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#NPRreads: 3 Stories To Ponder This Weekend

Black Lives Matter demonstrators and supporters march through downtown Minneapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to the Federal Building.  One of our reads this week casts light on the mental health issues facing activists.
Jim Mone
Black Lives Matter demonstrators and supporters march through downtown Minneapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to the Federal Building. One of our reads this week casts light on the mental health issues facing activists.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Aggi Ashagre, production assistant for Weekend All Things Considered:

Despite the immense amount of news coverage focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement, something that you seem to hear very little about is the mental health of the activists on the front lines. Sadly, it took the recent suicide of MarShawn McCarrel, a 23-year-old Black Lives Matter activist in Ohio, to bring this issue to the forefront of the conversation.

In a final post to his Facebook page, McCarrel wrote, "My demons won today. I'm sorry."

This article by The Washington Post uses McCarrel's story to shed light on the psychological pressure experienced by many black activists that dedicate their lives to the movement:

"'In the movement you're just constantly engaging in black death, seeing the communal impact,' said Jonathan Butler, the University of Missouri graduate student whose hunger strike last fall led to the resignation of the school's president. 'You're being faced with the reality that I'm more likely to be killed by the police, that I'm being discriminated against. You start to see all of the micro-aggressions.'"

From Steve Mullis, digital editor:

Hospitals are supposed to be places of safety and helping the sick, and for the most part they are. That's why the headline on a recent story from The New York Times sets you on your heels immediately: "When the Hospital Fires the Bullet."

The story, a collaboration between the Times and This American Life, recounts a night last August, when 27-year-old Alan Pean, suffering from a manic episode, went to a Houston hospital seeking treatment. Instead, he was shot in the chest and handcuffed on the floor by an off-duty police officer moonlighting as hospital security.

Reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal digs through all of the questions a story like this raises: Why were guns allowed on the premises and in the rooms with patients? Why wasn't Pean on a floor for treating psychiatric patients (his parents called the hospital and requested a psych evaluation, which he didn't get)? Where was the hospital staff that was supposed to be looking after Pean? The answers are frightening and eye-opening. Also, I highly suggest listening to the This American Life episode with Alan Pean, who describes in detail what that night was like in his own words.

From Jessica Cheung, production assistant for All Things Considered:

When this article, "Why do my co-workers keep confusing me with other people? Because I'm Asian," circulated among my friend group, it incited a series of stories about micro-aggressions people experienced at work — both at NPR and other places. Real stories that involved colleagues calling them by wrong names (four months into their internship!); a friend being called by the name of another person who wears a hijab in the building; people being handed paperwork that was meant for another person of the same race.

Unfortunately, this happens all too often, even among people whose most literal job is to get people and their stories right. We need to talk about how misrecognition can be a one-off instance — but often has psychological and even legal implications. As Iris Kuo notes, "Witnesses are more likely to misidentify an alleged perpetrator of another race."

She writes:

"All my life I've been mistaken for other people of my race. It's a degrading and thoughtless error that boils away my identity and simplifies me as one thing: 'that Asian.' [...] The stakes are real at work — I worry that the reputation of another person will be ascribed to me or that an accomplishment of mine will be attributed to another Asian in the office."

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Jessica Cheung
Aggi Ashagre
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