Feb 11, 2021 5 min read

#280: The Whiteness Of The Classics

#280: The Whiteness Of The Classics

Hi there , loyal readers. Thank you for being here, whether this is your first issue or your 280th. As a former history teacher, I loved this week’s well-written lead article, “ He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness ” and think you’ll like it, too, even if you’re not a fan of the ivory tower. The

Hi there

, loyal readers. Thank you for being here, whether this is your first issue or your 280th. As a former history teacher, I loved this week’s well-written lead article, “He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness” and think you’ll like it, too, even if you’re not a fan of the ivory tower. The other three pieces — about a white woman who pretends to be Black, a racist work environment at Bon Appétit, and a typical college evening that turns awful — are also worth your attention. I hope that you enjoy one or all of them!

+ Let’s take a brief moment to appreciate loyal readers








, and


. This is their 100th issue of The Highlighter. Should they get a prize?

+ I’m happy to announce that this month at

Article Club

, we’re reading and discussing “How The Black Vote Became a Monolith,” by Theodore R. Johnson, originally featured last September in Issue #262. I warmly invite you to join the discussion. You can find out more information and sign up here.

He Wants To Save Classics From Whiteness

He Wants To Save Classics From Whiteness

Whether it’s Black Lives Matter, taking down Confederate monuments, defunding the police, renaming schools in San Francisco, or responding to the pandemic, this past year has reminded us how charged and tribal our discourse has become. Princeton professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta believes we should question Classics as a discipline and reconsider whether Greece and Rome should be exalted over other ancient civilizations.

That seems like a reasonable inquiry, right? Not according to many of his colleagues, who reframe Prof. Padilla’s argument as an attempt to dismantle and abolish Classics altogether.

In this outstanding article, which offers a window into the conservatism of academia, Rachel Poser suggests that white liberals agree with Prof. Padilla’s critique — and welcome discussions on antiracism, whiteness, and white supremacy — so long as they can “go back to doing exactly what [they’ve] been doing.” (40 min)

Jessica Krug, The White Professor Who Posed As Black For Years

After former history professor Jessica Krug got caught for not being a Black woman, not being a Puerto Rican woman, and not being from the Bronx, she wrote, “I am a coward.” But she didn’t apologize. Ms. Krug grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, an affluent white suburb, and attended elite private schools before rebranding herself as Jess La Bombalera and decrying gentrification in New York City. Sure, we can ridicule Ms. Krug as we did Rachel Dolezal five years ago. But this phenomenon of white people posing as Black is not going away. And the harm they cause is profound. (22 min)

The elegant Banjo, who belongs to loyal reader Crystal, enjoys warm afternoon light. Want your pet to appear in The Highlighter? hltr.co/pets

The Test Kitchen At Bon Appétit

When the Bon Appétit scandal broke last year, I tried not to care too much, despite the story’s significance. There’s no way to follow everything, right? But now Reply All is doing a four-part exposé, with deep reporting by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, who begins the story 10 years ago, when the magazine hired a white editor from GQ who knew nothing about food. A toxic, racist workplace worsened, with chefs of color being expected to serve as assistants and getting snubbed from opportunities to appear in the magazine. In this podcast episode, Ms. Pinnamaneni listens and lifts up the voices of staff members as they describe how they came to realize that something was horrendously wrong at Bon App. (57 min)

+ In other food-related news, De Cecco has shared additional details about last year’s bucatini shortage.

Public Safety

Roxane Gay launched The Audacity last month, a newsletter in which she tells stories, hosts a book club, and features original essays from emerging writers. This essay by Paul Rousseau will shock you. One month before graduating from college, Mr. Rousseau is shot on accident by his best friend Mark inside their on-campus apartment. (No, that’s not the shocking part.) In the shooting’s aftermath, Mark lies and obfuscates, leaving Paul to contemplate the hole in his head. (16 min)

+ Here’s Ms. Gay in conversation with Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, co-editors of Black Futures. The first question: “What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?”

+ Reader Annotations

: Loyal reader and teacher


appreciated “The Zoom Gaze” (#276) and paired the article with Jia Tolentino’s “The I In The Internet” (which I should read) for students in her New Narratives electives class. Shreya writes:

For my juniors and seniors, ~35% of their entire high school careers (!) will have happened during the pandemic, with video platforms a huge part of how they will have taken AP tests, done college campus visits and interviews, had class social events and milestones like graduation, etc. It was interesting to discuss how Zoom has been amazing in allowing school to happen but is also really disorienting and problematic.

I’m happy your students had a good discussion, Shreya! (Teachers get extra points for incorporating articles from The Highlighter into their classes.)

Readers last week also connected with “The Climate Crisis Is Worse Than You Can Imagine. What If You Try?” Loyal reader


does her part to combat climate change but also “felt bad for the Kalmus family.” She writes:

They are letting this slow-moving disaster ruin the life they currently have. I get where they’re coming from, but I also felt sad for them. I think about this all the time as well, and how so many people think we're “weird” to not want to acquire junk, for instance, or try to eat in a way that is less disruptive to the environment. There are not enough people trying to make changes, so my belief is that it needs to come from corporations and legislation; otherwise, we're all screwed. (I think we’re all screwed.)

Loyal readers, I value hearing your thoughts and learning from your perspectives. Please hit reply and let’s keep this conversation going!

Please give yourself a pat on the back

. You chose to read The Highlighter instead of watching the cat lawyer video on repeat. I hope you enjoyed this week’s issue. Let me know what you thought by hitting reply or by clicking on the thumbs below.

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