Things I read this week – 7/19

I’ve been wanting a way to catalog all the great articles, posts, and stories I read online, that are passed to me via email or text or Tumblr post, that I pass along in the same way. But never all in one spot – until now! I’m going to try to get into the habit of doing this on Fridays.

Of course, this week I read a lot of responses to the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, after the verdict came down last weekend. I won’t write a lot of commentary since what they say is a lot more meaningful right now than what I could say on the topic, but here are a few of my favorites:

My Parents Told Me the Sad Truth About America by Charles Mudede for The Stranger

My parents went to great lengths to fix in my head a permanent and realistic picture of this society. They wanted me to forget about American laws, about my rights, and about what people in the news, in school, and in books said about the fairness of the justice system, and instead just focus on the facts—who gets arrested, who ends up in prison, who is on death row, and who ends up dead. My chances of surviving this brutal system and of getting to college would be greatly improved if I always operated with an understanding of what America really is and not what America thinks or imagines it is. When in the classroom, I had to see the white teacher as a person who was expecting me to fail and drop out. And when walking or riding home, I had to be aware that my skin (not what I wore, did, or said) coded me as a criminal.

I hate that this (above) is true.

The Zimmerman Jury Told Young Black Men What We Already Knew by Cord Jefferson for Gawker

It is a complicated thing to be young, black, and male in America. Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.

This article brought me to tears multiple times.

Trayvon Martin and I Ain’t Shit by Ahmir Questlove Thompson on Facebook (originally via New York Magazine – but I wanted to source his original writing)

i dont know how to not internalize the overall message this whole trayvon case has taught me:

you aint shit.

that’s the lesson i take from this case.

you aint shit.

those words are deep cause these are words i heard my whole life:

i heard from adults in my childhood that i need to be “about something” other than all that banging and clanging and music i play all the time”….and as i got older i heard i wasn’t as good as “so and so and so and so” is at music. —i mean the “you a’int shit” stories i got—jesus its a wonder i made it.

Had to include something by ?uestlove. His post is raw and real and angry and poignant, and it’s pretty awesome to see that kind of sincerity from a celebrity.

And some writing on other topics:

A Life-or-Death Situation by Robin Marantz Henig for The New York Times

The tangled, sometimes contradictory nature of Brooke’s feelings has led to subtle shifts in Peggy’s scholarly thinking. She still believes that, whenever possible, people have the right to choose when and how to die. But she now better understands how vast and terrifying that choice really is. “What has changed,” she told me, “is my sense of how extremely complex, how extremely textured, any particular case is.” This realization is infinitely more fraught when you’re inextricably invested in the outcome and when the signals your loved one sends are not only hard to read but also are constantly in flux.

I finished reading Stiltsville earlier this week, wherein the main character’s husband struggles with ALS. That inspired a discussion with my boyfriend (“if it’s me, pull the plug!” “but, I love you!” – you can guess what side I was on), and then I came across this piece about a bioethicist and her husband who was paralyzed after a cycling accident. It gave me a lot to think about – I’m still processing. I hope this particular issue is not one I’ll have to face in a personal way any time soon.

Surviving a For-Profit School by Stephen S. Mills for The Rumpus

They recruited people at kiosks in malls, at Orlando Magic games, and on expensive recruitment trips to poor countries where they would convince people that a shiny new Apple laptop and a poorly-functioning website was a quality education. A student could literally go from never having heard of the school to signing up and starting classes within the span of two weeks. And in those two weeks, they also signed up for a lot of debt. The school charged between $60,000 to $100,000 for the degrees. This was just for the classes. For the “education.” The school offered no housing or food plans. It didn’t take me long to realize I’d become just one of the moving parts in a large education scam.

The state of secondary education America is another big topic that I get weary of quickly, but this particular perspective  piqued my interest. The article reminded me, uncomfortably, of tales my cousin has told me about teaching composition and linguistics classes at colleges in New York City – not for-profit institutions, but the lack of resources (and even ethics) is the same.

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