Things That Are Trifling

Thoughts on Food, Gender, Race, and Popular Culture

Archive for the category “Race”

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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I finally get a media hit. On a conservative blog.

Every now and then I get a google news alert for D.C. Hunger Solutions. My first reaction is always “OMG how are we in the news” because I never know to look for it. Then once I read it I remember that we did a press release on the topic recently, or of course Alex would be interviewed for school breakfast, etc.

But this one wasn’t even quoting a news release. It was quoting something that I wrote like four months ago.

Suppose Breitbart.com is the conservative version of HuffPo…

The federal government’s food stamp recruitment program SNAP, the AARP, and the Urban League  are teaming up to end “senior hunger” in the nation’s capitol regardless of an individual’s income level. According to the D.C. Hunger Solutions website:

DC Hunger Solutions joins with AARP DC Volunteers, the Greater Washington Urban League, and AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly to fight senior hunger Senior hunger in Washington D.C. is real and it is growing. 10% of District seniors, regardless of their income level, were worried about food running out sometime in the last twelve months. Approximately 14.5 percent of the District’s 94,400 adults aged 60 and over lived below the federal poverty line in 2009.

D.C. Hunger Solutions is working with AARP DC volunteers and the Greater Washington Urban League to delve deeper into senior hunger issues and connect eligible seniors to the SNAP/Food Stamp program.

– See more at: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/12/14/OBAMA-FOOD-STAMP-RECRUITERS-PREY-ON-VULNERABLE-AMERICANS#sthash.dhkzSiKX.dpuf

 

So, this is hilarious in its absurdity. I mean really. I am preying on seniors by telling them about the food stamp program?

Jesus! If anyone deserves food assistance it is our nation’s seniors. Especially those folk who worked and got paid VERY LITTLE because they are women and people of color so their social security checks are nowhere near enough to live on. You think telling them about a program that they might not even have considered applying for otherwise because of all the misinformation out there, is a crime? If there were ever any implicit racism going on, this would be it.

Also, they are stupid. They say we are trying to sign people up regardless of income level but we clearly say that we want to sign up ELIGIBLE seniors because MANY SENIORS REGARDLESS OF INCOME are at risk of going hungry.

Also, SNAP is not the “food stamp recruitment program” it’s the new name for SNAP. SNAP OUTREACH is not recruitment.

Apparently comprehensive reading isn’t in their repertoire.

To their credit they do quote some Democrats at the end talking about how the poverty rate would rise if we cut SNAP. Which is true. But just thrown in.

There is no real point to this article- no argument, just a summary of whatever Jeff Sessions rambled on about in a hearing. Let’s not forget the fact that his state is majority black, has high rates of obesity, terrible school systems, and generally is comprised of the very people he is denigrating as dependent on government.

Sometimes I really can’t understand what goes through the head of white men with so much inborn privilege. I wish someone would create a medicine to change the chemical balance of their brain so they can realize what’s actually going on in the world.

Also “means-tested federal welfare” does no one know that only 1 million people TOTAL in the country receive TANF?

Environmental Racism at its finest

More gentrifiers are moving to the walkable cities and pushing low and middle income folks to the car heavy suburbs. That’s my overgeneralization of the day. Only then does urban infrastructure become a priority… when Capital Bikeshare can amass a following. (no one cares to notice the delivery boys on bikes. No one invites them to participate in Bike to Work Day.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/the-secret-to-losing-weight-according-to-my-new-high-tech-fitness-monitor-is-wait-for-it-walking/267395/

chocolate city is changing

Mayor Gray’s 2013 State of the District, which I watched from the balcony of 6th and I alongside probably the most diverse crowd I’ve ever been in, despite my hopes, really rubbed me the wrong way. (The Root agrees).

Here’s what he thought pertinent to address (all of this, excepting that the $100 million to affordable housing is great if he’ll actually do it)

-Cell Phone Theft on the metro as an area of concern. HARD LIFE

-Metaphors to sports teams. Were you trying to be funny? I’m sorry. No.

– MoveDC- the plan to make DC more bike friendly. Umm, how about you take care of metro and its shittiness first. (www.unsuckdcmetro.wordpress.com)

-Bringing more jobs to DC. Umm, most of these jobs are for well-educate white folks. Not for the folks east of the Anacostia who you are claiming to help.

Here’s what he didn’t think pertinent to address.

Raging income inequality. We’re #3 in the nation. How’s that for “major league city”?

The fact that people need a lawyer or below freezing temps to get into a shelter.

The 600 kids in DC general., the city’s sorry excuse for a giant homeless shelter. The place apparently has rats. Fun times.

The Uneven Spread of Urban Poverty- from the Atlantic Cities

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.

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