Required Reading

This week, a paradise of glass, Edward Burne-Jones, thinking critically about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ketchup caviar, and more.

Pamela Tan’s immersive installation “Eden” envisions paradise as a world made of glass. More images at My Modern Met (via My Modern Met)

C&: How do you deal with Zwarte Piet?

KO: The way I deal with it is to try to have conversations about it with Dutch people who are very attached to this tradition. I try to pass on the knowledge that I have in terms of Zwarte Piet being a racist caricature and why removing it is logical. The discussion is pretty heated, and every year it becomes more intense. It has come to a point where I sense a lot of tension in a social environment when the topic comes forward. Especially being Black, you are automatically part of the discussion.

So I think the sooner we get past the celebration of this racist caricature, the closer we will get to a more peaceful, loving, and respecting society. But at the same time, I see it as a wake-up call for the Netherlands to deal with the fact that there is still this silent racism roaming around. The Zwarte Piet discussion breaks the silence on a problem that is bigger than just an old tradition or celebration.

  • Peggy Piesche writes about “how much the liberation ideas of 1968 owe to the anti-colonial movements and how to decolonize ‘68’ through focusing on the historical contributions by BPOC women”:

And yet the movements of 68 were fundamentally inspired by the international civil rights and liberation movements of Black people and people of color, which, in the context of the contemporary commemorative construct known as “68,” have been woven into a very Western-oriented history of anti-capitalist and left-wing movements. Above all, this kind of image produces and leaves behind empty spaces, by writing diverse groups and protagonists out of the mainstream collective memory.

One way of answering this question is by asking a simpler one: what was Burne-Jones good at? Animals, it turns out, or birds at least. The ones that hop among the briars in Love and the Pilgrim (1896-97) are chirpy customers – nearby in the exhibition are some of his very likeable preliminary sketches of them on the wing. (Come to think of it, there’s a nicely doleful donkey in the Brighton altarpiece.) Also feet. The Golden Stairs (1880), which depicts 18 near identically dressed maidens descending a curved golden staircase, is one of his weirdest and most celebrated paintings, but it’s the feet that stand out. ‘I have drawn so many toes lately,’ he told its future owner, ‘that when I shut my eyes I see a perfect shower of them.’

In a March 1949 speech in New York, Eleanor Roosevelt, the doyenne of the Universal Declaration, relayed a story that today may be seen as a case study in White cluelessness. Roosevelt described being told by a Chilean delegate that the UDHR remained an “Anglo-Saxon document” despite her committee’s efforts to dialogue with diplomats from other nations. “I had been thinking that it was a joint document which we had produced,” she said, in classic White-woman style. But the Chilean delegate insisted, “It still is an Anglo-Saxon document,” one to which he had had to become accustomed over time after originally being “shocked.”

This is the Whiteness of international human rights; it is a dinner party host that chooses the date, sets the table, settles on the menu, and then proudly declares the fete a potluck because others attended — and furthermore insists that guests claim it as one of their greatest achievements.

Indeed, students at The Pearl Post are young, sharp and will probably come for everyone’s bylines in the future. The student journalists have been diligently covering the UTLA strike, which ended Tuesday, and they’ve been doing it with unique voices – like this video compilation of student opinions on their campus.

The story began like a fairy tale offered up to the rest of the planet: the giddy opening of infinite spaces and labyrinths of intelligence; the vertiginous feeling of having all the known world within one’s grasp; the joy, for those living at the edges in remote villages or peripheral nations, of gaining access to globalized methods of socialization and personal growth.

For people who previously had no collective importance, who were forbidden to speak or even to possess a narrative and a story of their own, the fairy tale promised new possibilities for expression and freedom.

Then things began to go wrong. A torrent of previously dammed-up speech washed over the internet. The web became a throng, a free-for-all, a venue for the headlong pursuit of the self, where everyone shows up with his opinion, his conviction, his complaint, and his “personal truth.” The point of departure was the equal right of all to express their beliefs; but, somehow, that conviction gave way to the idea that all of those expressions of belief are of equal value.

Throughout our almost two-week stay in Nairobi and Mombasa, the brains of the two children we travelled with struggled to process the fact that, other than at Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi and Moi International in Mombasa, we probably saw only five white people, max. The 11-year-old’s brain was starting to malfunction as a result of this revelation, by day three. But this was a big part of the reason we chose Kenya as a holiday destination, besides its obvious attractions.

It was part of a broader project to disabuse the kids of the delusion that the sanitised version of the continent they live in is, in any way, a fair representation of the continent. And I’m happy to report that it worked like a charm. By the second day they were asking probing questions such as why most of the suburbs in Nairobi had English names just like back home, if this was such a black country.

The study comes as transit agencies like L.A. Metro are grappling with unexplained ridership drops. The system’s ridership declined 3.4 percent last year, despite major investments in the rail network.

But the declines have occurred in almost every major city — save Seattle — and they track closely with the rise of Uber and Lyft. In New York City, Graehler points out, daily Uber and Lyft trips grew from 60,000 to 600,000 from 2015 to 2018. That’s almost identical to the decline in daily transit boardings in New York: 580,000.

  • Heinz is releasing a new “Ketchup Caviar,” and I’m not sure if this is a symbol of our new gilded age or an idea whose time as come:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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