Jul 1, 2021 5 min read

#300: Race Realist

#300: Race Realist

We did it, loyal readers. After six years and more than 1,200 articles, we’ve reached Issue #300. Can you believe it? What began as an excuse to ply my friends with articles has become a robust community of thoughtful people who care about reading and discussing the best pieces on race, education, a

We did it, loyal readers. After six years and more than 1,200 articles, we’ve reached Issue #300. Can you believe it?

What began as an excuse to ply my friends with articles has become a robust community of thoughtful people who care about reading and discussing the best pieces on race, education, and culture. Thank you for being part of it.

When did you first subscribe? Was it before The Rebrand? Or maybe when the website launched? Did you attend the first HHH? Win some original merch? Are you the original VIP? Did your pet appear in the first calendar? Did you make a rowing video with all your Highlighter swag? Or maybe a timelapse video of your multiple-hour holiday reading session? Were you at the first Article Club with Jia Tolentino? Or at the First Annual Game Show? Or are you new, like Marcus, who signed up an hour ago? No matter when you joined, or how you have supported me and this venture, I am deeply grateful.

I’m especially proud that the newsletter has continued to grow over the past year. Since the pandemic started, nearly every new subscriber is a person I have never met before. I appreciate the trust that you place in me to find and share articles worthy of your time and attention. If you want to, and if you feel comfortable, please reach out. I’d like to learn more about you and what you care about.

Even though The Highlighter will always remain playful, we’re also very serious about the power of reading to improve our lives. We are better people when we take time to read well-written articles that urge us to pause, reflect, and act. We are better people when we connect with others and discuss great articles in community, both in affinity and across difference. Reading is a big deal, and I’m happy we’re reading together.

In this week’s issue, you’ll read about a white supremacist professor who teaches mostly first generation Black and Brown students in the Bay Area. Then with help from a film and media professor, you’ll analyze photographs from last summer’s protests for racial justice. Be ready for a gift in the middle of today’s newsletter, then scroll down to the bottom, where you’ll find two noteworthy pieces that illuminate opposing responses to capitalism. (I prefer the second choice.) Please enjoy!

+ I know I’m supposed to say this, but it’s really true: If you’re not participating in Article Club, you’re missing out! Last Sunday, writer and healer Amirah Mercer joined us for a conversation on her outstanding piece, “A Homecoming: How I Found Empowerment in the History of Black Veganism.” It was fun and insightful. Want to try it out?

+ Personal news: I’m starting a new job next month. It’s about reading. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Until then, I’ll be resting (see below).

The ‘Race Realist’ On Campus

The ‘Race Realist’ On Campus

After decades teaching about government finance, health insurance markets, and other humdrum economics topics, Cal State East Bay professor Gregory Christainsen experienced an epiphany. It was time for a change. It was time to follow his true calling: to research and teach about eugenics.

In this well-written special report, journalist Jason Fagone reveals Prof. Christainsen's racist ideas — for instance, that race predicts intelligence, and that white and Asian people are smarter than Black and Brown people — and wonders why it took challenges by BIPOC colleagues Pascale Guilton and Nazzy Pakpour before university officials interrogated (but did not change) their stances on academic freedom and free speech.

“It is absolutely remarkable how little negative feedback I have received,” Prof. Christainsen wrote in an email to Mr. Fagone. Though he retired from teaching a few years ago, he retains his emeritus status. (35 min)

+ If you prefer reading something entirely different, Mr. Fagone also wrote “Jerry and Marge Go Large,” about delightful septuagenarian lottery schemers. It was one of my favorite articles of 2018. I got to interview Mr. Fagone last July for Article Club.

Picturing Catastrophe: The Visual Politics Of Racial Reckoning

Prof. Rizvana Bradley: “The photographs from early June, which inaugurated the summer of 2020 as a moment of ‘racial reckoning,’ share a common representational ambition: to render Black life and the brutalities arrayed against it present in ways that elide the structural depth and historical intractability of anti-Black violence. The incessant cycling of images of multiracial solidarity alongside intimate images of Black grief and pain demands that singular experiences and expressions of Black suffering and anger, exhaustion and enervation become sutured to a politics of reconciliation. The viewer is confronted with an image of dissent, but it is a visual dissensus engineered in the interest of social consensus." (26 min)

This beautiful piece of art, a gift from loyal reader Mindy (with an assist from loyal reader Matt), commemorates this auspicious occasion. Thank you!

Hard Bargain: How Amazon Turned A Generation Against Labor

If it’s true that the labor market is tight, and that wages are rising, then why did workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, vote overwhelmingly in April not to unionize? To understand the answer, Daniel Brook writes, we must meet 23-year-old Carrington Byers, who comes from a union family but voted no because he believes Amazon is “family.” Besides, like most young people, he doesn't see himself tied to this job. After all, Carrington Cosmetics, his nascent business, is where his future lies. (25 min)

Lying Flat: China’s Downwardly Mobile Millennials Are Throwing In The Towel

Having trouble motivating? Is the idea of going outside bringing you down? If so, you might be languishing. But if you’re young, critical of neoliberal capitalism, and pessimistic about your chances for economic mobility, you may want to join thousands of Chinese millennials who are practicing tang ping (躺平), or “lying flat.” This new philosophy champions constraining your desires, forgetting your ambitions, doing very little, and not trying anymore. As I head into a month of vacation, and as an advanced rester myself, I could get into this! (10 min)

Thank you

for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Did you enjoy it? Let me know by clicking on “Yes” or ”No” below. I like hearing from you.

I appreciate all of you, but as we finish up on Issue #300, I’d like to thank the newsletter’s 50 VIPs (aka “Magic Markers”) and its first 10 subscribers, who have been supporting me and The Highlighter ever since the beginning:


















, and


. I am very grateful. Did you think I was going to just keep going and going? (Don’t answer that.)

If you like The Highlighter, please help it grow. I appreciate your support. Here are a few ways you can help:

On the other hand, if you no longer want to receive this newsletter, please unsubscribe. See you next Thursday at 9:10 am PT!

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