Let's Talk

It’s not just on Twitter, it’s for Twitter,” sounds a little bit too much like “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom” for me to take it entirely seriously, but it’s not a bad summary of the idea behind Buzzfeed’s new morning show, AM to DM. It’s streaming live on Twitter every weekday morning at 10am, and strives to be a new kind of morning show: one for the internet.

And yet, as Slate pointed out, most morning shows and late night talk shows are already effectively made for the internet. AM to DM doesn’t have anything particularly groundbreaking in format yet. Two hosts have on guests and discuss current events, a tried-and-true formula. They have segments in which they read “Fire Tweets” and decide on a “ManCrushMonday” (#coolmom), but these bits not yet engaging enough to stand out, nor do they distinguish themselves from from late-night talk shows that do segments in the same vein.

AM to DM does have a significant advantage in courting a young audience, however, in their choice of medium. In an age when many people are cutting their cable subscriptions, or opting never to get one in the first place, online sites become a much easier way to tune into news and entertainment. There’s no friction to watching AM to DM, as long as you have a Twitter account—and as that’s their target audience anyway, this strategy bodes well for potential viewership.

While there are initial flaws and possibilities, it’s too early to see if AM to DM can grow into a unique morning show. It’s also not the only entry into the field of new media talk shows. Director and producer Kelly Kitagawa is leading a new show called Think About It, a “late night styled think piece show for millennials.” The production team is all college-aged women, most of whom are women of color. The teaser was released on Sunday, but the team is currently raising money to produce a full 9-episode series. Similar to AM to DM, the focus of the show is on presenting a different perspective than is usually seen in mainstream media.

There’s definitely a stronger sense of scrappiness with Think About It than AM to DM: it’s produced by independent college students rather than a multimedia company, it’s lower to the ground in terms of audience engagement (especially with funding needs), and it’s focused on exploring specific questions relevant to young people instead of a general look at the news. However, it won’t start streaming until November, so it’s too early to judge what the final product will look like.

Like I’ve written about before, I have a particular love for projects made by and for young people. It’ll be interesting to see the way the talk show and news landscape will be changed by an influx in younger creators, especially since these shows have had a recent surge in popularity and relevance. Right now, it’s unclear if it’ll make much of a difference at all, but I doubt it: new voices have the power to make chance, and they always use it.

Education & Action

I'm a firm believer in the power and necessity of education. When I look around the country right now, I see how much I do not know and do not fully understand. With that in mind, I've compiled a reading list of books to help me better understand race and racism in the United States. They aren't in any particular order or grouping: it's merely a list of books that were recommended by various articles as to what I should read to educate myself. I'm publishing this list to encourage others to educate themselves as well, whether that's through your own list of books or whatever medium you choose.

However, education at this time is nothing without action. After my reading list is a list of actions to take, as a white person, to combat racism and white supremacy in the United States. Both of these lists will probably be updated and altered.

Books

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Why Can’t We Wait? by Martin Luther King Jr.

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement by Kimberle Crenshaw

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates

White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue

Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism, and History by Vron Ware

The Impossible Will Take a Little While by Paul Rogat Loeb

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela David

Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt by Sarah Jaffe

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcom X

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi

Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank Wu

Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire by Deepa Kumar

No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border by Justin Akers Chacon and Mike Davis

When We Fight, We Win: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World by Greg Jobin-Leeds

The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundani

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev

Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg

Action

Don't stand for racism, however "small" or "casual." If it is safe for you to speak up, do so.

If you have children, talk to them about what's happening. The age of "colorblindness" is over (not that is ever truly existed). We need to raise our children not only to accept everyone, but to embrace and cherish differences.

Don't just listen to white people. This is surprisingly easy to do, depending on where you live and what your social media bubble is. Make an effort to seek out voices that are different than yours (this is good for widening your mind, but it also makes your life more interesting).

Believe people when they share their experiences with you, even if those stories are outside your life experience.

Do not require POC to educate you. The people on Twitter you would want to ask questions often have already written and spoken about these issues. Do your own research, the answers will usually already be out there.

Work to elevate the voices of POC and never try to speak over them.

Think about the ways that you benefit from white supremacy. You do. No one's asking to be guilty for being white, but you do have a responsibility to use the power you have. Other people are using that power to terrorize and kill people. The time for neutrality is over.

Consider your own language and actions. Are you unintentionally reinforcing white supremacy to others or within yourself?

Don't get mad when people complain about "white people." There are so many other things to deal with right now, and they are a lot more important. If what they're saying resonates with you, consider to yourself why that is, and think about what you change within yourself to make their concern not apply to you.

If you make a mistake: apologize, seek to correct it if possible, make sure you understand what you did wrong, and make sure you will do better next time.

Think about what's going locally and what you can do and say in your community.

Contact your representatives, from local to national, to encourage good behavior and to condemn their failures. Be loud about this, to them and to others.

Go to protests. Tragically, there is no guarantee of safety for anyone at protests, but it's important that those who are less at risk (white people, able-bodied people, etc.) make the effort to be there, not only to support the cause but to help protect people who are more at risk.

Take care of yourself. Take breaks from the news/twitter/activism when you need to or you'll burn out.

Donate to causes you believe in and that are doing effective work.

Support good journalism on a local and national level.

Speak out against false equivalence and poor reporting.

Help people register to vote and get to the polls.

Vote.

Exhausted

    I am exhausted.

    Not physically, although I often am so tired I fall asleep when my eyes slide closed for too long, weary of consuming more data in a day than I have any right to impose on them.

    I am exhausted in a much deeper sense, facing a tiredness that has crept into my bones and follows me like a shadow. It’s a weight that’s been building in me for years, like stones plunged into my stomach and tearing me up from the inside out.

    I don’t know when the first stone dropped. It may have been the first time I walked down the street and a stranger yelled something about my body. It may have been when I realized my partner had decided his wants were more important than mine. It may have been when my parents bought me pepper spray to keep me safe, even though my brother never needed any.

    There were messages over and over again, from the movies I watched to the people I loved, showing me that the world was not built for me. I never know if today someone will decide that public space is theirs, not mine, and that they deserve to harass me on the street. I never know if today they’ll decide I deserve to be hurt for not smiling for them.

    Then came the stones from the internet. The internet is the largest public space humanity can conceive, and it is still not built for me. I saw a seventeen-year-old girl get harassed, threatened, and told to kill herself for weeks because she expressed an opinion and a grown man decided she needed to be hurt for that. Every single woman on the internet I know is prepared to be attacked. We know that any day could be the day someone decides that we should be hacked and our personal information should be made available for billions of people. We know that any day could be the day someone decides to abuse us, threaten us, stalk us, and there’s nothing we can do except be ready and try to protect ourselves. It’s not a question of “if” for me. It’s a question of “when.” The weight pushes down on me until I feel like my head is just above water.

    And then we reached this year and I am drowning.

    I suppose I thought that misogyny was, if not on its way out, at least going out of style. I cannot put into words how exhausting it has been to watch this country fail me and the women I love over and over again. This election taught me that you can be one of the most experienced, intelligent, powerful women in the world and you will still be reduced to your voice, your laugh, the way you smile or don’t. You can be an articulate expert in a field and be pitted against a man with no comprehension of what he’s talking about. You can offer substantive reform ideas on virtually every issue facing this country and people will scream that you are a bitch who deserves to die.

    But we knew that was coming, didn’t we? We knew that Hillary Clinton would face a disgusting amount of sexism while running for president. What we didn’t know was who would be standing at the other podium, and that is who makes me feel like I’m drowning.

    It’s not just the man himself, although the knowledge that he is so close to being elected the leader of my country makes me physically ill. I don’t say that for dramatic effect. My stomach actually aches when I consider the possibility that he may have any power over my future. He would ban my best friend from this country. His vice-president would put me and my friends into conversion therapy. He would block full healthcare for millions of women. “The personal is political” has been a feminist mantra for decades, but I never knew the political would be this personal.

    It does not shock me that he exists and is so deluded that he believes he should be president. What did surprise me was that almost half the country agrees. Millions of people don’t think that sexual assault precludes someone from being the leader of the free world. I need to say that again. Millions of people don’t think that bragging about committing sexual assault disqualifies someone from the presidency. I can’t think about this without shaking. Millions of people don’t think that his blatant and rampant racism disqualifies him. Millions of people don’t think that he should be required to treat anyone with respect, not veterans, not differently abled people, not families of fallen soldiers, not anyone nonwhite, and certainly not any woman.

    Millions of people have told me that I don’t deserve to be treated like a human being. That my body is subject to anyone who lays claim to it, as long as they’re famous. How do I deal with that? I really don’t know.

    I love being a woman. In some ways I’m a little obsessed with it; I am constantly aware of my own womanhood and how other women exist in my life. Yesterday I mentioned that “all women are in my sisterhood” and was told I really should tell them about that, so: hey, if you identify as a woman, you’re in my sisterhood and I love you. There is an undeniable strength and pride I draw from the incredible accomplishments of women all around me and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

    And yet, I am exhausted. I am exhausted by sexual harassment, sexual assault, discrimination, the gender pay gap, the second shift, the glass ceiling, cat-calling, the devaluing of women’s voices, the demands that women take up less space, “get in the kitchen” jokes, legislation of women’s bodies, of seeing breasts used to advertise cars and beer and hamburgers but not allowed to be used to feed children in public, of scripts for how we should dress and look and think and speak and live.

    Today, I voted for the first time, and I voted for the first female president of the United States. But even if all my dreams for today come true and we elect our first Madam President, the past eighteen months have shown us that there is still so much work to be done. Those millions of people are not going to wake up tomorrow and start studying feminist theory. They’re going to keep screaming that Hillary is a bitch for as long as she is in the public eye.

    Well you know what? She is a bitch. So am I. Bitches get stuff done. You can either fall in line or you can fall behind, but I’m tired of being tired. I’m getting angry instead.

Politics

Can we get back to politics?

Can we get back to politics?

        I would not consider myself a “politics person.” For most of my life, my political knowledge was basically limited to the name of the president and whatever I picked up when my dad listened to talk radio. It seems that everyone considers politics a dirty field, full of corrupt power-hungry people who only want money.

    And yet, now I find myself suddenly quite interested in politics. Well, maybe not politics so much… But that other part of a government career-- you know, the governing? That’s where it gets interesting.

    Part of it is this election: this is the first election I can vote in, and therefore the first election I’ve really paid attention to, but holy god are they always like this? It seems like this is way too crazy to have been happening once every four years for over two hundred years. On one side we have the first female presidential candidate of a major party in the history of the United States, and on the other side we have an television star/billionaire whose campaign and hateful speech preys on the fears of 21st century America. Both of them are so hated by the other side it’s alarming.

    Part of it is the legislation being passed and being contested by the Supreme Court. Gay marriage was legalized across the country. President Obama’s immigration reform was just stalled in the Supreme Court. Lawmakers are frightfully behind the new world of technology, the current system failing to address the privacy and security issues created by the incredible globalization of the Internet.

    Part of it is the government shutdown a few years ago. Seriously, what was that about? Can we stop something that ridiculous from happening again? I live nearby a wildlife reserve where there are a few looking platforms by the side of the road, so people can park and look through binoculars at the land. During the shutdown, they placed barriers in front of it so you couldn’t drive up. I tried to visit certain government websites for my government homework and I was not allowed to access them. Seriously?

    Part of it is the gun control debate that is happening right now. I can’t stop checking twitter, news sites, periscope, searching for the latest updates of the sit-in in the House. My feelings about the sit-in are mostly positive. Was it a publicity stunt? Yes. Was it “just a publicity stunt?” No. It was frustration that bubbled into a public demonstration in response the years of gun violence that went without action in Congress. It was taking a stand and saying “inaction is not an option. Not voting is not an option. Leaving this behind is not an option.” I believe that is was at least partially a “publicity stunt,” but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The Democrats in the House achieved tremendous attention and support from the American public, which as the representatives of the American public, is a great thing to have.

    The bill in question that they were supporting is not one that I personally support: the terrorist watch list is too large and nebulous to be used as a metric for buying guns. Many people are on that list for reasons like being somehow tenuously connected with a potentially dangerous person. I personally support the bill that Senator Collins is proposing, which would restrict gun sales for those on the no-fly list, a much smaller list that requires a real reason to be on. However, I do support universal background checks for ALL gun sales, and funding for a study on the health effects of guns, two other measures that the Democrats are attempting to garner favor for. Furthermore, at this point frustration has reached a point that we have to do something. Denying gun sales to those on the terrorist watch list and universal background checks are overwhelmingly favored by citizens across party lines. Why is the Republican leadership so adamantly opposed to these bills?

    This was an almost entirely unprecedented event in the House. Although sit-ins have been staged before, one of this level of disruption and attention is unheard of. The Republican leadership dismissed it as “immature” and “disruptive.” Supporters, including the hundreds of people who gathered inside and outside of the House, cheered them on “true democracy” and “taking a stand.” Although the legislation itself may not pass, the Republicans unquestionably lost the public opinion on this: it’s hard to defend being against a sit-in led by an actual Civil Rights activist trying to get a vote about denying guns to potential terrorists. The rhetoric is just not on your side with that one. When you add that Paul Ryan turned the cameras off-- which was unquestionably stupid, as it propelled a huge number of people to online streams-- and that the way Republicans attempted to ignore the sit-in came off as callous and disrespectful to the victims of gun violence, they didn’t stand a chance.

    See, I was only going to go through a few reasons why I’ve gotten interested in politics, and then I spent three paragraphs on the gun control debate. It’s just INTERESTING. I used my lunch break today to watch the senate livestream as they voted on whether or not to table Senator Collins’ bill. It was way, way more into it than I was expecting to be, and extremely excited that it didn’t get tabled (by only a very small margin…).

    Part of it is the EU Referendum vote, aka Brexit. Which I’m currently watching live and is NERVE-WRACKING.

 

    All in all, to be entirely honest, most of this is almost certainly watching every episode of the West Wing in the past three months.

 

Josh Lyman owns my heart

Josh Lyman owns my heart