My Ten Favorite Articles That I Wrote in 2016

Since 2013, I’ve highlighted my favorite articles that I’ve written each year—so here are my professional highlights of 2016, including my ten favorite stories I wrote over the year (see below).

Academically, I wrote and presented my thesis, before graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in May.

As a writer, I wrote hundreds of articles for more than a dozen different publications.

I started the year off reporting for the Austin Chronicle, where I wrote 20 news articles, mostly focusing on the city’s battle with Uber and Lyft.

After graduating, I interned over the summer with the Dallas Morning News‘ Editorial Board, where I wrote more than 40 opinion columns and editorials—many of which were also published around the country, from the Charlotte Observer to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald to the Sun Sentinel in Florida to the Albany Times Union to the Virgin Islands Daily News and a handful of other publications in between. Following the Dallas Ambush, I was interviewed on Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster, and SPIN 1038, a radio station in Dublin, Ireland. In August, I won the DMN‘s in-house writing award for Commentary and Criticism between April and June. My three winning entries (on sexual assaultTrump, and homophobia) made me the only intern to win an award.

After wrapping up my internship with the DMN, I started working as a news writer for Complex, where I wrote and aggregated 338 articles on just about anything and everything between September 1 and December 29, which was my last day with them.

Throughout the year, I continued to freelance music articles for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News’ GuideLive.

Below, in chronological order, I’ve hyperlinked ten of my articles that I’m most proud of from this year.

  1. Motivated by Sweaters, Dallas Rapper -topic Is on a Feel-Good Campaign– Dallas Observer – February 10 – Music Article

Early in the year, I interviewed Dallas’ own So So Topic (aka -topic) about his project, My Favorite Sweaters. This article was only one of a handful of articles I wrote in 2016 about the local rapper.

  1. Open Carry: Boobs and Breasts – SXSW-timed open carry event overshadowed by toplessness” – Austin Chronicle – March 18 – News Article

By far the most entertaining story I’ve ever reported, I wrote about one of Austin’s weirder days, which included guns, breasts, sex toys, and a life-sized cross. This article was cited by Reason.

  1. All men must work to stop rape culture– Seattle Times – June 9 – Opinion Column

This award-winning column, about the infamous case of Stanford’s Brock Turner and our “boys will be boys” culture, was published around the country.

  1. Trump is a drug — exhilarating, terrifying, and sure to bring a hangoverDallas Morning News – June 30 – Opinion Column

I wrote this column after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Dallas. While some of my writing on Trump didn’t turn out so well, I’m especially proud of this column, which was cited in The Atlantic by James Fallows.

  1. The segregated Second Amendment: America’s long history of unequal gun rightsDallas Morning News – July 7 – Opinion Column

I wrote about the tragic death of Philando Castile as well as the fact that black Americans don’t seem to have the same gun rights as white Americans.

  1. Campus carry is problematic, but not dangerousDallas Morning News – July 18 – Opinion Column

Having previously extensively reported on campus carry, I argued that campus carry has had and will have negative consequences for the University of Texas at Austin, but that it won’t be all that dangerous.

  1. Cutting back on private prisons is progress, but we need to end mass incarceration” Newsday – August 19 – Opinion Column

This column, which highlighted some of our criminal justice system’s problems, also appeared around the nation, including The Dallas Morning NewsThe La Crosse Tribune in Wisconsin, The South Bend Tribune in Indiana, The Intelligencer in Pennsylvania, and the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, among others.

  1. Sex toys in Austin expose the right’s hypocrisy on political correctnessDallas Morning News – August 25 – Opinion Column

Regardless of your opinion on campus carry, you can’t deny that #CocksNotGlocks brought international attention to the issue—and the reaction to the Cocks Not Glocks protest revealed exactly why it was so necessary.

  1. Chance the Rapper Preached His Hip-Hop Blessings at The Bomb Factory – Dallas Observer – October 17 – Concert Review

I’m incredibly passionate about the intersection of hip-hop and religion (which was the topic of my thesis), and I was already a longtime fan of Chance the Rapper—but nothing prepared me for just how gloriously sacred Lil Chano’s concert would be.

  1. Dallas is taking a RIGHT step on mental illnessDallas Morning News – December 28 – Editorial

Even after my internship, I still occasionally contribute to the Dallas Morning News, both as a columnist and on behalf of the Editorial Board. This is a topic that’s especially important to me, so I was glad to write about it on behalf of my hometown paper.

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My Ten Favorite Articles That I Wrote in 2015

Carrying on with a tradition I started in 2013 and continued in 2014, I’ve decided to point out some of my professional highlights of 2015.
Over the year, I’ve continued contributing to the Austin Chronicle, covering news and even writing two cover stories for them this year (my two longest articles ever). I wrote more articles for The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Observer this year, but I also wrote for The Chicago Tribune and The Houston Chronicle, two of the biggest papers in the country, for the first time this year. At the 2015 Central Texas Colloquium on Religion in February, I presented an academic paper “MCs & Marx: Examining Rap from a Historical Materialist Perspective,” which I will expand into my honors thesis.
With just a semester and my thesis left, if all goes as planned, I will be graduating in May from The University of Texas at Austin with a Plan II Honors, Religious Studies Honors, and History triple-major, with a minor in American Studies. This summer, I will be interning full-time with The Dallas Morning News‘ editorial board.
Below, in chronological order, I’ve included ten of my articles that I’m most proud of from this year.
1. “It’s good to see millennials venture beyond politics as usual” – The Dallas Morning News – Jan. 9 – Opinion Column
After hearing of a young socialists club at my high school, I was reminded of my own history of high school activism, and decided to write in support of those of us who fall outside of the political mainstream.
2. “UT’s Student Government Winners Mix Substance With Satire” – Austin Chronicle – Mar. 27 – News Feature
While lots of people are now familiar with UT Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu, they first made national news when they campaigned to take over the student government. I wrote about RotMan for the first time following their electoral victory, though at the time, I wasn’t expecting to write so much more about the duo over the year.
3. “Do UT Frats Have a Race Problem?” – Austin Chronicle – Mar. 27 – News Feature
After reporting on incidents of racism in the UT campus community, I talked with Dr. Richard Reddick, a UT alum and professor, and looked into some of the reasons why the Greek community can often seem hostile toward racial minorities.
4. “Written in Stone” – Austin Chronicle – May 29 – News Cover Story
Finally putting my history degree to use, I wrote my first solo cover story (and my longest story ever) in May about the history of racism at UT-Austin and how its physical landscape reflects that.
5. “Dr. Fenves, tear down this statue” – The Dallas Morning News – June 10 – Opinion Column
After reporting in my cover story about the long legacy of racism at UT, I wrote an opinion column in my hometown paper urging UT President Greg Fenves to remove the Jefferson Davis statue from our campus.
6. “‘Southern pride’ is not white supremacy” – The Chicago Tribune – June 19 – Opinion Column
Following my column advocating the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from campus and after Dylann Roof murdered nine people in a historic black church, I wanted to make clear that there’s nothing wrong with ‘Southern Pride,’ but that there’s a whole lot wrong with the South’s history of racism, especially during the Confederacy.
7. “Adios, Jeff!” – Austin Chronicle – Sep. 4 – News Feature
After first advocating the removal of UT’s Jefferson Davis statue back in 2013 and after all the time I had spent covering the controversy and history of the statues, it was a special moment for me to be there live to cover the removal of the statue.
8. “Black lives matter—so should their votes” – Scalawag Magazine – Nov. 11 – Opinion Essay
Originally a longer research paper for my “Constitutional Design” class at UT, I wrote about some of the Electoral College’s flaws, particularly its role in enabling and arguably encouraging racial inequality for the newly-created Scalawag Magazine, which covers the culture of the American South.
9. “Law allowing guns in buildings at colleges will invite trouble” – The Houston Chronicle – Nov. 21 – Opinion Column
Unfortunately, my “pointless screed,” as one unhappy commenter described it, might be behind a paywall for some. Still, it was an honor to have my thoughts about campus carry published in one of the largest papers in the country.
10. “Let’s Go Gun Crazy” – Austin Chronicle – Dec. 18 – News Cover Story
My third cover story ever, this article was one of the most entertaining pieces I’ve ever written, and almost certainly the most absurd.

Recommendations (July 28, 2013)

I’ve come across a lot of great works over the past few weeks, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.  Most of these are not new, but they were new to me, so they might be new to you as well.

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Recommended reading (Feb. 17, 2013)

This weekend I’ve made time to read what I want rather than forcing myself to endure assigned readings.  Here are some of the articles that I especially enjoyed:

“The Essay, an Exercise in Doubt” by Phillip Lopate for The New York Times. A great article discussing what makes the art of an essay so intriguing: “Argumentation is a good skill to have, but the real argument should be with oneself.”

“The Killing of Black Boys” by John Edgar Wideman for Essence magazine. A powerful take on the lasting legacy of an unimaginable tragedy: “I cannot wish away Emmett Till’s face. The horrific death mask of his erased features marks a place I ignore at my peril. The sight of a grievous wound. A wound unhealed because untended. Beneath our nation’s pieties, our lies and self-delusions, our denials and distortions of history, our professed certainties about race, lies chaos. The whirlwind that swept Emmett Till away and brings him back.”

“5 Reasons to Grand Amnesty to Illegal Immigrants” by Ed Krayewski for Reason. A well-argued defense of an unpopular idea: “What’s wrong with granting amnesty to hard-working, tax-paying individuals whose only crime is their immigration status? Indeed, amnesty is not only the best solution to our immigration problem, it is the only feasible solution.”

“How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?” by Marc Bookman for Mother Jones. A detailed account of Andre Thomas’ gruesome insanity: “Andre had cut out the children’s hearts and returned home with the organs in his pockets. For another, he was careful to use three different knives so that the blood from each body would not cross-contaminate, thereby ensuring that the demons inside each of them would die. He then stabbed himself in the chest, but he did not die as he had hoped.”

“American Citizens Split On DOJ Memo Authorizing Government to Kill Them” from The Onion. As always, The Onion uses satire to point out society’s absurdity: “On the one hand, I get it—it’s important for the government to be able to murder me and any of my friends or family members whenever they please for reputed national security reasons. But on the other hand, it would kind of be nice to stay alive and have, maybe, a trial, actual evidence—stuff like that.”

Stop Whitewashing History: The Civil War Was About Slavery

In one of my opinion columns for The Horn, I advocated removing the statues of Confederate leaders from the University of Texas at Austin’s campus. I’ve been surprised and disappointed by how many people are truly proud of our Confederate history. Many believe that slavery wasn’t the main cause of the Civil War, and that the Southerners were fighting “about autonomy/ freedom from a authoritarian government,” as one commenter wrote.

In fact, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2011 found that 48% of Americans considered states’ rights to be the primary cause of the war, compared to only 38% who said the war was mainly about slavery.

However, the vast majority of historians today, as well as firsthand accounts from the time, point out that slavery was undoubtedly the primary factor of the American Civil War (although, of course, not the only cause).

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Unredeemable Racism: A Review of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation

While director D.W. Griffith‘s Birth of a Nation (1915) utilized revolutionary film techniques and influenced audiences nationwide, it is widely frowned upon today (and rightly so) for its grotesque racism. Lasting over three hours, the silent epic covers many personal, local, and national issues.

Griffith wanted the film to viewed as not only historically accurate, but morally true as well. Not simply a reflection of the culture, he hoped the film would help shape American culture (and it did, unfortunately).

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A Lone Star Solution: School Safety

In the wake of an unacceptable number of school shootings, the country is in agreement that something must be done.  As far as what should be done, well, we seem to be even more divided than we are on most other political issues – and in America that’s saying something.

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Football is king – but should it be?

“Sectional football games have the glory and the despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners,” John Steinbeck wrote in his Travels with Charley.

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A clarification of my Dallas Morning News column “We should value religious uncertainty more”

This past Saturday, my column, “Faith can polarize us – and certainty is not the answer,” was published in the Dallas Morning News.  Well, it turns out that writing about faith can be polarizing as well.

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