The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 7/12

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The internet was kinda great this week and it was filled with profiles and interviews (also, Kanye West announced he is running for president). Highlights: Ziwe Fumudoh, Thandie Newton, Michaela Coel, Jeremy O. Harris, Killer Mike, a letter to cancel cancel culture, Beirut’s waste, a big victory for Native Americans, stop dining out, and the Trump Administration’s policy regarding international students. 


1. The New York Times: Ziwe Fumudoh Asks: ‘How Many Black People Do You Know?’

The 28-year-old comedian Ziwe Fumudoh has a show on Instagram live where “she interviews people who have been canceled — meaning that their personal views, whether political or artistic, are no longer welcome — but she also interviews comedians and people who serve as mouthpieces for pop culture like Jeremy O. Harris.” Her canceled guests include Caroline Calloway and Alison Roman, amongst others, and she asks them “straightforward questions, like ‘How many Black people do you know?’ and more complicated ones, like ‘Did your family own slaves?’” Then there are “the fraught but impossible, including: ‘When you say Black people, do you capitalize the B?’” For Fumudoh, “It’s just thinking, ‘What is the most absurd hyperbolic question that I can confront someone with and how do I make them look me in the eyes and either say an answer or not say anything at all?’”


Thandie Newton

2. Vulture: In Conversation: Thandie Newton

This interview is so good! Author E. Alex Jung asks actor Thandie Newton “lovely” questions such as “What was one of the first decisions you felt you made where you were in control?” and because of Newton’s openness and honesty. Newton is forthcoming about so many things including her sexual assault, how Hollywood had her play roles she’s embarrassed about because they had her “misrepresent African-Americans,” learning and growing throughout three decades in the industry, and Tom Cruise’s ability to manifest zits. 


Michaela Coel

3. Vulture: Michaela the Destroyer

Embarrassingly, I’ve never seen any of Michaela Coel’s work. This is for no reason in particular. I’ve known about her for years, and have many times almost started watching Chewing Gum, her show which came out in 2015. And now Coel has a new show, I May Destroy You, that is based on her experiences with sexual assault. E. Alex Jung writes: “Even though the show has been marketed as a ‘consent drama,’ the label feels insufficient, maybe a touch misleading, because she is less concerned with political correctness or the failures of the criminal justice system than with the psychology of the self: How do you become whole again after trauma breaks you open?” 


Jeremy O. Harris

4. Rolling Stone: ‘RS Interview: Special Edition’ With Playwright Jeremy O. Harris

This interview is spectacular. The content of it is rich and engaging, and while the conversation is based in theater, Jeremy O. Harris, most famous for Slave Play, also discusses Blackness generally, Kanye West, and more. Harris, as always, is so frank and open, declaring “one of the things that is so stark and clear is that white supremacy and heteropatriarchy are also symptoms of laziness.” 


Killer Mike

5. GQ: The Political Education of Killer Mike

I was drawn to this profile of Killer Mike, “a rapper from Atlanta who also happens to be a Second Amendment–loving, Bernie Sanders–boosting, unapologetically pro-Black businessman,” because I am interested in how people grow into and form their own political ideologies. I’m interested in how Killer Mike is a proud “‘compassionate capitalist’—a small-business owner and landlord with multiple barbershops, a restaurant, and about $2 million in property across Atlanta.” I’m interested in Mike’s history as “a Black man from the American South who is deeply skeptical of how much a white supremacist, heteropatriarchal power structure built on the evils of capitalism will do to ensure his freedom. So he’s willing to embrace methodologies and tactics from across the political spectrum to see what works.”

I’m still growing into my political identities (not that it will ever be fixed), and I, like most people, have had to do a lot of reflecting this summer. I want to learn how Mike developed his “Black nationalism with a hint of socialism and armed to the teeth.”


6. Harper’s Magazine: A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

For all of the supposed intellect that went into the writing and endorsement of this letter, none of it was used. Harper’s Magazine published an open letter on “justice and open debate” signed by a whole lot of famous writers, thinkers, and academics like Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, Salman Rushdie, and others against the “calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.” Although the letter gives no concrete examples of what it is talking about, it criticizes the creation of “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism,” and is itself “a call to cancel cancel culture,” as Mary McNamara writes in the LA Times. McNamara points out that, for the most part, “the folks addressed by the letter — the supposed cancelers — have little or no institutional power. All they have is the influence of the collective,” while the signatories have immense institutional power. Apart from preemptive defensiveness, what is the point of this letter? “Should we all be respectful of one another?” McNamara asks. “Sure, but too often that respect has been by its very definition one-sided. Those in power not only demand respect but they also write and rewrite its very definition. For their own benefit.”


7. The Baffler: Waste Away

This is the most beautiful writing on shit I have ever read. The metaphor for shit—“all that shit we tried to hide, forget, reroute, ignore, is out now, flooding the streets for all to see,” as Lina Mounzer writes—has become a literal reality for Beirut over the few decades as the city has rapidly developed aboveground while neglecting its underground sewage and drainage systems. The shit is “the organic, fibrous roughage of the rich, the nutrient-deficient poop of the poor, and all the middle-class crap in between,” and “the corruption of our politicians, the rotten sectarian infrastructure upon which our system is built, our failure to deal with the past before burying it: that’s the shit we’re living in now.” The shit drains into the oceans and can be seen from space. “To say that we’re drowning in our shit—the shit we all made together—is no longer a figure of speech in Lebanon today,” Mounzer writes. “We’re materially drowning in our shit. We’re swimming in our shit. We’re eating our shit perpetually now, as it flows back untreated into the groundwater, as it contaminates our crops and seeps into our wells, coming back out of our faucets and gushing over our faces, our bodies, and then back down into the drains, in the endless cycle that nature intended. Because it turns out that in the end, the lesson was right there in everything all along. All the shit you don’t deal with? It all comes back in the end.”


Congress promised something, and so the country needs to live up to those obligations unless and until Congress changes its mind, changes the law, and they haven't.
Mary Louise Kelly

8. NPR: What A Supreme Court Ruling Means For Native Americans And Oklahoma

This week the Supreme Court came to a 5-4 decision that “nearly half of Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation.” The case determined “whether a Muscogee Creek man in Oklahoma could be prosecuted by state authorities for a crime that happened within the original boundaries of the reservation, boundaries that had been violated or ignored by the state for more than a century.” Rebecca Nagle, a journalist, activist, and member of the Cherokee Nation, joined host Mary Louise Kelly to talk about how huge this is because “what happens a lot of the time in federal Indian law is that even when the law is really clearly on our side, courts will find ways to rule against tribes.” Kelly summarized the decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, as an argument that “Congress promised something, and so the country needs to live up to those obligations unless and until Congress changes its mind, changes the law, and they haven’t.”


9. Eater: Why This Restaurant Critic Isn’t Dining Out Right Now

Presently, I am absolutely terrified of going out to eat. I am terrified at the thought of attending any social gathering in a public space (especially indoors) and have no desire whatsoever to go to one again. I cannot understand for the life of me why people are dining out. This is not only because I myself do not want to contract or transmit the coronavirus, but because restaurants can become huge vectors of transmission (re: Harper’s bar in Michigan) and spending time in them increases the chance of workers getting sick. “For a staffer with little alternative but to work, no economic benefit outweighs the reality of getting infected with COVID-19, which can bring with it chronic health repercussions, devastating financial consequences, and death,” writes restaurant critic Ryan Sutton. Some of the responsibility undoubtedly falls on lawmakers and government officials, and not restaurateurs and patrons, but Sutton’s “argument isn’t a macro one for policymakers — who should pay workers so they can stay at home — it’s a micro one for consumers.” For him, “the low risk of sending a single uninsured waiter to an ICU bed, someone who isn’t really there by choice, in exchange for the pitcher of frozen margaritas you happen to be craving in the late afternoon, is a morally indefensible transaction.” 

Stay home. Get takeout or delivery, and wear a mask. 


10. Associated Press: Harvard, MIT sue to block ICE rule on international students

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration announced a new policy that international students studying in the US will be forced to go back to their home countries if they do not take at least one in-person class this fall. This happened on “the same day Harvard announced it would be keeping its classes online this fall.” According to the school, this policy “would prevent many of Harvard’s 5,000 international students from remaining in the U.S.” and would affect the more than 1 million international students studying in this country, not to mention tuition-dependent higher education in general. Harvard and MIT have filed a lawsuit to block the policy, and many are calling for schools to create in-person courses just to circumnavigate the rule. 

Images taken from referenced articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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