The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was Created to Celebrate Freed Slaves (Gillian Brockell)

An early model, circa 1870, shows Lady Liberty with her right arm in the position we are familiar with, raised and illuminating the world with a torch. But in her left hand she holds broken shackles, an homage to the end of slavery.

In fact, black newspapers railed against it as meaningless and hypocritical. By 1886, Reconstruction had been crushed, the Supreme Court had rolled back civil rights protections, and Jim Crow laws were tightening their grip.

How to Save a Dying Language

How to Save a Dying Language (Alia Wong)

The territorial government established English as the only official language in 1893. From then on, people caught speaking Hawaiian faced severe social ostracism. The English-only law had an immediate chilling effect that prevented subsequent generations of Native Hawaiians from learning their linguistic ancestry.

“We come to understand sorrow or love or joy or indecision in particularly rich ways through the characters and incidents we become familiar with in novels or plays,” wrote Kathy Carter, a University of Arizona education scholar who studies teaching and language, in a 1993 paper for Educational Researcher. “This richness and nuance cannot be expressed in definitions, statements of fact, or abstract propositions. It can only be demonstrated or evoked through story.”

The Enduring Whiteness of Jane Austen

Recognizing the Enduring Whiteness of Jane Austen (Marcos Gonsalez)

Unmarked, and universal, whiteness structures this classroom, this university, this world.

But they don’t know what whiteness is because they have never had to see it before. To them, white students and white professors discussing white literature feels like nothing out of the ordinary; it’s just the way things are, the way things are meant to be.

Yet my suspicions linger over the politics of retellings because the dominating forces over our art and culture are notoriously guilty of telling those of us who are queer, disabled, trans, and of color, that our original stories are too particular and niche to reach a large enough audience. The stories these white writers craft are universal templates, apparently.

What does it look like to retell Lin Manuel-Miranda’s In the Heights? Nella Larsen’s Passing? Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior? The question becomes tricky because these works, like all works by any kind of writer, like Austen or Shakespeare, possess their specific social and cultural contexts, all of them their own beautiful specificity. Yet some of us are always more universal, always able to be just Art, just Literature, just Author, and never, lest we say it, lest we give up the ruse, white.

Dear Designer

Dear Designer: The Road Back (Mike Monteiro)

We were given the responsibility to use our labor and our expertise to make the world a better place, and we failed. We have, in fact, made it worse.

Yes, design is political. Because design is labor, and your labor is political. Where you choose to expend your labor is a political act. Whom you choose to expend it for is a political act. Whom we omit from those solutions is a political act. Finally, how we choose to leverage our collective power is the biggest political act we can take.

Slavery’s Fierce Undertow

Africa, America, and Slavery’s Fierce Undertow (Jacqueline Woodson)

Almost two weeks into my time in Ghana, my heart remains in my throat. There is nowhere in this country where the eye can land and the body not feel, at once, both a deep pain and an immense joy.

I think about what I’ve asked myself since landing on African soil. Can I belong here? Has this country truly called me home?

As true as an undertow, I feel the water pulling me back across it, taking me to where it took my ancestors centuries ago. To a land as foreign to them as the African chiefs who offered brown bodies over for weapons, brass and cotton. As foreign as the white captors who raped, brutalized and enslaved those same bodies. I feel the pull of the history that brought me here. And the history that took me away. A feeling as old as my body itself overcomes me — that I have never felt whole in one place. In Africa, like America, I am only halfway home. My body belonging to both and neither place.

Instagram Face

The Age of Instagram Face (Jia Tolentino)

Ideals of female beauty that can only be met through painful processes of physical manipulation have always been with us, from tiny feet in imperial China to wasp waists in nineteenth-century Europe. But contemporary systems of continual visual self-broadcasting—reality TV, social media—have created new disciplines of continual visual self-improvement. Social media has supercharged the propensity to regard one’s personal identity as a potential source of profit—and, especially for young women, to regard one’s body this way, too.

What did it mean, I wondered, that I have spent so much of my life attempting to perform well in circumstances where an unaltered female face is aberrant? How had I been changed by an era in which ordinary humans receive daily metrics that appear to quantify how our personalities and our physical selves are performing on the market? What was the logical end of this escalating back-and-forth between digital and physical improvement?

Work-Life Balance for WOC

Rethinking Work-Life Balance for Women of Color (Kimberly Seals Allers)

Throughout history, white women have used the labor of women of color to reduce their own domestic burden and free themselves up for corporate and civic pursuits. Simply put, the labor of Black, Hispanic and Asian American women has raised white women’s standard of living.

White women must openly acknowledge the role women of color have played in their advancement and make sure all are included at the discussion table for new policies, innovative businesses and creating paradigm shifts.