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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 5/30

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The internet was interesting but tough this week. Highlights: Hustling Black death, the year since George Floyd, W.E.B. Du Bois’ “The Comet,” 100 years since the Tulsa Massacre, critical race theory, telling a trauma story, mental health in the NBA, Simone Biles, Lauren London, and TikTok mansions. 

 

1. The Cut: Stop Hustling Black Death

I don’t often say this, but everyone should read this profile of Samaria Rice by Imani Perry. For so long, and especially recently, people have been telling Rice how to feel. In 2014, Rice’s youngest child, Tamir, was murdered by a police officer while playing with a toy gun. The tragedy flung Rice into the media at the darkest point in her life. At the time, “she was naïve about how to navigate the sudden attention being trained on her in the midst of such emotional pain,” Perry writes. Of her first encounters with the media, Rice explained that “a lot of us parents don’t know what to say or how we should be acting . . . There is a certain way you have to go in front of the media to let them know that you want justice for your baby.”

Rice has critiqued the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation and high-profile activists as being self-serving and not listening to the families of people murdered by the state. “They should not be standing on the front line like this was they child,” Rice told Perry. “You supposed to be uplifting the family, the community, teaching us how to love on each other, not bickering and fighting about who gon’ get the next case or who gon’ be on TV next. It’s a mess.” Rice calls this phenomenon “hustling Black death.”

Reading this profile felt immense. It is deeply important to listen to Rice about how she wants justice for her son. It is also deeply important to see Samaria Rice as her own person, and not only the mother of Tamir—something Perry creates space for.  

 

2. The Nation: An Afropessimist on the Year Since George Floyd Was Murdered

I read this too late in the week to understand how I feel about “the vise grip of a pincer move between two juggernauts: the state and our allies” that Black people are trapped between, as Frank Wilderson puts it. Intuitively, I understand howthe state kills and contains Black bodies. The left kills and contains Black desire, erases Black cognitive maps that explain the singularity of Black suffering, and, most of all, fatally constricts the horizon of Black liberation.” But I don’t know how to explain that vise back to myself. I saw that “for one hot summer moment,” in response to the murder of George Floyd, “the cries of our allies had been authorized by the demand that Black suffering embodies; and their political desire was animated by a kind of Black desire that is normally crushed between them and the state.” I also saw that when “Black death, once again, was weaponized by our allies to incarcerate Black demands, kill Black desire, and soothe the psyches of everyone but us.”

 

3. Lit Hub: The Only Living Black Man in New York: On an Overlooked, Subversive Sci-Fi Story by W.E.B. Du Bois

Earlier this week I explained to someone that I don’t like reading fiction. I will gladly consume fiction in other forms, and enjoy what I learn the few times a year I force myself to read the genre, but it’s not something I’ll go out of my way to do. In contrast, I adore reading about works of literary fiction. 

I didn’t know about W.E.B. Du Bois’ short science-fiction story “The Comet” before reading this piece. Written in 1920, the story follows “Jim, a Black man in Manhattan, on a day that everyone is talking about a comet expected to light up the sky.” Trapped alone in an underground vault as the comet passed over New York City, Jim emerges into “a hellscape: corpses everywhere, a miasma of death in the air.” The comet released a deadly gas. Eventually Jim finds “Julia, a wealthy white woman . . . After overcoming her surprise that the only survivor is a Black man, they agree to search together for their loved ones, but without luck, and, finally, they accept that they are the last two left on Earth. They begin to imagine starting a new life together, possibly as lovers, the interracial Adam and Eve of an apocalyptic urban Eden, racism snuffed out like the candles of all the planet’s living, and all it took was the near-extinction of our species.” This changes as soon as Julia’s father and some other men find them, but seeing Jim, one of them men “immediately yells that he must be lynched, because even after a celestial disaster, Black men must still be killed on sight in this white man’s mind, are still guilty by virtue of existence.”

In her analysis of “The Comet,” Gabrielle Bellot writes that it “reflects a quietly utopian moment for Du Bois in which humanity gets a chance to start over, sort of, with less racism—only, of course, it took a cosmic calamity to get there.”

 

4. New York Times: What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed

I don’t know when I first heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre, but in trying to remember when I learned of it, I can’t point to a specific time or place: It feels like I’ve just always known. Monday is the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre which “killed hundreds of residents, burned more than 1,250 homes and erased years of Black success.” Commonly referred to as Black Wall Street, the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa “was a thriving community of commerce and family life to its roughly 10,000 residents.” This interactive piece explores “the incalculable and enduring loss of what could have been, and the generational wealth that might have shaped and secured the fortunes of Black children and grandchildren.”

 

5. YouTube: The GrapeVine | Critical Race Theory | GV Quarantine Edition

I love watching The Grapevine TV. Often I watch the series for how the conversations flow as much as what is said. The caption of this video frames the conversation as addressing how “recently, policy makers have considered adding [critical race theory] to the curriculum for primary and secondary education, however there have been many mixed opinions about whether or not this is appropriate.”

Before watching this I knew what the content would be: critical race theory is important and should be taught in schools. In this episode, series regulars (Uchechi Chinyere, Dr. Donna Oriowo, and Ayesha Faines, to name a few) explain the fallacies of conservatives’ “bootstraps” logic. 

 

6. Midnight Breakfast: How to Tell A Trauma Story

There are a lot of things that I won’t write about, but often write around. I sent some longer writing to a friend a few years ago and she noted how there was a glaring absence in a longer essay I sent her and that she enjoyed that as a strategy. It wasn’t an intentional strategy, but when I reread the essay I saw exactly what my friend saw. 

Sometimes there are things that I don’t want to write about, but other times I don’t know how to write about what I want to write. For a decade, Bethany Marcel has tried to write about getting punched in the face, but only managed to compose three sentences. Although Marcel told the story of this trauma many times, sometimes to the amusement of her listeners, she’d never manage to write about it. So “how do we tell a trauma story? / First of all, we don’t have to. / We don’t— / We don’t have to.” But sometimes one doesn’t know another way to heal. 

 

7. SF Gate: Don’t clown Kyrie Irving’s mental health days. I wish I’d done the same during my pro hoops career.

The NBA playoffs are happening and some aspect of the tournament seemed to be always trending on Twitter this week. I don’t follow professional basketball and was a bit annoyed at how much of the sport was appearing on my feed—then I came across this article. Former professional basketball player Rod Benson’s “arms and wrists are littered with scars from pesky guards trying to steal the ball and drawing blood — so many that I can’t assign a single scar to a specific memory. After ramping up my therapy sessions, I wonder how many mental scars I have too, the kind that don’t show up with a physical mark.”

My mother was an elite swimmer for 17 years and knows many former elite and professional athletes. She was a sprinter, reliable in high-pressure races, and often talks about how she had a killer instinct. In an earlier article, Benson “detailed how I had to literally alter my personality, become a different person entirely, to achieve my fullest basketball potential. What I didn’t really get into was how crazy that process actually was. I didn’t just become a different person. I became more violent and less vulnerable . . . There are so many ways one can go from looking the part to just being the part.” 

I don’t know if my mother’s shift was this dramatic, but her training is still apparent. She gets nervous if she goes more than a day without working out, she turns most things (even washing vegetables) into a competition, and tracks not only her food intake but that of others. It is apparent in the way that her body still carries muscle, and I’ve seen this shift on the still broken hands of her friends that played professional basketball. 

 

8. Salon: Simone Biles should be praised, not punished for achieving a feat that was deemed impossible

Last week, Simone Biles completed the Yurchenko double pike, which was described by the New York Times as “so perilous and challenging that no other woman has attempted it in competition, and it is unlikely that any woman in the world is even training to give it a try.” 

This move was, unsurprisingly, undervalued by the judges and was given a provisional score of 6.6, a number that many believe does not take into consideration the difficulty of the move. The defense of this scoring is “that there are safety risks for other gymnasts who aren’t able to complete the moves that Biles is, if her moves are rewarded with high scores and other gymnasts are then motivated to try them,” writes Kylie Cheung. Biles is being “punished rather than rewarded for her greatness,” and in a way that is steeped in misogynoir.

This discourse around Biles isn’t new and reminds me of Dvora Meyers’ profile of the gymnast for Vice last summer. In attempting to articulate the sheer greatness of Biles, Meyers writes that “The seeming incomprehensibility of what Biles does inflects the language used to describe it; over the course of her career, it has gotten more grandiose and more hyperbolic. While this was wholly complimentary, it has also had the effect of erasing her hard work by presenting her as something almost alien. I’m guilty of it myself. In our attempts to explain Biles and her abilities, those of us who have written about her haven’t demystified her at all.”

 

9. Los Angeles Times: Lauren London is finally ready to share the things unseen

I was taken aback reading this profile. Nothing Darian Symoné Harvin wrote on actress Lauren London was surprising, per se, but I was struck by an overwhelming sense of calm that I wasn’t expecting. This feeling makes sense, however, with how London is portrayed: someone who “approaches the day with intention: prayer, meditation, tea, reading, parenting.” 

I’ve never closely followed London but I knew she was partnered with the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, and have largely seen her name in relation to his since his death. While the grief she felt after losing who she describes as the love of her life is covered in this article, it wasn’t centered, and we got to read what felt like London describing herself. 

 

10. Harper’s Magazine: The Anxiety of Influencers

Ummmm . . . WHAT?! I don’t know why I am flabbergasted but I am flabbergasted by the fact that TikTok mansions—“grotesquely lavish abodes where teens and early twentysomethings live and work together, trying to achieve viral fame on a variety of media platforms”—are a thing. I’ve always been curious about how so many viral TikTok videos feel like they are shot in a similar location, but maybe they are. 

I did not want to be fascinated by a bunch of boys “high-fiving and chest-bumping like we just won the national championship” for coming up with TikTok captions, and the anxiety that goes with it, but I was. I still, however, refuse to make an account. 

 

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