Things That Are Trifling

Thoughts on Food, Gender, Race, and Popular Culture

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Racism Is Never an Accident

This week, Brad Paisley and LL Cool J released a musical gem to the world. Feeling that musicians and performing artists have been failing to address this issue well, Brad Paisley decided to tackle the issue of racism head on. In a new song called “Accidental Racism*,” Paisley lamented how the legacy of slavery and racism is still negatively affecting our daily interactions. As a person of color, this is something I’ve known since sentience. I have lived this every day and will likely continue to experience the realities of racist institutions until the day I leave this Earth. The idea that Brad Paisley was going to teach me something I didn’t already know seemed dubious to begin with. I guess it was always possible that I pre-judged Paisley and that he and LL Cool J had incredibly valuable contributions to make to a national conversation about race in America. But this was not the case. Instead, what we got was a combination of faulty analogies, false equivalencies, flimsy excuses and poor justifications. It’s easy to acknowledge that Mr. Paisley’s attempt to address racial tensions in the United States may have started from a place of genuine concern, but it quickly descended into madness.

In the second verse, Paisley describes himself as a humble Southern boy, distressed by the violent and regrettable history and legacy of slavery. He later goes on to suggest that there isn’t much he can do about it so we should probably just let the whole thing go. To his credit, he tries to explain that Reconstruction and the attempts to rebuild the South and the Union after the abolition of slavery has left a lot to be desired as far as racial justice and relations. However, he seems to be incapable or wholly unwilling to try to empathize with realities of people of color in the United States. Or even attempt to comprehend the pervasiveness of negative cultural and sociopolitical consequences to slavery, Jim Crow and segregation.

The most frustrating passage of the song is when Paisley tries to convince listeners that we shouldn’t be so skeptical of Southern pride and that opposition to the image of the Confederate flag is simply misplaced blame towards Southerners who had no hand in the institution of slavery.

‘Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland
Just like you I’m more than what you see
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
And we’re still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

It is difficult for me to take this seriously. Cognitively, I am well aware that most of the white people with whom I interact had no hand in perpetuating slavery and segregation. That they didn’t willingly or tacitly endorse legalizing policies that allowed black people to be treated like less than human, like second-class citizens. However, that does not mean that I should ignore or refuse to acknowledge that despite the illegality of Jim Crow laws and segregation, we live in a racist society. One that is rife with daily microaggressions, the reinforcement of “white is right” ideology in the media, and institutional policies that perpetuate certain races and classes of people over others.

None of these things are accidents.

They are the direct result of living in a society that has struggled to recover from a painful history of enslavement, violence, miscegenation and the tearing apart of families. They are the direct result of our inability to sustain a national public dialogue about race without accusations of sensitivity, entitlement, and blaming. They are the direct result of black people in America constantly being told in coded or clear language to know their place. To not ask for too much. To be grateful for what we have. But here is the issue – even after slavery ended, after Jim Crow laws were declared illegal and after schools were integrated, harmful racial attitudes, institutional policies that favor certain demographics, cultural ideals that value some aesthetics and bodies more than others remained. I experience these realities every day. It’s commonplace to me, but it isn’t just or right. And I know I’m not alone in that thinking. Should we do what Paisley suggests and not judge him for willfully sporting a symbol that to many represents one of the darkest times in our country’s history from which we still haven’t recovered? Or give him a pass for his good intentions? After all…we’re not slaves anymore. We achieved integration. We’re allowed to subsist. Shouldn’t that be good enough? Shouldn’t we just let it go?

*Note: The original video has since been removed from Youtube. Read the full lyrics here.

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The Red Lipstick Manifesta

Take a few minutes to watch this great video, “The Red Lipstick Manifesta” written by LC Coleman at Colored Girl Confidential.

The Red Lipstick Manifesta is a love note to every career woman who has ever felt overwhelmed or discouraged or just plain not good enough; a love note to every woman has been told not to speak until she is spoken to… and then is never spoken to. Cheers to never giving up on yourself or your big, audacious dreams!

11 Amazing Food Advocacy Organizations

We believe that everyone has a right to access health and sustainable food. Unfortunately, our food and agriculture system in the United States does not always allow for the just production and distribution of healthy, sustainable food. Here is a list of 11 food advocacy organizations who are working to change that.

  1. Restaurant Opportunities Center United – A national organization that works to improve the wages and working conditions of food industry workers. ROC is active in research, policy work, employer engagement, membership and leadership development, and workplace justice campaigns.
  2. Coalition of Immokalee Workers – A grassroots community-based organization made up of mostly Mayan, Latino and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage food jobs aimed at improving conditions for farmworkers. First founded in 1993, CIW has organized a number of successful campaigns including its Anti-Slavery Campaign, the Campaign for Fair Food, and the Fair Food Program campaign.
  3. Live Real – A platform for young people to get involved with shaping the food system in the United States. Live Real is guided by belief in real justice and real health. Its current campaign for real food is Bring Healthy Back! community members pledge to eat real food for 30 days while sharing their experiences through social media.
  4. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition – The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is a DC based food advocacy membership organization that advocates for federal policy reform to support sustainable agriculture, food systems, natural resources and rural communities. NSAC is one of the most reliable resources on the development of sustainable ag policy in major food bills, particularly the Farm Bill.
  5. Food Democracy Now – A community of advocates who organize online and in person actions across the country aimed at building a sustainable food system that provides healthy food for families, maintains natural resources and supports farmers.
  6. Food and Water Watch – A non-profit organization that informs policymakers on and advocates policies that will ensure safe, accessible water and food. Food and Water Watch has 15 different offices across the country of policy researchers and communication experts who build campaigns and influence decisions in order to protect consumers.
  7. National Family Farm Coalition – A coalition of family farmers and rural groups who work on the grassroots and federal policy level to empower family farmers and ensure a safe, strong, and just food and farm system.
  8. Green for All – A national nonprofit based in Washington, DC and Oakland, CA focused on building green economy that can raise people out of poverty. Green for All’s food justice work includes supporting policies that promote healthy food and repairing the food system through green jobs promotion.
  9. Detroit Black Community Food Security Network – A coalition based in Detroit, MI that aims to build food security in black communities by influencing public policy, promoting urban agriculture, promoting healthy eating habits, facilitating collective action among members, and encouraging young people to engage in agriculture and other food related fields. DBCFSN will be celebrating its 7th anniversary at the end of the month!
  10. Rooted in Community – Rooted In Community (RIC) is a national network of youth and adults that encourages and empowers youth to take on leadership roles in their communities. RIC members are committed to developing a just food system through urban and rural agriculture, food security, and environmental justice initiatives. RIC holds a
  11. Food Chain Workers Alliance – The Food Chain Workers Alliance is a coalition worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. They seek to build a more sustainable and just food system that addresses institutionalized racism, corporate control of the food system, and poor working conditions.

7 Food Blogs or Sites That We Love

We enjoy reading other folks’ opinions about developments in U.S. food policy, new opportunities in sustainable agriculture, and advocacy efforts supporting food industry workers and food justice initiatives. Here’s a list of 7 blogs we visit regularly to stay updated on important food issues.

  1. Civil Eats – A source of writings by food advocates and activists who promote ideas supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems.
  2. Fooducate – A website created and maintained by dietitians  nutritionists and parents to provide accurate information (good and bad) about nutritional content of what we eat. Just use your mobile phone to scan UPC barcodes of food and let Fooducate do the rest!
  3. Grist – One of the most reliable environmental news and analysis sites out there. Grist’s environmental commentary often includes articles about the food industry and agriculture in the U.S.
  4. Appetite for Profit – Michele Simon, a food writer with years of experience, and author of Appetite for Profit, regularly updates her blog with opinions of the food industry’s role in perpetuating poor food habit.
  5. U.S. Food Policy – Parker Wilde’s personal blog about food policy in the United States. Wilde is a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
  6. Hunger Incorporated – A blog and fundraising site managed by Andy Fisher, founder of the Community Food Security Coalition and longtime anti-hunger and food security advocate. Andy is writing a book about how corporations are benefiting from present state of hunger in the United States.
  7. Where Is My Milk From? – Find out where your milk comes from!

Grammys and Black History Month

The Grammys are this evening. We’re not that excited. Interestingly, many of the categories that feature a majority of black nominees are not televised. Some of those winners include Rihanna, Jay-Z and Kanye West.

I generally think that many of the nominees for all Grammy categories represent the most visible of each, not necessarily the best.

Olivia Pope – A Criminal, a Whore, an Idiot and a Liar? (2.11)

This marks our very first recap of ABC’s Scandal!

Last week on Scandal, Vice President Sally Langston was sworn in under the 25th Amendment. Huck was tortured under the Patriot Act and later released in order to bring the real assassin out of hiding. The election rigging co-conspirators have finally realized that Hollis is out of control. Mellie forged Fitz’s signature and committed treason. Fitz awoke from his coma!

Spoilers Ahead:

In the present, Olivia arrives home to her apartment to find Edison. Seriously? This man is too at home. He’s getting mail delivered there and now he just shows and waits there until she gets back? Olivia promptly announces that she is changing the locks. Without wasting any time, Edison accuses Olivia of having had a relationship with the married President insisting that there is no possible reason that she would commit fraud and treason unless she were his mistress. An indignant Olivia replies, “In the last three minutes, you have called me a criminal, a whore, an idiot and a liar,” and lets him know that is the last time they will ever be speaking. It should be noted that while Olivia is absolutely guilty of everything Edison just said, her denial is something to behold. After Edison leaves, Olivia talks to Cyrus and discovers that Sally Langston is planning on presenting Mellie’s forged letter to the Cabinet.

In a flashback, Fitz is debating Governor Reston, who we met in “All Roads Lead to Fitz.” A  pollster recites statistics that suggest Fitz won’t have the electoral votes to win the Presidency. With a month left in the election, Hollis wants to stack the deck in Fitz’s favor. At this point the audience is already well aware that Hollis is an amoral sociopath with way too much influence, power and money. Mellie asks Olivia to convince a reluctant Fitz to allow his father, a former Senator, to help because he listens to Olivia. Poor Mellie. At times, I feel that Mellie has gotten the short end of the stick. Then I remember that she is a co-conspirator in a criminal fucking conspiracy and has committed treason, so she isn’t without her faults.

In the present, Fitz hopes to make a full recovery but it’s possible that he could experience loss of executive function and perception. Just as Sally is about to blow the whistle on Mellie’s fraud perpetration, Fitz, handsome as ever, strides in and announces himself. He reminds Mellie and Cyrus that he can’t back down until Sally accepts his reinstatement, which will save Mellie from a prison sentence.

Back before the election, Fitz is deep in debate prep when Papa Fitz (Barry Bostwick) shows up. He thinks Fitz needs more charm and less wonk. Later at dinner with Papa Fitz, Lil Fitz pouts a lot and generally acts like a spoiled brat. Papa Fitz asks Olivia to dig up dirt on Reston. Fitz continues to throw shade at Papa Fitz highlighting his dad’s numerous prostitution scandals that kept him from pursuing the Presidency himself. There is some irony here. Later, Lil Fitz, drunk and angry after dinner with his father, tries to force himself on Olivia in a hotel elevator. Let me pause here and to do a breakdown of my feelings about Fitz for a second. First of all, this veers dangerously into the sexual assault and violence category. Does Fitz really need this characterization? I feel that I have seen this with male characters who would otherwise be seen as “good men.” Writers often treat these incidents as a one off. They’re not. It’s sexual violence and incredibly troubling. Back to the episode. The elevator door opens to Mellie staring aghast at the scene. In a very sad and awkward exchange, Mellie profusely apologizes to Olivia and begs her to stay with the campaign. It would seem that at some point in the past, Mellie had a great deal of respect for Olivia and may have even considered her a friend.

In present times, Fitz is weighing the options of a military strike on East Sudan in the Situation Room when his words drop off and his vision blurs. The meeting adjourns after Sally finishes his sentence for him.

Back in the day, Fitz agrees to throw dirt on Reston using opposition research. The Conspirators Hollis, Verna, Cyrus and Olivia further discuss election rigging. Hollis being the delusional psychopath that he is insists that they would be doing a patriotic thing. Mellie enters and asks what the hell is going. During his debate prep, Fitz is yelling at people. Olivia takes him aside and asks him if he really even wants to be President. “Why? Why are you wasting everyone’s time and hopes and dreams? Who are you? Why do you want to be President?” This piece of dialogue highlights something that many viewers have noticed since the premiere of Scandal last year. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like Fitz even wants to be President all that much.

In a jarring jump back to the present, Olivia visits with Fitz and tells him never to almost die again. At the press conference about East Sudan, a reporter asks Fitz if there are any problems that could affect his judgment as Commander-in-Chief to which Fitz eventually responds, “No.” At the final debate, an audience member asks Fitz why she should trust him as Commander-in-Chief. Fitz responds, “Weakness is what makes us human. You can’t have someone protect you if they don’t know what you’re afraid of. Why? Because I’m afraid of it too.” Papa Fitz is a little more than disappointed in Lil Fitz’s response, but Lil Fitz doesn’t care. He calls his father cruel, petty and slimy to which Papa hits back with, “I’m a winner and that’s something you’ll never be.”

Back to the present: Sally congratulates Fitz and gives him a letter of reinstatement. She tells him that his getting shot was the scariest thing that has ever happened to her and that it’s not easy being President. I hope this isn’t the last we will hear from her even though Cyrus called the vice presidency a “political black hole.”

In another flashback scene, the Conspirators, now including Mellie, meet again. Cyrus says that that the decision must be unanimous, but Olivia still objects. She gets up and walks over to Fitz where he tells her that his father had a heart attack and died 20 minutes ago. After the funeral, Olivia finds Fitz chopping wood. He tells her, “I want it Liv. I want to win this election. It’s mine. Do you think I’ll make a good President?” Olivia thinks so, but in my opinion, he spends most of his time being petty, mean to Mellie and stalking Olivia. But whatever. Go with what you feel.

In the present, Olivia arrives home at her apartment and Edison is there again. It seems like neither of the men in her life have any sense of boundaries. He proposes to her. He sure went from “You are having an affair with the President!” to “Marry me!” fast! In the White House, Mellie rambles about their good fortune. She asks him what he wants and he tells her that he wants a divorce. Cold.

Flashback: There are 4 days til the election, and the election could come down to a few counties in Ohio and a town named Defiance. In classic Shonda Rimes fashion, Cyrus gives one last rousing speech to convince Olivia that if they want to put the right man in office, they must commit a crime:

We take care of the President because we are believers. We do it because Fitz can’t. People like Fitz go down in history. People like us create the history. We run this world so he can lead it…Does he deserve to be President? And if he does can he win on his own? And if the answer is yes to both, then we will never discuss election rigging ever again.”

Terrifying.

With one day until the election, Olivia finally breaks down and says that she’s in.

What did you all think?

In Other News, a Netflix Member Abuses Review Privileges in Favor of Bigotry

Earlier this evening, in a sad attempt to avoid my schoolwork, I lazily browsed Netlix looking for new titles. I paused when I came across a review for a short-lived tv series, NYC 22. Having never seen the show, I did a quick internet search and learned it was a yet another show about a diverse group of individuals trying to provide order to the streets of NYC as rookie cops. However, the premise of the show wasn’t what struck me.

It was this “review” from a Netflix user:

I guess I expect too much. There just seems to be mediocre talent today. Acting and writing is just so-so. Networks take of really great, creative, interesting shows and put on crap. I don’t get it. Gone is the day of really good entertainment. It may not be very pc, but I am tired of the white guy going after the black woman or the black guy going after the white woman. I don’t think I am racist, but I just don’t like the entertaiment industry creating societal norms. I just don’t agree with cross racial romantic relationships and quite frankly I don’t think I am alone.

This “review” starts out with a mostly reasonable criticism of a show. I have to agree that Hollywood often lacks imagination and is too slow to take risks, instead relying on played out cliches and stories that have been told a dozen times. But then, the comments take a sharp turn towards bigotry. The user goes on to lament about the show portrays interracial coupling, much to this user’s distaste.

Here, I am struggling with the term “I don’t agree with.” All this means to me is that I have a deeply irrational hatred of interracial couples and probably people of color by extension. I am having trouble understanding interracial relationships as something to be “agreed” with. Contrary to the centuries of debunked bullshit science and laughable assertions, people of color aren’t animals and interracial relationships between people of color and white people isn’t the same as bestiality, so one can’t disagree with humans copulating with other humans.

I find it troubling that this Netflix member tries to rationalize his or her beliefs by referring to them as non-pc instead of what they really are: racist. At the end of the “review,” the user also tries to gain support from anyone who might agree by claiming that he or she is not alone in this thinking. I am not naive enough to believe that this person is alone. Just saddened that he or she isn’t.

Conferences – A General Note

Conferences cost tons of money so everyone just writes a grant to go for free, and get super excited about the conference tshirt and agenda, only to find out it is dominated by tabs A) and B) namely a) nonprofits and b) white people. TRIFLING!

Nonprofits

spend way too much money on conference calls, grantwriting, and “meetings” while corporations continue to rule the world and buy out the government. Despite these epic failures, every day I get more and more emails of job positions where I can make $20,000 a year continuing this cycle of mediocrity. TRIFLING! I will elaborate on some of the unfortunate aspects of the nonprofit sector, below.

Conference Calls 
Conference calls are an epic waste of time. Open calls usually are an hour long and are advertised excessively via listserv or email, with an exciting sounding topic (why else would you be tricked into listening in the first place) like “How to fight Federal Budget Cuts” or “Rebuiling Local Food Economies in Socially Just Manners”. They also take place during the work hour (sometime, but not always during lunch- deceptive!). Everything in the conference call description suggests this turn of events:

1. Listen to conference call
2. Become supremely educated on awesome topic you want to know more about
3. Walk away with knowledge and ideas for your current project

In reality this is what a conference call breakdown

10%: Hearing “Welcome to the conference” about 20 times for all the people who logged on/got disconnected
5% People reintroducing themselves over and over because the conference call software tells them to do so/ and the requisite “WELCOME! From the overly enthusiastic “moderator”
5% Background static from people who don’t know how to mute their calls/forgot to mute
5% People asking for other people to start talking, said person is unaware they are currently on mute
20% Moderator thanking everyone for being on call and reading the introductions to organizations/bios of speakers (Which you already read in the email they sent you)
20% Speaker(s)thanking everyone for being on the call and talking about what their organization does (Which you could read on their website, which you have a link to in the email they already sent you)
10% Discussion of topic at hand, often not logically progressing. (This is the part you should listen to)
5% Interruption of topic at hand with background static/dropped calls
10% People asking questions. Static continues
10% Response to questions: “That’s a great question. We need more research on that. I would check out X website for Y information.”

Somewhere in the last 20% I would put in the new information gained. That was probably gained from listening to someone else’s question, oddly similar to your own question when you started the call. You probably won’t be able to hear the question, since you’ll either have muted the call, started multitasking during the call, and/or got logged off and are frantically trying to log back in.

Efficiency! We loves it.

Grantwriting
I honestly don’t have that much experience with grantwriting, except to say that A) Grants all claim to be “highly competitive” and yet B) Most organizations seem to get the grants that they usually do to keep running – except if they went out on a limb for a new grant every once in a while. Grants seem to take up lots of time. Usually an organization has one or two dedicated grant-writers. It is their job to spin the BS of what the organization is doing into “results” that will please the almighty “grant-givers” (all too often known as ‘Corporations’). I often wonder what goes in the results section. Sometimes I think it is things like “We distributed material!” or “We talked to people!” Not “we changed X and Y institutional practice, using Z means!” But I am sure some nonprofits are successful at that. Somewhere out there. Grant writers must also answer the grant-givers’ questions and be able to perform well under pressure talking to someone with lots of money asking you why your organization deserves it.

Meetings
Meetings are like conference calls, except that you have to see people in person, which makes it harder to pretend like you are not listening. Good meetings will have an agenda, goals, and a semblance of order. Bad meetings will devolve into a 10 minute late start, 15 minutes of meeting leaders’ rambling, 10 minutes of going to find new copies of materials, 20 minutes of arguing about tiny details of meeting subject, 5 minutes of discussion, and 10 minutes deciding when the next meeting will be.

Meeting subsets include but are not limited to:

Pre-meeting meeting: In which you meet to plan a future meeting, in the hopes that it will be executed efficiently. (It won’t).

Non-meeting: In which the agenda is derailed at every turn by a non-sequiter and nothing is decided on OR there was never a point to the meeting to start with. Also known as weekly staff meetings, held for no ritual other than sometimes we are welcoming new staff and must greet them with catered breakfast and generically awkward introductions as a ‘welcome’.

Epic meeting: In which the conveners of the meeting have failed to note that two people in the meeting are at complete odds with one another and a showdown ensues. At least one person must live tweet/facebook/text message another person a play-by-play for this to qualify as an Epic meeting.

Awkward meeting: In which half the meeting takes place in person and the other half via conference call, thereby converging all types of awkwardness into one clusterf#*$ of inefficiencies.

However, Meetings > Conference Calls in that meetings often have free food. Thanks in no small part to a grant which talked about the need for meetings and food to “Get things done.” TRIFLING!

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