This is an email from Black on Both Sides, a newsletter by Established in 1865.

The Sanctity of Water

On Fridays, I work from home alongside my son. He’s closing in on four months and brings so much joy and meaning to my life.

He spends his waking hours taking in the world. One thing that holds his attention is Netflix’s Little Baby Bum, nursery rhymes paired to computer animation.

Little Baby Bum

I’m trying not to be that parent that is hyperfocused on screentime. As a writer interested in mastering the stories Black people tell themselves, though, I cannot help but wonder if my son is beginning that process now.

Toni Morrison wrote that stories are the most elemental, primitive way in which humans convey information. I always keep this in mind as I watch what my son watches, and can’t wait for the day where he can talk and learn to make his own stories.

What I’m Writing

Reaching a Critical Mass of Blackness: On How Killer Mike Can Choose Better Stories

“I have always hated how white supremacy has warped the stories of Black personhood.”

Killer Mike, in his photo op with Georgia’s governor, shows how the dueling stories distort our response to anti-Blackness.

Mugging the Black Experience: On Adele and the Politics of Appropriation

“Appropriation seeks to mug me of the opportunity to do that by giving to white people the chance to tell my stories.”

I reflect on Adele, Jessica Krug, and how Black people often need to fight so hard to simply get their stories into the world.

Michelle Obama’s Directness Delivered A Moment Of Freedom

“I have been thoroughly conditioned to speak artfully, but not truthfully, about who is killing us. It’s the power of the White gaze.”

For LEVEL, I write how Michelle Obama’s DNC speech caused me to ponder on how hard it is to be honest with my storytelling.

What I’m Reading

Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. I’m at the portion of the book where she is detailing what she refers to as “The Eight Pillars of Caste.” She calls one of the pillars Purity over Pollution, and details how the sanctity of water makes up a vital part of all caste systems:

“Well into the twentieth century, African-Americans were banned from white beaches and lakes and pools, both north and south, lest they pollute them, just as Dalits were forbidden from the waters of the Brahmins, and Jews from Aryan waters in the Third Reich. “

This made me think of how far I had to travel to get to Coney Island Beach when I was growing up in New York City. Hours on the subway just to get to the sea!

The New Reconstruction by Adam Server, The Atlantic. “The United States has its best opportunity in 150 years to belatedly fulfill its promise as a multiracial democracy.”

The Inanity of Zoom School Suspensions by Aaricka Washington, New York Times Opinion. “I think of all the things my children actually taught me, a naïve, 20-something: about my Blackness, about teaching without controlling, about the need to break rigid rules and, eventually, fix this broken education system.”



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Hal H. Harris

Hal H. Harris

Black on Both Sides. Medium Writers Challenge Winner. The founder of Established in 1865. I Tweet @Established1865. E-mail is