A Q&A with Alan Levinovitz | While researching people’s attitudes towards food, I found that the idea of naturalness came up constantly. The “right” diet was a “natural” diet. And yet, despite widespread agreement on the goodness of what’s natural, there was complete disagreement about the meaning of the term. As I started paying more attention to the term, I realized that using “natural” as a vague synonym for “good” or “right” was omnipresent in virtually every aspect of human culture.
By An Xiao Mina | “Is it true?” a friend asked me through a text message. “Is there already a cure?” They sent me a video purporting to announce a cure for COVID-19 through various treatments. It was just one of many floating around online, amidst rampant memetic misinformation promoting conspiracy theories and misconceptions alike.
Once upon a Gilded Age, Americans once treated Islam and Muslims with both fascination and respect. Hard to believe in our post-9/11 timeline, but it’s true. Swept by romanticized images of Muslims found in most popular entertainment at the time and Arabian Nights, thousands of Americans were enthralled by the Islamic Orient. Some, in fact, saw Islam as a global antiracist movement uniquely suited to people of African descent living in an era of European imperialism, Jim Crow segregation, and officially sanctioned racism. Some, like enigmatic circus performer John Walter Brister.
By Rosemarie Day | Ninety-two percent of working-age adults believe that affordable healthcare should be a right in this country. Regardless of party affiliation, the vast majority of Americans support this position. And yet, this election cycle, the political messaging surrounding healthcare has been dominated by rhetoric that divides us. From a president who claims (falsely) that he is protecting people with preexisting conditions, to one of the two remaining Democratic candidates (Sanders) who champions Medicare for All (“he wrote the damn bill!”, after all), Americans can feel trapped by these polarized positions.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Long before there was ever a concept called “feminism” in the US settler State, there was the knowledge of women’s power in Indigenous communities. The imposition of foreign cultures, and Christianity in particular, was corrosive to societies that were typically matrilineal or matrifocal, were foundationally equitable in the distribution of power between the genders, and often respected the existence of a third gender and non-hetero relationships. As Christianity swept over the continent, it instilled Indigenous societies with patriarchal values that sought not only to diminish women’s inherent cultural power but also to pathologize alternative gender identities, relationships, and marriage practices outside the bounds of monogamy, establishing a general pattern of gender and relationship suppression that constructs modern American society and reordered Native societies.
By Nicole Aschoff | Many of the critiques about smartphones stem from the myriad ways they are used to perpetuate and obscure coercive and unjust relationships. Our pocket computers are used in ways that reconfigure, and often reinforce and renew, existing power inequalities. We see this power inequality most starkly in the relationship between corporations and workers, and between corporations and consumers. In the gig economy our hand machines mediate the employment relationship, encouraging app workers to view their phones as their boss. But our phones are not the boss; companies are.
We’re going two for two—our second author to appear this year on The Daily Show! On March 4, Trevor Noah interviewed disability rights activist Judith Heumann on The Daily Show in honor of Women’s History Month. And we’re squeeing again like the book groupies we are! “Reading this book, I expected to be impressed by it, but I wasn’t quite expecting how much of a badass you would be,” Noah told Heumann. And he’s right: she’s a total badass!
By James W. Russell | If the Bernie Sanders momentum continues, his signature Medicare for All proposal will become an even more intense subject of national debate than it already is. Attaining universal health insurance has never been a technical problem in the United States. We know that because every other major country and a number of minor ones have attained it at much lower cost and with better health outcomes than the private health insurance system that we have. If they can do it, so too could the United States.
By Kristen Joiner | Judy Heumann isn’t nice. Let me be clear. Judy Heumann, one of the most transformative disability rights leaders of our time, is very friendly. Just take a walk around her Washington, DC, block. You’ll see that she’s on a first-name basis with everyone, from the doorman to the bus driver. But she is not nice. For the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of waking up and imagining myself into Judy Heumann’s shoes.
By Adrienne Berard | The new virus emerged in December. The coronavirus, or COVID-19, originated in Wuhan, a city of 11 million located in central China. Since the initial outbreak, more than 76,000 people have been infected globally, in as many as twenty-seven countries, with more than 2,200 deaths being reported, mostly in China.
We’re in a time when the most powerful institutions in the United States are embracing the repressive and racist systems that keep many communities struggling and in fear. As the effects of aggressive policing and mass incarceration harm historically marginalized communities and tear families apart, how do we define safety? It is time to reimagine what it means.
By Stephanie L. Pinder-Amaker and Lauren P. Wadsworth | On February 5, Penguin Random House and Barnes & Noble Fifth Avenue announced a bold plan to “kick off Black History Month” by giving “twelve classic young adult novels new covers, known as Diverse Editions.” The reimagined classics would include Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, Romeo and Juliet, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Treasure Island, Emma . . . well, you get the idea.
Announcing the Oscars nominee lineup for best director with John Cho, Issa Rae threw the best shade at the Academy. “Congratulations to those men.” We feel you, Issa! In all the Oscars’ ninety-two years, only five women have ever been nominated for the award, Katheryn Bigelow being the only one to win it for The Hurt Locker. Yet Bigelow’s win was in 2009. Why were no women nominated for best director this year? Or perhaps the better question is how. How does this keep happening? Because it’s symptomatic of a much larger issue.
Fiction can be a rich go-to venue for walking in someone else’s shoes, to transport yourself to another place or time or mindset through the power of expert wordsmithing. Most often, what you read in novels is based on real-life stories of people who have lived the tale. And when these stories are rendered in works of memoir, historiography, biography, journalistic exposés, or even poetry, we feel the same narrative power as we do in fiction. This is especially important when reading about the diverse and complex lives of Latinx communities.
Two years ago, award-winning sportswriter and culture critic Howard Bryant explored the rise, fall, and resurgence of Black activism in the sports arena in The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism. He’s back with a new book, and this time, he gets deeply personal. Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field, a collection of ten essays, is an impassioned reflection on how Black citizens must always navigate the sharp edges of whiteness in America—as citizens who are often at risk of being told, especially during times of increasing authoritarianism, to go back where they came from. And in each essay, Bryant does not hold back.
By Peter Jan Honigsberg | Guantánamo, situated on a forty-five-mile spit of land on the southeastern coast of Cuba, has become more than a detention center for alleged terrorists, in reaction to the attacks on September 11, 2001. It is more than a naval base housing nearly ten thousand soldiers and personnel, complete with McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Jamaican jerk chicken, a movie theater, and navy exchange, or NEX, shops. Guantánamo is a metaphor for much that has gone wrong after 9/11.
By James W. Russell | Democrats, looking forward to possible Congressional and White House victories in 2020, have embraced expanding Social Security after years of defensively fending off privatization and cutback threats. The Social Security 2100 Act, with 209 co-sponsors, is waiting in the wings. It would make needed revenue increases, including raising the cap on labor income taxed, to stabilize Social Security’s finances for seventy-five years. It would also mildly expand benefits.
It’s not often that our authors appear on The Daily Show, but when they do, we flip out and rejoice! Mary Frances Berry, former Chairwoman of the US Commission on Civil Rights and a lifelong activist, was invited to speak on the show on January 20, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She was the only guest on the program that evening. You’d think that this meeting of the minds would have happened sooner.
A Q&A with Howard Axelrod | “The Stars in Our Pockets” considers the questions I’ve wrestled with since returning from the Vermont woods: How do environments, both natural and digital, change our orientation in the world? And if adapting to the digital environment means losing traits that you value, how do you determine which trades are worth making?
You won’t find corny-ass statements here proclaiming that the year 2020 will usher a time of clearer vision. Puh-lease. That’s tired. What’s worth saying here, however, is we need to keep our eyes on the issues that matter to us as we begin a new decade. Now that’s wired. We can get a picture of what matters by looking back at some of the top read blog posts on the Broadside in 2019.