Hi there! Thank you for being here. If you’re not new to the newsletter, you know that I don’t aim to build themed issues. My goal is more simple: to find you the best articles on race, education, and culture. But sometimes, like this week, the four pieces talk to each other, and a theme emerges. To
Thank you for being here. If you’re not new to the newsletter, you know that I don’t aim to build themed issues. My goal is more simple: to find you the best articles on race, education, and culture. But sometimes, like this week, the four pieces talk to each other, and a theme emerges. Today’s issue explores the various ways that people share space — whether that space means city streets, college classrooms, elementary school buildings, or theater stages. Spoiler: It’s messy, and most of the time, it’s not pretty. But if you look closely enough, there are glimmers of hope, opportunities to reflect, and strategies to pursue. I hope you enjoy the offerings.
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Growing up in Jamaica, Garnette Cadogan loved to walk. The streets, filled with adventure, offered safety from his abusive stepfather. He writes, “Unlike at home, I could be myself without fear of bodily harm. Walking became so regular and familiar that the way home became home.”
When Mr. Cadogan moves to New Orleans to attend college, however, his love for walking quickly changes. People cross the street when he approaches; white women clutch their bags; young white men trade a nervous hello for safety. “What no one had told me was that I was the one who would be considered a threat,” he writes. After run-ins with the police, Mr. Cardogan finds himself thickening his accent, donning khakis, and employing other cop-proof survival tactics.
But years later, when Mr. Cadogan moves to New York — ostensibly a walker’s paradise — even those efforts, which tear at his dignity, are not enough. He writes, “Walking—the simple, monotonous act of placing one foot before the other to prevent falling—turns out not to be so simple if you’re Black.” (19 min)
Ample evidence suggests we’re doomed as a country. But believe in young people, teach them to listen, and we’ll be all right, says ethics professor Evan Mandery. When engaged in dialogue about complex dilemmas, young people replace judgment with curiosity, letting go of sinister motives about others. Prof. Mandery is one of many academics — including Carol Gilligan, Michael Sandel, and Donna Kaplowitz — who think that radical listening and intergroup dialogue will supplant our short-sighted, hate-filled tendencies. (27 min)
+ Fun fact: Prof. Gilligan once called me “very helpful” after I found a book she requested at the Monroe C. Gutman Library.
White parents ask me all the time where they should send their children to school. I tell them they don’t want to hear my answer. Maybe I should start recommending this five-part podcast documentary instead. It follows Beth, a privileged mom who wants to stop hoarding opportunity and instead enroll her kids in a racially diverse school. On her journey, Beth learns to listen deeply and participate humbly in her new school community. She shuns 504s and the gifted and talented program. But she can’t entirely eradicate her feelings of pity. And she’s feeling lonely that she’s lost friends back at her fancy school. It’s cringey at times, for sure, but it’s real. (5 episodes, 150 min)
Twenty years ago, before Lawrence v. Texas, and certainly before gay marriage, Raymond Caldwell, chair of the theater department at Kilgore College, decided to stage Angels in America. His decision led to a community uproar and the dissolution of his marriage. But for Wes Ferguson, who grew up in Kilgore, watching the play allowed him to connect with people “who persisted through pain and personal torment more severe than anything I had experienced.” (32 min)
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