Sweatshops probably do not have the effect on workers you think they have

Every now and then, we remember that there are poor people in the world, and sweatshops become news. Jonah Peretti — the click-accumulating mastermind behind The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed — got his start in viral journalism 15 years ago by baiting Nike with a chain of witty emails requesting that his personalisable Nike trainers be emblazoned with the word SWEATSHOP.

Peretti having moved on to grander projects, the stage storyteller Mike Daisey picked up the baton, delivering a riveting monologue, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”. It was about Daisey’s heroic unmasking of appalling working conditions in the Chinese factories that make iPads. It made compelling radio when This American Life aired it in 2012. It was even more compelling when This American Life retracted the episode shortly afterwards. Ira Glass, the show’s host, wrote: “Daisey lied to me.”

Economics, of course, offers a less click-worthy perspective. We shouldn’t be surprised if people making sneakers and iPads are paid badly to do tough, hazardous work, because they live in countries where such work is everywhere. And since people are moving away from grinding and precarious rural poverty to work in these grim factories, perhaps they see them as an improvement? The pithiest account of this view comes from the great 20th-century Cambridge economist Joan Robinson: “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.

That’s Tim Harford in the FT, beginning his discussion of my sweatshops study with Stefan Dercon. In case FT is gated, I’ve got a short results summary and of course an academic paper.

The short answer: young people are using these jobs as fallback positions when their better but less formal opportunities don’t work out. But these jobs carried big health risks, so much so that for every month in a job, 1 in 100 complained about a serious health problem, even months after most had quit the unpleasant work.

Happy 9th blogiversary!

research-paper-vs-internet-comicSunday marked 9 years of blogging. This year, more than any other, I blogged in fits and starts. Every year I post this Asher Sarlin cartoon, as the best explanation for the blog’s long lifespan. This year was different. Some idle musings:

  • I remember Dani Rodrik leaving his blog because it crowded out his time to think and write more deeply. I have started to feel that pinch. I’ve been thinking about switching research directions, and taking on some new topics, and it’s hard to imagine doing that and blogging at the same time.
  • Leaving social media for a month or two this summer was healthy. I think I will try it again soon, maybe more permanently. I’m going to see if post-election social media becomes informative and diverse again. If not I’m done. But leaving social media also gave me less stuff to browse and link to. A blog needs a pipeline of material. It’s a hard decision.
  • On the days I think “Maybe I’m done at last,” a few things keep me blogging, some selfish, some not. And it’s not at all dinosaurs, cakes, and bikinis.
    • The blog has been around long enough that I now meet assistant professors, or reasonably senior public officials, who thank me for the advice posts, and talk about how helpful they were early in their careers. This could not make me happier. I take mentoring and advising seriously and if all I did was help people find more happiness in science and public service then it’s all worth it.
    • Selfishly, I must admit, the blog has brought me more research grants, more paper citations, and more opportunities than maybe anything else I have done. On the surface the blog has always taken time away from other work. But indirectly it’s enhanced all my research. That’s hard to give up.
    • One of these days I would really like to write a book, and focus more on writing for news outlets. Not now. I’ll probably have to give up much of my blogging to find the time. But the path from here to there certainly lies through keeping up the discipline of regular blogging.

Forgive the spotty on-and-off blogging in the meantime, and see you in a year for the big 10.

There aren’t many times I can say “I haven’t seen this point made in all the Trump coverage” but for me this is one of them


A Democrat looking at the above might expect any self-respecting Republican to distance him or herself from Trump. You can understand why someone running for the House doesn’t do so (they need those votes) but why don’t more leaders or more voters turn away? “Why do 40% of voters resolutely stick by Trump with their vote?”, I hear my friends say.

It’s one thing to respond “over the issues,” but to put it in slightly more personal terms, I’ve been asking friends and family the last few days this question: “What could Clinton possibly do that would make you stay home, let alone vote for Trump?” (And for the people who say Trump is an exception, just substitute “George W. Bush” and pretend this was your choice.)

The answer so far: not much.

Imagine, for example, the power couple in Netflix’s House of Cards, who make it to the White House through years of murder and deception and scandals suppressed, but who have a sincere commitment to the issues. Imagine that were Hillary and Bill’s story, and it all came out this week: the hints of sinister murders and drug use and conniving. But still, no dent in the chances Hillary nominates a liberal supreme court judge, or pushes for climate change measures, or treats the 11 million illegals in the country in a humane way.

What I want to ask people is: Would you vote Trump, or even stay home and let Trump win in your state? For committed Democrats, I’m betting the crimes would have to be incredibly bad, and the proof incontrovertible. And the social media bubble would have to stick those unpleasant truths in your face rather than sow doubt about the truth or seriousness of any accusations.

Bizarrely, this makes me feel better about my country. You can look at your fellow Americans and not say “what a bunch of deplorables!”, but instead see a group of people who have a deep commitment to a set of principles and issues, and think their chances are better with Trump than Clinton, however much they might dislike him. These are largely people who will vote for Trump despite not because of his worst behaviors and statements. My point is that most Clinton supporters would do the same.

Links I liked

  1. Wikipedia reduces ideological segregation
  2. A great NYRB review of various books on the Panama papers
  3. The Metaketa initiative at EGAP funds evaluations of similar programs, providing a degree of simultaneous replication, and they have a new round of research grants for building trusted and effective security forces
  4. And these comments from Max Fisher, commenting on the following tweet:

This is the most under-reported conflict in the world right now

Just three days earlier, a stampede at a religious festival in Bishoftu, a town south of the capital, had resulted in at least 52 deaths. Mass protests followed. Opposition leaders blamed the fatalities on federal security forces that arrived to police anti-government demonstrations accompanying the event. Some called the incident a “massacre”, claiming far higher numbers of dead than officials admitted. Unrest billowed across the country.

From The Economist. The political unrest in Ethiopia strikes me as one of the more under-reported events of the year. It’s the 13th largest country in the world by population, the second largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa if you ignore oil and gas, a key US ally in regional conflicts (Somalia but perhaps also Yemen), a growing source of imported manufactures to Europe, a popular destination for Asian investment dollars, and a major country in the World Bank’s lending portfolio.

As autocratic regimes go, it is more stable than some. When Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died in 2012, the world barely noticed, because the political system had a a process and qualified party man to replace him. How many countries could do the same, especially in sub-Saharan Africa?

This goes to show the extent to which power in Ethiopia is institutionalized in a ruling party, not a strongman, and how important that institutionalization is for a country to have stable growth (autocratic or not). When talking about autocracies, journalists and academics often overlook this quality.

That said, Ethiopia also has some hallmarks of instability, especially the fact that the ruling party is dominated by a small ethnic minority, ex-rebel leaders from the northern Tigray region. As risk factors go, ethnic minority rule is one of the strongest predictors of some kind of state failure.

At the same time, my hunch is that being a nascent industrial producer will reduce the chances of conflict. In Kenya, for instance, the 2007 election violence led to a huge push from capitalists (domestic and foreign) to tamp down future instability. Industrial production is often so productive that even a small sector accounts for a huge amount of national wealth. And that production is way more sensitive to political instability than most resource and commodity production.

This should give Ethiopia’s government an added incentive to find a peaceful solution, especially to the extent that the party and elites are invested in the industrial sector or the local property market. The Economist article hints at the role industry is playing:

The government is rattled by the prospect of capital flight. An American-owned flower farm recently pulled out, and it fears others may follow. After almost a week of silence, the state-of-emergency law was a belated attempt to reassure foreign investors, who have hitherto been impressed by the economy’s rapid growth, that the government has security under control.

I have been running a study of industrial workers in Ethiopia for several years, but I’m fairly ignorant about party politics and the roots of the conflict. If I were reporting on this, here’s what I would want to investigate: How removed and insulated are the party elites from the economic consequences of war? How much do the opposition leaders (and armed leaders) think about these economic pain points, and are they thinking strategically about using them? How chunky is political power, and can the ruling party credibly share a little more power, to broaden the ethnic coalition just enough to stave off war?

There must be Ethiopia experts who can correct any misconceptions I have.

Links I liked

  1. UVA is hiring an Assistant Professor, tenure-track, in Hip Hop and the Global South. On the one hand I think “if only I hadn’t already accepted that Chicago job!”, and on the other hand, if you Google “worst hip hop dance moves ever” you get this, which is still 100 times better than anything I could ever do
  2. New Yorker profiles of Ursula Le Guin and Leonard Cohen
  3. The economic case for accepting refugees
  4. The New York Times writes a thinly veiled user manual on how to swap your vote this election with someone in a swing state
  5. Fascinating story with very close parallels to my own CBT research in Liberia: “Psychologist Helps San Quentin Prisoners Find Freedom Through Self-Reflection
  6. And finally, Hamilton Gets Out the Vote:

See this blog for the other great videos


The master class on stealthily taking over a state

The New Yorker has a must-read-to-believe story on Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish spiritual and movement leader who, from his perch in rural Pennsylvania, has been accused of orchestrating a state takeover in Turkey, including the recent coup attempt.

Dexter Filkins starts off skeptical and then keeps uncovering layer after layer of decades-old plans to co-opt the state. The organizational mastery, if true, is amazing.

An example:

In a taped sermon from the late nineties, Gülen exhorted his followers to burrow into the state and wait for the right moment to rise up. “Create an image like you are men of law,” he told them. “This will allow you to rise to more vital, more important places.” In the meantime, he urged patience and flexibility. “Until we have the power and authority in all of Turkey’s constitutional institutions, every step is premature,” he said. But, ultimately, he promised, their work would provide “the guarantee of our Islamic future.”

Keleş told me that the chief targets of infiltration were the police and the judiciary. The schools and test-preparation centers were central to the plan. At the schools, acolytes were recruited at an impressionable age; at the centers, they were prepared for entrance examinations to the country’s bureaucracy. In many cases, “brothers” within government agencies fed answers to Gülenist candidates. Once the recruits were hired, fellow-Gülenists promoted them and furthered their careers.

In infiltrated police departments, each Gülenist officer had a code name, and each unit was overseen by an outside “imam,” regarded by the officers as a higher authority than the police chief. By the early nineties, Keleş said, he had become the movement’s “imam” in Central Anatolia, overseeing fifteen cities. By then, he estimated, forty per cent of the police in the region were followers, and about twenty per cent of the judges and prosecutors. “We controlled the hiring of the police, and the entrance exams, and we didn’t let anyone in who wasn’t a Gülenist,” he said.

…Gülen’s followers recognized that they needed greater numbers in the military. A former A.K.P. member named Emin Şirin told me that in the fall of 1999 he visited the compound in Saylorsburg, and Gülen told him that a “golden generation” of acolytes were working their way into Turkey’s institutions. If a more tolerant general was appointed to lead the military, he said, it would “bring me peace.” He mentioned General Hilmi Özkok as a desirable candidate. “I thought what I heard was insane,” Şirin recalled. But in 2002 Özkok was named chief of the Army, and the vigilance within the military relaxed. According to Jenkins, Gülen’s followers began to fill the ranks. “This created an enormous amount of unease in the officers corps,” he said.

Full story. I would be keen to hear form my Turkish academic colleagues what this story gets right and wrong. No  ideologues from any side, please.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.


Dean Karlan with Abhijit Banerjee. Photo definitely not courtesy of Yale or MIT.

  • There’s been some controversy about Chinese-funded aid projects in Africa, and whether they’re genuinely altruistic, and if that even matters. The folks at AidData find Chinese-funded projects do promote development – sort of.
    • Using satellite pictures to measure nighttime light around over 3,000 Chinese-funded project sites in 47 African countries, they estimate a 0.2-0.3 percent increase in regional GDP. But these projects tend to be concentrated in the presidents’ birth regions which tend to already be the richer parts of the country, so the projects may be furthering inequality.
    • In contrast, World Bank-funded projects didn’t show the same luminosity boost, but also weren’t geographically biased.
  • Nudge news:
    • The White House’s second-year report on nudges for better policy is out.
    • A classic nudge to change behavior is the social norm reference, the hotel card saying “most people re-use their towels” is an example. The Behavioral Insights Team found the opposite was also effective to stop illegal garbage dumping (furniture, tires, etc.) in San Jose – telling people they’d been specially selected to have any extra garbage picked up at their house (anybody can use the program).
    • The city of Washington, DC is hiring for their nudge unit (Deadline Sept 19th).
    • The very cool Busara Center for Behavioral Economics, which operates in several African countries and works with researchers anywhere, is also hiring.
  • Doctors Without Borders is turning down Pfizer’s offer of free vaccines. Channeling Milton Friedman, they give a number of reasons why in their experience, there is no such thing as a free vaccine.
  • The Development Impact blog is soliciting researcher failure stories. Dean Karlan (above) and Jacob Appel of the new Failing in the Field book, offer one this week. There’s also a link at the bottom for how you can contribute your own story.

A lesson in survey weights (and data transparency)


There is a 19-year-old black man in Illinois who has no idea of the role he is playing in this election.

He is sure he is going to vote for Donald J. Trump.
And he has been held up as proof by conservatives — including outlets like Breitbart News and The New York Post — that Mr. Trump is excelling among black voters. He has even played a modest role in shifting entire polling aggregates, like the Real Clear Politics average, toward Mr. Trump.
How? He’s a panelist on the U.S.C. Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Daybreak poll, which has emerged as the biggest polling outlier of the presidential campaign. Despite falling behind by double digits in some national surveys, Mr. Trump has generally led in the U.S.C./LAT poll. He held the lead for a full month until Wednesday, when Hillary Clinton took a nominal lead.
Our Trump-supporting friend in Illinois is a surprisingly big part of the reason. In some polls, he’s weighted as much as 30 times more than the average respondent, and as much as 300 times more than the least-weighted respondent.

The reason? The poll up-weights respondents by their demographic category, and guess how many young black men with past voting preference data are in the sample?
Of course we only know this because all the data and methods are posted online. Kudos to the pollsters.

Full story.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

The real reason to get a Ph.D.:


IPA’s weekly links

Guest post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

  • Data and computer algorithms are playing a part in policy decisions, like bail or parole recommendations based on a computer’s recidivism guesses. Pro Publica and WNYC have an interesting series on “Machine Bias” – what happens when data-based algorithms are mistaken. They’re crowdsourcing a test of how accurate what Facebook thinks it knows about you is. Use their Chrome extension to help anonymously. (h/t Alex Goldmark)
  • Some practical tips from my financial inclusion colleagues for setting up conferences where academics and real-world types actually communicate (it’s short and you can skip to the bullet points).
  • Brazil is starting “race committees” to determine who has enough African heritage to qualify for affirmative action. One government job applicant tried to prove he was Black enough, he:

went to seven dermatologists who used something called the Fitzpatrick scale that grades skin tone from one to seven, or whitest to darkest. The last doctor even had a special machine.

“Apparently on my face I’m a Type 4. Which would be like Jennifer Lopez or Dev Patel, Frida Pinto [sic] or John Stamos. On my limbs I would be Type 5, which is Halle Berry, Will Smith, Beyonce and Tiger Woods,” he said.

  • World Bank Presiden Jim Yong Kim plans on naming and shaming countries with high child growth stunting (e.g. malnutrition) who aren’t using proving methods for addressing the massive problem:


    The problem is huge. In India 38.7% of children are stunted, in Pakistan 45% and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 70%.

It becomes even worse when you consider the future of work is in skilled jobs, and kids in poor countries are starting out with lifetime cognitive deficits.


Neuroscientist and data guy John Borghi points to one table from 1959 that explains psychology’s current replication crisis*:replicationcrisis1959

* (Many more fields have replication crises, psychology’s the one that seems to be dealing with it)


More sweatshops for Africa?

img_0536After six long years, my randomized trial of factory jobs is at last public. Here is today’s coverage in Vox:

In the past several decades, manufacturing jobs have fled the developed world for the developing world. Obviously, that’s profoundly reshaped the economies of developing countries like China and Bangladesh. But what does that mean for the ordinary people that are doing the work — often for incredibly low wages?

Answering this question can be tricky. Large-scale data — like a nation’s poverty rate or GDP — can help us give a general sense of trade’s effect on growth and the poor. The problem is it can often be tough to figure out what low-wage manufacturing, specifically, adds to a country’s economy. It’s even harder to drill down and measure the impact on those employed in the factories.

Enter economists Chris Blattman of the University of Chicago and Stefan Dercon of Oxford University. They came up with an interesting way of answering this question: Run a random, controlled experiment.

Normally, economists can’t do stuff like this: You can’t exactly run a lab test on an economy. But Blattman and Dercon convinced five companies in Ethiopia to hire people at random from a group of consenting participants, and then tracked the effects on their incomes and health. That way, you could pretty clearly figure out the effects of taking a low-wage manufacturing job on actual people.

The Vox article is a nice summary. So is the paper summary at IPA. Here is the academic paper.

To sum up the findings I’d say this:

  • Most people who applied for these factory jobs didn’t like them or intend to stay, rather the jobs were low paid and unpleasant and used as a safety net of sorts, while people looked for other entrepreneurial activities or less difficult wage work
  • Taking a factory job didn’t give you higher or more steadier incomes, because the firms gave steadier hours but at significantly lower wages that people’s other opportunities (it’s a relatively frictionless, competitive market)
  • But the health risks of industrial work were high (think chemicals and dirty air, for example) and there’s evidence that serious health problems doubled if you took the factory job: Chances of a chronic health issue went up 1 percentage point for every month in an industrial firm!

So these Ethiopian factory jobs offered a risky safety net, mostly for poor young women.

When you gave them $300 cash, meanwhile, they started a small business and earnings went up by a third (I couldn’t help myself–I had to do this comparison).

The last line of the Vox article illustrates why I love their coverage. Can you imagine many newspapers saying “it’s complicated” when writing about this subject, especially on something in Africa?

So perhaps the most fundamental takeaway is that we need to have a more nuanced picture of globalization’s effect on the global poor. Instead of thinking in binary terms, we need to separate out the ways globalization has benefited the poor versus the way it hurts them.

Something as complicated as globalization is never going to be just good or just bad. We need to divide the good and the bad, and figure out how to address the latter without eliminating the former.

Graph of the Day: The International Development Jargon Detector

screenshot-2016-09-28-12-19-30A few weeks ago I mentioned the International Development Jargon Detector. In an effort to make this blog more inclusive, and build blogging capacity among the stakeholders of this site, I said that if someone graphed different aid organizations against one another on the jargon-meter, I would happily blog that.

The Economics That Really Matters blog is holding me accountable, and the beneficiary of that is intern Jeong Hyun Lee, who made many interesting graphs, including the figure above. Strategically or not, IFPRI appears to be the worst offender. I trust it will have the desired impact, which is for none of you to use these words in your writing.

Links I liked

  1. Inside the race for the new UN Secretary General
  2. A skeptical take on Seymour Hersh’s argument that Bin Laden was being hidden by the ISI and the Saudis
  3. Winning the lottery makes you more likely to vote for incumbent politicians
  4. the Führer, by Ohler’s account, was an absolute junkie with ruined veins by the time he retreated to the last of his bunkers
  5. Hungarian anti-Semitic leader moves to Israel after learning he is a Jew (at least he’s somewhat consistent in his nationalism)

Links I liked

  1. Angus Deaton and Nancy Cartwright release their essay, “Understanding and Misunderstanding Randomized Controlled Trials,” containing many important messages, not least of which include “don’t underestimate imbalance”, “don’t overestimate generalizability”, and “don’t forget that all that matters is changing our theory of how the world works”
  2. GiveWell is hiring a senior fellow
  3. This is what Dan Drezner thinks Nate Silver’s models miss (and why he is sanguine about Hillary)
  4. One thing the sites are not intended to do is to help women seek out multiple husbands — a practice known as polyandry. This is not because Mr. Chaiwala opposes the idea, he said, but because it is ‘not a viable business proposition.’
  5. Most pro-Hillary videos make supporters feel good about themselves without convincing anyone else, but here is an attempt to sway millennials by having a silly number of famous people act ironic (where Don Cheadle gets the best line), and here is a short, sometimes funny video of Zach Galifianakis interviewing Clinton, where he saves the best for last
  6. Like many colleagues, I’ve gotten my FINAL opportunity to sign a short and unimpressive list of economists “concerned” by Clinton’s economic agenda, but while my first response was to snicker and sneer, my second was to wonder how many are afraid to say they dislike Clinton because they fear the consequences from their academic colleagues


“Don’t you Harvard people have enough sense to be scared?”

From Doris Kearns Goodwin, biographer of U.S. Presidents:

L.B.J. had his amphibious car when he was president. He tricked me and took me in his car one day, and the Secret Service collaborated with him. L.B.J., behind the wheel, warned me, “Be careful, we’re going toward a lake. The brakes aren’t working.” Well, we go into the lake: the car became a boat. Then he got so mad at me because I didn’t get scared. I’d figured, He’s not going to die. And he said, “Don’t you Harvard people have enough sense to be scared?”

From an exit interview she conducted with Obama. Hat tip to Kottke.

IPA’s weekly links

Guest Post by Jeff Mosenkis of Innovations for Poverty Action.

  • IPA’s looking to fund research in financial services for the poor (especially digital ones), deadline Nov 4th.
  • José A. Quiñonez of the Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco was named a MacArthur Fellow (or “genius”) for his work formalizing informal lending among immigrants to create credit histories, which in turn gives them access to credit cards, loans, and the like.
  • Bruce Wydick and colleagues’ second paper from an RCT evaluating the effects of TOMS shoes in El Salvador came out, concluding:

Thus, in a context where most children already own at least one pair of shoes, the overall impact of the shoe donation program appears to be negligible, illustrating the importance of more careful targeting of in-kind donation programs.

They found no evidence that the program improved food security, and there were some indications that the program decreased the food security of non-beneficiaries living in the same communities as program participants.

When a big or well-known program is evaluated and turns out not to have a detectable effect, I’m always impressed at the guts of the org/government who agreed to an independent evaluation and to make it public for others to learn from it as well. Bruce has written eloquently about this in the TOMS case here and here.

(And if your problem with TOMS was the style, there’s a new socially-minded shoe on the block you’re not going to like.)

  • Under the guise of looking at the Clinton Foundation, Dylan Matthews tells the behind the scenes story of how the Clinton Global Health Initiative saved millions of lives by helping convince pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of HIV drugs in poor countries, which involved radically changing their business model. It’s easy to forget that HIV treatment used to cost $10,000/yr for one person.
  • A somewhat technical but pretty good data detective story about how investigative journalists responded when the water utility in L.A. wouldn’t tell them who was using millions of extra gallons of water during the drought. They used satellite and GIS data to unmask “The Wet Prince of Bel Air.”
  • Lots of great links I didn’t have room for on the Development Impact Blog today.

Proof that 6-year-olds are better at policy than most politicians, (and probably better at appropriate use of Skittles):


Photo credit above: Tugela Ridley

What do you do when an autocratic war criminal who has also pulled his country from poverty wants to shake your hand?

Paul Kagame came to my campus today. I did not condemn my university for inviting him and I did not boycott him. Instead I shook his hand and I smiled at him and I thanked him for sharing his thoughts with us. Because I needed to hear him to confirm what, as a historian, I have long suspected – we’ve seen his kind before. And, apologies Mr. Kagame, but you know that – because you correctly condemn my country for minding its own business in April, May and June 1994. People like you are our business precisely because people who tell others to mind their own business tend to be the sorts of people who leave bodies in their wake. And bodies and human suffering are the cursed currency of history, as Paul Kagame’s Rwanda has taught and regrettably continues to teach.

That is Dan Magaziner, a Yale historian of 20th century Africa. I had to hold back from posting his full piece, but it is excellent. Read it in full.

The most interesting and talented new blogger I have read in years

“I’m scared to post this” she begins.

Erin, a self-described Southern white lady and stay-at-home mom, decides to tackle race in America (including the Kaepernick won’t-stand-during-anthem controversy) in what appears to be her fourth week of blogging. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a brand new blogger. We are a dying species. But she is very, very good. Here is the crescendo:

Clemson’s football coach, Dabo Swinney, made a speech yesterday about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, about his choice to remain seated during the National Anthem. I realize that down where I live, to question Dabo isn’t just treasonous, but downright sinful, but here’s my problem. He didn’t condemn Kaepernick. He just said that his protest wasn’t at the right time or place. He said that our problem was sin, not racism. And on the surface, that’s pretty innocuous. He’s being lauded by nearly everyone I know as an example of what humans should be like.


I wonder when, exactly, is the right time for a protest. I wonder where, exactly, is the right place.

He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He held him up as an example to which we should all aspire. But maybe he forgot about some things. He seems to have forgotten Dr. King’s 13 arrests. Maybe he never learned about the death threats Dr. King and his family received, year after year of his peaceful protests. Dabo wasn’t there, I assume, when people called for Dr. King’s blood. I certainly wasn’t. But I can read. I paid attention in history class. Those incidents are well-documented. It’s just more comfortable to forget, I guess.

What I really want to say is that you need to decide what it is that you want.

“We wouldn’t mind peaceful protests.”

(Okay. We’ll forget for a minute that this is being said by the same country that arrested, beat, tear gassed, and set actual fire to peaceful protesters not all that long ago. Okay. That can’t be used as evidence by the jury. Didn’t happen. It was all hand-holding and rainbows and everyone recognized Dr. King as a saint from Day One, and immediately saw him as the force that would unite our country forever. Nobody threw books at little girls just for walking into school. No one poured acid into swimming pools because black people were swimming in them. Nobody lynched anybody. Nobody set fire to any churches. White America collectively opened their eyes, all at the same time, and said, “Holy gee whiz! You DON’T want fewer rights? Our bad! Won’t happen again!”)

So. Since you said, “We wouldn’t mind peaceful protests,” that’s what Colin Kaepernick did. You actually can’t get much more peaceful than that. He just sat. He didn’t yell. He didn’t hold up a sign. He didn’t throw punches or set fire to anything. He just sat.

America collectively lost its mind over this.

“We wouldn’t mind peaceful protests, just not like that. It was the wrong time and place. It was inappropriate. It was disrespectful. It was distracting.”

People are burning his jersey. Boycotting his team. Using his name as a swear word. He is vilified and called a disgrace. People are FURIOUS. But he did EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAID YOU WOULD BE TOTALLY FINE WITH.

Read the full thing. And other posts.