Happy Thursday, loyal readers, and thank you for opening today’s issue of The Highlighter. I grew up white, suburban, and excessively rule-abiding, and for those and many other structural reasons, I’ve never had a negative encounter with the police. That’s partly why reading “ Abolition For The Peop
Happy Thursday, loyal readers, and thank you for opening today’s issue of The Highlighter. I grew up white, suburban, and excessively rule-abiding, and for those and many other structural reasons, I’ve never had a negative encounter with the police. That’s partly why reading “Abolition For The People,” this week’s lead essay collection, was so illuminating and helpful. Edited by Colin Kaepernick, the series — which will grow to 30 essays over the course of this month — calls not just for defunding the police but dismantling the carceral state altogether. I urge you to read it, especially if it might challenge your politics and worldview.
If prisons and the police do not spark your interest, check out this week’s other excellent articles, including Victoria Blanco’s ode to her grandmother, Erica L. Green’s report on the unfair discipline of Black girls in school, and Daniel Vock’s analysis that GreatSchools has exacerbated housing segregation. Please enjoy!
+ Big thanks to loyal readers Nicki, Court, Hansa, and Wendy. You’ve reached 100 issues! Thank you for making our reading community a strong one.
This collection of outstanding articles — by Colin Kaepernick, Dr. Angela Y. Davis, Dr. Simone Browne, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Kiese Laymon, Dr. Stuart Schrader, Talila “TL” Lewis, and kihana miraya ross — make a simple case: that we need to abolish prisons and the police and invest in a future that emphasizes justice and the needs of the community.
Definitely read Mr. Kaepernick’s introductory essay, which argues that “defunding the police” and other reforms will serve only to preserve and entrench a system that has surveilled and terrorized Black people for too long. He writes, “Another world is possible, a world grounded in love, justice, and accountability, a world grounded in safety and good health, a world grounded in meeting the needs of the people.”
The other pieces are extremely valuable, too, and cover a range of topics. Don’t worry: There’s no “right order” if you want to read several. (~60 min)
Victoria Blanco: “Abuelita was 83 years old when she told us about her desire to be buried next to her family in Juárez. When she had turned 78, her rheumatoid arthritis had swelled her right leg and arm to twice their size. The abuelita of my early youth, who crushed red chiles and stirred a pot until the chile colorado became thick and auburn, who pulled baking trays from the oven filled with her enchiladas and chiles rellenos, who called my brothers and me to dinner and coaxed us to eat more, was becoming quiet and distant. Telenovelas and pills carried her through the evenings until she fell asleep. Throughout my adolescence I heard her cries of pain at night. My mom, exhausted after a full day of work, would run to her mother’s bedside to find that pain made Abuelita moan in her sleep. I became used to hearing the night cries, but my mom was the one who went to her; she spent a decade making sure that her mother remained asleep, if not free of pain.” (18 min)
At a rate even more disproportionate than Black boys, Black girls face more frequent and harsher punishment in school than their white peers. They’re five times more likely to be suspended than white girls and three times more likely to receive referrals to law enforcement. Erica L. Green reports that “adultification bias” among white educators explains the discrepancy and shares how a new lawsuit by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund demands legal recourse. (12 min)
+ Thank you to loyal reader Morenike for sharing this article with me.
Educators already know that GreatSchools, which gives each public school a score based mostly on standardized tests, isn’t so great. It’s really not great when these scores are plastered on Redfin as code for school demographics. CEO Jon Deane is open to changing his company’s algorithm to be more fair but maintains that parents deserve access to information about neighborhood schools. Plus, he adds, he can’t personally prevent potential homeowners from being racist. (17 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Let’s start off with a kind word from VIP Angelina. She wrote, “With the chaos of fires, COVID, and distance learning, The Highlighter is one consistent joy in my life right now.” Thank you, Angelina! Loyal readers, if you feel similarly, go ahead, make your sentiments known.
Also, last week’s lead article, “Is Freedom White?” resonated with many readers and sparked strong reactions. Loyal reader Cindy found the piece provocative and shared this thoughtful reply:
I have often truly been perplexed by the enormous fear behind white men who think that giving me and other people who are not white the same equality and fairness is somehow going to subtract from their freedoms. It always felt like a toddler who was mad they had to share. I put it in the bucket of some deep pathetic fear that drives typical bully logic and justification to oppress. But this article really helped clarify the idea that their actual definition of freedom means exercising power over others. It was very enlightening, so thank you!
Thank you very much, Cindy, for sharing your ideas. Loyal readers, if an article moved you or got you thinking, I’d love to hear from you. All you need to do is hit reply!
Thank you very much for reading yet another issue of The Highlighter. Do you have thoughts or feelings about one of the articles today? Let me know by hitting reply or by clicking on the thumbs below. I’m grateful for your feedback.
Also, let’s welcome our community’s 3 new members: Carmen, Anoop, and Marta. (Caitlin, thank for getting the word out!) I hope that you find this newsletter a solid addition to your Thursday email inbox.
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