The Complicated Legacy of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ | Arts & Culture| Smithsonian Magazine

“My Old Kentucky Home, Goodnight,” as it was originally titled, was written by Foster in the 1850s as an anti-slavery songinspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and following the same story arc as Stowe’s title character. His initial working title was “Poor Uncle Tom, Goodnight.”

The song emphasizes the humanity and close family ties of the enslaved population at a time when African Americans were routinely dehumanized and caricatured. The opening scene in Uncle Tom’s Cabin features a slave trader explaining that black people do not have the same tender emotions as white people, a rationalization for selling their children for profit. “My Old Kentucky Home” is a rebuke to that racist thinking.

In My Bondage and My Freedom, abolitionist luminary Frederick Douglass, himself formerly enslaved, wrote that the song “awakens sympathies for the slave, in which antislavery principles take root, grow, and flourish.”

The great Paul Robeson, the black singer, Shakespearean actor, and political activist of the mid-20th century, delivered a rendition with most of the original sorrowful lyrics—including a racial slur that no one would use today—that makes Foster’s meaning painfully clear.

The verse sung at Churchill Downs, often by affluent, white crowds, looks different when taking into account that Foster’s singer was describing a slave trader coming to steal away a family member:

The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy, and bright.
By and by hard times comes a-knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night.

The day goes by like a shadow o’er the heart,
With sorrow where all was delight.
The time has come when the darkies have to part,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night.

Source: The Complicated Legacy of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ | Arts & Culture| Smithsonian Magazine

Behind the Violence at Rikers, Decades of Mismanagement and Dysfunction – The New York Times

Jan Ransom and 

“The leaders of the New York City Department of Correction had already lost control over Rikers Island this fall when they went in search of one small measure of relief.

They needed 19 correction officers whom they had posted at the Queens criminal courthouse to fill in at the massive jail complex, where staffing was short, slashings and stabbings were up and detainees had gained control over some housing units. It was Columbus Day, a holiday, and the workload at the Queens courthouse was comparatively light.

But when the bus to Rikers arrived at the courthouse, many of the guards refused to board it. Instead, according to interviews, they claimed the onset of sudden illness. Seven of them dialed 911, complaining of chest pain, leg injuries, lightheadedness and palpitations. One produced a cane as proof of disability. More than a dozen officers left in ambulances. Rikers remained understaffed.

The Columbus Day episode underscores how easy New York City’s leaders have made it for jail guards to sidestep assignments they do not want, even as Rikers Island has been gripped by its worst crisis since it reeled from the crack epidemic in the early ’90s.”

David Lindsay: This article,. “Behind the Violence at Rikers, Decades of Mismanagement and Dysfunction” is massively important and disturbing. It makes a person of conscience want to vomit. What can be done. Can the new mayor take on the NYC correction officers union?  Can it be dismantled? Can the mayor call in the NY State national guard, to man the prisons, if there is a huge city wide strike.  Can the NYT help clarify what can and can’t be done?

Lori Teresa Yearwood | The Bill for My Homelessness Was $54,000 – The New York Times

Ms. Yearwood is a reporter covering housing for the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

“My descent into homelessness felt as though it happened in the blink of an eye. It was as if one moment I was standing in a meadow next to my horses, stroking their manes, and the next I was lying inside a plastic garbage bag on a park bench, wrapping clothes around my shivering body.

In fact, it happened over the course of 12 devastating months from 2013 to 2014. The house I was renting in Oregon burned down. My mother died of a cancer that, until a short time earlier, no one knew she had. My family fell into a bitter dispute over her inheritance and ostracized me. My beagle died. I was emotionally burdened to the point of being unable to run the business I had owned for nearly a decade, let alone pay my rent. Eventually, I was told to pack my bags and leave the new place I had rented after the fire.

My journey into homelessness was traumatic, but it was also incredibly expensive, and that’s what I want to focus on here. By the time I walked away from that park bench two years later, I had accrued more than $54,000 in debt.”

How a World War II Bomber Pilot Became ‘the King of Artificial Trees’ – The New York Times

“The B-17 he was piloting had lost two of its four engines to enemy fire, and as Si Spiegel surveyed the ruined landscape, he had one thought: We have to get behind the Russian front.

As part of the Allied raid on Berlin, his bomber had dropped its payload over the German capital, but he’d been hit with flak and would almost certainly not make it back to the base in England. No pilot wanted to get shot down over Nazi Germany, especially not a Jewish pilot.

Mr. Spiegel had essentially bluffed his way into the cockpit as a skinny teenager from Greenwich Village, trusting he’d figure it out as he went. This was no different. He told his crew they were headed for Poland; they could get their parachutes ready, but were not to bail out unless he gave the order. They would attempt an emergency landing.”

Liza Featherstone | Josh Hawley and the Republican Obsession With Manliness – The New York Times

Ms. Featherstone is a journalist who writes frequently about the politics of gender. She has a 15-year-old son.

“Senator Josh Hawley is worried about men. In a recent speech at the National Conservatism Conference, he blamed the left for their mental health problems, joblessness, obsession with video games and hours spent watching pornography. “The crisis of American men,” he said, “is a crisis for the American republic.”

The liberal reaction was flippant. A CNN analysis mocked the speech, contrasting the “decline of masculinity” with real issues like the pandemic and inflation. The ReidOut Blog on MSNBC’s website declared, “Josh Hawley’s crusade against video games and porn is hilariously empty.” But the contempt and mockery his speech received was, at least in part, misplaced.

Mr. Hawley is not alone in sensing that masculinity is a popular cause; around the world, male politicians are tapping into social anxieties about its apparent decline, for their own ideological ends. The Chinese government, for instance, has declared a “masculinity crisis,” and it is responding by cracking down on gaming during school days and by investing in gym teachers and school sports.

There can be a homophobic and fascistic component to such calls: China has also barred “sissy” men from appearing on TV; in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has said that masks are “for fairies”; and Mr. Hawley, in his speech, fueled anti-transgender prejudice by alluding to a bogus “war on women’s sports.” Nothing justifies this hateful nonsense. But Mr. Hawley, for all his winking bigotry, is tapping into something real — a widespread, politically potent anxiety about young men that is already helping the right.”

Thomas B. Edsall | ‘It’s Become Increasingly Hard for boys and men to Feel Good About Themselves’ – The New York Times

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.

“Is there a whole class of men who no longer fit into the social order?

A decade ago, Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan, economists at the University of Chicago and the National University of Singapore, concluded in their paper “The Trouble With Boys: Social Influences and the Gender Gap in Disruptive Behavior”:

Family structure is an important correlate of boys’ behavioral deficit. Boys that are raised outside of a traditional family (with two biological parents present) fare especially poorly. For example, the gender gap in externalizing problems when the children are in fifth grade is nearly twice as large for children raised by single mothers compared to children raised in traditional families. By eighth grade, the gender gap in school suspension is close to 25 percentage points among children raised by single mothers, while only 10 percentage points among children in intact families. Boys raised by teenage mothers also appear to be much more likely to act out.”

Spencer Bokat-Lindell | Did the Supreme Court Just Kill the Voting Rights Act? – The New York Times

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a staff editor.

This article is part of the Debatable newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“Bans on ballot collectionLimits on vote-by-mail drop boxesShorter hours at polling places. Across the country, Republican legislatures are passing laws to make it harder to vote. Which is why, for proponents of expansive voting rights, the Supreme Court decision last week upholding two such laws could scarcely have come at a worse time.

“What is tragic here is that the court has (yet again) rewritten — in order to weaken — a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness, and protects against its basest impulses,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent, which was joined by the two other liberal justices. “What is tragic is that the court has damaged a statute designed to bring about ‘the end of discrimination in voting.’” “

Lindsay Crouse | My Ex-Boyfriend’s New Girlfriend Is Lady Gaga – The New York Times

Ms. Crouse is a senior staff editor in Opinion.

“I was eating bodega grapes at my desk on a recent Monday morning, gearing up to wrangle my inbox, when my phone started buzzing:

“Check Facebook.”

“Check Twitter.”

“Are you OK?”

It was an emergency: My ex-boyfriend, I learned, had a new girlfriend.

Lady Gaga.

“Lolol” if you want. (Everyone I know did.)

But it was true. While I’d been watching the Super Bowl on television in New York, they were snuggling in her private box at the Hard Rock Stadium at Miami Gardens. There were the paparazzi as he escorted her away, her pink hair flowing and sequins pasted around her eyes.  . . . “

Nicholas Kristof | Dealing With Our Segregated, Jim Crow Education System – The New York Times

“. . .  More broadly, we in the United States embrace a public education system based on local financing that ensures that poor kids go to poor schools and rich kids to rich schools.

Yes, it’s a “public” school system with “free” education. So anyone who can afford a typical home in Palo Alto, Calif., costing $3.2 million, can then send children to superb schools. And less than 2 percent of Palo Alto’s population is Black.

Rucker Johnson, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that since 1988, American public schools have become more racially segregated. Roughly 15 percent of Black and Hispanic students attend so-called apartheid schools with fewer than 1 percent white students.

In 1973, the Supreme Court came a whisker from overturning this system of unequal school funding, in the case of Rodriguez v. San Antonio Independent School District. Lower courts had ruled that profoundly unequal school funding violated the Constitution, but by a 5-to-4 vote the justices disagreed.

This was the Brown v. Board of Education case that went the other way. If a single justice had switched, America would today be a fairer and more equitable nation.

Educated white Americans are now repulsed at the thought of systems of separate and unequal drinking fountains for Black Americans but seem comfortable with a Jim Crow financing system resulting in unequal schools for Black children — even though schools are far more consequential than water fountains.  . . . “

Greg Bensinger | Apple and Facebook’s Feud Reveals Americans Like Privacy – The New York Times

Mr. Bensinger is a member of the editorial board.

“Many of the biggest tech firms have long insisted that consumers care more about free services than the privacy they surrender to use them.

Companies like Facebook pointed to their own exponential growth and insisted that consumers were voting with their feet.

Turns out, that was nonsense.

When offered an actual choice in the new operating system that runs iPhones, Americans are all in on privacy.

Just 6 percent of U.S. daily users of Apple’s latest mobile software are opting to allow companies like Facebook and its many affiliates to hoover up data about them and sell it to advertisers, according to Flurry Analytics. (The figure is higher globally, at about 15 percent.)     . . .   “