This Week in “Help Me Not Be Such an Ass”: March 2-March 9


Oof… this week. You may well have experienced me being an Ass this week. I love you a lot; sometimes I am such an Ass anyway. Here’s what I turned to, with help from you, to blow up my reality a little.

Art 21 (PBS) film on Play in Art: It’s an hour and it’s worth an hour. If you don’t have an hour, just watch the Oliver Herring part, because he talks about the power of eccentricity to create intimacy and it’s so beautiful. If anything helped this week, it was this! (Thanks, Erin J.)

Gillian Wearing’s video 2 into 1: about 4 minutes. CRAZY. From the description: The short video projection 2 into 1 (1997) features a mother and her two sons, one generation lip-synching the dubbed words of the other. It is hypnotically disturbing to watch a pair of 10-year-old twins take turns speaking their mother’s exasperated love for them. “I think Lawrence is absolutely adorable, he’s gorgeous, I love every inch of him,” Lawrence says, in a slightly raspy woman’s voice. “But he’s got a terrible temper.” (Thanks, Erin J.)

Medicating Women’s Feelings” in the New York Times: Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives. We have been taught to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger and to fear being called hysterical. […] At least one in four women in America now takes a psychiatric medication, compared with one in seven men. Women are nearly twice as likely to receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorder than men are. For many women, these drugs greatly improve their lives. But for others they aren’t necessary.

Origami: radder than I thought. (Thanks, Erin B.)

Adolph Reed problematizes Selma:  One objection to Du Vernay’s depiction of Johnson as resistant to pursuing a voting rights law is that it is an unacceptable expression of creative license because: 1) it falsifies the history of the civil rights movement in a way that 2) egregiously distorts a significant element of that history and 3) in doing so, leaves an erroneous picture of how the key victories of the civil rights movement were won that moreover 4) can have counterproductive implications for how we think about political strategy today. I don’t care for his reference at one point to Brittney Cooper as “perpetually affronted” (infantilizing, I think), but it’s an interesting, complicated read that blew up my brain a little.(Thanks, Erin F.)

Corey Robin on school resegregation .resegregation as in: “In every region of the country, a higher percentage of black students go to nearly all-minority schools than was the case in 1988. The same is true of Latino students in the South, the West and the Midwest.”  (Thanks, Erin F.)

Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John: also in nytimes. The title says a lot, but it’s worth going and reading the details. (Thanks, Erin F.)

Falguni A. Sheth interviewed about the uncomfortable compatibilities between liberalism and systematic racism. While we can make corrections to “ideal” liberal theory, these corrections are at base additive. They don’t fundamentally restructure the foundation of liberal society — namely the promise of universal and equal protections alongside a systematic impulse to violence in the name of “civilizing” the heathens, or for the purposes of maintaining “law and order.” At base, this is what the killing of Michael Brown, and the ensuing encounters between the police and protesters in Ferguson, Mo., have exposed: peace, safety, recognition of one’s humanity, law, order, rights will be doled out — or withheld — only in terms that allow those in authority, those with wealth, to remain comfortable. Consider the recent Supreme Court decision to allow restrictive voter ID requirements in Texas — which hurts the poorest citizens. But — and here’s the kicker — until we confront the repeated incidents of dehumanization as systematic, and not just a proliferation of accidental violations of humanity, we won’t be able to address or challenge the fundamental flaw of liberalism: the “compatibility” between the promise of universal protections for some groups, and violence for others.

As Mills has argued (and as many feminist philosophers and philosophers of race argue), pervasive racial inequality — understood within the frames of legal, social, political systems — persists because “whites themselves are unable to understand the world that they themselves have made.” Here’s what that looks like: “Slavery’s over. Why are we still discussing it? What does this have to do with poverty? After all, look at all those Asian immigrants: They’re not asking for handouts. They’re doing very well for themselves.” (Thanks, Erin F.)

Paper Matches, by Paulette Jiles. (in I Feel A Little Jumpy Around You)

Please don’t sue me, Paulette Jiles.

This poem. The kind men in our lives hope so hard for this not to be true…they hope this so hard that they may, to preserve something they want to keep, a) pretend women don’t feel this way anymore and/or b) operate from the premise that the women they know (us!) are in situations so different from this that we are unlikely to have felt anything similar, that this is unlikely to resonate. Hoses? supper? her? nah!!  Kind men: keep being so kind, and also, assume the women you know may read this and go “oh god.” (Thanks, Shelley).

Memoirs of a Race Traitor by Mab Segrest. Come for the stories of her anti-racist organizing in North Carolina, stay for the concise and accessible section “A History of Racism in the United States”…it’s like a 20 page refresher if you haven’t read A People’s History since college, as I certainly haven’t.

That’s it for this week. If you have suggestions for not being such an ass, I’ll always take them.*





* My Erin Friends are on fire, aren’t they? Not “heads on fire” kind of fire.

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