Lavin Weekly #19: Bazelon, Lawson, Cohen, Ali, & Coates
To what degree are American universities willing to see race be a factor in determining admissions? With this week’s Fisher v. University of Texas case posing another challenge to affirmative action plans, New York Times Magazine staff writer and Sticks and Stones author Emily Bazelon has engaged in an illuminating conversation with Adam Liptak, The Times’ Supreme Court correspondent, to speculate on how the case will unfold—and what it will mean for the country’s institutions. As she writes, “The court’s narrow and not always coherent vision of the role race may play in admissions has become, I think, a legal straitjacket. It leaves some judges straining to fit benefits that are hard to measure within the four walls of the diversity box, while others dismiss the whole project as misguided.” She also references an article by another Lavin speaker—one of our newest, Nikole Hannah-Jones—whose article “Class Action: A Challenge to the Idea that Income Can Integrate America’s Campuses” shows how class-based affirmative action can reduce how many African American and Hispanic students enroll in post-secondary.
2. Trudeau and the Meaning of Canada: Guy Lawson in The New York Times Magazine
Guy Lawson has written an engaged and enthusiastic profile of Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for The New York Times Magazine. The piece, called “Trudeau’s Canada, Again,” captures a new leader taking federal office, acclimatizing to the new spotlight and adjusting to round-the-clock public life. It also provides a recap of Trudeau’s rise to popularity, his family’s political roots—the Trudeaus are, for lack of a better comparison, Canada’s Kennedys—and how he managed to win a majority in our recent election (a battle Lawson calls “nothing less than an existential struggle over what it means to be Canadian”). The question of identity, as it turns out, is an interesting subject of the article: as Trudeau claims, “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada. There are shared values—openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first postnational state.”
3. Canada? What’s That?: Rob Cohen in the Montreal Gazette
For a totally different take on Canadian identity, look to filmmaker and writer Rob Cohen. He’s the creator (and funder) of the documentary Being Canadian, which airs this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on The Movie Network. He was also profiled this week by the Montreal Gazette, which calls his film “a hoot” that “should prove enlightening for many Canadians—particularly those who don’t know Peggy’s Cove from Spruce Grove.” As in his star-studded film, Cohen talks on his search for that elusive national character, why Canadian culture is so often ignored (or simply unknown), and the massive task of self-producing a movie. “I love Canada and I am so proud to be a Canadian,” he tells the Gazette. “The movie tracks the problems I had growing up. But Canada is so much more different now. It’s so much more cool and confident. People seem so much more patriotic and more aware of just how amazing the country is.”
4. Enduring the Absurd, the Outlandish, and the Dangerous: Wajahat Ali in The New York Times
You’ve no doubt heard about Trump’s announcement that, should he become President, he would ban all non-American Muslims from entering the U.S. “We live in absurd times with these absurd realities,” writes Wajahat Ali in The New York Times, “but sadly, there is no laugh track.” Throughout his recent op-ed “The Muslim Drill,” Ali—National Correspondent for Al-Jazeera America—explores how politicians like Trump can conflate 1.6 billion Muslims with a miniscule fraction of violent extremists, and, with perhaps cynical cunning, motivate increasingly mainstream Islamophobic voters (as he reports, “anti-Muslim hate crimes are about five times more common now than they were before 2001”). Dark times, but made more whole, more sane, and certainly more comical by Ali’s response. “We don’t need a repeat of a shameful past that rationalized internment and bigotry in the name of security,” he writes. “We need a way to feel secure that celebrates our values: pluralism, liberties, diverse partnerships, and the inevitable marriage of halal meat with corn torillas. Maybe we can call this the ‘American Drill.’”
5. Things Fall Apart: Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic
If you’re feeling a bit pessimistic about recent world events, it’s understandable—but according to Ta-Nehisi Coates, a more honest look at the world might make you a better historian, and writer. In The Atlantic article “Hope and the Historian,” Coates writes of how African Americans (both nationalists and integrationists) have worked for years, tirelessly, to emancipate themselves from oppression. But despite their efforts, success has rarely been achieved. “The more I studied,” Coates writes, “the more I was confronted with heroic people whose struggles were not successful in their own time, if at all.” Indeed, hope itself might be the anomaly, the overrated factor in history and journalism. Injustice and fear, the reality. “Thus,” he continues, “writers who commit themselves to only writing hopeful things are committing themselves to the ahistorical, to the mythical, to the hagiography of humanity itself. I can’t write that way—because I can’t study that way. I have to be open to things falling apart.” For more of Coates’ lucid assessments, be sure to check out his excellent interview in Harper’s Magazine, called “Choosing Words.”
To hire Emily Bazelon, Guy Lawson, Rob Cohen, Wajahat Ali, or Ta-Nehisi Coates as the keynote speaker of your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.