This week’s Extra! Extra! brings a sobering reminder that racist violence continues in America, even during the pandemic, with news of the tragic murders of two Black young adults now making national headlines. Additionally, we have an update on America’s broken judiciary, the state of authoritarianism in different parts of the world, another report about our impending climate-change-induced hellscape and an explainer on that bizarre failed coup attempt in Venezuela.
Black Lives Matter
Natalie: Reading about the circumstances of police involved shootings is always difficult but in the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting black communities, it feels particularly cruel. We spend all day hearing folks tout the work of our first responders… and yet when a police officer’s gun robs us of one, too many people have nothing to say.
Breonna Taylor’s story reminds me of something that happened recently in my home state of North Carolina: an off-duty sheriff’s deputy led an armed mob to the home of a black high school senior in Wilmington. The kid tells the mob’s leader he’s not the guy they’re looking for, he’s not believed. The kid points out the graduation sign in his lawn with his name and picture on it and, still, he’s not believed. The armed mob tried to force their way into the kid’s home and were only stopped by some visiting officers. He’s terrorized but alive at the end of it.
I don’t know how to exist in a world where the terrorism of black people and the death of black people are our options. There has to be something better than this.
RIP Ahmaud Arbery. RIP Breonna Taylor.
Himani: Natalie really said it all here. I’m incredibly saddened by this news but also ashamed that I didn’t know about what happened to Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor until just these past couple of weeks when their tragic murders finally made national news. It’s so easy for those of us who are not black to recede into our silos – especially right now. That is a substantial privilege and a huge luxury. Acknowledging that privilege means we can’t look away.
Rachel: I’m devastated by these stories and can’t imagine how it feels for Black Americans who are processing them while living through a pandemic, and many of whom may have lost or be worried about ill family members right now. I’m really struck by how, in the midst of a global crisis that is for many people about senseless tragedy, the experience Black Americans are being subjected to is not random or senseless at all, but intentional and pointedly cruel — the cruelty of being abandoned and turned away for necessary medical treatment when others are receiving it, the cruelty of being murdered in cold blood by officers who are willing to put themselves in danger during a pandemic to get the chance to do so, highlighting the degree to which anti-Black violence is prioritized. There’s always been the idea, in my lifetime, that there are “two Americas,” and it feels particularly stark right now.
America’s Broken Education System
Natalie: As someone who really got their start in activism by advocating for educational access and equity, this story felt like a huge triumph for me this week. Yes, I lament that it took so long to establish what should have always been a fundamental right but still, I’m thrilled that this case established education as a constitutional right. In the short-term, I hope it provides immediately for the improvement of schools in Detroit but in the long-term, I hope that it’s a blueprint for other students to fight for what the state owes: a quality education.
Himani: As Natalie notes, this is a huge win. But… coming from a part of the world where, yes, there is public education, but there are huge disparities in access, I continue to be appalled by the American education system. I suppose that is my naivety coming from an immigrant family: so many of us grow up with a narrative that “America does things better,” and time and time again throughout my life I’ve been proven wrong. This feels like another one of those moments – that the education system has failed far too many students so fundamentally in this country and meanwhile there’s a constitutional debate happening in some of the highest courts of the country whether access to education is a basic right. Why was that up for debate in the first place, in 2020 no less? I hope that settlement money goes where it’s supposed to: to paying teachers more, to hiring teachers, to improving school facilities – and not to lining the pockets of so-called “education consultants” and charter schools that continue to fail students just like public schools do.
America’s Broken Judiciary
Natalie: God willing, this administration’s reign will come to an end soon, but this — and Mitch McConnell’s dogged pursuit of it — will be the legacy of the Trump years that we’ll be forced to grapple with for years.
Natalie: Dahlia Lithwick is spot on in her critique and, as if to punctuate that,
the Court denied a request on Thursday by inmates in a Texas geriatric prison who alleged inadequate efforts to contain Corvid-19. But at least Justice Sotomayor (with Justice Ginsburg, joining) sees it: “It has long been said that a society’s worth can be judged by taking stock of its prisons. That is all the truer in this pandemic, where inmates everywhere have been rendered vulnerable and often powerless to protect themselves from harm. May we hope that our country’s facilities serve as models rather than cautionary tales.”
The State of Authoritarianism
Himani: Sometimes, I find myself forgetting that Trump was even impeached. Incredible how fast the news cycle is, especially now with the pandemic. Honestly I don’t even know what to say to this any more. As I mentioned before about narratives in my immigrant family: I grew up hearing about how corrupt Indian politicians were, and now my mother and I have the occasional conversation basically along the lines of “And America really is no better.”
Natalie: It’s amazing how brazen they’ve become, but when you’ve got a chamber of Congress committed to ensuring that you’re never held accountable, this was bound to happen.
Himani: In March, the Hungarian government used the pandemic as an excuse to, basically, become an authoritarian regime. And now we are watching that play out. People caught speaking out against the government – particularly on social media – are being arrested and detained. For the white people in America who like to parade around about their first amendment rights: this is what an infringement on free speech actually looks like.
Himani: And here is yet another example of a government using the pandemic as part of its long game to assume as much power as it can. I really do worry about the state of the world.
Himani: I was frankly surprised to read this article, I have to admit. Perhaps all is not lost.
The Excuses One Can Come Up With To Justify Being Racist
Natalie: OF COURSE THEY DID. OF COURSE.
Himani: What gets me is the excuse of “we don’t want to be anti-conservative.” Apparently anti-conservatism is more of a problem in this country than racism…? Please see the first section of this round up.
Rachel: Like I suspect a lot of us do, I try to arm myself with a certain amount of cynicism and rock-bottom expectations so that the news isn’t more upsetting than it is; nevertheless, every once in a while a story will come along that I still can’t stop obsessing over even though I know it’s really to be expected; for me this week it was this! This is so, so, obviously and intentionally, enthusiastically even, punishing and discriminatory. I would say it’s unreal but here we are!
The Onset of Summer Is an Annual Reminder That Climate Change Will Make Life Unliveable
Himani: Every year, for the past few years, May rolls around and with it comes the news of unprecedented heat waves stretching through the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia – this list is endless. I now know what wet-bulb temperatures are and that asphalt can melt in these conditions. Well, here we are again. Meanwhile, I usually am not big on video but this Vox video is a striking explanation of an infographic. It really is a must watch to understand the different carbon footprints of the food we eat. Tl;dr Might I suggest cutting your beef consumption?
What the Hell Happened in Venezuela?
Rachel: The news that this happened at all isn’t that surprising; this is not NOT par for the course with the US and Latin American governments, and Trump has been loudly preoccupied with military intervention in Venezuela and the big-man-on-campus competition he perceives himself to be in with Maduro for a long time. It is a little surprising that it was THIS ridiculous; the plan hinged on taking over two of Venezuela’s biggest and most strategic cities, about an hour apart from each other, with only 300 men, and also counted on Maduro’s military deciding on their own to join the coup as it was in progress, a possibility most people stopped taking seriously a year or so ago. It was such a dumb plan that Guaido, the interim president recognized by the United States as Venezuela’s leader, stopped taking their calls. Who would design such a dumb idea and convince our administration to support it? A private security company, of course, and one that sounds like something out of a CW franchise: Silvercorp. If you’re interested in more detail, I liked this breakdown, now with a second part. One thing I’ve found myself frequently wondering since 2016 when this administration royally fucks something up is “is this more about them being evil, or stupid?” One more to add to the book on that one, I guess.
Tuberculosis Deaths Expected to Spike
Himani: What struck me about this article was the reminder that, while we are in the midst of a devastating pandemic, there are so many diseases we have just accepted as part of our global lives because – well, they don’t really affect people who hold power and money. I couldn’t say it better than Lucica Ditiu, the executive director of an organization called Stop TB Partnership, who was interviewed for this article:
“The fear we have in the [TB eradication] community is that researchers are heading towards just developing a vaccine for Covid. That’s on the agenda of everyone now and very few remain focused on the others [diseases]. We don’t have a vaccine for TB, we don’t have a vaccine for HIV, we don’t have a vaccine for malaria and out of all this, TB is the oldest. So why this reaction? I think because we are a world of idiots. What can I say?”