In This Episode
- Thousands gathered in Georgia and other cities across the country over the weekend for #StopAsianHate protests, calling for solidarity and an end to hatred as well as stricter gun control laws. As we reflect on the horrors of the shootings, we discuss the victims of the shooting and who they were.
- Coronavirus cases in the US have plateaued around 50,000 to 60,000 a day. Miami Beach had to declare a state of emergency this weekend and implement a curfew due to an influx of spring breakers.
- And in headlines: the Supreme Court will hear a case about organizing farmworkers, the NCCA apologizes for woefully unequal accommodations for women’s basketball teams, and The White House cracks down on weed-lovers in their ranks.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, March 22nd. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day where we give you all the news with none of the spoilers.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, we can promise that we won’t tell you what happens in the future so you’ll be surprised.
Gideon Resnick: We do know it, though, because we have a mythic [ancient orb]. On today’s show: US COVID Plateau, and a chaotic spring break in Florida, then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[clip of Sandra Oh] If you see something, will you help me? [crowd: yes!] If you see one of our sisters and brothers in need, will you help us? [crowd: yes!] And so we must understand as Asian-Americans, we just need to reach out our hand to our sisters and brothers and say: help me, and I’m here. And just for one thing, I am proud to be Asian! I want to to hear you say: I am proud to be Asian. [crowd: I am proud to be Asian!] I belong here.
Gideon Resnick: Hmm. That was actor Sandra Oh, at a protest in Pittsburgh over the weekend. And it was a big weekend of protests in cities across the country, so, Akilah, tell us more about all of that.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, sure thing. So throughout Georgia, thousands gathered for the hashtag “stop Asian hate” protests. In Atlanta, a multiracial group of hundreds of protesters came together, drawing comparisons to how diverse the Black Lives Matter protests were last summer. Senator Warnock spoke in Atlanta on Saturday and said, quote “To my Asian sisters and brothers, we see you, and more important, we are going to stand with you.” And there were scenes like this across the country: in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Chicago, Philly and New York.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, really powerful to see. And what has been the actual word from activists and advocates so far? What are they focusing on?
Akilah Hughes: Well, beyond, you know, just calling for solidarity and an end to the hatred, there have been loud calls for an end to lax gun control. The shooter, Robert Aaron Long, bought a gun the same day he murdered eight people. There’s no wait period in Georgia, background checks are lax, and so that, combined with the major increase in racist violence in the past few years, means it’s not improbable that something like this could happen again without some major changes. But an important note, too, is that advocates are saying that this violence is not just because of Trump and the pandemic. There’s a long tradition of violence against sex workers or those believed to be sex workers, and a stigma that vilifies and makes vulnerable those in and around that industry. And Asian women in particular are often the ones who bear the brunt of those attacks. And in that same vein, activists are blaming over-policing of these businesses for a lot of violence that we haven’t even talked about. They cited an incident in 2017 where a woman fell to her death when NYPD officers attempted to arrest her for sex work during a raid.
Gideon Resnick: And now we have the names of all the shooting victims and a clearer picture of who they actually were outside of the headlines. So let’s take a moment to talk about them.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so here’s who they were: Xiaojie Tan was a licensed massage therapist and the owner of Young’s Asian Spa. According to The Daily Beast, she immigrated to the U.S. several years ago and had an adult daughter who recently graduated from the University of Georgia. Daoyou Feng also worked at Young’s Asian Spa. She was 44 years old, but not much else is known about her at this time. Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzales was 33 years old and the mother of a 14 year old boy and a nine-month old baby girl. She was on a date with her husband at Young’s Asian Spa when the shooting happened.
Gideon Resnick: Soon Chung Park was 74 years old and worked at Gold’s Spa. Before living in Atlanta she lived in New York. Her husband said he was driving a Lyft when he heard what had happened. He attempted to give her CPR at the scene and described the police as, quote “just standing there.” Hyun Jung Grant was a Korean immigrant who also worked at Gold Spa. She leaves behind two sons, the eldest of whom is 23. The brothers set up a Go Fund Me, and in an Instagram post said, quote “She lived her whole life only to support her two sons all on her own, and to see her taken away from us like this is unfair.” Suncha Kim was 69 years old, a grandmother married for more than 50 years, she immigrated from Korea to the U.S. for a better life, according to a relative.
Akilah Hughes: Paul Andre Michels was 54 and a local business owner who had been married for over two decades. His family members described him as a hard-working Army veteran who owned an electric company. He was doing handiwork for the massage parlor when the shooting happened. Yong Ae Yue was 63 years old and worked at Aromatherapy Spa across the street from Gold Spa. She was from South Korea and moved to the states with her husband, who was stationed with the U.S. Army there. They divorced in the 80s but had two sons together and remained close. These were human beings with lives and memories and loved ones, killed senselessly in America by a white man. We have to stop AAPI hate and we have to protect each other.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, we do. And we’ll continue to stay on the story and the work that’s being done to take action.
Akilah Hughes: For sure. All right. So our next story is about the ongoing pandemic. Gideon, what’s new?
Gideon Resnick: OK, not to sound like a total broken record, but the theme this month has been this plateau of cases nationally in the U.S.. On cases, we’re settling in at around 50 to 60,000 a day. And you have people like CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Fauci pointing to Europe as a warning sign again, where many countries have had to r-eimpose lockdowns after surges that came when mitigation efforts were pulled back, which, of course, is now happening here. But I will say the major caveat is that we in the U.S. are farther along in vaccinating and it looks like we are just going to keep climbing there.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So hopefully the vaccinations can keep up with people just making the bad decisions. But before we talk about that, let’s talk about where the U.S. trouble spots are right now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. So one state that’s getting a lot of attention is Michigan. Hospitalizations are up since last month, and cases have basically doubled over the last couple of weeks. Michigan has the second highest reported cases of the B117 variant in the country. Meanwhile, restrictions have been loosening there. So that’s the combination that these public health experts do not want to see. The good news, though, is that the state’s largest vaccination site at Ford Field in Detroit is set to open this week, which will hopefully make an impact. Also per The New York Times, New Jersey and New York are leading the country in recent cases per capita.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and there’s also a variant popping up in New York City. We haven’t talked about that yet, but what do we know about it?
Gideon Resnick: Not enough, I think. I think people are still trying to understand it more. But public health officials have been keeping their eyes on this. It is a homegrown variant that might be preventing steady declines in the city and could possibly be re-infecting people who had COVID. If that wasn’t enough, over the weekend, the city identified its first case of the P1 variant that originated in Brazil, which has in part fueled a disaster in that country and is believed to also be able to infect people who previously had the virus. Those are just some examples, but we don’t really know yet if this would kick off some broader national wave. I think we’re all waiting for that. Here is Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, on that question on Face the Nation:
[clip of Margaret Brennan] When it comes to B117, the variant first detected in the UK, Dr. Fauci said this week it’s about 30% of U.S. infections and it’s, what, 50% more transmissible? It’s also potentially more lethal. When you see these pictures of these spring break gatherings in Florida and elsewhere, does that make you rethink your projections here and worry about a fourth wave?
[clip of Scott Gottlieb] Well, I don’t think we’re going to have a fourth wave, I think what we’re seeing around the country is parts of the country that are plateauing, we’re seeing upticks in certain parts of the country. I think the fact that we have so much prior infection—120 million Americans have been infected with this virus—the fact that we’ve now vaccinated, we’ve gotten one shot in at least 70 million Americans, even if you account for the fact that maybe about 30% of the people being vaccinated previously had COVID, we’re talking about some form of protective immunity in about 55% of the population.
Akilah Hughes: Well, that’s interesting. I definitely hope that he’s right. And part of that clip had to do with Florida. You know, I saw pictures of a lot of people in handcuffs there. So what on earth is going on down there Gideon?
Gideon Resnick: Uh, the perennial question. So over the weekend, officials in Miami Beach had to declare a state of emergency, then implement a curfew, basically due to spring breakers. Harmony Korine, is writing another script as we speak. Reportedly, law enforcement were saying that many people had come down because there were fewer COVID restrictions in the state. Also, hotels and flights had been cheaper, too, to try and make up for lost revenue. Officials also say it is not the typical college crowd, but adults seeking a place to let loose. Listen, I can relate. Let’s just all try to do it responsibly and not in a way that causes problems. But according to an AP report, the 8 p.m. curfew is set to stay in place for the next week with the possibility of extending it into April if needed. There were over a thousand arrests over the weekend, with officers firing pepper balls into a crowd that was violating curfew. From the same article quote “some people responded by jumping on top of cars, talking and throwing money into the air.” I’m also fairly certain you and I both saw video on Twitter of a guy in Joker makeup doing some combination of a few of those things.
Akilah Hughes: Totally.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it was overall seemed to be really chaotic. There was a lot of destruction. It seems like there is a lot of pent-up pandemic energy, to say the least here.
Akilah Hughes: To say the very least, it seems like people are wilin. But we mentioned the vaccination rates in the U.S. So let’s quickly just talk about the progress there.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is going great. According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, in the last week we were averaging about 2.5 million doses a day. And there was at least one day over the weekend where the daily total was over three million. And maybe helpful, maybe not helpful, information to keep in mind but if you look just at the Bloomberg tracker, they estimate that if we continued with the amount of doses that we are administering per day at this moment, it would take an additional five months to cover 75% of the population— though we will likely see the daily number continue to rise so I think we have a good shot of beating that. We’ll keep on this, but that’s the latest from.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re getting into reading. There was a great New York Times article yesterday about something called Book Talk. Basically, TikTok users are using the same principles they used to make songs blow up on music charts, to make books insanely popular overnight. One example is a novel called The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller. It won a big fiction prize back in 2012, but it’s now selling 9x as well as it did then after TikToks recommending it went viral. Publishers say this is like nothing they’ve ever seen before on Instagram or Twitter. TikTok is officially the smartest social media app. So Giddy, this is your application to be an influencer on BookTok. What are you recommending?
Gideon Resnick: Oh, a lot of pressure because everybody that uses TikTok is way smarter than I am at figuring out how to do basically anything. I recently read Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam, and if I talk about it extensively, it would lead to massive spoilers. The setup is this, this is me trying to BookTok it here: there is a couple that leaves Brooklyn and goes to the Hamptons to rent like an Airbnb, and while they’re there, some weird stuff starts happening and then the couple that owns the house that is renting it to them shows up and they end up in a situation where, let’s just say they’re reliant on each other to proceed through the situation. And that’s all I’ll say, because I don’t know what spoilers might be.
Akilah Hughes: You know, you just made that book sound really excellent. I think that, you know, BookToks should pay you and then the publisher should pay you, and then hopefully that book will go viral, and then be bought a bunch. Because that was, that was beautiful Gideon.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you. I hope so. I hope I did not mispronounce his name because then all this is for naught. [laughs] But same question Akilah, what book are you talking about on BookTok this week.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, you know, I think it would be really cool if you’re a fan of a certain podcast to hear about, you know, one of the hosts who started her life in Kentucky with a single mother, was really good at spelling, moved on to take improv classes in New York, go to the Sundance Labs, and then, you know, you see everything up until she became that podcast host. The book is called Obviously: Stories from My Timeline by Akilah Hughes, who seems like a great individual.
Gideon Resnick: Never heard of it.
Akilah Hughes: And I think that people should buy that—I would be remiss if I didn’t say that. But the other books I would recommend on BookTok include a book I’m reading right now: David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. They do not need my recommendation. He is very popular, but it’s a great book of essays and I find myself laughing out loud to just Fauci who can’t read yet, so. That’s been a lot of fun. And then also my friend wrote a book recently called Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies, and it’s by Tara Schuster. And it’s a book about, you know, treating yourself right, especially in a lonely time, which I think feels really applicable now. So, yeah, those are my BookTok recommendations, you know?
Gideon Resnick: We will understand our power when we see how high these chart.
Akilah Hughes: I don’t actually want to see my power in this way because I think the teens on BookTok might have a little bit more than us. But just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe, subscribe to our BookTok—it’s actually just this podcast. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The Supreme Court is set to hear a case today challenging the rights of union organizers to reach out to farm workers on the fields. Two growers in California brought on the suit, challenging a state regulation that allows organizers to meet with workers during lunch or an hour before or after their shifts. They argue that by doing that, the government is taking their private property without compensation. Now, labor advocates argue that farm workers are one of the hardest groups of people to reach—considering that they work in secluded rural areas and don’t usually have centralized spaces to meet—so physically meeting with them is one of the best ways to reach out. The state of California, established the law in question in the ’70s, amid demand from labor leader Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers Union, so that all agricultural workers could have access to learn about their labor rights.
Akilah Hughes: The NCAA apologized over the weekend after being called out for providing subpar facilities to the women’s basketball teams during their league tournament in San Antonio. The controversy started last week after a coach from Stanford and a separate player posted photos and videos to social media comparing the women’s and men’s facilities. The Post revealed huge disparities in what the women’s team was given, including a single small weight rack compared to the men’s full gym, and Fyre Fest quality lunch boxes compared to buffets with steak filets and lobster. The VP of women’s basketball at the NCAA responded to the controversy last Friday, saying the women would have access to the full weight room once they reach the third round of the tournament. Never mind that the men have full access throughout. Officials ended up making an overnight upgrade to the women’s weight room on Saturday, and announced that the food disparity will be addressed soon. Not soon enough. Just give women equal shit.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. God, why? Why does it have to be complaints, why does it have to be social media complaints?
Akilah Hughes: Right. Someone else has to say,
Gideon Resnick: Oh, lord. If you need another reason to be jealous of babies, there are now early reports that children born to vaccinated mothers could inherit COVID immunity. COVID antibodies were shown to be present in both umbilical cord blood and breast milk of moms who got the vaccine. FYI, if I have the option to drink my Moderna shot, I’m interested and I would like to request mine in Capri Sun Pacific Cooler. I think this can be done. Modern science is amazing. Several studies have documented the same phenomenon, and none of them have undergone peer review yet so it’s too early to say anything definitive. The findings do accord with published studies that observe the same phenomenon in moms who had recovered from COVID. Pregnant women have been prioritized for vaccinations because they’re vulnerable to respiratory diseases. It is a win-win if they’re also conferring immunity to their babies for the first few months of their lives. Still no research, though, into whether aunts and uncles can absorb antibodies by blowing on infant bellies. But we will keep you posted.
Akilah Hughes: The White House is finally responding to the pandemic called Reefer Madness. Per The Daily Beast, they’ve suspended, pushed out or transferred to remote work, dozens of staffers for past use of weed. The moves affected staffers who had only smoked, eaten or otherwise done pot in states where it was legal. It also came after the Biden administration said some use of cannabis would be excused, and staffers voluntarily shared their pot histories. One reason for requiring staffers to have said no to pot is because otherwise they may not qualify for top-secret clearance from the FBI and NSA. But not everybody needs that clearance. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to the reports on Friday, saying that only five staffers were fired, and the Biden administration’s stance on weed is more permissive than that of previous administrations. Someone please make them an award for almost tolerating a thing everyone else is now fine with. Anyway, I just asked my Magic eight ball if Biden would help legalize weed federally, and the little triangle inside it melted.
Gideon Resnick: We have to buy a new one, in addition to the orb. Our expenses are piling up.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s really not, not going well. And those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: One last thing before we go, you can now get full transcripts of every new WAD episode by going to Crooked.com/whataday and clicking on the episode link. We’re hoping it makes the show more accessible to everyone. The transcripts are posted each afternoon, so go check them out.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, don’t fall prey to Reefer Madness, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just the list of ingredients in Capri Sun Pacific Cooler, like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out. Subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And help me fix my magic eight ball!
Akilah Hughes: How am I supposed to proceed if I don’t have it?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. What am I, what am I supposed to shake?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Nothing.
Gideon Resnick: Nothing. Nothing is right. Nothing is in my hands anymore because it’s broken.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.