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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 4/25

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I’m tired. This week was hard. The internet was unbearable. There weren’t really any highlights, but here are some things that happened: Derek Chauvin’s conviction is not enough, Ma’Khia Bryant, the remains of two children killed by the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, the fallacy of compliance, “this the country,” Slavery Saturday at Juilliard, ethical tourism, the ocean, the restoration of juvenile life without parole, and checking in on Black people. 

CW: Racism, police brutality, slavery

 

1. The Guardian: Celebrating Derek Chauvin’s conviction is not enough. We want to live

I didn’t think Derek Chauvin was going to be convicted. For the past few weeks whenever I’ve seen Chauvin’s name in the media I’ve just skipped over it. I knew the jury was deliberating on Wednesday, so I forced myself to read the words surrounding Chauvin to see if the jury reached a verdict. 

I was at work when I read of Chauvin was found “guilty of all charges against him for killing George Floyd, including unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.” While it is a relief to see people acknowledge what we all saw happen to Floyd, “the celebration of the conviction as ‘accountability’ or ‘justice’ that will send chills down the spines of police simply doesn’t comport with the law, which protects the police’s right not to think before they act… police currently have the constitutional authority to quickly decide when to use force… the underlying power to be violent will remain virtually unchanged and many more people will die because of it.”

I had so many feelings when I learned of Chauvin’s conviction. I didn’t realize how much tension had built up in my body over the course of his trial and my avoidance of it. Unfortunately, that release was only momentary. 

 

2. NPR: Ma’Khia Bryant: Police Identify Officer Who Shot Teen, Release Video Footage

As with many people, I learned that Ma’Khia Bryant was killed in conjunction with Chauvin’s conviction. I saw Bryant’s name on Twitter and I read the app’s overview of Chauvin’s trial. Overwhelmed by the conviction, I put my phone down and sat with myself for a while (I don’t know how long). When I picked up my phone again, I tapped on Ma’Khia Bryant’s name, and learned that the 16-year-old Black teen “died after calling 911 to ask for police to come help protect her from a group of other girls who had threatened violence.” The officer who shot her was Nicholas Reardon. 

 

3. Billy Penn: Remains of children killed in MOVE bombing sat in a box at Penn Museum for decades

The remains of two children killed in the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia are lost. It was only last year that “city lawmakers formally apologized for the incident, which shocked the nation when Philadelphia dropped a bomb on its own citizenry, destroying an entire block in the process. None of the officials in charge at the time ended up facing consequences.” The two children, “a 14-year-old victim, known as Tree, and a 12-year-old victim named Delisha,” were amongst the eleven people killed in the attack. 

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology housed the bones for decades in a cardboard box in a room that wasn’t climate controlled after they were released to Alan Mann “by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office in the 1980s, when he analyzed them at the city’s request. At the time, he worked at Penn. When Mann transferred to Princeton in 2001, he reportedly took the bones with him.” Princeton says they do not currently have the remains, and Mann has retired.

This story also points to the long history of museums mistreating “the bones of black people like this because you don’t have to consider them as human,” as Penn professor Anthea Butler stated in a Twitter thread about this article and the history of racism in anthropology. Butler and this article also mention the Penn Museum’s Morton Collection, which is “made up of more than 1,000 skulls… amassed by a 19th century white supremacist researcher who directed workers to pull the bones from unmarked graves.” After years of protests, it was only last week that the museum released a statement calling the collection “unethical” and that “it is time for these individuals to be returned to their ancestral communities, wherever possible, as a step toward atonement and repair.”

 

4. The Atlantic: Compliance Will Not Save Me

I’ve only realized this over the past few years, but I was raised on respectability politics. On assimilation and compliance. On learning to make myself presentable, respectable, and compliant to the white gaze. I’ve been questioning this recently. The sort of respectability I was taught was a bit different than the compliance the police demand of us, but it was preparation. Either way, it doesn’t matter.

Thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo complied when officer Eric Stillman told him to “stop… Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.” Daunte Wright didn’t comply. “For Black and brown people, this is the terror of American policing,” writes Ibram X. Kendi. “When we do not comply, we die like Daunte Wright did. When we do comply, we die like Adam Toledo did.” 

Through the lens of compliance, Kendi writes an abolitionist argument, citing “the violent institution of American slavery—the concentrated patrolling of enslaved bodies on and off plantations—[as] an ancestor of the violent institution of American policing. And like its forebear, American policing is defended as good despite its unmatched amounts of lethal violence.”

None of what is said here is new. It is frustrating how many people refuse to acknowledge history. “Black and brown people’s defiance is not the problem. Our compliance is not the solution.” People continuously blame individuals instead of looking at the system. “Police defiance of our humanity is the problem. American defiance of our right to live is the problem. Political compliance—to abolish American policing as we know it—is the solution.”

 

5. Sweater Weather: this the country

My capacity for comprehension and analysis has been greatly hindered this week. 

I don’t make figurative work. I’ve never really been interested in the figure, but that isn’t why I don’t make figurative work. In my senior year of undergrad, the art world was still having a contentious debate about Dana Schutz’s 2016 painting Open Casket, which depicted Emmett Till’s open casket, in the Whitney Biennial. Charles Gaines came to visit the sculpture department in the fall of 2016, and during his lecture he brought up the painting, saying something to the effect of “anytime anyone, no matter their race, depicts a Black figure in a modernist artistic discourse, there is a kind of violence because of the history of modernism.” I don’t think Gaines said this to say that no one can ever paint Black figures, but to bring awareness to this truism. I don’t make figurative work because I’m not interested in making figurative work, but also because I’ve never found a way to fully reconcile Gaines’s statement. 

On Wednesday night, after writer Brandon Taylor “found out about the Chauvin verdict and the death of Ma’Khia Bryant at the same time,” he looked at paintings, at the work of Nicolas de Staël, which he describes here as “like watching someone tear themselves up in order to escape themselves.” Taylor considers how the de Staël’s Marathon, in particular, could be viewed as “a marathon of atrocities,” as it “captures perfectly the unrelenting, iterative element of America’s dystopia. It does feel demonic. It does feel like the exact opposite of the apocalypse. A kind of anti-apocalypse. We are together, yes, but we are in hell.”

This piece is necessary and tragic, filled with dynamic syntax and profound sentences and paragraphs trying to understand how people have normalized the state-sanctioned killings of children: “The fact that such a thing is possible is really a compound fact made up of several more insidious facts running all the way back to the idea that it was permissible for white people to steal the land of indigenous people and then import people from their home countries and enslave them for several centuries. Beckett himself could not contrive a stranger, weirder, more gruesome concept than the facts of this nation’s founding. It’s enough to drive you mad. To hold in your mind the raw facts of what it is to live in America today, what it is to be black in America today.”

 

6. Instagram: @followmarion on Juilliard 

On September 5, 2020, Juilliard students in the drama division were “subjected to listening to an auditory imagination experience of slavery. The auditory imagination experience lasted for 27 minutes and 53 seconds.” The director of the drama division, faculty, and staff members were present while the piece played in its entirety. This was also the first classroom experience the students had this school year. 

Marion Grey, a Black student at Juilliard who has dubbed the atrocity “Slavery Saturday,” discusses her experience of the exercise, and has included part of the audio clip in this post. All higher education institutions have immense systemic issues when it comes to race, but this is BAD. I only listened to a few seconds of the audio before I skipped over. Juilliard already had an anti-racism task force as the result of student organizing and demands before Slavery Saturday, yet it still happened. Grey speaks to the amount of time it has taken her to share this experience, citing that “this is utterly terrifying because I don’t know what they will try to do to me,” and discusses how the school has stated that Black Lives Matter but has failed to support and protect its Black students. She asks the question so many students have of their educational institutions: “Do the Black lives here matter?”

 

7. The New Republic: The Impossibility of Ethical Recreation on Stolen Land

Last week I posted The Atlantic’s April cover story by David Treuer on why National Parks should be returned to their Native communities. Characterized here by Nick Martin as “a brilliant, exhaustive argument for returning the national parks to federally recognized tribes—[the piece] landed as a prescient reminder of how hard many, many individuals and government agencies in the United States have worked to bury these truths. But it was also a chance to reexamine the human-land relationships the park system and recreational tourism encourage.”

Over the past few weeks, western climbing and tourism circles have been embroiled in a scandal that surrounds a “36-year-old military veteran, Richard Gilbert, who, as of last week, has admitted to and apologized for vandalizing a series of Indigenous petroglyphs with climbing bolts.” This scandal has raised larger questions about the ethics of tourism and recreation industries that “view nature as a financial vehicle [and] a federal government that sees its national park system as a testament to America’s best self.”

 

8. Sierra: What I Know About the Ocean

Sadly, I still haven’t gotten my hands on a copy of Black Futures, edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. I saw this essay by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson from Black Futures floating around Twitter on Thursday, which was Earth Day. A marine biologist, Johnson speaks to what she knows about the ocean, that “ocean conservation is about people—more specifically, it’s about marginalized people. Sometimes it seems we’ve been duped into thinking ocean conservation is just about fish, dolphins, whales, corals, and remote tropical islands. The well-being of communities of color and of poor and working-class folks is deeply affected as the ocean’s health degrades.” Johnson articulates that there is a whole spectrum between a healthy ocean and a dead ocean, and “we must be honest with ourselves that with almost 8 billion people on the planet,” it’s impossible to have a 100 percent healthy ocean; however, “whether we land at 20 or at eight is within our control.” She continues, “the ocean will be fine without us; in fact, it would be much better off. However, the opposite is unequivocally untrue. We need the ocean.”

 

9. Slate: Brett Kavanaugh’s Opinion Restoring Juvenile Life Without Parole Is Dishonest and Barbaric

In a 6-3 Supreme Court decision on Jones v. Mississippi on Thursday, the court “effectively reinstated juvenile life without parole by shredding precedents that had sharply limited the sentence in every state.” This decision undoes years of work by former Justice Anthony Kennedy. “The Supreme Court strictly curtailed the imposition of juvenile life without parole in two landmark decisions: 2012’s Miller v. Alabama and 2016’s Montgomery v. Louisiana. In Miller, the court ruled that mandatory sentences of JLWOP—that is, sentences imposed automatically upon conviction—violate the 8th Amendment’s bar on ‘cruel and unusual punishments.’”

This decision is also particularly heinous as Brett Kavanaugh’s majority opinion “claims fidelity to Miller and Montgomery while stripping them of all meaning,” and is dishonest about this fact. “Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, pulls no punches in its biting rebuke of Kavanaugh’s duplicity and inhumanity. It doubles as an ominous warning that the conservative majority is more than willing to destroy major precedents while falsely claiming to uphold them.”

Yes, we need to abolish the police and prisons. But until then, we also need to treat people convicted of a crime with humanity, and consider that “children’s crimes often reflect ‘transient immaturity’; because their brains are not fully developed, young offenders are ‘less culpable’ than adults and have greater potential for rehabilitation.” This is fucked. 

 

10. Instagram: @jaowrites

Fortunately, this didn’t happen this week, but over the summer I had so many white people “check in” on me. Most people got the message when I ignored their texts. One particularly persistent white woman tried to contact me via text, email, and over social media—she did not get the message. A white man from my school that is always doing something anti-Black texted me “I care about you ❤️” over the summer. I think he thought we were friends—we’ve never been friends, and he is always filled with an incomprehensible amount of audacity. 

As JaLoni Owens/@jaowrites says in this post, “please stop encouraging nonblack people to check on the Black people in their lives because a lot of them are checking on strangers and it is uncomfortable. They do not understand the assignment.” Owens goes on to explain how the police constantly fail Black people, what it feels like to be triggered by everything, and that “the things that hurt the most are the things that there are no legal remedies for.” Black people are often only allowed to be criminals or heroes, “the dirt underneath your feet or the monuments to progress.” In checking in only after the publicized killings of Black people, nonblack people’s efforts sound like “You’re so strong and articulate when it comes to these issues. How are you,” which Owens resents. “I don’t want to be one of the Black people that gets to be promoted from bad thing to ethereal thing, because both are dehumanizing.” 

This post reminded me of a tweet my sister sent me earlier this week. In commenting on a similar phenomenon, @Frediculous tweeted that “I just read that the average white person has less than one black friend 😭. I got white people claiming fractional relationships with me that i dont even know about. ‘How can i be racist, i have a timeshare black friend at work.’”

I’m taking next week off. I’m tired. 

 

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