Outside Reading — The Fire This Time edition

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America, This is Your Chance by Michelle Alexander

Well, this is the article I’ve been waiting for. There are few people more qualified to comment on this particular moment in U.S. history than Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow. In characteristic fashion, she brings a measured but point viewpoint to the discussion, backed by accumulated knowledge and bolstered by uncommon moral clarity. As the headline suggests, the nation is at a point of opportunity, thanks in large part to a sudden, overdue surge in understanding among the greater populace that pervasive brutality and repression waged against the citizenry is a form of rot that must be addressed. If we squander the astonishing act of collective self-education happening right now, the opportunity for true, lasting social betterment might not come again. Alexander’s piece is published by The New York Times.

 

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How Apples Go Bad by Helen Rosner

Leave it to a skilled food writer to finally address the fundamental flaw of the tediously pervasive metaphor of “bad apples” to excuse broad organizational failings in law enforcement agencies. The apologists who employ the bad apple defense believe that the presence of a bad apple in a batch is singular problem. Just remove it and everything’s fine. The problem is, as Helen Rosner expresses with deadpan journalistic grace, the agricultural and food storage problem with bad apples is the way their rot spreads to all the other apples around them. Apple farmers are extremely concerned about the presence of bad apples because of the likelihood that entire trees or bushels will become irredeemably corrupted by their presence. So it’s not just the apple that tortures a man to death by kneeling on his neck, it’s the three apples that watch impassively as it happens and all the apples back at the precinct house who remain mute as the crime is concealed fro the public. When considered that way, the bad apple metaphor is apt. It simply doesn’t mean what its most common users believe it does. This article is published by The New Yorker.

 

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The Absolutist Case for Problematic Pop Culture by Mark Harris

In the wake of the predictably phony outrage over the recent decision to briefly remove Gone with the Wind from HBO Max, with plans to affix a contextualizing disclaimer before the storied feature is offered again, Mark Harris pens an earnest article grappling with the dilemma of cinematic art of the past that is out of step with modern considerations. The immense value of this article, published by Vulture, is that Harris doesn’t succumb to the common practice of easy answers fueled by furious personal certainty. The situation is complicated, and Harris works through it on the digital page, coming to a preferred conclusion while simultaneously allowing the imperfections of his stance. The best way to honor classic film — and literature and music and so on — is to meet it with just this sort of open intellectual conflict, allowing for the continuing sweet and the gradually soured to coexist, but also not allowing the contradictions to go passively unexamined.

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