(CNN)For this week, we talk about students’ return to college campuses, ponder a new PBS documentary about women’s suffrage and think about the link between race and public health. Plus, recommendations: the latest entry in the gothic canon and the NBA playoffs.

This week’s culture conversation: Going back to campus amid a pandemicUniversity of North Carolina students wait to enter Woolen Gym on the Chapel Hill, N.C., campus, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. University of North Carolina students wait to enter Woolen Gym on the Chapel Hill, N.C., campus, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. University of North Carolina students wait to enter Woolen Gym on the Chapel Hill, N.C., campus, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. Brandon: Many students across the country are trying to return to their college campuses in person — which, during a pandemic, is something of a problem. The University of Notre Dame is one school that’s made headlines because it’s botched the start of the school year.Another is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You’re a UNC alumna, Leah. Tell me what’s going on there.Leah: Truly, what’s NOT going on there. Basically, UNC tried to reopen, doing in-person, online and hybrid classes. It failed spectacularly.Read MoreUNC was open for only a week before it announced multiple clusters in dorm buildings — entire frat houses have been placed on lockdown. The university has now gotten rid of in-person instruction.B: In a way, this snafu speaks to a bit of hypocrisy. On the one hand, some schools are spending a lot of time responding to the Black Lives Matter protests and working to affirm their students’ value: renaming buildings, taking down statues — expanding empathy.Following weeks of protest against police brutality, UNC’s Board of Trustees voted in June to lift its 16-year moratorium on renaming buildings and memorials, especially those with ties to White supremacy. Later that month, Princeton University voted to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and a residential college. These decisions were important acknowledgments of, in particular, students’ concerns.But, then, some schools also are inviting students back to campus, even though it isn’t safe to return. (Princeton’s classes are fully remote.) Such a jarring disconnect.L: Exactly! I reported on this for a story, and the overarching vibe I’m getting from folks is just a feeling of frustration. Everyone knew that this was going to happen, and that UNC would eventually have to make its classes remote. There were running bets on how long this would take.Now, hundreds of people, students and faculty have tested positive. In a recent meeting, Provost Bob Blouin said that he won’t apologize for trying. But it seems like many students and faculty members are upset that higher-ups gambled with their lives. Also, I think that it’s worth pointing out that athletes (who are disproportionately Black) were brought back first — UNC football returned in June, and positive cases were found among the team’s players and staff pretty quickly.UNC, and every Division I school (Oklahoma brought back football, too, and already nine players have tested positive), makes a lot of money from sports like football. And almost every school makes the most money when it’s fully open.It seems like the subliminal message is: You matter until you affect our money.B: To me, this conversation is really just one more example of the question of the moment: How much of your comfort — as a person, as an institution — are you willing to sacrifice to support and protect others? Additional context: ‘The Vote’Why we’re excited: August marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. Well, some women. For decades after 1920, Black women continued to face barriers to voting on account of their race.”The Vote,” a new PBS documentary, revisits this history, making clear that while this month is a cause for celebration, it’s also an occasion for reflection on the knottiness of the suffrage movement’s win.Recommended for your eyes and earsSilvia Moreno-Garcia's 'Mexican Gothic' book cover.Silvia Moreno-Garcia's 'Mexican Gothic' book cover.Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s ‘Mexican Gothic’ book cover.Brandon recommends: Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s ‘Mexican Gothic’It’s been a while since a book has made me ask: Why am I reading this before bed?But, then, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest, “Mexican Gothic,” is the kind of sharp, creepy novel that comes along only once in a while.It follows a clever, wealthy young woman named Noemí Taboada, who, at her father’s request, leaves the charm of 1950s Mexico City to check up on her newlywed cousin Catalina, whose husband, an Englishman, has taken her to the countryside to live in his family’s dreary mansion.”He is trying to poison me. This house is sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment,” Catalina writes in a disturbing letter. “I have tried to hold on to my wits, to keep this foulness away but I cannot and I find myself losing track of time and thoughts.”The novel, which I’ve described to friends as “Jane Eyre” meets “Crimson Peak,” has some of the very things you’d want in a compelling gothic tale: an unsuspecting heroine, a ghastly estate, blurred lines between the worldly and the otherworldly.But “Mexican Gothic” isn’t just genre thrills.Without spoiling too much, I’ll say that the book takes gothic tropes and transforms them into a frightening commentary on race and ethnicity, eugenics (early on, Noemí discovers a marked page in a journal about the “impulsive temperament” of “the half-breed mestizo”), and colonialism.”Mexican Gothic” is a chilling read. But not always for the reasons you suspect.JR Smith #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during Round One, Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs on August 20, 2020.JR Smith #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during Round One, Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs on August 20, 2020.JR Smith #21 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during Round One, Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs on August 20, 2020.Leah recommends: The NBA playoffsA beautiful, arching three. A Thor-like dunk. A perfectly executed defense.In the grand scheme of things, these are all insignificant. In the NBA playoffs, though, they’re life or death. And in the last few days, they’ve been my life, too. The US is a lot. The coronavirus outbreak isn’t slowing. The USPS is being dismantled, in what may be an attack on democracy. In other parts of the world, it’s scarcely better. I could say that watching the NBA is a reprieve from all this — that in it, I get to see Black people having fun, away from the trauma that seems to define every mainstream Black story. I could say that the NBA is removed from *gestures* all this. Both would be lies. Present circumstances aside, the NBA doesn’t exist in a bubble. Just two years ago, police tased Sterling Brown, a player for current championship faves the Milwaukee Bucks, over a parking violation. The NBA is as political as any other sport, and the players have been particularly outspoken about it this year. The truth is that the NBA isn’t a reprieve. It’s just so much fun. I love watching awestruck as Donovan Mitchell, only 23 years old, puts up 57 points — setting a new record in the process. I love whooping with cheer as the usually calm Al Horford finishes off a monster dunk with a three-second roar. And I LOVE watching the underdog Portland Trailblazers defeat LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers in the opening game of the series. It’s all, dare I say, delightful.Poet Saeed Jones, back in February, wrote poignantly on attempting to understand the seemingly never-ending, ever-worsening chaos around him.”America is, obviously, still on fire,” he writes. “but I no longer believe that I deserve to be its tinder.”The fire still exists. Some might say that it’s worsened. While it’s important to document and understand the shifts around us, I refuse to be burned in the flames, as well. Around the officeStates are calling racism a public health crisis. Here's what that meansStates are calling racism a public health crisis. Here's what that meansStates are calling racism a public health crisis. Here's what that meansMore and more cities and states are declaring that racism is a public health crisis. But what does that actually mean — and what are they actually doing?CNN’s Harmeet Kaur and Skylar Mitchell tackled this two-pronged question, analyzing how race and health are intertwined. “What we’re hoping will happen is that by thinking of this through a public health lens, it will help people recognize that racism actually hurts people — it impacts their health in a negative way,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Kaur and Mitchell. “Then we’re hoping that once people recognize that and they take the next step, they will begin to do things to unravel that.”

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https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/22/us/notre-dame-unc-covid-blm-trnd/index.html

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