Category Archives: Essays

Shocked Silent

By Rubén Martinez

I write these words with a profound sense of the altered order of things, the subjectivity of rupture and woundedness that we have plunged into. I register shock, sadness, anger, pain, fear, helplessness. And also, strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, a sense of wonder, similar to the feeling that comes from walking down a street you’ve never been on before, being surrounded by a language that you don’t speak, a first encounter with a stranger. Continue reading

Why “Race Riot”? On the Need to Change a Misleading Term

By Steve Light

In memory of Thelma Foote, ever in affection and gratitude.

Among events known as race riots in U.S. history, the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, i.e. the destruction by whites of the African-American district of Greenwood, is among the most calamitous, albeit that all such events are immeasurably calamitous. But knowledge of and about this event from the moment of its occurrence until recent times was willfully suppressed in Tulsa and in the country as a whole. Continue reading

When Shall We Be Done Changing?

By Cypress Marrs

Music has a way of accenting time and — at its best — of moving it forward. Time would pass anyway, of course, but the beat propels it, allows it to be experienced more fully. At least, this is what happens when Felix Walworth is behind a drum set. Standing with long hair loose, Walworth flails, hitting at things with a reckless restraint. To watch is to see the world in microcosm — body and song — come into being one moment at a time. Continue reading

This is San Francisco

By Sarah Ladipo Manyika

It was Monday morning, at the library on Page Street, and I was in search of Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. As I looked for it on the shelves, my eye kept being drawn from the books to the men sharing the library with me. Worn out, weighted down by layers of clothing and heavy duffel bags, most of them looked like they were barely stumbling through life. One disheveled young man was engrossed in a book that he held only millimeters from his nose. Another was busy knitting, filthy-looking bags all around him. A third sat at a worktable with his head slumped into a plumage of frayed cloth. Continue reading

Putin Has the Best Words to Make America Great!

By Ani Kokobobo and Emma Lieber

Putin has all the best words! You might want to learn Russian, or you can listen to Donald Trump, who sounds like Putin lite, with all the bluster, but none of the polysyllabic words, or actual power (not yet, anyway). Although he has thankfully spared the American public the shirtless parading of masculine bravado, whenever not chained to a teleprompter by his handlers, Mr. Trump seems to be aping authoritarian language, crafting an image of himself as a strong authoritarian leader, a doer who will build walls and destroy ISIS, someone who should be in charge simply because he says so. In this sense Trump’s dismissal of his own vulgarity, the testimonies of the women accusing him of sexual assault, or Hillary Clinton’s entire political career as “just words” is (like most of his claims) perfectly disingenuous, since Trump knows the power of words better than anyone.  And though Trump may be running for president of the United States, he hardly ever sounds like someone seeking to be the leader of a constitutional democracy with checks and balances. Of all the authoritarian figures that he has praised in the course of his campaign (including, yes, Saddam Hussein), the smooth talking Mr. Putin is the favorite. Continue reading

Vanitas: Notes On 9/11 Art

By Zack Hatfield

To see the first-ever art exhibit at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, you must first descend the escalator, walk past the spotlit wreckage displayed as part of the museum’s permanent collection, past armed guards, past fire trucks warped beyond recognition, and, finally, past the buckled I-beams and other debris that haunt Ground Zero. These artifacts serve as totems of perseverance and frangibility, souvenirs of past atrocity. Yet this preceding layout is such that, once you enter the gallery, the art feels unnecessary, perhaps even insensitive. What can creativity achieve amid so much pain and loss? In light of this duality, both the helpfulness and helplessness of art are on display in Rendering the Unthinkable: 13 Artists Respond to 9/11, an exhibit that embodies the comforting generalities that annex America’s remembrance of 9/11 today. Continue reading