Sep 9, 2021 4 min read

#310: Afropessimism

#310: Afropessimism

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here. This week’s issue of The Highlighter includes essays and articles on the theme of Afropessimism , a school of thought founded by Professor Frank Wilderson . The philosophy advances that slavery did not end in the 19th century but rat

Happy Thursday, loyal readers. Thank you very much for being here.

This week’s issue of The Highlighter includes essays and articles on the theme of Afropessimism, a school of thought founded by Professor Frank Wilderson. The philosophy advances that slavery did not end in the 19th century but rather evolved to challenge Black resistance. As a result, while Black people are integral to society, they’re excluded and made invisible.

My favorite journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has often been called pessimistic for her 1619 Project and views on segregation. “More like realistic,” she has said to white progressive audiences who would prefer that she sound more hopeful. She said, “One of the biggest acts of resistance is to say, ‘I will exist.’ Our existence is our resistance.”

Today’s issue includes articles on Afropessmism and reparations, the limitations of big business to counteract white supremacy, the effects of digital technologies on colorism, and the decline of Black ballplayers in our national pastime. I hope you find one or more pieces worthy of your time and attention. Enjoy!

+ Highlighter Happy Hour is back for the first time since March 2020! We’ll meet at Room 389 in Oakland on Thursday, September 23, beginning at 5:30 pm. Bring your vaccination card, connect with other loyal readers, and spread the joy of our reading community. We’re capping this outside event to ~15 people, to keep things safe and intimate, so get your free ticket soon!

Reparations, Afropessimism, And White Supremacy

Reparations, Afropessimism, And White Supremacy

Loren Laomina: “Know thyself, we are told. As a student, I sprinted through ‘Black history,’ afraid that if I slowed to look long at our stories, ghouls would emerge from between the pages. Centuries of slavery, decades of Jim Crow, of these I sped read with clenched fists from a great emotional distance. I stuck to dates and stats, wrote papers with words like ‘unfortunate’ and ‘trying’ instead of ‘tragic’ and ‘horrifying.’ My understanding of the Black existential condition has changed over time, but there is at least one throughline: to be a Black American is to be psychically imperiled by your history.” (14 min)

Big Business Pledged $50 Billion After George Floyd’s Murder. Where’d It Go?

After George Floyd’s murder last year, corporations announced they could no longer stay silent in the face of white supremacy and police brutality. This article tracks the $50 billion that big business promised and reveals that most of the money has not gone to reform criminal justice or to organizations directly related to Black Lives Matter. Law professor Mehrsa Baradaran said, “The answer to these massive problems is not going to come from promises. We don’t want just benevolent billionaires and nicer, softer, more-woke monopolies. We want an economic structure that allows for more mobility, and we don’t have that.” (25 min)

Zelda, who belongs to loyal reader Elisabeth, enjoys napping, cuddling, eating, and playing the guitar. A former street dog from Dallas, she believes in animal rescue. Also: Please check out Elisabeth’s Latinx Collective (, an outstanding newsletter that features positive stories and news about the Latinx community, promoting inspiration and empowerment. I subscribe, so should you!

Beauty Filters Perpetuate Colorism Against People With Darker Skin

While the skin-lightening industry continues to boom (now $8 billion each year), the real problem contributing to colorism is the pervasiveness of beauty filters and other digital technologies (e.g., Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram) that uphold warped, narrow beauty standards. Millions of people, especially young women, consider photo editing as desirable. Beautywell’s Amira Adawe says, “They think it’s normal. They’re like, ‘Oh, this is not skin lightening, Amira. This is just a filter,’” she says. “A lot of these young girls use these filters and think, ‘Oh my God, I look beautiful.’ ” (11 min)

The Nine: Why Baseball Is Confronting A Decline In African American Players

For several years, when my beloved San Francisco Giants had no Black American players on their team, I didn’t hear a peep of surprise or protest. That’s because Black ballplayers have largely disappeared, now making up just 8 percent of major league rosters. This outstanding collection, which profiles nine outstanding players – including Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Ian Moller – reveals the barriers they faced and explores how baseball can make the game more inclusive. (27 min)

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loved last week’s Food Issue. She wrote, “I’m very into this issue. Because: I LOVE corn. I have always wanted to know why chicken is SO CHEAP! And I discovered garlic noodles when I moved to the Bay, now I can’t imagine life without them.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Katherine! Loyal readers, if a piece moves you, or you have something to say, hit reply and let me know.

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