• Elie Mystal writes for the Nation about mediocre whiteness and anti-Blackness at the heart of the Supreme Court’s gutting of affirmative action in college admissions earlier today:

But the death of affirmative action was not achieved merely through the machinations of Republican lawyers. While conservatives on the Supreme Court delivered the fatal blow, the policy has long been made vulnerable by the soft bigotry of parents, whose commitment to integration and equality turns cold the moment their little cherubs fail to get into their first choice of college or university. If you want to see a white liberal drop the pretense that they care about systemic racism and injustice, just tell them that their privately tutored kid didn’t get into whatever “elite” school they were hoping for. If you want to make an immigrant family adopt a Klansman’s view of the intelligence, culture, and work ethic of Black folks, tell them that their kid’s standardized test scores are not enough to guarantee entry into ivy-draped halls of power. Some of the most horribly racist claptrap folks have felt comfortable saying to my face has been said in the context of people telling me why they don’t like affirmative action, or why my credentials are somehow “unearned” because they were “given” to me by affirmative action.

  • For Pitchfork, Isabelia Herrera writes about three Puerto Rican queer femme musicians — Young Miko, RaiNao, and Villano Antillano — who are at the forefront of reggaetón and rap:

Villana’s pluck is a product of her journey as a trans woman. “There’s a lot of anger growing up as someone who’s outside of the spectrum of cis heteronormativity,” she explains. “Since I was a little girl, I always had this resentment. Like, ‘Why doesn’t anyone love me the way I am?’”

Her parents kicked her out at 17, and she put herself through college by working three jobs, one of which was sex work. “I ended up rapping because it was the best medium to get rid of all the frustration inside of me,” she says. While she’s now “best friends” with her mom, her time on the streets was formative—in part because of the dangers she was exposed to, but also because of the queer community that helped her survive. Villana and her friends often pooled their money together to pay rent. “I’ve had a lot of angels who’ve protected me in this journey.”

  • Whether you love or hate her, Taylor Swift as a phenomenon has influenced almost every sphere of mainstream life, and psychiatrist Suzanne Garfinkle-Crowell sheds light on how the artist “rocked” her practice in the New York Times:

“What would Taylor Swift do?” is a refrain among certain patients in my practice. Teenagers suffer for many reasons. One is being fragile and in formation — a human construction site. Another is being surrounded by others who are fragile and in formation. Ms. Swift articulates not only the treachery of bullying but also the cruelty just shy of it that is even more pervasive: meanness, exclusion, intermittent ghosting. She says: Borrow my strength; embrace your pain; make something beautiful with it — and then you can shake it off.

But what is singular about this artist, in this time, is the access she has created to a cohesive community, particularly for the pandemic generation, whose social connections grew tragically elusive and for whom the internet’s offerings assumed a central role. Whatever you are upset about, the poet laureate of this generation has got a song somewhere in her mega-oeuvre describing that precise feeling. She is not going to solve whatever problem you are having, but she is going to sit with you in it until the passage of time does its work: Look at her now.

  • Life is plastic and it’s fantastic for a handful of “Barbiecore” interior design fanatics, whose dedication to the Barbie Girl lifestyle is part of broader trends in home decor. Lia Picard writes in the New York Times:

Simply wearing hot pink isn’t enough, people want to be surrounded by it at home, too.

Hot pink fits right into maximalism, which experienced a resurgence in recent years as a response to the cool minimalist aesthetic that dominated Instagram feeds for so long. During the pandemic, people leaned into their personal styles at home, disco balls to handmade tiles.

When Ms. Hansen married her husband six years ago, she gave farmhouse décor a try. “It wasn’t my style, and I realized that, but I was trying to be mature,” she said. “So it just kind of started happening one day and I think it was probably three or four years ago and I started painting the walls and it just has escalated.”

  • At Harvard, a professor was recently accused of falsifying data — and her field of research is literally dishonesty. If it sounds too ironic to be true, read Juliana Kim’s report for NPR:

The scandal was first reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month. According to the news outlet, over the past year, Harvard had been investigating a series of papers involving Gino.

The university found that in a 2012 paper, it appeared someone had added and altered figures in its database, Max H. Bazerman, a Harvard Business School professor who collaborated with Gino in the past, told The Chronicle.

The study itself looked at whether honesty in tax and insurance paperwork differed between participants who were asked to sign truthfulness declarations at the top of the page versus at the bottom. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which had published the research, has retracted it.

  • For the low price of £70,000, you, too, could don Princess Diana’s black sheep sweater going up for auction at Sotheby’s this August. Maddy Mussen reports in Evening Standard:

A brief fashion history lesson: Diana first wore the jumper to a polo match in June 1981, where she sat with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, and watched on as a young Prince Charles played. The event was just a month before her and Charles’ wedding. According to Tatler, “at the time, some royal commentators interpreted the ‘black sheep’ message as a comment on how Diana was feeling about her place within the monarchy.”

  • And on TikTok, writer Sim Kern illuminates how the CIA teamed up with the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to mold what constitutes “great” American literature, dismissing explicitly leftist writing as didactic and enforcing a politically tepid literary sensibility that remains dominant today:
  • @jonathanfrombooktube perfectly sums up how fast fashion company Shein, long accused of labor violations, used “representation” to deflect criticism after it recently paid influencers to visit one of its “factories”:

#stitch with @Link in Bio Shein is using identity politics to shield themselves from criticism. Read “Elite Capture” by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò #booktok #shein #identitypolitics

♬ original sound – jonathan
  • Seema Rao (@artlust) breaks down the misogyny at the root of couples’ portraits across time:

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.

Lakshmi Rivera Amin (she/her) is a writer and artist based in New York City. She currently works as Hyperallergic's editorial coordinator.