It’s shaping up to be a momentous year for progress on social justice issues in the US. Landmark policy shifts, legal rulings, and business decisions are both a reflection of and a reason behind a recalibration of popular opinion on everything from the Confederate flag to gay rights. And not only in the US: besides this week’s decision by the US Supreme Court that makes gay marriage legal nationwide, there was the popular vote in May that legalized gay marriage in heavily Catholic Ireland, and Mozambique’s decision this month to decriminalize homosexuality, making it the 21st African nation to do so.
Many would argue these tipping points were a long time coming. But why now? Are we simply hitting collective limits on how much injustice we can stomach? Is it that the values of a past generation no longer seem to serve a purpose? Or have social media, which bring together previously disconnected people and give them a forum to spread their views, reached their own tipping point, in terms of the strength of their snowball effect? Maybe we are just more evolved when it comes to matters of diversity and fairness than were the generations before us; maybe the generations before us did a better job of raising our consciousness than their own parents did with them.
Not all of this year’s wins are of the weighty, historical variety. But even minor victories, such as more inclusive emoji, are worth counting. In providing clues about how to effect change in the modern age, they could lead to more tipping points in the future.—Heather Landy
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
How developers seed gentrification. It all starts with the coffee shops. Then come the hipster bars and fancy pizza joints. Sonali Kohli reports on the strategy that Goldman Sachs and a group of developers are using to make “catalytic” investments in up-and-coming New York neighborhoods.
How to lose weight and realize important things about eating—with Google Docs. Paul Smalera made it from an overweight 242 lb (109 kg) to a much healthier 183 lb by religiously logging his weight in a spreadsheet. Getting relevant data and eating better turned out to be much more important than logging calories.
US internet companies’ Faustian pact with China. Firms like Uber, Evernote, and LinkedIn have bowed to the government’s demands for access to users’ data and appeals to social stability. But Josh Horwitz reports that they may be setting a dangerous precedent for other foreign countries eying the Middle Kingdom.
Choosing a life without breasts after cancer. Lauren Alix Brown writes about dealing with a double mastectomy. “As a journalist, I did what I knew how to do. I reported, asked questions, looked at the numbers. I wanted to inform readers about the unique experience of having breast cancer at a young age. But I also wanted some evidence that I had made the right decision.”
The invention that could revolutionize batteries—and maybe American manufacturing as well. An MIT scientist and entrepreneur has a new battery technology that is, first and foremost, a new manufacturing technique. Steve LeVine had exclusive access to his lab and tells the story of how the discovery came about, and how it might bring the US back to the forefront of high-tech manufacturing.
A podcast we especially like, and think you will too
This week’s episode of Actuality, a co-production of Quartz and Marketplace, slips on metallic jeggings to examine the dubious record of former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, how jerk bosses thwart business success, and why women get tasked to clean up the mess. Plus, Germany’s new plan to protect Die Kinder from objectionable content.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
The families that negotiated with ISIL. The New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright tells the inside account of the families of five Americans kidnapped by the Islamic State in Syria. Over opposition from the US government, the families worked alongside David Bradley (owner of Quartz’s parent company, Atlantic Media) to try to secure their freedom.
The existential difficulties of translating Seinfeld. The seminal US sitcom—now available in its entirety online—has never found much of an audience overseas. The Verge’s Jennifer Armstrong explores the intrepid efforts of translators who tried to find a foreign word for a body part that rhymes with “Delores” or make a “Soup Nazi” joke funny in Germany.
The best jobs are in German prisons. The Marshall Project’s Maurice Chammah has spent a week with a delegation of American law-enforcement types on a fact-finding trip to Germany. It’s been a fascinating tour, with many blank stares on both sides. In the latest instalment, he reports on the rigorous selection process for German prison guards, which resembles getting into an Ivy League university.
Caitlyn Jenner: the full story. You’ve seen the Vanity Fair cover, but the full profile of the former Bruce Jenner by “Friday Night Lights” author Buzz Bissinger is well worth a read. Bissenger explores how Jenner’s long-held secret complicated her relationships with her family, and how the ever-present glare of papparrazi and reality-TV cameras made a very personal transition into a public event.
How Uber conquered Portland. It started with a friendly phone call to to the quirky Oregon city’s mayor from Uber PR boss—and former Obama strategist—David Plouffe, but it didn’t stay cordial for long. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Karen Weise reports on how a Silicon Valley “disruptor” became a master of backroom political lobbying.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Seinfeld translations, and weight-loss strategies to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.