Teaching Kindness Isn’t Enough (Bret Turner)

The harm done by long-term exposure to injustice—to the kind of imagery found in racist books, microaggressions and discrimination—calls for more than a simple understanding of kindness. It demands that kindness be interwoven with substantial notions of true justice.

What I tried to ensure in my classroom—frequently, intentionally and with care—was a viable, usable understanding of justice. Young people need to know what is (and isn’t) equitable, inclusive and just so they can begin to wrestle with systemic and institutional injustice, which affects them all in different ways.

The Midwest Has Meaning for More Than Just Whites (Morgan Jerkins)

Since 2016, our nation has been bombarded with profiles upon profiles of the Midwest that have been paradoxically both informative and narrow. The region itself has been the site for political fascination, most recently due to the rise of Donald Trump to the presidency. While it is true that Trump’s victories in the Midwest were crucial to him defeating Hillary Clinton, that is not the whole story. That is never the whole story. As Winfrey-Harris writes in her op-ed, “It is a bitter irony, then, that many of the arguments about Mr. Trump’s appeal to Midwesterners make sense only if you pretend Black people don’t exist in the middle of the country.”

The Fight to Redefine Racism (Kelefa Sanneh)

“Racism is not even six hundred years old,” Ibram Kendi writes, tracing its origin to the fifteenth-century explorations of his former namesake Prince Henry. “It’s a cancer that we’ve caught early.” But the cure, he thinks, will start with policies, not ideas. He suggests that, just as ideologies of racial difference emerged after the slave trade in order to justify it, antiracist ideologies will emerge once we are bold enough to enact an antiracist agenda: criminal-justice reform, more money for black schools and black teachers, a program to fight residential segregation.

Undermining Black Home Ownership with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Chris Hayes)

So this is a story about how a government program and the market working together in a moment where people are making … particularly African-American people… are making demands for racial equity, demands for integration, demands for housing quality, where our program comes in and the government and the private sector working together managed to create the exact opposite.

There is a reason why African-American organizations, community groups, have always called for a greater role of the state, because of the ways that racism and discrimination run rampant and unchecked in the private sector.

Wasted Striving

The Ungrateful Refugee (Dina Nayeri)

Grateful. There was that word again. Here I began to notice the pattern. This word had already come up a lot in my childhood, but in her mouth it lost its goodness. It hinted and threatened.

But there were unspoken conditions to our acceptance, and that was the secret we were meant to glean on our own: we had to be grateful. The hate wasn’t about being darker, or from elsewhere. It was about being those things and daring to be unaware of it. As refugees, we owed them our previous identity. We had to lay it at their door like an offering, and gleefully deny it to earn our place in this new country. There would be no straddling. No third culture here.

The refugee has to be less capable than the native, needier; he must stay in his place. That’s the only way gratitude will be accepted. Once he escapes control, he confirms his identity as the devil.

Unprotected from Politics

The Fragility of American Citizenship (Amanda Frost)

As this history shows, for nearly a century after the Fourteenth Amendment supposedly protected citizenship, the government took it away from groups and individuals that it deemed “un-American.”

So far, the Trump administration has explicitly targeted the citizenship of Americans born near the southern border and naturalized citizens, jeopardizing the citizenship of millions of people on the grounds that there was fraud or error in the naturalization process—the one avenue left to revoke citizenship after Afroyim v. Rusk. But there is no reason to think the government will stop there.

Nor is it paranoid to predict that in a world in which citizenship is up for grabs, the government will attack its critics as less than “real” Americans.

The Worst Harms

How Can We End Child Sexual Abuse Without Prisons? (Victoria Law)

If we can acknowledge the horrors of the criminal justice system and the prison-industrial complex, I think that can create more space for us to have real conversations. Part of the problem of trying to address child sexual abuse is that we’re still trying to protect our family members from the state. More can change if we can open up and say, “What does accountability look like? What does that look like if we knew that the person wasn’t going to be in jail, but we’re clear that they have to be held accountable?”

When I think about accountability, it’s having conversations where we talk about taking responsibility for one’s actions and exploring what healing could look like.