Outside Reading — Electoral Capture edition

Activists in Kenosha, taking a stand for their promised liberties. (source)

The Future of Black Politics by Jessica Byrd

One day after The New York Times rain this piece on their op-ed pages, there was a news article with on-the-ground reporting from Kenosha suggesting that the current round of wholly justifiable protests against excessive police violence haven’t resulting in a corresponding uptick in interest in voting. With her shrewd assessment, Jessica Byrd identifies the reason why. For decades, Black communities have been driven by a commitment to voting — in part, of course, because it took such a monumental effort to secure that fundamental right of citizenship — only to see no appreciable change in their circumstances, particularly the offhand persecution practiced by the white ruling class. A whole generation has come to the understandable conclusion that voting doesn’t matter. There’s hope in Byrd’s piece, because she also tracks the substantive, inspiring way emerging Black leaders are confronting inequities in the system. Voting isn’t enough. Ongoing, persistence engagement is needed. Luckily, there are people who are motivated to take exactly that approach.

The Kerner Commission at work, over five decades ago. (Via)

The Riot Report by Jill Lepore

And here’s further evidence to argue that the new way of thinking is required. This was published a couple months ago in The New Yorker, but it has a newfound relevance thanks to candidate Joe Biden’s recent pledge to assemble a presidential commission to study race-based disparates in the U.S. if he has elected. As usual, we have been here before. Similar studies have been mounted, drawing the same conclusions, and suggested steps to a more fair and just society were summarily dismissed, over and over again. As usual, Jill Lepore does an exceptional job illuminating the solutions right in front of the nation if leaders and citizens were proper, thoughtful students of its history.

A sign in a residence hall window at SUNY – Oneonta, which managed in-person classes for a week or two before determining they had to go virtual for the entire fall semester.

The Pandemic Is No Excuse to Surveil Students by Zeynep Tufekci

I recently remarked on my relief that I no longer work in higher education, sparing me the anguish of participating in the current debacle of trying to bring students back to campuses in the midst of a pandemic. (Referring to it as a global pandemic now seems inaccurate given the almost unique ineptitude of the U.S. response to the crisis.) Writing for The Atlantic, Zeynep Tufecki details how the attempts at tracking and containing the virus are counterproductive because they are preemptively punitive towards students. The article is especially strong in considering the latent function of colleges and universities, which admissions and PR offices understand enough to fill brochures with pictures of football games and spirited on-campus revelry, but are conveniently ignoring as an embedded part of institutional culture as they grab desperately at room-and-board revenue. By ignoring the reality of implicit mission, colleges and universities have seen themselves — and their students — up for failure.

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