Aug 15, 2019 4 min read

#205: 1619

#205: 1619

This Sunday , The New York Times Magazine will devote its entire issue to The 1619 Project , which “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the story we tell

This Sunday, The New York Times Magazine will devote its entire issue to The 1619 Project, which “aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.” This week’s lead article, “America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One,” is one I’m confident is worth your time.

+ Highlighter Happy Hour #11 is approaching, and I’d love to see you there! HHH is a great way to deepen relationships with other loyal readers. We’re meeting Thursday, Sept. 5 at Room 389 in Oakland, beginning at 5:30 pm. Get your free ticket here!

+ One more thing: Thank you for your readership! More great people are subscribing, reading articles, emailing me your thoughts, urging friends not to miss an issue, attending Pop-Up Article Clubs, and getting the word out about the newsletter. I appreciate that we’re building this reading community.

America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One

America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black Americans Made It One

In this brilliant essay, Nikole Hannah-Jones argues that 1619, not 1776, should mark the beginning of our nation’s history. Slavery, rather than the Declaration of Independence, more accurately explains the foundation of the United States. Despite their centuries-long subjugation, Black Americans have shaped our country’s experience, Ms. Hannah-Jones emphasizes. She writes, “Black Americans have been, and continue to be, foundational to the idea of American freedom. More than any other group in this country’s history, we have served, generation after generation, in an overlooked but vital role: It is we who have been the perfecters of this democracy.” (34 min)

+ If you teach U.S. History, your students should read this article. Email me if you want to talk through ideas.

Whiteness on the Couch

White people seek therapy, says clinical psychologist Natasha Stovall, to get support on their problems. They’re anxious and depressed and obsessive and compulsive, just to name a few. But Dr. Stovall believes the real problem is deeper. It is whiteness itself. This essay probes why white people avoid doing the internal work necessary to interrupt the harmful effects of whiteness. “When confronted, we feel shame, hopelessness, rage, aggression. Or we feel guilty, and we resent the guilt. Then we settle back into a cloud of vaguely shameful dissociation and begin to forget again.” (32 min)

Gracie, who belongs to loyal reader Sivan, enjoys mild roaring and grandiose yawning. Nominate your pet to appear in The Highlighter!

Beloved: 8 Tributes To Toni Morrison

The great Toni Morrison died last week at the age of 88. Several of you reached out to share how Ms. Morrison’s work inspired and affected you. Here are eight tributes, written by Michelle Obama, Esi Edugyan, Sherrilyn Ifill, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Tayari Jones, Jacqueline Woodson, Michele L. Norris, and Leah Wright Rigueur, that honor Ms. Morrison and her legacy. (Ms. Obama likes Song of Solomon.) (20 min)

+ You may also want to read this profile and this interview of Ms. Morrison.

Data Boosts College Graduation Rates. But What About, You Know, Privacy?

More than a third of U.S. colleges use trends in historical data to predict whether current students will graduate. This practice, called predictive analytics, has boosted graduation rates, since college advisers can intervene early if a student is in danger. But it also means that many students — and particularly students of color — are being pushed to take easier majors, thereby foregoing more lucrative careers. Is this the right thing to do? (21 min)

+ Read about how Georgia State uses Big Data to graduate more Black students than any other college.

+ Reader Annotations: Our conversation on school choice (#202, #203) is deepening. Loyal reader Nicki wrote:

Castlemont High School

Loyal reader Sivan shared these thoughts:

I wanted to respond to this topic because the data in the research is clear. 1) Peers matter: the smarter your peers are, the better you do; 2) White parents don’t want to send their kids to schools with high concentrations of students of color. This is likely because many people use race as a proxy for the ability of peers or overall perceptions of school resources at schools with students of color. School choice research continues to show that when parents have the choice, students end up in more segregated schools. This isn’t just because those are the closest schools to them, but there is a reason that people want to be in schools where they are not the minority, regardless of the color of their skin. The benefits of being in a diverse school should be that students learn how to live in a world with people who are different from them and don’t see those differences as bad — and that those with privilege can be the tide that lifts all boats. If it’s not intentional by everyone, though, I’m not sure it can work.

Thank you, Nicki and Sivan, for engaging deeply with the articles and pushing the conversation. Loyal readers, if an article inspires you, or makes you angry, or if you want to add your voice, please hit reply and tell me what you think.

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