240: The Racial Divide with Jared Rodriguez

This week’s guest is Jared Rodriguez. He’s an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, teaching in the department of gender and race studies. He joins Brett to discuss distance learning, racism, and some lighter-hearted top picks.

Top 3 Picks

  1. Schitt’s Creek
  2. Binti
  3. Merlin Mann – Cranking

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Soundtrack + 2–1

[00:00:10] Brett: [00:00:10] This week’s guest is Jared Rodriguez. He’s a return guests that I’ve been looking forward to talking to, currently an assistant professor at the university of Alabama teaching in the department of gender and race studies. How’s it going, Jared?

[00:00:23]Jared: [00:00:23] I don’t even know how to answer that question, given the dumpster fire, that we’re all, warming currently warming ourselves by, but, I’m healthy. my kids are healthy and, and currently enrolled in a distance learning through the, Chicago public school system. So, yeah, I’d consider that a pretty well, all things considered.

[00:00:48] Brett: [00:00:48] So you have kids doing distant learning. Doesn’t learning. I assume you’re also teaching

[00:00:54] Jared: [00:00:54] I am. I am, yeah, I’m teaching a graduate seminar right now. it is [00:01:00] a very strange, experience, to watch my kids be much more effectively educated than I feel like I am doing with my students. So I’m definitely stealing things from their pre-kindergarten educators.

[00:01:16]Brett: [00:01:16] Yeah. Yeah. how do you feel the, the country in general did with the sudden switch to everyone doing distance learning?

[00:01:27] Jared: [00:01:27] It’s a hard question to answer because the lack of, of a, a reference point or point of comparison, means that, it’s a, it’s like parenting for me . in the rear view mirror, I can, get some sense of, okay. Maybe I could’ve done that better or maybe I really did overachieve in that instance.

[00:01:51] but I think that, overwhelmingly, I think that if. Pretty poor job was [00:02:00] done in regards to administration sort of foot dragging around making decisions. Yeah. And a sort of, exceedingly. Amazingly in comprehensively, good job was done by, by most teachers and families and trying to, really pull together to try to make the best of a really, really, really difficult situation.

[00:02:26] So, we’ll see, it’s like, our, our, our experiment is still ongoing. but I would say that it was a pretty Herculean effort, I think, on behalf of most families and teachers. And, I think if, if anything, if, if what we’ve struggled through as a guide, we could see the utility in, in.

[00:02:51] Making difficult decisions, sooner and, in regards to thinking [00:03:00] about, whether next semester might be online, and then being able to offer everyone more time and more or resources to prepare, because that’s ultimately, what has proven to be a decisive factor in, and people’s success, but yeah.

[00:03:16] Brett: [00:03:16] I feel like this game of, of telling everyone, yeah, we’re going to get back to in person classes and then canceling it the week of, or even a week into it and not being prepared for. The alternative, it seems detrimental to study. Like I understand that distance learning probably it has a lot of issues in comparison to in-person learning, but if you, if you don’t give it fair chance with appropriate preparation, of course, it’s going to be worse.

[00:03:49]Jared: [00:03:49] Yeah. The strange thing for me is, is that. I don’t even know if we can actually compare them, given the experience that we have. [00:04:00] I guess for me, I wouldn’t. say that what I’m doing now or what I, what most people are experiencing now is actually a, anything approximating sort of even, 50% of best practices when it comes to online or distance education.

[00:04:17] Right. so I don’t even know if we, the sheer volume. Of, folks doing distance or online education. I think that really makes some of the previous studies or data that we have on it. I dunno, it, it, it, it makes me question how applicable it is, given that, it’s, it’s such a smaller sample size it’s, many of the, the, criteria that sort of, that, were, were used to analyze the efficacy of, distance learning programs or online learning programs.

[00:04:55] They’re just fundamentally different. just because of the scale. [00:05:00] so I, I think the jury’s still out, and I think that, that it’s a reminder that, that, these are not normal times. This is not normal distance learning. and, and I think we do well too to, to, to remember that.

[00:05:20] I, I, what came to mind immediately was that, was, just in time delivery. Right. if just in time delivery is, it’s a sort of means of optimizing using supply chains, right. To sort of, to lower, supposedly right. lower the costs to, of goods to the consumer in the end.

[00:05:43] Right. Because, retailers, right. They pay less for transportation, less for storage, yada, yada, yada, if that doesn’t work. Hasn’t really proven to be, a particularly resilient means of organizing, manufacturing and distribution. It for [00:06:00] damn sure is not going to be a particularly effective way of approaching education.

[00:06:07] Brett: [00:06:07] Sure.

[00:06:08] Jared: [00:06:08] Right. And that’s what we had. Right. We had an attempt right. To pull off just in time delivery, three, four, for a massive shift to online education, the, the biggest shift in public education. And, I, I can’t even, maybe since, the broadening of, the desegregation, right, for instance of American public education, I would.

[00:06:42] be open to argument, but, but I think the scale of what we are currently undergoing is, is really hard for us to wrap our heads around. And I think that, that, that is one of the, the, the biggest concerns is that in the [00:07:00] interest of, of, Not freaking people out. Right. And maintaining some semblance of, of normalcy, right.

[00:07:09] That we downplayed just how massive. a shift. This is from not only what we’re used to, but the conditions that were that we, that we’ve all learned to educate under and, and be educated under. Right. the, I think that, there is a, a lot of legitimate concern about students, being able to transition right to online education.

[00:07:42] And that those are very, very, very, very serious. and, but we also have to think, as part and parcel to that, that the overwhelming majority of, of educators, right. Whether they be, primary, secondary sort of, college, right. have not. [00:08:00] received any training, almost no training in, to, to, how to effectively teach in this way.

[00:08:10] and so, yeah, it’s, it’s been a struggle and, and that’s part of why I, I, I really do think that that. The fact that it has been as successful as it has been, is a Testament to just how committed right. families and teachers are to trying to make it work and really, really difficult circumstances.

[00:08:37]Brett: [00:08:37] Do you think it has affected, different, across the racial divide? there obviously there’s, disparity in schools and education in general, did, did distance learning make that worse?

[00:08:56]Jared: [00:08:56] I think that, first we need to, [00:09:00] take a step back. Right. the, the. Thinking about the way that, the shift to distance learning, has affected the racial divides and, and, and the availability of quality public education in the United States is much like, worrying about sort of a new leak that’s sprung in, in the roof of a house that’s already been condemned.

[00:09:35] Right. and I use that metaphor to, to, just, to, to, to offer you a, the picture was pretty bleak, before the G the shift to distance learning. Right. and they’re there, the shift to learning is I think another opportunity for us to look at just [00:10:00] how. Pervasive and deep that the racial inequality runs right.

[00:10:05] In, in, in this country in general and sort of as it’s expressed and, access to quality public education. But I think that, one of the difficult things and looking at how people were, engaging with the, the, the question of, should we shift to distance or should we maintain sort of in person schooling?

[00:10:28] in, in some part, right. Hinged on the question of, well, right. With students who don’t have, who, who are, amongst, sort of, racially oppressed sort of groups in this country who are not, who don’t have equity right. Or so equitable access to, whether it be sort of a, as families, right.

[00:10:55] So, so economic opportunities, right. Healthcare, right. You can go down the, the, the list [00:11:00] that schools actually provide. Right. they provide health services, right? Food. They provide sort of a, in very, very significant ways. one of the last bastions of, the, the, the continually shredding social safety net in this country have been public schools.

[00:11:22] Right. so that the idea of, suggesting that we take that away from students who really need it right. Who are going to struggle at home, right. Families, we’re going to struggle to feed their children, right. Or the kinds of, us, Developmental, therapeutic services, right?

[00:11:44] Whether they be in the form of, IEP or individual education plans that students with disabilities have, or students who, who receive counseling in school. Right. It’s a, it’s almost a no brainer, [00:12:00] right? If the alternative is. Put kids in a situation where they’re not going to eat, not going to get health care, not going to get the kinds of therapeutic services that they need.

[00:12:08] Right. right. Or put them in that, but that, as a, it’s a false dichotomy, right. In a certain sense in that, what we’re doing here is we’re being forced to suggest that sort of the sacrifice of the health and wellbeing of communities, which include teachers. Right. Which includes sort of the, the elderly, family members of students, right.

[00:12:34] A, a broader. Community that’s sort of that come together, make a school, a neighborhood school, right. that we shouldn’t sort of calculate the public health risk in that, from that end and that we shouldn’t be thinking about, okay, maybe. a public school is not the best place to offer, non comprehensive and sort of [00:13:00] piecemeal healthcare services.

[00:13:02] Maybe, it would think these kinds of things would not be as big of an issue if we had, for instance, right. universal healthcare in this country, right. If we had sort of a guaranteed, livable minimwage, Right. If we had the, the kinds of, universally available, guarantees for sort of a minimstandard of living, right.

[00:13:27] That almost every other country in the quote unquote, developed world, has. Right. And so, I think that the question of, of, virtual schooling or in-person schooling, really, makes broader social questions, broader political questions, broader economic questions, and the kinds of inequalities that exist in this country.

[00:13:50] Right. It, it sharpens them to the point, where they’re completely unavoidable. Right. And, and I’m not here to [00:14:00] say that, That we should not think about, right. students who are going to be hungry. Right. and sort of, lead them to their own devices. Right. For instance, here in Chicago, one of the amazing things they did this summer, right.

[00:14:16] They couldn’t have summer school, but what, what many of the schools did was that they organized a lunch distribution, right. In ways that sort of families could come pick up food. Right. there are many ways that sort of the, the, that, while suboptimal, of course, that, that schools still can continue to provide some of those services and resources that they did provide, without having to necessarily subject right.

[00:14:44] The, the, our communities, right. Our school communities, our public school communities. So the kinds of risks, right. that. They are, disproportionally, ill-equipped, it’s the access to resources to, to [00:15:00] really deal with.

[00:15:01] Brett: [00:15:01] So you’re saying that threatening to remove funding from schools that didn’t reopen on your schedule might be detrimental to abroad who would’ve thought.

[00:15:12]Jared: [00:15:12] Yeah, it’s bad for public health.

[00:15:15] Brett: [00:15:15] yeah.

[00:15:17] Jared: [00:15:17] I mean, the, ultimately the, the, the, in my opinion, the responsible thing to do would be to actually increase. Right. funding right there. If there, if there were monies, right. Which, which, the, the. sort of the, the department of education allocated, right?

[00:15:36] pandemic response funds, for instance, to schools who would commit to reopening, right. There was a commitment of an increase in funding, right? So there was, there were resources available. Well, what if those resources were still given to schools who desperately needed them even before the pandemic?

[00:15:57] And actually help facilitate right. [00:16:00] Schools being a central locus, right. Of, the community, care in regards to public. Right. And, and, a lot of the, I’m not, it couldn’t completely mitigate this, but sort of maintaining the sense of community. Right. Men gain maintaining a sense of sort of regularity in regards to, to, to, to relationships that are being built between students and teachers and administrators.

[00:16:27] Right. that there, right. there have been there’s, Proof right in, family and teacher, and then some cases in administration led initiatives, right. To have schools continue to be some kind of resource, right. Even in the absence of in-person schooling that I think are instructive, right.

[00:16:50] About how we might think about a post pandemic, right. engagement with, with how public schools work in our [00:17:00] communities.

[00:17:00] Brett: [00:17:00] Yeah. So you’re teaching a master’s doctoral seminar on data algorithms and blackness.

[00:17:09] Jared: [00:17:09] I am. Yeah. I don’t know. Well, one of the beautiful things about, About being a professor, is that, you get to be a little selfish. Ah, not always, but sometimes. and I got the opportunity to create, a seminar on a topic of my own choosing and, and I for very, very, very long time, I’m a nerd.

[00:17:36] which I’m sure will come as no surprise to you, but I’m a big nerd. And, and I, what I, for me, one of the things that drives me towards research projects is my general sort of, Struggle with being [00:18:00] articulate, right. leads me to try to develop and refine ways to more effectively communicate and more effectively communicate things that I see, right.

[00:18:09] Either political dynamics or, structures, happening around me that we don’t necessarily have the resources or the, the, the tools to effectively talk about and, or communicate about. Right. And so, one of those things that sort of married, right? My, my general sort of, lifelong project of trying to be better at talking to people and also sharing with them, things that I see that I think are important, is this class right?

[00:18:43] Is this class, which is really trying to grapple with, The way that, what, in the field of critical algorithmic studies is called the algorithmic turn or the turn, sort of the, the big data [00:19:00] fication of social science research. Right. And, I, I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to you that, You know that, or maybe it will, I don’t know, or the listeners, right.

[00:19:13] That many of the same dynamics right around how people think about data and algorithms. Right. And sort of the general public are actually how they’re thought about in academia, right? The presumption, right. That we have that, data and algorithms are in some way, A more neutral or objective form a tool for analysis or assessment.

[00:19:36] Right. and, then thinking about what the knock on effects of that, are for instance, some of the things that we’re talking about in our class there, what does it mean? Right. When a, an algorithm is, assessing whether or not someone is a fit for parole. Right. And that analysis includes a [00:20:00] lot of, a lot of factors, some of which are clear to sort of the prisons or, or, or courts using, right.

[00:20:08] The algorithms to assess whether or not someone is a, is a good candidate for parole. And some of which are not right because the algorithms are, intellectual property and thus, sort of the, the, there’s a layer of obfuscation that exists between what the variables are.

[00:20:26] Right, that are being assessed in sort of the decision being rendered. Right. or any other number? Mmm, Mmm, Mmm. Mmm. You know that data and algorithms right, are used in our broader society, in ways that are really deeply entangled with historic and contemporary forms of, of racial right or gender, inequality.

[00:20:56] Right. I’ll get one, one thing that really blew my mind [00:21:00] from one of my students, a project that they came up with, was, the way that, public transportation, right? Sort of, for example, bus routes, right? Sort of the optimization of bus routes to shift resources, right. to a rush hour, right.

[00:21:22] Actually can deepen, inequality in the labor market, right? So folks who are underemployed. Right or who, have, regularly, changing sort of job shifts, right in retail, right. Starbucks or any other number of sort of service industry jobs where sort of, just in time employment schedules, right?

[00:21:47] Are employed right. That, the optimization of, of, of have a bus route to shift resources, towards rush hour and away from, [00:22:00] not, heavy traffic times actually. Makes it more difficult, right. For underemployed or, or, folks or folks who are, don’t have regular schedules to be able to make it to work on time. Right. And if we look at sort of it from a, quote unquote, as a, as merely sort of a neutral shifting of resources to optimize, right. where they’re being allocated, we, we wouldn’t see that. Right. So that’s one example, right? And, there are a whole host of different, of different examples of that that allow us to see right.

[00:22:43] The utility of what some folks are, are calling or developing as sort of algorithmic justice, which is to say, When data and algorithms are used in public land, right by municipal authorities or any other sort of, authorities that are, that are, sort of [00:23:00] charged with their, mandate by, by, by, by the public or sort of utilize, sort of, taxpayer funds or public funds, right.

[00:23:11] That. the communities that are going to be effected by the decisions in which these algorithms are being used, that they should be engaged and involved in those processes of deciding how the algorithms are going to be used right. Involved in, in, in deciding whether or not an algorithm should be used in the first place.

[00:23:32] Right. so for instance, right in, in, in this, in the bus route example, right? That there be a community, that there’ll be community representatives involved, right. Who have a sense of how. Right. what the effect of this, this, supposedly neutral optimization of taxpayer money is, is, is actually going to do right.

[00:23:55] Or in the instance of, when algorithms are being used in, in [00:24:00] sentencing or in parole. Right. questions that, that folks involved and engaged in, in that community. Right. Not merely from the prosecutor side. Right. but form the formerly incarcerated. Right. That they be involved in those, in, in shaping how the tools are used.

[00:24:21] Right. Because, we can see that if we just assume a neutral sort of valence, right. To the, to, to data and algorithms, right. That, we do. So, at our own peril, if we are concerned or worried about right. The deepening of, structural inequalities,

[00:24:43] Brett: [00:24:43] So if there’s a, a lack of equality and the way that algorithms are implemented. Do you think there’s malice in some cases, whether it’s sentencing or bus schedules, do you think that there’s an intentional, [00:25:00] you said the algorithm to benefit one class of people over another.

[00:25:07]Jared: [00:25:07] I, not necessarily, but this is one of those, examples right. Of how, I, I don’t think so. but. I would say that because the absence right. Of sort of an intentional or our ability to see any kind of intentional malice on the part, right. Of folks who are, who purport to merely be wanting to sort of, minimize inefficiency, right.

[00:25:36] In regards to sort of the spending of taxpayer money. Right. It’s a fairly laudable goal. Let’s not waste money. Right. cause there are other places where we need it, but, but. one can see that, that the, that malice or sort of an intent, right. To deepen systematic inequality is actually not necessary.

[00:25:56]Right. In this instance, you [00:26:00] could just really care about not wasting money. Right. and it’s a question of, well, Who who is the public, who are that we are serving in regards to public transportation. And if we have to triage, who were we going to prioritize? Right. And that comes from a sort of a.

[00:26:22] it comes from a scarcity model or a presumption that, that, that, the William James has a beautiful quote sort of, I’m never confused the field of your vision for the limits of the world. Right. that when it comes to funding for public transportation, right. Who’s to say that, that this budget is the, the appropriate budget, right.

[00:26:51] Or that this is the place that we need to be quote unquote, cutting the fat or that, The sacrifice [00:27:00] of, the, the capacity of, of, underemployed folks or folks who, who, have less control or say about their job schedules are less important in regards to, serving as a, as a public, right.

[00:27:16] Then folks who, take the train on a regular schedule, during rush hour. So, so not necessary. And that’s part of the. Reason that I teach this, then I’m teaching this course in the first place, right? Is that, a common sense understanding of a way to fight oppression or way to fight racism or sexism, right.

[00:27:41] As you find the people wearing the tee shirts, you find the people wearing the Maga hats, right. and part of what. The contribution that I’m trying to make with, an understanding of, using data and algorithms and the way that their, their, their purported, [00:28:00] neutrality, right.

[00:28:01] The neutrality that they grant, right. The, the, the operations or sort of ends that they’re put to. Right. Okay. one, one thing that emerges right from looking at that is. the powerful tool of, of, of being able to see right, that you don’t have to be wearing a Maga hat. You don’t have to be wearing the tee shirt, right.

[00:28:25] In order to be someone who is committed to or something that is committed to, deepening structures of inequality. And, and, and in fact, it’s a Testament to how. how successful, political movements against racism against sexism, right? against oppression in general have been right.

[00:28:49] That, that is, our current president sort of not withstanding right. That, that, that w in general, Right. [00:29:00] Sort of racism, sexism, homophobia are far less publicly, culturally, socially sanctioned. Right. but we, we also can see that, we, directly correlate sort of an absence of the tee shirts or the hats, being worn, around right.

[00:29:21] We correlate that with sort of a, a sort of, yeah, an absolute reduction in systematic inequality, right. Or racism or sexism at our own peril. Right. And that we actually need to develop ways of understanding, right? The, the, how, inequality persists in the absence of those, formerly much more easily understood, costumes that it’s worn.

[00:29:43] Brett: [00:29:43] Yeah. So speaking of racism,

[00:29:47] Jared: [00:29:47] Yes. Does that make sense for it? Like the trial, your tracking code?

[00:29:52] Brett: [00:29:52] I am. the, I w we’re almost to that part where I switched to talking about the top three picks, but I [00:30:00] really want to hear what you can tell me about, the protests and, and what’s happening. I know that, in Portland, there are like full fledged protest still going on.

[00:30:14] Even in my small town here in Minnesota, we have weekly black lives matters protests happening. like this is still going and it feels like the most momentI in my lifetime have ever seen for, for the, movement to address racism, especially in the areas of policing. I I’d be curious to hear, anything you can tell me about what’s happening now.

[00:30:40]Jared: [00:30:40] Oh man, that’s a, well, I would agree that in my lifetime, this is the, the, the, and, and I think that, that something that can’t be lost in the shuffle that, that, that perhaps sometimes it’s taken for [00:31:00] granted that this is the most widely. Popular movement, against racism in the history of the United States.

[00:31:12] That that is, that is that this is a watershed moment, right? in spite of. You know what we might be seeing in the mainstream media, right. Or what coverage, right. That we’re being offered, that this is, this is by far the most popular movement against racism in the history of this country and that, that is in and of itself.

[00:31:36] Right. Something that’s important to acknowledge now the popularity of something, right. As, as we all well know. Right. Sort of like we can look at, universal healthcare or any number of other, Widely held sort of a, sort of, political [00:32:00] aspirations.

[00:32:00] Right. And, and understand that sort of the popularity of something is not directly correlated to how likely it is to, to be able to, turn that corner and, and really turn into, to broader institutional change. Right. so yeah, I think that that is, is. An important dynamic to understand, right. That we might all, sort of, I think in general, right?

[00:32:30] Even folks who might be lifelong Republicans, right. acknowledge that there is a problem, right? What, what they think the solution is right. Might differ. Right. but the very acknowledgement that there is a problem means that we are in fundamentally uncharted waters. Right. And so I don’t know if I can offer anything, in regards to where we might be going.

[00:32:55] Okay. What I can offer some historical context, right. [00:33:00] in that. A there have, just regardless of how popular something is, right. It actually needs to, to be channeled into, a movement for institutional change that can hold, politicians and legislators accountable. Right. and I think you do see that in, in, in local areas, right.

[00:33:26] In regards to, changes in, Municipal ordinances around sort of policing, right. And, and local city councils sort of, changing funding structures. Right. and the, the possibility of that being generalized, I think is a, is an open one, right. It really, really is. in large part due to.

[00:33:52] due to the pandemic, due to the insanity of, the, the, the election at the [00:34:00] moment. and, but what I, what I, what I do want to get across is that there are, the protests have not stopped, right? They have not stopped. Like folks are organizing. Folks are meeting folks are pushing across the country.

[00:34:17] Right. And that, In part that is a reflection right. Of the black lives matter movement acknowledging. Right. the, the historical reality that, a question of conscience must be, turned into an, on the ground movement, right. Pushing on those institutional levers to bring about change.

[00:34:43] Right. And, and I think that folks. that need to. begin to live that reality in ways that sort of, and across sort of, the swath of folks who may disagree with how policing has been done in this [00:35:00] country, need to begin to live that reality.

[00:35:02] And in ways that they may not have thought, they could or were necessary, because they’re going to be right. They’re going to be in, regardless of who gets elected in the fall. Right. I think that an immense amount of pressure is going to need to be brought. To bear, right. In order to get the kinds of institutional change that I think are widely supported.

[00:35:27] Brett: [00:35:27] Yeah.

[00:35:28] Jared: [00:35:28] If that makes sense.

[00:35:30] Brett: [00:35:30] Yes, I’ll wait. I’ll wait, is eyeopening talking to you because I can get, I can get the perspective of, for me, like in person perspective, comes from people living in the same small town. I do. And then my perspective from the larger community comes through a avenues like unicorn riot and, online reporting that would bother to still cover the product beyond, [00:36:00] shootings and things like that.

[00:36:02] So, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s good to hear that, that you see it as something that’s still, still strong, still moving forward.

[00:36:12] Jared: [00:36:12] Well, it’s, it’s interesting because it’s, it’s in some places, right. Things have ABD and in some places, things have gone up, sort of, have moved, forward, but forward in different directions. Right. some folks have moved into, to electoral realism. Right to get sort of black lives matters, activists elected, right.

[00:36:36] to positions and other places disagree with that strategy. Right? The, the, the. the point that I’m making about sort of the, the, the, the real, the really profound popularity of, of this movement is not to say that sort of racism, doesn’t still exist at the same time, but it is to, to, to [00:37:00] give us a sense of what is, what is at the heart, of an incredibly heterogeneous political movement.

[00:37:11] Right with some folks, pushing more into the electoral realm and other fault folks. Right. Keeping folks out on the street. Right. And, and, and keeping, quote unquote grassroots movement pressures, on, and in other places organizing, food drives, right. And other places, Oregon, that, that.

[00:37:33] There is a, a wide and varied set of actions that folks in the black lives matter movement are engaged in. Right. That, that do not look like the kinds of things that are widely reported on in the news media and that impart right. Is, unfortunate that, that, that might not be the, the wider understanding, but it is [00:38:00] fortunate in the sense that it is that heterogeneity is it, is that diffusion, right.

[00:38:05] And that ability of, of of the movement. To be able to draw in folks who, who, may not necessarily agree on what the exact, single thing we should be doing is, nationally right. And take their interest in wanting to change things and channel that right. In a way that makes sense locally.

[00:38:27] But as a part of sort of continuing sort of a, the, a broader struggle that, that, that is, that, that is something that I think cannot be lost on us. Right. because it, it is something that is, it is not common in American history, and an indication of, of, of something, of something special.

[00:38:48] Right. And that, that in these super, super, super darkest timeline times, that we might look to as, as an opportunity, but an [00:39:00] opportunity that we ourselves have to, all be engaged in pushing forward wherever we are in whatever way we can. Right. regardless of who gets elected in the fall, like, and I, I say that again because I, I think it bears a saying in that, one of the, the.

[00:39:22] The things that sort of the present contemporary, the contemporary sort of political moment, right? One of the lessons that I feel like, that a lot of folks are drawing, right, is one of, just, maybe, S somewhat more blinkered approach, to, to. the possibility is of merely, a change that’s gonna, that’s gonna happen at the polls in this fall.

[00:39:51] You pull at the polls, right. in November rather. And what I want to suggest is that, that the, [00:40:00] that that would be a disservice to the momentand the possibility studies that are really, really exist. Right. for broader and more fundamental changes, right now that are embodied in the black lives matter, protest movement.

[00:40:12] Right. Which, which went from beginning a couple of years ago. Right. being started with sort of concerns that were beyond, but really what sort of we’re about sort of a few individual police murders, right. And how they reflected systematic inequalities that now, right. That, that has deepened.

[00:40:34] that, that, that those concerns have deepened in such a way that allow us to, to, to make generalizations about, really, Popular right. Analyses of, the kinds of changes that are needed in American society writ large. And that, that, those seemingly narrow concerns, right?

[00:40:55] Those, quote unquote special interest group politics, right. As [00:41:00] folks might call them, right. Have really, really, really generalized and, and, and swept up. Right. A lot of the broader concerns, right. Of people outside of that special interest group in a way that, That make things possible, beyond November that otherwise would not be in.

[00:41:18] I, I, I look forward to that.

[00:41:21] Brett: [00:41:21] What kind of stuff is happening down ballot that, that is a direct result of the, the movement.

[00:41:28] Jared: [00:41:28] But, local city council members. Right. You have, I think the first, BLM, or sort of, w one of the central movement folks in Ferguson, getting elected, to Congress, right. but I think ultimately, the down-ballot stuff is, is, You know is more so largely reflective of.

[00:42:00] [00:42:00] The the, an openness to pressure of folks, right. that otherwise previously sort of, would not be there, right. That th that constituencies are exerting, because of the, the, because of the, the, the palpable dissatisfaction from, from sort of status quo politics, right. That, that, that, that the down-ballot sort of, possibilities are not necessarily.

[00:42:27] Immediately in the form of, of movement folks. Right. taking up sort of a, electoral sort of candidacies, but more so right. Movement folks, shifting the agenda. Of those, those people, but they’re ha there have been sort of a few, like, really serious, I would argue sort of, electoral sort of, wins, right.

[00:42:52] that have been swayed in large part by, by movement folks, particularly, at, [00:43:00] in places where, conservatism was thought to, to, to, to run the day. But I, I, I, I, I think that we’ve got, we’ve got our hands full, want a temper sort of like, I am optimistic about the possibilities, but I am also, very sober about sort of the, the, the, the kicking and screaming that will be done in order for us to get where we want to get.

[00:43:30] Brett: [00:43:30] Yeah. If only there was as much funding available for the black lives matter movement, as you would find for like the tea party movement, if we could get it AstroTurf, we’d be set.

[00:43:42] Jared: [00:43:42] Yeah, I know why isn’t there like a, a radical MyPillow guy would, that would be, given the, I guess, I was going to make a joke about sort of gluten sensitivity, but it’s, it’s, it’s a, buckwheat [00:44:00] and pillows, but, it’s gone mainstream. So, but yeah, so I was gonna ask you, about atomy and I don’t even know if, if, You can talk about any of it, but, what the latest on, on, the beta for the app is friendly.

[00:44:24] MBA ultra,

[00:44:26] Brett: [00:44:26] No. One’s asked me that for almost, like three hours now. So

[00:44:32] Jared: [00:44:32] well, we’re the, we are a thirsty bunch, as they say.

[00:44:35] Brett: [00:44:35] Well, this, this episode is going to come out a couple of weeks from the day we’re recording it unless I managed to shuffle it sooner, it could come up. We’ll see. Anyway. Yeah. As of today, which is so timber 21st it’s it’s basically ready to go to go. the baby, I’m still accepting if people email me directly, I let them on because we’ve [00:45:00] run into delays.

[00:45:01] in our personal lives, to have us both on deck for a launch and have everything sorted out a Fletcher’s got a lot going on in its life. In addition to being an ER doctor

[00:45:13] Jared: [00:45:13] Oh, yeah.

[00:45:14]Brett: [00:45:14] Mmm. And as soon as we get our, our personal lives in order to the, to the extent where we feel like we can handle the launch week, we will be launching, but I can’t put an ETA on that yet because it’s a lot of things that are out of my control.

[00:45:31] Jared: [00:45:31] Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, I think it’s a feeling maybe that’s going around a lot these days.

[00:45:37]Brett: [00:45:37] I am as anxious to get it out, if not more

[00:45:40] Jared: [00:45:40] Oh, I’m sure. I’m sure.

[00:45:42] Brett: [00:45:42] anyone out there listening, it, it hurts me to keep saying it’s almost there. It’s almost there. It’s, it’s it’s as frustrating to me as it is to you.

[00:45:53] Jared: [00:45:53] Yeah. I mean, I will let you know that sort of in the interim, you have not been sherlocked. So it’s one of the, [00:46:00] one of the beautiful things about, the, the, the. It just seems like, the prevalence of sort of, text editing apps has not necessarily, flatten the curve and sort of the difficulty of solving or, and, or sort of addressing a lot of the problems, as evidenced by, most of us salivating over a, a, an elegant and sort of conceptually sophisticated though, pretty simple, App in regards to putting letters, letters in order and, and organizing them.

[00:46:41] Brett: [00:46:41] those of us who just want to want everything to be plain text, but one an elegant, easy way to do that. Yeah, I get it.

[00:46:49] Jared: [00:46:49] That’s my, I have, just the constant push and pull with, being an academic it’s, we do a lot of, [00:47:00] PDFs, right. It’s text, right? it’s annotations for me anyway, it’s sort of like, And, and it’s a, it’s still a nightmare. It’s still, yeah, well, nightmare.

[00:47:15] I have, I still have not yet found, the, the, eh, a PDF annotation app that is, Simple enough, simple in regard. So being able to allow me to use, plain text, right. What I need is I need envy ultra base to, whatever the, that, that web kit. A PDF viewer that they’ve made open sources, something super simple, which, I may have to set up a GoFund me to, to, to try to get you, convinced to, take that on as the next project.

[00:47:55] I don’t know how, how difficult it is, but

[00:47:58] Brett: [00:47:58] you seen, have you seen [00:48:00] highlights? I think that’s.

[00:48:01] Jared: [00:48:01] I have, I have, I was, and I was on the beta. I, It, I got to return to it. but it was pretty buggy and, and I’m, I don’t want to say inelegant, but, because.

[00:48:19] Brett: [00:48:19] using plain text interfacing with PDF. So it’s

[00:48:22] Jared: [00:48:22] No exactly. It’s going to be, it’s going to, it’s going to be a kludge, right? No matter what. but the, it’s all about minimizing friction, right.

[00:48:32] And I felt like there was just a little bit more, maybe it was like one or two steps more than, then, then I felt like it was worth, to, to try to shift over to that, but I’ll, I’ll play around with it again. And, and I’ll get back to you about,

[00:48:49] Brett: [00:48:49] I don’t have, like, I found the idea interesting and the execution seemed well done, but I don’t, I don’t need to annotate PDF. So I have [00:49:00] no metric by which to judge the app. So I would, I would take your, your, your judgment means more than mine does.

[00:49:09] Jared: [00:49:09] Yeah. I mean, it’s also a very strange thing because it’s so, idiosyncratic and like, most people’s research methods, for instance, when I’m teaching a class, having a, a, an annotated PDF in front of me, Is incredibly useful because I have the, I have the class we’re going over the, the, the article now we’ll be able to refer them to here, there, but it’s actually quite a different thing that I need when I’m, when I’m writing up research or I’m doing research, right.

[00:49:39] All I need for that is, a, snippets of, the highlighted or sort of pertinent, taxed and, and so, yeah. the special little snowflake might not warrant his own, boutique artisanal app.

[00:50:00] [00:49:59] Brett: [00:49:59] Yeah. All right. Well, that brings us to the top three picks.

[00:50:05] Jared: [00:50:05] Oh man. I have been racking my brain trying to find, trying to find three things that I thought would be novel or interesting. And I’m not, I. I’ve got two. And so I know that you have been doing, sort of a, it’s kind of like a, a Quaker prayer meeting version of top, top picks that you’re only speaking of the spirit moves you.


[00:50:36] Brett: [00:50:36] a third one for you.

[00:50:37] Jared: [00:50:37] Oh, you do.

[00:50:38] Brett: [00:50:38] take your third pick if you don’t want it.

[00:50:40] Jared: [00:50:40] Well. how about, how about we go back and forth? I will say, I don’t know if folks are, I mean, and this is, this is. Apropos of absolutely. maybe I’ll give a bonus pick and give you some, some reading materials in, in the area of sort of, race and [00:51:00] algorithms at the end.

[00:51:01] and maybe I’ll add those onto to so you can toss them in the show notes, but I’m going to do, a, a soul food. Or a pick for the pick for the, for the weary, for the weary among us, and suggest I for a long, long time, for one reason or another avoided watching the television show shits Creek.

[00:51:24] which is, made by, Eugene Levy of, SCTV, the long time I think it was on SNL. He’s the bushy eyebrows guy from all the Christopher guest movies from my best and show. And I’m a mighty wind and whatnot, hilarious comedian. So him and his son. wrote this TV show, which I think if I’m not mistaken, it is on Netflix, which is about a super wealthy family who lose their money.

[00:51:53] And, I have to move to a town that, that, that the father bought [00:52:00] for the son as a birthday gag gift, because the IRS Reaper possesses their, all of their, assets because they were involved, they’re, accountant was involved in some Ponzi scheme or something, and it’s just four seasons of this, you know?

[00:52:16] Hilarious, a fish out of water type, a show that is just incredibly heartwarming at the same time as being incredibly sharp, a cervic and cynical. if that makes sense, and it seems incredibly appropriate for these times. So I’m going to suggest shit’s Creek.

[00:52:39] Brett: [00:52:39] wept it cleaned up at the Emmy’s last night.

[00:52:42] Jared: [00:52:42] Yeah, I know it’s a, a, not, not particularly off the beaten path, but I had resisted watching it for a long time. I haven’t, I have no idea why. And I, I, I absolutely loved it, because it didn’t force me to, to, leave my cynicism [00:53:00] behind in order to, enjoy the, the. that’s sort of very heartfelt and, and, and warm, dynamics that it sort of eventually gets to

[00:53:13] Brett: [00:53:13] Yeah, I adore that show. I’ve watched it since the first season showed up on Netflix, which I think might’ve been a, I think two seasons might’ve shown up at the same time. cause it was originally a pop TV production, and I don’t know. I don’t recall exactly, but I watched, I remember watching two seasons, like binge watching it and then anxiously awaiting each season after I’ve loved it the whole time I liked it before it was cool.

[00:53:43] No, I’m just kidding. It’s it’s a great

[00:53:45] Jared: [00:53:45] I definitely did not. I didn’t, I did not like it before. It was cool. alright. How about you? You gotta, you gotta pick.

[00:53:53] Brett: [00:53:53] I am super. So I think you were cognizant of the fact that I had started reading [00:54:00] Octavia Butler and I was getting into at that point, a black female Saifai, which as I mentioned this morning on overtired, w w N, which hasn’t come out yet, but, I didn’t realize it was a genre that existed. It’s not something I would have that there were.

[00:54:21] Good black female Saifai writers for a lot of things, neatly racist and misogynist reasons, but it turns out there are a lot of really, really good, from African futurism to, vampire fiction coming from black female writers. And the one that I went through. Octavia Butler and then a bunch from NK Jemison.

[00:54:48] And I just started the Binti trilogy from Netty Accora for,

[00:54:53] Jared: [00:54:53] Yeah.

[00:54:54] Brett: [00:54:54] and it is so good. I love her.

[00:54:57]Jared: [00:54:57] Yeah, it is [00:55:00] a amazing, I mean, isn’t that wonderful when you, there’s a whole, suave of amazing, amazing sort of art that, and, and really, really profound ways. Like, you feel like, was just waiting for you. To stumble, it’s sort of like, slip, slip backwards and sort of luckily land in a pile of poop or whatever.

[00:55:28] it, yeah, it’s pretty amazing. and I think I’m trying to think they were adapting sort of a, I think a, a there’s a development deal with HBO for adaptive.

[00:55:43] Brett: [00:55:43] fears death is being developed by HBO. And, if, if I recall correctly, she mentioned on Twitter that Binti was being adapted for a, Hulu. That’s my recollection. I couldn’t find a reference for that though.

[00:56:00] [00:56:00] Jared: [00:56:00] so now I’m going to have three because you just, kindled in my mind, a, a, recommendation. it is a film if you’re interested in black Saifai, it’s by, I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting in that, directed by John Sayles. a white guy, it’s called the brother from another planet.

[00:56:30] and it’s, it was made in 1984. and, it’s about an alien, an enslaved alien who, comes to, to, comes to earth, on the run from his home planet and lands in Harlem. and he can’t speak. but he’s being pursued by these, these two, slave catchers from his planet.

[00:56:59] And it’s about, [00:57:00] him navigating, life in Harlem as an, as an, an alien slave who, who, who looks like a black human, Hm. In Harlem, in the eighties, and it’s, it’s, it is brilliant. and the, the lead is played by, by Joe Morton, who, recently of, scandal theme and, or, what else?

[00:57:31] Gosh, she was in a, he plays Cyborg’s father and all of the new DC reboots, and actually incidentally, Narrated the audio book of the best VR audio book, version of the invisible man that I’ve ever heard.

[00:57:48] Brett: [00:57:48] I would listen to that.

[00:57:50] Jared: [00:57:50] Oh, Oh gosh. Yeah. If maybe we can sort of have a book club, but invisible man, it’s sort of one of the great works of, maybe humanity and I used to [00:58:00] live up the block in Harlem from, Ralph Ellis, where out Ralph Ellison, lived for most of the end of his life.

[00:58:08] so my last pick is a deep cut. longtime listeners of, of the show should, be familiar with the name Merlin man, and, hu in many ways good and bad, is someone that I came across a guy. Gosh, I don’t even know how long ago. I mean, he’s old. And if I’m like, kind of getting old and he’s like really, really old.

[00:58:38] but, but this was a, I came across him, I guess, like right. Maybe a year before he started doing, maybe a year and a half before, on, on a 85 folders or whatever his, his website, 56 or 12. 12 [00:59:00] folders, 13 folders. and I, I came across his work, right. When I think we talked about on the last podcast that I, kind of had a life and then went back to school when I was a little older.

[00:59:14] Yeah. And I, I came across, his work on, on, on his website need to done, a couple of, of talks, on inbox zero. And, while I did, sort of have much for, for, in the way of a need for email management at the time, I was really struct about his, his take on work and, I don’t, I don’t even know if people sort of like use the phrase, knowledge, work in a serial, without like a, a smirk anymore.

[00:59:46] though at the time the idea, sort of was, was very compelling and, and his, kind of land of broken toys approach to, to using. Himself and his [01:00:00] failures and his own experiments as a, as a means of offering something to people struggling in the same way was, was really, really important for me as sort of, as I felt like I was trying to, figure out how to be a college student and then sort of in graduate school and, and, and he, there’s a piece that he wrote in particular, that that, fans of his sort of will be familiar with, it is called, cranking.

[01:00:28] and he wrote it.

[01:00:31] Brett: [01:00:31] sent that to me a couple of weeks

[01:00:32] Jared: [01:00:32] Yeah. Yeah. You know why? Because it’s perfect. It’s it is perfect for the, for this moment right now that we’re in, in that, for, for long story short, In in, in retrospect, I think sort of like the impression that I get is, is, is, he had a very ill considered book contract in which he was supposed to write a book about productivity and nominally, what his editors and sort of publishing company [01:01:00] wanted, was a book about email and, anybody who has followed sort of his career knows that the last fucking thing on, on earth that, that Merlin should like, would ever want to write.

[01:01:10] Is is, is a book about fucking email. Oh, pardon me? Sorry. You might have to bleep that. so in retrospect that it, it seems hilarious to consider, but as someone who was sort of muddling through, my own sort of return to professional life and struggling with many of the things that he was struggling with in terms of writing and whatnot, and producing, there was a moment in which, I think that, things came to a head about sort of a decision of whether or not to move forward with this book, which this project, which seemed like the culmination of, of, many, many years of hard work and, and, and a, a, and sort of, this goal, this mountain, right.

[01:01:57] That he seemingly right. [01:02:00] Had thought. he was supposed to be climbing and a moment in which he, realize that it was not, it was the, as he says, sort of like, the, it’s good to have a ladder, but sort of even better to, to, have the sense to, to know whether your ladder’s leaned up against the right wall.

[01:02:20] Right. and I, the, the, the piece cranking is, is, is kind of, beautifully written. I think meditation on, on, that habitual practice of what does it mean? I mean that every day, every moment we all have to be figuring out whether or not our ladder is propped up against the right wall right before we figure out right.

[01:02:52] whether or not our ladder is, is appointed in the proper way. Right. and that [01:03:00] in this moment where we’re all being forced, I think, or at the very least the, the, the show, the, the dynamics of the show must go on are pushing us all away from, from sitting with. a reckoning with the fundamental changes and transformations that are going on around us and, and the ins the just quite frankly insane circumstances, right.

[01:03:24] That we’re undergoing that this is a, it’s a piece that I turn back to and, and, it was powerful in its, and the, the brevity, right. in which it, it. Offers you that gentle shock to the system of, a reminder that says, it, it’s not just, okay. Think about whether or not your ladder is propped up against the right wall, but it’s actually the only way [01:04:00] for you to live your life in a way that is, is going to be fulfilling to you and the people around you and the people with whom you want to live it with.

[01:04:12] Right? I, yeah, it’s, ed always struck me, but, but it’s, evergreen, But particularly apt for the moment in which we are, which we’re all, facing that pressure of, being pushed towards scaling a mountain that, that everyone seems really convinced we should be scaling.

[01:04:36] and what we might see that would otherwise be obscured. If we take a moment to, see if that ladder is up against the right wall,

[01:04:47] Brett: [01:04:47] It’s easy to forget how good a writer Merlin Mann

[01:04:50] Jared: [01:04:50] Jesus Christ. So good. So good.

[01:04:55] Brett: [01:04:55] Yeah. All right. Well, tell people how they can find you or, [01:05:00] or contact you or whatever info you want to share.

[01:05:03] Jared: [01:05:03] Well, I hate social media, so don’t find me. No, I’m kidding. You, I’ve got a website, which I’ll be, straightening up, and, as many people sort of like, yeah, it should be my own sort of, my own blog or something soon enough. Probably not. I’m trying to stay away from the dumpster fire that is Twitter.

[01:05:27] you can find me@jaredrodriguez.com. and I, there’ll be an email link there. Folks want to follow up. and I do. Encourage folks, if you’re interested in, in sort of some of the, the academic subjects that we discussed, to take a look at, the show notes, because I’ll be sending, Brett some recommendations about, initiatives and, and books, and, some talks from some really knowledgeable folks, much more knowledgeable than I, [01:06:00] about, the really, really interesting work that’s going on and, the field of race and algorithmic justice.

[01:06:08] Brett: [01:06:08] Excellent. All right. well, thanks for your time today.

[01:06:12] Jared: [01:06:12] Oh, no worries. Thank you.

[01:06:13] Brett: [01:06:13] There’s actually a lot. We didn’t get to, that was on my list to talk about. So we may have to do this again soon.

[01:06:18] Jared: [01:06:18] How, I would be so psyched to come back because I feel like the first time we did a, we did this. I was completely incoherent because my kids were very, very, very young and I, I don’t even remember what I said. and this time you’re catching me in the midst. A global pandemic. So I’m a little afraid of what kind of mad, mad, mad max post-apocalyptic, hellscape real be a try to, Skype from or Skype through, the next time.

[01:06:52] Brett: [01:06:52] Who knows?

[01:06:54] Jared: [01:06:54] Yeah.

[01:06:54] Brett: [01:06:54] and see.

[01:06:55] Jared: [01:06:55] Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you, Brett.