Welcome to another edition of The Trend Report™.
Get ready for an unpacking of the term “Latinx,” some ups and downs for the environment, political beauty ads, and Le Creuset TikTok culture.
PS. Forward to your friends and subscribe here.
In college, a professor assured me that I was “white presenting.” I remember being a bit confused by the term, mostly because I hadn’t heard it before. She explained that she, a person with white skin whose parents are from Central America, isn’t quite white but “white presenting.” Latinx persons like us, she said, are “white presenting.”
I guess I am “white presenting” to some, as my mother is Puerto Rican and I have, uh, white skin. I had considered myself “white passing” at this time, until this same professor corrected this idea, explaining that we don’t pass but we present, meaning people think we’re white when we are not. This all made sense but there was also the feeling that some ideological smoke and mirrors were in my me.
At the same time, I adopted the term Latinx in relation to my racial identity, a term that places the un-gendering X where “Latino” or “Latina” allow gender to overtake language. This seemed to make sense, as this is a term that attempts to house as many Hispanic and Latin persons as possible within one word, regardless of which part of the diaspora you come from or what gender identity you are or how you “present”: you are a form of Hispanic or Latin and you are signaling your openness with this word. I swapped in this word completely, erasing Hispanic or Latin for myself and others. I didn’t have the sort of “But...what exactly am I saying here?” hesitation as I did with “white passing,” even if I can’t quite tell you where “Latinx” ends and “Hispanic” or “Latin” begins. Which of those am I really? My intellectual laziness yielded an inability to investigate my geographic, cultural, and even etymological relationship to this word. I took it on, even helping contribute to a journal that used this word in their title. My colleagues and I thought the phrase was great. We, so many different forward thinking persons from the Hispanic and Latin diaspora, found this to be the most inclusive term for our mission. We thought this was the most us.
That may not be right, as there have been many recent stories pointing out how the attempted inclusive “Latinx” is maybe a bit exclusive. As Vice explains, “Latinx” erases Black Hispanics as it recalls the casta, a caste system from Spain that socially ranked persons based on how close to “European you were” or, more accurately, by “your proximity to whiteness.” The critique here is obvious and the concern with “Latinx” is that it erases Black Hispanics and Latin persons: “Latinx” filters out hyphens and regional adjectives, effectively exhuming the casta. Unlike Hispanic – which represents those from Spanish speaking countries – Latin and “Latinx” encompasses countries with more of a mixture of cultures like Brazil and Haiti.
As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, questioning “Latinx” is important because words like this – and phrases like “white passing” – seem to be the academy, the thinkers, placing what they think atop of lived experiences, effectively creating an intellectual colonialism and, to investigate and interrogate terms like “Latinx” is to investigate colonialism. My friend Edgar wondered about this on Twitter, asking where “Latinx” came from and how the word conjures condescension. Why not let people identify themselves as they like to be presented and, if their presentation is cause for question, have a discussion instead of saying someone is wrong? The struggle with “Latinx” recalls of the struggle with the word “queer” and how this is still a slur for so many, save for elites and academics.
The irony here is that “Latinx” is having a crossover moment, for better or worse: CBS and Reader’s Digest and History are amplifying and exploring the phrase so that non-Zoomers and non-Millennials can understand a word that is being used on the campaign trail; Pew investigated the title to find it’s kinda a white (neo)liberal US thing; TheNew Yorker did their own investigation, wandering around “Hispanic” as a title; and all this is set against the backdrop of the anti-“Latinx” movement gaining traction as racial injustice converges with intersectionality, to wonder how brownness mixes with Black Lives Matters or how Eurocentering misses the point.
This is all to say: terms and identity, history and geography, skin color and experience are revealing how language can be a faulty tool. When my professor tried to convince me that I was “white presenting,” this was a well intentioned way to center my non-whiteness, despite society continuing to perceive me as white, despite any linguistic attempts to undo that. “Latinx” attempts to be inclusive but unfortunately is exclusive, occupying a stained space. There may not ever be a “right” word though.
Interrogate the words you use, both in respect to yourself and others. It’s easy to be corralled into the corrective but again: we all have to do our homework. Understand what we say and what we mean and where these efforts converge and diverge. Social justice and sociological language is so, so great – but we can’t simply say things like “gentrification” or “queer” or “white presenting” without recognizing the systems and conversations they traffic in.
Race and hate and their overlaps.
A Black Belgian Student Saw a White Fraternity as His Ticket. It Was His Death.
Germany’s Far Right Reunified, Too, Making It Much Stronger
Black Germans Say It’s Time to Look Inward
Germany Dismisses Military Intelligence Official After Neo-Nazi Scandals
There’s a disturbing synergy here and, when looking at these stories together, you can tell the temperature of Europe — Particularly Germany. — and how they too are coming down with a racist sickness. I like to think that, yes, these countries are more equipped and more mature to handle items like race than America but: you never know. Never put your guard down.
Laws Barring Unauthorized Private Militia Groups
Given how certain political figures in America keep blowing dog whistles and inspiring militia action, Georgetown has made a very smart fact sheet that helps you search and explore local laws regarding private militias. This is specifically in relationship to them blocking your polling stations.
Could Barbie Be the White Ally Capable of Helping Kids Better Understand Racism?
America’s favorite (white) doll does her part to discuss America’s deepest issue. Good! But also: must we always turn to corporations and business entities to speak about the issues instead of our government? How is Barbie pressuring local and national officials on matters of inequality? Does this even qualify as productive “change” or is this more (good) noise at this point?
Asian Americans Are Sharing Photos In Honor Of Kamala
Very extremely cute.
Ups and downs related to the environment.
Exxon’s Plan for Surging Carbon Emissions Revealed in Leaked Documents
California Has Its First 'Gigafire' in Modern History
This Year's Hole in the Ozone Is Twice the Size of the U.S.
Things are decidedly not-great for this beautiful creature we symbiotically inhabit. For example: Big Oil mega-corporation Exxon has plans to ruin the planet whilst the forest fires in California have reached a grim milestone, as an open literal and existential window suggests we have big problems ahead. So what exactly are we doing to help the planet?
New Polling Shows Voters Want to Hold Big Oil’s Feet to the Fire
Bug Breeders Are Cultivating Waste-Guzzling Flies to Gobble Up America’s Trash
The Teracube 2e Is a Repair-Friendly Smartphone for Dirt Cheap
Levi's Launches New Denim Buyback Program
Humpback whales seize chance to sing in Alaska's cruise-free Covid summer
Now that you’ve had your downers, here are your uppers: people want to hold Big Oil (Ahem, Exxon.) accountable for their bullshit; bugs that help curb waste while creating a beneficial byproduct are thriving; a phone that reduces waste by being waste-free itself could compete with your iPhone; a major clothing brand is proactively offering an enticing way to curb waste; and we have a win for the biggest ocean dogs.
Stories at the intersection of technological freedoms and failures.
Rebels within: the Facebook staff openly challenging Zuckerberg
I’m a software engineer at Uber and I’m voting against Prop 22
We all know how terribly politics and tech mix. Thankfully, some on the inside of these corporations are using their platform – as employees, as activists — to speak up and make change. Here are two examples of persons at Facebook and Uber who are speaking up for good.
Illinois Facebook users can now file claims for up to $400
Speaking of shit Facebook does that is gross, people in Illinois can get compensation because the social network was scanning their faces without permission. Creepy!!
Mail-In Voter Fraud: Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign
Here’s an extensive deep dive on the myth of mail-in voter fraud — and how tech has played a key role.
How Cameo Blew Up During Quarantine
You can bet an essay about the importance of Cameo is coming in a future edition of the Report™ but, for now, let The New Yorker explain.
The gay community is beautifully reclaiming #ProudBoys
I said this on Twitter and I’ll say it again: this is corny and not helpful and also very late. K-pop stans would have done a more effective smear campaign against the hate group.
"TikTok’s duet feature can result in the most hilarious and creative collaborations"
There’s been a lot of talk about how dueting on TikTok is reshaping music and revealing some of the most creative collaborations. Case in point? This grocery story musical. No wonder TikTok users find the app to be an effective high.
I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about Caravaggio. The seventeenth century Italian painter is known for his gay agenda and has been getting in 2020 for his handling – literally and figuratively – of the dark. New York’s art critic Jerry Saltz recently reflected on his works, finding an awe in how the painter embodies being lost-and-found, that his works help us “come to terms with something” huge. The New York Times Magazine featured Teju Cole searching the artist’s darkness, finding that Caravaggio “at home in that pain” that we all feel right now. Even artist David Hockney, via a re-riculating video, posits that the artist must have had a camera to work with shadows in the way that he did.
This is distant escapism in art that pairs well (Or poorly.) with another artist having a moment: Philip Guston.
The twentieth century American artist is known for his relationship to abstraction, for satire, for taking the Vietnam War era and putting it into his paintings. And what came with that? The KKK. His paintings create caricatures of many things, from the act of smoking to Richard Nixon to form itself, but what’s most remarkable (“remarkable”) is his use of the ghostly, hooded white figures of the KKK as punching bags, as surrogates for whiteness run amok.
In a quainter time, in the seventies and thereabouts, his works seemed edgy in a refreshing way. Now, in 2020? This is still true but, for the persons running a major, international exhibition of Guston’s work, they see his work as “tone deaf” and toxic instead of sharp or even witty. This feeling has led to the exhibition being pushed to 2024.
The fallout of this push has been huge. Some have pointed to the show and the statement contradicting each other as Guston’s creations are anything but tone deaf. The idea of pushing the shows to a later day suggests racism being a finite problem, when the point of his KKK skewing work was to seemingly stare down evil. Nearly a hundred artists signed an open letter calling out the show’s delay, highlighting how Guston and his work is an opportunity to educate instead being ashamed that the works are the works that they are, as if their racial undertones are a new discovery.
Kaywin Feldman of the National Gallery of Art, one of the persons behind the exhibition, spoke about how the death of Philando Castile inspired the delay. Feldman said the National Gallery was unprepared to speak to the moment, given that the staff is mostly white and they feel unprepared to have such “big” discussions, especially not-in-person.
While this delay may be questionable, a big problem here is that refusing the nature Guston’s work is indulges a fantasy, that artwork and artists, time and place, do not exist. This decision seems to mute history until a more convenient time, which simply doesn’t exist. Unlike Caravaggio and his darkness, Guston needs to be investigated more fully – and now seems like the perfect time.
A few notes from culture.
What Is Poop Music and Does It Really Help You Poop?
Yes, there is an entire sub-genre of music trying to make you shit. It may not work but, hey, people are trying to make it a thing.
Duck Stamp Artists Turn to Spent Shotgun Shells to Meet New Pro-Hunting Mandate
In some obscure “Trump sucks!” moves, the contagious politician has required paintings for a national duck stamp contest to include hunting items. This is………….yucky.
Netflix Wrestles With Its Conscience, Cancels GLOW Due to the Coronavirus
"After the GLOW cancellation, a reader of mine did a quick analysis of the 23 shows"
It is so dumb that GLOW is over but even dumber that Netflix seems to be axing off women (and minority) led shows.
Rihanna apologizes to Muslim community for ‘unintentionally offensive’ mistake
"Everybody say thank you Rihanna !!"
I love Coucou Chloe and had no idea that she was the reason people are mad at Rihanna. In any event, the queen of all things (Rihanna) is also pushing plus size men on us and thank you for that, queen.
How Kansas City residents are stepping up to ensure voter participation
My friend Danielle is doing something really cool in Kansas City to get people voting! And all with the help of good design, too.
Barker takes his family on a cosmic adventure in ‘Utility’
This song is great and this video is great too.
Items for a case of the sillies.
"This is so important"
In case you need himbo explained, here you go.
"Wendy Williams pronouncing “COVID” like this has me screaming"
Cannot stop listening to Wendy saying “cornova.”
"this is such a fascinating concept"
"by age 25 you should have a pair of pants"
This is a personal attack and I will not take such attacks.
Twitter-controlled anal vibrators are the cyberpunk future we need
Maybe this story is too crass to include but, hey, we all need to stare into the darkest parts of the internet together, don’t we?
The Absolute Perverts Who Love Getting Their Sleeves Wet When Washing Their Hands
NO NOPE NO THANKS ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES WEIRDOS
"Here’s one way a colony can get a new queen!"
“They will kill her immediately.”
“My 20 year old cousin got his own apartment and it's going pretty well”
Ah, to be young and fucking dumb.
"Idk why this made me feel good but it did"
I don’t like this TikTok but I think you will!
And, finally, me (safely) at the club.
Next week, we’re talking secret babies and McDonald’s collabs.