Worth Reading - 6/29

1. This post from the Reformed African-American Network outlines both the promise and peril of taking down the Confederate Flag in South Carolina. Just to be clear, I am in favor of removing the display of that flag from the government facilities, but opposed to the cultural cleansing of all things Confederate from society. This RAAN post is particularly helpful, I think, because it outlines both the positive and the negative implications and calls for a reasoned approach to the issue.

News feeds are filled with people going to battle over the Confederate flag. After the tragic slaying of nine African American men and women at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC, pictures emerged showing the killer proudly displaying the Confederate flag. The flag flies on the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol building and calls to take it down surfaced soon after the incident. The campaign went viral and now the state legislature plans to take up the issue.

The fervor to take down the Confederate flag has spread beyond South Carolina. Southern Baptist leaders like Al Mohler and Russell Moore have made strong statements in support of removing the flag. Political leaders, both Republican and Democrat, have also advocated for its removal. The outcome seems pre-determined in South Carolina. The results in Mississippi, the only state that still has the Confederate flag emblem as part of its state flag, is less certain.

While there are definite benefits to taking down the Confederate flag, might we be missing some unintended consequences?
Over the course of the last seven days, the power of social media has been on full display. Between the open letter of Taylor Swift to Apple and the mass eradication of the Confederate flag, social media has flexed its muscles and the world is taking notice.

I’ve written a number of times on the social media hivemind and the effects of “Trial by Hashtag.” The way in which humans interact on social media is a sight to behold.

Is social media inherently productive or destructive? On the surface, it’s productive, right? You take pictures and share them on Instagram; you think witty things and share them on Twitter; you record videos and share them on Facebook.

You’re producing content, not destroying it.

But if you’ve been watching social media trends for any amount of time, like I have, you’ll notice how quickly a social media mob armed with keyboards and mice, can take down CEOs, politicians, and, most recently, flags.

Social media is a neutral tool; it’s a hammer. Hammers are used to build houses and to tear them apart.

3. Just like any big project, the Post-Dissertation slump is a real thing. Some might even argue that the Post-Comprehensive Exam slump is a real thing, too:

“Post-dissertation stress disorder” and “post-dissertation depression” are real things. A friend introduced those terms to me when I was trying to find an explanation for my lack of productivity after finishing my Ph.D. Turns out, I wasn’t alone in experiencing a slump. As one blogger wrote of post-dissertation life: “If you are work- and project-driven, the adjustment takes time.”

People who successfully complete dissertations are a disciplined cross section of the population. We are capable of working independently, sticking to self-imposed deadlines, and focusing on the big picture. We may have thrown ourselves into the study of best writing practices, kept a strict schedule, formed writing accountability groups, and workshopped parts of our dissertation during the process. We are not people who have trouble staying on task and self-motivating.

So when the blues hit – when well-meaning refrains of “Congratulations, Doctor!” result in a cringe rather than a smile – what is going on?

4. There has been a rash of fires at African American churches this past week. Several of them were likely arson. This should concern us greatly:

“What’s the church doing on fire?”

Jeanette Dudley, the associate pastor of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, got a call a little after 5 a.m. on Wednesday, she told a local TV news station. Her tiny church of about a dozen members had been burned, probably beyond repair. The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco got called in, which has been the standard procedure for church fires since the late 1960s. Investigators say they’ve ruled out possible causes like an electrical malfunction; most likely, this was arson.

The very same night, many miles away in North Carolina, another church burned: Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, which was set on fire some time around 1 a.m. Investigators have ruled it an act of arson, the AP reports; according to The Charlotte Observer, they haven’t yet determined whether it might be a hate crime.