December 31: On a Related Note

Below, I share some of the books, podcasts, and articles that rocked my world over the last week.

Music: This new Hamilton song is too good not to share again.

Book: Hidden Figures: I’m late to this party but this book really puts a WW like me in the shoes of black women and the shit they had to deal with in the first half of the 20th century. Not to be confused with the shit black women deal with now, which unfortunately is still far beyond what we as a society should accept.

For instance, one passage describes a black female computer, Mary Jackson, who asked white women coworkers at Langley where she could find a bathroom. Like water fountains and schools at the time, bathrooms were segregated, and they weren’t always easy to come by in a workplace with a significant majority of white men. Mary sees the white women and asks them where she might find a bathroom and they laugh at her.

Hidden Figures is a true story, and truly what happened is the white women didn’t care. It was laughable to them that they would know the answer to Mary’s question. This sort of behavior continues in different forms today. Standing in solidarity with other women is not giving an acceptance speech that fails to consider the experience of women of color. We have to do better. Yes we should be ashamed, but that shame should push us to be better allies. We have to shine sunlight on this ugly history and start being d*mn sure we are lifting our black sisters up, not tearing them down.

In that vein, the book has taught me a ton about Katherine Johnson, and really made me think about all the brilliant minds this country has wasted with racism and discrimination. Katherine was so bright that she went to college at age 14, and they had to create new math classes for her when she burned through all the existing classes. Later, she was one of three black students to integrate graduate education in her home state of West Virginia, and the only woman. The paragraph below illustrates how critical Katherine’s contributions were for NASA.

Known for accuracy in computerized celestial navigation, she conducted technical work at NASA that spanned decades. During this time, she calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency back-up return paths for many flights from Project Mercury, including the early NASA missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, through the Space Shuttle program. Her calculations were critical to the success of these missions. Johnson also performed calculations for the plans for a mission to Mars.

Podcast: Larry Wilmore with Ezra Klein: Health care will move to more public insurance options because Republicans have closed off the private options by accident.

Podcast: Slate Represent: Rethinking Gone with the Wind. Woman who played Mammy character, Hattie McDaniel, wins an Oscar but can’t sit with the rest of the white cast.

Thinking Cap podcast: sexual harassment, power, and Harvey Weinstein.

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