Gray Matter: Reading into Ageism

By Lisa Peet “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” This, for those who’ve never seen it, was the caption to Peter Steiner’s now-famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon. Even though the Internet had barely hit public consciousness at that point, the line struck a nerve. And no wonder: one of the great wonders of online life, in those days, was its anonymity. On the Internet, nobody knew what you looked like, how much you earned, where you grew up, or your level of education; nobody knew you were sitting home in your pajamas; and—famously—nobody knew you were a straight white guy. The Internet of the mid-’90s freed you to become anyone you wanted; it was the liberation of the keyboard. Writers, of course, have long appreciated the protection of being preceded by their words; the term nom de plume first showed up in the 19th century, a good 150 years before we had such things as user names. Many of them were women competing in a man’s world: the Georges Sand and Eliot, the Brontë sisters before they hit their stride, science fiction writer James Tiptree, Jr.—born Alice Bradley Shelton. And who (of a certain age) doesn’t remember the...
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Rethinking Utopia: An Interview with Rich Benjamin

Melody Nixon recently interviewed Rich Benjamin, journalist-adventurer and the author of Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey To The Heart Of White America. See more at The Common Online   MN: Living on the East Coast and in New York City in particular I find it so easy to make assumptions about what is happening “out there,” in the rest of America, in terms of everything, but especially race relations. Your book offers rich insight as you actually travelled throughout the country investigating what you call “Whitopias.” What are Whitopias? RB: There are a couple important, salient qualities of the communities I visited, which I call Whitopias. A Whitopia has to be whiter than the U.S. in general, i.e., right now the U.S. is about 69% white. A Whitopia has to be whiter than its respective region in the country, (east, south, west, Midwest), and it has to have had at least 6% growth between 2000 and 2008, and the majority of that growth has to have to come from white residents. And the final quality that is absolutely crucial to a Whitopia is that it has to have a special social charm, a je ne sais quoi, a special...
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The Men Who Left Were White

By Josie Originally posted on There are three things you should know. First: I’m not biracial. “What are you?” people ask, and they expect me to say something thrilling and tribal. I answer, but still they press. “Where are your ancestors from?” people ask, and they want answers that aren’t San Antonio and Wheeling, West Virginia. But that’s all I got. My story is both simple and untold. The bones of it, of me: I’m black, despite the skin that goes virtually translucent in the winter. Despite the thin unpredictable curls. My mom and dad are black, as are my grandparents. That’s all she wrote. That’s all there is, even as I write this sentence. My parents, usually liberal employers of nuance, have always been militant-clear about drawing that line. We aren’t biracial. When I tell people I’m black, they find it unsatisfying. “That’s no fun,” one girl joked to me recently. “I thought you were going to have a story.” Second: I’m 44% European, 49% African. Not exactly an equal split, but pretty damn close. I hear the same sentence twice. The first time from my mother. It’s Christmas in Georgia. Outside the clouds are unloading cold sleet,...
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