Newsletter #166: One Block in Oakland


Happy Thursday, loyal readers, and welcome, new subscribers! This week’s lead article, a collection of seven short vignettes about one city block in Oakland, offers nuance to the challenging issues of gentrification and affordable housing. I recommend that you take a look even if you don’t live in the Bay Area.

And if you want to be scared — given that Halloween is nigh — check out “America’s Next Civil War.” It’ll freak you out.

Big News: The Highlighter is ready to hit the road! If you like reading, meeting new people, and having conversations across difference, join The Highlighter Pop-Up Article Club. Eight loyal subscribers will gather in Oakland next month (Nov. 10, 2-4 pm) to read a mystery article and push each other through dialogue. Want to be in the room? Hit reply, let me know, and I’ll get you signed up!

One Block in Oakland

Many Highlighter subscribers call Oakland their home. But you don’t need to live in Oakland to understand the city’s rapid changes. What many say has happened in San Francisco (e.g., unaffordable housing, gentrification, displacement, a loss of identity and character) is happening in Oakland. This report, which focuses on one block in North Oakland, explains the effects that Proposition 13, passed by voters in 1978 to reduce taxes for homeowners, has had on education, housing, and business. Take your time: click on all seven stories, take a look at the maps and charts, and realize that there isn’t a simple solution to this mess. (20 min)

+ California voters: What’s the right way to vote on Proposition 5? Hit reply and share your thoughts. Maybe you’ll influence my vote!

America’s Next Civil War

The Highlighter isn’t about politics, but this frightening article by Canadian writer Stephen Marche was too hard to pass up. From across the border, Mr. Marche sees a possible future that the typical American may not fully grasp. I’m no alarmist, and I believe (maybe naïvely) in our institutions to mitigate extremism, but wow, those italicized sections got me nervous. (23 min)

Checkpoint Nation

Within 100 miles of any American border, you can be stopped, questioned, and detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the massive, 44,000-agent organization responsible for securing the country’s borders. As reporter Melissa del Bosque explains, Latinx citizens are routinely detained in what’s called the Southwest Stop-and-Frisk, raising questions about civil rights abuses. The most egregious examples include strip and body cavity searches. (23 min)

What So Proudly We Hail

English and social studies teachers in particular will enjoy this episode of the Code Switch podcast. It begins with a short analysis of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before focusing on two other important American anthems: “La Bamba” and “Dixie.” While both songs have uncomfortable histories, they also illuminate what it means to be American. (23 min)

+ Reader Annotations: Thank you to loyal reader Nicki for answering the question, “What’s your favorite way to read The Highlighter?” She writes:

“I typically read The Highlighter on my couch or at Rock Wall Winery, oftentimes with a glass of sparkling rosé.”

Not a bad choice! Readers, keep me posted about your Highlighter-reading habits.

Also, last week’s lead article on the opportunity myth was popular. Loyal reader Sarah emphasized the importance of open honors programs, enrichment, and recess. She also decried tracking:

Tracking of students makes it difficult for those in the lower track to catch up to those in the higher track. At my almost all-white school, I remember talking to a friend who qualified for but declined participating in Honors English during freshman year. He didn’t realize that his choice in ninth grade would make him unable to take AP English classes senior year.

Thank you, Sarah and Nicki, for sharing your thoughts. The Highlighter is a strong reading community!

Alas, it is too bad that this week’s issue has to end. Tell me what you thought by hitting reply or using the thumbs below. Also, let’s welcome this week’s 5 new subscribers: SarahAmberElisaRhys, and Jason! If you value The Highlighter, please:

I really appreciate your support. On the other hand, if you don’t find yourself opening up the newsletter regularly, please unsubscribe. I’ll see you back here next Thursday at 9:10 am. Have a great week!