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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 7/5

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What Monument Would the Lion Design?

The internet seems to be forgetting that we are in the middle of an uprising, and people are actively ignoring that we are in the middle of a pandemic! Highlights: A conversation about accountability among Instagram influencers, revolution is not a one-time event, the politics of storytelling, Black bodies as Confederate monuments, the B in Black should always be uppercase, the modern world was built with Indigenous tools and knowledge, Vanessa Guillen, white women with guns, and COVID-19 parties are apparently a thing. 

 

1. Instagram: @jewel_thegem Live with @urdoingreat

Content/Trigger Warning: Rape, Sexual Assault

Gem—a leftist, abolitionist, and social media influencer—deactivated their accounts this week after it resurfaced that they raped someone. Initially, this was made public about a year ago and Gem posted a public apology and highlighted a story discussing the rape and community accountability on Instagram—all of which was subsequently buried under many other posts. Further, tweets in which Gem made rape jokes resurfaced from when Gem was a teenager.  

In this IG Live conversation, Jewel—also an abolitionist, organizer, survivor, and someone with whom Gem is in community—and Gem discuss how Gem’s more recent apology is not enough and attempt to figure out what accountability looks like without the intervention of police. The conversation is incredibly heavy and informative as a model of what transformative justice and accountability might look like going forward. Consistently, Jewel reiterates that accountability “isn’t pretty,” it is hard, she is not here to make Gem feel good, and she doesn’t feel good having this conversation with another Black person.

The conversation is also very disappointing in that Gem does not seem to take the situation seriously, and is dismissive of Jewel’s feedback and the requests she conveys from the anonymous survivor. On multiple occasions Gem appears to laugh or scoff when Jewel expresses doubt that Gem has indeed grown, and that it is triggering for her, the harmed person, and other survivors to see them when their posts go viral. This last point is particularly difficult as Gem had more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, which translates to money (Gem also had a Patreon). When asked why Gem didn’t promote or share that this conversation with Jewel was taking place, they had no real answer and seemed incredibly defensive. Further, while this conversation is framed around one harmed person, in the comments on the live chat many people indicated that there are more. 

Apparently, some took issue with how Jewel handled the conversation, and questioned why she was even having it in the first place, to which she posted a follow-up video clarifying her position and how she got involved.

I, and many of my friends, followed Gem and they had gained considerable influence over the past year. I am sorry for promoting Gem on these lists in the past. Follow Jewel. 

 

2. The White Review: Revolution is Not a One-Time Event

This conversation is amazing!!!! Chaired by Akwugo Emejulu, this panel with Amrit Wilson, Lola Olufemi, Ru Kaur, and Che Gossett is a “speculative dialogue about what a future would look like without police and prisons” through abolition feminism. In considering the past few months, Olufemi tries to “understand this moment by not thinking of it as a singular moment of disaster but as a continuation of a state of emergency,” one that has persisted for decades and is only now being highlighted. This conversation is imaginative, and Kaur brings up the work of Mariame Kaba, who thinks “about abolition as a horizon,” reminding us that “we’re not just talking about abolishing the police or distributing resources to communities, but transformatively undoing the systems of logic that make prison, or the immigration system, or police legible. We want to render them completely illegible.” 

3. n + 1: Such Things Have Done Harm

Storytelling is an integral part of history, activism, and almost everything. Here, Blair McClendon, a filmmaker, writes about the protests in New York, police brutality, art, and slavery through the lens of storytelling. McClendon describes how “the storyteller, regardless of medium, is perhaps too seduced by nuance, seeking outliers that complicate a simple picture… In order to make the edges hazy, to follow through on this fetishization of nuance, the storyteller is forced to make structural questions into existential paradoxes,” and oftentimes “storytellers, trying to say something about these conditions, have all too frequently confused nuance and subtlety.” 

In creating narratives for police, “they may express outrage at [George] Floyd’s death, but what does it matter how they feel about it if they will beat people in the streets to defend their right to do it again?” This dedication to nuance can absolve subjects of their wrongdoings. In the narrative of police, this type of depiction “envision[s] reconciliation before the cessation of hostilities.” And “it is true that straight didacticism does not often make for good or illuminating art. But the total willingness to leave stories or films ‘open’ to all available readings for the sake of nuance assumes a viewer who was not already subjected to rigorous ideological formation.”

McClendon is clear on the importance of storytelling, but also that “there is no need to defend the necessity of making art. It is not necessary—not like food, water, shelter, affection. It does, however, seem to be a fundamental activity of human societies.” As a medium, film has a historic focus on empathy as it scapegoats “reckoning with a moral catastrophe. It is not that people have treated each other this way simply because they do not recognize another person’s humanity, but that humanity is no shield against untethered power. We should be willing to demand more than fellow feeling.”

I had to read this piece a few times before I began to write about it, and I still don’t think I did it justice. McClendon’s writing is beautiful and nuanced, seamlessly weaving multiple stories and histories together. This is a piece I know I will carry with me for a long time. 

 

4. New York Times: You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument

Yes. Yes to everything in this essay. Poet Caroline Randall Williams tells the story of how her body is a monument to the Confederacy, writing as “a black, Southern woman, and of my immediate white male ancestors, all of them were rapists. My very existence is a relic of slavery and Jim Crow.” Like many Black people, “according to the rule of hypodescent (the social and legal practice of assigning a genetically mixed-race person to the race with less social power) I am the daughter of two black people, the granddaughter of four black people, the great-granddaughter of eight black people. Go back one more generation and it gets less straightforward and more sinister. As far as family history has always told, and as modern DNA testing has allowed me to confirm, I am the descendant of black women who were domestic servants and white men who raped their help.” In examining the defiance against the removal of Confederate monuments, Williams questions “what is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past.” What is currently taking place isn’t an erasure of history but a reframing of the past; “it is not a matter of ‘airbrushing’ history, but of adding a new perspective.”

 

5. New York Times: Uppercasing ‘Black’

The New York Times Company announced on Tuesday that it will start uppercasing Black in all of its publications. The change is immediate and Black will be used “to describe people and cultures of African origin, both in the United States and elsewhere.” An uppercase Black has long been favored by many African-American newspapers, and many other publications have made the switch to capitalizing it recently. “The new style is also consistent with our treatment of many other racial and ethnic terms: We recently decided to capitalize ‘Native’ and ‘Indigenous,’ while other ethnic terms like ‘Asian-American’ and ‘Latino’ have always been capitalized.”

However, white will not receive the same treatment. “While there is an obvious question of parallelism, there has been no comparable movement toward widespread adoption of a new style for ‘white,’ and there is less of a sense that ‘white’ describes a shared culture and history. Moreover, hate groups and white supremacists have long favored the uppercase style, which in itself is reason to avoid it.”

 

6. The Walrus: The Hungry People

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot more time learning about and listening to Native American and Indigenous people. In this essay, Robert Jago, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe, tells the history of British Columbia, not as a “terra nullius—no one’s land,” the narrative that dominates among non-Natives in Canada and America, but as he knows it: a place rich with centuries-old history, tradition, and culture. In the pervasive stories of colonization, what is brought from Europe is lauded. Jago reminds us that should not be the case, because “it’s only with our knowledge and creations and work that their world was able to come into existence in the first place. They didn’t hand us the keys to the modern world—they took from us the tools that built its foundations.”

 

7. KSTA: Vanessa Guillen killed with hammer, body dismembered and burned, affidavit says

It is suspected that remains found along the Leon River in Texas are those of Army specialist Pcf. Vanessa Guillen, who disappeared on April 22 of this year. In an FBI affidavit, alleged accomplice Cecily Aguilar stated that US Army Specialist Aaron Robinson “struck Guillen in the head with a hammer multiple times on April 22 inside an arms room at Fort Hood, killing her.” Robinson died on Wednesday from a self-inflicted gunshot after police attempted to make contact with him. Guillen’s murder took place the day before her family said she was going to report Robinson for sexual assault, though military officials “did not confirm those claims and said the remains that were discovered have not yet been positively identified.” Guillen’s family is currently pushing for legislation in her name that would create a separate, private agency that “would have an independent person, not part of the command, not part of the military, that’s unbiased. A different set of eyes.”

 

8. St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Couple points guns at protesters marching to St. Louis mayor’s home to demand resignation

Last Sunday night, protesters in St. Louis walked to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home to demand her resignation after she read out the private information, including home address, of activists on a Facebook live video. As the protests walked past Mark T. and Patricia N. McCloskey’s home in the private Portland Place, a block away from Krewson’s house, the couple stood in their yard and pointed guns at the demonstrators. None of the protesters appeared to approach the McCloskeys’ property, however Missouri has open gun laws, and gun advocates say they “are protected by Missouri’s Castle Doctrine, which allows people to use deadly force to defend private property.” Further, since the street was privately owned there is some debate over whether the protesters had a right to be there. However, “St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner appeared to take a different view, releasing a statement Monday that said she’s ‘alarmed at the events that occurred over the weekend where peaceful protestors (sic) were met by guns and a violent assault.’”

The investigation is still ongoing but a police report was filed that states the McCloskeys were “victims” and felt that they and their property were “threatened.” Albert S. Watkins, an attorney for the couple, “said the McCloskeys are supportive of the message of the peaceful protesters, but felt threatened by two ‘bad actors’ who threw insults at them. The couple ‘acted lawfully’ by seeking to protect their property and their family inside the home, he said. Their response stemmed from ‘fear and apprehension, the genesis of which was not race-related.’” …Okay. 

 

9. The Washington Post: ‘She’s got the gun on me’: White woman charged with assault after pulling pistol on black mother, daughter

A confrontation that allegedly began with a white woman, Jillian Wuestenberg, bumping into a Black teenager, Makala Green, ended with the woman pulling a gun on the teen and her mother, Takelia Hill. The altercation, which took place in Oakland County, Michigan, quickly went viral after a video of it circulated. After an initial exchange, the woman got into the passenger seat of a van her husband, Eric Wuestenberg, was driving, and Hill turned to him saying “Yeah, I said it. You say something, and I’ll beat your white a– too” in reference to Jillian violating Hill’s daughter. Out of the passenger window, Jillian then yelled to Hill and Green, “You cannot just walk around calling white people racist… White people aren’t racist.… I care about you and I’m sorry if you had an incident that has made someone make you feel like that. No one is racist.” As the van was backing out, Hill was afraid it would hit them and tapped on the back window to stop it. Then Jillian got out and pulled her gun. Eric was also armed but it is unclear if he drew his weapon, and the couple had Michigan concealed pistol licenses. The Wuestenbergs were taken into custody and charged with felony assault

How do you pull a gun on a Black person that you bumped into and say it has nothing to do with race?

 

10. Eater Detroit: Outbreak Connected to East Lansing Bar Balloons to 107 Cases, Spreads to Grosse Pointe Area

An outbreak of COVID-19 linked to Harper’s Bar and Brewpub in East Lansing, Michigan, has now led to over 150 new cases. I am literally sitting in East Lansing as I type this. The bar is a hotspot for students at Michigan State University. Patrons of the bar have created outbreaks in other parts of the state and last Saturday, it was “reported that a large portion of a rising number of cases in the Grosse Pointe area have been traced to one infected Harper’s patron. That individual later hosted a house party with several dozen people in Grosse Pointe Woods while symptomatic. After testing positive on Monday, June 22, they notified party goers on Tuesday.” Many people from the house party also went to a bonfire the following day, and at least one person that did not go to Harper’s or the house party is now infected. The outbreak is also traveling around the state, as it is presumed students summering in other parts of Michigan came to East Lansing to visit friends and have since transported the virus back home. The restaurant was functioning at 50 percent capacity, but as lines grew, many patrons waited outside on the sidewalk, without masks and social distancing between parties. Further, the bar, which has a dancefloor, had a DJ that encouraged dancing, singing, and shouting, actions that can increase the spread of the virus. 

Oh, and let’s not forget about the dumbass students in Alabama hosting parties where they are actively inviting people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and trying to get infected to win a pot of money. These instances are dangerous and not isolated. 

 

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

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