forward theread to a friend

A weekly conversation between friends.

Editors Note: This email may be clipped by mail clients such as Gmail. Click here to view the full newsletter in your browser.

A Critical Race Perspective on Charlottesville and American White Supremacy 

There is no doubt that the events in Charlottesville and their aftermath have left an impression on you, and raised important questions about White Supremacy and the unique form it takes in the United States.

In order to help us understand what transpired and its significance on a deeper level, theread is unveiling the first in an ongoing series of reading/viewing lists to help both editors and subscribers dive deeper into issues of the day. These lists are curated with the intent of allowing for a broader understanding of the issues and themes that dominate our conversations, which in turn will spark more engaged discussions on these important topics. Over the next few weeks, we ask you to review these sources with theread editors, and share your thoughts on the matters addressed. We will be publishing your thoughts as they come in, and sharing our own.

This theread reading list explores the Charlottesville episode from a critical race perspective, and interrogates the strain of White Supremacy that is prevalent in the United States and the political support it receives. The list is based largely on the syllabus for the Introduction to Critical Race Theory course offered at Brown University. Dr. Adrienne Keene teaches the course and created the syllabus.
  1. Charlottesville: Race and TerrorVICE News Tonight on HBO.
  1. Charlottesville And The Rise Of White Identity PoliticsPerry Bacon Jr. on FiveThirtyEight: “what’s clear is that we are seeing strong, overt signs of white identity politics from conservatives, and Trump is executing an agenda that pushes back against the identity politics of liberals.”
  1. Preface” and “Introduction: Racial Politics and the Middle Class” — Ian Haney López on Dog whistle politics: How coded racial appeals have reinvented racism and wrecked the middle class.
  1. A Letter to My NephewJames Baldwin: “There is no reason for you to try to become like white men and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them, and I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love, for these innocent people have no other hope. They are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not understand and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men.”
  1. Letter from a Birmingham JailMartin Luther King Jr.:I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
  1. Waiting for a Perfect Protest?” — Michael McBride, Traci Blackmon, Frank Reid and Barbara Williams Skinner in the New York Times: “The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait. They, we suspect, will be this generation’s version of the millions who claim that they were one of the thousands who marched with Dr. King. Each of us should realize that what we do now is most likely what we would have done during those celebrated protests 50 years ago. Rather than critique from afar, come out of your homes, follow those who are closest to the pain, and help us to redeem this country, and yourselves, in the process.”
  1. “Making America White Again” — Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison, writing in the New Yorker shortly after the election of Donald Trump: "So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble."
  1. Do the Right Thing Spike Lee

After Years of Promoting Islamophobia, the National Post Condemns The Rebel for Islamophobia 

For years, the National Post has enabled and promoted Islamophobia in Canada. The publication was the first to provide mainstream platforms to prominent Islamophobes such as Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant, and Daniel Pipes. Academics have actually studied the National Post’s propensity to portray Muslims negatively in both its commentary and news sections, and found that it is far more likely to frame stories on Muslims around extremism and threats posed than other news publication in Canada (the study examined the depiction of Muslims in large print publications in Canada during the 2000, 2004, and 2006 federal elections).

Levant, one of the more prominent Islamophobic voices featured in the National Post and a one-time member of its editorial board, has moved on to found The Rebel, a virulent anti-Islam media platform. Weeks after the National Post published an illuminating 10,000 word profile of the Rebel by Richard Warnica that criticized the aggressive strain of Islamophobia it promoted, Levant responded with a letter to the editor that raised an uncomfortable question for the publication: if his views on Muslims were so appalling, how come it had no concerns when Levant published these views in the National Post? Or with respect to the pieces it published by Steyn, Pipes, or others? Why did this become an issue only after he started expressing these views through The Rebel? 

"The main quarrel the Post has with my website, The Rebel, is that we “have become a global platform for an extreme anti-Muslim ideology”, and our criticism of political Islam is a “far-right fringe theory”. The Post links me to “the Middle East Forum, a right-wing think tank with a long history of hostility toward Islam” and indulges in a conspiracy theory that we are secretly owned by foreign, anti-Muslim tycoons.

In fact, many of my views on Islam were shared by the
Post itself. I know that, because I personally wrote many of the Post’s foundational editorials on Islam from 1999 to 2001, when the newspaper’s editorial direction was set. And even after I left, I continued as a guest columnist. I’ve written more than one hundred columns about Islam for the Post and other Postmedia newspapers, and I continued to do so even after I started The Rebel.

That’s just me; Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum – that one the Post now calls “right wing” and “hostile” – has written 160 columns for the Post, all of them about Islam."

Levant raises a legitimate point: why is The Rebel’s Islamophobia worth condemning, but not when it is expressed in the pages of the National Post by its own contributors? It is not as if these views expressed by Levant and others are new; they have consistently portrayed Islam and Muslims as a threat.

In fact, it’s disingenuous for the National Post to take issues with The Rebel’s depiction of Islam, when for most of its history, it has promoted the same negative image of Muslims. Rather than condemning publications like The Rebel, it's time for the Post to acknowledge its complicity in propping up these dangerous and hateful views, and cut ties with the writers who espouse them.

Fear, Loathing, and The National

Over the past few months, we’ve discussed the re-emergence of indie rock, and dwelled on the question: if this genre is fundamentally about the minor plights of young privileged people, is there any political space for it 2017?

In a review of The National’s “beautifully claustrophobic” new album, Sleep Well Beast, Amanda Petrusich offers some pretty good answers to this question:

“Since 2001, the National, an indie-rock group from Ohio, has given voice to a particular kind of midlife melancholy: what it means to have a good job and a reliable partner, and nevertheless feel choked and despairing. This might seem absurd at first—privilege is privilege, after all—but the emotional depth of the band’s work says something about the size of those disappointments. To have so much and still feel grief is an existential torment all its own.”

Has Petrusich been reading our text messages? It’s not new, but for some of us, this summer has brought a fresh spell of disaffection and restlessness, a deep loneliness, that persists despite our privileges and relatively stable, successful lives. The necessary acknowledgment of the contradiction of feeling bad, and knowing many people feel worse/are much worse off than I am, but still feeling bad — basically being human — that’s what music helps me cope with. That’s why I listen to The National. There’s a solace in the rueful self-loathing and calm loneliness.

“Lyrically, “Sleep Well Beast,” like much of The National’s discography, dwells on the impossibility of human relations: how hard it is for two people to want the same thing, in the same way, for longer than just a moment. Maybe, Berninger ventures, defeat in this arena is not a failure of character or of generosity but simply the cost of a meaningful entanglement. He seems to believe that our needs are too mercurial, and our compromises too imperfect; every relationship, romantic or otherwise, inevitably spirals toward the same stalemate. “It’s nobody’s fault, no guilty party,” he sings. “We just got nothing, nothing left to say.””

Grappling with John A. Macdonald’s Racist Legacy

As America continues its tumultuous struggle over the fate of Confederate monuments, Canadian pundits have joined the fray with a mostly annoying discussion about the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario’s (ETFO) motion calling for a debate to be opened over the renaming of schools named after Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

Disappointingly — if predictably — Canada’s mainstream media lined up to denounce the motion, with the Globe suggesting that the crimes of Macdonald shouldn’t be held to “2017’s values.” (I’ll leave it to Indigenous writer Chelsea Vowel to summarize the problem with this type of “presentist” argument:)

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 5.51.26 PM.png

Writing in Vice, Drew Brown rightly points out that reconciliation demands that Canadians come to terms with the “toxic history” of our first PM, a man who was both a brilliant statesman and the racist “architect of genocide against Indigenous peoples." But, as Robert Jago argues in a response to the above mentioned Globe editorial, perhaps renaming schools isn’t the most important place to start:

"Indigenous people are tired of seeing our politics knocked off track by these flavour-of-the-month intrusions by non-natives. Far from decolonizing the public schools, the ETFO motion is an example of Ontario's teachers colonizing the public debate over Indigenous policy….

It seems that Sir John A. doesn't need a school named after him to have his cruel legacy marked. His legacy is ever present, in the threats that forced the grieving Kentner children from their school, and in Thunder Bay's waterways, where the bodies of Indigenous people are too often found.

Should Ontario's elementary-school teachers want to make a real move toward reconciliation, they would help amplify that discussion instead of redirecting it onto this tangent."


The Toronto Airshow: Time to ditch the fighter jets

In Toronto, it’s become a ritual to complain about the annual Canadian International Air Show — an impressive spectacle, and a 60 year tradition, but one that is far too noisy and that seems to last forever.

Of course, for the thousands of refugees who live in downtown Toronto, many of whom have recently fled from their countries to escape aerial bombardment or war, the airshow can be something more than just an annoyance.

Toronto filmmaker Maya Bastian's new short film, Air Show, stars a real family of Tamil refugee actors to illustrate the fear she says the weekend’s annual display of thundering warplanes strikes in some of the city's refugees. A stirring and artistic 8 minute film, Bastian claims that it is not her agenda to cancel the airshow, though she points out the particularly cruel fact that fighter jets fly directly over Parkdale, a neighborhood full of refugees and immigrants from around the world.

“Refugees themselves are very hesitant to speak out against anything Canadian, though I have spoken to people who say it sounds exactly like what was happening to them back home and people who have been frightened,Bastian told the Globe.

We've seen people in Parkdale kind of jump into bushes, cover their children. You see it happen, just walking down the street, when the planes are going. It's nothing new. It's just the conversation is new. And I think it's really important, at this point in time, when we're seeing so much anti-immigrant, anti-refugee sentiment.”

My take? Keep the Snowbirds, ditch the fighter jets. Or move the airshow to an airfield away from the city.

Airbnb and Canada’s New Hosting Class

Hello, just a reminder that every time you stay in an Airbnb rental in a large city, you’ve exercised your privilege to contribute to the affordable housing crisis. Travel (especially convenient travel) is a privilege and it’s not more important than the right to stable housing.

A new study says Airbnb has removed as many as 14,000 housing units from the market in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, and a professional hosting class has emerged! WOW! 

From Metro Toronto:

While Airbnb hosts in the three cities [of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal] earned $430 million last year, 10 per cent of hosts earned a majority of that revenue, the report said. The top 1 per cent of hosts earned $51.7 million — more than 12 per cent of the total, the report said...

“Airbnb is growing like crazy, people who are saying ‘I would like a slice of that action and they’re listing their homes.’ It doesn’t mean that they’re earning much money. I think the two trends are happening simultaneously. Lots and lots of people are hoping they can make some money off Airbnb but actually it’s a maturing market and more and more of the money is being earned by the sophisticated players who really know how to make it,” [McGill University School of Planning Professor David] Wachsmuth said.

The report also identified the top five revenue generating listings in each of the three cities. In Toronto, the five Airbnb listings were booked, on average, 236 nights a year and pulled in $145,000 each.

It’s easy to see why some property owners prefer short-term renters to long-term tenants.

“There aren’t many places that go for $20,000 a month in Toronto,” Wachsmuth said.

The full report concludes with some basic guidance for legislators attempting to regulate Airbnb rentals in their municipalities:

1) One host, one rental: Cities should require home sharing hosts to actually be sharing their homes—allowing residents to rent out their own homes while they are out of town, or to rent out a spare bedroom—while refusing to allow large-scale commercial operators to convert multiple homes into de facto hotels. ...

2) No full-time, entire-home rentals: Hosts should not be permitted to rent their homes for a large amount of the year, regardless of if that home is a primary residence or not. ...

3) Platforms responsible for enforcement: Even the best-conceived regulatory principles will flounder if they cannot be properly enforced. And international evidence demonstrates that short-term-regulations will fail to achieve their intended effect unless Airbnb and the other platforms are required to proactively enforce them. For example, in the absence of cooperation from the platforms, a city seeking to enforce an annual limit on 60 days of rentals would need to conduct 61 separate inspections to identify a violator. Airbnb, on the other hand, can modify the online platform to disallow further rentals from a listing that has reached its 60-day limit.

A Doctor’s Touch

Going in for your annual physical soon? Don’t be surprised if your doctor doesn’t lay their hands on you. Or doesn’t really listen to you. Be surprised (and maybe relieved) that they didn’t order any tests if there was nothing that was wrong with you.

In “The Stethoscope” episode of 99 percent invisible, host Roman Mars explores how the invention of the stethoscope transformed the practice of medicine from listening to the patient to objectively investigating to determine if something is wrong with them. Mars explains that "Before the stethoscope, to be sick, the patient had to feel sick. After the stethoscope, it didn’t matter what patients thought was wrong with them, it mattered more what the doctor found."

The invention of the stethoscope was one of the first tools in medicine that let doctors group symptoms (things like fever, cough, and chest pain, i.e. pneumonia) to something that can be treated with medicine (in the case of pneumonia, antibiotics). Being able to listen, feel, see, and test what’s going on in the body transforms patient symptoms into something that doctors can understand. This powerful idea — that the symptoms that people have are linked to something gone awry in the human body — is the basis of modern medicine.

Doctors try to prove that pain, or that weakness you are feeling, must be linked to something that can be objectified. With a lab test, a CAT scan, or a biopsy. What a patient relays through their history and what a doctor examines through the physical exam are conduits to ordering and understanding the tests that are performed.

The problem is that doctors have gotten bad at actually asking the questions and understanding the physical exam. Trainees now spend considerably less time with patients than they do in front of computers or filling out paperwork. And many doctors say the stethoscope and the need to examine patients is becoming obsolete (although most still wear it to instill some level of trust in the profession), preferring to trust more objective tests.  

But objective methods have their limitations, especially for patients suffering from mental health issues and illnesses that are poorly understood by science.

Atul Gawande, writing in The New Yorker, has also considered the perils of relying on objective tests. His piece champions a practice of “lifelong incremental care” rather than “rescue medicine.” In rescue medicine, when faced with a symptom, doctors are more likely to order tests immediately in an effort to rule things out and give the patient immediate reassurance. Incremental care, on the other hand, requires listening to the patient and observing the symptoms over time. This slower, patient-centric response demands accepting uncertainty and trust, something that the modern medicine rarely allows. But Gawande argues that incremental care can prevent unnecessary treatments and, over time, find unique solutions for patients whose suffering has failed to be alleviated by conventional means.

Abraham Varghese, long-time advocate for humanism, is working to teach new generations of students the usefulness of the bedside physical tests in modern medicine. He reminds us of the power of touching and being present.   

Click here to view Abraham Verghese's TED Talk.

Daniel Caesar: The new voice of contemporary R&B

Thanks to groundbreaking artists like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, dvsn, and Jeremih, R&B has undergone something of a transformation in recent years — having all but merged with hip hop, the genre sounds much darker and heavier than it did in the 90s, its songs solipsistic rather than earnest and sweet (would Boys II Men survive in 2017? I don’t think so).

This transformation has produced some terrific music, but eh, all this self-loathing and nihilism can be tiresome. Fortunately, the 22-year-old Toronto-based soul/R&B songwriter Daniel Caesar’s breakout album, Freudian, has arrived to brighten things up. Featuring collaborations with some of contemporary R&B’s top artists, including Syd, Charlotte Day Wilson, and H.E.R. (and an Avnish favourite, Kali Uchis), Freudian is a sparse, slow-burning record, one that beckons and uplifts.

“Caesar departs considerably from the atmospheric R&B that Toronto is known for, to say nothing of the wildly popular “trap&B” style,” writes Briana Younger. “Synths and 808s are replaced with pianos, guitars, and choral arrangements; some vulgarity remains, but he never gives in to shallow simplicity.”

And yet, unlike ‘throwback’ soul artists like Leon Bridges or Charles Bradley, Caesar’s music avoids pastiche, and sounds very much like a product of the present. By leaning into his gospel and soul influences, but discarding their formulas, Daniel Caesar seems prepared to turn R&B in yet another new direction.

Get into it, because he’s about to blow up. 
Daniel Caesar - Get You ft. Kali Uchis [Official Video]

CBC’s On Drugs 

Over the course of the summer, CBC Radio One aired a series of half-hour weekly episodes titled On Drugs. Presenting drugs in a drastically different way than the CBC Marketplace’s modern day reefer madness episode “Super Weed,” On Drugs host Geoff Turner guides listeners through personal, societal, political, historical, and philosophical issues surrounding drugs in Canada. Topics include the stereotyping of Indigenous people in Canada as alcoholics, how some Canadian opioid users are affected by anti-opioid policies in our healthcare system, how drugs can amplify war and also diminish effects of post-war trauma, and the multifaceted stories of addiction in Vancouver. From the opioid epidemic across Canada to the nationwide legalization of cannabis set for summer 2018, drugs will continue to impact every Canadian in one way or another. A sensible conversation about drugs needs to be opened up in Canada and On Drugs provides a great starting point for an interdisciplinary and rational discussion regarding psychoactive substances and everything that comes with their use.

- Guest Contribution by Alec Skillings

This Week's Links

A 7 year-old Indigenous girl from Calgary will sit out this hockey season after refusing to wear her team’s jersey, which depicts an Indigenous man with war paint and feathers (identical to the Chicago Blackhawks logo). Hero.

New York: where developers have won large tax breaks for designating some suites “affordable housing”... for families with annual incomes of $63,000 to $143,000. The housing crisis only deepens.

Ten reasons I was mad at you.

LCD Soundsystem’s ‘American Dream,’ Like James Murphy, Is Both Brilliant And Annoying: “Back in the LCD 1.0 days, Murphy was an underdog, an over-the-hill shlub who willed himself to indie stardom in spite of having the fashion sense of Interpol’s dry-cleaner, a know-it-all Tarantino figure for aspirational music nerds who long dreamed of seeing their own names in the liner notes. But Murphy is no longer that guy. He’s now a winebar proprietor who wincingly name-drops David Bowie in interviews and is described as a “sociopath” by a former friend and businesses partner in Lizzy Goodman’s recent book Meet Me In The Bathroom. James Murphy is harder to cheer for now, and American Dream is easier to admire than it is to love.”

A lyrical take on the history of the invasive Kudzu vine. It will come for you one day too.

You can make softserve ice cream without adding stabilizers (but it will take an MIT degree to figure out how and you better eat that ice cream damn fast).

Taylor Swift has returned from hiatus, and despite her blowing up YouTube, the Internet was not particularly exactly impressed. Writing in Vice, Dan Ozzi pulls no punches in suggesting that Swift’s wholesale avoidance of anything politics is inexcusable in the context of 2017. For a good counter-take on this, check out Justin Charity’s piece in The Ringer, which makes a strong case for the uncoupling of politics and entertainment: “It has become fashionable to demand that Swift denounce Donald Trump, or at least make her leanings plain. But that kind of celebrity politics is what got us here in the first place.”

Raffi Khatchadourian’s remarkable profile of Julian Assange is an absolute must read: “In the five years since then, [Julian Assange] has not set foot beyond the Embassy. Nonetheless, he has become a global influence, proving that with simple digital tools a single person can craft a new kind of power—a distributed, transnational power, which functions outside norms of state sovereignty that have held for centuries. Encouraged by millions of supporters, Assange has interfered with the world’s largest institutions. His releases have helped fuel democratic uprisings—notably in Tunisia, where a revolution sparked the Arab Spring—and they have been submitted as evidence in human-rights cases around the world. At the same time, Assange’s methodology and his motivations have increasingly come under suspicion. During the Presidential election last year, he published tens of thousands of hacked e-mails written by Democratic operatives, releasing them at pivotal moments in the campaign. They provoked strikingly disparate receptions. “I love WikiLeaks,” Donald Trump declared, in exultant gratitude. After the election, Hillary Clinton argued that the releases had been instrumental in keeping her from the Oval Office.”

In case you weren’t paying attention, turns out Game of Thrones is actually an allegory for how America treats White Supremacy.

Frank Ocean’s Apple Radio show, blonded, returned last week. As usual, he debuted a new song, and it’s a stunner:
Frank Ocean - Provider
Copyright © 2017 Newsletter, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp