Friday, July 31, 2015

Weekend Reading: The Heavy Things Edition

There has been a lot of death and suffering in the my Twitter feed lately. Perhaps I need a break. Maybe next week, I will look for only lighter things to share, but for this week, I have mostly heavy things. I am sorry, but the world is heavy these days.

Tressie McMillan Cottom's personal story of being arrested as part of a minor traffic stop is,,, I don't know what to say here. Wonderful seems inappropriate given the subject matter. Compelling? Important. Whatever, go read it. Personally, I read just about anything she posts, so I read her second piece at the Atlantic about Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, too. This one is about the stories not told in that book, and it is definitely worth your time.

Sally Kohn's piece about reading the book as a white woman- and why we should read it, even though it will be hard- is also worth your time. I confess to feeling a little bit of optimism upon finding a piece like this in a publication like Elle.

I also read an old post from Patrick Blanchfield about... boy, about a lot. The title is Sandy Hook, "White on White Crime" and How Privilege Kills and that is probably as good a summary as any I can come up with. It was was written after the report from the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate released its report about the Sandy Hook shootings. It covers a lot of ground, and I found it very, very disturbing, not least of all because if I'm honest with myself, I cannot be completely sure I would have responded to the challenge of raising a child like Adam Lanza better than Nancy Lanza did. I cannot be sure I would not have used- no, misused- my privilege just as she did. That is a really disturbing thing to think about.

I give her the benefit of the doubt, and think she believed she was doing what was best for a child she loved and wanted to protect. And she did some really, really wrong things, and was able to avoid the help other, more impartial people thought her child needed because she had the money and social standing to do so. 

I can be sure that I wouldn't have provided access to guns, so I guess there's that.

Anyway, go read that post, but be prepared for it to hurt a little.

OK, here's some actual good news: Merck and WHO ran a trial of an Ebola vaccine in West Africa, and the results were very, very encouraging. I hope that further studies bear this finding out.

And this isn't good news or bad news, it is just interesting: a dot map of every job in the US, color-coded by industry segment.

In "I like to make money" news, I gave the Run Better Meetings seminar, and it went well. I've decided to make the recording available for purchase via GumRoad. Details here.

I also finalized the formatting for Unspotted and uploaded the final files. Let the countdown to release day (August 12!) begin. You, of course, can get a jumpstart on that by pre-ordering.

Let's end on a genuinely fun note: my husband tried his hand at making a crappy thing to stop a child from whining, and was successful. Behold, the crappy pom-poms!

Also, how cool is this drawing?


  1. Anonymous7:36 PM

    I really like Rachel Thomas's article for its mix of well-documented discussion of the retention problems and concrete proposals.

    One of the things I've been thinking about lately is the question of how to turn privilege into power. Roxane Gay's discussion of white people apologizing to her reminded me of Michel Martin's article "What I've Left Unsaid." She had a powerful conclusion: "I don't want your pity, and I can't use your guilt. I don't want my white female colleagues to "check" their privilege. I want them to use it—their networks, their assets, their relationships—to form a united front with women of color, and to help improve things for all of us."

    That line has haunted me since I read it because I feel like it gets right to the point of a lot of racial tensions in social justice movements. People in positions of less relative privilege want those of us in positions of greater relative privilege to use it to make change, but operating in one of those positions, I have no idea how. How can white people move past simply apologizing for police brutality against black people and instead force it to end? How can white women use relative privilege to enact structural change that can better support women of color when we're so often still struggling to get respect and power ourselves?

    I know that personally I am very privileged, and I am both grateful for it and happy to acknowledge the way my class and perceived race makes my life easier. But I have yet to figure out a way to share the benefits (other than giving donations to not-for-profits working on issues I support).

    1. I've been thinking a lot about using privilege to improve things, too. I don't know that I have great answers, but I think there are a few things we can do. One is to include the issue of police reform and prison reform in our voting decisions, and to write to our elected officials to let them know that we want them to address the issue.

      We can also challenge racism when we find it. It is hard to do, but it is important. This letter to the editor from a teacher in a small Colorado town is inspiring in this regard:

      What strikes me most about this incident is that Estes Park is the town you are most likely to stay in if you want to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. How do the people who complained about how the teachers addressed the Confederate flag situation treat Black people who come to visit the park? Good for the teacher for speaking up against this.

      We don't have to speak up so publicly, though. Speaking up in smaller conversations is important, too. I have been trying to counter the narrative that Black and Latino kids have an advantage over white kids in college admissions. This has led to a couple of uncomfortable conversations, but nothing worse.

      The other thing I've been doing is working to acknowledge my own implicit biases and trying to keep them from dictating my behavior. I wrote a little bit about that here:

      And I wrote about how learning about implicit bias made me a better manager over at my real name blog:

      I know there is more that I can do, but this is where I'm starting.

  2. Anonymous8:42 AM

    Really enjoyed(?) the Blanchfield article. As a parent of a child with pretty severe mental healthcare issues, I felt like in some ways I could identify with the Lanza parents. Every mental healthcare professional will tell you something different, you just want your kid to succeed and be happy, preferably without so much medication that their personality disappears. But at the same time, you want to prepare your kid for a world that isn't going to accommodate them, which is clearly where the Lanzas failed. When you're in the maze of the mental healthcare system though, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees of your child's many immediate needs, and your desperate desire to see them succeed and be happy at even one thing right now, so they have motivation to keep going.

    Obviously, however, giving a kid with violent tendencies access to firearms is totally idiotic. I try to prepare my son for the world. I also lock the knives, alcohol and poisons. And I don't even let him learn to use a weapon, even though I have extended family who love sport shooting. Safety (of him, our family and others) is ALWAYS first.


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