In This Episode
After delivering on his promise of 200 million shots in 100 days, President Biden has set a new vaccine target: that 70 percent of the adult population get at least one shot by July 4. The Biden administration also plans to change the way doses are portioned out to states by allowing states to request or reject doses from a central stockpile according to their needs.
Republican state lawmakers are pushing bills to ban or severely limit the teaching of critical race theory, which is the idea that we should teach American history from a perspective that considers the experiences of people from different races. A lot of this stems from the “1619 Project” by Nikole Hannah-Jones. We discuss the tactics Republican lawmakers are using to keep texts like the “1619 Project” out of schools and what might be motivating their efforts (Hint: it’s racism).
And in headlines: new climate normals from NOAA show a warming country, a metro overpass collapses and kills dozens in Mexico City, and Trump launches his blog.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, May 5th. I’m Akilah Hughes
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we’re ordering from our favorite local Mexican place for Cinco de Mayo.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, to be clear, this is different from how we’ve also been ordering from the same place two out of every five nights during the pandemic.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Those meals were we’re not celebratory.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, they were literally a defeat. On today’s show, we break down the state by state campaign by conservatives to outlaw the teaching of systemic racism. Plus, we’ll have headlines. But first, the latest:
[clip of President Biden] Two months and a day, families across the country are going to celebrate the Fourth of July. Our goal by July 4th is to have 70% of adult Americans with at least one shot, and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated.
Akilah Hughes: Wow. That is a lovely thing to do for Malia Obama’s birthday. So that was President Biden yesterday setting another goal post in the U.S. vaccination campaign committee. Giddy, how should we read into this latest announcement?
Gideon Resnick: Well, overall, I think it reflects the major challenge this administration is facing right now. How do you properly convey that more normality awaits when you get vaccinated, but at the same time not have everyone let their guard down? That is a very difficult question to answer. Then there’s also been this recent slowdown in the number of Americans that are actually getting their vaccines each day. It’s about half as much lately compared to the peak of around mid-April. There’s a good New York Times graphic we can link to that kind of shows that drop off, but it looks pretty steep. But Biden was able to deliver on his promise of 200 million shots in his first 100 days. So this is a new and separate target that he set.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. And to reiterate, that’s 70% of the adult population gets at least one shot by Independence Day, and that’s 60% of that same population be fully vaccinated by that time. So why those specific numbers?
Gideon Resnick: I think for one thing, they are conceivably possible. For another, this hearkens back a bit to our discussion about herd immunity yesterday. The reported thought process is that that 70% vaccination rate is not going to necessarily get us to herd immunity, but it is enough to keep seeing these big drops in cases, deaths, and hospitalizations, especially if it’s spread out evenly. We’ve already seen some evidence of that already. But again, the reason that things feel a bit tricky in the US right now is that there are so many factors people are expected to consider in day to day life that can just be different depending on where you are. Like is everyone around you vaccinated? How could you know if there are? Are there are a lot of cases in your area? What about variants? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, a lot to consider. And it’s starting to seem now that part of the reason why so many people got vaccinated so quickly is that those people really wanted it. I can attest, I really wanted to be vaccinated. So, how realistic even is this target from Biden?
Gideon Resnick: I think it’s a good question that I wish I had the direct answer to. But, you know, we can start with what we know here. Already we’re not too far off from that 70% goal right this very moment. Currently, over 56% of adults have gotten at least one dose. And then when it comes to that other goal of 60% fully vaccinated, 40% of adults are there right now. And then if we put those percents into people, over the next two months, you’d have to get about 35 million adults with at least one shot, and then in total, about 50 million adults for full vaccination. So as of right now, the goal definitely seems possible, but we’ll see how things go from here.
Akilah Hughes: Well, I hope it’s all on the up and up. And how is the White House actually trying to make this happen?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So the bigger move seems to be away from these mass vaccination sites, to smaller and more local pharmacies, for example. We already saw some of those closing in various states because of lack of demand. And Biden wants these sorts of places to offer walk-in vaccinations. He wants to add more mobile clinics and send doses to rural areas. And then there’s going to be money set aside from the relief package to help in all of this: about 250 million for workers to help get to hard to reach communities, about 100 million for rural health clinics, and about 130 million on vaccine education and info—just as some examples.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, I love when they spend money like that. All right. So President Biden yesterday also talked about changing the way the vaccine doses are portioned out between the states. So what’s actually happening there?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so the administration is planning to take unused doses from various states’ weekly allotments, put them back in a federal bank, and then let other states that need more doses request higher numbers than they might have been allotted. And they’re currently handed out based on this whole population-based formula that the White House has not broken from. That was kind of the back and forth with the administration and Governor Whitmer when Michigan had that surge. But last week in Arkansas, for example, state officials said they had enough stock in place and they actually turned down their entire share for this week. So hypothetically, this change could make it different for future situations and those doses could be sent elsewhere for a state that wants them.
Akilah Hughes: Hmm.
Gideon Resnick: More to come on vaccines in the days and weeks to come. But Akilah, let’s turn our attention to something else much more insane that is happening in America.
Akilah Hughes: Right. So this past week was excruciating in state legislatures nationwide regarding critical race theory and if it should be taught in our public schools—campaigns led by Republicans. And it all stems from the Nikole Hannah-Jones at The New York Times Pulitzer Prize award winning 1619 project. That project notes that the year 1619, the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in what’s now the U.S., as a crucial point in American history. And why wouldn’t it be? I mean, I really yet to hear anyone say with their chest why the original sins of this country aren’t important to learn about. It’s just a bunch of adults whining at Board of Education meetings about how “McKaylee” shouldn’t have to learn about how this country came to be.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, and for those folks who might not know or might not remember, remind us what critical race theory is.
Akilah Hughes: OK, I’ll define it, even though Republicans can’t, nor can they define “woke” or “cancel culture.” So critical race theory is the idea that we should teach history from a perspective that is holistic and considers the experiences of people from different races. And in America, that means looking at the way our founding happened in the shadow of institutionalized racism via slavery, and how all the systems that have endured in this country came from that same time period. That’s literally it. It’s like saying: hey, instead of learning about the Holocaust strictly from the Third Reich perspective, we should probably hear what it was like if you were Jewish or nonwhite or disabled at the time. Like, that’s kind of what we’re getting at. And you wouldn’t believe how the “how dare you call me racists”/ “there’s two sides to every story” party feels about that. Here’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last weekend:
[clip of Sen. Mitch McConnell] There are a lot of exotic notions about what are the most important points in American history. I simply disagree with the notion that The New York Times laid out there that the year 1619 was one of those years.
Akilah Hughes: Mmm. Wild that he doesn’t think 1619 is an important year, when the slave masters that he referenced in another part of the statement in those future years—like 1776 in 1787—would almost certainly say that the year when the free labor force that they raped and murdered and mutilated first arrived, was an important year for them.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so Republicans don’t like this curriculum. They hate it. They want it to go away. How are they trying to make sure that it does?
Akilah Hughes: So heavily Republican legislatures throughout the country have basically either proposed banning it outright—so where are these cancel culture decriers on this? You know, I haven’t heard anybody saying this is bad. Or they’re proposing teaching Donald Trump’s half-assed 1776 project, which is basically the whitewash history we were already being taught with a little more U-S-A, U-S-A propaganda attached. In Louisiana’s legislature, for example, there was a committee hearing last week on a bill to ban the teaching of critical race theory. Here’s the author, Republican Representative Ray Garofalo Jr., getting smacked down by, thankfully, his Republican colleague, Representative Stephanie Hilferty.
[clip of Rep. Ray Garofalo] If you’re having a discussion on whatever the case may be, on slavery, then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery, the good, the bad, the ugly.
[clip of Rep. Stephanie Hilferty] The there’s no good to slavery, though.
[clip of Rep. Ray Garofalo] Well, [laughter] then whatever, whatever the case may be. You’re right. You’re right.
Akilah Hughes: Wow.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, OK.
Akilah Hughes: Can you believe “the good”?
Gideon Resnick: The laughter is where you knew he was losing that conversation.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, honestly. Then in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis called for a 17 million dollar fund for curriculum that excludes, quote “unsanctioned narratives like critical race theory.” In North Carolina, the lieutenant governor established a task force to stop schoolchildren from learning from marginalized viewpoints. And a Republican gubernatorial candidate for Virginia posted an education plan where two of seven points were dedicated to straight-up combating learning about history with race in mind. Tor the Republicans who say “you think everything’s racist, you make everything about race.” no, like literally just the racism. And I don’t know how you argue that this isn’t racist to only tell the story of America’s greatest sin from the perspective of white people who are too ashamed to tell the truth about it. This is why they want to keep Confederate statues, and this is why we have to tear them down, because it’s a false history for cowards who literally can’t even stand to hear another perspective. I mean, they’re literally legislating against it.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And you mentioned several states here. But just to share a few more, Idaho’s governor signed a bill against critical race theory last week. Arkansas’s governor signed a bill on Monday to prevent teaching, quote “divisive concepts” by state agencies to employees or contractors. So this effort is going on all across the country that we should keep our eyes on.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I mean, I think that when we talk about race in this country, white people have to remember a couple of things. First, white is a race, and so teaching things from only that perspective is actually inherently divisive. And secondly, whiteness and the concept of race was created and perpetuated by white people. You’re not the default. So please internalize this discomfort, sit with it, and maybe speak to a professional about this main-character syndrome that is afflicting the culture. We’ve been fed lies about this country in an effort to preserve some romanticized, sanitized version of how the country came to be. And it’s time to tell the truth. Michael Harriott, the senior writer at The Root, shared screenshots of social studies textbooks throughout the years, explaining racism for different grade levels. In maybe the most egregious version, the text argues that, quote, “many slaves were taught to read and write” and then tried to downplay the horrors of chattel slavery, stating that many of the horrific laws we know existed, quote “weren’t always enforced”—not the America I know. Another text laments that it was illegal in slavery times for the enslaved to read and write, with no reflection on who made it illegal and the lack of pushback from all of the free people. So this tainted garbage is already being taught. So my final thought is, if you are anti-teaching history as it happened in favor of teaching it in a way that coddles white feelings, you are a racist. And if you don’t want to be called racist, maybe stop doing racist shit. And that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s Temp check, we’re talking about Biden’s first visit to the Twilight Zone: the president and first lady Jill Biden went to the home of their predecessors, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter last week and the meeting produced one extremely surreal photo. In the photo, Joe and Jill kneel next to Jimmy and Rosalynn, and by some sort of optical illusion, they appear to be about twice the size of them. As one person put it on Twitter, quote “overused term but this is actually Lynchian.” So Giddy, my question for you: did you see the photo? Can you explain it?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, of course I saw the photo. Let’s uh, yeah, let me get into a little bit of dissection here. So Joe specifically is thirty four feet tall—
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Maybe in real life, too. Have you met him?
Gideon Resnick: I have not seen him. Well, I’ve seen him in person. I’ve not, I’ve not been close to, as close as Mrs. Carter is here. So maybe that, that’s, you know, what it takes in order to see the true height. It looks like a like a grandparent’s home. It’s got like a sky blue carpet situation going on. But the Carters are shrinking in size in the photo. Like they are, they are falling in on themselves into these chairs. And it must be that they are giving their life forces over to the current president and first lady, which is a natural tradition that presidents do when they meet each other.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s another transfer of power that we just don’t talk about enough. [laughs].
Gideon Resnick: Exactly.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, I think you’re right. That is what you were really seeing. It’s two people: the first lady and Joe Biden—and I mean, here’s a thing: I don’t know if they’re normal or if the, if the Carters are tiny, or if they’re giants and the Carters are normal. It’s kind of hard to say. But I feel you on your, your version of this.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. This is one of the scenes in Alice in Wonderland, but they both ended up in the rooms that were like opposite their sizes. You know, when she’s going into, like the small room and the big room, they both somehow, like, went into the same room but didn’t like transfer their sizes back.
Akilah Hughes: They were different sizes. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, yeah, yeah. How would you explain this if somebody hadn’t seen it?
Akilah Hughes: I mean, here’s the truth. I have been on the business end of several-wide angle lenses in my time, where I am unfortunately on the end of a group shot and I look like a giant refrigerator and everyone else looks normal. And it’s very upsetting to me, and when you tag me in that shit, I know that you don’t value our friendship. And well, that’s actually a really strong thing to say because I realizing that one of the photos I’m thinking of came from the official Crooked Media camp [laughs] when I was doing, I think it was Pod Save in New York City. And yeah, I just got to say, I mean, you got to have a narrower lens and don’t just like think that it’s going to be OK if there’s people who are, like, really flanking the people in the center. So, yeah, I think the Joe and Jill look gigantic because there’s so much closer to the camera, like they’re leaning forward and the other two are leaning back, and so it’s giving you that optical illusion of just like the Borrowers are out of the cabinet. [laughs] And I think that’s a lot, I think it’s a lot to handle. I understand why Twitter was confused and concerned. All respect to everyone involved, but let’s just use better lenses, you know. When we take this picture and we see it in the viewfinder, let’s not post that one. [laughs] Let’s take a deep breath and take another picture. Well, just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe. Stay the size that you are, you know. Like just kind of like be on the lookout for anybody who’s trying to poison you and make you smaller or larger. And we’ll be back after some ad.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, released new climate normals data yesterday showing that weather across the US is warming. I’m sorry if this is the first you are hearing about this trend. It is actually a really big issue, and I hope you’re sitting down. NOAA releases these figures every 10 years using data from the past 30 years to calculate what constitutes “normal” U.S. climate. And in addition to getting warmer, the normals reveals that the U.S. overall is getting wetter, with precipitation varying by region. Much of the eastern 2/3rds of the nation are seeing more precipitation, while conditions across most of the southwest are drier. This week, severe weather is battering large parts of the country, putting over 100 million people at risk, from New Mexico to Delaware. According to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, the states that face the greatest risk of severe storms with possible tornadoes yesterday were Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
Akilah Hughes: Mexico City is still reeling from the tragic collapse of a metro overpass that killed at least 24 people this Monday. As of yesterday, only five of the victims had been identified. Videos of the incident showed the overpass instantly snapping as one of the metro cars fell onto a vehicle on the street underneath. Over 70 people were taken to a hospital following the crash, and officials have not announced a single cause of the tragedy, but the city’s metro system has been plagued with problems for years. Former Mexico City mayor and current Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard was criticized by many this week for overseeing the construction of this metro line. The project faced multitudes of accusations of mismanagement and corruption.
Gideon Resnick: There is a new after-hours warehouse party in town, and it’s called “going to the doctor.’ A new study found that the illegal drug MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or Molly, could help treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. In the 90-person study, 67% of people who took the drug no longer qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD after two months. Importantly, study participants took MDMA during talk therapy, leading to a synergistic effect that seemed to help with the processing of painful memories. Medical experts warn that an MDMA from a health provider is different from common Molly, or Ecstasy, which could be laced with shady substances— again, I hope you’re sitting down. In one of the most uplifting medical testimonies to exist, a participant in the study said of his experience, quote “You understand why it’s OK to experience unconditional love for yourself”—that is beautiful. The FDA needs a second large-scale trial to approve MDMA for therapeutic use. From there approval could come as soon as 2023.
Akilah Hughes: All right. The ’20’s are lit. After fighting for months to overcome his addiction to posting, Trump has finally fallen off the wagon. The former president and current lost soul haunting Mar-a-Lago returned to the Internet yesterday, with the debut of ‘From the Desk of Donald Trump’, a website that lets him bypass social media bans to communicate directly with his followers. A launch video describes the site as a, quote “beacon of freedom” and a quote “place to speak freely and safely.” So a lot of freedom there. But as a collection of posts from just one user, most Internet experts would probably describe it as a, quote “LiveJournal.” For Trump, it’s missing some functions he used frequently on Twitter, like the ability to repost users whose bios say “I am a Nazi, and a white supremacist, and also my guns are not registered.” The site is not Trump’s upcoming and much-hyped social media platform, according to a senior adviser, Jason Miller. But its launch is well-timed to line up with Facebook’s announcement about whether it will lift his suspension. That decision will be announced this morning around 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Let’s hope Facebook does the right thing so we can all continue to not use it no matter what.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I just think that he should have gone on Substack. It was, it was sitting right there. If you really need to say whatever it is you’re going to say, come on.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean, that’s what I was doing. But you know what? I think he can go—and those are the headlines. [laughs]
Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go: in the latest Hysteria episode, comedian, activist and step mom, Lindy West joins Erin Ryan, Alyssa Mastromonaco and an all-female panel to talk about the different paths to motherhood, reasons why women choose not to have kids, and how we can celebrate all the maternal relationships in our lives. Check it out and subscribe to Hysteria wherever you listen to podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, direct us to your LiveJournal, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just beautiful life-affirming quotes about MDMA like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon, Resnick.
[together] And happy Cinco de Mayo!
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I hope you really enjoy it. Go off.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, you should enjoy every day, but this one especially.
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 and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.