Wednesday Reading List: Criminalizing Adolescence and Voter Intimidation

Amanda Ripley has a blockbuster piece in the new issue of The Atlantic, wherein she examines the extent to which American laws criminalize adolescent behavior:

At least 22 states and dozens of cities and towns currently outlaw school disturbances in one way or another. South Dakota prohibits “boisterous” behavior at school, while Arkansas bans “annoying conduct.” Florida makes it a crime to “interfere with the lawful administration or functions of any educational institution”—or to “advise” another student to do so. In Maine, merely interrupting a teacher by speaking loudly is a civil offense, punishable by up to a $500 fine. In some states, like Washington and Delaware, disturbing-school laws are on the books but used relatively rarely or not at all. In others, they have become a standard classroom-management tool. Last year, disturbing school was the second-most-common accusation leveled against juveniles in South Carolina, after misdemeanor assault. An average of seven kids were charged every day that schools were in session.

You'll be shocked - SHOCKED!  - to find out that there is a racialized history to some of these laws.

Many of these laws have roots in the Jim Crow south, and their enforcement today has predictable and disproportionate consequences for students of color. Take the time to read the whole piece, not just because the subject matter is of critical importance, but also because Ripley is a top notch writer.

Speaking of practices with roots in Jim Crow, Donald Trump is encouraging voter intimidation at his rallies. Jamelle Bouie in Slate explains why this is so dangerous:

Trump has gone beyond his attacks on the integrity of the ballot. Now, he wants his supporters to monitor the polls in places where, he says, “fraud” is likely. “You’ve gotta go out, and you’ve gotta get your friends, and you’ve gotta get everyone you know and you’ve gotta watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas" ... He means places where black people live and vote, a dog whistle calibrated to an audience of voters who have lived off of a decade of conspiracy mongering, from breathless theorizing over the obscure New Black Panthers to hysteria over groups that register voters and bring them to the polls, such as ACORN. And in particular, Trump is speaking to the idea—propagated through conservative media—that Barack Obama stole the 2008 and 2012 elections by using fraud and other nefarious tactics in cities like Philadelphia.

Asking private citizens, who are already keyed up by Trump's rhetoric, to be suspicious of Black voters is a recipe for conflict. When I saw this, I got even more depressed about an already depressing election. Jason Johnson at The Root looks for the silver lining:

The choice between Hillary Clinton, with her flawed and evolving racial politics, and Donald Trump and his attempt to create an American Third Reich has left a lot of people wondering if there is any good coming out of this election other than the occasional hot meme. Believe it or not, amid sex tapes, Russian leaks and over-the-top misogyny, a few spots of goodness have flourished like roses in concrete. When you think about it, perhaps the 2016 election season won’t be all bad. Below are five things to look forward to ...

Johnson includes his theory, to which I am partial, that the country is "ripping off the bandaid" of racism and sexism right now. I hope he's right.

Cecilia Kang at The New York Times reports on tech companies that are moving to offer free broadband to low-income customers:

With broadband now classified like a utility, telecom and tech companies, including Sprint, Comcast and Facebook, are increasingly working to make high-speed internet accessible to every American, not just a luxury. The companies are among those that have set their sights on bringing free or cheap high-speed internet service to low-income and rural populations in the United States, spurred by philanthropy and, for some, the hope of turning Americans who are not online today into full-paying customers in the future. Those goals were on display Tuesday, when Sprint announced that it planned to give one million low-income high school students a free device and a free high-speed data plan until graduation.

It seems that these companies are betting that there is an intersection between their focus on a social issue, and their long-term commercial interests. The same seems true of Ben & Jerry's, as Kae Wilson at Blavity points out their firm stance on Black Lives Matter:

Vermont-based company Ben & Jerry's has come out in support of Black Lives Matter ... Naturally, some customers were opposed to Ben & Jerry's stance and have decided to cease business with the company, but Ben & Jerry's isn't fazed. This isn't the first time Ben & Jerry's has taken a stance on social activism, and it most likely won't be the last. 

The ice-cream company has a history of tackling progressive social issues, but their specific, and detailed, denouncement of systemic racism is notable. The intersection of activism and commerce is fascinating, as economic pressure is a useful complement to the moral pressure applied by movement politics.