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!
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. ⏳⏳
Jemar Tisby is a former teacher and principal who moved from Waukegan, Illinois, to the Mississippi Delta when he joined Teach for America. This 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.” ⏳
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. ⏳⏳
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. ⏳⏳
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.