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On the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment of the US Constitution, which states that the right to vote cannot be denied on account of sex, president Donald Trump posthumously pardoned Susan B. Anthony, a women’s rights activist who was arrested in 1872 for voting while female.
Anthony and many other women, including Black suffragists who had to fight harder and longer than white women to see their rights acknowledged, worked to lift as they climbed, as Mary Church Terrell put it. Those who did so by voting despite the law stood by the rebellious act. That’s why the pardon is a misguided decision, and is rightly being contested: Anthony doesn’t need a presidential pardon, because violating the law is her legacy.
The history of America—the history of all civilization—is one of progressively filling the gap between what is legal and what is just. It is an ongoing process, and its advancement rests on a behavior that Martin Luther King famously distilled in his Letter from Birmingham Jail: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Though Anthony didn’t live to see it, the 19th amendment proved she was right all along: The constitution didn’t make female suffrage legal—it clarified that all the previous instances when it had been denied were, in fact, illegal.
The belief that certain rights exist even when unjustly denied by the government informs America’s quest for “a more perfect Union,” and the work of democracy everywhere. It is the same principle that Hong Kong protesters have been upholding for months, that gives courage to protesters in Belarus. It propels Black Lives Matter, and all demands for social justice.
The temptation to erase an unjust sentence is understandable. But Anthony’s, like John Lewis’s for each act of good trouble, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s for protesting in Selma, or Sojourner Truth’s for daring to be Black in Indiana, are a point of pride in their biographies, a testament to great ideals and greater courage. They are at once the mark of their heroism and an indelible reminder that the law can be wrong, that indeed it was wrong, and challenging it was—and still is—a necessary, moral act of democracy. —Annalisa Merelli
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
A name for the human rights crisis in Xinjiang. In recent weeks many people and institutions, including those wary of drawing such parallels, are reaching for a historically loaded word—genocide—to talk about what China’s Uyghur minority is facing. Isabella Steger traces how a particular confluence of reporting and imagery is prompting that growing tendency. Such recognition of the gravity of the situation could fuel grassroots efforts to penalize China, even if concerted global action is slower to follow.—Tripti Lahiri, Asia editor
The immigrants are leaving. In the world’s richest and most developed countries the foreign populations are falling during the pandemic. It’s not just the result of travel restrictions. Youyou Zhou went country by country through the data to show that unfriendly policies, mass layoffs, and canceled school years are pushing immigrants out of the US, UK, Germany, Japan, Canada, and China. Read about one country or read about them all, this interactive story lets you pick how deep you want to go. —David Yanofsky, Things editor
Joy across generations. I have always felt mildly offended by the American belief that nothing screams failure like moving back in with your parents. I am Italian, and plenty of us spend some amount of our adult life with our parents—I have done it more than once, by choice. In her feature, Sarah Todd explores the joys of intergenerational living, and provides historical and economic context to different cultures’ radically different approaches to leaving the family nest. —Annalisa Merelli, geopolitics reporter
Leaving Lagos. Africa’s largest city has been the epicenter of Nigeria’s $2 billion tech ecosystem and home to some of the continent’s best-known startups for the past decade. But, as the state government ramps up a tax drive through pricey regulatory policies to survive an economic crunch, tech industry stakeholders are counting their costs and increasingly considering looking elsewhere to set up shop, Yomi Kazeem explains. —Yinka Adegoke, Africa editor
Nothing can stop the return of vinyl. Records really are the best way to listen, aren’t they? No skipping tracks on a whim, no shuffle option, and you get that beautiful tactile object to admire on your shelf. While vinyl fans are quick to praise the very real warmth of a non-digital recording, there’s no denying the simple cool factor. Dan Kopf’s magnificent piece examines the continuing rebirth of vinyl, which even Covid has been unable to stop. —Hasit Shah, deputy editor, global finance and economics
Fun fact about laam caau
As Hong Kong fights back against China’s crackdown and systematic destruction of its freedoms, protesters see a harsh reality: The existing political framework is so rigged that operating under the current rules of engagement will only lead to defeat. Many have turned to a strategy of laam caau (pronounced “lahm tsow,” with the “ow” sounding like “how”), which literally translates to “embrace and fry,” and is borrowed from poker to mean making your opponent suffer as much as you do. Read more about laam caau in the Quartz Weekly Obsession.
Before you dive in, press play on the Obsession playlist of songs that have accompanied pro-democracy protests mixed in with a wider musical selection that hails from or is inspired by Hong Kong.
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Hong Kong’s struggle goes global
The fight for Hong Kong has become the world’s fight. A key factor is the protest movement’s international lobbying network, whose grassroots diplomacy and unofficial statecraft has leveraged the momentum of the protests into tangible political influence worldwide. Read about how the battle over Hong Kong’s freedoms went global in our latest field guide.
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Five things from elsewhere that made us smarter
A WeChat ban threatens to cut off Tibetan refugees’ lifeline back home. Many in the Tibetan diaspora in India use the app to communicate with friends and family in China, despite knowing full well that their communications are censored and surveilled. But with India’s ban on WeChat and dozens of other Chinese apps, Tsering D. Gurung writes in Rest of World, Tibetan refugees are now caught in a geopolitical windstorm, forcing them to rethink their dependence on the app. —Mary Hui, reporter
Sorry, the world’s largest maker of bikes can’t make enough of them. Soaring global demand for bicycles due to the pandemic should be great news for Taiwan-based Giant, but cranking up supply isn’t as easy for the company which finds itself caught squarely in geopolitical tensions. As Raymond Zhong reports for The New York Times, the company must navigate complex issues such as Trump’s trade war, a labor shortage in China, as well as Taiwan’s complex relations with its superpower neighbor. —Isabella Steger, Asia deputy editor
A different way of judging Chinese economic reform. The Economist makes the case for why pundits are “misleadingly wrong” to argue that the changes Xi Jinping has brought to his country’s economy have benefited state-owned giants to the detriment of market forces and private-sector innovation. Instead, Xi is “presiding over what he hopes will be the creation of a more muscular form of state capitalism.” And we should all be paying closer attention. —Annabelle Timsit, geopolitics reporter
The pecking order of the American plate. How did Americans go from eating 10 pounds of chicken annually in the 1930s to 64 pounds a year in 2017? As Sarah Mock writes in the Guardian, we can thank wartime rationing, a “chicken of tomorrow” contest, and the industrialization of the food supply chain for the poultry-fication of the US diet. —Liz Webber, senior news curator
The Karen conundrum. The appeal of naming white women who snap at others for not following rules or, famously, “ask to speak to the manager” has been taken up by both ends of the political spectrum with relish. Writing for The Atlantic, Helen Lewis explores the Karen meme’s viral spread—is it a misogynistic excuse to write off women as hysterical, or is it an antiracist skewering of white privilege? The intersection, she argues, is a gray area Americans are uncomfortable examining. —Susan Howson, news editor
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, comfortable memes, and 10 pounds of chicken to email@example.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was brought to you by Annalisa Merelli, Mary Hui, Liz Webber, and Susan Howson.