Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summer Tweets

July was pretty much cool in the upper Midwest. It ended a little hotter, with Cecil the lion, but I've already said enough about that.

I started following activist Bree Newsome, who took down the Confederate flag after the white supremacist killings in Charleston. That was one of the major topics of the month:

If this Republican Party were truly the "party of Lincoln,” it wouldn't be defending the confederacy. Let's be real. This is about racism.
By Bree Newsome

CNN: "A majority of people still see it [the Confederate battle flag] as a sign of heritage." A majority of people once supported segregation. So what.
By Bree Newsome

Part of why folks haven't removed the flag yet is because they fear violent backlash of white supremacists. How is that not terrorism?
By Bree Newsome

How can we *begin* to address covert racism when folks still don't even appreciate the brutality of US slavery or Jim Crow?
By Bree Newsome

Mention slavery and it's, "Forget the past and move on." Ask to remove relics of white supremacy and it's, "You're trying to erase history!"
By Ryan Dalton

Very hard for people to get that there is no redemptive portion of the "Old South" that can be separated from racism.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Any song about the "Old South" that mentions cotton is basically an ode to Nazi-style slave labor camps.
By billmon

Standing up for what you believe isn't a virtue if what you believe in is awful.
By God

Religious opponents to same sex marriage are getting more air time than black people whose churches are being burned down.
By jamiekilstein
I was raised Hindu — I could claim a swastika is "heritage, not hate.” But why would I want to torment people who already endured a genocide?
By Anil Dash

For everyone asking "why are we changing so fast on the confederate flag?!" Here's your answer: Because it's easier than fixing the problem.
By Phillip Atiba Goff
Lots of tweets about Black Lives Matter in general, the killing of Sandra Bland in particular, and related topics:
If you truly believe all lives matter, then the importance of saying "#BlackLivesMatter" should not be vexing to you
By Bree Newsome

Nobody said "All Lives Matter" until someone said "Black Lives Matter." It is only said to change the conversation.
By JRehling

All I know is I'm not asking anyone to value my life. Anyone who thinks that #BlackLivesMatter is a request when I say it has me mistaken.
By Bree Newsome

Acknowledging the concerns of #BlackLivesMatter means acknowledging there are citizens being marginalized by the system & no one's fixing it.
By Sean Jordan

#BlackLivesMatter doesn't mean other lives don't. Like people who say "Save The Rainforests" aren't saying "Fuck All Other Types of Forests."
By Matt McGorry

People too often think that structural racism works the same way that interpersonal racism does. It doesn't. No malice/awareness necessary.
By Charles M. Blow

The patriarchy gotta go, bruh. Defending the subjugation & abuse of women is NOT black liberation & unity. It's just more oppression.
By Bree Newsome

Is she talking about Emmett Till in the '50's? Nope. Sandra Bland in the 2010's. Welcome to post-racial America:

By Alan Mills

67% of black women killed by police last year were unarmed. SIXTY SEVEN PERCENT. #SandraBland
By Samuel Sinyangwe

Peace does not co-exist with oppression & injustice. What folks call "peace" is really just law & order, often unequally & unjustly applied.
By Bree Newsome


By SaadiaM

Me: It's not illegal to be rude to cops.
Them: Well, if you poke a bear, what do you expect?
Me: That's why we don't make bears cops.
By Ashley Ford

"Not all cops are bad!" Not all politicians are crooked, either. Funny how it doesn't take but a few to corrupt the whole thing, no?
By Bree Newsome

Property and money are more protected in America than the lives of black people. Why is that? Because that's what slavery was, folks.
By Bree Newsome

I was the only black kid in history class when we were given an assignment to write about a day in life of someone living in colonial America. I wrote from the point of view of a slave girl. One of the questions asked what my schooling was like. I wrote "I'm not allowed to read." The teacher wrote me a long note about how she appreciated my attempt to do something different but it didn't work for the assignment.
By Bree Newsome
Then there was the mass shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, by a white guy who hates feminists and liberals:
If people are on Twitter talking about our national mental health problem it usually means a white person just killed several people.
By John Fugelsang

How much misery & suffering does this country endure to indulge the resentments & fantasies of angry white men? The mind boggles. The hypothetical ability of angry white men to resist government tyranny with guns is apparently worth a mass killing every single day.
By David Roberts
And of course, there’s my least favorite topic, Donald Trump:
Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, and Ted Cruz walk into a bar. Everyone else leaves.
By Aparna Nancherla

Trump is like a YouTube comment thread that achieved sentience.
By Olivia Nuzzi

Trump supporters want a leader tough enough to build golf courses, present beauty pageants, and name a cologne after himself.
By Frank Conniff
When you say you have a great relationship with "The Hispanics," you don't.
By Hemant Mehta

Trump's problem is that he's a VEEP character who thinks he's in House of Cards.
By ryangrim
Also worth remembering that John McCain was slandered in South Carolina for something Strom Thurmond actually did.
By jelani cobb

I admire the bravery of Trump, who managed to elude capture by the Viet Cong by staying home and building shitty condos.
By Frank Conniff
A bit of positive distraction from the successful Pluto mission:
Holy shit you guys, NASA threw a robot toward the ass end of the solar system and it got there within 72 seconds of their estimated arrival.
By Rob DenBleyker

Hey, what if the people who sent a machine 9 billion miles to fly by an icy rock are right about climate?
By pourmecoffee

The oldest living person in the world was alive before the Wright Brothers flew the first plane And we just sent something past Pluto today
By Erik
And finally, the round-up of comments on other topics as well as a fine assortment of jokes...
You can tell it's a parking lane, because they paint a picture of a bicycle right on it.
By Paul Kafasis

Q: Why did hatred of Reagan & Thatcher spawn so much great music & art while all the George W Bush loathing begat...not much, artistically?
By Zack Stentz 

Best way I've found to explain poverty to those who've never experienced it: Imagine if your phone battery only went up to 6%.
By Ronen V

We used to have universal childcare, you know. During the war. When we realized collectively that children needed care while moms worked.
By KillerMartinis

People can't know that their income is primarily a function of random stuff like what technological era they were born into.
By Matt Bruenig

She love me? She love me not? Why is Bigfoot violently interrogating a flower? They are stupid and know nothing... OR DO THEY??!!
By Bigfoot TheBigfoot

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. — John F. Kennedy #compassion @KillerMartinis @JFM
By norm

Core conservative belief: everyone shares their anger & resentment & would show them if being "real" vs. politically correct.
By David Roberts

The people against the Iran deal think the invasion of Iraq and the Cuba embargo are foreign policy success stories.
By mattyglesias

How to reduce fatalities in cities: keep cities compact, reduce speeds, + design streets for all users not just cars. It's proximity of uses that creates *truly* walkable places, not just sidewalks.
By jennifer keesmaat

Even if the US released every drug offender, we'd still have the world's highest incarceration rate.
By Nate Silver

If you publish deeply reported long-form journalism and a half-dozen sites don't immediately aggregate it, did it really exist?
By Matt Ford

Funny thing is Christians go on & on about gay marriage but never are bothered by usury, a far bigger deal in the Bible.
By Scott FitzGerald

We live in a world where freedom of speech is a right to make crap jokes about women yet asking for a living wage/workers rights is extreme.
By Jake

In the '50's, the dream of super highways was freedom. Instead we got long commutes, expensive transportation, and...obesity.
By jennifer keesmaat

If you're paranoid enough to think that someone is going to take your guns away, someone should probably take your guns away.
By Carl Newman

Shorter GOP: "I hate America as it actually exists, vote for me!"
By Tom Tomorrow

Not only does God endorse multiculturalism but He seems to have invented it.
By John Fugelsang

The upside to bringing a disappointing book on vacation is that you don’t have to find a place for it in your luggage on the way home.
By Rainbow Rowell

My lack of response to your unsolicited sales email *was* the response. It is also my response to your follow-up inquiry.
By Michael Lopp

Einstein didn't think much of traditional schooling (though we got lots of posters of him in schools) and neither does Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
By Sisyphus38

"The average American is giving up 1.5 months of wages for the privilege of driving versus biking ..." #bikelove
By Joe Shindelar

I love this photo it's beautiful:

By Steve Wolfhard

There's this weird line of thinking in America that your personal opinion formed without any basis in fact is equal to facts. It's not.
By Bree Newsome

I now feel obliged to repeat my regular PSA: the Prydain Chronicles are better than the Narnia books in every way, esp. for older kids. Basically the Prydain Chronicles are the Best Ever, period, no discussion, no argument, no you shut up.
By David Roberts

"What's wrong with us?" America makes people pay for water, electricity & Internet -- but not the roads we drive on.

People who hate racism should definitely fight against people who hate economic injustice, and vice versa. Great use of energy.
By David Roberts

Instead of supporting an educational system with a strong welfare state, we ask education to serve as THE welfare state. Doesn't work! By Sara Goldrick-Rab

The importance of good design: same number of lanes before & after, but a safer street. 8th Ave NYC:

By jennifer keesmaat

Automation is not going to liberate the dispossessed from misery. It is going to liberate the bosses from needing to keep us alive to work.
By George Bell

The lady whose car had both “Say No To Genetic Modification!” & “I ❤️ My Labradoodle” bumper stickers didn’t get why I was laughing so hard.
By Logan Dobson

It costs twice as much to incarcerate a single juvenile then to pay for them to go to the most expensive college.
By Betsey Stevenson

Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk — they come from families with money.
By Tracy Chou

Why is the assertion that cops are NOT more lethal today generally uncontested? How do people know? Stats haven't been systematically kept.
By Prison Culture

Logically speaking, if you wear a bike helmet, you should also wear a pedestrian helmet.
By William Easterly

Oppression is not a competition. Either you're fighting for liberation for all in a spirit of solidarity or you ain't really bout it.
By Bree Newsome

Rosemary Sutcliff. Monolith of my childhood: grandmother of dragons.
By Joanne Harris

"For transit to attract ridership, patterns of development need to be understood in terms of: density, walkability, linearity, proximity."
By jennifer keesmaat

Allies listen.
By goldietaylor

Can't stop laughing at this...

By Adrian D. Kirby

Ancient cities were designed around central public spaces with public uses to anchor civic life. A timeless principle of urbanism.
By jennifer keesmaat

There are 310 million guns in America and 330 million mobile phones. Which do you think is a more useful check on government power?
By Chris Barchak

Research shows that as much as half the cost of educating a child goes to the administrative costs of operating a large school.
By Sisyphus38

We could eliminate tuition at every public college and university in America with the $80 billion we spend each year on incarcerations.
By President Obama

White privilege allowed you to thrive while being mediocre for so long you actually bought into the allusion that you were more brilliant.
By Fat Amy

Man, I bet Bernie Sanders is happy that America is desensitized to the word "Socialist" after the GOP spent last 7 years calling Obama one.
By Ryan Kennedy

Decided over the weekend I’m going to make a weight scale app. Won’t actually work. Just want to trick people into standing on their phones.
By T. Becket Adams

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the slave markets in lower Manhattan: "Bin Laden was not the first man to bring terror to that section of the city."
By Nikhil Goyal

"When it comes to house hunting, a walk-in closet is nice. But a walk-in neighborhood is essential."
By jennifer keesmaat

I have to say I rather resent Quentin Tarantino for turning songs I always liked into "his" songs.
By Robert O. Simonson

The tragedy of all online community spaces is that the goals of "inclusive" and "safe" are, at the extreme, mutually exclusive goals. At some point you have to exclude someone. You get to pick if it's the people feeling unsafe, or the people making them feel unsafe.
By Laurie Voss

Radio shero Katie Mingle of the "99% Invisible" podcast crafted a lovely auto reply for listeners complaining about women's voices:

By Jenna Weiss-Berman

Shit yes. Always wanted to hear from a fourth-generation rich fucker [Jeb Bush] what I should be doing to chip in around here.By Coda Hale

The point of becoming a rich country is, in part, so people don't have to work endless hours at jobs that they hate!
By Ezra Klein

47-year-old Mark Ruffalo plays a superhero. 50-year-old Robert Downey Jr plays a superhero. 50 year old Marisa Tomei plays Aunt May. GOT IT.
By Mary Beth Williams

Many Americans think they can have peace and prosperity and still have 40% of world energy.
By Free Public Transit

US wealthy inequity:

By Paul Thomas

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. #whiteprivilege
By Arash Daneshzadeh

If you think it's okay to tell my kid Jesus loves her, I don't think it's out of line for me to tell your kid there's no god.
By Stephanie

Almost every time I have clicked on an ad has been an accident. What if the whole online advertising industry is based on accidental clicks?
By Keith Calder

"Why don't they just—" "Just" is my favorite word. It quickly belittles any work required to do something.
By Louie Mantia

I'll never understand the logic that companies have no societal obligations given how many benefits they're happy to take from society.
By KillerMartinis

We must take this country BACK to make it great again. Mill jobs for children! Full-body wool swimsuits for women! Tuberculosis for all!
By Hipster Mermaid

Q: What does a Grateful Dead fan say when he runs out of pot?
A: Oh my God, this band is terrible.
By Josh

The bailout Greece needs, put in some context:

By Meanwhile In Scotia

Sometimes the best way to fit in at a party is to pretend you're a reporter doing a story.
By Aparna Nancherla

I had to go on tv today and explain that if welfare pays better than work it's not a scheme on the part of recipients. It's shitty wages.
By KillerMartinis

Experimenting on other people's children in school is a lucrative hobby for #WhitePrivilege
By Arash Daneshzadeh

Some spend so much time, energy, and emotion trying to rationalize the occurrences of injustices, rather than admitting they are wrong. Let's rationalize why freedom, justice and equality should truly be a reality for and actualized by all — not just hollow words of patriotism.
By Ryan Dalton

45 times so far this year, 9-1-1 was dialed seeking medical help, only to have the police show up and kill the person. [Links to a Washington Post story.]
By Wesley Lowery

Possibly the nerdiest joke ever:

By Paul Grenfell

Shopping for cars as a "single" woman is a stark reminder that the world thinks men should be making major decisions for you.
By Molly Priesmeyer

Friday, July 31, 2015

And Now About the Elephants

As the uproar over the dentist killing Cecil the lion welled into a mob, five elephants were killed for their tusks in Kenya.

According to the Washington Post,

In recent years, the poaching of elephants has increased exponentially because of the demand for ivory in Asia, where it's used for unproven medicinal purposes. Between 2010 and 2012, poachers killed more than 100,000 African elephants — a level of destruction that put the species on the road to extinction. Unlike many other animals, elephants mourn the death of their brethren, wrapping their trunks around the bones or carcasses of the deceased.

While the African lion population is also under threat, it is largely because their habitats are being destroyed by farmers and developers, not because the animals are hunted.
Elephants have friends. They can differentiate human languages and voices. Nobody has any business killing them.

There's a bit of good news about elephants, generally, though not for these five who were killed:
Kenyan authorities say they were making progress in the fight against poachers before the recent killing at Tsavo. Last year, the government deployed 550 new rangers. Advances in technology have allowed researchers to monitor herds using GPS trackers, gauging when they might be under threat based on their movement and speed.

“We’ve increased our intelligence and our operations. We were having success,” Gathitu said. “That’s why we’re so surprised.”
I wonder if Dr. Palmer has killed an elephant?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Few More on the Deadly Dentist

Pioneer Press outdoors columnist Dave Orrick published an open-letter-style column today, addressed to the lion-killing dentist, Walter Palmer. Orrick shares Palmer's pursuit of hunting but not his pursuit of trophies, especially ones from other continents. But his main point is that Palmer is guilty of poaching, which has specified penalties -- none of which include death threats, loss of business, or terrorizing of family members.

I don't understand the way death threats follow almost every publicized transgression these days. If Palmer were my dentist, I would find a new dentist, but that's it. I wouldn't leave him a bad Yelp review, let alone threaten him or his family. Vox had a particularly thoughtful essay on why the proliferation of mob justice, as illustrated in the Palmer case, should worry us all.

Letter writers in today's Star Tribune had a few pithy points as well, mostly in keeping with Dave Orrick's point of view. The best was from Clint Carlson of Minneapolis:

Cecil is still a lion. The media wants you to believe that Cecil was stolen from a petting zoo in the middle of the night while children were using him as a pillow. He’s a lion. When his dominance is threatened, he eats lion cubs alive. His favorite thing to do is to tear flesh from zebras while they are still breathing. Please stop picturing him as a fuzzy stuffed animal.

If you really do feel this strongly about poaching, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources publishes a weekly report that lists the names of poachers. This fall there will be many. You will be very busy smearing the names of these people. If you do not plan on doing that, why are you so filled with hate toward Dr. Walter Palmer? ...You should be just as angry with John Doe who poached a black bear in northern Minnesota as you are about Cecil the lion.
(Of course, Dr. Palmer also poached a black bear, and got off with a year of probation for that.)

The best thinking on the whole sorry case (rather than the overreaction to it) comes from a Zimbabwean blogger named Alex Magaisa. He deconstructs the media's story that Cecil the lion was a beloved figure in Zimbabwe. He explains the corruption that underlies the hunting industry generally and connects it with the colonialist past and its present remnants. All of which is not something I've seen in other coverage.

Finally, this screen grab from last night's All In with Chris Hayes:

That's the front door of Walter Palmer's dental practice down in Bloomington, Minn., where my fellow Minnesotans are going out of their way to make sure the rest of the world knows Palmer is a pariah.

Check out the sign at top right of the screen. I'm sure the person who made that Cat Lives Matter sign thought they were being clever, but all they did was trivialize the lives of black human beings once again. And give me one more reason to be ashamed of living in Minnesota.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Thoughts on the Lion-Killing Dentist

I have a range of feelings and thoughts about the Minnesota-dentist-kills-Cecil-the-lion story.

1. People who eat cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, fish, turkeys, and other animals every day don't have a lot of weight with me on this topic. Differentiating your animal killing from the dentist's is unthoughtful at least.

2. At the same time, killing for pure sport and a trophy is as vacuous as it is reprehensible. And I can't help feeling ashamed that he's from Minnesota.

3. Spending $54,000 to get that lion trophy (plus airfare, hotel, and other costs) adds insult to the injury. That's more than the median household income in the U.S. As a Star Tribune letter writer put it today, "I cannot help thinking of the many who cannot afford dental care even with insurance, while this man, Walter H. Palmer, makes so much that he can pay to hunt and kill a lion in Africa for sport." (Letter by Rosemary Rocco, Maple Grove, Minn.) Some people really do have too much money.

4. The killing of the lion gets all sorts of attention, though, while people die every day from bad actors worldwide and we never hear a thing about it. People working in sweatshops all over the place, kids dying from exposure to lead from mining in Nigeria, sex/rape tourists in too many countries to count...

But Walter Palmer and his compound bow are clearly not a part of the solution, either. Here are a few facts from the Star Tribune's locally written stories (here and here) that may not have made it into national media:

  • Palmer is "among two dozen hunters who have completed what’s known as the North American Super Slam, taking all 29 huntable big-game species" with a bow.
  • Palmer is "a very driven man…He lives an intense, fast-paced life, and hunting is a great passion. He’s taken all five of the dangerous Big Five of African game, including a rhinoceros..." Great! How admirable.
  • Among the 43 kills Palmer has listed with the big-game hunting group Safari Club International are an African elephant and a polar bear. (Safari Club International has 55,000 members worldwide, including around a 1,000 Minnesotans.)
  • Safari hunters like Palmer arrange their trips through businesses with names like Luxury Hunts. The spokesman for Luxury Hunts (not involved in the Palmer lion killing) blamed the local guides: “If he bought a lion hunt and they take him on a lion hunt, he [doesn’t] know where you’re going. The finger should be pointed at the professional hunter, not the hunter himself.” Sounds like an easy excuse to me, rich man.
  • Palmer killed a Wisconsin black bear in 2008 and then lied about where he had killed it; he could have gotten five years in prison, but instead got a year of probation and a fine of $3,000. And the next year, he paid a $127,500 settlement to his former receptionist (also a patient of his), who claimed he made comments about her breasts, buttocks and genitalia. Great guy, am I right?
  • After Palmer and his guides caught up with the wounded lion and the guides shot it to death, they tried to destroy the tracking collar.
Finally, did anyone else notice how the media (including NPR) keep referring to the local guides as "African" guides instead of Zimbabwean guides? Because our media doesn't know that Africa is a continent, not a country.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Now That's a Page of Commentary

Today's Star Tribune commentary page was made up of three locally written pieces, all of which made great points on their very different topics.

First, Dr. Steven Miles explained how fetal tissue, as is sometimes collected when a woman chooses to have an abortion, has led to tremendous advances in prenatal surgery. We've all heard that doctors can now perform heart surgery before birth, or close up spinal columns. That's because doctors had access to fetal remains to study.

Second, lawyer Marshall Tanick gave President Obama a hard time in Oh, Just Revoke the Medal of Freedom Already. Tanick points out that many awards have been revoked by organizations that didn't have a precedent for doing so (Little League Baseball, the Miss America pageant...). He writes, Bill Cosby has "no right to the award and [he] would lose no economic benefits if it were taken away from him. Therefore, the administration should undertake an inquiry into the Cosby calumny and consider revoking the award if appropriate."

Finally, two local law professors tell us that Obama's Categorical Reduction of Sentences Has Precedent, contrary to what some on the Right seem to think. Presidents from Washington on have done it, in fact. And even the number of people pardoned by Obama -- now the highest since Lyndon Johnson -- is not that high. "When Johnson in 1965 commuted 80 federal prison sentences, there were only about 20,000 federal prisoners, and most had a chance to earn release on parole. Move ahead 50 years — parole opportunities have been entirely abolished in the federal system, and the federal prison population now exceeds 200,000."

All of this made for welcome reading this morning.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Chaos in the Laundry

Ceramic artist Erik Riese makes small ceramic disks he calls Coin of the Realm. I have a few, including some with magnets attached to the back. Recently, one got detached from its magnet but still had the adhesive in place... and somehow it got stuck to my washing machine.

Here it is in its new permanent location:

Marking my washing machine and its eager maw of sock consumption:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Images of the Midwest

I am freshly returned from a weekend in Wisconsin Dells, a place I never heard of when I lived on the East Coast, but which is well-known to anyone within a 500-mile radius in the upper Midwest. It's a place that attracted tourists in the 19th century because of its natural beauty. After the number of cars increased post World War I and especially after World War I, those tourists were seen as an opportunity for quaint roadside attractions, motels, and (finally) dozens of waterparks and amusement parks.

Now it's what I would call a working-class to middle-class vacation spot for people with kids. There's a three-block stretch of the original downtown that's like a boardwalk, including lots of shops selling tacky T-shirts.

Several shops put the "art" on the walls and you can get it printed immediately onto whatever type of shirt you want. This wall o' stuff caught my attention because of the rip-offs of Shephard Fairey's OBEY graphic. Especially the Mickey Mouse OHBOY version... why not infringe two copyrights while you're at it, right?

I just noticed the ones at top left that say "I heart my crazy boyfriend girlfriend" and "I heart my crazy wife husband." Is this an example of the slippery slope we were promised after the marriage equality decision?

I've never understood the trend that involves printing words on the butt of clothing. Of course, it's only done on clothes for women. The words on these very short shorts read "Can't touch this."

And this is classic Wisconsin: pink camouflage meets traditional (and therefore I guess male) camouflage. The idea that the deer themselves would be camouflaged is particularly odd since the people who wear camouflage intend to kill them. Of course, the "girl" deer has to have a bow on her head.

The Dells has more than just tacky clothes. There's lots of room for stuff no one needs!

There's something wrong with this horse painting: The eyes are too close together, pointing forward rather than being placed almost on the sides of the head. Because horses are prey animals, they need to have greater range of vision, while predators need to look straight ahead when they're pursuing. It makes the horse look more like a wolf with a weird nose. I wonder if there are fangs hidden in that overbite?

And finally, from a shop full of breakable stuff, this message, "Children are not to handle." I read it several times before I understood what it meant. I kept thinking it was something like "Children are not to be mishandled" or something like that. Do you think any kids or even parents understand this passive phrasing?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beyond the Cartoon of White Supremacy

First, a photo and some words from Twitter:

Nothing is so effective at turning people off white supremacy as letting its hilarious champions march in public.
For a second I thought, Yeah!

And then I thought: No.

That photo and those marches are a cartoon of white supremacy. The rest of us white people all benefit from actual white supremacy, and photos and marches like this allow us to think we're not part of white supremacy.

White supremacy (the belief that whiteness is better) is engrained in our culture, from the beauty standard and Hollywood movies to home-purchasing and hiring decisions and food deserts, from loitering laws to mass incarceration and the drug war. Even this: There were no voter registration laws in this country until black men were given the right to vote after the Civil War. Then, it suddenly became necessary to control who was voting.

And that’s just current white supremacy — it doesn’t include the way our country was built on white supremacy by enslaved black people and exterminated native people. For instance, New York City with its great harbor became what it is by profiting from the slave trade. Even our most elite universities were raised up with profits from slavery.

White privilege is a result or aspect of white supremacy, and every white person in this country has white privilege, even if we don’t have class privilege, straight privilege, or other forms of privilege.

The fact that we're taught to believe white supremacy equals the Klan or neo-Nazis, rather than the way our society is structured, works in favor of white supremacy, hiding it and making anyone who calls it out sound like an extremist.

It took me a long time to realize this, and I thank Ta-Nahesi Coates’s writing for the Atlantic over the years for making it clear to me.

In his short and worthy book Between the World and Me, Coates calls us white people “people who believe they are white,” after a turn of phrase by James Baldwin. We are not actually white, since that is both a bad description of our skin colors and a socially agreed upon category that only exists in comparison to someone who is defined as “black.”

Black people also do not exist, of course, but the way they are treated in society has real effects that matter and can’t be wished away with the vacuous proclamation “I don’t see color.”

Black people in the U.S. not only have created a multifaceted culture that mainstream culture continues to copy and profit from: they have solidarity together in the face of oppression. Coates sums this up in one of his pithiest phrases: “They made us into a race; we made ourselves into a people.”


The photo and thoughts on the most obvious form of white supremacy are from the Twitter account of Charles C.W. Cooke.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Joke of the Butts

An odd confluence of butt packaging today.

I never heard of Boydreaux's Butt Paste in my days an infant-parent. And cat butt purse coin purse... I don't even know where to start with that one.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Who Gets a Ticket, or Worse

I'm getting on the road today, so I don't have much time to post. I've been thinking a lot about the Sandra Bland police stop (and her subsequent suicide), and wanted to share this post by Michael Leddy about the cop's previous stop, which happened just minutes before he pulled Bland to the side of the road. Michael took the time to watch the whole video, while I have not. He even transcribed the trooper's side of the conversation, which shows the trooper letting off a college student for speeding, even though s/he had no proof of insurance.

I've been stopped for traffic infractions three times in my life.

  • Speeding on an interstate, 1986, going 72 in a 55 zone. White female trooper. Got a ticket.
  • Speeding on a county road, 2008, going 52 in a 35 (hey, I was in a excuse). White male surburban town police. No ticket, just a warning.
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign on a residential city street, 2014. Black male city police. I got a ticket, which I thoroughly deserved. (I didn't blow through the stop sign, but it was nowhere near a full stop either.)
I know three times does not a pattern make, but I've always found it interesting that I, a white woman, was let off by the white man but not the white woman or the black man.

The one thing that stands out for me in the parts of the Texas traffic stop video I've watched is the moment when the trooper asks Bland to put out her cigarette as she sits in her car and he stands outside the window. His tone is clearly annoyed (listen to how he says "please"), and after he finishes speaking, there's a long pause before she answers. I think Sandra Bland thought hard in that second or two about whether to go along with him or not, and decided she had had enough.

It was a fateful decision, but one she was legally entitled to make.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wait Three Years for that Shot

It's been a while since I mentioned the unconscionable price of EpiPens (here and here). Well, there's some good news on that front: A new product, Abiliject, is in the works that will compete with EpiPen and have a longer shelf-life.

Abiliject isn't subject to the patent that protects EpiPens because Abiliject stores the epinephrine as a powder, which is reconstituted in seconds when needed. Storing the drug in dry form is what increases the shelf life.

The only problem: it's not due out until 2018, so lots of people can get ripped off or even die in the meantime.

And I wonder what Abiliject will sell for? Seems like it could actually be more expensive. But -- I hope -- its presence in the market will drive down the EpiPen price, if nothing else.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Leonardo's Cradle

Leonardo's Basement is a kid-oriented, creative learning place for kids to design and build from their imaginations. It's in South Minneapolis. I've never been there, but stopped by yesterday to drop off some Make magazines and a box of old model car parts fit for kit bashing.

This is what greets you when you walk in the door of their lower-level workshop space:

Yes, that's a bowling-ball-scale Newton's Cradle.

I had to resist the temptation of knocking one ball into the others.