Monday Reads: Domestic Terrorism and White Nationalism

Elaine de Kooning, Portrait of Fairfield Porter, 1954

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I hope you have the same kind of sunny spring weather there that we have here in New Orleans!  I actually made a trip to Walmart yesterday!  I can’t even remember the last time I’ve been there and it use to be at least a 2  or 3 trip a month destination for me being the poor old semiretired prof that I am.

I could tell that every one has spring fever around here by the number of obvious hipster transplants parading all over the neutral ground yesterday.  I was rather hoping the herons would bomb them away but I just went to my room and took a nap hoping it would be over by the time I had to work on line. The demographics of my neighborhood these days disturbs me.  Where did all this young white people come from and why do they keep bringing this burbie breeder vibe to my hood?  

The Walmart in Chalmette is amazingly diverse because of the number of immigrant diasporas that have landed there.  It’s still rather rural even though it feels more like an exurb in many ways .  However, it’s more working to middle class that bougie rich.  There are Somalians and folks from South America.   There is still a Vietnamese presence although a good deal of that community lives in the east and on the Westbank. And, of course there are many Black Americans there that are descendants of the slaves of the now way gone Plantations as well as transplants from around the Caribbean.

So, it was great just watching the elderly, young families, and others pour into to do their weekly shopping like there was no pandemic.  However, there were still adjustments.  The benches by the front door are gone.  The Walmart greeters are busy sanitizing the carts and pointing you to the hand sanitizers before you grab a cart.  Then, you get a pretty good view of what a wide assortment of masks there are available these days.  If you forget to bring one, Walmart gives you a disposable one.

Elaine de Kooning: Harold Rosenberg, Art Critic (1956)

So, I went with a friend and she was stuck in the checkout line.  I got to stand for quite awhile where the benches used to be and watch the comings and goings.  It was a pretty smooth operation until 3 white guys loaded themselves out of a big red pick up truck with this poor black dog on what could barely be called a leash. The two with the dog had masks on. The one with the weird razor cut and hitler moustache didn’t. I was like okay, here it comes.

At that point, white male boundary pushing and  dominance achievement techniques began.  The dog was just an emotional support dog so of course he should be allowed in to wander the grocery aisles.  Said dog had no usual orange vest of either of a service or emotional support dog let alone the credential card. Guys started screaming at the poor woman saying no to the dog.  Then the guy without the mask just started moving pass her to the station with the masks and a few more women who all eventually called for security back up.  Fortunately, these women were not playing and were obviously experienced.  Dog got sent to some one’s girlfriend for a walk in the parking lot and the mask guy eventually complied.  I guess the beer run was more important than facing down all these middle aged women of various sizes, deportment, and race.

Meanwhile, every one else just tried to go about their day. All I could think was welcome to America where most of us are a community of folks just trying to live. Then, there are those guys come in and do their performance art of white male rage/fragility.

So, today’s artwork actually has something to say along these lines.  This is the work of “Elaine de Kooning, Portraiture, and the Politics of Sexuality.”  It comes from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  It’s part of the gender archive and the portraits are of highly sexualized men.

De Kooning’s portraits of men are fascinating because she reverses the standard male artist/female model dynamic and in many of her portraits she captures the sexual power of her subjects, challenging the male privilege of looking and female role of object to be looked at.  She was not, however, attempting to reverse the power dynamic by placing men in the western tradition of the passive reclining female pose, nor was she dismantling the anonymous male body by employing an Abstract Expressionist style.  Rather she records her clothed male friends and lovers in an upright position with their legs spread apart, acknowledging and relishing her active role in depicting this socially accepted pose that asserts male sexual power, a pose that would not have been deemed appropriate for a “feminine” woman in the 1950s to highlight. 

Robert de Niro by Elaine de Kooning (1973) (c)Elaine de Kooning Trust

There’s a lot of ‘those guys’ in the news today. So, here I go …
Adam Jentleson –Author of “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate”–wrote this at The Atlantic today: “How to Stop the Minority-Rule Doom Loop. The next two years might be the country’s last chance to protect the basic democratic principle of majority rule.”  I think we can safely say that the Republican Party is the epicenter of White Male Dominance.

The doom loop consists of four interlocking components. Candidates who represent white conservatives—Republicans, in our ideologically sorted era—begin every election cycle buoyed by a sluice of voter suppression and gerrymandering (what I call electoral welfare), which makes it easier for them to win. Then antidemocratic features of the American system that have always existed but never benefited one party over the other in any systematic way help those same candidates take control of institutions such as the White House and the Senate, despite winning fewer votes and representing fewer people than their opponents. Once in control of these institutions, these newly elected officials use them to entrench their power beyond the reach of voters. If they are eventually voted out of power, they retain a veto over the agenda of the majority, which they use to block change and feed the conservative case that the government is “broken.” This hastens their return to power—along the very path they greased with voter suppression.

The loop starts at the ballot box, where Republicans are making it harder than at any time in recent history for those who are unlikely to vote for them to vote at all. According to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida and one of the nation’s foremost experts on voting laws, “We are witnessing the greatest rollback of voting rights in this country since the Jim Crow era.” The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder unleashed a new wave of voter suppression targeted at reliably Democratic constituencies such as nonwhite voters and young people. The pace of suppression has only increased since the November election. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks voter-suppression efforts across the country, 47 states have seen 361 bills aimed at restricting voting rights since the beginning of the year.

Republicans don’t just have an easier time winning elections; they have an easier time piecing together individual election wins to gain control of the institutions that govern American life. Here, too, the doom loop gives a big boost to candidates who represent predominantly white conservatives. Over the past half century, demographic shifts have rendered the antidemocratic features of American government newly vulnerable to exploitation, but especially by candidates who represent white conservatives.

Elaine de Kooning
Portrait of a Young Man

They’ve been on this path a very long time. At the very least, it started with the policies of Ronald Reagan with its racist signaling campaign opener of “welfare queens”.  Here’s a 2013 NPR article “The Truth Behind The Lies Of The Original ‘Welfare Queen'”  exploring Reagan’s earliest attempts at dog whistling following the Nixon era “Southern Strategy” to pull Dixiecrats into to the Republican fold.  I watched it spread through the state parties in the midwest like wildfire mostly by the ground work of those weirdish white evangelical christian churches with no real affiliation, southern baptists churches, and some catholic parishes.  They started showing up with marching orders to take over the party structure and just basically kept at it until coming full circle in the Trumpist regime.

This all goes hand in hand with the gun fetishists and the groups of armed militias sprinkled around the country.  This is from today’s Washington Post: “The rise of domestic extremism in America Data shows a surge in homegrown attacks not seen in a quarter-century.

Domestic terrorism incidents have soared to new highs in the United States, driven chiefly by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists on the far right, according to a Washington Post analysis of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The surge reflects a growing threat from homegrown terrorism not seen in a quarter-century, with right-wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those from the far left and causing more deaths, the analysis shows.

The number of all domestic terrorism incidents in the data peaked in 2020.

“What is most concerning is that the number of domestic terror plots and attacks are at the highest they have been in decades,” said Seth Jones, director of the database project at CSIS, a nonpartisan Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in national security issues. “It’s so important for Americans to understand the gravity of the threat before it gets worse.”

More than a quarter of right-wing incidents and just under half of the deaths in those incidents were caused by people who showed support for white supremacy or claimed to belong to groups espousing that ideology, the analysis shows.

Victims of all incidents in recent years represent a broad cross-section of American society, including Blacks, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, Asians and other people of color who have been attacked by right-wing extremists wielding vehicles, guns, knives and fists.

Let’s also not forget the victims of domestic violence for they also are part of this increase in violence and search for control over others.

An absolutely horrifying police shooting of a young black man in Minneapolis happened showing just how out of hand the use of power and suppression is in the nation’s police force also.  There was also an incident of pepper spraying a young black Army Lt. and his dog in Virginia.  Both were responses to simple traffic stops. Both officers have been fired but this only brings into more focus the unequal treatment of the largely white male police force around the country and its inability to police without responding differently to people of color.

Pele No. 1,
Elaine de Kooning, 1982

Another blow was dealt to the likes of the “Hillbilly Elegy” narrative as we see in this Washington Post article written by Eugene Scott on “Data about the Capitol rioters serves another blow to the White, working-class Trump-supporter narrative” for The Fix.

After a Donald Trump campaign event in Mobile, Ala., in 2015 attracted about 20,000 attendees, a narrative emerged that his popularity centered on White working-class voters in small towns in red states. Books such as “Hillbilly Elegy” rose to the top of bestseller lists as a way to help more Americans understand this group of voters that got behind the wealthy reality star from Manhattan. And cable news networks regularly featured panels of journalists asking these voters why they continued to back such a widely unpopular leader.

But new data supports something that some critics of the former president were confident of from the earliest days of Trump’s presidential campaign: The Ivy League graduate from New York City got to the White House with the support of more college-educated professionals than is often acknowledged.

Robert A. Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats, worked with court records to analyze the demographics and home county characteristics of the 377 Americans arrested or charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol in Washington aimed at overturning the 2020 election.

“What we know 90 days later is that the insurrection was the result of a large, diffuse and new kind of protest movement congealing in the United States,” the political science professor wrote in The Washington Post. “Those involved are, by and large, older and more professional than right-wing protesters we have surveyed in the past. They typically have no ties to existing right-wing groups. But like earlier protesters, they are 95 percent White and 85 percent male, and many live near and among Biden supporters in blue and purple counties.”

While Trump often spoke about jobs and factories being shipped overseas to manufacture American products — it wasn’t solely economic anxiety that drew many of his supporters to the wealthy real estate developer who allegedly avoided paying taxes that could benefit low-income Americans. It was cultural anxiety — regardless of their economic status — that was a consistent factor in support for Trump. While concerns about changing views on faith, gender and sexuality were often expressed by many of the former president’s most die-hard supporters, fear about America becoming less White — and less “great” — was at the root of at least some of the loyalty to him.

I don’t want to spend too much time on these two but both Tucker Carlson and Matt Gaetz are in the news again basically still trying to play their white male privilege cards as entitled little trustfund babies.

From CNN: Embattled Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is denied a meeting with Trump. Ah, poor little boy denied daddy time!  I guess Trumperz thinks he’s damaged goods now and not an asset to the Family Crime Syndicate.

Elaine De Kooning-Portrait of Scott ,Chaskey,number-3, 1983

From Tom Porter at Insider: “Tucker Carlson is repeatedly using his platform to downplay white supremacy and violence, critics say

In comments on his show last week Carlson appeared to endorse the white nationalist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, prompting outraged responses including a call from the Anti-Defamation League for him to be fired.

Before this Carlson had for weeks argued that the Capitol riot had been overblown by liberals as part of a plot to persecute conservatives, and he has said there is “no evidence that white supremacists were responsible for what happened on January 6.”

The facts say otherwise, with law-enforcement agencies having charged close to 60 members of far-right organizations, including the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Proud Boys, with involvement. Rioters were pictured in the Capitol bearing Confederate banners, wearing far-right insignia, and chanting far-right slogans.

At the heart of Carlson’s persona is a challenge to those he portrays as smug liberal elites, who he claims have sought to disenfranchise ordinary Americans for decades. It’s a stance that made him one of the defining conservative voices during the Trump years.

But when applied to downplaying the threat of white nationalist violence, it’s a view that has imperiled lucrative advertisement deals on his show.

And as BB wrote yesterday, this is all from the Heir of Swanson Foods.  That should be a boycott-worthy situation. We’re learning Georgia is sure getting it over voting rights as 100s of CEOs figure out what Voter Suppression Laws will do to their bottom line and the attitudes of their customers and workforce this week.

The Biden/Harris administration continues to churn out appointments and policies that seem quite normal while still facing total Republican opposition.  Some of the usual sources are asking the same damn questions that shouldn’t be asked during this first 100 days.  For example: “Can Biden Be Our F.D.R.? The president wants to change the trajectory of the country. He’s off to a good start b

Anyway, I have to work today and grade today and do stuff around the house and I still can’t adjust to fake time so I’m running late again.  Y’all take care!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Jean-Metzinger-French-1883-1956-The-cat-c.-1915

Jean Metzinger, French, 1883-1956

Good Morning!!

Before I get to today’s news, here’s a little comic relief. This was in yesterday’s Boston Globe, but I can’t get past their rigid paywall. But I found the story at The Pest Control Daily: Boston Public Backyard used to have child alligators — sure, alligators — and other people fed them rodents. The “public backyard” is the Boston Public Garden, adjacent to the Boston Common. I had heard about cows grazing on the Common, but not about alligators in the Public Garden.

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There are several newspaper articles from this period referring to the alligators who lived in a basin – or pond – near the entrance to Arlington Street amid a “magnificent” row of lilies. Reports vary, but for some time there were between three and four alligators on the site, strikingly complementing the many other exotic features of the public garden at the time.

A story in the September 19, 1901 issue of the Boston Post said three of the city’s alligators were given by “a Charlestown woman” who “became afraid of them and introduced them to the city of Boston.” The fourth alligator was given to the city by a man from Chelsea, though it’s just unclear why.

An article that appeared in an August 9, 1901 issue of the Boston Globe said the alligators – known as babies – belonged to William Doogue, the city’s superintendent for common and public reasons.

orordatpb5s61Doogue oversaw the public garden from 1878 to 1906, according to Friends of the Public Garden, a nonprofit advocating Boston Common, the public garden, and the nearby Commonwealth Avenue Mall and known for its exceptional green thumb….

The alligators have certainly rubbed some city dwellers the wrong way. But it wasn’t so much their presence that was annoying – people often huddled around the pool looking for them – it was how they were sometimes fed.

“Some objections to feeding live rats and mice to those in the public garden pond,” read the headline of the August Globe article.

The newspaper reported that in “warm weather” the alligators were put in the public garden and fed by park officials once a week….

“Live rats exposed to hungry alligators,” read a headline in the Boston Post on August 9, 1901. “The public garden exhibit attracts morbid interest from women and children.”

The article says, “The city doesn’t feed them in the summer … the city doesn’t have to” because “the alligators make their own living by entertaining the public”.

The story included an illustration of primitively dressed people gathered around a small pond-like structure and watched a man kneel to feed the alligators with the animals’ mouths wide open.

Apparently this was seen as a low-life activity. There is much more detail at the link about the feeding of the alligators. Apparently they were moved to the Franklin Park Zoo during the colder months, and their presence in the Boston Garden lasted for about 6 years.

White Supremacist News

Remember those neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us?” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson was trending on Twitter all day yesterday after he parroted a white supremacist conspiracy theory that liberals are trying to replace white people with immigrants.

Fortunato Depero, Elasticità di gatti (1936–1939)

Fortunato Depero, Elasticità di gatti (1936–1939)

Media Matters: Tucker Carlson, the face of Fox News, just gave his full endorsement to the white nationalist conspiracy theory that has motivated mass shootings.

For decades, white nationalists have invoked the specter of nonwhite immigration, multiculturalism, and declining birthrates to argue for the existence of a vast conspiracy aimed at eliminating white populations as a dominant demographic. On Fox News, Tucker Carlson is distributing the language, grievances, goals, and inherent call to action of the conspiracy theory to massive audiences.

On the April 8 broadcast of Fox News Primetime, Carlson offered perhaps his most explicit justification yet for the core belief of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory: that a wave of “Third World” invaders is coming to replace you and reshape your environment, and that you, the audience, should do something about it.

The Fox News host claimed that “what’s true” is that “the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” and no one should “sit back and take that.”

More from Media Matters: White nationalists praise Tucker Carlson’s full embrace of their “replacement” conspiracy theory.

After the Anti-Defamation League called on Fox News to fire Carlson for his remarks, white supremacist and far-right personalities were quick to make their approval known.

White supremacist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes explained what Carlson actually meant in his statements, lamenting that Carlson wasn’t more direct and theorizing that he probably had to dial it back in order to avoid consequences at Fox….

Other racist and extreme far-right media personalities and social media accounts also backed Carlson, celebrating him for broadcasting “what nationalists have been talking about for decades” and defending him against criticism.

Matt Gaetz Updates

The Washington Post: House opens ethics investigation into Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.

The House Ethics Committee announced Friday it would investigate claims that Rep. Matt Gaetz engaged in sexual misconduct and illicit drug use and showed images of naked women on the House floor, opening a new front in the growing scandal enveloping the Florida Republican.

Jean-Metzinger-Still-life-with-cat-and-fish-1950.

Jean Metzinger, Still Life with Cat and Fish, 1950

Gaetz responded hours later with a defiant speech before a welcoming crowd at former president Donald Trump’s Miami-area hotel and golf club, dismissing the claims against him as an attempt by the political establishment to silence his political views.

“Let me assure you, I have not yet begun to fight for the country I love, and for the nation that I know benefits from America First principles,” he said to cheers at an event sponsored by Women for America First, a group that sponsored the rally at the White House Ellipse before the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. “I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere. The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life to wild — and I mean wild — conspiracy theories.”

The news of the investigation came a day after Gaetz’s friend, Joel Greenberg, who has been charged with sex trafficking of a minor among other offenses, signaled to a federal judge through his lawyer that he was negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors that could help them in an ongoing probe into whether Gaetz paid for sex or trafficked a woman across state lines for sex.

Click the link for more details.

Fred Grimm at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Scandal leaves Florida’s congressional provocateur with few friends.

His fellow congressional Republicans have risen as one to defend Matt Gaetz.

Oh, sorry. My bad. Make that two.

Jim Jordan of Ohio — Abbott to Gaetz’s Costello in their Capitol Hill clown act — came through for Matt. Sort of. After Gaetz denied allegations that he had been galivanting with escorts and even a 17-year-old girl, with allusions to orgies and illicit drug use, Jordan managed a four-word tweet: “I believe Matt Gaetz.” Which seemed an understated reaction from the likes of Jordan, whose usual outbursts have been unfettered by propriety, truth or the national interest.

You’d think the pugnacious Jim Jordan, of all people, would have come up with a more defiant defense of his fellow provocateur. But no.

Still life with cat and lobster, Pablo Picasso

Still life with cat and lobster, Pablo Picasso

Which left Marjorie Taylor Greene from Planet QAnon as his defender-in-chief. “Take it from me rumors and headlines don’t equal truth. I stand with @mattgaetz,” tweeted the Georgia congresswoman, a propagator of astounding untruths, slanders and conspiracy theories. Not sure that character references from the woman who suggested California wildfires had been ignited by Jewish space lasers can rehabilitate Gaetz’s mucky reputation.

Support was also slow coming from Mar-a-Lago, although Gaetz had been Donald Trump’s most outlandish congressional defender through two impeachments and an insurrection. Yet, the ex-president kept quiet in the week after The New York Times reported that the FBI has widened an investigation of former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg — who faces a slew of federal charges — to include his former best buddy and fellow philanderer. The Times said the FBI is looking into allegations that Greenberg and Gaetz arranged sexual trysts with paid escorts, including a 17-year girl. (Which Gaetz denies.)

It wasn’t until reports surfaced that, during Trump’s final days in office, Gaetz had sought a preemptive pardon for any federal charges that might come his way, that the ex-president finally said something. Not much, but something. His office issued a carefully worded, unTrumpian statement: “Congressman Matt Gaetz has never asked me for a pardon,” adding, like an afterthought, “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations against him.”

I just can’t get enough of Gaetzgate.

Coronavirus News

The Washington Post: Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, emails show.

Trump appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services last year privately touted their efforts to block or alter scientists’ reports on the coronavirus to more closely align with President Donald Trump’s more optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to newly released documents from congressional investigators.

Still life with grey cat, Jean Metzinger

Still life with grey cat, Jean Metzinger

The documents provide further insight into how senior Trump officials approached last year’s explosion of coronavirus cases in the United States. Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees was attempting to blunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with an alternate set of talking points.

Science adviser Paul Alexander wrote to HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo on Sept. 9, touting two examples of where he said officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had bowed to his pressure and changed language in their reports, according to an email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.

Pointing to one change — in which CDC leaders allegedly changed the opening sentence of a report about the spread of the virus among younger people after Alexander pressured them — Alexander wrote to Caputo, calling it a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!”

In the same email, Alexander touted another example of a change to a weekly report from the CDC that he said the agency made in response to his demands. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, or MMWRs, which offer public updates on scientists’ findings, had been considered sacrosanct for decades and untouchable by political appointees in the past.

Two days later, Alexander appealed to White House adviser Scott Atlas to help him dispute an upcoming CDC report on coronavirus-related deaths among young Americans.

“Can you help me craft an op-ed,” Alexander wrote to Atlas on Sept. 11, alleging the CDC report was “timed for the election” and an attempt to keep schools closed even as Trump pushed to reopen them.

Thank goodness these horrible people are gone now. But Fox News is continuing the anti-vax brainwashing.

CNN: Nearly 40% of Marines have declined Covid-19 vaccine.

Nearly 40% of US Marines are declining Covid-19 vaccinations, according to data provided to CNN on Friday by the service, the first branch to disclose service-wide numbers on acceptance and declination.

1940-Le-chat-au-papillon

Le Chat au Papillon, Jean Metzinger, 1940

As of Thursday, approximately 75,500 Marines have received vaccines, including fully vaccinated and partially vaccinated service men and women. About 48,000 Marines have chosen not to receive vaccines, for a declination rate of 38.9%.

CNN has reached out to the other services for acceptance and declination rates.

The corresponding acceptance rate for vaccinations among Marines — 61.1% — is not far off the military estimate of two-thirds, or about 66%.

Another 102,000 Marines have not yet been offered the vaccines. The total number of Marines includes active-duty, reserves and Individual Mobilization Augmentee Marines.

The declination rate at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, one of the prominent Marine Corps bases, was far higher, at 57%, according to another set of data provided to CNN. Of 26,400 Marines who have been offered vaccinations, 15,100 have chosen not to receive them, a number that includes both II Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installation East — Camp Lejeune. Another 11,500 active-duty Marines are scheduled to be offered the vaccines.

I’ll end there. I tried to keep it somewhat light today. What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads: Cultural Appropriation Edition

Good Morning!!

First, a quick follow-up: I’ve been writing about the delay of stimulus payments to 30 million seniors, disabled people, veterans, railroad pensioners. Last Thursday, the Social Security Administration finally sent information to enable the IRS to send out the direct deposits/checks, but there’s still no information available on when these vulnerable Americans will receive the much needed assistance.

Newsweek tried to get some answers, but hit a brick wall: SSI Stimulus Check Update as IRS Stays Silent Over Payments For Social Security Recipients.

Many recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other federal benefits are still waiting to receive their stimulus fund. The Internal Revenue Service has yet to announce a payment date, as of Tuesday….

On March 25, the SSA provided the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with the paperwork needed for stimulus payments to be issued to federal benefit recipients following pressure from the House Ways and Means Committee. The IRS has yet to respond to Newsweek‘s requests for a comment since the SSA sent the required paperwork.

The SSA website also currently states that “the IRS decided to pay EIPs [Economic Impact Payments] first only to people who filed a 2020 or 2019 tax return, and to people who used the IRS’ Non-Filer Tool to receive a previous EIP. Some Social Security beneficiaries may have received a recent EIP if they filed a tax return with the IRS.”

People who were too poor to file a tax return have been left twisting in the wind. They are advised to use the “check my payment” link at the IRS, but when they do, they are told there is no information available.

Asked whether it had received any information on a stimulus payment date for federal benefit recipients, a spokesperson for NACHA (National Automated Clearing House Association), which manages the ACH Network, the national automated clearing house for electronic funds transfers, told Newsweek this Monday: “We haven’t gotten anything.”

Newsweek has contacted the IRS, the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Bureau of the Fiscal Service for comment.

The SSA website currently advises: “Please refer to the IRS’ website for the latest information about economic impact payments (EIP). Please do not contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) with questions about EIPs. Our representatives do not have information to answer your EIP questions. The IRS, not SSA, processes all EIPs.”

A spokesperson for the SSA told Newsweek on March 26: “As you may already know, many Social Security beneficiaries have already received their EIPs. The final files we sent to IRS yesterday morning [Thursday] will address those recipients who don’t normally file a tax return with the IRS.”

Now for my main topic: Cultural Appropriation

Wikipedia: Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.

I seldom watch late night entertainment programs, but yesterday there was a strong reaction to a Tonight Show segment. A white TikTok “influencer,” Addison Rae, appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show to perform several dance routines. The problem is that she copied them from Black women on TicToc and failed to credit them or the Black artists who performed the songs she danced to.

From the LA Times story: Addison Rae taught Jimmy Fallon TikTok dances, but Twitter remembers who created them.

Many of TikTok’s viral dance challenges were started by Black creators, but you wouldn’t know that by watching Friday’s episode of “The Tonight Show,” which saw one of the app’s biggest stars, Addison Rae, perform several dances without crediting their choreographers.

What was intended as a fun moment between Rae and host Jimmy Fallon — who are both white — backfired over the weekend as Twitter users demanded recognition for the people whose choreography was featured on the show.

“Stealing from black entertainers and having white ‘creators’ regurgitate it to the masses is american history 101,” one person tweeted after Fallon shared a clip of Rae busting a move to eight different songs.

“I think Black creators should just stop creating content for like a good 6 months and just observe what these people come up with,” wrote another in a tweet that had amassed more than 261,000 likes….

Included in the TikTok dance compilation were:

  • “Do It Again” (recorded by Pia Mia, choreographed by @noahschnapp)
  • “Savage Love” (recorded and choreographed by @jasonderulo)
  • “Corvette Corvette” (recorded by Popp Hunna, choreographed by @yvnggprince)
  • “Laffy Taffy” (recorded by D4L, choreographed by @flyboyfu)
  • “Savage” (recorded by Megan Thee Stallion, choreographed by @keke.janjah)
  • “Blinding Lights” (recorded by the Weeknd, choreographed by @macdaddyz)
  • “Up” (recorded by Cardi B, choreographed by @theemyanicole)
  • “Fergalicious” (recorded by Fergie and will.i.am, choreographed by @thegilberttwins).

(The choreographers’ names have been shared by Twitter users and confirmed by Buzzfeed.)

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Rae’s performance to Cardi B’s “Up” along with the original performance by TheMayaNicole. See what you think.

More from Popsugar: The Tonight Show’s Addison Rae Fumble Is an Unfortunate Reflection of Our Creator Culture.

If you want to see a TikTok dance skit, why not ask the original artists to participate? That’s a question The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Addison Rae face after March 26th’s episode. The well-known creator walked Fallon through a few of the app’s most popular choreography in a sketch, similar to a video released with Charli D’Amelio last year. Quickly after airing, the clip faced criticism as viewers wondered why the creatives who actually created the dances didn’t get screen time — or at the very least, proper credit.

This controversy is not new for Rae, who faced similar pushback after she and D’Amelio became the face of a “Renegade” dance routine, which was originally created by Jalaiah Harmon. Intentional or not, Rae and D’Amelio’s names were synonymous with choreography they had no hand in. They went as far as to perform the dance at a 2020 NBA All Star game without Harmon. Harmon eventually got her dues, but only after publicly reclaiming the viral dance. Rae and D’Amelo need only whisper and their combined 100+ million followers would come running, so why did Harmon practically need a megaphone to get her credit? Her experience is a disappointing reflection of how art is co-opted on social media, especially from Black creatives.

You can’t separate Rae’s success from the work of Black TikTokers. Some of her most viewed videos are built on their choreography, like the “Savage” routine originated by Keara Wilson. (Wilson told POPSUGAR she doesn’t wish any backlash against Rae because she knows “how toxic the internet can be.” She said, “Yes of course it’s always nice to be credited but just having my dance on the show is an honor in itself.”)

As Twitter user @blackamazon wrote, “This is why I bang on EVERYBODY about the economics and race of social media. ‘Tik tok dances’ the names of the artists not there. The actual choreographers not there. She’s on national television but where are the Black kids who actually made these.” Another user, @868nathan, wrote, “The fact that Addison Rae is championed for ‘Tik Tok Dances’ whilst the black creatives that made them never get the same platform will never sit right with me.”

This reminds me of the days when white recording artists like Pat Boone released pathetic cover versions of songs by Black musicians like Little Richard. The good news in those days was that people who heard the covers sought out the originals and eventually the Black artists became well known and successful. The same thing happened again in the 1960s with British and American bands who covered performances by Black blues musicians.

Futurity (Feb. 3, 2017): How the 1950s Made Pat Boone a Rock Star.

While some early rock ‘n’ roll acts receive little critical respect, historically speaking, these same musicians and singers played an important role in bridging musical styles and bringing cultures together, writes Aquila, professor emeritus of history and American studies at Penn State, in his book, Let’s Rock! How 1950s America Created Elvis and the Rock & Roll Craze (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).

“I spend a lot of time discussing Pat Boone and other pop rockers in the book. Boone refers to himself not as the father of rock ‘n’ roll, but as the midwife of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Aquila.

“What he means by this is that his versions of Little Richard’s songs may not be as good as Little Richard’s originals, but Little Richard couldn’t get played on mainstream radio stations back in the ’50s, due to racism and other reasons. But, after the kids listened to Boone’s music, they tended to go on and want the real thing.”

Boone spent most of his early career covering rhythm-and-blues songs, like Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.” Boone’s versions, however, were influenced by pop styles and standards that were tamer and more familiar to white audiences of the time. He also sanitized Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame,” for his white audience’s ears and, apparently, their grammar. He tried, for instance, to change the title of the song to “Isn’t That a Shame.”

While many music critics now consider this artistic theft or cultural appropriation, Aquila says that some black artists at the time appreciated Boone’s cover songs.

At a concert, for example, Aquila writes that Domino introduced Boone to the audience and, pointing to one of his diamond rings, added that Boone’s version of “Ain’t That a Shame” bought him that ring.

It’s still pathetic that our white-dominated culture made this happen and even more pathetic that it is still happening on social media platforms like TikTok and mainstream TV programs.

Some politics news, links only

Buzzfeed: US Cases Of COVID-19 Are Rising Again, Sparking Fears Of A Fourth Major Surge.

Josh Rogin at The Washington Post: Opinion: The WHO covid report is fatally flawed, and a real investigation has yet to take place.

Aaron Rupar at Vox: Birx rightly said most US Covid-19 deaths were preventable. But she won’t acknowledge her complicity.

Michael Gerson at The Washington Post: Opinion: The GOP is facing a sickness deeper than the coronavirus.

Raw Story: Trump lashes out at Fauci and Birx in bizarre press release issued from Mar-a-Lago.

The Washington Post: New accounts detail how New York health officials were told to prioritize coronavirus testing of people connected to Andrew Cuomo.

The Guardian: Asian American woman, 65, attacked in New York as witnesses stood by.

The Guardian: Sherry Vill is latest to accuse Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?


Monday Reads: Trigger Post for victims of Rape and Assault and Racism

Yayoi Kusama

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

If you read one thing today make it this opinion piece at The Guardian by Rebecca Solnit: “Women are harmed every day by invisible men”.  The title really doesn’t say it all but the body of the essay does.

I was a teenage advocate to challenge how women and children are treated by about every layer of society and the justice system when men do something untoward and harmful to them.  My neighbor was in Junior League that established one of the first rape and abuse crisis lines for women in the country. It is now nationally recognized and run by the YWCA in Omaha.  At the time, we had one phone in a psychologist’s office in West Omaha, training to use the list we had and to listen, and then various resources that we could provide to callers.  It was small but became mighty.  Fortunately, it now has skilled counselors on phones instead of teenage volunteers and homemakers.

I learned many things at the time about exactly how unfair the entire criminal justice system was to women and child victims at the time.  Sex crimes were in the property crimes divisions of police stations.  Women officers?  Nope.  Could a man rape his wife?  Nope. Have at least three witnesses present to see the entire thing?  No? Then, forget prosecution.  My job at the crisis line was to say here’s the person you call, here’s a hospital that will help you, and eventually we started having lists of safe houses and counsellors. This was the mid 70s.  A lot has changed on that front but one thing hasn’t.

Whatever happens to a woman is still likely seen to be her fault. The perpetrator eventually becomes invisible. She asked for it. She provoked him. She had a drink.  I even had a friend while at university who knew I was still passionately working on campus and at the legislature to change things who had just  been raped by the library rapist.  She asked if it was worth reporting it because she had a couple of hits off a joint before she went there to study.  I’m like Go to the hospital! Call the police!  Do not make this man the winner of anything!

Ask any woman and they’ll have similar stories from either their own lives or women they know.  I grew up with my mother pointing to the imprint of an iron on her inner thigh and the stories of how it got there.  My mild mannered banker of a grandfather was violent and abusive.  My family oozed white, WASPY upper mild class privilege so I don’t want to hear any of that other kind’ve stuff that excuses men’s–and especially white men’s–actions and behaviors. It’s still rampant.

Tschabalala Self

Solnit’s writing always hits home but this one hit home so hard my house shook.  She’s speaking to the latest spree shooter who targeted Asian Women working for Day Spas in the Atlanta area.  However, she reminds us that we’ve seen this and we’ve seen the response over and over and over.

Some white guy with no emotional or self control has to eliminate “temptation” or was forced into a “rage” or a “hard on” by some women.  So, rather than get his act together he  kills the “objects” of his temptation or rapes her.  Then, the media continues with his narrative. Women are to blame for what happens to them.  Women are just men’s property.  They are objects. They are less.   These guys have a right to feel resentful and harmed and to correct that by taking it out on the woman or women or they’re just lone wolves, disturbed little boys, men with issues we can’t possibly understand.

This is Solnit’s opening narrative.

The alleged murderer of eight people, six of whom were Asian American women, reportedly said that he was trying to “eliminate temptation”. It’s as if he thought others were responsible for his inner life, as though the horrific act of taking others’ lives rather than learning some form of self-control was appropriate. This aspect of a crime that was also horrifically racist reflects a culture in which men and the society at large blame women for men’s behavior and the things men do to women. The idea of women as temptresses goes back to the Old Testament and is heavily stressed in white evangelical Christianity; the victims were workers and others present in massage parlors; the killer was reportedly on his way to shoot up Florida’s porn industry when he was apprehended.

This week an older friend recounted her attempts in the 1970s to open a domestic-violence shelter in a community whose men didn’t believe domestic violence was an issue there and when she convinced them it was, told her, but “what if it’s the women’s fault”. And last week a male friend of mine posted an anti-feminist screed blaming young women for New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s travails, as though they should suck it up when he violated clear and longstanding workplace rules, as though they and not he had the responsibility to protect his career and reputation.

Sometimes men are written out of the story altogether. Since the pandemic began there have been torrents of stories about how women’s careers have been crushed or they have left their jobs altogether because they’re doing the lioness’s share of domestic labor , especially child-rearing, in heterosexual households. In February of this year, NPR opened a story with the assertion that this work has “landed on the shoulders of women” as if that workload had fallen from the sky rather than been shoved there by spouses. I have yet to see an article about a man’s career that’s flourishing because he’s dumped on his wife, or focusing on how he’s shirking the work.

Informal responses often blame women in these situations for their spouses and recommend they leave without addressing that divorce often leads to poverty for women and children, and of course, unequal workloads at home can undermine a woman’s chances at financial success and independence. Behind all this is a storytelling problem. The familiar narratives about murder, rape, domestic violence, harassment, unwanted pregnancy, poverty in single-female-parent households, and a host of other phenomena portray these things as somehow happening to women and write men out of the story altogether, absolve them of responsibility – or turn them into “she made him do it” narratives. Thus have we treated a lot of things that men do to women or men and women do together as women’s problems that women need to solve, either by being amazing and heroic and enduring beyond all reason, or by fixing men, or by magically choosing impossible lives beyond the reach of harm and inequality. Not only the housework and the childcare, but what men do becomes women’s work.

Please Read the entire thing.  Then, consider this stream of tweets by Bruce Bartlett on research by Pew Research. It’s basically a reading list of things surrounding white–but especially white male–fragility.   Yes.  Racial discrimination is a problem for white males in their minds just about the same way that the mass murderer felt women tempting him were his problem.

Minnie-Evans

Minnie-Evans

The research thankfully shows that the majority of all of us in this country see racial discrimination and even white people.  But, then there’s the wipipo that think it’s all about them.  Bartlett writes about this at The New Republic: “The Ultimate White Fragility. White people in not-insignificant numbers maintain a persistent belief that they’re the ones suffering historic levels of racial discrimination.”   Robin DiAngelo, coined the term in a best-selling book in 2011. Yes, that’s 10 years ago and look where we are on this.

Over the last 10 years, the issue of reverse racism and its social and political implications have drawn extensive interest from social scientists. The most well-known study was by Michael I. Norton and Samuel R. Sommers of the Harvard Business School and Tufts University, respectively, in 2011. They found that whites increasingly viewed racial prejudice as a zero-sum game—reduced bias against black citizens automatically led to increased bias against their white counterparts. As the chart from their article shows, perceived discrimination against whites by both whites and blacks rose as discrimination against blacks was perceived to have fallen. (This analysis is available through Tufts University.)

Further studies in 20142015, and 2016 confirmed that many whites do indeed see racial progress as a zero-sum game. However, the latest study, published last year, was more skeptical of this trend. Nevertheless, the idea of zero-sum racial discrimination is very popular in the Republican Party. Then-Senator Jeff Sessions expressed the widely held GOP sentiment in 2009 when he said, “Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.”

Grace Hartigan

Notice it’s the same set of white evangelicals and republicans that tend to come up in all the quotes and polls that Bartlett cites in that 2019 article.  It’s a complete taste of Trumpism.  All of this is deeply intertwined with both patriarchy as viewed by many religious traditions like white evangelical Christianity and white supremacy which has been at the root of native genocides and slavery of Africans and black Americans since the country’s inception. It continues to poison the well.

So, the Supreme Court is considering reinstating the death penalty of the Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Remember that Domestic Terrorist Timothy McVeigh of the Oklahoma bombings was the last to receive the federal death penalty in 2001 until Trump went on killing spree at the end of his term. You may remember that a woman was one of them. The other were primarily black men   This is from January and BBC Canada.

Five people have been executed in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s 20 January inauguration – breaking with an 130-year-old precedent of pausing executions amid a presidential transition.

They make Mr Trump the country’s most prolific execution president in more than a century, overseeing the executions of 13 death row inmates since July of this year.

The five executions began with convicted killer 40-year-old Brandon Bernard who was put to death at a penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. They ended with the death of Dustin Higgs, 48, at the same site on 16 January.

Lillian Bassman

President Biden does not support the Death Penalty.  This is from the AP link.

The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider reinstating the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, presenting President Joe Biden with an early test of his opposition to capital punishment.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal filed by the Trump administration, which carried out executions of 13 federal inmates in its final six months in office, including three in the last week of President Donald Trump’s term.

The case won’t be heard until the fall, and it’s unclear how the new administration will approach Tsarnaev’s case. The initial prosecution and decision to seek a death sentence was made by the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president.

Queenie McKenzie

Justice and jobs are not generally meted out equally in this country and many white men fear they will be.  The Capitol Hill Riot/Insurrection will be a test of this certainly.  Today’s NYT: “Evidence in Capitol Attack Most Likely Supports Sedition Charges, Prosecutor Says.“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” said Michael Sherwin, who had led the Justice Department’s inquiry into the riot. “. This is from Katie Benner.

Evidence the government obtained in the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol most likely meets the bar necessary to charge some of the suspects with sedition, Michael R. Sherwin, the federal prosecutor who had been leading the Justice Department’s inquiry, said in an interview that aired on Sunday.

The department has rarely brought charges of sedition, the crime of conspiring to overthrow the government.

But in an interview with “60 Minutes,” Mr. Sherwin said prosecutors had evidence that most likely proved such a charge.

“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Mr. Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”

Scott Pelley’s interview on 60 minutes can be found at this link.

I’d like to point you to a more inspiring read from Vogue:  “5 Female Artists From Around the World Who Celebrate Women in Their Work.”    If you’d like to share something with the kids or grand kids, try the Multicultural Kids Blog.: “7 Women Artists Who Changed History.”. You can also check out this from Art and Design: “Famous Female Artists – 5 Incredible Women Artists That You Need To Know”  

I hope you have a good week.  It’s so nice to have so many flavors of spring decorating the avenue now.  All the azaleas and camellias are in bloom. I hope they’re finding they’re way to your corner of the northern hemisphere!

Meanwhile enjoy a live performance of Suzanne Vega and her song “Luka”.   And then listen to Natalie Merchant and “Motherland”.  Gee, I like this Women’s History month thing!  And, I notice I’m really late in the day already!  This was my morning to sleep 2 hours later than the I usually get up in Fake Time and 1 hour later in Real Time. My body is really not liking this time change.  But, anyway … your turn!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: The Atlanta Mass Shootings

Woman reading with large cat under the couch

Woman reading with large cat under the couch, Paula Zima

Good Afternoon!!

I’m going to focus on the Atlanta spa shootings again. There has been an effort by some white male writers to argue that racism and misogyny didn’t motivate the shooter. Of course these things are complicated, but there is no doubt that attacks on Asian Americans have increased dramatically over the past year, as the former occupant of the White House tried to put the blame for the pandemic on China. Some white journalists have also been defending the Cherokee Sheriff’s spokesman who appeared to sympathize with the shooter having “a bad day.”

Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s take on this story: When The Narrative Replaces The News.

…this story has…been deeply instructive about our national discourse and the state of the American mainstream and elite media. This story’s coverage is proof, it seems to me, that American journalists have officially abandoned the habit of attempting any kind of “objectivity” in reporting these stories. We are now in the enlightened social justice world of “moral clarity” and “narrative-shaping.”

Woman Lying on a Bench, Carl Larsson, 1913

Woman Lying on a Bench, Carl Larsson, 1913

Here’s the truth: We don’t yet know why this man did these horrible things. It’s probably complicated, or, as my therapist used to say, “multi-determined.” That’s why we have thorough investigations and trials in America. We only have one solid piece of information as to motive, which is the confession by the mass killer to law enforcement: that he was a religious fundamentalist who was determined to live up to chastity and repeatedly failed, as is often the case. Like the 9/11 bombers or the mass murderer at the Pulse nightclub, he took out his angst on the source of what he saw as his temptation, and committed mass murder. This is evil in the classic fundamentalist sense: a perversion of religion and sexual repression into violence.

We should not take the killer’s confession as definitive, of course. But we can probe it — and indeed, his story is backed up by acquaintances and friends and family. The New York Times originally ran one piece reporting this out. The Washington Post also followed up, with one piece citing contemporaneous evidence of the man’s “religious mania” and sexual compulsion. It appears that the man frequented at least two of the spas he attacked. He chose the spas, his ex roommates said, because he thought they were safer than other ways to get easy sex. Just this morning, the NYT ran a second piece which confirms that the killer had indeed been in rehab for sexual impulses, was a religious fanatic, and his next target was going to be “a business tied to the pornography industry.”

The sympathy for the sheriff’s spokesman has led to attacks on Vox’s Aaron Rupar, who posted the original video of the spokesman.

I admit that I have no way of judging the shooter’s motives, but I do know that mass shooters tend to be men who have previously abused women, and they are frequently racists. I went looking for takes by people who are more knowledgeable about anti-woman and anti-Asian violence than Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, and Ken Vogel. Here’s some of what I found.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Before killing spree, women – especially Asian women – exploited and ‘enslaved’ at spas.

 

Six large red arrows point to the entrance of Aromatherapy Spa on Atlanta’s Piedmont Road, beacons to those seeking untold pleasures within.

Robert Aaron Long claimed he found the invitation irresistible.The 21-year-old from Woodstock frequented Aromatherapy, as well as the Gold Spa directly across the street, establishments open around the clock and whose advertisements feature women — particularly Asian women — in suggestive poses.

On Tuesday, authorities say, Long purchased a 9 mm handgun and headed to three spas — one in south Cherokee County and the two in Atlanta — where he shot eight people to death and seriously wounded one other. His motives remain the subject of investigation, but he told police he was trying to purge the sources of temptations while battling sex addiction.

This is what we know about the industry and the women that Long chose to attack:

Fritz von Uhde

Painting by Fritz von Uhde

While the exact services offered at the spas that were attacked are not clear, last week the eyes of the world fell on this often-ignored segment of Atlanta’s “adult entertainment” industry. Despite more than a decade of trying, Georgia has failed to rein in certain illicit massage businesses that hypersexualize and commodify women.

Laws and local ordinances aimed to crack down on prostitution and potential human trafficking have only resulted in sporadic police busts and occasional losses of state-issued massage therapy licenses. Meanwhile, behind the darkened windows of undistinguished commercial buildings, an invisible population remains vulnerable to the type of deadly, misogynistic violence seen Tuesday….

What roles the victims played at the spas is not clear. At least one woman who died at Young’s Asian Massage, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, was on the premises as a customer. Paul Andre Michels, 54, who was white, also was killed in the Acworth shooting, along with Daoyou Feng, 44, and Xiaojie Tan, 49.

Tan, who held a state massage therapy license, is listed as the owner of that spa, as well as at least one other in Kennesaw.

Greg Hynson, a customer of the Cherokee location, said he was close friends with Tan and never saw or heard any evidence of illegal activity. “She ran a reputable business,” he said.

On the Atlanta victims:

The Atlanta victims, all of Korean descent, were identified Friday as Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Ae Yue, 63; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51. According to a report in The Korea Daily, a Korean language daily published in the U.S., the three older women essentially acted as site managers, opening the door for customers or serving meals to workers.

Court records indicate a 51-year-old by the name of Hyun Jung Grant was arrested in Gwinnett County in 2009 on charges of pimping, prostitution, keeping a place of prostitution and giving a massage in a place used for lewdness.

Were women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s really engaged in prostitution? I’ve quoted a lot from this article, but it is very long and the rest is well worth reading at the link.

Patrick Adams at The Daily Beast: Son of Atlanta Shooting Victim Calls ‘Bullshit’ on Sex Addiction Claim.

Randy Park said he learned of his mother’s murder while he was playing his favorite video game, League of Legends, in their townhome in Duluth, Georgia.

Woman Reading with Cat, Carol Keiser

Woman Reading with Cat, Carol Keiser

It’s a short drive from the Atlanta spas where police say 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long shot and killed four Asian women shortly after he shot and killed four other people in a suburb north of the city, two of those victims also Asian women….Park, 23, said he got a call that evening from the daughter of a survivor who had been next to his mother, Hyun Jung Grant, at Gold Spa when the shooting occurred….

Park and his mother were “very close,” he said. “I could tell her anything. If I had girl problems or whatever. She wasn’t just my mother. She was my friend.” [….]

Much of the national conversation about the shooting has centered on Cherokee County sheriffs apparently taking the suspect, a white kid from the suburbs, at his word that he was not motivated by racial animus. That dynamic was only worsened when, as The Daily Beast first reported, it was revealed the very official in that department perpetuating that narrative posted racist T-shirts that specifically targeted the Asian-American community.

Instead of racism, law-enforcement officials have said, the suspect has suggested he was motivated by his addiction to sex. Atlanta police on Thursday said he frequented the spas he attacked.

Park does not buy that explanation for a second.

“That’s bullshit,” he told The Daily Beast.

“My question to the family is, what did y’all teach him?” he added. “Did you turn him in because you’re scared that you’ll be affiliated with him? You just gonna scapegoat your son out? And they just get away scot free? Like, no, you guys definitely taught him some shit. Take some fucking responsibility.”

Park didn’t know anything about his mother being involved in sex work, but it sounds like he had been worried about it. But they were poor and “she did what she had to do” to keep her family going in the U.S. I think Park has a point that racism had to be involved in this crime and it’s important to know what the shooter learned during his upbringing. 

Frankie Huang at The Daily Beast: White Fragility Is a Disease, and It Just Killed Six Asian Women.

For most of my life as a Chinese American woman, I accepted that a “normal” amount of feeling unsafe is simply part of my life in America, that if I lived more carefully I can avoid danger. Now, as I’m bombarded with reports of people who look like me that are being assaulted on sight, like vermin, I wonder how I ever thought this kind of dehumanization is something I can live with?

Actually, I do know how. It’s easier to self-soothe with the wishful fantasy that good behavior can be an effective prophylactic than it is to confront the bleak reality of being a person of color who lives in a country with a white supremacy problem.

Woman reading with a cat on a snowy day

Woman reading with a cat on a snowy day, Belinda Del Pesco

Which is what I reflexively did when the news about the horrific shooting in Atlanta popped up on my phone. My very first thought was, “Maybe it wasn’t a hate crime, but just a coincidence that six out of eight victims were Asian women.” I was scared to acknowledge that there are those who would want me dead just from the look of me, and that I live in their midst.

But then I came face to face with a different kind of denial about America’s problem with racism, one far grander and more dangerous than my own: the powerful white fragility engine that has roared into life to efficiently and systematically distort the narrative about the Atlanta massacre.

One can almost admire how the machine churns, the way the killer’s claim that his actions were not racially motivated has been amplified by the police and major media platforms, accepting a young white man’s claims at face value even after he murdered eight people. The Cherokee County sheriff said in a press conference, almost sympathetically, that the murderer “had a really bad day” and had admitted to “sex addiction.” Online, I’ve seen people speculating about mental illness, poverty, and substance abuse, with these narratives laid on thick to create a barrier around the obvious, distinct possibility that it was white supremacy that drove this white man to kill Asian women.

I’ve heard this song before. It starts with “maybe it’s not racism” and builds briskly to “he’s just a sad lone wolf” and ends in fading refrains of “thoughts and prayers.”

Read the rest at the Daily Beast link.

May Jeong at The New York Times: The Deep American Roots of the Atlanta Shootings.

In some massage parlors, women, often Asian, may sometimes perform sexual services.But I did not know whether those who died this week would have identified themselves as sex workers.

I have spent the past few years researching the various ways sex work intersects with race, class and gender, routinely amazed by how it connects to such disparate issues as criminal justice, gentrification, poverty, immigration and trans rights. I have come to understand sex work rights as an overlooked civil rights issue that deserves study. I soon found myself placing the Atlanta killings within the context of a horrific history….

Since the terrible events this past Tuesday, much effort has been devoted to understanding Mr. Long — an earnest inquiry that betrays a particular kind of American naïveté. He claimed to have been driven by “sexual addiction”; investigators have not yet ruled out race as a factor. For now, we do not know whether the massage parlor workers who were killed would have considered themselves sex workers, and we may never know. But the answer is less relevant to their deaths than their murderer’s answer: Does it matter how one identifies oneself if a mass killer conflates any Asian woman in a massage parlor with a sex worker?

Fernand Léger. Woman Reading with a Cat, 1921

Fernand Léger. Woman Reading with a Cat, 1921

The stereotype of the Asian woman as simultaneously hypersexualized and submissive is borne of centuries of Western imperialism. An early documented instance of Asian fetishization can be found in “Madame Chrysantheme,” a thinly fictionalized account of a French naval officer’s time visiting 19th-century Japan. “Madame Chrysantheme” was wildly popular when it was published, and went on to create a subgenre of Orientalizing prose. The women in such accounts were, as Edward Said wrote in “Orientalism,” “creatures of a male power-fantasy. They express unlimited sensuality, they are more or less stupid, and above all they are willing.”

Later, an untold number of American servicemen in Korea and Vietnam had their first sexual encounter with Asian women. The U.S. military tacitly endorsed prostitution, considering it good for morale, and at times even explicitly encouraged troops to explore the local sex industry. According to the book “Sex Among Allies” by Katharine Moon, an assistant professor of political science at Wellesley College, an ad in Stars and Stripes, the main military newspaper, read: “Picture having three or four of the loveliest creatures God ever created hovering around you, singing, dancing, feeding you, washing what they feed you down with rice wine or beer, all saying at once, ‘You are the greatest.’ This is the Orient you heard about and came to find.”

This is an important article–I hope you’ll go read the rest at the NYT.

More stories to check out on this topic:

The Washington Post: Surveillance video shows Atlanta suspect entered first spa more than an hour before shooting.

Alex Wagner at The Atlantic: Our Asian Spring. In the ashes of violence and death, Asians and Americans of Asian descent are ready to put up a fight.

Melissa Jeltson at New York Magazine: The Flattening of the Atlanta Shootings.

USA Today: Atlanta spa shootings: Illicit reviews raise red flags that shooter targeted vulnerable women.

Slate: Coverage of Bay Area Anti-Asian Violence Is Missing a Key Element.

I think it’s clear that the motives of men who murder women are complicated. It may be true that Long had a sexual addiction, but he chose to act out the addiction in specific places with primarily Asian women employees. I doubt if he is a reliable reporter of his own reasons for his behavior. I think it’s important to listen to Asian and female voices over white men like Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias and Ken Vogel.

As always, this is an open thread.