Five Best Friday Columns
Emily Bell on Jill Abramson and why women must be more than just good, Jelani Cobb on the ambivalent legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, Isaac Chotiner on India's next prime minister, Joanna Weiss on the Yik Yak app, Roger Cohen on the Iranian nuclear question.
Emily Bell at the Guardian on Jill Abramson and why women must be more than just good. “On Tuesday afternoon, the executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, left the building with little fanfare. The fury of women journalists who identify with Abramson stems from what we know: that excellent performances are not enough. Women must be completely different from the men they replace (or who replace them), apparently – they must adapt to the power they are briefly allowed to hold without transgressing the gender roles they aren't allowed to escape,” Bell writes. “Jill Abramson mattered at the New York Times not just because she was good at her job, or because she was apparently good for women at her job, but because she seeming didn't have to stop being Jill Abramson to be there. That is why so many women are mad at what happened her: because we thought that it could be possible for the rest of us to work hard, to do a good job and to be rewarded for the work that we produced, without also having to do the extra work of being someone else. And now, none of us are sure if that's still true.”
Jelani Cobb at The New Yorker on the ambivalent legacy of Brown V. Board. “Six decades after the Supreme Court struck down de-jure segregation, vast swaths of the American education system remain separated by race—indeed, there has been a trend toward resegregation in many areas, particularly in the South. But the most telling indicator of the ambiguous legacy of Brown may be the way we perceive the kinds of arguments that led to the decision. In 1986, the anthropologist John Ogbu conducted a study of African-American academic performance, and he concluded that many black students viewed high educational achievement as a form of ‘acting white’,” Cobb writes. “The United States may not be ‘post-racial,’ as many claimed in the wake of Barack Obama’s election, but it clearly sees itself as post-racism, at least when it comes to explaining the color-coded disparities that still define the lives of millions of its citizens.”
Isaac Chotiner at the New Republic on India’s next prime minister. “The results of India's election, which are rapidly appearing today, seem to show a huge win for the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The next prime minister is almost certain to be Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, a state in western India. He is known for his economic agenda, which is seen to be relatively business-friendly, and his controversial brand of Hinduism. It may be time to bring back an old slogan: over the next five years in India, the personal will be political, and probably not in a good way,” Chotiner writes. “He is a depressingly familiar type. He is secretive; he is vindictive; he has creepily authoritarian tendencies (a woman in Gujarat was placed under surveillance by Modi for months in a controversy that somehow didn't seem to register with voters); he ricochets between aggression and self-pity in a manner familiar to anyone who has heard nationalists of any stripe; and he is simply incapable of sounding broad-minded.”
Joanna Weiss at The Boston Globe on the Yik Yak app. “Yes, the first thing you want to do, after reading the posts on Yik Yak, is weep for the future of humanity. The new mobile app, aimed at college students, lets you post short, anonymous messages within a 1.5 mile radius — and gained recent fame as an insta-tool for high school and middle school bullies,” Weiss writes. “Still, the more I’ve learned about Yik Yak, the more I’ve actually found heartening — not about the app itself, but about the way the world now reacts to a social networking tool with negative social value. Teenagers realize the Internet is forever; there’s a backlash against cyberbullying; long-term, the market might kill antisocial app; Yik Yak’s founders are doing the right things. So far, they’ve built a cesspool for frat boys. OK. Or maybe Yik Yak will crumble under the weight of its own pointlessness — and next time, its creators will aim higher.”
Roger Cohen at The New York Times on the Iranian nuclear question. “Unreasonable optimism surrounds talks between Iran and major powers that resumed this week with the aim of moving beyond an interim deal to a long-term accord that ensures a limited Iranian nuclear program that can only be put to civilian use. An agreement would be the best outcome by far. The other options are a continuation of the relentless build-up of Iranian nuclear capacity seen over the past decade or war,” Cohen writes. “Some of the problems are political. Israel is holding out for complete dismantlement, a nonstarter that has many backers in Congress. The biggest obstacles are concrete and technical. What this means in practice is that the United States and its partners cannot accept an Iranian enrichment facility buried in a mountain, which is what Fordow is. But convincing Khamenei to close Fordow while force remains a threat will be problematic.”