Inspiring fear in criminals by targeting anyone who shares their racial background was the sometimes unstated subtext of stop-and-frisk, and the reason why many support racial and ethnic profiling from street crime to the war on terror. It’s also why stop-and-frisk was so clearly unconstitutional. “The goal of deterring crime is laudable,” Scheindlin wrote, “but this method is unconstitutional.” Defenders of stop-and-frisk seemed to know that from the beginning. They just hoped that if they could convince people it worked, it wouldn’t matter.
They believe wholeheartedly that the only way out of dead-end jobs is a college degree. But over and over again, I heard stories of bewilderment and betrayal. They lack the skills and knowledge they need to navigate an increasingly complex, costly, and competitive higher-education system. Whether confused about majors, stymied by bureaucracy, crippled by loan debt, or left feeling like they don’t belong, working-class men and women have come to see their relationship with college as a broken social contract. As they see it, they bought into the promise of higher education but got nothing but disappointment and loss in return.
The main thing that strikes me about all the chatter about “having it all” and “opting-out” or even “leaning in” is that it is not only extremely gender specific, but it also willfully ignores the fact that while a certain segment of society deals with a tyranny of choices (do I work? do I stay home? do I get a nanny? do I use daycare?), the majority of people in this country would view those choices as a luxury. There’s no two ways about it; it’s a privilege to feel stunted because all you do is sit around and bake cookies and organize carpools to and from your kid’s swim meets. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a worthwhile discussion to be had about whether or not women in high-powered careers should feel obligated to stay put for the good of their future or even for the greater good of a society that desperately needs more women in positions of power. Of course, there’s room for that conversation, but, well, that conversation has been ongoing now for at least a decade. Where is the conversation about the women who can’t afford the choice of opting out, who work minimum wage—or not much better—jobs and don’t have—never had—a partner to help them out? Those stories are easily as representative of American society as ones about women who went to Brown and Harvard and fell back into a successful career the moment they so much as thought about it.
There’s also this Kendrick Lamar effect that people don’t talk about. When you compare Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City to everything that came out afterward, it’s just frightening. I wouldn’t have put out Magna Carta, I wouldn’t have put out Yeezus. If I was J. Cole, I wouldn’t have put out that shit J. Cole put out, because Kendrick just dropped some shit that should make y’all never put out an album until you can get close. But tell me, teach me, you’re smarter than me. You think J. Cole is boring right?
but have you ever had a crush on a character in a television show? You know you have. Think about what a limited amount you learned about that character—just a few hundred lines of dialogue, of course presented in the physical form of a very attractive Hollywood actor. Now that you’ve called up that memory, imagine if that character could have interacted with you, had long and frank conversations, and was programmed to be charming, understanding, affectionate, or whatever else might be most appealing to you. Couldn’t you develop feelings for that persona that were much more meaningful than what you felt for your old TV crush?
My all-time favorite moment in the book occurs about midway through. By this point, Nattie had pretty much fallen in love with “C” after many days and evenings of telegraphic courtship. Then one day she gets reverse catfished. A creepy dude shows up at her telegraphic office and claims that he’s “C”. This isn’t true; he’s actually someone who worked alongside “C” in “C”s office, and who learned about Nattie and decided to pay a visit. But at this point, Nattie doesn’t know this. He’s such a creep that Nattie shooes him away and falls into a funk. How, she wonders, could somebody be so delightful “on the line” and so nasty in person? (Again, wow: How modern a moment is that?) The next time she runs into “C” on the telegraph wire, he’s nice to her and tries to talk (he has no idea his associate visited Nattie and pretended to be “C”), and Nattie brusquely cuts him off, saying she wants nothing more to do with him. He’s totally baffled, and keeps on trying to talk to her, but she won’t talk back. Classic romantic-comedy, mixed-up identity stuff! This is straight out of Shakespeare, or possibly Three’s Company.