Welcome to Issue 15.3 of Digestable, your daily mouthful of real things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
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Today’s news, fermented:
Just, just as the news has started to turn: virus cases rising around the world, presidential polling, Nikole Hannah-Jones has blessed us again.
Hannah-Jones is the author of the unmatched 1619 Project, published in the NY Times starting in August of last year, 400 years after the first enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the shores of what would become the US. Today, New Yorkers and Kentuckians (try to) turn out to the polls to select Jamaal Bowman and Charles Booker as Democratic nominees and unseat opponents who have harmed our democracy, and the one and only AOC has already crushed her primary opponent, a Wall Street-backed former CNBC anchor. An opening line (and supporting article) of the 1619 Project feels particularly relevant.
“Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.”
Today, Hannah-Jones is back with What Is Owed, a lengthy investigation into this country’s racist history and the potential to repair some of this harm. I haven’t read the whole article yet, but I look forward to doing so, and recommend that you do the same. One of the challenges the Movement for Black Lives has asked white people to rise to in this moment is learning to follow Black leadership, which is not something most white people learn to do in our white supremacist society. Learning to follow Black leadership looks so many ways. Reading the words of a Black writer who knows our country’s history much better and with much sharper analysis than I will ever have is one of those ways.
For those of you who are like me, and tend to skip down to read the last paragraph of an article so you can find the patience to read the whole thing, I’ll save you a step. Here it is.
“So we are left with a choice. Will this moment only feel different? Or will it actually be different?
If black lives are to truly matter in America, this nation must move beyond slogans and symbolism. Citizens don’t inherit just the glory of their nation, but its wrongs too. A truly great country does not ignore or excuse its sins. It confronts them and then works to make them right. If we are to be redeemed, if we are to live up to the magnificent ideals upon which we were founded, we must do what is just.
It is time for this country to pay its debt. It is time for reparations.”
There are a lot of conversations about reparations in our country’s history. There’s a lot of defensiveness (more on that in a moment), doubt, and disbelief. The way I see it: reparations mean giving Black people, who have been robbed of generations of wealth (and time and labor and life), money to do what they want and need with it.
The paradigm we have for this is that a big part of the US’ history is white people stealing land and labor and making immeasurable profits to do what they like with, which hasn’t seemed to be a problem with any of the people who can’t get their heads around reparations.
Fittingly, let’s go back to defensiveness now.
I often throw around the term ‘white supremacy.’ As a white person, I have white privilege, which is a result of living in a white supremacist society. There are also white supremacists, who parade around in scary white costumes, march on state capitols with guns because they want haircuts, cause mass shootings, occupy the White House, so on, so forth.
I am not a white supremacist, but that does not absolve me of enacting the violent cultural pillars of white supremacy. See yesterday’s article on how white people can ‘help’. There is a lot of systemic, white supremacist trash we have to work to dismantle on a large scale: by defunding the police, investing in Black communities, giving land back to Indigenous people, dismantling physical and ideological borders, and more. It is a long process and even I, currently in my mid-20s, will probably not live to see the end of white supremacy.
However: there is white supremacy culture that lives in me, as it does most if not all white people. This I can dedicated-ly work to eradicate in myself.
Some of the basic pillars of white supremacy culture are:
Sense of urgency
Fear of open conflict
As you know, I have big doubts on the impact of changing individual behavior as a means of making radical/effective change (see: individualism). BUT. To follow Black leadership without causing harm, to do the work of dismantling the system of white supremacy in the world, we ALSO have to do the work of dismantling it inside of ourselves.
The tiny voice inside of you that makes you reinforce white supremacy culture is not cute. Do the work to break it down, and maybe if you’re lucky, it will someday sound like this tiny squirrel chewing.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
Hard to believe that it has been three months since the coronavirus-induced lockdowns began. That’s three months of living in a global pandemic. And as someone without a car or bicycle, I truly have been only confined to the apartment I share with two other women, save for the walks or grocery store runs I go on every few weeks.
But with the weather warming up, I am seeing more and more people feeling audacious about meeting up with friends and taking weekend trips out of state. Now I’m of two minds when it comes to normalizing life during this pandemic. On the one hand, it makes me slightly uncomfortable seeing people pack parks and beaches or travel out of state without doing the two-week quarantine thing because the disease still exists. And living alone in a country with an incompetent government and a barely existing healthcare system fuels my anxiety and paranoia when it comes to catching the coronavirus. But on the other hand, I understand that with proper precautions, this disease can be fairly well-contained – proven by the fact that cities around the U.S. that have held large scale anti-racism protests have not seen a spike in coronavirus cases a month later.
I know we’re all eager to get back to life but without a readily available vaccine, that doesn’t seem too realistic. Which is why Novak Djokovic’s Balkan tennis tour exhibition series over this past weekend was a mistake.
Like many large social gatherings, sports have been cancelled for the last three months, eating into many a spring and summer favorite like the NBA’s March Madness and tennis tournaments around the world. Although some of that is slowly coming back now, most sporting events hare being held without crowds in the stands (see: Korean baseball with stuffed animals as spectators), tennis favorite Novak Djokovic decided to take a different route: he decided to hold his Adria Tour and party like it was 2019.
And by that I mean no masks, no social distancing, and literal parties with people packed into closed quarters dancing and drinking together. And of course, within days, several people involved with the tournament — players, coaches, spouses, — tested positive for coronavirus, including the architect of this mess himself, world #1 tennis player Novak Djokovic. Because baby when you do clownery, the clown comes back to bite.
The multi-country Adria Tour was cancelled after the first stop in Croatia but as you can see, the damage has been done. Now also feels like a good time to remind Novak Djokovic of his anti-vaccine stance he took in… *checks notes… April 21, 2020 regarding the coronavirus. Collective ANNA OOP! moment, anyone?