- Da’Shaun Harrison talks to Ko Bragg (over at Scalawag) about “the violent intersections of anti-Blackness and anti-fatness“:
I’m not talking about the violence that happens to people who are not Black. Of course, because of how rich anti-blackness is, it affects not only Black people, it affects everyone in the world, even those who benefit from it. And, I’m still writing specifically about Black people because that’s my people, and because that is who is at the heart of this violence.
I don’t like the term fatphobia. I think that the way that it has been used, since its popularization, has been very bastardized. I think people use the word fatphobia and it trivializes what the full weight of anti-fat violence is. Oftentimes you’ll hear fatphobia in relation to someone not being able to get inside of a club or something like that. All these interpersonal things do matter, of course, but anti-fat violence is not just your plug not giving you extra weed or whatever. It is an actual, violent thing that has a very long, long history, and which permeates every part of our world.
I think that anti-fatness sort of gets more to the point—in a very similar way that anti-Blackness does—more than just saying racism and fatphobia. When I think of those two words, I think a lot about liberalism, and how liberalism bastardizes language and removes all contexts and all meaning from the language that we use.
- Kelsey Osgood, writing for LitHub, finds a rare copy of June Allison Gibbons’ “outsider novel” and discusses the curious history of the “silent twins”:
Born on an RAF base to Barbadian immigrant parents in 1963, June and Jennifer, the third and fourth of what would eventually be five children, were noticeably different from their peers almost from birth. The infants fought to be breast-fed simultaneously. When they entered school in a Welsh village at four years old, they were reticent, but by eight, though they read and wrote proficiently, they had simply stopped speaking—to their teachers, classmates, and even their parents, beyond a few nonverbal noises and monosyllabic answers to routine questions.
Shyness, writes journalist Marjorie Wallace in her definitive book The Silent Twins, became the “charitable explanation” for their speechlessness, though many felt something more sinister was going on. The most common theory was that Jennifer, the younger by ten minutes and widely considered the less intelligent, was controlling her sister. “Jennifer was stopping June,” a therapist who treated the girls told Wallace. “I watched and could barely detect the slightest eye movement, but I know she was stopping June.” One teacher even went so far as to label Jennifer “evil.” June and Jennifer did speak to each other in what sounded like rapid-fire gibberish, but they would cease even that if anyone else entered the room. Eventually, a specialist in elective mutism determined, after slowing down audio recordings she had made of the their discourse, that the twins were speaking regular English but so quickly that it was unrecognizable to the average listener.
It’s not uncommon for twins to develop their own language; it is rare that they become as fiercely codependent as the Gibbons girls did. They moved in languid tandem. The only physical activity they seemed to perform with any ease was horseback riding, but if one fell off, the other would immediately follow suit. When they were bullied—which, as the only black kids in town, they likely would have been even had they not behaved so oddly—they huddled together, with their arms on each other’s shoulders, as if to erect a little fortress of two. An attempt by the special high school they attended to separate them went disastrously: June, who was temporarily moved to a psychiatric hospital while her sister remained at home, stopped eating and moving, even to wipe away the steady stream of tears that ran down her face.
- Carolina Miranda writes that the new Academy Museum in Los Angeles is great:
A graceful Streamline Moderne structure designed by A.C. Martin and Samuel Marx and completed in 1939, the May Co. building was dubbed “the Store of Tomorrow” when it opened, jauntily marking the western gateway to the Miracle Mile. Its principal architectural flourish was a gleaming, multi-story cylinder at its corner covered in gold-leaf mosaic tile, a form that has been likened to a bottle of perfume.
After May Co. shuttered the store in the 1990s, the building languished. But the team at Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Piano’s namesake architectural studio, has given this handsome structure new life. In combination with the brash new Geffen Theater, the architect has remade the western edge of a blocks-long cultural complex that also includes the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, as well as LACMA where he designed two other buildings: the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the Resnick Pavilion.
This is no run-of-the-mill renovation and expansion.
- Two hundred years ago, a Black theater flourished in New York City. Maya Phillips has the story for the New York Times:
Shakespeare’s Richard III arrived on a New York City stage 200 years ago this month. This king stood in front of a Black audience. And he was played by a Black man.
He was the star of a production by the African Theater, widely considered the first Black theater in the United States. The company’s life-span was short — only two or three years — but its founder, its performers and its legacy changed American drama.
The African Theater’s history reflects many of the conversations still happening around race and the art form today. How can Black producers and artists get the support and resources they need to tell their stories? What does an exclusively Black space look like?
- Fidel Martinez of the LA Times writes about the photograph that captures decades of failure of US border policy:
Forgive my cynicism, but it’s hard to reconcile the dismay expressed over this incident by Harris and Mayorkas, both children of immigrants, with their past actions. In June, Harris traveled to Guatemala, where she tersely told Central Americans not to come to the United States. A month later, Mayorkas did the exact same thing in Miami, directing his warning at Cubans and Haitians thinking about sailing to Florida.
The United States government has been in the business of mass deportation for more than a quarter of a century.
- Writing for Pitchfork, Eric Torres reviews Lil Nas X‘s highly anticipated Montero album:
The hopeful ending is in line with Nas’ vision—this is the same guy who made a supercut of his videos in the garish style of Marvel movies, after all. Yet even with occasional missteps, the album fulfills the promise of a new kind of pop star: an out, Black rapper and singer who combines his omnivorous, genre-hopping music, forthright lyrics, and social media savvy to triumph in an industry that threatened his authenticity from the jump. His music is still radio-primed to work well beside Olivia Rodrigo’s pop-punk or Doja’s earworm rap, but he’s using both his music and celebrity to carve out a unique space explicitly for queer people who feel as alone as he did growing up and emphatically insisting on a better future. With MONTERO, he’s already building it for them.
- Ever wonder how China avoided a Soviet Union-like collapse? Adam Tooze, writing for Noema, explains:
Forty years later, in terms of purchasing power parity, China has nearly caught up with Russian GDP per capita. This is true whether we look at bottom half or top fraction of the income distribution. Multiplied by its giant population, China’s GDP is now more than nine times larger than Russia’s. Russia retains its mighty nuclear arsenal, and it is a top-three exporter of fossil fuels. But as a world power it is now completely overshadowed by China. In the 1950s, it was aid from the Soviet Union that sustained China in the Korean War and propelled Maoist industrialization. Today, it is Russia that looks to China, both as its strategic and economic prop.
What explains this shocking reversal of fortune? China’s rise and Russia’s decade of humiliation both took place within the context of the unipolar moment and the Washington Consensus. Neoliberal ideas were hegemonic. Western economists superintended Russia’s disaster. In Russia and Eastern Europe, shock therapy — comprehensive and sudden price liberalization (otherwise known as the Big Bang); fiscal austerity to consolidate budgets and slash aggregate demand; and privatization — became synonymous with the callous insouciance of market economics.
China, on the other hand, profited from globalization but retained a high degree of autonomy in economic policy. It fared much better. How did China escape? Why did the Soviet bloc succumb?
- Katrina vanden Heuvel explains why we need to break up the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about:
And Pentagon officials regularly leave their government posts to serve on corporate boards or lobby on behalf of — you guessed it — defense contractors. A recent Government Accountability Office report found that, between 2014 and 2019, 1,718 former Defense Department senior and acquisition officials went to work for many of the country’s largest defense contractors. Generals have made fortunes joining corporate boards to hock their experience leading a conflict that lasted 20 years, cost taxpayers trillions, and claimed the lives of 176,000 people — only to fail in its primary objective. As columnist Eric Alterman writes, the question of who won the war on terrorism has a clear answer: “the ex-generals and admirals and other defense contractors who made millions off of it.”
The result is that decisions about whether to engage in military conflicts are shaped by people who have a vested interest in perpetuating these conflicts. Media outlets regularly invite former military and public officials to comment on U.S. defense policies — without disclosing their financial interests in these policies. Over the course of just 10 days in August, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane appeared 16 times on Fox News; retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey appeared 13 times on MSNBC; and retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus appeared six times on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. Keane chairs a military-vehicle manufacturer, McCaffrey has a long history of not disclosing conflicts of interest and Petraeus serves on the boards of two firms with interests in the defense sector.
- Lil Nas X sang Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” for the BBC this week, and it was quite lovely:
- This is hilarious and sad:
- But this sign language interpreter is doing a great job 😉 :
Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.