Back from Europe, and L.A. is doing just fine
New thoughts on corruption, democracy, and things to actually make you feel good
It’s been a minute. For now, I’m done with my European adventures and will be home in Los Angeles just in time for our city council to finish unraveling! I just published a piece in Puck with my thoughts about the racism and corruption scandal and what it could mean for reimagining democracy and how we citizen. Here’s a chunky quote:
Los Angeles, a city of nearly 4 million people, has only 15 city council seats. Prior to this week, the council was comprised of five white Angelenos, four Latinos, three Blacks, and two Asians—while the population shares of these groups, in the same order, are 28 percent, 48 percent, 9 percent, and 12 percent. The Latino and Asian shares of the population are increasing while white and Black shares are on the decline. If you look at political representation through the reductive lens of melanin composition, then Latinos could be justified in feeling underrepresented. If you acknowledge the history of limiting Latino power in Los Angeles, they are fully justified. I’ve certainly used the same logic when calling for increased representation for Black Americans in a number of areas in society. But when I did so, I didn’t attack and insult a three-year-old to make my point.
Look, solidarity is complicated. When considering these stats, I think back to my conversation with author Heather McGhee about her book The Sum of Us, in which she explained the “zero-sum mentality” that keeps America from fully embracing multiracial democracy with an economy that works for all. McGhee’s core idea is simple: By convincing people that the progress of one group—political, economic, racial, etc.—cancels out the advances of another, it’s possible to keep people divided while harboring more power at the top. That tactic has been part of the American playbook since its founding, through Reconstruction and the New Deal through to the current day. However, I frequently reflect on the flipside of this in McGhee’s related idea of a “solidarity dividend” and the possibility of greater wealth creation through collaboration and multiracial coalitions—a concept that has motivated much of my own work and much of this nation’s progress so far.
Beyond that here’s some other stuff I’m excited or enraged about.
Sarah Jones is one of my favorite artists and performers, and I’m stoked that her one-woman stage show, Sell/Buy/Date, is coming to film
I found the best obituary for Queen Elizabeth II in The Short, Unhappy Life of Elizabeth Windsor
Charlie Warzel read through a lot of Elon texts so you don’t have to in Elon Musk’s Texts Shatter the Myth of the Tech Genius. Once again, we find out what happens when we project ideals and expectations on people successful in one domain to lead us in another.
When I was in Amsterdam recently (don’t be mad!) I got to meet and interview Dilla Thomas. He’s become a TikTok star for his posts about Chicago history. He’s a public historian who’s also a public city employee, and he’s just dope. This article about him gives you a flavor, and if you’re already someone who donates copious quantities of your attention to a questionably-owned digital enterprise, check him out on TikTok.
Finally, see The Woman King! Really. It’s so damn good.
My best comment on social diversity comes from biology. The fittest ecosystems--from microbial biofilms to Yellowstone--are those with the most diversity and where the elements of that diversity are most interdependent. I'm from your neighborhood in LA and wish them all well despite the strife in their trying.