The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 4/18

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The internet was good but difficult this week. Highlights: Why national parks should be returned to Native peoples, queer Disney villains, situational and systemic grief, there is no “after” the pandemic, our horrible reality, Adam Toledo, Them as “pure degradation porn,” Issa Rae, anti-trans legislation targeting youth, and vegan cheese. 


1. The Atlantic: Return the National Parks to the Tribes

There is a lot about the history of the United States of America that we are strategically not taught. One of the most violent historical erasures is that of Native peoples and their histories. In schools, we are often taught that this country was founded on virgin land, “an Eden untouched by humans and devoid of sin,” as David Treuer writes. This is a lie. 

“In truth, the North American continent has not been a wilderness for at least 15,000 years: Many of the landscapes that became national parks had been shaped by Native peoples for millennia. Forests on the Eastern Seaboard looked plentiful to white settlers because American Indians had strategically burned them to increase the amount of forage for moose and deer and woodland caribou. Yosemite Valley’s sublime landscape was likewise tended by Native peoples; the acorns that fed the Miwok came from black oaks long cultivated by the tribe.”

This cover story by David Treuer tells the history of the country’s national parks through a Native perspective and argues why national parks should be returned to their original caretakers. 


2. Longreads: Deconstructing Disney: Queer Coding and Masculinity in Pocahontas

I was immediately hooked by this article when it defined a very important distinction that must be made between observations and analysis. In summarizing many hot takes on the queerness of Disney villains, Jeanna Kadlec writes that they are, largely, “observations without analysis, which is to say: pointing out the obvious without asking why or how. The subtext of these clickbait articles and listicles is often: Disney codes villains as queer because Disney thinks being gay is bad.”

Throughout this essay, Kadlec argues the queerness of Pocahontas’ Governor Ratcliffe as not defined by his “muchness” or “refusal to conform to rigid social structures”—the way that Ursula or Scar might be seen—but by his desire for assimilation, to “desperately to fit in, to use the white supremacist system to his own benefit. But working for the system always comes with a price.” But “what Ratcliffe, and other white gays like him, fail to realize is that assimilation is not acceptance; it is merely borrowed time.”

Kadlec also contextualizes her argument by critiquing “the film’s historical inaccuracy and deliberate whitewashing of colonization and its aftermath,” explaining that “in Pocahontas, Disney pulls off the magic trick of telling a story about colonization and genocide where the only thing that’s actually punished is the ‘wrong’ kind of masculinity.”


3. Pipe Wrench: Seeing in the Dark

I’m extremely interested in, extremely taken by this article. Baltimore artist Breai Mason-Campbell’s “secular sermon on race, grief, accountability, and change” flows seemingly effortlessly between the stated topics and is framed by the pandemic. Using an analogy of nesting dolls, Mason-Campbell writes that “White people had not developed the constitution for forbearance. Protective layers forged in the firestorm of injustice belong to People of Color in this country, and are not necessary where Whiteness stands sentinel. Brazenly detached, unapologetically fragile, and woefully in denial, Whiteness outsourced culpability, and along with it critical lessons in resilience and character.”

The pandemic has forced many people, many white people, to confront the realities of systemic oppression. They “offered support in whatever way I might need, and declared they were standing in solidarity with me in my moment of anguish.” But “situational grief is momentary. Systemic grief is not.” Our rush to normalcy is also a rush to recodify systems of oppression that certain people were momentarily made aware of. “The price for your return to normal is my life.”

Mason-Campbell covers a lot here that I will be sitting with for a while.  


4. Jezebel: There is No After

I got vaccinated (first shot) this weekend through my school. I’m so thankful for my ability to access a vaccination but am also nervous that my peers, who have never taken our school’s COVID protocols seriously, will see being vaccinated as an invitation to party without any social distancing considerations—after only our first shot. 

Recently, there has been more and more talk of life “returning to normal” and how to readjust to an old understanding of normality, “as if the pandemic’s impact was a shift in American’s preferences and tastes for social interaction—a lifestyle instead of a roiling and preventable mass casualty event that killed half a million in this country and will in all likelihood define the rest of our lives,” Molly Osberg writes. There is no going back, and “recalibrating towards normal implies there’s something to get back to, that the pandemic was a thing with a tidy beginning and end. Covid-19 is not a phase or an era or a series of habits to be unlearned. It was a largely preventable horror that altered the fabric of reality and there are people responsible.”

I miss going to movies. Going out to eat. Getting a drink. Going to a friend’s for dinner. I want to do a lot of things that I used to do without thinking, but I don’t know when, if, that is going to happen again. 


5. The Audacity: Reality is Horror Enough

Daunte Wright was murdered by Kim Potter ten miles away from where Derek Chauvin is on trial for murdering George Floyd. I haven’t commented on Chauvin’s trial for two main reasons: I’m waiting for it to end, and I don’t understand the need to follow a trial for a defendant who we know is guilty and already has the “justice” system on his side. 

Black people are killed by the police all the time. And every time I learn of one of these murders I try to include it on this list. Roxane Gay frequently speaks out against police brutality, and “in the past ten years I have written some version of this horrific recitation more times than I care to count. At this point, I am not even sure what this work is. Bearing witness? Adding my incandescent rage and disgust and exhaustion to the public record? I have long understood that this work won’t make a dent in white supremacy. Words will not stop police bullets. We cannot wrap ourselves in essays as if they were as strong as Kevlar.”

I’ve been getting a bit disillusioned about all of the names I’ve written here over the years, especially in the past twelve months, and what my words mean. But I also know that I’ll keep writing people’s names. 


6. Block Club Chicago: Chicago Police Officer Who Killed 13-Year-Old Adam Toledo Won’t Be Charged With A Crime, His Lawyer Says

Thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo was killed by a Chicago police officer on March 29th. Body camera footage of the shooting has been released and shows “an officer chasing Toledo through an alley, with the officer yelling at Toledo to stop. The officer catches up to Toledo, who appears to have stopped running near a gap in a fence between the alley and a church parking lot. Video from a different angle appears to show Toledo toss the gun behind the fence moments before he is shot.” The officer commanded Toledo to show his hands, the teen complied and the footage shows his “hands were raised when he was shot.” Further, the footage “does not show Toledo point or raise a gun at the officer at the end of the chase. Toledo does not appear to be holding the gun as the officer shot him.” An attorney for Eric Stillman, the officer who shot Toledo, does not believe he will be charged. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has defended Stillman, and “has been heavily criticized on social media, where many have said the mayor is prioritizing an officer who killed a 13-year-old over the death of Toledo and the trauma inflicted on his family.” It’s also worth noting that Lightfoot has long been criticized for her support for police and suppression of anti-police brutality protests.


7. Vulture: Them Is Pure Degradation Porn

I hadn’t heard of Amazon’s Black horror show Them, showrun and created by Little Marvin and executive produced by Lena Waithe, until Twitter started talking about it after its release last week. I have not watched the show, but from what I gather, including this review, the show “isn’t just rote, flagrantly biting the aesthetics of other filmmakers. It isn’t just morally bankrupt. It isn’t just grating in its empty platitudes and kiddie-pool-deep proclamations. I am comfortable calling it one of the most anti-Black pieces of pop culture I’ve seen in the last few years, one that left me spent after the grueling process of watching its virulent imagery,” writes critic Angelica Jade Bastién.

Set in 1953, Them takes place over ten days and “follows the Emory family […] as they journey from North Carolina to the lily-white suburban enclave of Compton, Los Angeles, a move that upends their lives.”

After reading Bastién’s review and following discussions online, I have no interest in watching the show. “When we’re being confronted by news stories like that of the killing by police of 20-year-old father Daunte Wright in Minnesota, watching Them feels like compounded trauma. It doesn’t induce empathy or the desire for abolition in white folks. It doesn’t force others to consider the anti-Blackness they perpetuate. If anything, it lets modern white people off the hook, providing extremes with which they can distance themselves from their own racism.”


8. Rolling Stone: Issa Rae: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Obviously, I am here for the BEAUTIFUL PICTURES OF ISSA RAE! (Although I do wish there were more.) I generally like Issa Rae and her work, which is why I chose this. I enjoyed learning more about the “multihyphenate” 36-year-old, and what she estimates to be “22 movies and shows currently in development. Sixteen alone are for HBO and HBO Max, whose parent company, WarnerMedia, recently locked a five-year deal with Rae for a whopping nine figures,” but the pictures are more interesting than the profile itself. 


9. CNN: This record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation would affect minors the most

I’ve mostly been following this record-breaking year for anti-trans legislation on Twitter. This year, “at least 117 bills have been introduced in the current legislative session that target the transgender community” according to the Human Rights Campaign. Most of these “bills would affect transgender youth, a group that researchers and medical professionals warn is already susceptible to high rates of suicide and depression. ” Some of the more common bans present in the bills are against participation in same-gender sports, gender-affirming healthcare, and ID restrictions. 


10. Eater: Vegan Cheese Is Ready to Compete With Dairy. Is the World Ready to Eat It?

I’m one of those people that is lactose-intolerant but eats dairy anyway and then complains later. I don’t have a super dairy-heavy diet, but I do usually keep half-and-half and at least one variety of hard cheese in the fridge, and I adore ice cream in the summer. I have never been one to favor non-dairy varieties of dairy products (apart from nut and oat milk in certain drinks), but I’m also not vegan.

Over the past five to ten years, the vegan cheese market has dramatically grown—“the global vegan cheese market was valued at just over $1 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow almost 13 percent in the next seven years,” writes Alicia Kennedy. There are three tiers of the vegan cheese market: “the nonfermented oil-and-starch vegan cheese that you can find at most grocery stores” are found at the bottom, “above that is cultured, or fermented, plant milk cheese, which is made by adding probiotics and enzymes to nut or oat milk in order to create curds and whey,” and at the top “small-batch artisan vegan cheese, the kind that oozes, stinks, and blooms as convincingly as its dairy counterparts.”

It might seem like this is a lot of variety for a relatively small market, but “The three tiers of vegan cheese found in grocery stores are not necessarily in competition with one another,” Kennedy writes. “Vegan cheese companies are producing options for distinct markets, whether they’re a grocery-store chain or an artisanal cheese shop, and also for distinct uses: Sometimes you want vegan cheese that melts in a scramble or grilled cheese sandwich; sometimes you want vegan cheese that looks pretty and can be eaten on a cracker. But given that vegan cheese is still very much a niche product — unlike plant-based burgers, which are marketed to meat eaters, it is peddled largely to a captive audience, namely vegans and the lactose intolerant — there is still plenty of confusion about what it is, or what it can be.”

I appreciate that there are so many dairy-free options for normally dairy products, but I’m still skeptical. For now, my stomach will just have to deal with dairy. 


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