On this week’s Past Present podcast, Niki, Natalia, and Neil discuss the sharing economy, affirmative action, and whether Donald Trump is a fascist.
The Sharing Economy
Harvard Business School researchers have issued a report about the pattern of racial discrimination in AirBnB. Other scholars and writers have raised additional concerns with the “sharing economy.” Niki noted the historical example of early twentieth century urban dwellers who took boarders to earn extra money, as depicted in the 1925 Anzia Yezierska novel Bread Givers. Natalia suggested Nick Grossman’s “gig economy” was a more accurate term than the “sharing economy” to capture how Americans are working and earning money today.
Affirmative action is back in the news as the Supreme Court hears Abigail Fisher’s lawsuit against the University of Texas. Listen here for Justice Antonin Scalia’s controversial remarks during oral arguments last week. Neil noted the admissions data concerning Fisher’s application disproved the argument she had faced racial discrimination. Niki pointed to the prevalence of “reverse discrimination” language in conservative arguments about affirmative action, such as shown in a recent editorial from the National Review.
Is Donald Trump a fascist? It’s a question a lot of people have been asking, but Niki noted a Vox roundtable of historians had concluded he was not. Natalia added the historian Federico Finchelstein’s point that in order for Trump to be considered a fascist, he would need to move from advocating discrimination against the “enemy” to proposing their elimination.
What’s Making History
- Natalia discussed Cosmopolitan magazine’s response to recent comments from Caitlyn Jenner about how trans women should look.
- Neil recommended Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay in the Atlantic, “Hope and the Historian.” Natalia suggested placing Coates’ essay in conversation with James Fraser’s book, A History of Hope.
- Niki shared her project on the history of holidays at the White House she’s been working on for the Miller Center, including stories from the first White House Hanukkah celebration held during George H. W. Bush’s presidency and the account of Jackie Kennedy’s first Christmas after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.