Good morning, RVA! It's 77 °F, and today you can expect highs in the 90s and maybe some clouds here and there. It’s looking like a rain-free next couple of days.
Late last week, Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring, declared Marcus-David Peters’s death a justifiable homicide. Ali Rockett at the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a bunch of details and WTVR has the actual report from the Commonwealth’s Attorney for you to download and read (PDF). Behind the RTD paywall, Michael Paul Williams tries to make sense of what it all means and where we go from here 💸. I’ll quote from his piece briefly: “There are no winners here. The pervasive cynicism surrounding the criminal justice system gives this outcome the appearance of a fait accompli. In America, the killing of unarmed black men has been justified far too often by a criminal justice system designed to protect its own.” I’m disappointed in some of the news coverage’s focus on the “drugs” found in Peters’s toxicology report—which only serves to help create a justification for his death. I also don’t understand the sense of inevitability we have regarding police-involved shootings. Killing a person as a last resort only exists as an option for police officers because we’ve allowed the system to be designed that way. I don’t accept that this is the only way, and I think that, if you look around at the rest of the world, you’ll find lots of other folks who agree.
Another week and another non-Friday email from RPS Superintendent Kamras. Yikes. This one deals with the decisions to change high school start times from 8:00 AM to 7:50 AM and to enforce the existing 90-minute weekly professional development sessions. First, both of these issues stem from the poor job done by previous administrations, leaving the current admin to clean up the mess. The Virginia Department of Education requested (and by request, they mean “do this or we’ll invalidate your students’ course credits) extending high school schedules back in 2015! The professional development sessions are existing policy, passed by the School Board, and were not being enforced by some schools for some reason. Second, announcing schedule and professional development changes a couple of days before the first day of school is less than ideal. Third, you have to think that Kamras will be dealing with issues that keep popping up like this for at least the next year. It sucks to read article after article about RPS issues, scandals, and controversies, but I’d rather clear all the skeletons out of the closet rather than leave a few lurking in the back behind the yoga mat and pool bag, you know?
Speaking of schools, today is the first day back for public school students! Good luck, students, parents, teachers, faculty, and staff! If you’re driving a vehicle, please be extra careful as there are suddenly a lot more children using our streets in the morning and afternoon. And, because it’s been a while, here’s a DonorsChoose.org project to kick off the new year: A first-year teacher at Albert Hill Middle School wants to replace the desks in her civics class with group work tables. If you’re feeling generous, go kick in a couple of bucks because civics is definitely a collaborative sport!
The Encyclopedia Virginia responds—with receipts!—to complaints from the United Daughters of the Confederacy about being lumped in with other white supremacy organizations. Bookmark this piece for the next time you need to set someone straight about the insidious and continuing nature of the Lost Cause narrative. Presumably that’s fewer and fewer people in your life these days.
Here’s an excellent thread on the /r/RVA subreddit about accessible ways to experience the river. If you’ve got mobility issues, or would like to share the river with someone who does, this thread could help!
That the Washington Post gives Alexandra Petri the space and freedom to write columns like this one about cheese is a joy in my life. And, because why not, Richmond Magazine has a list of where and what to buy if you’re in the mood and feeling cheesey.
This morning's longread
Continuing with the theme of reducing single-use plastic items in my life, here’s a piece that should probably convince you to reduce the amount of “fast fashion” in your life, too.
The U.S. Department of Labor investigated 77 Los Angeles garment factories from April through July of 2016 and found that workers were paid as little as $4 and an average of $7 an hour for 10-hour days spent sewing clothes for Forever 21, Ross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx. One worker in West Covina made as little as $3.42 per hour during three weeks of sewing TJ Maxx clothing, according to the Department of Labor. Those sweatshop wages are the hidden cost of the bargains that make stores like Forever 21 impossible to resist for so many Americans.
If you’d like your longread to show up here, go chip in a couple bucks on the ol’ Patreon.