I am a seventy-five-year-old Minnesota liberal with a PhD in psychology. I consider myself well educated and well read. But what I learned from Airica Parker’s interview with Camille T. Dungy [“Poetic Justice,” June 2018] was well worth the cost of my thirty-plus years of subscribing to The Sun. Shame on me for being oblivious to what is so obvious to her.
Recently I have been disappointed in The Sun’s choice for interviews. While the topics discussed have kept up with our political climate and the lives we live, more often than not the person being interviewed has race, class, and gender privilege. I was thrilled to see that the June 2018 issue featured Camille T. Dungy. What a deep perspective Dungy offered. I could picture her wild, overgrown front-yard garden — the only one on a street of manicured green lawns — thriving. Please give us more diverse voices to read and celebrate.
Usually I go to Readers Write first, but I started at the beginning of the June 2018 issue and was astounded by Airica Parker’s interview with Camille T. Dungy. The whole issue was superb.
As a white man, I have a long way to go toward understanding others’ lives.
Airica Parker’s interview with Camille T. Dungy — and that picture! — was like a cool drink when I didn’t know how thirsty I was.
“Radical empathy”? Who talks like that?
Maybe me someday.
Camille T. Dungy says, “America . . . would not have our power or wealth if we had not, for a very long time, depended on the unpaid labor of millions of human beings.” This idea deserves to be expanded upon.
As Douglas A. Blackmon explores in Slavery by Another Name, chattel slavery in the U.S. was replaced by industrial slavery through debt bondage, sharecropping, and chain gangs. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans were worked to death through this ruthless system, which didn’t end until World War II. The system was reestablished in 1982, when Ronald Reagan announced the War on Drugs, which has resulted in the mass incarceration of African Americans. Thus the criminalization and disenfranchisement of African Americans has continued from the Civil War to today.
When my first-ever issue of The Sun arrived, I couldn’t wait to devour it. Airica Parker’s interview with Camille T. Dungy opened my eyes to topics I’d never thought about before. And LaToya Watkins’s short story “Took Us All like We Was His” — her words, her feelings — kept me awake at night.
LaToya Watkins’s beautiful short story “Took Us All like We Was His” had me bawling. Nate suffered the loss of his once-capable self. His wife, Honey, suffered the loss of safety and belonging that Nate had once offered her. And the dog, Chumley, suffered from Honey’s perspective that “he a dog” — in other words, that he was beneath her.
Watkins’s story exposed the vulnerability of what being human is, but it also exposed humankind’s misunderstanding of the animals we have domesticated. They are not human, but we brought them into our lives, and it is our responsibility to learn to communicate with them. We can’t toss them away when they are only acting from their instinctual nature. Chumley was speaking through his behavior. Nate heard him; Honey didn’t.
As a lay Episcopal chaplain, I had the honor to “do church” with some men in Twin Towers Jail in Los Angeles. They were mostly in wheelchairs and predominantly African American. After the service, I gave them each a copy of your June 2018 issue, with Zora J. Murff’s cover photo of a beautiful woman of color. As they rolled away, discussing how much they appreciate The Sun, one of the men said, “Look, they put us on the cover!”
The Readers Write on “What Really Matters” [April 2018] reminded me of teaching college twenty years ago. I would ask my students what, at that moment, was the most important thing in their lives. Their answers were similar to those shared in Readers Write: A hug from a loved one in the face of bad news. Remaining faithful to myself. The love of friends and family and the beauty of nature.
After allowing this musing to go on for a while, I would suggest we all take a deep breath and hold it for as long as we could. Everything we had listed, I would tell my students, paled in comparison to the air flowing into our lungs. Next on the list was water, which all life-forms need to survive. And water nurtures everything that, in turn, feeds us.
Air, water, food. As Michael Soule points out [“We Only Protect What We Love,” interview by Leath Tonino, April 2018], what we tend to take for granted is what really matters.
As a travel nurse, I have worked in many institutions. The best are the nonprofit community hospitals, but these are being snuffed out by a system that encourages the sort of profiteering that physician Andrew Coates advocates abolishing [“The End of Insurance?” interview by Tracy Frisch, March 2018].
I recently finished an assignment in Southern California. The hospital had installed big flat-screen televisions in each room but not vital-sign monitors, forcing nurses to share, and then struggle to locate, this critical piece of equipment. As a fellow nurse of mine said, “They want it to be like a cruise ship with a little healthcare on the side.”
Lately I’ve felt like leaving healthcare entirely, thinking I can’t do a good job of caring for patients in this system. But Coates’s dedication to practicing medicine while fighting against for-profit medical institutions restored my resolve to do the same.