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Race

The Unbearable Whiteness of Grifting.

Between this IG scammer and her empty mason jars, the Theranos lady with the crispy ends, punchface Fyre douche, and the Russian lady living for free in fancy hotels, my spirit is just completely done with unqualified white people fumbling the bag due to LAZINESS. Any one of them could’ve been sitting on bags of money handed to them by dint of being white and slick-mouthed had they not overshot into mind-boggling greed and followed it up with enraging ineptitude.

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Between this IG scammer and her empty mason jars, the Theranos lady with the crispy ends, punchface Fyre douche, and the Russian lady living for free in fancy hotels, my spirit is just completely done with unqualified white people fumbling the bag due to LAZINESS. Any one of them could’ve been sitting on bags of money handed to them by dint of being white and slick-mouthed had they not overshot into mind-boggling greed and followed it up with enraging ineptitude.

If you are a white woman, a journalist, a New Yorker, bored and on the Internet too much, or a combination of the aforementioned, there’s a fair chance you’ve seen the name Caroline Calloway pop up somewhere over the past week.

Something instinctively told me to leave that mess alone because I saw enough warning signs to know that Rich White Girl Goes Through Troubles Of Her Own Making was a ministry I was not prepared to receive. And then last night, I did it. I took a peek into the rabbit hole and went headfirst into the latest edition of Squandering White Privilege.

The long version is best told in these three articles, all of which I read straight through in a row at 2 in the morning while I was stressing out about being unemployed and paying bills. If you have the time and the fortitude, I recommend this order:

First: “The Case of Caroline Calloway and her Creativity Workshop Tour”
Here we see a rich white girl with no qualifications other than a popular Instagram putting together a nationwide tour in less than a month that inevitably falls apart a la Fyre Festival because neither she nor anyone else knows what needs to be done logistically. White girls across the country ponied up $165 each for the privilege of learning how to be yourself from a woman who was faking it. And there was supposed to be salad and orchid crowns.

Second: “The Story of Caroline Calloway and her Ghostwriter Natalie”
The ghostwriter herself wrote it. Caroline’s friend Natalie was so good at writing Caroline’s Instagram captions that she (Caroline, not the friend) landed a 6-figure book deal. In terms of writing, it’s one of my favorite first person narratives of the year. In terms of subject, both of these white girls are maddeningly ridiculous. It’s wild read, from a budding friendship at NYU to multiple near misses with sexual assault wandering around at night in a foreign country.

Third: “Who is Caroline Calloway”
Vox hits the highlights. If you want to know broad strokes and can’t sit through the details, Vox is it.

If you want to know the broadest strokes: Caroline Calloway is a rich white girl. Her dad is a retired lawyer, her mom is a retired data scientist, and her grandparents were real estate tycoons who owned most of Sarasota or something. (x) She took glamorous pictures of her life, her best friend wrote lonnnnng captions, and they became so popular she got a $500,000 book deal to write her memoirs. She couldn’t finish the book, scammed her followers out of $165 a piece to “workshop” with her for four hours, and now certain corners of the internet are obsessed with how a talentless nobody could swan dive into half a million dollars and a massive following.

IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S WHITE AND RICH.

How many times have we seen this? White person from a privileged background tries to leverage that privilege into even more money. They have no skills other than salesmanship, so they sell something that doesn’t exist. When people finally want to receive what they paid for, the emperor is found to be stark naked.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

At this point in my life, I’m almost numb to watching unqualified white people fail upward to ever loftier heights of success and riches. Knowing Caroline Calloway got a book deal for memoirs she wasn’t writing doesn’t even make me blink twice. But y’all. Y’all!! All she had to do was let her friend finish writing the book! Sit still and tell a few stories, either true or fictionalized, let the girl who had been writing your Instagram finish writing the book, and both of y’all collect that bag. She couldn’t even be bothered to do THAT.

If someone was trying to pay me half a million dollars to let someone else write a book about my life, you couldn’t shut me up. What do you need, Sis? You want me to tell you about the bully who called me a faggot in second grade so I ran home to write mean haikus about him in my Trapper Keeper? You wanna know about how two of my friends and I set the carpet on fire in the guidance counselor’s office when we were supposed to be taking the flag down and folding it? Wanna know how I almost got expelled from school senior year because I wrote a blog about how a clarinet player and I drank the alcohol in a host family’s cabinet, replaced it with water, and showed up to rehearsal the next day mad hungover on an orchestra trip? I got stories on stories on stories. How much time you got. How much length we going for.

$500,000?! Couldn’t be bothered. She just let the deadlines pass and then cried about it when the publisher wanted their advance money back.

This country is founded upon an implicit trust in white people, and the economic success of this country in combination with a hypocritically bastardized Christian worldview of prosperity has led to a large proportion of the population that believes wealth is a byproduct of morality. If you’re rich, you deserve it. If you’re poor, you deserve it. We give more worth to the words of rich people because they matter more, and we give more benefit of the doubt to white people because we trust them to pull through and succeed. We are a country that is the perfect breeding ground for Caroline Calloway or Elizabeth Holmes or Anna Delvey or Billy McFarland.

We’re a country that put a businessman with multiple bankruptcies in the White House just because he said he was rich and had the flashy trappings of wealth. As long as there are rich white people, there will be Americans ready to follow in their wake hoping the illusion of prosperity and privilege rubs off on them.

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History

Take this Jim Crow era literacy test for Black people.

I have a master’s degree, and I failed on the first question.

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I know what a literacy test is, but sadly, I’d never looked one up to see what the questions were like. During Jim Crow, they were used to keep Black people from voting. Some poor and illiterate whites got caught in the net as well, and that makes sense for a country who, when founded, only gave voting rights to landowning whites, but the purpose was to keep Black people from being heard. Former congressional candidate Gary Chambers Jr. posted a literacy test today, and you can’t pass it. I can’t pass it. No one can pass it.

This particular test from Louisiana in 1964 was to be administered to anyone who could not prove they had finished 5th grade or higher, which would overwhelmingly apply to more Black people. We had less access to education and were more likely to quit school in order to work the land and help our parents keep a meager roof over the family’s head back when so many Black people were sharecroppers.

And there’s no uniform key for this test. The white registrar reads the answers and decides whether you answered correctly or not. I’m sure this test, on the rare occasion it was given to white people at all, was graded more leniently when the hand turning it in wasn’t colored.

So. Take it and see if you would be able to vote in Louisiana in 1964, less than 60 years ago.

Ten minutes to complete 30 questions is about twenty seconds per question, and you have to get every single one correct. If this was an actual literacy test, I would pass with flying colors, because I can read well enough to know that some of these questions are unanswerable, but it’s not about literacy. It’s about creating a standard that no one can meet and then applying it unfairly to Black people. It’s giving Black people additional burdens to be perfect that white people don’t have. It’s disparaging Michelle Obama for showing her arms in her White House portrait even though Melania has nude photoshoots online. It’s arresting Black people for marijuana at 3 times the rate of white people, even though the same percentage of Black people smoke weed as white people. (x) It’s Black college students being just as likely to find employment as white people who didn’t even finish high school. (x) It’s cops shooting unarmed Black people and taking a white mass shooter to Burger King. (x)

A lot of Black kids heard this refrain from our parents growing up: You have to be twice as good as the white folks to get half as far. However. When the judge and jury of your achievement is White America, you can still fail the test they never even have to take.

 

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Race

A moment for Gwen Berry

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It’s so funny to me that Conservatives think we care what they have to say about Gwen Berry being unpatriotic when those same people don’t care that the Capitol was stormed and vandalized.

One of these is a protest.

The other is a crime.

**Black lady turns away from the flag.**

WHAT A DISGRACE TO AMERICA!

**White people break into the Capitol and erect a gallows to hang elected officials.**

awwww economic anxiety 🥺🥺🥺🥺

 

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Race

France is giving the United States another Statue of Liberty.

Another symbol of liberty to a country that’s still oppressing its people.

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NYC has another Statue of Liberty on the way. France is sending us a smaller version to be placed on Ellis Island just across the water from Liberty Island where the original stands as a beacon to freedom…or something.

This new bronze statue, nicknamed the “little sister,” is one-sixteenth the size of the world-famous one that stands on Liberty Island.

“The statue symbolizes freedom and the light around all the world,” said Olivier Faron, general administrator of the CNAM [National Museum of Arts and Crafts]. “We want to send a very simple message: Our friendship with the United States is very important, particularly at this moment. We have to conserve and defend our friendship.”

(cont. CNN)

If you want to put a symbol of “freedom and light” anywhere, it shouldn’t be in the United States.

If you want to give the Statue of Liberty to the United States all over again anyway, give it in the spirit with which it was originally intended in the first place — as a gift to celebrate Black Americans.

I grew up with the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of hope and freedom for immigrants. “Give us your tired, your poor…” and all that, but Lady Liberty had been there for twenty years before those lines by Emma Lazarus were inscribed onto a plaque and installed at the pedestal. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of immigration (the voluntary kind, not the shackled and chained way most Black people got here) for two reasons. One, immigrants latched onto the massive sculpture, which is understandable because she was the first image of New York for most European immigrants arriving by boat on the way to be processed at nearby Ellis Island. Two, the creator, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, pitched the idea to raise funding from Americans in the most general terms of “liberty” without specifically referencing Black Americans. His plan worked since the United States did indeed agree to pay for the pedestal if France paid for the actual statue, but it was a pivot away from the original idea.

Édouard de Laboulaye was a French abolitionist and it was he, along with his social circle of abolitionists, who conceived of a massive gift to present to the United States after the Civil War — once slavery was outlawed. The proposal of Lady Liberty initially held broken and shackles to signify the broken chains of slavery instead of the tablet she holds today. The chains eventually made their way into the final version down around her feet, the original significance lost to most people and barely noticed.

The years immediately following the Civil War were filled with promise for Black Americans and de Laboulaye wanted to recognize that. We made great strides in education, civic engagement, and politics, but the South regained its footing and struck a compromise in the 1876 Presidential Election that saw federal troops removed from the Old Confederacy. Black people were back in chains, invisible shackles placed on our communities through coalitions built between lawmakers and law enforcement, private businesses and private citizens. When Bartholdi finished Lady Liberty, there was no way to “sell” the idea to the United States as a celebration of slavery’s end. Black America hated the idea, because we were being oppressed, terrorized, and murdered, and White America would’ve scoffed, because they were doing the terrorizing. She was pitched as a symbol of liberty, immigrants saw her as the first welcoming image of the United States, and then the government solidified that feeling by using words from Emma Lazarus.

Today, it’s more important than ever to remember why the Statue of Liberty was conceived in the first place, not a symbol of general liberty and freedom, but as a symbol of Black liberty and freedom. We are still fighting to have our history accurately taught in schools. We are still fighting to be the country de Laboulaye thought we were becoming when slavery ended. And we are still fighting to live up to the promise Lady Liberty has symbolized to millions of immigrants. This little sister will probably be all over the news as we get closer to July 4th, so whenever you see her, make sure you remind somebody that the Statue of Liberty was supposed to be a gift to celebrate the end of slavery, but the US put Black people back in chains too quickly for her to actually symbolize liberty and freedom for us.

 

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