothold in the economy that allows you to live a life that is much more typical of white Americans.”
Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery. Her latest article for the Times Magazine, What is Owed, makes the case for economic reparations for Black Americans.
Very few Americans have created all of their wealth on their own; it’s passed down through generations and then built upon. Black Americans never really had a chance to do that.
There are stories of mass starvation of Black people after they had been freed, having to leave the plantation and find shelter in burned out buildings, trying to forage for food in burned-out fields. It was a devastating period for Black people. This country decided that it was going to do nothing, that it owed these people nothing.
“If you want to bring in different perspectives, you’ll have a different culture & different environment that will lead you to make different decisions.”
James Bennet, recently resigned opinion editor for the NYTimes, representing collective White privilege patriarchy…father, Douglas Bennet, former NPR Director/Wesleyan University president and part of both the Carter & Clinton administrations, and brother, Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator and former U.S. Presidential candidate. -dayle
A copy of the December 23, 2018, edition of the New York Times.Robert Alexander/Getty Images
America is changing, and so is the media
The media has gone through painful periods of change before. But this time is different
There have always been boundaries around acceptable discourse, and the media has always been involved, in a complex and often unacknowledged way, in both enforcing and contesting them. In 1986, the media historian Daniel Hallin argued that journalists treat ideas as belonging to three spheres, each of which is governed by different rules of coverage. There’s the “sphere of consensus,” in which agreement is assumed. There’s the “sphere of deviance,” in which a view is considered universally repugnant, and it need not be entertained. And then, in the middle, is the “sphere of legitimate controversy,” wherein journalists are expected to cover all sides, and op-ed pages to represent all points of view.
The media’s week of reckoning
Last week, the New York Times op-ed section solicited and published an articleby Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) arguing that the US military should be deployed to “restore order to our streets.” The piece set off an internal revolt at the Times, with staffers coordinating pushback across Twitter, and led to the resignation of James Bennet, the editor of the op-ed section, and the reassignment of Jim Dao, the deputy editor.
That same week, Stan Wischnowski, the top editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, resigned after publishing an article by the paper’s architecture critic titled “Buildings Matter, Too.” David Boardman, the chair of the board that controls the Inquirer, said Wischnowski had done “remarkable” work but “leaves behind some decades-old, deep-seated and vitally important issues around diversity, equity and inclusion, issues that were not of his creation but that will likely benefit from a fresh approach.”
One interpretation of these events, favoredby frustrated conservatives, is that a generation of young, woke journalists want to see the media remade along activist lines, while an older generation believes it must cover the news without fear and favor, and reflect, at the very least, the full range of views held by those in power.
“The New York Times motto is ‘all the news that’s fit to print,’” wrote the Times’s Bari Weiss. “One group emphasizes the word ‘all.’ The other, the word ‘fit.’”
Another interpretation is that the range of acceptable views isn’t narrowing so much as it’s shifting. Two decades ago, an article like Cotton’s could easily be published, an essay arguing for abolishing prisons or police would languish in the submissions pile, and a slogan like “Black Lives Matter” would be controversial. Today, Black Lives Matter is in the sphere of consensus, abolishing prisons is in legitimate controversy, and there’s a fight to move Cotton’s proposal to deploy troops against US citizens into deviance. The idea space is just as large as it’s been in the past — perhaps larger — but it is in flux, and the fight to define its boundaries is more visible.
“Those are political decisions,” says Charles Whitaker, dean of the Medill School of Journalism. “They are absolutely governed by politics — either our desire to highlight certain political views or not highlight them, or to create this impression that we’re just a marketplace of ideas.”
The media is changing because the world is changing
First, business models built around secure local advertising monopolies collapsed into the all-against-all war for national, even global, attention that defines digital media.
Second, the nationalization of news has changed the nature of the audience. The local business model was predicated on dominating coverage of a certain place; the national business model is about securing the loyalties of a certain kind of person.
Third, America is in a moment of rapid demographic and generational change. Millennials are now the largest generation, and they are far more diverse and liberalthan the generations that preceded them.
Fourth, the rise of social media empowered not just the audience but, crucially, individual journalists, who now have the capacity to question their employer publicly, and alchemize staff and public discontent into a public crisis that publishers can’t ignore.
The media prefers to change in private. Now it’s changing in public.
The news media likes to pretend that it simply holds up a mirror to America as it is. We don’t want to be seen as actors crafting the political debate, agents who make decisions that shape the boundaries of the national discourse. We are, of course. We always have been.
“When you think in terms of these three spheres — sphere of consensus, of legitimate debate, and of deviancy — a new way of describing the role for journalism emerges, which is: They police what goes in which sphere,” says Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU. “That’s an ideological action they never took responsibility for, never really admitted they did, never had a language for talking about.”
“Organizations that have embraced the mantra that they need to diversify have not as quickly realized that diversifying means they have to be a fundamentally different place,” says Jelani Cobb, the Ira A. Lipman professor at the Columbia Journalism School and a staff writer at the New Yorker. “If you want to bring in different perspectives, you’ll have a different culture and different environment that will lead you to make different decisions.”
Image credit: Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music (detail), Alma Thomas, 1976, Smithsonian American Art Museum, bequest of the artist, 1980.36.2A-C, Washington, DC.
The Unspoken Privilege of Being White
For a long time, I naively hoped that racism was a thing of the past. Those of us who are white have a very hard time seeing that we constantly receive special treatment [because of social systems built to prioritize people with white skin]. This systemic “white privilege” makes it harder for us to recognize the experiences of people of color as valid and real when they speak of racial profiling, police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, continued segregation in schools, lack of access to housing, and on and on. This is not the experience of most white people, so how can it be true? Now, we are being shown how limited our vision is.
Because we have never been on the other side, we largely do not recognize the structural access we enjoy, the trust we think we deserve, the assumption that we always belong and do not have to earn our belonging. All this we take for granted as normal. Only the outsider can spot these attitudes in us.
[And we are quick to dismiss what is apparent to our neighbors who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color [BIPOC] from their lived experience.]
Of course, we all belong. There is no issue of more or less in the eyes of an Infinite God. Yet the ego believes the lie that there isn’t enough to go around and that for me to succeed or win, someone else must lose. And so we’ve greedily supported systems and governments that work to our own advantage at the expense of others, most often people of color or any highly visible difference. The advancement of the white person was too often at the cost of other people not advancing at all. A minor history course should make that rather clear.
I would have never seen my own white privilege if I had not been forced outside of my dominant white culture by travel, by working in the jail, by hearing stories from counselees and, frankly, by making a complete fool of myself in so many social settings—most of which I had the freedom to avoid!
Power [and privilege] never surrenders without a fight. If your entire life has been to live unquestioned in your position of power—a power that was culturally given to you, but you think you earned—there is almost no way you will give it up without major failure, suffering, humiliation, or defeat. As long as we really want to be on top and would take advantage of any privilege or short cut to get us there, we will never experience true “liberty, equality, fraternity” (revolutionary ideals that endure as mottos for France and Haiti).
If God operates as me, God operates as “thee” too, and the playing field is utterly leveled forever. Like Jesus, Francis, Clare, and many other humble mystics, we then rush down instead of up. In the act of letting go and choosing to become servants, community can at last be possible. The illusory state of privilege just gets in the way of neighboring and basic human friendship.
-Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation
100 ways you can take action against racism right now
If you’re looking to get involved outside of organizing in person, we’ve rounded up a list of ways you can take action from home, including ideas specific to demanding justice for Floyd and addressing racism in general.
Previously unseen footage is shaped into a fresh and timely retelling of the 1992 Rodney King trial — and the verdict that sparked civil unrest–the acquittal of four police officers for beating a black motorist saw several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles. Gives back story to the Watts Rebellion of 1965 in South-Central Los Angeles. Directed by T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay.
We can’t permit the murder of people because of the color of their skin. Institutional racism is real, it’s often invisible, and it’s pernicious.
And White Supremacy is a loaded term precisely because the systems and their terrible effects are very real, widespread and run deep.
The benefit of the doubt is powerful indeed, and that benefit has helped me and people like me for generations. I’m ashamed of how we got here, and want to more powerfully contribute and model how we can get better, together.
It doesn’t matter how many blog posts about justice I write, or how clear I try to be about the power of diversity in our organizations. Not if I’m leaving doubt about the scale and enormity of the suffering that people feel, not just themselves, but for their parents before them and for the kids that will follow them.
It’s easier to look away and to decide that this is a problem for someone else. It’s actually a problem for all of us. And problems have solutions and problems are uncomfortable.
“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” said the father of Dr. Lorna M. Breen, who worked at a Manhattan hospital hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
A top emergency room doctor at a Manhattan hospital that treated many coronavirus patients died by suicide on Sunday, her father and the police said.
Dr. Lorna M. Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, died in Charlottesville, Va., where she was staying with family, her father said in an interview.
Tyler Hawn, a spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, said in an email that officers on Sunday responded to a call seeking medical assistance.
“The victim was taken to U.V.A. Hospital for treatment, but later succumbed to self-inflicted injuries,” Mr. Hawn said.
Dr. Breen’s father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, said she had described devastating scenes of the toll the coronavirus took on patients.
“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” he said.
The elder Dr. Breen said his daughter had contracted the coronavirus but had gone back to work after recuperating for about a week and a half. The hospital sent her home again, before her family intervened to bring her to Charlottesville, he said.
Dr. Breen, 49, did not have a history of mental illness, her father said. But he said that when he last spoke with her, she seemed detached, and he could tell something was wrong. She had described to him an onslaught of patients who were dying before they could even be taken out of ambulances.
“She was truly in the trenches of the front line,” he said.
He added: “Make sure she’s praised as a hero, because she was. She’s a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died.”
In a statement, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia used that language to describe her. “Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department,” the statement said. “Our focus today is to provide support to her family, friends and colleagues as they cope with this news during what is already an extraordinarily difficult time.”
Dr. Angela Mills, head of emergency medical services for several NewYork-Presbyterian campuses, including Allen, sent an email to hospital staffers on Sunday night informing them of Dr. Breen’s death. The email, which was reviewed by The New York Times, did not mention a cause of death. Dr. Mills, who could not be reached for comment, said in the email that the hospital was deferring to the family’s request for privacy.
“A death presents us with many questions that we may not be able to answer,” the email read.
Aside from work, Dr. Breen filled her time with friends, hobbies and sports, friends said. She was an avid member of a New York ski club and traveled regularly out west to ski and snowboard. She was also a deeply religious Christian who volunteered at a home for older people once a week, friends said. Once a year, she threw a large party on the roof deck of her Manhattan home.
She was very close with her sisters and mother, who lived in Virginia.
One colleague said he had spent dozens of hours talking to Dr. Breen not only about medicine but about their lives and the hobbies she enjoyed, which also included salsa dancing. She was a lively presence, outgoing and extroverted, at work events, the colleague said.
NewYork-Presbyterian Allen is a 200-bed hospital at the northern tip of Manhattan that at times had as many as 170 patients with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. As of April 7, there had been 59 patient deaths at the hospital, according to an internal document.
Dr. Lawrence A. Melniker, the vice chair for quality care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, said that Dr. Breen was a well-respected and well-liked doctor in the NewYork-Presbyterian system, a network of hospitals that includes the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“You don’t get to a position like that at Allen without being very talented,” he said.
Dr. Melniker said the coronavirus had presented unusual mental health challenges for emergency physicians throughout New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the United States.
Doctors are accustomed to responding to all sorts of grisly tragedies, he said. But rarely do they have to worry about getting sick themselves, or about infecting their colleagues, friends and family members.
And rarely do they have to treat their own co-workers.
Another colleague said that Dr. Breen was always looking out for others, making sure her doctors had protective equipment or whatever else they needed. Even when she was home recovering from Covid-19, she texted her co-workers to check in and see how they were doing, the colleague said.
[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources. Here’s what you can do when a loved one is severely depressed.]
Benjamin Weiser and Joseph Goldstein contributed reporting.
Our dear Gaia has mandated pause, a collective time-out, giving opportunity for us to re-consider what is possible. Planetary operations and behaviors are conducive to shifts now. Together, we can accomplish so much, in spite of ruthless and dangerous national and global leadership. We the people, sans greed, power and patriarchy. ‘Everything old is new again.’ What if we did things differently? -dayle
Defend the Post Office, Defend Black Workers
By Paul Prescod
The United States Postal Service is a crucial institution for black workers in America. That’s why Bernie Sanders’s strong support for defending and expanding the USPS is a key racial justice issue.
For the average black worker, the postal service represents a stable, decent-paying career that is hard to find elsewhere. Today the average salary of a USPS employee is $55,000, and 21 percent of USPS employees are black. The history of black postal workers demonstrates the critical importance of government employment and a robust public sector for the advancement of black people in this country.
Saving and expanding the public sector will be a key fight for racial justice in the 2020 presidential race. Bernie Sanders, with his call for postal banking and robust government programs, is the only candidate offering a real plan to revive the postal service and the futures of black public-sector workers.
As Sanders puts it, “Post offices exist in almost every community in our country. There are more than 31,000 retail post offices in this country. An important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low-income communities is to allow the U.S. Postal Service to engage in basic banking services.” And beyond increasing revenue and employment for the USPS, this measure would eliminate the prevalence of payday loan centers that prey on poor communities of color.
The story of black workers in the post office begins with the legal end of slavery and the soldiers who fought for that freedom. As early as 1861, federal employment was opened up for black workers. In December 1864, Senator Charles Sumner passed a bill banning discrimination in postal employment. Though not always enforced, this protection was critical for enabling black workers to establish a foothold in a relatively stable and secure occupation.
A common theme throughout black history has been the importance of an activist federal government for advancing fundamental interests. Postal workers utilized executive orders in particular to improve their situation in the 1960s. This activism and the resulting legislation created a home for black women workers in the post office as well.
Among the few highlights in John F. Kennedy’s lackluster record on civil rights are his executive orders related to federal employment. Executive Order 10925 was issued in March 1961 and banned discrimination by employers and unions in federal contract work, followed by Executive Order 10988, which provided limited collective bargaining rights for federal employee unions that didn’t practice racial discrimination. These orders came after intense lobbying pressure from NAPE and the Negro American Labor Council.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was a key factor in helping black women find work in the post office in large numbers.
Franklin’s postal career began in 1737 when the British Crown Post appointed him postmaster of Philadelphia. In Franklin’s day, newspaper printers often served as postmasters, which helped them to gather and distribute news. More important, postmasters decided which newspapers could travel free in the mail – or if they could travel by mail at all. Philadelphia’s previous postmaster, who printed a rival newspaper, had barred Franklin’s Gazette from the mails.
He encouraged postmasters to establish the penny post, a British idea he had implemented while postmaster of Philadelphia, whereby letters not called for at the Post Office were delivered for a penny. He also ordered postmasters to print in newspapers the names of people who had letters waiting for them. Remembering his own experiences as a printer and postmaster, Franklin abolished the practice of letting postmasters decide which newspapers could travel through the mail and mandated delivery of all newspapers for a small fee. Thanks in part to Franklin’s efforts, the British Crown Post in North America registered its first profit in 1760.
The incoming Congress should promptly fulfill the promise of the Republicanplatform and pass a proper postal savings bank bill. It will not be unwiseor excessive paternalism. The promise to repay by the Government will furnishan inducement to savings deposits which private enterprise can not supplyand at such a low rate of interest as not to withdraw custom from existingbanks. It will substantially increase the funds available for investmentas capital in useful enterprises. It will furnish absolute security whichmakes the proposed scheme of government guaranty of deposits so alluring,without its pernicious results.
The negroes are now Americans. Their ancestors came here years ago againsttheir will, and this is their only country and their only flag. They haveshown themselves anxious to live for it and to die for it. Encounteringthe race feeling against them, subjected at times to cruel injustice growingout of it, they may well have our profound sympathy and aid in the strugglethey are making. We are charged with the sacred duty of making their path as smooth and easy as we can. Any recognition of their distinguished men, any appointment to office from among their number, is properly taken as an encouragement and an appreciation of their progress, and this just policy should be pursued when suitable occasion offers.
“We cannot allow Donald Trump to use this horrific pandemic as an opportunity to bankrupt and privatize the Postal Service,” Sanders tweeted earlier this month. “Now, more than ever, we need a strong and vibrant postal system to deliver mail 6-days a week. Congress must act now to save it.”
“The situation is absolutely dire,” Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), toldNew York magazine in an interview last week.
The USPS has been hit hard by the sharp decline in mail volume caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The Postal Service also remains shackled by a congressional mandate requiring the agency to prefund its retirees’ health benefits through the year 2056.
“The post office will likely run out of money sometime between July and September of this year,” said Dimondstein. “If they run out of money, then the people lose the service.”
‘The workers are part of a workforce deemed “essential” during the coronavirus crisis, meaning that — like grocery store workers, firefighters, garbage collectors and more — they still have to show up to work every day, even as large swaths of the country have closed stores and schools, and companies have mandated employees work from home.’
Senator Bernie Sanders conducts a news conference on July 5, 2011.
“If the goal of the Postal Service is to make as much money as possible,” Sanders told The Nation, “tens of millions of people, particularly low-income people and people in rural areas, will see a decline in or doing away with basic mail services.”
First among the Vermont senator’s proposals is an end to the USPS’sburdensome pre-funding mandate, which requires it to prepay decades of retiree health benefits. This unique requirement, which costs the USPS billions every year, was imposed by Congress in 2006, when mail volumes were historically high, but after the recession it became impossible to make the payments.
Since 2006 the agency has been barred from offering new products and services: At present, it cannot notarize documents, wrap presents, or ship alcoholic beverages. Sanders argues that Congress should allow the agency to do all these things and more, even suggesting it could expand into digital services and “offer a non-commercial version of Gmail.”
These proposals may sound surprising, but experts say they enjoy broad support among Postal Service stakeholders, and that the USPS would probably offer many of them if it could.
“Bernie may seem like a radical on some issues, but on the post office, he’s just plain common sense,” said Steve Hutkins, an NYU professor who runs the website Save the Post Office. Hutkins says most of Sanders’s proposals have been endorsed by the unions and the major mailers.
BOSTON, MA – APRIL 9: A US Postal Service employee wears a mask and delivers mail in the wind and rain in Copley Square in Boston on April 9, 2020. Mail carriers must work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
“Today, while more than 600,000 postal workers in the U.S. are putting their lives on the line delivering mail and packages, the institution itself is at risk of going bankrupt as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The USPS is expected to lose about 50% of its revenue due to a loss of mail volume during the pandemic. And what most people do not know is that the USPS does not run on taxpayer dollars — it relies completely on revenue created by postage and postal services.
With such a significant drop in revenue, the USPS will be unable to carry out its work.
If we can bail out large corporations, we can damn well help the Postal Service — the most popular government agency in America — from going bankrupt because of this horrific pandemic.
Unlike privatized delivery services, the Postal Service is required by law to deliver all mail and packages to everyone nationwide, regardless of where they live. And each year it is responsible for delivering 1.2 billion packages of medicine to those who need it.
How will people get their prescription drugs and, once they become available, their coronavirus test kits? How will we allow people to vote by mail in an election that is facing unprecedented hurdles to getting voters out to the polls? How will these things be possible if we do not have a fully functioning Postal Service?
Without relief or intervention, the United States Postal Service will not be able to sustain itself for the long term, which means it will not be able to deliver mail and packages to 160 million addresses all over the country.
That is why we must do everything we can to protect the Postal Service, which is at serious risk as a result of the economic crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Doctors are taking great strides to make sure that your family and kids are healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. We reached out to a pediatrician to find out what he’s telling his patients and what safety measures his office (and others) are taking to keep children and families safe and the risk of infection low.
Born: March 14, 1879, in Ulm Germany Died: April 18, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey
“I think 99 times and find nothing. I stop thinking, swim in silence, and the truth comes to me.”
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
The day after COVID protests in Michigan, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, California, and Virginia:
‘Amazing and depressing how much of politicized American individualism (on guns, on vaccines, now on COVID mitigation) is childish acting out, adults throwing tantrums when parental figures try to discourage or stop them from doing unwise things.’
-Kurt Anderson, author of the book, How America Went Haywire
Don’t just sit at home in fear. Be at home in your vision.
It’s time to take our ideas seriously and live as the world should be.
The USNS Comfort hospital ship enters New York to help relieve the load on coronavirus-stricken hospitals.
Seven tips to manage your mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak
This is unlikely to be the writer’s retreat that you have long dreamt of. The suggestion that periods of quarantine might bring unprecedented productivity implies we should raise the bar, rather than lower it. Do not underestimate the cognitive and emotional load that this pandemic brings, or the impact it will have on your productivity, at least in the short term. Difficulty concentrating, low motivation and a state of distraction are to be expected. Adaptation will take time. Go easy on yourself. As we settle into this new rhythm of remote work and isolation, we need to be realistic in the goals we set, both for ourselves and others in our charge.
Proactively manage your stress threshold
Try to lay a solid foundation for your mental health and well-being by prioritizing your sleep, and practise good sleep hygiene (for example, avoid blue lights before bed, and maintain a routine around your sleep and wake times). Eat well (be conscious that you might be inclined to lean on alcohol, or other indulgences, to manage stress — this is understandable, but potentially damaging in the long run). Exercise: it will lower your stress levels, help you to better regulate your emotions and improve your sleep.
Know your red flags
One way to manage moments of distress is to identify key thoughts or physical sensations that tend to contribute to your cycle of distress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Our thoughts (“Why can’t I concentrate?”), feelings (frustration, worry, sadness), physical sensations (tension, upset stomach, jitters) and actions (such as compulsively checking the latest COVID statistics) each feed into and amplify these negative emotional spirals. Addressing one aspect of this loop by, for example, actively reducing the physical symptoms (I use box breathing: breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four and hold for four, then repeat) can de-escalate the cycle and help you regain control.
Routine is your friend
It helps to manage anxiety, and will help you to adapt more quickly to this current reality. Create clear distinctions between work and non-work time, ideally in both your physical workspace and your head space. Find something to do that is not work and is not virus-related that brings you joy. Working in short bursts with clear breaks will help to maintain your clarity of thought.
Be compassionate with yourself and with others
There is much that we cannot control right now, but how we talk to ourselves during these challenging times can either provide a powerful buffer to these difficult circumstances or amplify our distress. Moments of feeling overwhelmed often come with big thoughts, such as “I cannot do this,” or “This is too hard.” This pandemic will cause a lot of stress for many of us, and we cannot be our best selves all the time. But we can ask for help or reach out when help is asked of us.
Even the most introverted of us need some sense of connection to others for our mental as well as our physical health. Many working groups have created virtual forums where you can contribute or just sit back and enjoy the chatter. Staff teams have instigated virtual coffee groups, online book clubs and co-working spaces where you can work in the (virtual) presence of others. We are in social isolation, but we need not feel alone. Reach out to those who might be particularly isolated.
This will probably be a stressful time for all of us, and will test the mental-health policies and practices of many research institutes, just as it is testing much else in the world. By embracing good mental-health and well-being measures, and by relying on others when necessary, we can protect ourselves and those around us.
“A short manifesto about the future of online interaction
The world is changing. Faster and more suddenly than most of us expected.
And beyond the fraught health emergencies that so many are going through, many of us are being asked to quickly move our meetings and our classes online.
Fortunately, there are powerful and inexpensive tools to do just that. Unfortunately, we’re at risk at adopting a new status quo that’s even worse than the one it replaces.
We can make it better.
You have a chance to reinvent the default, to make it better. Or we can maintain the status quo. Which way will you contribute?
Rather than doing what we’ve always done in real-life (but online, and not as well), what if we did something better instead?
Here’s what we think we get from a real-life meeting:
A chance for people to come together and discuss important issues.
Here’s what we actually get:
A chance for some people to demonstrate their status and power.
A chance for most people to take notes and seek to avoid responsibility.
Real-life meetings are among the most hated part of work for the typical office worker. They last too long, happen too often and bore and annoy most of the people who attend. They can mostly be replaced by a memo (if they’re about transferring information) or they could be better run (if they’re about transforming information.)
But at least you’re not in school.
The traditional school day is nothing but a meeting. Eight hours of it. In which you are almost never asked to contribute, or, if you are, it’s at great risk, both social and in terms of academic standing.
And now, because of worldwide events, local meetings and local schooling are going online.
It will lead to one of two things:
1. Just like the ones in real-life, except worse.
2. Something new and something better.
Forgive me for not being optimistic, but if what we’re seeing is any guide, we’re defaulting to the first (wrong) choice.
It’s worse because you can check your phone, your email and your fridge. It’s worse because you can more clearly see the faces of people who are bored right in front of you who can’t realize you can see them.
[Did you know that there’s a ‘focus’ button in Zoom and other tools that shows the organizer when people in the room have put Chrome or something else in front and are only sort-of paying attention? It’s there to ensure compliance and it’s there because we’re figuring out how to not pay attention.]
The compliance of the mandatory Zoom meeting is not nearly as firm as it is in real life. It’s like an episode of the Office, except it’s happening millions of times a day.
And then when we try to move classes online! First we coerced students to pay attention with grades, withholding what they want and need (a certificate, a diploma, an A) in exchange for them giving up their agency and freedom and youth.
Then, because we weren’t getting enough compliance, we invented the clicker.
It’s a pernicious digital device that probably had good intent behind it, but like so many things that are industrialized, it’s now more of a weapon than a tool.
How the clicker works: Every student at a large university is required to buy one. Yes, you need to spend more of your own money to be controlled. It has built-in ID (it knows who you are) and wifi and GPS. Inside the lecture hall, you need to click. Click to prove you’re there. Click to prove you’re awake. Click to prove you can repeat what the professor just said.
Sure, it’s possible to use clickers to produce powerful and engaging discussion. My quick research seems to indicate that this almost never happens. It’s easier to have the student simply pay for compliance in exchange for the certificate.
So, we have a few problems:
1. The in-person regime of meetings and school is riddled with problems around status, wasted time, compliance, boredom and inefficient information flow.
2. Moving to online gives up the satisfaction of the status quo, diminishes the ego satisfaction for those seeking status, and creates even more challenges with compliance, boredom and the rest.
There’s a solution. A straightforward and non-obvious choice.
Let’s have a conversation instead.
A conversation involves listening and talking. A conversation involves a perception of openness and access and humanity on both sides.
People hate meetings but they don’t hate conversations.
People might dislike education, but everyone likes learning.
If you’re trapped in a room of fifty people and the organizer says, “let’s go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves,” you know you’re in for an hour of unhappiness. That’s because no one is listening and everyone is nervously waiting for their turn to talk.
But if you’re in a conversation, you have to listen to the other person. Because if you don’t, you won’t know what to say when it’s your turn to talk.
Conversations reset the power and compliance dynamic, because conversations enable us to be heard.
Conversations generate their own interest, because after you speak your piece, you’re probably very focused on what someone is going to say in response.
You don’t have to have a conversation, but if you choose to have one, go all in and actually have one.
And here’s the punchline:
The digital world enables a new kind of conversation, one that scales, one that cannot possibly be replicated in the real world.
There’s even a special button for it in Zoom, and if you have enrollment and the passion to engage with it, you can use it to create magic.
We know, because we’ve done it at Akimbo. We’ve created important and useful conversations for a group of 700 people at a time. More than 97% of the people who joined our online meeting were in it at the end. With no coercion, no diploma, no grades and no clickers.
If we want to, we can use Zoom to create conversations, not a rehash of tired power dynamics. We can create peer to peer environments where conversations happen.
Here’s how it works:
0. The most important: Only have a real-time meeting if it deserves to be a meeting. If you need people to read a memo, send a memo. If you need students to do a set of problems, send the problems. If you want people to watch a speech or talk, then record it and email it to them. Meetings and real-time engagements that are worthy of conversations are rare and magical. Use them wisely.
1. People come to the meeting ready to have a conversation. If they’re coerced to be there, everything else gets more difficult.
3. Organize a conversation. That can’t work at any scale more than five. How then, to do an event with hundreds of people? The breakout.
A standard zoom room permits you to have 250 people in it. You, the organizer, can speak for two minutes or ten minutes to establish the agenda and the mutual understanding, and then press a button. That button in Zoom will automatically send people to up to 50 different breakout rooms.
If there are 120 people in the room and you set the breakout number to be 40, the group will instantly be distributed into 40 groups of 3.
They can have a conversation with one another about the topic at hand. Not wasted small talk, but detailed, guided, focused interaction based on the prompt you just gave them.
8 minutes later, the organizer can press a button and summon everyone back together.
Get feedback via chat (again, something that’s impossible in a real-life meeting). Talk for six more minutes. Press another button and send them out for another conversation.
This is thrilling. It puts people on the spot, but in a way that they’re comfortable with.
If you’re a teacher and you want to actually have conversations in sync, then this is the most effective way to do that. Teach a concept. Have a breakout conversation. Have the breakouts bring back insights or thoughtful questions. Repeat.
A colleague tried this technique at his community center meeting on Sunday and it was a transformative moment for the 40 people who participated.
If you want to do a lecture, do a lecture, but that’s prize-based education, not real learning. If people simply wanted to learn what you were teaching, they wouldn’t have had to wait for your lecture (or pay for it). They could have looked it up online.
But if you want to create transformative online learning, then allow people to learn together with each other.
“That idea that power cannot be accompanied by notions of compassion and kindness and empathy. That’s something that I refuse to accept.”
Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media at Waitangi on February 06, 2020. Photo: Fiona Goodall / Getty
by Bregje Hofstede
‘Picture a leader of a country and, chances are, you’ll picture a man.
This isn’t surprising. The majority of world leaders are men, so our ideas about the characteristics of leadership are so deeply ingrained, it’d take someone pretty outstanding to change them.
Someone like New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinta Ardern.
Far-right, ‘strongman’ rulers are on the rise around the world. But not in New Zealand, where Jacinda Ardern, the 39-year-old progressive prime minister, is challenging perceptions of what a leader should look like and showing us that society is ready for change.
This prime minister is showing the world that leadership isn’t a male trait. It’s a human one
Imagine a powerful person. The prime minister of a rich country, say, taking the stage for a press conference. Think of the voice, the dress sense, the way a prime minister speaks and sounds. Who do you see in front of you? Let me guess.
A man in a suit.
This is our reflex, our stock idea of a prime minister. It’s an image that plays tricks on many female politicians. Take Senator Elizabeth Warren, a prominent candidate in the Democratic primaries to select a challenger to Donald Trump, the US president, in elections in November this year. After a promising start in autumn 2019, Warren’s campaign has been plagued by loud speculation about her “electability”. She’s a woman, after all.
According to Warren, her rival Senator Bernie Sanders told her during a private conversation in 2018 that a woman can’t win in 2020.It’s a claim that Sanders has denied, but the grounds for such opinions are easy to find. In the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton fought Trump in a tough, often sexist campaign. For all her political experience, the word went around that a woman was not “presidential” and hence not “electable”. The same assumptions have hurt Warren’s campaign.
Governments in Hungary, United States and Brazil are led by macho misogynists. In New Zealand, the opposite happened.
Is it credible in 2020 that women are still not electable to the highest level of power? If you follow the news, you’ll understand the roots of this question. Trump won in 2016 despite – or perhaps, thanks to? – numerous accusations of sexual misconduct and an audio recording of his infamous “Grab ’em by the pussy” comment during a tour of a television studio in 2005.
In New Zealand, the exact opposite happened.
Since 2017, the New Zealand government has been led by a woman who is still (until July) under 40 years old. Ardern’s victory can be compared to other recent political insurgents Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron.
It is a measure of international interestthat “Jacindamania” has entered the political lexicon. At the same time, however, the same political climate has rained hatred upon Ardern. Her personal style has upset millennia-old ideas about men, women and power: ideas made visible by the sexist reactions which follow her.
The phenomenon of New Zealand’s second female prime minister shows how the prevalence of these ingrained cultural ideas and, thanks to Ardern and others, how such thinking can shift.
Her message is that people depend on one another – not on money, numbers or achievements.
Mary Beard, a British classicist, cites this incident in her 2017 book Women & Power, a history of misogyny from Athens and Rome to today. She begins with an account of Homer’s Odyssey, in which Queen Penelope, wife of Ulysses, is silenced in public by her newly grown-up son because “speech is a man’s business”. To Roman orators, high (female) voices expressed “cowardice”. For too many famous novelists,female voices resembled the mooing of cows or the braying of donkeys, sounds which polluted language.
Sharp, too high, unpleasant – the voices of female politicians or leaders would have ‘no authority’
Beard’s book describes a serial smear campaign against the female voice. She shows how prevailing ideas about eloquence and rhetoric are rooted in a classical tradition which dismissed female voices as an aberration. To this day, women are much more often said to be squeaking, whining, squawking, screaming or cackling. Or that their voices are “just uncomfortable” to hear. Like Warren’s, described by a journalist as “unbearably shrill”.
Authority is not innate. It’s something we grant or deny to each other. It’s cultural.It’s not true to say that a woman’s voice can’t have weight, argues Beard, only that we haven’t learned yet to give that weight to women’s voices.’
‘Stephen Colbert travels to his home state of South Carolina ahead of that state’s Democratic primary to dig into some meaty campaign issues with presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Special thanks to our friends at HUSK Restaurant in Charleston for the warm hospitality.’
“I was proud to fight beside Senator Reid and Barack Obama and to protect consumers—and I’ll keep fighting to protect consumers as president of the United States. Watch our new ad airing in Nevada now.”
[Follow the link to view :30 ad running in Nevada.]
‘The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutter our minds and makes of all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see, we cannot think. The purification must begin with the mass media. How?
-Thomas Merton, conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1968
Jay Rosen, NYU:
I am waiting for the first newsroom that declares a state of emergency. Susan Glasser, staff writer at The New Yorker:
“Is this time any different from other episodes where he has ranted about his unchecked right to do unconstitutional things?” Read her reply:
It sometimes happens in diplomacy that one country has to say to another: “This is extreme. We cannot accept this. You have gone too far.” And so it suspends diplomatic relations.
In 2012 the government of Canada announced that it would suspend diplomatic relations with Iran. “Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” said the foreign minister.
Journalists charged with covering him should suspend normal relations with the presidency of Donald Trump, which is the most significant threat to an informed public in the United States today.
That is my recommendation.
I began making this point on the third day of his presidency, January 22, 2017, when I said the press should send interns to the White House briefing room. Normal practice would not be able to cope with the political style of Donald Trump, which incorporates a hate movementagainst journalists.
“Send the interns” means our major news organizations don’t have to cooperate with this. They don’t have to lend talent or prestige to it. They don’t have to be props. They need not televise the spectacle live (CNN didn’t carry Spicer’s rant) and they don’t have to send their top people. They can “switch” systems: from inside-out, where access to the White House starts the story engines, to outside-in, where the action begins on the rim, in the agencies, around the committees, with the people who are supposed to obey Trump but have doubts… The press has to become less predictable. It has to stop functioning as a hate object. This means giving something up.
So that’s one way to suspend normal relations: send the interns. On MSNBC June 12, Rachel Maddow described another. She said that frequent viewers of her show may have noticed a pattern:
I don’t go out of my way to play tape of the president speaking. Nor do I tend to spend too much time parsing whatever the latest quote is from him. That is not out of any animus on my part, it’s just that the president very frequently says things that aren’t true. He admits that he says things that aren’t true. He calls it, you know, hyperbole, but he lies. And I feel like on this show I’d like you to be able to trust me to give you true information. Because I generally feel like I can’t trust what purports to be information from this president, I just try to do the news without words from him, most of the time.
Normally, the president is quoted more than any other public figure, and clips of him speaking are ubiquitous in television news. Maddow told her viewers that she had suspended this practice because, more likely than not, the president’s words would only misinform them. Every president needs to be fact-checked. This one doesn’t care if what he says is true. That’s extreme, and it calls for a response.
“Anything that a president would say — even if it was libelous or scandalous — it’s the president talking, and I think you report it,” said Chris Wallace, the “Fox News Sunday” host who moderated this year’s third presidential debate. “Under any definition, it’s news, whether it’s sensible or not, factual or not, productive or not.”
A middle-ground would be this: what the president says is neither automatically newsworthy nor automatically suspect. Rather, it has to be judged in context. Which sounds super-reasonable. Who can be against “context” and case-by-case judgment? But here’s the context: bad actor, cannot be given the benefit of the doubt, no matter what the case is.
“How,” asked Chuck Todd on Meet the Press June 17, “can we believe a president who routinely says things that are provably false?” Instead of treating these questions as unsolvable riddles, Chuck Todd could… suspend normal relations. For Meet the Press, that might mean: don’t accept as guests the people the White House sends out as defenders of the provably false (especially Kellyanne Conway.) If Trump himself is willing to sit down with Chuck Todd, fine. Take him on over his many falsehoods. But no surrogates or fog machines unless they are willing to correct the president.
The American press corps is not like the government of Canada, which can speak with a single voice. Thousands of people working for hundreds of newsrooms cannot change their practices in synch with one another. But they can all decide, “This is extreme. We cannot accept this. This has gone too far.” And then make a break with normal practice.
For the Washington Post it might be declining to participate in so-called background briefings. For NPR, it might be refusing to report false claims by the President unless they are served as a “truth sandwich,” a suggestion recently made by Brian Stelter and Margaret Sullivan, interpreting the work of George Lakoff. For CNN, never going live to a Trump event — on the grounds that you will inevitably broadcast falsehoods if you do — would be a good start.
Suspend normal relations. It’s up to the journalists who cover Trump to decide how they will do it. The important thing is that they do it. And then announce what they did, to get others thinking about their own steps. In this way the sovereign state of journalism can take action, and show, as the Canadian prime minister said recently, that it will “not be pushed around.”
“The American political system—which includes everyone from voters to journalists to the president—is full of rational actors making rational decisions given the incentives they face,” writes political analyst Ezra Klein. “We are a collection of functional parts whose efforts combine into a dysfunctional whole.”
He traces the feedback loops between polarized political identities and polarized political institutions that are driving our system toward crisis.
On Being with Krista Tippett
Why Is This Happening with Chris Hayes
Ezra Klein Show interviewed by historian Jill Lepore
[If you can only listen to one, please choose On Being with Krista Tippett. Beyond the exemplary content, it’s worth noting the calm Krista brings to Ezra’s atypical tempo. She is seemingly able to, through conversation, slow his often rapid delivery allowing reflection, pause and spiritual insight.]
Journalist Ezra Klein has been widely interviewed about his new book, Why We’re Polarized. In this conversation, he’s frank and reflective about what’s at stake in human terms in this political moment. And he describes how we all — Democrat and Republican, journalist and citizen alike — walked into this as a way to trace our steps out of it.
What are the structures that shape people’s decision-making? What are the structures that lead us to be who we are? I think that we often have an illusion that we made a choice for ourselves, when that choice was so fundamentally shaped by who we are and where we grew up and what was around us and what made sense for us to do, that in some final accounting, it was really almost never a choice at all. And I think when you look at the world like that, then it becomes very, very deeply important — it becomes of central importance — that those systems are just and that, in some big way, we are helping people who were born into, or who fell into, the wrong systems.
one of the really radicalizing things for me in the past couple of years has been this question, and it came a lot from my political reporting and talking to members of Congress and watching other journalists and starting Vox, of just: Have we built a system that has structured itself such that it is, at the very least, very hard for people to express the best versions of themselves within it? And I think we have.
I talk about this interview I did with President Obama, in the book. And I talked to him about polarization, and he’s somebody — I interviewed him many times, and I have great admiration for him. And he’s somebody who, I think, in a very deep way, believed that America could overcome its polarization, believed that a lot of that polarization was illusory. And I asked him about it, because at that point in 2015, when we had this discussion, he was quite polarizing. And I asked him about this. And he said, well, look: We all know that we’re one way in politics, but then, when we’re on the soccer or the little league field together, or we’re at the PTA meeting, or we’re talking to our neighbors, or there’s been a storm, we’re very different than that. And so, yeah, then, maybe, when you talk to that person about politics, you can’t believe what they’re saying, but then you look beyond that, and they’re good people. This country is full of good people.
In the past couple of years — and it was actually at the recommendation of Varshini Prakash, who is the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, the climate change movement — I had a conversation with her on my show, and I asked her, what does she do when she thinks about failure? And she said that every day she reads some of the Tao, the Tao Te Ching. And I thought, that’s a strange answer. And so I went, and I had not read it since I was young, when I didn’t get anything out of it.
And this time when I read it, I was really, really, deeply struck by its ideas of non-dualism, its challenge to think about everything is also encoding its opposite. And so much of how we are taught to think — I just think in general, but very much in politics — is, things are one way. They are right, or they are wrong. We got it right, or we got it wrong. This person won, and this person lost. It’s a clean equation that has one answer, every single time. And the deep truth about the Obama presidency is that the DT presidency was within it …
And this time when I read it, I was really, really, deeply struck by its ideas of non-dualism, its challenge to think about everything is also encoding its opposite. And so much of how we are taught to think — I just think in general, but very much in politics — is, things are one way. They are right, or they are wrong. We got it right, or we got it wrong. This person won, and this person lost. It’s a clean equation that has one answer, every single time. And the deep truth about the Obama presidency is that the DT presidency was within it …
The title says it all on this one, folks. What is it about the American political system that cultivated this deeply dysfunctional and polarized climate? Last year, we had Ezra Klein on the show to assess how bad things were in the Trump era (conclusion: not great). Now, Klein is back to discuss his new book “Why We’re Polarized” which provides a systematic look at the deep structural defects in American democracy that are manifesting themselves in two coalitions that are increasingly at each other’s throats.
Jill Lepore is a Harvard historian, a New Yorker contributor, the author of These Truths, and one of my favorite past guests on this show. But in this episode, the tables are turned: I’m in the hot seat, and Lepore has some questions. Hard ones.
This is, easily, the toughest interview on my book so far. Lepore isn’t quibbling over my solutions or pointing out a contrary study — what she challenges are the premises, epistemology, and meta-structure that form the foundation of my book, and much of my work. Her question, in short, is: What if social science itself is too crude to be a useful way of understanding the political world?
But that’s what makes this conversation great. We discuss whether all political science research on polarization might be completely wrong, why (and whether) my book is devoid of individual or institutional “villains,” and whether I am morally obliged to delete my Twitter account, in addition to the missing party in American politics, why I mistrust historical narratives, media polarization, and much more.
This is, on one level, a conversation about Why We’re Polarized. But on a deeper level, it’s about different modes of knowledge and whether we can trust them.
“Throughout the last year, I received many emails and calls from Idahoans across the state urging me to run for the U.S. Senate. After deep contemplation, discussions with my family and prayer, I have decided to enter the race.
I have listened as Idahoans from all walks of life have expressed frustration with the corruption and partisan gridlock in Washington. As Senator, I will work tirelessly to ensure the rights of Idahoans and our children are not put second to corporate shareholders. I will put people over politics. I will represent the people of the great state of Idaho with enormous pride and dedication.
With your support, we will set a new standard of leadership — no longer will elected officials make decisions for the benefit of their corporate donors and personal interests. No more going to war to ensure that lucrative defense contracts are made. No more widespread environmental damage in order to increase corporate dividends. No more prioritizing for-profit prisons over the healthcare of our people.
Being actively involved in civic, environmental and political issues since the early nineties, I have a track record of fighting for Idahoans. As your Senator, I will bring pragmatic ideas and policies straight from the people of Idaho to the chambers of the United States Senate and represent Idahoans in a way they deserve.
I am excited at the opportunity to serve the people of this great state. But before I can serve, I must win. To be successful in this endeavor, it will take a very strong and dedicated grassroots organization. I believe the voters of this state will take a step forward with me in a united effort. I am turning to those who have supported me the longest, who know me best, humbly inviting you to get involved in my campaign and help me make a difference.
Thank you in advance for your encouragement, generous support, and prayers. My family and I are grateful for everything Idaho has given us and I hope to make you proud.”