food for thought: rainy day edition

I don’t know what the weather is like in your corner of the globe, but here in Boston it’s sheeting down icy-cold rain as we settle into the workday. I hope all of you are able to stay mostly warm, mostly dry. Here’s some brain food to keep you intellectually nourished.

On Point | What We Talk About When We Talk About Race in America.

Facts are facts. Reality is reality. Except, it seems, when Americans address each other matters of race and responsibility.  That’s become obvious  in the wake of protests that came out of Ferguson and Staten Island. One reality sees racism as still a living poison that leads to police killings and job discrimination…and a concept of “white privilege” that keeps African Americans at a constant disadvantage.  In the other reality, white privilege is a fiction — and a bad excuse — for individual and even group failure. This hour, On Point: talking race: Where is that conversation, and where is it going?

(I could live without the scare quotes around “white privilege,” but their preparatory reading list has some solid pieces, including this thoughtful Q&A with Peggy McIntosh)

Linda Tirado | Why Poor People Stay Poor: Saving Money Costs Money. Period.

I once read a book for people in poverty, written by someone in the middle class, containing real-life tips for saving pennies and such. It’s all fantastic advice: buy in bulk, buy a lot when there’s a sale on, hand-wash everything you can, make sure you keep up on vehicle and indoor filter maintenance.

Of course, very little of it was actually practicable. Bulk buying in general is cheaper, but you have to have a lot of money to spend on stuff you don’t actually need yet. Hand-washing saves on the utilities, but nobody actually has time for that. If I could afford to replace stuff before it was worn out, vehicle maintenance wouldn’t be much of an issue, but you really can’t rinse the cheap filters and again—quality costs money up front. In the long term, it makes way more sense to buy a good toaster. But if the good toaster is 30 bucks right now, and the crappiest toaster of them all is 10, it doesn’t matter how many times I have to replace it. Ten bucks it is, because I don’t have any extra tens.

Susanna Bobadilla @ Feministing | The Feministing Five: Elsa S. Henry.

Feminist Sonar is about talking about feminism from a disabled perspective, but also giving a space for women who identify as disabled and feminist to speak about their experiences as women. I don’t often publish guest posts, but when I do they’re incredibly important to me because I am giving a space for women to talk about their experiences. My favorite things about running Feminist Sonar have been hearing back from other people with disabilities. From the comments on the “Pro Choice Should Not Mean Ableist” post in which many people thanked me for addressing their personhood, to writing my piece responding to Gamer Gate and having male members of the community say “Yes, thank you,” comments that give me things to think about, or which tell me I’m reaching people where they need to be heard, are my favorite part of being on the internet as a public voice.

Max Fisher @ Vox | The New Republic and the Beltway media’s Race Problem.

The overwhelmingly white writers and editors who worked for Peretz knew his work was monstrous, and often struggled over the morality of accepting his money (as did I, during my brief internship there). But none ever resigned en masse as they did over the firing of two white male editors today. That fact is just a particularly egregious example of a much larger problem among the elite Beltway publications: a lack of diversity and a begrudging tolerance of racism that go hand-in-hand.

Max Nisen @ Quartz | Employers ignore almost everything on your application–except this.

There’s a reason companies prefer to hire people who are referred. Such applicants have been shown repeatedly in studies (pdf) to be significantly more likely to stay at a firm for longer, and to be more productive (pdf). This might be because the workers are better matches, or because they have a pre-existing mentor or monitor in the person that helped hire them.

Referrals also come pre-vetted—to a certain extent—and cost less to find.

Of course, there are down sides to the referral obsession. People overwhelmingly tend to refer those who are like themselves. A significant majority of referrals tend to be people of the same gender and race, and of a similar educational and socio-economic background. That can lead to a great deal of homogeneity in the workplace.

(I suspect this type of head-hunting is more prevalent in some sectors than others – I’d be curious what experience Amiables members have had with referrals as a pathway to positions, both good and bad.)

Tara M. @ XoJane | Why I Always Disclose My Disability in a Job Interview.

Oftentimes, I find that able-bodied people tend to assume that a disability is this huge insurmountable obstacle that will prevent me from being able to do the job at hand.

However, if I take charge and lead the conversation, it allows me to ease some of their fears. I can assure them that I am completely capable of doing the job.

I guess my biggest piece of advice would be to stop treating your disability like it’s your most shameful secret that you can’t even bear to mention. Instead treat it like it’s no big deal. Because, like my dates, when you find the right employer, they’ll know that it isn’t.

Liz Clift @ Teaching Tolerance | Defensive About Diversity Trainings.

I had to stop myself from groaning. Instead, I stepped back and reminded myself that learning about privilege—and to identify the privileges conferred to us—is a process. It’s a process that can include denial, especially if a person feels that they were marginalized due to economic hardship (as this young man had), grew up in an abusive family (again, as this young man had), or experienced myriad other circumstances in which they struggled in ways they didn’t see people around them struggling.

Alyssa Quart @ Elle | Hypereducated and On Welfare.

Much political rhetoric these days is devoted to the importance of broadening access to college—and there is plenty of evidence that it’s still better financially to have a degree than not—but in the postcrash world of 2014, a good education may not keep you from hovering near the poverty line. The number of people with graduate degrees receiving food assistance or other forms of federal aid nearly tripled between 2007 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. More specifically, 28 percent of food-stamp households were headed by a person with at least some college education in 2013, compared with 8 percent in 1980, according to an analysis by University of Kentucky economists.

The hypereducated poor, as I’ve come to think of them, are as hidden to the country at large as Bolin is at Columbia. “Nobody knows or cares that I have a PhD, living in the trailer park,” says a former linguistics adjunct and mother of one child, who lives in Eugene, Oregon, and was on welfare and food stamps. A St. Paul, Minnesota, librarian, who admits that few of her friends have any clue how broke she is, puts it this way: “Every American thinks they’re a temporarily embarrassed millionaire: I am no exception.”

Sarah Seltzer @ Flavorwire | Ferguson: When Social Media Changes the Conversation Not the Power Structure.

Yes, America has begun talking about state violence against men of color and its persistence throughout American history. Yes, social media has forced the narrative around Brown’s death to encompass the fear and anguish of people of color whose lives are threatened by killer cops. But despite this progress, the narrative of the actual court case — officials clearly sympathetic to the police, no indictment, Darren Wilson walks free, Mike Brown’s family cries in agony — remained exactly the same as it might have been in a different era, with the only exception being a little bit of lashing out at the Twitterverse from McCulloch.

Similarly, abortion clinics continue to close despite viral protests and “War on Women!” banner headlines. Many institutions, like The University of Virginia, ignore buzz about the campus rape epidemic and mistreat victims until they’re directly called to the mat.

In all these instances, a gaping chasm has opened up between the media narrative which has used on-the-ground information to illuminate the appalling behavior of institutions (like universities and police departments) and the institutions themselves, which simply act as if time has stood still.

Katie McDonough @ Salon | Jian Ghomeshi’s quiet accomplice: Why the CBC must be investigated, too.

In other words, she left a job she thought she loved and moved to another country because she realized that fighting the CBC’s indifference on Ghomeshi — its coddling of a predator — was a battle she would very likely lose.

It’s a calculation countless other women have made. When it comes to “fight” or “flight,” rape culture dictates that the latter option is usually safer, less emotionally scarring and feasible than the former.

Which is precisely why the investigation into the CBC is so important. Because this can’t be the norm, this can’t be how sexual harassment and violence against women is handled in any workplace. Women should not have to remake their lives because their bosses are too frightened of confronting abusers or making people uncomfortable by talking openly and transparently about abuse.

And finally … The Library of Virginia has a picture book about archives for kids!

The Library of Virginia is the oldest cultural institution in the state and the official archive (a place where history is kept) and library of the Commonwealth. In the book To Collect, Protect, and Serve: Behind the Scenes at the Library of Virginia, Archie the Archivist, Libby the Librarian, and Connie the Conservator guide young readers through a visit to the Library of Virginia.

What have you been reading about this week? Please share in comments, by email, or on Twitter!