Welcome back, friends, to Productivity, Without Privilege! I’m Alan Henry, your friend at the bar, who’s back at the bar, and you probably knew before you opened this that you could find him at the bar. I saved a seat for you. Can I get you a drink? We have to look out for each other more than ever right now, don’t we?
Before we get too deep though, I do have to ask if you’ve picked up a copy of Seen, Heard, and Paid: The New Work Rules for the Marginalized yet? If you’d like a signed copy, you can order one from Strand Books right here (and at the time of this writing, there are only nine left!)
We’ll get to some stuff around the book a little later on, but obviously, this is a pretty difficult newsletter to write. I had, earlier in the week, pondered doing something about Juneteenth, which happened on our off-week. I visited my father (because it was also Father’s Day!) and there was something magical about sitting with him, a man who was born into Jim Crow and lived to see it fall, in his living room, watching CNN’s Juneteenth celebration live from the Hollywood Bowl. It was a wonderful moment.
Of course, you have to enjoy those moments while you have them, because the following week—the one we just finished—ended on an extremely dark note. More than enough people have had plenty to say about the terrifying end of Roe in America, and the fact (and this is indisputable, it’s a fact) that this will end up killing women, and disproportionately killing the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. I have absolutely no plans to speak for women on this issue, but I will elevate as many of their voices as I can, and I will speak up in defense of their rights and freedoms.
None of us are free until all of us are free.
So of course, there’s no way I could really talk about productivity when we’re staring down an active, concerted movement to marginalize people both socially, economically, and physically by stripping us of our rights and freedoms, and denying us the right to determine our own futures. And I’ve already discussed the importance of community in the face of injustice in a previous newsletter, which I’ll point back to because all of the same advice I offered there holds true today.
What I do want you to do today is this: Make your plan to thrive in the coming world today.
And that isn’t to be fatalistic, or pessimistic, or to pretend that everything is doom and gloom and there’s nothing you can do about it. What I do want you to do is to remember that one cure for anxiety about the future is to reach for control over what you can do right now.
So this week here’s what I’d like you to do. Open up a Google Doc, or a notebook you’ve been meaning to write in, or something along those lines, and write down the broad, systemic, social issues that you’re concerned about. Whether that’s climate change, systemic racism, reproductive rights, creeping fascism, housing inequality, whatever it might be, all of them. You may find this list gets long and feels a bit depressing to write down, and that’s okay. If you need to take a break, do exactly that, and come back to it later.
Once you have your list, now I want you to sit back down in a fresh session and consider what you and your loved ones can do right now to address those issues. What action can you take to make the world a better, safer, more empathetic place right now regardless of what systemic forces may be at play? What can you do to protect your life and loved ones right now?
Can you donate even a little bit to some good causes? Even better, can you donate to good, local causes that make a difference in your community for the people who need that help the most? If you don’t have money to donate, do you have time and energy to donate? Can you make a difference in other ways, like encouraging others to take action? What organizations can you join, or support in any way you can? How can you make your voice heard, both locally and on a larger scale?
But even before you do that—which I think is a pretty obvious option—think about what you can do to protect yourself and your home and family. Do you have an emergency or disaster plan for the kinds of natural or climate-related issues that occur where you live? Do you have a ready-to-go go-bag and an emergency kit stocked with the necessary emergency supplies to sustain you until you can either get out of harm's way or until help arrives? If you, like so many other people, are rightfully furious about this week’s Supreme Court ruling, now’s the time to learn what options are available to you before you need any of them.
Now, at the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season and the beginnings of wildfire season (which is well underway out west) is a great time to consider it. Do you have medication that you may need in case of an emergency available so you don’t have to stress out about refills if you have to travel or if something happens? They can be difficult to get, but now’s the time to figure out how to make it happen if you can. Also consider that this coming week there’s another case in front of the Supreme Court that’s likely going to result in some serious setbacks for climate policy and clean, healthy-to-consume water and air in our communities, so get ready for that, too.
More realistically, do you have an emergency fund—or even plans to work towards one if you can—in case of unexpected expenses or medical emergencies so they won’t leave you bankrupt or unable to pay for groceries? Have you considered an emergency budget that you can fall back to if you have a significant dip in income?
Also, consider your friendships and personal support networks. Who can you reach out to right now to enrich your heart? Who do you know that’s more than willing to share the emotional load you’re carrying right now, or at the very least willing to rub your shoulders a bit while you put it down, and for whom you can do the same? Who can you reach out to for support when you feel low, and who can you support right now? Because if there’s anything I’m seeing right now, is that people definitely need support, and they need reminding that ain’t nobody got us, but us.
As in, when the systems and structures in place with the facade of looking after our communities inevitably fail because the way they’re sold to us isn’t even remotely the way they’re configured to operate, we need to be reminded that we’re not alone. And I’ll tell you right now: you’re not alone. Do what you have to do in order to get through this, and remember to look out for each other. I’m right here if you need me, too.
A Guide to Abortion Resources in a Post-Roe America, by Lux Alptraum: I linked this story above, but it’s still very important and I wanted to call out space in this section for it. Like I said earlier, the time to make your plan in case you need an abortion is right now, before you need it. And even if you never need it, learn what you need to know now so you can support other people who may need your help in the future. Plus, it'll be useful when they (and you) face systemic issues preventing them from getting the care that they need. Lux is the perfect person to talk about this, and if you’re not already following her on social media, go give her a follow right now.
Everything You Should Know About Plan B, by Medea Giordano: In addition to medication abortion, my colleague at WIRED Medea put together this incredible guide to Plan B, aka the “morning-after pill,” the emergency contraception that we should absolutely expect the powers that be to come after next. Medea does a great job of explaining what the pill does, when to use it, who it works best for, and how to get it. Again, do your learning now so you don’t have to frantically search later, when information—along with access—is restricted.
A Black Woman Supreme Court Justice Exposes the Legal System’s Biggest Lies, by Madiba K. Dennie: This piece may not be actionable, but it’s extremely helpful and important to understand why we’re in the place we are right now. Madiba breaks down the notion that the Supreme Court, despite how it’s sold to us in terms of American Mythology, has never really been a banner institution when it comes to protecting the rights of the marginalized and brutalized against the powerful and wealthy. It’s an incredible read, and a good reminder that in many of these cases, these systems are set up to work exactly the way they’re working.
This is probably the spiciest interview I’ve given since the launch of my book, and I feel like it’s fitting that it’s an interview I gave to The Objective, a non-profit newsroom committed to holding the journalism industry accountable for the way that it serves its communities, and the way that it serves (or doesn’t serve) the marginalized groups that exist within it. So of course, when I had the opportunity to talk to Gabe Schnieder about the impetus of Seen, Heard, and Paid, I explained in detail.
And it’s not just what happened to me at The New York Times, but also things that informed my experience and the book at previous newsrooms and previous jobs. I’ve worked in newsrooms that were almost notoriously progressive where some people in that newsroom were conveniently regressive when it came to supporting their workers of color, and I’ve worked in roles where I was made to believe that I didn’t deserve the role I had or the space I took up just because I didn’t come from the same background that someone assumed made a “good X,” where X is, well, any job title you may hold. I’m willing to bet that you, dear reader, understand what I’m talking about.
So please, take a moment to read the interview, and let me know what you think. I was a little worried at first because I try to keep a policy of shit-talking previous employers to a minimum (because you never know where you might end up one way, or who may reach out with an olive branch and an opportunity to make change for the people who come after you,) but frankly, nothing in the interview is untrue, I go out of my way to honor my past colleagues, and of course, I won’t let fear of the future silence my voice today. I wholeheartedly recommend you don’t, either.
I’ll see you back here in two.