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There's a right way to talk about race, and then there's a wrong way.

There's a big lie about racism that not everyone realizes.

There's a right way to talk about race, and then there's a wrong way.

FACT: Good people can say racist things. It doesn't mean they're bad people.

It means they haven't thought through the words that came out of their mouth. As "Avenue Q," the twisted puppet musical on Broadway, sings, "Everyone's a little bit racist." Understanding that words have meaning and that the words you say might be insensitive — and that just maybe, if you stepped back and learned from it, you could come out the other side more thoughtful — that's an OK thing.


Racism isn't just for crazed country folk in the Georgia woods. (Frankly, I have some delightful country in-laws in the Georgia woods who aren't racist and wouldn't appreciate people trying to pigeonhole them based on their geography.) Racism exists among upper-class liberals in the Northeast and poor western farmers and in congressmen and in talk-show hosts and, well, everywhere. Because racism isn't the province of a single group of people. Bad people don't have a monopoly on it.

As Jay Smooth puts it in this video:

That assumption that only a cretin or a monster or a bad person would ever be racist or sexist or harbor any sort of bias or prejudice, that right there is the big lie. There is nothing that does more to perpetuate injustice than good people who assume that injustice is caused by bad people. That's just not how being good works and that's not how being a human being works.

If you'd like a really thoughtful take on the Oscars and race, I highly recommend watching Jay Smooth lay out how reasonable people can and should think about racism and how to help stop perpetuating it.

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You could share this and try to have some thoughtful discussion on your wall. Don't make assumptions. Hear people. Talk to them.

Maybe it's because I'm a writer, but I'm a bit of a pen snob. Even if I'm just making a list, I look for a pen that grips well, flows well, doesn't put too much or too little ink into the paper, is responsive-but-not-too-responsive to pressure, and doesn't suddenly stop working mid-stroke.

In other words, the average cheap ballpoint pen is out. (See? Snob.)

However, Oscar Ukono is making me reevaluate my pen snobbery. Because while I'm over here turning up my nose at the basic Bic, he's using them to create things like this:

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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