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#119: Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?

Hi there, and welcome to The Highlighter #119! A big welcome to all the new subscribers. Our community is growing and getting stronger! The lead article this week describes a program at a private elementary school in New York that helps third graders talk about race before it’s too late. One example of too-late is described in the second article, which centers on the journey of a white supremacist. After the photo break, read pieces about choosing your perfect baby and about listening really fast. Enjoy!

New Subscriber Contest Update: Last issue, I announced this month’s campaign to encourage 100 smart, caring, and curious people to join The Highlighter. The first week of the contest was a huge success: 37 people subscribed! Thank you to everyone who got the word out. The competition was fierce! Our first week’s winner is, drumroll, Abby P, who was responsible for 8 sign-ups. Great work, Abby P! Who is going to win this week? Even if you don’t identify as competitive, this contest is for you, particularly after you see the zany prizes you’ll receive for participating. Please tell your friends and family to check out the newsletter and subscribe here.


Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?
Can Racism Be Stopped in the Third Grade?nymag.com

At Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a private school in the Bronx, third graders participate in a mandatory program designed to eradicate racism. Once a week, instead of engaging with issues of race as a whole class, students join affinity groups, where they discuss what it feels like to be a member of that race. Then they come back to the whole class to share out their perspectives. While this practice is fairly common among anti-racist educators, it is new for elementary school students, and some white liberal parents at the school would prefer that affinity groups go away. ⏳⏳

The Making of an American Nazi
The Making of an American Naziwww.theatlantic.com

I can’t seem to stop reading articles about regular white men who turn into white supremacists (#115) or white supremacists who disavow their views (#117). This profile of Andrew Anglin — founder of the Daily Stormer, a Nazi website — is not like those other pieces. This man is reprehensibly vile. Like most Alt-right trolls, Mr. Anglin combines psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, and Michaeiavellianism. But he adds to that racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and misogyny. Mr. Anglin’s story is deeply disturbing, and though it might feel better to skip this article, I recommend reading it, trigger warnings and all. ⏳⏳

Bailey, who belongs to loyal subscriber and podcast guest Sonya, doesn’t understand why it’s snowing. You live in Chicago, Bailey!

Eugenics 2.0: Choosing Embryos by Health, Height, and More
Eugenics 2.0: Choosing Embryos by Health, Height, and Morewww.technologyreview.com

Suppose you and your partner were pursuing in vitro fertilization and could tell which embryo had the highest likelihood of becoming the tallest, smartest, or healthiest person? Would you want to know? To choose? Though most of us say no, the technology is coming, and scientists at Genomic Prediction say that people’s views will change once offered the option of building a super baby. 

Meet The People Who Listen to Podcasts Crazy-Fast
Meet The People Who Listen to Podcasts Crazy-Fastwww.buzzfeed.com

In addition to my reading habit, I enjoy a good podcast or 25. Do you? Ever since Serial launched in 2014, I’ve listened to podcasts while running or driving or getting ready for the day. But by no means am I a “podfaster.” These obsessive people feel the need to listen to hundreds of hours of podcasts a week, completing episodes in order, often at rapid clips. Why listen to a recording at 1x when you can listen at 10x? ⏳

This Week’s Podcast: It was a wonderful pleasure to have my friend and loyal subscriber Sonya Wang on the show. Sonya talked about choosing the right school for her daughter, loving college football, and feeling anxious about buying a home in the Bay Area. We also chatted about “It’s Real Down Here,” last week’s article about living in the Deep South. Please listen and subscribe!

You have completed The Highlighter #119! Let me know your thoughts below by giving this issue a thumbs-up or -down. Also, please welcome our new subscribers: Christina, Kira, Genna, Jenn, Sele, Tark, Neelam, Sarai, Melanie, Mike, Robert, Kirthi, Kate, Sarah, Alysia, Chris, Shyanna, Josh, Laura, Gerald, Phillip, Tommy, Dan, Christine, Sarah, Sheila, Steve, Brigid, Leslie, Rachel, Louise, Barb, Cathy, Angad, Claire, Rachelle, and Peter! Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you again next Thursday at 9:10 am for this year’s Thanksgiving edition.

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#118: The Voice

Hi there and welcome to The Highlighter #118! Today’s articles center on the legacy of Whitney Houston, the experience of living in the Deep South as a Black man, the power and discomfort of the n-word, the discrimination that fat people face from their doctors, and the possibility that the Abominable Snowman exists. It’s quite a spectrum! Please enjoy.

Ready for a contest? November is New Subscriber Month at The Highlighter. The goal is to gain 100 new subscribers — bold! audacious! entirely attainable! — and to get there, I’m announcing the First-Annual New Subscriber Contest. Your goal is to encourage your smart, caring, and curious friends and family to sign up for The Highlighter. The more, the better — except don’t spam them, or sign up for them, or employ some pyramid scheme! We’re looking for folks who will make this community even stronger. And don’t worry, there will be big and zany prizes. (More about those next week.) The contest starts now and ends Dec. 7. To get your points, make sure new subscribers sign up here and write your name where it asks, “How did you find out about The Highlighter?” Good luck!


The Voice
The Voicevelamag.com

Whitney Houston died almost six years ago. This profile by Danielle Jackson captures not only Ms. Houston’s talent but also her legacy. Ms. Jackson writes, “Her problems were as much external as they were internal—for the truth is, in America, being a black woman audacious enough to possess and claim her own brilliance means following a fraught and tenuous path that many do not survive.” Comparing Ms. Houston’s career with those of Aretha Franklin and Billie Holliday, Ms. Jackson concludes that singing is a fierce embodiment of despair, longing, and joy. ⏳⏳

It’s Real Down Here: Living in the Deep South as a Black Man
It’s Real Down Here: Living in the Deep South as a Black Manwww.vox.com

Jemar Tisby is a former teacher and principal who moved from Waukegan, Illinois, to the Mississippi Delta when he joined Teach for AmericaThis essay explains his decision to stay after he completed his two-year agreement. An African American man, Mr. Tisby argues that the South offers an “unshakable respect for who I am and where I come from.” He notices that living in the South, especially now, has emboldened him to live with “no explanations, no apologies, no fear.” 

No Fatties: When Health Care Hurts
No Fatties: When Health Care Hurtslongreads.com

Our country doesn’t like fat people: They’re lazy, indulgent, and greedy. It turns out that doctors don’t like fat people, either. “A fat person walking into a doctor’s office can expect lectures, condescension, and misdiagnoses from a medical culture that chalks every health issue up to weight,” author Cary Purcell writes. In other words, it may not be obesity that leads to worse life outcomes. Rather, it may be the scorn and contempt. ⏳⏳

How to Rank Fantastic Beasts
How to Rank Fantastic Beastswww.newyorker.com

Here’s a list of some pretty great things: Tooth Fairy, Loch Ness Monster, Santa, Abominable Snowman. Which is most likely to exist? The brilliant Kathryn Schulz (#80), author of “The Really Big One,” answers this question as she considers the possibility of impossible things. Our minds work in mysterious ways! (Also read this piece if you want to learn more about manticores, lamias, and Scythian lambs.) Thank you to loyal subscriber Tyler for submitting this article. ⏳⏳

Loyal subscribers Alex and Juliana are hard at work. Good thing they are highlighting with The Highlighter highlighters. Alex and Juliana received these limited-edition highlighters because they attended Highlighter Happy Hour #2 last Thursday in Oakland. A total of 28 smart, caring, and curious people came to the event. Look out for HHH #3 next month!

This Week’s Podcast: More joy and deep thoughts surfaced this week as my former student Kati Parker joined me on the podcast. Kati was part of the 1999-2000 We the People class at Irvington High School in Fremont, which came in fourth place at the state civics competition in Sacramento. On the show, Kati talked about “The Gentrification of Soul Food” and the difference between appreciation and appropriation. Please listen and subscribe!

All good things must come to an end. I hope you enjoyed The Highlighter #118. Let me know your thoughts below by giving this issue a thumbs-up or -down. Also, please welcome our 14 new subscribers: Karisa, Aubrey, Lynette, Tom, Sue, Pang Houa, Joel, Lindsey, Ron, Dina, Elizabeth, Emily, Lopez, and Cris! Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you again next Thursday at 9:10 am.

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#117: White Flight

Welcome to The Highlighter #117! I’m happy you’re here. The first three articles this week — which focus on race — are in conversation with articles that have appeared previously. If you have time, consider them in tandem:

#1: “White Flight” –> “Birth of a White Supremacist” (#115)
#2: “The Gentrification of Soul Food” –> “Hot Chicken” (#88)
#3: “Slippery Slope” –> “Whose Heritage?” (#106)

The only odd duck this week comes last, and it’s a good one, too: a 30-minute adventure into the wacky world of the online mattress industry. Please enjoy! And if you’re in Oakland later today, swing by HHH #2 (last-minute tickets are still available).


White Flight
White Flightwww.washingtonpost.com

Two Highlighters ago, I featured an article about a regular guy and his journey to become a white supremacist. This story is the opposite. Derek Black (here on The Daily podcast) grew up in a white supremacist household: his dad maintained Stormfront, the country’s largest white nationalist online community, and his mom was once married to David Duke (Derek’s godfather). In his teens, Derek vowed to “take the country back” and to fight against “white genocide,” a term he made popular on his radio show. Then, one day in college, classmate Matthew Stevenson, an Orthodox Jew, invited Derek to Shabbat dinner, and Derek’s transformation began. ⏳⏳

The Gentrification of Soul Food
The Gentrification of Soul Foodwww.highsnobiety.com

Over the past decade, “soul food” has morphed into “Southern food,” as white chefs have appropriated African American cuisine. Author Eboni Harris explains the history of soul food and its recent acceptance among white people. As a result, a type of gentrification has followed. Hip restaurants have made soul food fancy, raising prices along the way, while failing to hire African American chefs. Thank you to loyal subscriber Morenike (#114) for submitting this article. 

Muffin Season is here.

On Dismantling Historical Monuments: The Slippery Slope Argument Is Real
On Dismantling Historical Monuments: The Slippery Slope Argument Is Realwww.nationalreview.com

Part of my mission at The Highlighter is to encourage this community, which is predominately liberal, to read well-written articles from a variety of viewpoints. This essay by Michael Brendan Dougherty offers a reasoned defense of Slippery Slope from a conservative perspective. After softening his reader’s skepticism, Mr. Dougherty applies Slippery Slope to the current debate on whether to topple historical monuments. ⏳⏳

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare
The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmarewww.fastcompany.com

Did you think you were doing the right thing buying a mattress from an online company like Casper so you could avoid shady salespeople at your local mattress store? Guess again. Welcome to the cutthroat world of online mattress reviewers, lucrative affiliate links, shady search engine optimization, and big-time lawsuits. This $14 billion industry is a racket all the way through. ⏳⏳

This Week’s Podcast: If you care about reading, or if you care about Oakland (or both), listen to this week’s podcast with my friend and loyal subscriber Nancy Lai. Nancy is the director of literacy at Oakland Unified School District. On the show, Nancy chatted about the importance of reading and her take on “The Ghosts of the Tsunami” (#116). Listen, rate, and subscribe!

Oh no, you’ve reached the end of The Highlighter #117. Hope you enjoyed your stay! Let me know what you thought. One easy way is by pressing R to reply. Also, please welcome new subscribers Anna, Arantxa, and Roilyn! The community is growing ever stronger because you’re getting the word out. Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you again next Thursday at 9:10 am.

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#116: The Ghosts of the Tsunami

It’s time for The Highlighter #116! Hope you’ve had a good week. For the most part, today’s pieces are haunting and disturbing. The lead article focuses on the lasting effects of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011. The second article details Wisconsin’s tactics to suppress the vote. Then comes a needed photo break — Indie’s second appearance (see #29). Below the fold, it’s a 1-2-3 combination of Boko Haram, urban education, and narcolepsy. Please enjoy!

The Highlighter IRL: Get your tickets now for the second Highlighter Happy Hour at Room 389 in Oakland next Thursday, Nov. 2, 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Come meet the other great folks who make up this community of caring close readers. Better yet: Take the whole day off, read all the articles, and be truly prepared. Your boss won’t mind!


The Ghosts of the Tsunami
The Ghosts of the Tsunami longreads.com

Shortly after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that killed 16,000 people, Takeshi Ono began acting like a beast. He crawled on all fours and rolled around in the mud. In the night, Mr. Ono waved a knife at his wife and threatened to kill her. A priest at the local Zen temple told him: “Something got hold of you, perhaps the dead who cannot accept yet that they are dead. They have been trying to express their regret and their resentment through you.” In the tsunami’s aftermath, the relationship among the living and the dead in Japan got out of balance, and thousands of gaki, or “hungry ghosts,” threatened to possess those who survived. ⏳⏳

Voter Suppression in Wisconsin
Voter Suppression in Wisconsinwww.motherjones.com

Ari Berman (#63) is back with another article about voter suppression — this time, on Wisconsin. Skip the clickbait headline and read about how the state’s voting requirements — a current driver’s license, passport, or state or military identification — excludes 9 percent of the electorate. Poor and African American voters are affected most. Since Shelby County v. Holder (2013) ransacked the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 22 states have passed restrictive voting laws. That trend will not reverse anytime soon. ⏳⏳

Avid reader Indie, who belongs to loyal subscribers Marni and Byron, would like to interview Ta-Nehisi Coates on The Highlighter Podcast. If you’d like to be a guest on the show, let me know! highlighter.cc/podcast

The Girls Who Survived Boko Haram
The Girls Who Survived Boko Haramwww.nytimes.com

Prepare to be horrified. Sometimes, our world is a very bad place. So far this year, Boko Haram has used 110 girls in suicide attacks in northwestern Nigeria. The choice is be raped or blow yourself up. Here are the stories of 18 girls who resisted, chose a different path, and are alive today. (For more on Boko Haram, see Issue #100.) ⏳

“They Can’t Just Be Average,” Lifting Students Up Without Lowering The Bar
“They Can’t Just Be Average,” Lifting Students Up Without Lowering The Barpca.st

NPR’s Code Switch Podcast is doing a three-part series on Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, a new school for African American boys in Washington D.C. This second episode focuses on the limitations of restorative justice and the challenges of supporting students with low skills. Also, listen carefully: There’s definitely deficit-based, savior-mentality thinking going on here. ⏳⏳⏳

Why We Still Don’t Understand Sleep
Why We Still Don’t Understand Sleepmosaicscience.com

In high school, loyal subscriber Barbara and I wrote an article for our school newspaper about the effects of sleep deprivation. Since then, I’ve been fascinated with sleep and its many disorders. This article is about narcolepsy, which affects 1 in 2,500 people. Get ready for some science about sleep, including a primer on neuropeptides, orexin, and how Doberman Pinschers helped a Stanford researcher unlock the cause of narcolepsy. ⏳⏳

This Week’s Podcast: If my metrics are correct, it seems like everyone is listening to this week’s episode, which features my good friend Sejal Patel. A mother of three boys, Sejal talks about how she advocates for her children in school while understanding the demands that teachers face. Then, out of nowhere, we chat about white supremacists. Let me know your thoughts about the show, and if you like it, please subscribe!

Thank you for reading this week’s issue of The Highlighter. As always, let me know what you thought (thumbs are below). Also, please welcome new subscribers Caitlin, Bela, Felsha, Maria, and Thea! It makes me happy that this community is growing. Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you again next Thursday at 9:10 am.