Stephen Colbert interviews Anthony Scaramucci

I don’t know what Anthony Scaramucci was anticipating when he first booked this Late Show interview with Stephen Colbert, but I can’t imagine it was this. For nearly 15 minutes, Colbert relentlessly presses Scaramucci on questions he’s clearly uncomfortable to be answering, such as whether or not Steve Bannon is a white supremacist and what’s it really like working in this “dumpster fire” of an administration.

Colbert provides almost no quarter, even refusing an attempt by Scaramucci to turn Colbert into a “character witness.” It’s a stunning interview that puts to use intimidation tactics the likes of which The Mooch himself would probably have employed in a different situation.

Dismantling the social safety net

Chilling piece by Jamelle Bouie for Slate on what’s going on in our government right now:

It would be one thing if voters were clamoring for a return to pre–Great Society, or even pre–New Deal, America. But that’s just not the case. In the abstract, at least, Americans want more assistance—more help from the federal government. Even for lawmakers on the right, that popular desire should influence their approach to public policy, as it suggests ordinary people want government to deliver (or facilitate) improvements to their daily lives.

But it doesn’t. And this disregard for public opinion—along with its corresponding indifference to independent analysis—augurs something ominous for the country. The Republican governing coalition in Washington—elected by a minority of Americans—is showing its willingness to transform American society with little deliberation or consensus. It has become so polarized that it will use whatever power it has to push a maximalist agenda through Congress, its representatives tearing through any norms or procedures that stand in their way to slash public assistance to the bone, and then some. The goal, should they reach it, will be a populace left to fend for itself.

“If you’re Asian, you’re less than human and people can treat you like trash.”

Heartbreaking story from The Guardian about a Dyne Suh, who was turned away from an AirBNB for being Asian:

An Airbnb host who canceled a woman’s reservation using a racist remark has been ordered to pay $5,000 in damages for racial discrimination and take a course in Asian American studies.

Dyne Suh, a 26-year-old law clerk, had booked Tami Barker’s mountain cabin in Big Bear, California, for a skiing weekend with friends in February, but Barker canceled the reservation by text message minutes before they arrived,stating: “I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth” and “One word says it all. Asian” […]

When Suh said she’d complain to Airbnb about the racist remark, Barker replied, “It’s why we have Trump … and I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.”

Another instance of how Trump’s careless rhetoric continues to embolden those who wish to use race to denigrate, discriminate, and separate.

Art is now resistance

Corey Stoll has written a great essay about what it was like to play Brutus in the Trump-themed Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar:

In this new world where art is willfully misinterpreted to score points and to distract, simply doing the work of an artist has become a political act. I’m thankful for all the beautiful defenses of our production written in the last few weeks. But the cliché is true: In politics, when you’re explaining, you’re losing. So if you’re making art, by all means question yourself and allow yourself to be influenced by critics of good faith. But don’t allow yourself to be gaslighted or sucked into a bad-faith argument. A play is not a tweet. It can’t be compressed and embedded and it definitely can’t be delivered apologetically. The very act of saying anything more nuanced than “us good, them bad” is under attack, and I’m proud to stand with artists who do. May we continue to stand behind our work, and, when interrupted, pick it right back up from “liberty and freedom.”

I think the lack of proper education in our country is the root of many of our ills. In particular, education equips us with the ability to grasp and interpret complex works of art, and take away lessons from them that continue to be relevant.

The ferocity of the right wing response against this Caesar production, which doesn’t take into account any of its over-arching messages, is simply another saddening sign of the death of nuance in our discourse.

Trevor Noah, on the shooting of Philando Castile

This week, the officer who shot Philando Castile was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter. Here are a few pieces of media that helped me understand and process this news.

Firstly, Radiolab has a two part podcast exploring why cops kill people in the line of duty and the aftermath of those officer-involved shootings. It’s a gut-wrenching listen, but worthwhile.

Shots Fired: Part 1

Shots Fired: Part 2

This podcast series was produced in partnership with the Tampa Bay Times, who’ve also produced a piece, “Why Cops Shoot,” that is a must-read.

In addition, I found Trevor Noah’s commentary to be meaningful and moving. He’s the only person of color (not to mention the only millennial) doing a late night show right now, and he’s using his unique position to speak from a perspective that is impossible for anyone else.

Ijeoma Oluo interviews Rachel Dolezal for The Stranger

Ijeoma Oluo’s interview with Rachel Dolezal is worth reading in its entirety, but I was particularly moved by Oluo’s closing argument:

For a white woman who had grown up with only a few magazines of stylized images of blackness to imagine herself into a real-life black identity without any lived black experience, to turn herself into a black history professor without a history degree, to place herself at the forefront of local black society that she had adopted less than a decade earlier, all while seeming to claim to do it better and more authentically than any black person who would dare challenge her—well, it’s the ultimate “you can be anything” success story of white America. Another branch of manifest destiny. No wonder America couldn’t get enough of the Dolezal story.

Perhaps it really was that simple. I couldn’t escape Rachel Dolezal because I can’t escape white supremacy. And it is white supremacy that told an unhappy and outcast white woman that black identity was hers for the taking. It is white supremacy that told her that any black people who questioned her were obviously uneducated and unmotivated to rise to her level of wokeness. It is white supremacy that then elevated this display of privilege into the dominating conversation on black female identity in America. It is white supremacy that decided that it was worth a book deal, national news coverage, and yes—even this interview.

And with that, the anger that I had toward her began to melt away. Dolezal is simply a white woman who cannot help but center herself in all that she does—including her fight for racial justice. And if racial justice doesn’t center her, she will redefine race itself in order to make that happen. It is a bit extreme, but it is in no way new for white people to take what they want from other cultures in the name of love and respect, while distorting or discarding the remainder of that culture for their comfort. What else is National Geographic but a long history of this practice. Maybe now that I’ve seen the unoriginality of it all, even with my sister’s name that she has claimed as her own, she will haunt me no more and simply blend into the rest of white supremacy that I battle every day.

Thus, Oluo concludes that Dolezal is not a monster, but just another symptom of a society in which white cultural imperialism is a way of life.

I think often of our /Filmcast review of Get Out, which we recorded with Slate writer Aisha Harris. In the review, Harris discusses how the film weaponizes white womanhood in particular as presenting a threat to black people [SPOILERS for Get Out below]:

If we had to rank them, in the way this movie plays out, white womanhood is the top threat for black people. Just think about the fact that Allison Williams character Rose is the last of the family members to die. Throughout the movie there’s little sprinkles of dialogue and moments that set up Allison Williams’ character as exactly what  you think someone like her would think about herself.

“I’m a white woman so everyone must want me.” The fact that she’s luring all these black men, googling NCAA players. The fact that she teases his friend Rod, played by Lil Rel, about how he wants to fuck her, and is just very open about it…the idea that white womanhood is the pinnacle, the definition of beauty, the definition of everything that’s pure, and the way it plays with that, I think is just very ingenius.

I hadn’t viewed the film this way but Harris’s observation rang true to me, and I was reminded of it while reading Oluo’s interview.

See also: Our recent Gen Pop episode with Tiq Milan, who discusses why the concept of being transgender is qualitatively different than being transracial.

How the model minority myth is deployed

Andrew Sullivan had a piece for New York magazine yesterday that set my Twitter timeline on fire. In discussing United’s recent dragging of an innocent Asian man off a flight, Sullivan wrote this:

Do you know the real reason Dr. Dao was so brutally tackled and thrown off that United flight? It was all about white supremacy. I mean, what isn’t these days? That idea is from the New Republic. Yes, the cops “seemed” to be African-American, as the author concedes, so the white-versus-minority paradigm is a little off. Yes, this has happened before to many people with no discernible racial or gender pattern. Yes, there is an obvious alternative explanation: The seats from which passengers were forcibly removed were randomly assigned. New York published a similar piece, which argued that the incident was just another example of Trump’s border-and-immigration-enforcement policies toward suspected illegal immigrants of color. That no federal cops were involved and there is no actual evidence at all of police harassment of Asian-Americans is irrelevant — it’s all racism, all the time, everywhere in everything.

It’s easy to mock this reductionism, I know, but it reflects something a little deeper. Asian-Americans, like Jews, are indeed a problem for the “social-justice” brigade. I mean, how on earth have both ethnic groups done so well in such a profoundly racist society? How have bigoted white people allowed these minorities to do so well — even to the point of earning more, on average, than whites? Asian-Americans, for example, have been subject to some of the most brutal oppression, racial hatred, and open discrimination over the years. In the late 19th century, as most worked in hard labor, they were subject to lynchings and violence across the American West and laws that prohibited their employment. They were banned from immigrating to the U.S. in 1924. Japanese-American citizens were forced into internment camps during the Second World War, and subjected to hideous, racist propaganda after Pearl Harbor. Yet, today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?

Sullivan has often made controversial statements about race, like when he repudiated Black Lives Matter, but now he’s bringing the status of Asians into this argument and my brothers and sisters just were not having it.

In response, journalist Jeff Guo issued the following tweetstorm:

It’s important to recognize when and how the myth of the model minority is deployed. It’s almost always used to disparage one minority group, and occasionally to turn minority groups against each other. We should be vigilant against it.

How fake news brings people together in pursuit of profit

Craig Silverman and Jane Lytvynenko, writing for Buzzfeed, on how a liberal troll and some Macedonian spammers both ended up profiting from spreading fake news:

There is perhaps no better expression of the current economics of internet content than an American liberal troll and spammers from the Balkans and Caucasus making money from completely fake online news aimed at American conservatives. The troll says he’s exposing ignorance, while the spammers are stealing any content that drives traffic and ad impressions. Regardless of motivation, the clicks and dollars are the same — and they reinforce the reality that misinformation about American politics is now an international business opportunity.

BuzzFeed News analyzed 11 hoaxes published by The Resistance that received the highest engagement on Facebook in the past two weeks and found they were copied and reposted by 48 different websites. Of those sites, 16 were confirmed using domain registration records as being run from Macedonia, 4 originated in Georgia, 2 are from Kosovo, and 1 is Bulgarian. The remaining 20 sites whose provenance is unconfirmed use similar WordPress themes to those run from Macedonia, and often post their content in the same pro-Trump Facebook groups used by Macedonians to spread their content. BuzzFeed News emailed 19 owners of the sites but did not receive any response.