Author Archives: msjonz

Why calling Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’ is a slur against all mixed-race Americans

For years I’d followed the saga related to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s one-time claim to Native American ancestry. This case demands rigorous thinking about the multi-faceted construction of race in North America and Native thought leaders, including those belonging to the … Continue reading

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Truth (My Truth) About Sex, Power and Unwelcome Encounters

I wrote this essay in response to the thousands of #MeToo posts I encountered on social media. From friends and strangers, women’s experiences have poured out over the course of just a few days. The origins of @MeToo is in the … Continue reading

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What Mark Lila Gets Wrong About Students

The Chronicle of Higher Education asked me to respond to historians Mark Lila’s ideas about students and political consciousness. Lila and I disagree about a lot of things, not the least of which is how identity politics is related to students … Continue reading

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The 14th Amendment Solved One Citizenship Crisis, But it Created a New One

My research into early 19th century citizenship debates has long resonated for me with today’s wrangling over the status of unauthorized immigrants. Here, for the Washington Post’s “Made By History” series, I tell the long story of how the 14th … Continue reading

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Before Frederick Douglass: William Watkins Speaks for Black Americans on Independence Day. July 4, 1831.

On the 4th of July, Independence Day in the United States, Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the 4th of July” circulates widely. In my own research, I’d come across a similar oration by Baltimore’s William Watkins. I wrote … Continue reading

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Belle-mère Means Mother-in-Law: Managing Loss and Love Across a Jagged Color Line

Sometimes my essays are as much person reflection as they are commentary. Here, in a tribute to my mother-in-law, I think out loud about race and language as I’ve encountered it while living in France. The occasion was Mother’s Day. Here’s an excerpt: … Continue reading

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Stumbling Blocks: A Pop-Up Art Installation

In April 2017, I conceived and curated a public pop-up art installation titled Stumbling Blocks in connection with the University of Michigan’s 2017 Bicentennial. Exploring our aspirations for a diverse campus community — a topic that was covered by Justices Sotomayor … Continue reading

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Sonia Sotomayor, Susanne Baer, and the Future University Community

In January 2017, I organized a conversation and day-long series of event featuring U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and German Federal Constitutional Court Justice Susanne Baer on the theme of the future university community. At the first President’s Bicentennial … Continue reading

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Ava DuVernay’s 13th: It’s About Hope, Not History

“The 13th Amendment’s loophole gave license to a system that has brutalized black and brown men and women in the United States. DuVernay’s 13th responds by asserting a fierce, relentless humanity that neither law nor the systems it has set in place … Continue reading

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Birthright Citizenship: A Close Look at a Federalist Society Debate

The debate over birthright citizenship is alive, well, and still happening in polite circles. At least this is true in Federalist Society circles, here with Gerald Walpin on one side and David B. Rivkin, Jr. and John C. Yoo on the other. This debate turns on … Continue reading

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