Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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“I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin.” Continue reading

Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington

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“With few exceptions, the Negro youth must work harder and must perform his tasks even better than a white youth in order to secure recognition.”

Booker T. Washington was born a slave. He never learned his father’s name, but heard reports that his father was a white man who lived on one of the near-by plantations. He grew up in a cabin that was so drafty, there were at least half a dozen places that could serve as cat-holes. The floor of the cabin was bare earth except for one hole used to store sweet potatoes covered with boards. It was very cold in the winter and heat from the open fireplace made it too hot in the summer. For a bed, the children slept on a bundle of filthy rags. Continue reading

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

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White people are uncomfortable talking about race because it challenges our identity as unique and objective people. We get defensive and might insist that we’re the ones who are really being oppressed. We want to believe that we aren’t racist and any suggestion that we benefit from racist systems makes us angry or makes us not want to talk about it. However, not talking about it preserves the system that gives us privilege.
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Methods of Persuasion by Nick Kolenda Part 2 of 2

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A good way to build rapport with a potential customer is to point out similarities. We all have an inherent bias in favor of people who remind us of ourselves, even in trivial ways such as liking the same TV show. We even prefer products that have the same letters in their name as we do. Similarities that are less common, such as having the same birthday as someone else, enhances this effect. Also, using pronouns such as “we” and “us” can make someone feel more connected to you. We also tend to mimic people we like and like people who mirror our nonverbal behavior. Continue reading

Factfulness by Hans Rosling Part 2 of 2

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Generalizing and categorizing are necessary for us to make sense of the world, however they provide an inaccurate picture and make us jump to conclusions. Many businesses miss out on opportunities for growth in other countries, falsely assuming the people there are too poor to buy their product. How you live has more to do with income than your country, religion, or culture. For example, westerners often lump all 54 countries in Africa together even though there’s immense difference in income from country to country and even within a single country. Continue reading

Factfulness by Hans Rosling Part 1 of 2

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Most people think that the world is getting worse. However, when we look at the statistics, things have actually gotten much better. Why is our perception of reality so wrong? The media’s disproportionate focus on bad news is partly to blame, but the fundamental way our brains work is actually the biggest culprit. Evolution has made us good at making quick decisions. This is useful in many situations, but quickly jumping to conclusions without carefully considering all the facts also makes us prone to errors. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 5 of 5

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This book covers many other things such as free energy, homunculus theory, vitalism, dualism, and pyramid schemes. An important take-away from the chapter on quantum woo is that quantum effects don’t apply to anything much bigger than an atom, so don’t believe anyone who tells you quantum effects apply to your day-to-day life. The chapter on N Rays demonstrates that intelligent people aren’t more likely to be good at critical thinking, just better at coming up with rationalizations. Continue reading