Edition 5: Letter from the Editor

Welcome back to The Dilettante. The theme of edition five is: rebellion.

The past several months—the whole year, really—have been a whirlwind of disaster, malaise, surrealism, and general madness. Between the global pandemic and the most recent civil rights movement, with plenty of bloodshed on domestic soil and beyond, the existence and maintenance of this publication have weighed heavy on my mind. What is the point of it, in the grand scheme of things? Does there need to be a point at all? 

Perhaps there doesn’t need to be a greater purpose. As artists, and as human beings, we need an outlet to stay sane. After being cooped inside for half a year, I’m sure we could all use a nice scream into the abyss. I encourage you to use this edition’s theme as a vehicle for releasing what is trapped within you, whether that be anger, sadness, hopelessness, optimism, or any other emotion under the sun. 

In a society that equates stoicism to strength, the simple act of emotional vulnerability and transparency is the first step towards the rebellion of oppressive institutions. The societal emphasis on quiet resilience as a show of strength is an insidious tool that acts to enforce silence and complacency. Emotionality is not weakness or irrationality. It’s a sign of our humanity. 

Rebellion doesn’t have to be a violent uprising; rather, rebellion is the way—big or small—you resist conformity and expectations. There’s no right or wrong way to rebel, so long as you express your discontentment. Make your thoughts known through whatever medium empowers you. The best act of rebellion is refusing to be anything but yourself.

Published in Edition 5 of The Dilettante.

Essential Readings: Revolution Edition

This list of free-to-access readings has been curated from a variety of resources found on social media.

On Whiteness

Articles

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice by Corinne Shutack

How White Women’s Tears Threaten Black Existence by Cameron Glover

When Feminism is White Supremacy in Heels by Rachel Cargle

The Souls of White Folk by Stephen Jamal Leeper

The Abolition of Whiteness by Stephen Jamal Leeper

What Do We Do with White Folks? by Anthony James William

White People Have No Culture by Lorena Wallace

White Fragility: an interview with Dr. Robin DiAngelo by The Conscious Kid

Trump Defends White-Nationalist Protesters: ‘Some Very Fine People on Both Sides’ by Rosie Gray

Discourse and Debate: Is performative activism inherently bad? by Kayla Abrams

Amy Cooper, White Spaces, and the Political Projection of Whiteness by Lara Witt

The White Space by Elijah Anderson

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

How White People Can Hold Each Other Accountable to Stop Institutional Racism by Elly Belle

Books

The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

The Invention of the White Race: Volume I by Theodore W. Allen

The Invention of the White Race: Volume II by Theodore W. Allen

The Wages of Whiteness by David R. Roediger

How Jews Became White Folks & What That Says About Race in America by Karen Brodkin

On Abolition

Articles

Understanding the Role of Police Towards Abolitionism: On Black Death as an American Necessity, Abolition, Non-violence, and Whiteness by Joshua Briond

What a World Without Cops Would Look Like by Madison Pauly

The answer to police violence is not ‘reform’. It’s defunding. by Alex S. Vitale

Against Innocence: Race, Gender, and the politics of Safety by Jackie Wang

What Abolitionists Do by Dan Berger, Mariame Kaba, & David Stein

You Are Already an Abolitionist by Benji Hart

The Case for Abolition by Ruth Wilson Gilmore & James Kilgore

What Is Prison Abolition? by John Washington

What the Prison-Abolition Movement Wants by Kim Kelly

Books

Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis

Blood in My Eye by George L. Jackson

The Prison Letters of George Jackson by Soledad Brother

Political Prisoners, Prisons, and Black Liberation by Angela Davis

Voices of African American Women in Prison by Paula C. Johnson

On Racism & Blackness in America

The 1619 Project compiled by New York Times

Articles

In Defense of Looting by Vicky Osterweil

Forget “Looting.” Capitalism Is the Real Robbery. by William C. Anderson

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

We’re Sick of Racism, Literally by Douglas Jacobs

Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Where Is the Outrage for Breonna Taylor? by Renee Nishawn Scott

Race to the Bottom by Kimberlé Crenshaw

Police Brutality Aimed at Black People Is as American as Apple Pie by Monica Roberts

On Black and Intersectional Feminism

Articles

Black Female Writers Who Changed Feminist Theory by Abbey de Fulviis

A History of Black Feminism in the U.S. by MIT

Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics by Kimberlé Crenshaw

The Intersectionality Wars by Jane Coaston

Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color by Kimberlé Crenshaw

Books

How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics by bell hooks

I Am Your Sister by Audre Lorde

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

On Racial Capitalism

Articles

Racial Capitalism by Harvard Law Review

What Did Cedric Robinson Mean by Racial Capitalism? by Robin D. G. Kelley

How capitalism reduced diversity to a brand by Sean Illing

Racial capitalism: Making money off black and brown bodies by David Whitfield

Racial Capitalism and the Structural Roots of White Nationalism by Matt Birkhold

Books

Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang

Black Bourgeoisie by E. Franklin Frazier

Black Marxism by Cedric J. Robinson


Compilations

Black Revolutionary Texts
This Google Drive resource features prominent Black authors and covers a variety of issues, including class struggle in Africa and revolutionary solidarity.

Master List of Black Revolutionary Readings
This resource is organized by topic, including: Introduction to Black Radical Politics; Critical Race Class Studies; Capitalism, Fascism, Imperialism, Neocolonialism, and Settler-Colonialism; Indigenous Studies; and more.

Antiracist Allyship Starter Park
Resources and tools regarding racism, anti/Blackness, and how to be a better ally.

A World Without Police: Study Guide
This study guide is intended to help activists understand the police and craft strategies to abolish them. The guide examines the role police play in modern society and how they came to serve this function. It explores the impacts and contradictions of policing, and closes with a look at how communities have resisted police impunity and created alternative means of safety.

Abolition Study Resources
These resources are to support anyone who’s interested in learning more about abolition. The texts vary, and there are many different viewpoints and approaches to theorizing and working toward abolition. Some of what is included doesn’t mention abolition specifically but may offer some historical and political education.

Camila’s Abolition Reading List
These free/online pieces have shaped the curator’s understanding of abolition and what forms of real accountability individuals can collectively build to address and interrupt cycles of violence.

Please, Could You Be Tender?

We first spoke on a street in New York City under neon-lit marquees. We ate dinner across the table from each other, and later, breakfast as our thighs touched. “You’re only fourteen?” you said in surprise, as if we hadn’t sat in the same windowless room three times a week for the past eight months. “You’re so mature for your age.” I wore this comment as a badge of honor, proud that the world didn’t see me as the child I was—both a blessing and a curse. We shared gelato in Little Italy, and you held my hand as we walked back to our hotel. I thought, maybe this is what love is.

Fingers wandered under airplane blankets on the long flight home, and my pulse raced as I forced myself silent. Nobody stopped us. Why would they? I’m a big girl now. We kissed in the back of your car, parked on quiet streets. Hickeys marked my neck in the shape of a hand crushing my windpipe. I couldn’t breathe. That’s what they say in the movies, though. Love takes your breath away, right?

The first and only time you undressed me, I bled. My body had never experienced someone else. Not like this, at least. I pretend the other times didn’t happen. In your car, on the way back to school, I joked, “Wasn’t that illegal?” You were eighteen, four years my senior. You got quiet. You were quiet for the next few weeks. 

I cried to my best friend when your eyes glanced over me without second thought; we hadn’t spoken in days. “Didn’t you know? She just wanted to get in your pants.” That weekend, you picked me up to apologize and I ran from my mother before she could stop me from getting in your car. I got drunk on my first taste of vodka and stumbled around under blinding fluorescent lights, surrounded by strangers, my hand in yours. I looked at my reflection in the harsh lighting of the bathroom mirror, and she stared blankly back at me. I wrote a poem about how you made me feel like I was drowning, ice cold water filling my lungs. I broke up with you the next week. Then, I turned fifteen.


I was sixteen when we met, teeth gnashing at blood and guts and gore. I spilled my water and told you that I wanted to find a piece of my past at Burning Man; my cheeks flushed a bright red. In another universe, I’d just returned from the desert. You dropped me off with a wink and a hollow promise that I tucked into a drawer with all the rest.

We made the three-hour trip to your cabin in the woods while my mother drove my brother to a college two states away. You took my virginity in your dead grandmother’s bedroom. You had a thing for virgins. 

My best friend kissed your best friend. They lasted four years. We lasted two months, four if you count the time it took for me to end up in the hospital. “Were you trying to die?” my best friend asked me over the phone from our guidance counselor’s office. “Well, I wasn’t trying to live.”


You made me yours with a ring made out of gold wire, spiraled in at each end. We kissed in the dark before the curtains raised, Romeo to my Juliet—except, you were Lord Capulet, and I was a techie dressed in black. We slow-danced as the yelloworangered of the sunset seeped through the curtains and onto your bedroom walls. I started to cry as my heart spilled over, filling my chest and stomach and trickling down my bones. “I’m so scared,” I whispered. You pulled me closer in a tight embrace. “I promise I won’t hurt you.”

Five months later, we found ourselves sitting at opposite ends of my bed, our arms crossed tight. My third ultimatum hung in the air: treat me better or I’ll leave. Whatever happened to three strikes and you’re out? There was a brief moment of clarity. Maybe it was just a brain freeze, a masochistic sacrifice for the sticky sweet glue that held our relationship together in its fragile last weeks, but I wanted to believe in something real. I was tired of being a martyr for myself. I wanted you to fight for me.


Another year passed, and I was the girl in every song about irresistible seventeen-year-olds (at least, I thought I was). There was the twenty-something barista, then the other twenty-something barista. You were moving to Los Angeles for your band, or something else painfully cliché. I was into that, though; I was seventeen.

You invited me to the house you shared with your father. Your hand traced my thigh as we watched the Zodiac Killer go free, silently escaping his crimes. You told me that you wished I was older, that you would stay if I was staying. You pulled my hair and wrapped your hands around my throat until I gasped for air. I stopped thinking and gave in to the familiar sensation of my lungs screaming for oxygen. I didn’t leave until you were finished with me.


I moved across the country for a breath of fresh air. There’s no running from the past when it’s settled into your bones, into every inch of skin, into every kiss and sigh. I’m swimming in the ocean; I hardly know how to tread water, but I manage to stay afloat as long as I keep moving. I’ve been pummeled by waves enough times to know how to resurface.

Published in Edition 4 of The Dilettante.

Edition 4: Letter from the Editor

It feels like just yesterday I was rollerblading to the park with my older brother. Our hot summer days were filled with green grass and water guns, walking to the library to escape the heat because only the master bedroom had the luxury of air conditioning. Now, my most recent memories of summer are overtaken by nine-to-fives and lonely evenings, finding any which way to kill time because my friends are scattered all over the country, like seeds in the wind, chasing relationships and internships and careers. 

Embarking on this journey of adulthood has been bittersweet. I’m excited to finally have a place to call my own, a life that I have truly created for myself. I’ve become a mother to five plants and a black cat named Huxley. Some nights, though, all I want is my mom’s cooking, to be thirteen again, with no bills and no real responsibilities. Some nights, I wish I could turn back time.

The theme of edition four is chrysalis. During the pupal stage of development, a caterpillar sheds its skin (several times) before being encased in a chrysalis, in which it undergoes metamorphosis. The body of the caterpillar dies, digesting itself from the inside out, and the remaining collection of cells is reborn as a butterfly. Despite its static appearance to the outside world, this is a time of rapid growth and change. We are all in an era of metamorphosis, of emerging from our chrysalises, either in the inception of true adulthood or simply as a result of this surreal climate of crisis and uncertainty. The world as I know it is changing faster than I can keep up with, yet I’ve got no choice but to keep going. 

As I sink into my twenties and an inevitable quarter-life crisis, I reflect on my youth with perhaps an unwarranted romanticism. I know that my teenage years were plagued by depression and angst, and I’ve got an endless archive of journal entries to prove it. But looking back now, I can’t help but put on those notorious rose-colored glasses. 

It’s not that I wish to be transported back to all those years ago, but rather that I have a greater appreciation for them now. I do love my twenties. I can now love the world; I can now love myself. But growing up is scary. As someone who finds solace in lists and schedules, the uncertainty of the rapidly approaching future, one that will almost certainly contain unprecedented change and loss and heartbreak, scares the shit out of me. But as we move forward, I think it’s equally as important to remember what’s behind us, what’s gotten us to this point. The friendships, the hardships, the love. We are raised by a village, then we become the village.

Love, Vi

Published in Edition 4 of The Dilettante.

puppeteer

I sit on the couch and outside
the thunder booms as loud as
the voice you raise to
tell me right from wrong

a flash of light,
for a second I can see
we could set the world on fire
if only we tried harder

glass and wood protect me from
the flooding outside my door
I want to swim in it
I want to dive headfirst

but you stop me, tugging on
the rope that loops through my ribs
blush pink cheeks and a frozen smile
limbs jerk as you pull

let me jump into the deep end,
please, I promise I can swim
or maybe stay afloat

but if I sink
no one would see
the water fill my throat

No one asked: Pandemic Edition

So, we’re in the middle of a pandemic.  What now?

I’m not going to pretend to have any answers.  I’m a 20-year-old third-year college student.  I don’t have a real medical background.  Sure, I was pre-med for five semesters, which my mother seems to think makes me a doctor, but I certainly don’t know the first thing about highly transmittable viruses.  All I know is what I’m told so, for now, I’m staying at home and doing my due diligence. 

In the middle of a global crisis, it’s difficult to see the distinction between self-care and sloth.  According to entrepreneurial Instagram, we should all be starting workout plans and founding online businesses and learning new skills.  But let’s be real, that’s not realistic (at least, not for all of us).  Also, using productivity as a basis of worth is a tool of capitalism!  The machine we are supposed to be raging against!

I’m not saying that lying in bed all day is the ultimate “fuck you” to capitalism.  Certainly, you are not sticking it to The Man™ by shirking all responsibilities in lieu of binging Tiger King on Netflix.  But I think there’s a balance to be struck between capitalism-driven productivity and self-exploration for the sake of enjoying existence.  Now is time as ever to delve into a new hobby, to do something regardless of whether or not you’ll be good at it.  Three weeks ago, when this all began, I ventured to Michaels (the craft store) for the first time since elementary school, probably, and bought a sketchpad, Micron pens, and watercolors.  As it turns out, I’m not as bad of an artist as I thought. 

The purpose of this essay isn’t to stand atop my soapbox and tell you that you have to start crafting or gardening or writing or whatever it is you might feel slightly compelled to do.  I don’t think that picking up a hobby will magically transform this literal pandemic into an inspirational era of growth.  It’s okay to acknowledge that this sucks.  It’s okay to be disappointed about missing a concert or a vacation or your college graduation.  You can feel those things while still being sensitive to the gravity of the situation and recognizing the privilege that you might be experiencing within it. 

Yes, I said it.  The P word.  Privilege.

I know it gets thrown around like a football in the hands of frat dudes, inexplicably shirtless on a college quad.  You might be tempted to roll your eyes and shove me aside as another liberal SJW, desperate to blame my plight on somebody, anybody.  But I’ll be the first to admit that I have privilege, too.  Exceptionally so.  Honestly, I consider myself incredibly lucky in this present situation.  For the first time in my life, I have relative financial stability (meaning that I know I can afford rent for at least one more month).  I have my own place in New Orleans, meaning I don’t have to fly home and live with my family for an indefinite length of time.  I’m babysitting a friend’s car, I have food for groceries, and I inadvertently stocked up on toilet paper long before the shortages began because I unintentionally kept buying more than I needed, forgetting that I had some hidden up on a shelf at home. 

The next time you go to the store and complain about the lack of produce or toilet paper or cleaning supplies, I implore you to take a second to think about the fact that you could have bought whatever you needed, had it been stocked.  Yes, it is exceedingly frustrating that we cannot purchase the resources that we need.  But I imagine that it would be even more frustrating to be unable to access those resources at all, to have running water and a hot meal be something that only exists in your dreams.  I’m not here to tell you that “someone has it worse” because, well, of course they do.  If you’re reading this, you at least have access to the Internet, an invisible privilege that most of us mindlessly overlook, distracted by the endless scrolling that consumes us.  But again, it’s okay to have the things you have; you aren’t a bad person for having more resources than someone else.  Unless you’re a billionaire, in which case, you are a bad person.

My point is, there is much to think about.  I hope to use this disruption from regular programming to reflect on myself and on the state of society; I hope to educate myself as much as I can.  I know I’m not going to be the person to cure any of our great downfalls, but I pray that things don’t simply return to normal at the end of this, whenever that may be.  Now is the time to radicalize.  Now is the time to learn.  Now is the time to come into yourself.  Now is the time to read those books and listen to those podcasts and watch those documentaries you’ve been putting off.  Now is the time to learn how to crochet or draw or paint or whatever it is you’ve always told yourself you could never do.  You’ve got nothing better to do, do you?

I certainly don’t intend to tout myself as an exemplary model of self-motivation or radicalization, but I do hope that I’ve said enough to get you thinking.  These are unprecedented times, as far as our lifetimes go, and the world can be a scary place.  But in knowledge and in the arts, we might find some solace.


If you need some resources, check out this massive reading list, put together by @queersocialism on Twitter.

COVID-19 Resources

During this global pandemic, fear and chaos run rampant.  In an age where personal anecdotes shared through social media often reveal the realities that those in power withhold, it can be difficult to ascertain an empirical truth that isn’t muddied by hysteria.  For this reason, The Dilettante team has collected a list of articles to hopefully provide you with sound advice and reliable information during these trying times.  Stay inside, wash your hands, and stay safe!

How to safely sanitize the things you’re bringing home

REALITY CHECKS

This piece of video-journalism about the state of the hospital system (NYC)

Another piece about the state of the hospital system (NOLA)

A projection of how the COVID-19 outbreak will play out in the United States

An eerie look at quarantined San Francisco

RESOURCES FOR THOSE AFFECTED BY EMPLOYMENT LOSS

Expanded unemployment benefits for COVID-19

How to apply for unemployment benefits (California)

Applying for unemployment insurance benefits (Louisiana)

A state-by-state resource guide for musicians affected by COVID-19

FAQ about the Senate relief bill


As an aside: As we sit at home and scroll through an abundance of tweets that play on the gradual loss of sanity that results from isolation, I encourage you to reflect on the psychology of incarceration.  Some literature to consider regarding this topic:

Incarceration nation

How prison changes people

fairy tales

it’s funny how memory works
like watercolor on paper,
colors bleeding together.
Red and blue make purple,
right?

how do you explain
that you don’t remember your father’s face?
Thank god for photographs,
for a love I can pass off as my own

I’ve spent my whole life clinging
to Sunday afternoons
to bookstores and grassy parks
to climbing trees while you stand underneath
to Tigger, the 30-pound cat
(but really, can a cat even be that fat?)

was any of it real?
Maybe in my mind
Maybe only in my mind

tiki dancing, a glint of gold in your eyes
flames so bright they light the world on fire
It’s dark as night
but I can barely see the stars

some days I wake up
convinced that none of it was real
but maybe that’s a childhood
writing stories in blood

daydreaming
of the days I felt
loved

Published in Edition 3 of The Dilettante.

Edition 3: Letter from the Editor

“Love is a force, but it is sometimes called a feeling. When we imagine that love is a feeling, we may be disappointed because we notice that we cannot keep any feeling up and running all the time. A feeling is an intense, immediate, sensate/physical experience. Feelings have a beginning, a middle, and an end; love is ongoing. Feelings are responses to specific stimuli; love is the stimulus and response at the same time. Love can be a state of being, a fond sentiment, an ongoing bond. All of these have an enduring quality. Thus, love, since it lasts beyond its instances of expression, includes and happens with feelings rather than is one.”

– David Richo, How to Be an Adult in Love

I am in love with love. I am in love with locking eyes from opposite sides of a crowded room, fingertips brushing wrists, gentle kisses in the soft light of early morning, whispering I love you’s when you think they’re not listening. I am in love with cheesy romantic comedies, the ones where true love makes the impossible possible and there’s a happily ever after. I am in love with others in love, watching my best friends smile after they kiss, matching mood rings align when their fingers interlock, shared cheese boards and hotel rooms and rosé hard cider. 

Undoubtedly, my fascination with love was born out of a broken home; it’s hard not to dream of fairy tales when that seems like the only universe in which a family unit can exist. I spent the better part of my youth chasing the love that I watched play out on screens, blue light like a hypnotist’s pendulum. I still have to remind myself to sit still.

I am a strong believer in the fact that love is a choice. People can fall out of love as easily as they fall into it. But loving someone – that’s sustainable, if you choose for it to be. As comforting as the sentiment may be, it’s also terrifying. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past several years, it’s that the conception of love is a unique thing. Everyone is molded and scarred by their own experiences. Reciprocated, equivocal love can feel like an impossible quest. (Sometimes, I think I’ve found it.)

This edition is all about love. Romantic, platonic, unrequited, head-over-heels love. Love in its endless number of forms. The good and the bad; the new and the old. The world is not all pretty, but sometimes it can be.

Love,
Vi

Published in Edition 3 of The Dilettante.