Twelve Writers Who Made My Year

Here’s one little highlight from each month of 2020

I love my job. I get to spend my time immersed in the most important topics of any given day, week, or month. And the writers I edit do all the deep thinking and hard work. What a great deal! I’m always moved by their intelligence, sensitivity and bravery, and I’m grateful that I get to help them share what they know with the world. These people helped me — and hopefully a lot of readers— make sense of an awful year. Here are just a few of my 2020 favorites — one piece from each month.

“In my experience, those who argue that the systems of mass incarceration and mass deportation simply reflect sincere (but misguided) efforts to address the real harms caused by crime, or the real challenges created by surges in immigration, tend to underestimate the corrupting influence of white supremacy whenever black and brown people are perceived to be the problem.”

“Sitting at my kitchen table three years ago, all I knew was that standing up against injustice was right. Refusing to give in to fear was right. Telling the truth was right. I knew I had to speak up. And I’m so glad I did.”

“A paradox of this moment is that while social distancing is required to contain the spread of the coronavirus, it may also contribute to poor health in the long run. So while physical isolation will be required for many Americans who have Covid-19 or have been exposed to it, it’s important that we don’t let such measures cause social and emotional isolation, too.”

“She is not in an elder-care facility, nor a hospital. She has not been, and most likely will not be, tested for the virus or receive a diagnosis of having it.

Still, hers is the body of all the black people at the bottom of the pandemic. No insurance, though not for lack of trying. Medicaid applications denied for reasons we don’t understand. Inconsistent care at a local public clinic meant hard-to-come-by appointments and checkups only at moments deemed most critical. It wasn’t enough.”

“The era of slavery was when white Americans determined that black Americans needed only the bare necessities, not enough to keep them optimally safe and healthy. It set in motion black people’s diminished access to healthy foods, safe working conditions, medical treatment and a host of other social inequities that negatively impact health … The cultural narrative that black people’s weight is a harbinger of disease and death has long served as a dangerous distraction from the real sources of inequality, and it’s happening again.”

“[I]mages on the news won’t let me forget why I fled: Michael Brown’s body rotting on the pavement. Sandra Bland’s hollow-faced mug shot captured before her death in police custody. Eric Garner slammed to the ground and put in a chokehold by a police officer over selling cigarettes.

By the time I caught wind of the pandemic on its way to the shores of America, I knew it spelled disaster for black Americans.”

“It isn’t fair to ask teachers to buy school supplies; we aren’t the government. But we do it anyway. It isn’t fair to ask us to stop a bullet; we aren’t soldiers. But we go to work every day knowing that if there’s a school shooting, we’ll die protecting our students.

But this is where I draw the line: It isn’t fair to ask me to be part of a massive, unnecessary science experiment. I am not a human research subject. I will not do it.”

“I’ve led movements for most of my adult life and have heard similar misguided refrains far too many times. The truth is voting is an honorable act that many movements use as a tactic. But the popular message that it’s the only real source of power misleads the public about how social change happens and stifles the energy required to bring about the change we need.”

But what can prepare a person for the proper response to heavily armed cops in their home in the middle of the night? How could we have prepared Breonna Taylor? The answer is, we couldn’t have. What could have prepared her family for the failure to hold the police officers in this case accountable? Nothing.

“[O]ne recent analysis indicates that some Black families value keeping their children at home for an entirely different reason: to protect them from racial hostility and bias … It is little wonder that about 20 percent of the Black parents who responded to her survey said that if virtual learning was an option after the pandemic is over, they would choose it over a return to brick-and-mortar schools.”

“I did my part. What was my reward? Listening to Mr. Trump’s base chant, “Send her back!” in reference to Representative Ilhan Omar, a Black Muslim woman, who came to America as a refugee. I saw the Republican Party transform the McCloskeys into victims, even though the wealthy St. Louis couple illegally brandished firearms against peaceful B.L.M. protesters … We cannot help people who refuse to help themselves. Mr. Trump is an extension of their id, their culture, their values, their greed.”

“We are both preachers, and our faith tells us the well-being of any nation’s soul is tied to the welfare of its most vulnerable people. “If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,” the prophet Isaiah says, ‘you’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.’ That is the nation millions of poor and low-income people voted for this year.”

Writer & editor currently at @nytopinion. Before this: @jskstanford @voxdotcom, @theroot, @harvard_law, @howardu

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