The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 3/7

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The internet was very interesting this week. Highlights: Anti-Asian violence, the George Floyd Act, Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, Meghan Markle, The United Order of Tents, Bessie Smith, Solange, some dogs could grow wool, karaoke, and NFTs. 


1. New York Times: What This Wave of Anti-Asian Violence Reveals About America

While anti-Asian violence has been on the rise since the pandemic began almost a year ago, it has, over the past few weeks, finally come back to national attention. Anne Anlin Cheng, a comparative race scholar, writes of this increased violence, asking whether “Asian-Americans [are] injured, or injured enough, to deserve our national attention” and argues that “there is something wrong with the way Americans think about who deserves social justice — as though attention to nonwhite groups, their histories and conditions, is only as pressing as the injuries that they have suffered. Racial justice is often couched in arcane, moralistic terms rather than understood as an ethical given in democratic participation.”


2. The Guardian: The George Floyd Act wouldn’t have saved George Floyd’s life. That says it all

This week, the House of Representatives voted to pass the George Floyd Act. The largely performative act “seeks to ban racial profiling, overhaul qualified immunity for police, and ban the use of chokeholds,” but also provides $750 million in funding to police departments to “investigate the deadly use of force by law enforcement.” This act passed the same week Democrats failed to up the federal minimum wage to $15 and to give out the $2,000 they’d promised voters. Further, as Dereka Purnell writes here, the George Floyd Act couldn’t have saved its namesake. Floyd “did not die from a chokehold. A police officer put his knee to Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.”

This is the best encapsulation I’ve read of national politics this week. 


3. The Appeal: The Dissenter

I’ve seen this article pop up on various platforms this week—and for good reason! This piece by Elon Green chronicles the career of “former Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson [whose] fiery dissents on mass incarceration and sentencing in America’s most carceral state garnered international attention.” The 77-year-old Johnson retired last year. “She was often a sole voice arguing for justice. It was a lonely position, for which she fought ferociously. That the chief’s enemies, on and off the court, had for decades been so intent on limiting her influence—even colluding to prevent her from assuming the position of chief justice—made her accomplishments all the more impressive.”

This was such an informative read. 


4. Twitter: Duchess C of C on Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle is, once again, the target of what smells like a smear campaign by the British media and Royal family. Twitter user @DuchessCofC, an anonymous “historian & collections manager who has worked with archives of rare artifacts,” composed a thread on how Markle, who is under fire for wearing jewelry gifted to the Royal family by Saudi royalty, “is a big deal” but also that “most likely, a member of staff chose these earrings knowing where they came from. And that it would look bad for M to wear them in light of recent international events,” and why the Duchess of Sussex likely wouldn’t have chosen them for herself. 

Kelechi Okafor also posted a great clip to her Instagram account, in which she is interviewed for Sky News with Gina Yashere and Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, where she breaks down the media’s role in the scandal and their general discrimination against Markle. 

More of this story will undoubtedly come to light when Oprah’s interview with Markle is released. 


5. Twitter: Erica Budding on The United Order of Tents

I’ve just gotta say it: I love me a good Twitter thread! Educator and self-taught historian Erica Budding has a lot of great threads, and in this one, she explores the history of The United Orderwomen, “the oldest benefit society in the United States for Black women.” 

This thread is JUICY and I really hope she writes an article on The United Order of Tents. (See also: Kaitlyn Greenidge’s 2017 article about the organization, which Budding links to in the thread.)


6. Oxford American: Everybody Knows When You are Down and Out

Whenever I write about anything that addresses music I always have to listen to the music that’s spoken of. Writing about this one took me longer, and took me out of myself, more than I expected as it required me to spend time with Bessie Smith and her music—something that always necessitates reverence. 

Initially published in November, this essay by music critic Amanda Petrusich on the late Blues singer Bessie Smith has been making the rounds on the internet this week. Part biography and part review, Petrusich writes about how Smith’s story counters “the conventional blues myth [of] a portrait of alienation that appeals, in some ways, to the types of folks who write those stories, either via the collection of rare 78 rpm records or the composition of essays and books… It implies that the culture is not a meritocracy, and that genius is not always recognized in its time. It lionizes and martyrs the outlier, and incentivizes anguish.” 

Instead, Petrusich traces how Smith “got what she wanted by working hard at it, finding new ways to profit from a cultivated skill. This is not to imply that Smith’s work is artless—it’s not; often her delivery of a line feels truly unprecedented, as if she has just invented a new way to sing. It’s only to point out that she is an astoundingly precise vocalist. Some of the notes she hits are so robust, so fixed and powerful, listening to them feels like walking directly into a sliding glass door. You are stunned and embarrassed, looking around to see who else saw. Her forcefulness just sneaks up like that.”

When I finished writing this, I turned off my lights and listened to Bessie Smith in the dark, reveling in all the ways her voice met my ear—even when it’s a digital file being played. 


7. Black Planet: Solange

Solange has been dropping GEMS on social media all week—including this URL. There honestly isn’t much to say about this except Solange is the embodiment of excellence, and that you should watch When I Get Home, which “is a dazzling immersion into the imagination of an artist whose vision knows no bounds,” on the Criterion Collection (the reason I didn’t include the link as one of the picks is that it’s behind a subscription paywall). 


8. Hakai: The Dogs That Grew Wool and the People Who Love Them

My parents got a purebred dog for the first time in my life and it has dramatically increased the amount of time I spend researching this history of dog breeds. Their dog is part of the Sennenhund family, hailing from Switzerland, so most of my research is around the history of the European breeds in the lineage of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, but I also find myself going down the rabbit holes of other breeds (I could tell you a lot about the differences between American and Japanese Akitas). 

Indigenous women of the Pacific Northwest used to care for fluffy white-haired dogs on isolated islands. A few times a year, “the women arrived as usual with a supply of food, but also brought mussel-shell knives. The dogs knew the routine: settle down and relax so that the women could cut away their white tresses, shearing the dogs as closely as shearers do sheep.” The fur was turned into yarn, mixed with other materials, and woven into dense, highly valuable blankets. “Dogs were so important to people on the coast that the canines were sometimes buried in association with humans—a practice not extended to other animals,” and had a spiritual role in coastal cultures. 

Although there is only one known wooly dog pelt in existence, that of Mutton, who died sometime before 1859 when the pelt was catalogued at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, their stories have been passed down for generations through oral histories. 


9. n + 1: Double the Song

I generally don’t read a lot of fiction, but for some reason, I wanted to read fiction this week. There are passages in this short excerpt from The Life of the Mind by Christine Smallwood that are absolutely captivating. The excerpt explores its protagonist Dorothy’s relationship with parties and karaoke, which at one point in time she loved. “The problem with karaoke in those years was that it was so hard for it to end, and sometimes, depending on what kind of liquor she was drinking, in the later/earlier hours of the morning Dorothy became morose, or fell into a funk as dark and soft as dirt.”


10. The Verge: NFTs, explained

NFTs have literally been EVERYWHERE on the internet for the past two weeks or so! As this article breaks down, non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are ostensibly a one-of-a-kind form of cryptocurrency, most of which “are part of the Ethereum blockchain.” One of the reasons NFTs have been all over the (art) internet is because they “are designed to give you something that can’t be copied: ownership of the work (though the artist can still retain the copyright and reproduction rights, just like with physical artwork). To put it in terms of physical art collecting: anyone can buy a Monet print. But only one person can own the original.” 

So are NFTs the future of art? Will museums collect them? Will they finally kill painting? Only time will tell. 


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