Race is the single most important issue in America right now, and the one I have the most difficult time speaking about. I was born white, middle class, male, and in the Northeast. No matter how much I learn about or try to empathize with the experiences of people of color, I don't know it's possible for me to every truly understand the impact of race in our country.
Every piece of data on crime, education, economics, and mobility I see tells me that we need to address the fundamental difference between those of color and those who are not. Since I'm not qualified to speak on the experience of those in movements like Black Lives Matter, I won't comment on them. But when I see the popularity of viewpoints held by certain GOP candidates (I party I nominally support!), and a willful ignorance to tackle this issue head-on by a lot of the country, I'm alarmed. Even after the past few years, much of the country still believes race just is not an issue. And they're right — for people like me, it isn't. But if this disparity continues, it will be for all of us.
I'm not sure how to solve the disparities in this country, or how to change the fact that race is still the largest determiner of your success in America. The first step, though, is to talk about it openly, and we're still not there. Here's something, this week, that helped me force that conversation with myself:
Pinella's failure factories
For the past year, the Tampa Bay Times has been preparing an investigation on segregation and its impact on education in the public schools of Pinella County. This study of racial disparity is fascinating because the usual, additional noise present — lack of structure, poverty, crime, etc. — are not present in Pinella county. In fact, when the busing was used and the schools were forcibly mixed, performance across the board was better than it is today. How is that the five primarily black schools in Pinella county are the worst achieving in the state, and beat out by other areas of higher poverty and less support?
Quebec's maple syrup cartel
Filed under things you never knew: the majority of the world's maple syrup is produced through an OPEC-style cartel in Quebec! The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers hands out quotas for the production and sale of all maple syrup within the province, and handles distribution and market supply to ensure price stability. Several farmers have begun rebelling against this system, enshrined in provincial law, as being a legalized cartel and unfair to their desire to produce independently.
The Greek warrior
I have no love for Yanis Varoufakis. His approach to the Greek crisis was amateurish, and he acted with none of the discretion that I think is essential for settling the kind of situation Greece, and Europe, is still in. It is probably for that reason that I found this profile of him (written on the eve of the bailout referendum) so interesting. This piece gives terrific insight into what made him approach things the way he did, and how he dealt with Europe. I don't think anyone comes out of this looking pretty — certainly not Greece, but the bureaucrats of Europe seem pretty ignorant of reality, too.
Hustling the Miami Heat
Florida is clearly in my sights this week. Grantland looks at the swindling of several Miami Heat players by con-men and hustlers, and uses it to ask a wider question about the culture of Miami. I've spent little time in Miami, but I found the broader look at the culture of new money, being showy, and living beyond your means as an interesting way to understand what drives the city. It also gives personal color to the things we've seen in the recession, where the housing market and economy in Florida have behaved differently than almost every other state.
Making a state through iron and blood
Foreign Policy asserts this week that the strategy ISIS is currently employing for state-building is not only viable, but with significant historical precedent. An analysis of previous states formed through conflict shows that if they secure enough valuable territory (ports, oil fields, etc.) and moderate their brutality, it is likely that the world community will eventually forgive them and allow global participation. The current entreaties toward Iran would also seem to support this. It's a scary idea that in ISIS we're not only seeing something with more will to survive than the United States has to kill it, but a state that could truly be a part of the international community long-term.