America, keep your China witch hunt out of academia

The West has never understood China. Since Marco Polo, it has shrouded China in Orientalism and otherizing mystique. Centuries of the Chinese Empire ended with the overthrow of the Qing; civil wars erupted; the Japanese invaded; and a communist state rose from the ashes. America, threatened with the near-continental communist blocs of the People’s Republic and the Soviet Union, grew increasingly anxious about its status as the leader of the free world and fanned the flames of McCarthyist paranoia. 

Seventy years later, a strong stance toward China still seems to be one of the few positions that crosses the partisan divide. Democrats and Republicans agree, for example, that Chinese companies have short-circuited the traditional route to economic development by aggressively stealing innovation from US corporations and research institutions.

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Annoyed with right-wing comments on the Daily? Then revolutionize college admissions

WHO ARE college newspapers’ most avid readers? Judging by their comment sections, it’s not college students. From the Stanford Daily to the Harvard Crimson, from the Daily Californian to the Yale Daily News, we see comments from off-campus right-wingers all over. They range from the informal to the erudite; from the funny jab to the disgusting insult; from the cliché of the young troll to the diatribe of the concerned boomer—and there are a lot of them.

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Want to End the War on Drugs? Time to Look at the Demand Side

I. The Problem

HUMANKIND has a complex relationship with drug consumption, to say the least. Though the stigma of drug use might suggest otherwise, it is hard to deny that, as long as people have been around, we have sought means of altering our perceptions of reality. The earliest records of alcohol consumption date back as far as 9,000 years, while marijuana consumption can be traced back 2,500 years. In the last few decades, though, the consumption of most narcotics has grown into a significant public health risk.

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How the Oil Industry Has Failed Its Own Workers

IF YOU drove I-10 through West Texas ten years ago, you would find one or two pumpjacks and plains of dead grass. The sparse and unpopulated landscape was a product of the desolate economy, comprised mostly of activities like “Animal Production and Aquaculture,” “Truck Transportation,” and “Support Activities for Mining.” Ten percent of West Texans made minimum wage or less in 2010, and the rest earned little more. But by 2017, the picture looked radically different. Thanks to the rebirth of the oil industry, just three percent of West Texans made minimum wage or less––an unprecedented change in the class makeup of the region. GDP per capita rose by ten thousand dollars from 2010 to 2015––a kind of change that hadn’t occurred in the area for decades.

West Texas shows us that America’s new oil economy influences more than stock charts and geopolitics: it also impacts the livelihoods of the communities around oil fields. And yet, large oil and gas firms have remained largely oblivious to their workers’ conditions. The oil industry may bring short-term prosperity to its workers, but it drags its employees along as if oil would guarantee their futures—which it certainly will not. This is the reality of America’s corporate-centric energy policy. 

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Black Lives Matter

The Stanford Sphere fully supports the protests against police violence and structural racism  catalyzed by the unjust killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as the killings of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police Department and Tony McDade by the Tallahassee Police Department. As a publication devoted to furthering left-wing and progressive perspectives at Stanford, we are deeply indebted to America’s Black freedom movement and its legacy on the left—from the historical role of Black freedom fighters like Harry Haywood and William Patterson in organizing labor throughout the US across racial lines, to the work of groups like the Black Panther Party in showing the power of mutual aid to build a social movement. We stand in solidarity with the Black community, and we want to do all we can to help address the causes of that hurt.

This week, we have seen an upswell of action against the structural racism entrenched in the United States. And we have been heartened to see protests and solidarity all over the world, in the streets of London, Tokyo, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi, and so many others. We hope that this moment of righteous anger and radical critique continues to grow until it cannot be ignored. We cannot let these protests falter or allow their radical demands to be co-opted by corporate entities that care only about profit. Instead, we must ensure that they become a long-term movement that can topple the oppressive structures under which Black Americans have suffered for centuries. 

To help build that movement, it is vital to take action to support these protests in the moment. If you are able to safely attend a physical protest in your area, we hope you can be there in solidarity. If you are not able to be physically present, we urge you to donate, as the writers of the Sphere have, to the following organizations:

And if you are new to thinking about police brutality, white supremacy, and the links between racism and capitalism, it may be useful to read the following guides, books, and essays:

    • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley and Malcolm X;
    • The Souls of Black Folk, by W. E. B. Du Bois;
    • Notes from a Native Son, by James Baldwin;
    • Women, Race, and Class, by Angela Davis;
    • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis;
    • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison;
    • Golden Gulag, by Ruth Wilson Gilmore;
    • The Fateful Triangle, by Stuart Hall;
    • “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates;
    • The End of Policing, by Alex Vitale;
    • The Racial Contract, by Charles W. Mills;
    • Black Marxism, by Cedric Robinson;
    • Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression, by Robin Kelley;
    • Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United States of America, by Barbara Fields;
    • The 1619 Project, curated by Nikole Hannah-Jones;
    • Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine.

Yet reading alone is not sufficient. Racism is a corrosive force—it warps our social relations in ways felt viscerally, in ways more immediate than what any book can teach. If you are not Black, consider how your own social circles are shaped by race: How often are you a minority in a room? How many of your Instagram photos are filled with people who look like you? How often do you encounter the police in your day-to-day life? Discuss what you learn and what you experience in this moment with your friends, your family, your neighbors. Use this moment of crisis and pain to build solidarity and empathy.

Capitalism in America has always been predicated on the exploitation of Black labor, and any attempt to break free from capitalism and build a better world must address the harms of anti-Black racism. In the same light, we must incorporate anti-capitalism into our efforts to fight racism. The Sphere remains committed to these goals.

Sphere Editorial Board

Image: George Floyd protests in San Francisco, by Mark Sebastian, Wikimedia Commons.