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raceAhead: Let’s Run Away and Join the Circus

Circus poster features the text 'Gymnasts and Acrobats from Two Continents in Acts of Infinite Variety, Daring and Originality' and an illustration that depicts 29 people in colorful costumes as they engage in, as advertised, a wide variety of performances, 1890. The poster was printed by the Cincinatti, Ohio-based Russell & Morgan Factories Printing Company.Circus poster features the text 'Gymnasts and Acrobats from Two Continents in Acts of Infinite Variety, Daring and Originality' and an illustration that depicts 29 people in colorful costumes as they engage in, as advertised, a wide variety of performances, 1890. The poster was printed by the Cincinatti, Ohio-based Russell & Morgan Factories Printing Company.
Circus poster features the text 'Gymnasts and Acrobats from Two Continents in Acts of Infinite Variety, Daring and Originality' and an illustration that depicts 29 people in colorful costumes as they engage in, as advertised, a wide variety of performances, 1890. The poster was printed by the Cincinatti, Ohio-based Russell & Morgan Factories Printing Company. Transcendental Graphics—Getty Images

If you’re ready for a break from the onslaught of terrible news, then maybe you should run away and join the circus. Sidney “Iking” Bateman did, and it worked out fine.

Batemen is now touring the world with Cirque du Soleil, but he started out as a kid growing up in a tough neighborhood who liked to turn flips with his family and friends in abandoned fields. But instead of gang life, Bateman tumbled his way into a troupe of amateur acrobats known as Circus Harmony, a social circus and youth movement based in his hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri.

Circus Harmony was established by Jessica Hentoff in 2001, who was a former circus performer herself. “I wrote to fifty circuses after college and only one wrote back, a Methodist minister who ran a youth circus,” she recalls. They taught and performed, but also brought their act to places like prisons, senior centers, and homes for people living with mental illness—places where people felt forgotten. “That’s a form of social circus in terms of using circus arts with a very specific form of intention.”

Though Circus Harmony has a permanent performance home at the City Museum in Saint Louis, they occasionally hit the road to collaborate with other troupes through their “Peace Through Pyramids” program. Hentoff and the kids traveled to Puerto Rico this past summer to work with students from The National School of Circus of Puerto Rico, where they performed with the children of ENC’s Social Circus project in Dorado, one of the neighborhoods devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

But Bateman is now a seasoned circus artist and is an acrobatic delight to behold. If you can spare eight minutes, PBS American Experience has a terrific short film about his life and work that is both joyous and unsparing.

He admits the early days in Circus Harmony were tough. At 15, he had to learn to work with other people, which he wasn’t used to. And, “I wasn’t okay with a white woman telling me what to do,” he says. He’d regularly get frustrated and quit. His junior year, he was expelled from school after a huge gang fight; later, his best friend was shot and killed. “That was it. I didn’t want to be just another statistic,” he says.

When he started to perform, “I felt I was a different person,” he says. “I was able to be who I wanted to be at home, with no one judging me.” And now, on stage as a professional, it all feels like home. “It’s the best feeling in the world when someone in the audience can connect to you.”

On Point

The political shift in the statesThad Kousser, the chair of the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego, says that the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives isn’t the only “wave” people should be paying attention to. Democrats took control of six state chambers and gained seven governorships, which changes the picture dramatically. “Even though state governments sometimes escape notice beneath the layers of American government, their decisions are vital to both the key policy issues of today and political battlegrounds of tomorrow,” he writes. When it comes to health care, the single most important issue facing voters today, it’s a watershed. “On the issue that matters most for many families, what counts the most is who runs a statehouse, rather than who sits in Congress.”Fortune

Notre Dame students cite their faith while kneeling during the national anthem
Some 60 students kneeled during the playing of the national anthem before Notre Dame’s last home game of the year this past weekend. “It was designed to encourage ND students to see racial justice as an essential part of their faith, and to rethink who a progressive activist looks like,” one of the student organizers told Religion News Service. The group plans a follow-up panel discussion this week looking to engage a student body that has not faced “the reality of systemic racial injustice.”
Religion News

Study: One in five teens can’t finish their homework because of a lack of internet access
It’s a real problem that’s not getting any better. Roughly one-third of low-income families with kids ages 6-17 don’t have access to high speed internet, a gap which disproportionately falls on Hispanic and black families. From the study: One-quarter of black teens say they are at least sometimes unable to complete their homework due to a lack of digital access, including 13% who say this happens to them often. Just 4% of white teens and 6% of Hispanic teens say this often happens to them.
Pew Research

Donna Zuckerberg finds that men are using classic studies to justify violence against women
Zuckerberg, a classicist with a Ph.D from Princeton, said her research took her to the darkest parts of Reddit and beyond, where she found a loose-knit but substantial community of misogynistic men who were misreading Hellenic texts to explain why they were having trouble with women. “The ancient world was deeply misogynistic—it was a time when there was no word for rape, feminism did not exist and women’s actions were determined by male relatives,” says Zuckerberg. Taken out of context, the ideas become toxic quickly. She is pointed in her criticism of the world her brother, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, helped make. “It is without doubt that social media has allowed this to happen… Social media has elevated misogyny to entirely new levels of violence and virulence.” Her new book on the subject, Not All Dead White Men sounds like a keeper.
The Guardian

 

The Woke Leader

Deval Patrick for president?
Jeffrey Toobin asks a simple question: Does an Obama-era political talent have a shot in the age of Trump? The answer is more complex. Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts is more than just an Obama acolyte, he’s a seasoned politician with a serious point of view. (His book is a must read for inside-baseball civil rights lawyering tales.) But outside of New England, he has little name recognition, and though he’s deepened his credentials—he runs the double impact business at Bain now, it would take some effort to get his name to the top of an already crowded field. But his candidacy would be in some ways, argues Toobin, a continuation of the Obama administration’s unique spirit. “They espouse a politics of unapologetic idealism, with a largely moderate, center-left orientation,” he writes. “On the stump, both are part teacher and part preacher.”
New Yorker

Let’s talk about Irish slaves
One of the most persistent racist myths cited by white supremacists involves Irish slavery, the intentional conflation of Irish indentured servitude with race-based, hereditary chattel slavery in the U.S. It’s value as a meme and tactic can be summed up quickly: “The Irish got over it, what’s your problem, black people?” Liam Hogan, an Irish librarian, historian, and a truly heroic debunker of racist propaganda has collected two years of his work de-mystifying the Irish slave meme, and even includes a geo-tagged map of Facebook users who have shared “Irish as slaves” misinformation. There are 39 articles, hundreds of citations and a full exploration of the meme on social media and neo-Confederate sites. Even if you don’t read it all, just click through to savor this man’s dedication. Mo sheacht mbeannacht ort, Mr. Hogan. 
Medium

The high cost of bullying bosses
Here’s a fun idea! If you haven’t met the CEO of your company but would like to, consider forwarding this insightful piece from the McKinsey Quarterly and written by Robert Sutton, prolific researcher of abuse and bullying in the workplace and author of The Asshole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt. The pressure of an always-on, global business means that empathy goes out the window in email, text and the like. “Meantime, some rising executives believe that treating people badly is a path to personal success—a conclusion bolstered by journalists and a few academics, who celebrate demeaning and disrespectful leaders.” Jerk behavior, along with change, starts at the top.
McKinsey

Quote

The circus is the only fun you can buy that is good for you. 
Ernest Hemingway