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WILK | HIST 2020: Unlearning American Lies

Before the whir of life-changing events and the unprecedented-ness that has characterized the past six months, I was bent over my notebook for Black Radical Tradition in the U.S., taught by Professor Russell Rickford, Africana and American Studies,  rushing to sloppily jot down his last sentence: “Americanism is ahistorical.”

More recently, sitting on my couch instead of a desk and staring not at slides but the rolling credits for Spike Lee’s most recent war drama, Da 5 Bloods, I heard an echo of Prof. Rickford in the back of my head. And since then, I’ve been reminded of those three words so often that I now hear them in my own voice, as I read people’s denialism about the United States’ militant capacity to conquer civilians. Specifically its own citizens. Over videos of federal agents deployed on the streets of New York, Portland and Chicago, Homeland Security Investigations officers brutalizing protestors and plainclothes cops snatching people into unmarked vans, outrage and shock have been weirdly focused on where this is happening, and whose citizens it’s happening to, rather than the simple fact that it’s happening. These reactions reveal a need to create distance between America and the evidence before us, and to pretend that distance is as geographical as it is ethical: “A little graffiti and some toppled statues and we turn into freaking [Al]Fallujah.

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WILK | Bull and Bookclubs: The Higher Ed Response to Bigotry

A four-hundred-year history of American racial brutality has streets across the country demanding change. And yet unresponsiveness is still being wrapped up aesthetically as a concession. Instead of taking action, various establishments rely on sundry statements from the atonement assembly line to quiet rebellion and save face. Police murders and anti-Blackness are being met with a golden age of apology, in which Cornell is disappointingly and unsurprisingly participatory. Racism, and the magnitude of its gruesomeness, is uncapturable.

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WILK | The Unusual Business of Feelings and Finals

It’s finals season. Sort of. Which means I’m very busy gnawing pen caps beyond recognition, trying to figure out where the hours I promised to dedicate productivity ran off to and how my caffeine-high lent itself to more characters tweeted than words typed into docs. Evidently, and despite the circumstances that occupy the greeting of every email I’ve written since March, it seems my end-of-semester business is proceeding as usual. I mean, it isn’t.

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WILK | JustGirlyThings, Womanhood When No One’s Watching

Earlier this week I woke up with reddened, crust-filled eyes and strained to check my phone for the time. Class was in four minutes and counting down. Shit. But, online instruction brought slight comfort to this realization. I didn’t have to jump out of bed and start a chaotic race across campus or even worry about losing all the minutes that slip into the void the mirror of a public bathroom becomes when you’re agonizing over your reflection.

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WILK | The Headline That Hurt the Most

On Wednesday I woke up late, and to bad news. But I guess that second part isn’t unique from Tuesday, or Monday, or Sunday or whatever number of days came before that since this started, during which each day’s “good morning” is in the form of a new distressing headline that becomes weirdly indistinguishable from the last. You know this if you have the privilege of spending this mandated isolation period in constant search of entertainment, rather than in the much more dire, enduring circumstances which are a reality for millions of people across America. You’ll likely also understand the re-invigorated, childlike inclination to make games of nothing. So, let’s play.

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WILK | Viral Nihilism, Chronically Coping When No One Gives Us a Cure

I was in seventh grade and 12 years old, when my history teacher, Mrs. Saylor, paused and turned her attention away from the dirty whiteboard in a moment of realization to say that we, the cluster of restless preteens seated in front of her, had never known life without war. I’m still not sure if that statement was completely correct. I do know that she was right about the list events she subsequently rattled off to try to help us, children supposedly bombarded with unending violence on the very largest scale, understand the stuff we’d been through, the stuff we’d seen: 9/11, the Iran/Iraq War, ongoing military aggressions with Afghanistan, a hard-hitting recession, the Boston Marathon Bombing, constantly-stacking murders by our police force, Sandy Hook Elementary and so many shootings since that it’s far past the point of pathos to try to name them all. It was a lot. I almost hadn’t noticed.

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WILK | The Pitfalls of Political Hobbyism at Cornell

Picture this — a panoramic shot of a quad glimmering under the early fall-semester sun. You could be at any college campus in America or, more likely, suspended in a place that doesn’t actually exist except as an amalgamation of the essence of college campuses nationwide. You see people: walking, frisbeeing, speaking different languages, laughing, lounging and lugging kegs. You continue to snake through the bubbling crowd and you start to get bombarded. You hear calls from table-ers, flyers are pushed into your abdomen, you are entangled in a flock of demonstrators; you’ve been caught in the ever-present and unignorable politics that has long been a token of collegiate life.

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WILK | The Deadly Flaws of Cornell’s Oldest Experiment

America has a serial killer. Most recently, it has claimed the life of one of our own students at Cornell. 1994. A young man was brutally beaten with a paddle, body-slammed and kicked in the chest repeatedly over the duration of a week. The resulting injuries were broken ribs, a lacerated kidney, a lacerated liver, his chest, neck, back, and arms so badly bruised that the counter coroner advised the family not to look at the body and brain bleeding, from which he ultimately died.