More samplings of Black Lives Matter protest street art on and around Pioneer Place mall in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Note: My photo exports add a watermark by default; I am not claiming copyrights on anyone’s street art.

Hannah Beachler, production designer on Black Panther, has been urging people to stop using black-and-white imagery from the civil rights movement “so people stop thinking it was 1000 years ago”; she’s been posting examples of color photography from the time. Along the way she tweeted a link to this remarkable interview with Martin Luther King Jr. from 1967, eleven months before he was assassinated. Carve out half an hour to watch this; it really kicks into gear at almost exactly the halfway mark. It’s bracing, compelling, and not only a little depressing: so much of what he says still can be said today — and is.

Robert P. Jones, adapting from a forthcoming book, writes that white Christianity in America continues to have some unaddressed reckoning to do with its role in racism and slavery, and some uncomfortable but lingering effects of that role.

In my day job, I am the CEO and founder of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research on issues at the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. I’m a social scientist by training and have always been fascinated by the ways in which beliefs, institutional belonging, and culture impact opinions and behaviors in public space. I strive to conduct research and write as an impartial observer. In our work at PRRI, we’ve found that white Christian groups—including evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics—consistently hold views that are at odds with African American Protestants’ views. The attitudes of nonreligious white Americans, conversely, tend to be more aligned with African Americans’. For white Americans, the data suggest that Christian identity limits their ability to see structural injustice, and even influences them to see themselves, rather than African Americans, as a persecuted group.

Emphasis added.

Jennifer A. Richeson for The Atlantic explains how Americans’ views of racial progress are dramatically skewed, and even when studies bring them to believe things in the past were (somewhat) worse than they’d thought, they can’t seem to bring themselves to believe things are bad now.

For the past several years, I, along with my Yale colleague Michael W. Kraus and our students, have been examining perceptions of racial economic inequality—its extent and persistence, decade by decade. In a 2019 study, using a dozen specific moments between 1963 and 2016, we compared perceptions of racial wealth inequality over time with actual data on racial wealth inequality. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the respondents in our study significantly overestimated the wealth of Black families relative to that of white families. In 1963, the median Black family had about 5 percent as much wealth as the median white family. Respondents said close to 50 percent. For 2016, the respondents estimated Black wealth to be 90 percent that of whites. The correct answer for that year was about 10 percent.

Pair with Robin Rendle’s thoughts on having read The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, which is on my list.

There is no world in which Tom Cotton saying that slavery should be taught as “the necessary evil upon which the union was built” is being taken out of context. Here’s the context.

In the interview, Cotton said the role of slavery can’t be overlooked.

“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction,” he said.

Instead of portraying America as “an irredeemably corrupt, rotten and racist country,” the nation should be viewed “as an imperfect and flawed land, but the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind,” Cotton said.

Notice that he doesn’t say, “We need to study how the Founding Fathers said it was a necessary evil.” He says, “As the Founding Fathers said…” — a grammatical construction one uses when one is citing a source to support one’s own view.

You might have seen not just coverage of the Wall of Moms but some indication of a bit of conflict over their usefulness in a movement for Black lives; the Moms have received a fair degree of criticism of being “white spectacle” despite what’s been, as near as I could tell, a concerted effort to weaponize the privilege of white members for that movement, and despite not all the Moms being white. Today, the group announced that, working with Teressa Raiford and Don’t Shoot PDX, all white members of its leadership have stepped down from their administrative roles “so that our leadership is entirely composed of Black and Indigenous women from most-impacted communities”.

When accountability culture came for Tom Cotton and The New York Times for an op-ed full-throatedly calling for military intervention against Black Lives Matter demonstrators, I wonder if those who came to their defense understood that you can’t actually “cancel” a sitting United States senator, who after all then simply can turn around and use the privilege of his political power to try to ban a history project about the true beginnings of the violence that was American slavery. It’s weird, though, for one person both to call openly for political state violence against Black people in the here-and-now and yet also call for hiding the historical roots of such violence from public view in our schools.

I’m certainly willing to buy that the Biden campaign’s clarification of Biden saying that Trump is the first racist to be elected president in fact is what Biden meant to say, but even setting aside the merits of that clarification, I’m already finding Biden’s inability to say what he means to be saying just fucking exhausting. Lurking beneath this, though, also is my lingering doubt that Biden even truly understands that the only difference between Trump and the Republican Party of my whole god damned lifetime primarily is that Trump got elected while finally just saying the quiet part out loud instead of using the party playbook of codewords and dog whistles.

Three pieces on urban planning, public spaces, and architecture; as they relate to the moment and the movement of Black Lives Matter. Deirdre Mask for The Atlantic proffers that street renaming is not merely performative in an empty sense; Matt Hickman for The Architect’s Newspaper profiles the Foley Square street mural in New York City (via Civic Signals); and Craig Wilkins for Curbed proposes that architecture as a profession needs an analogue to the Hippocratic oath (via Civic Signals).

Mask:

I’ve spent the past four years researching street names and what they reflect about communities. I understand that merely changing a street’s name might be seen as “performative,” another show without substance. But performative can also refer to words that, as the philosopher J. L. Austin theorized, don’t just speak but act. (Try arguing that the words I do, said before your beloved and a judge, don’t actually do anything.) Here, the naming is the doing. And although changing street names alone cannot alter societal norms, it captures the momentum of the BLM movement in a concrete way.

Hickman:

“For a long time, in both urban planning and in architecture, there has been a refusal to acknowledge how political our work really is,” said Hassen. “For me, personally, it feels very important at this point in time to acknowledge that as creators who are in positions to help shape the public realm that we come to it with our values and our political standings—because the places that we are involved in creating are not neutral spaces.”

Wilkins:

As a profession, we don’t all talk about our role in redlining. We don’t talk about equitable resource allocation, or argue for or against it. We don’t talk enough about the increased privatization of public space. We have been complicit in the design of public housing, which was nothing but warehousing people, when we knew better. And if we didn’t know better, we should have. And what’s the result of that? Whole generations of people have been lost because they were confined to spaces that we designed, and we keep refusing to acknowledge and own up to that.