• Emily Leibert aptly notes, “Lensa AI is full of red flags.” She delves into a few of them for Jezebel, including the technology’s racial and gendered undertones and skew toward Western beauty standards:

Not only is the proliferation of these images adding to already-existing misogyny; they’re also explicitly racist. One Jewish woman said her nose was made “so much smaller.” Black women said their skin was lightened, mixed race women said their racial nuances were all but erased, and some Asian American women found themselves looking like femme-bots. Given that Lensa AI bills itself as taking photos “to the next level” to “perfect the facial imperfections,” erasing and minimizing the features of women of color means the AI deems them undesirable.

  • New York’s Central Park is naming one of its entrance gates after Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise, three decades after their wrongful conviction in the Central Park Five Case. Shaye Weaver writes for TimeOut:

The historic names of Central Park’s entrances were meant to “be representative of the whole people” and “extend to each citizen a respectful welcome.”

It wasn’t until the Robert Moses area that entrances were actually inscribed. Around the park’s perimeter, you can find the “Artisans’ Gate,” the “Merchants’ Gate,” the “Scholars’ Gate” and the “Artists’ Gate.” Others include the “Farmers’ Gate,” the “Miners’ Gate,” the “Mariners Gate, the “Inventors’ Gate,” the “Pioneers’ Gate,” the “Women’s Gate,” the “Children’s Gate,” the “Girls Gate” the “Boys’ Gate,” the “Strangers’ Gate” and the “Gate of All Saints.”

The gate marked as “The Gate of the Exonerated” is not an original park entrance—it was added during the Robert Moses era but it is now a significant entrance because it’s near where the Five are from and is a popular entrance to the park for Harlem residents, the Conservancy said during the meeting.

  • Last week, a New Jersey mosque was targeted by a truck parading Islamophobic imagery on digital display screens, the latest in a series of anti-Muslim actions across the state. Rowaida Abdelaziz for the Huffington Post has the story:

Dina Sayedahmed, the communications manager for the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the incidents “deliberate and well-coordinated.”

“By targeting Islamic centers and repeatedly circling their premises, the perpetrator expects New Jersey’s Muslim community to answer to, or even feel shame for, an event that occurred entirely independent of them,” she told HuffPost in an emailed statement. “To demand that Muslims in New Jersey answer for Muslims oceans away is not only unreasonable but also dangerous.”

Professional historians of a paler shade have mostly kept their distance from Horne, while his work has become essential reading among some thinkers and activists on the left. Even as he has been rewriting earlier U.S. history he continues to publish carefully documented narratives on increasingly various topics, most recently expanding into jazz, boxing, and the history of Black journalism as well as continuing with studies of foreign relations and Black radicals (and one fascist). But unlike journalists and so-called “presidential historians” who churn out pop histories based on what seems to them a sufficient number of easy-to-find printed sources, Horne delights in obscure and neglected sources from manuscript collections, political pamphlets available only in research libraries, and dissertations and masters’ theses from smaller regional schools that even specialists may not have noticed. He’s been accused of being partisan and ideological (as has every historian on the left), and one book is particularly controversial (more on that below), but he is arguably more thorough than most.

A lawyer and an activist before he became a professor of history, Horne files his detailed briefs with an urgency that match his commitment to a Black anti-capitalist internationalism. He’s made many contributions, especially to the history of the left in the twentieth century, but lately his broad and ambitious accounts of an earlier United States in a hemisphere of empires and enslaved people have scaled up, giving readers a more synoptic and honest account than we have been getting from the doyens and the textbooks.

  • As the University of California graduate student strike begins its second month, Tracy Rosenthal contextualizes the movement for The New Republic within UC’s role as a landlord, to which half of its grad students pay half their monthly income in rent:

There’s more to the academic workers’ struggle than salaries. At stake is the privatization project that has for decades entangled the public university with for-profit enterprise, particularly in real estate. As the strike’s focus on rent burdens and its initial demand of a cost-of-living adjustment make clear, workers are not just fighting for what they live on, but against an institution that constrains where and how they live.

High rents have been central to U.C. grad worker organizing efforts from the start. At U.C. Santa Cruz, a group of grad workers spent 2018 canvassing for Measure M. That citywide attempt to protect tenants from evictions and cap yearly rent increases in line with the consumer price index was defeated after real estate lobbies outspent advocates 12-to-1. The group turned its attention to building a U.C. Santa Cruz tenants’ union—organizing the tenants within U.C. housing, one of the largest landlords in the city. But this project fizzled too. After these setbacks, Sarah Mason, a head steward at UAW 2865 and a teaching assistant in sociology at U.C. Santa Cruz, explained, “The clear path forward was to articulate ourselves as workers directly to our employer.” Grad workers couldn’t intervene to make rent prices affordable, so they sought a raise to be able to afford rent.

  • Disability activist Alice Wong discusses the astronomical cost of home caregiving and avenues toward a more just healthcare system with KQED:

I already receive almost 24 hours of care per day through two programs, but it was impossible finding workers due to low wages, worker shortages and the fluidic nature of the workforce. I needed people I could train who were relatively reliable, so I resorted to hiring a team of private-pay caregivers to augment the help I receive from my family.

By the way, the wage rate for home care workers in the programs I am on is a paltry $18.75 per hour in San Francisco. And there are much lower rates in other counties. A generous friend launched a GoFundMe campaign to finance the indefinite costs of my private pay care, which is approximately $600 per day. This is something no disabled person should have to do to live in the community. Knowing how close I was to being institutionalized still haunts me and brings a searing clarity on how our society is focused on capitalism, productivity and independence, all of which is a scam.

  • And while the pandemic spurred a surge of new telehealth options, a number of these startups were actually sending patients’ information to tech corporations, The Markup and STAT News found. Todd Feathers, Katie Palmer, and Simon Fondrie-Teitler write:

Rather than providing care themselves, telehealth companies often act as middlemen connecting patients to affiliated providers covered by HIPAA. As a result, information collected during a telehealth company’s intake may not be protected by HIPAA, while the same information given to the provider would be. 

“All the privacy risks are there, with the mistaken but entirely reasonable illusion of security,” said Matthew McCoy, a medical ethics and health policy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “That’s a really dangerous combination of things to force the average consumer to deal with.” 

  • Not to depress you, but this thread is shocking (though probably not if you work in an art nonprofit, where these numbers line up with the horrors of working in a nonprofit):

While the Covid billionaires’ average net worth is still up substantially compared to before the pandemic, the outsized gains have crumbled away. Wealth has retreated dramatically in each subgroup, led by e-commerce. Assets there have fallen by an average of 58% from their peak as investor interest — and speculative bets — have cooled and many bored-at-home people have resumed their pre-Covid lives.

The rise and decline of these fabulous fortunes took place against a bleak backdrop. As the Covid-fueled everything rally sent asset prices into the stratosphere, workers across the globe further down on the economic ladder lost jobs, businesses and savings.

There are about 97 million more people living on less than $1.90 a day because of the pandemic, according to a World Bank report.

  • For Prism Reports, Kimberly Rooney writes about the political undercurrents of adoption and healing from its impact in tandem with her experiences of sexual violence:

Turning away from the truths of adoption might be easier—for adoptive parents, adoptees, and anyone who doesn’t want to challenge the normative ideas our culture has about family—but it makes it more difficult for adoptees to process our experiences. It denies us the language and narratives in which we can recognize and articulate our own experiences. It minimizes the systemic inequities that tear families apart, the violence of separating a child from their birth family, community, and culture, and the lingering trauma that those children carry into adulthood. 

  • One of the most eye-opening videos about the realities and impact of colonialism on a country I’ve ever seen. Please watch.
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  • All I want for Christmas is Lexapro!

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

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Lakshmi Rivera Amin

Lakshmi Rivera Amin (she/her) is a writer and artist based in New York City. She currently works as Hyperallergic's editorial coordinator.

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