BroadSnark

Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A
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The Tulsa Riot: Violence and Erasure

July 23, 2014 By: Mel Category: Violence

Downtown Tulsa 2006A while back I came across this article about freeway removals. My first thought was – cool. My next thought was – I wonder what was there before the freeways. That got me thinking about Tulsa, Oklahoma.

For the Creeks, the trail of tears ended in what is now Tulsa.  That tragedy of displacement is how Tulsa became part of Indian Territory. Some of those “Indians” who were driven to Oklahoma brought African descended slaves with them. Other black people came post reconstruction, trying to get a little land out from under the violence of the South. Some of those black immigrants were exodusters who set up entirely black communities in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Mexican immigrants also arrived in larger numbers as the pre-civil war situation in Mexico became more dire.

The thing about small places with few riches and loose rules is that they tend to open up space for the kinds of relations that are forbidden and erased later. Our popular cultural narratives whiten everything so thoroughly. We think we are looking at the white supremacy of the past. And we are. But we are looking at it through the white supremacy of the present. When you actually read honest sources about “frontier towns” and early contact, you almost inevitably find that things were much more complicated and diverse than we are led to believe.

All of which is to say that early Tulsa wasn’t segregated. Several of the downtown businesses were owned by black people. But by the time Oklahoma got statehood in 1907, six years after oil was discovered and after an influx of white immigrants, Tulsa was on its way to becoming the most segregated city in America. Miscegenation was a felony. Blacks were required to take literacy tests before voting. Lynchings like that of Laura Nelson, who was gang raped before being hung with her young son, were photographed and advertised to terrify black people.

(Amazing what starts happening when somebody discovers oil and all the greedy shitbags in the world start descending on a place. I believe we are now referring to this as the “resource curse.”)

Two black men had purchased a bunch of Tulsa property at the turn of the century and sold parcels of it to other black people. The idea was to set up a black community that could provide some security and mutual support. That community became the Greenwood District. People referred to Greenwood as “The Black Wall Street.” But most people were far from rich. Many were dependent on the white families they worked for as domestics. Much like in poor, urban, black neighborhoods today; city services were nonexistent.

(If you want to see who a city cares about, see which neighborhoods get their trash picked up.)

In 1921 Tulsa, the Drexel Building had one of the only bathrooms that black people could use in the downtown area. The elevator of the building was operated by a white girl named Sarah Page. A shoe-shine boy named Dick Rowland got into the elevator. Stories differ on what happened next. But Rowland was accused of assaulting Page. And that is when all hell broke loose. Rowland was arrested and the Tulsa Tribune front page announced “Negro assaults a white girl!”

I won’t go into how often the black rapist lie has been used to justify atrocities. I’ve written about it before and probably will again. But I genuinely wonder if anyone has ever tried to compile a list of all the horrors that start out with some supposed violation of a white woman. That is never the real story, of course.

The real story is that Tulsa was a cesspool of racism. Also, by 1921, there was an active labor movement that was striking all over the place and powerful people were antsy. Black people who had served in WWI were coming home and expecting to be treated human. They were also armed and trained. In short, people were standing up for their rights.

So when rumors of a lynching started and a crowd of white people gathered in front of the courthouse and refused to disperse, the black community was not going to just hide. Black people in Greenwood, including veterans, got together to talk about how they could prevent a lynching. At 7:30, 30 armed black people went to the courthouse but were sent off by the black deputy. A couple hours later, 25 armed black people returned and demanded Rowland. By this time, Rowland’s innocence was confirmed by the accuser, but he supposedly couldn’t be released until a judge was available in the morning.

Later that night, white people started arming themselves and tried to break into an armory. Armed blacks followed. There was a struggle when a white man tried to get a black man’s gun from him. Black Tulsans retreated to the Greenwood District. There was fighting in the streets. The national guard was called in. “Deputized” white men roamed all over the city robbing stores and taking the law into their own hands. Greenwood was invaded. Homes were looted and set on fire. Airplanes few overhead.  Many black witnesses say that those airplanes were dropping bombs on the city. Officials deny it to this day. Pictures of the aftermath speak for themselves.

Nobody has an accurate death toll from the riot. Some estimates go into the hundreds. But black Tulsans were not allowed to bury their dead. People don’t even know what happened to the bodies, though archeaologists have been trying to find out. Nobody faced consequences for the destruction. Donations were rejected by the city, which provided no help to those who tried to rebuild. Instead the city passed ordinances to make rebuilding difficult, worked on rezoning the area, and gave land away to whatever industry came along.

The history of the riots was completely erased by white Tulsa. School children knew nothing about it. No mention was made by officials. Then in the 1950s, as with so many other communities that the power structure found inconvenient, Greenwood was wiped out for an expressway.

Back when I was going to Tulsa quite often, I learned about the riots and decided to go see the area. That is how I found myself standing under a desolate highway overpass wondering how Oklahoma’s version of a pogrom could warrant so little attention. And that is why, when I hear about all these groovy projects for green spaces and bike lanes and farmers markets, I wonder what stood there before and how it was chased off.

Places change. People move on. Others move in. Buildings need to be replaced. Priorities change. But nobody should proceed as if the past never happened, much less actively work to erase it. All over, for as long as we have records and right up to the present, this violence and erasure keeps happening. Maybe you call it colonialism or gentrification or urban renewal or land grabbing. It’s all the same shit. People are killed. They are forced out. They are erased and their culture, history, and struggle is erased with them.

We always need to be asking what and who was there before. There is no hope of acting justly without understanding where we are now and how we got here.

___________________

Much of the info for this article came from James Hirsch’s book Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy. Bit of the background came from Danney Goble’s book Tulsa: Biography of the American City.

Hijacking the Sharing Economy

July 21, 2014 By: Mel Category: Change, Inequality

Forbes cover of Airbnb CEOThere have been a slew of articles lately about how services like Airbnb and Lyft signal the “rise of the sharing economy.” Forbes says it is “unstoppable” and includes a cover that asks “Who wants to be a billionaire?” The Wall Street Journal profiles Airbnb’s founder as a young upstart who is rocking the boat of all those stodgy hotel chains. The economist wants cities and their pesky worrywarts to get out of the way.

Maybe the most interesting piece was in Wired. Wired thinks that this “sharing economy” has gotten people to trust each other. After all, as one Lyft driver said “It’s not just some person off the street.” These people have Facebook accounts and credit cards. They have online ratings. It isn’t like they are picking up hitchhikers (god forbid) or a person so poor they don’t have a MasterCard (gasp). These people must be o.k. right? You won’t be picking up anyone sketchy like John Waters.

And then there is this

Lyft cofounder John Zimmer goes so far as to liken it to time he spent on the Oglala Sioux reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. “Their sense of community, of connection to each other and to their land, made me feel more happy and alive than I’ve ever felt before,” he says. “I think people are craving real human interaction—it’s like an instinct. We now have the opportunity to use technology to help us get there.”

You know what. People are craving real human interaction, but a ride that you pay somebody for is not that. Is Zimmer claiming that the connection to the land he romanticizes was brought about by fee for service car rides? Am I really supposed to listen to some millionaire wax nostalgic about time spent on a reservation with the lowest life expectancy in the country and teen suicide rates 150% higher than the U.S. national average

Kevin Roose’s response to Wired was that The Sharing Economy Isn’t About Trust, It’s About Desperation. Roose is right that the economy sucks, but I would hardly call the people profiled in the articles above “desperate.” If you have a luxury car or a house in San Francisco to rent out and you think you are desperate, you lead a very sheltered life.

In The Case Against Sharing, Susie Cagle describes how someone at a conference of these sharing economy climbers actually had the nerve to quote Audre Lorde. But when labor researcher Veena Dubal told them that rideshare companies contribute to a culture of precarious work and are therefore hurting workers, the reaction from these sharers was less than generous.

These companies are just exploiting our desire for connection and co-opting the real sharing and solidarity economies. Renting is not sharing. A business model that makes a couple of people billionaires and chases thousands of out of a city through gentrification on overdrive is not an economic model that should be romanticized. And there is absolutely nothing new about an economy based on sharing. It is a hell of a lot older than the economy we have now.

Gift economies are ancient. Workers started talking about workplace democracy since they started experiencing the workplace. Mutual aid societies have been essential survival tools for people all over the world. What are interesting and front page worthy are not the billionaire stories. What we should be paying attention to is the growth of the solidarity or social economy.

When artists start a co-op bed and breakfast in New York so that they can survive as artists, that is attention worthy. So is a time bank in Maine or a free store in Baltimore. What about hundreds of people gathering in Jackson to talk about “cooperative restaurants, child and elder care coops, cooperative grocery stores, cooperative factories, farms and more, all collectively owned and democratically managed by the same workers who deliver the service and create the value.”

Don’t be distracted by these “sharing” businesses that make a lot of money for their founders and a little bit of money for the relatively well off. Their new economy is the same as the old one. It leaves most people out in the cold – literally. The real sharing economy isn’t making anyone a billionaire. The real sharing economy means genuine relationships, workplace democracy, and social justice.

Planned Parenthood Is About to Get Slammed

July 16, 2014 By: Mel Category: Sex

Fifty Shades of Grey Party GameYou might know by now that I stay on the Heritage Foundation email list for my daily dose of bullshit induced rage. Today’s rage comes courtesy of secret videos filmed in Planned Parenthood offices. They are very similar to the ones that took down Acorn. This time they are sending young women in to pose as underage girls who ask for advice about BDSM.

You can read the article and watch the video here.

These are some really slimy tactics. And the anti BDSM scaremongering is repugnant. The people who work at PP are clearly trying to be non-judgmental to their patients. But they are also clearly not giving good advice. Nobody in their right mind should tell anyone of any age to read Fifty Shades of Grey for sex ideas. If you want to know why, feel free to check out the serial review of that monstrous book on The Pervocracy or this shorter (and hilarious) Goodreads review by Katrina Passick Lumsden.

As slimy as these tactics are, they are not wrong that these people are giving bad advice. Of course, I have very different ideas about what good sex advice would be.

This is going to go very badly for Planned Parenthood.

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Things You Might Have Missed

July 15, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

IMG_1016Not had a lot of time for writing the last couple weeks. Just got back from the beach and before that I was in New York stuffing my face with blintzes at B&H.  So good.

Next month I’ll be stopping in Phili for a quick minute at the anarchist book fair. Anybody else going?

Activists in Detroit are blocking the trucks that are sent out to shut off people’s water for nonpayment.

Cecily McMillan, the OWS activist who went to prison describes what it is like to be at the mercy of prison guards.

Bruce Reilly talks about how people treat you after you get out of prison.

And this ColorLines piece goes into even more detail about how hard it is to get work without connections and with all kinds of prejudices against you.

This guy managed to kick a drug habit, get off the streets, and get a law degree. But he cannot practice law in Florida because of his felony record.

There is a petition you can sign to support the people in prison in Pennsylvania who are asking for the most basic nutrition and rights.

People incarcerated in Georgia were getting sick after maggots were found in their food.

Thousands went on a hunger strike last month in Greek prisons.

A good summary on Balko’s blog of how parents are being targeted by the criminal injustice system.

Too bad that 1920s movement to outlaw flirting didn’t come to pass. Think of how many more we could have in prison.

This is essay about the writer’s rape – the male writer’s rape – is a must read.

You know how I wrote a while back that Cooperation is the Problem? Well, there is now science to prove that “more agreeable,conscientious personalities are more likely to make harmful choices.”

You might want to run your old phones over with a tractor. Or stop taking dick pics.

Buying homes is for rich people, really rich people.

The Department of Defense’s spending includes more than $380 million on erectile dysfunction drugs, $238 million on testosterone therapy drugs, at least $2.7 billion on antidepressants, more than $1.6 billion on opioid painkillers, and  more than $507 million on Ambien and its generic equivalents.

I have to admit that I am someone who complains about bikers a lot. Yesterday, for instance, I lost it when some dumbass on a bike cut off a fire truck with its sirens on. But I must admit that this piece on Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things makes some very good points.

And finally. Never, ever give money to the Red Cross.

 

 

Reparations and Aspirations: In Response to Coates and Connolly

June 25, 2014 By: Mel Category: Change

Acoma Pueblo New MexicoThanks to Ta-Nehisi Coates, people are talking about reparations. Which is great. But we appear to be dancing around what facing our history would necessarily mean for our future. And we don’t appear to be able to talk about doing anything outside of lobbying the very same political system that got us here.

One reason reparations seem impossible is that we cannot wrap our heads around a conception of justice that is meant to repair harm. We live in a society focused on retribution, not restoration. We send people to prison for decades for selling weed. We let poor women die in prison because their kid skipped school. We put the mentally ill in solitary confinement. We barely blink when the imprisoned are raped by guards, even juveniles. As a society, we stopped talking about rehabilitation a long time ago. Now we only talk about “paying” for crime and compete with each other to see who can be more cruel “tougher”.

Is it really surprising that people are afraid of what justice would look like?

What if, instead of retributive justice, we had restorative justice? In a society where people can only think in terms of retribution, an honest accounting is impossible. In a restorative justice process, an honest accounting is the first step toward repairing the harm done to individuals and the community. A restorative justice process is meant to transform the participants in a positive way and decrease the chances of future harm. Unlike our current system, the aim of restorative justice – including reparations – is not to make the perpetrator(s) suffer.

To talk about reparations is to acknowledge our need for an entirely new conception of justice, one that applies to all of our society. But we also need a hell of a lot more than that.

I found myself nodding in agreement to part 1 of N. D. B. Connolly’s response to Coates’s article. How did reparations to Israel from West Germany turn out? Not so great for the Palestinians. How often are relatively wealthy black people participants in the subjugation of poorer black people? A lot. What happens when you try to address one injustice without addressing the others? A mess. What became of our government’s attempts to look at the history of its crimes? Nothing much.

Our systems are systems of subjugation. Success within our society is dependent on oppression. It is essential but not sufficient to try and repair the damage done by slavery and white supremacy. We live in a complex hierarchy where your position is determined by your race, hue, ethnicity, gender, class, possessions, sexual preference, physical abilities, mental abilities, certifications… If all reparations try to do is bring more black people into the current definition of success, we will fail miserably. There will still be workers having their paltry wages stolen by McDonalds. There will still be migrant farm workers dying of sun stroke. There will still be poverty and an epidemic of teen suicides on reservations. We will still be drone bombing brown people in countries around the world.

In part 2 of Connolly’s response to Coates he makes some suggestions on what we should do about our toxic system. Unfortunately, despite his recognition of how problematic is the “tendency…to propose modest solutions within established government structures,” that is just what he did. It isn’t that I am against reinstating felons right to vote. It is that we should be talking about prison abolition. It isn’t that I don’t recognize the problems with the castle doctrine and stand your ground. It is that the castle doctrine and stand your ground have little to do with the epidemic of police violence (and police kill many more people than vigilantes do). It isn’t that I cannot see the value of removing the need to show discriminatory intent. It is that suing for discrimination does nothing to transform our injustice system or to put our workplaces in the control of the workers.

No amount of constitutional amendments or court cases are going to transform our government and economic system to one that is not based on hierarchy and subjugation. We need to think bigger. We can have a society based on cooperation and mutual aid. We can have community control and direct democracy. We can abolish prisons, democratize the workplace, and dismantle the military industrial complex.

I know many of you think I am too radical (or maybe delusional). But there is no other way. We cannot repair any part of our damaged society without a radical transformation of its values and institutions. Conversely, for those of us who have been working for radical changes, we cannot be successful unless we face the white supremacist core of everything we are trying to change.

You cannot, for example, talk about the prison industrial complex without acknowledging that it is part of a continuum from slavery to present. The thirteenth amendment said “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime.” And today we have millions of people, disproportionately of color, laboring behind bars for pennies an hour to make some of the richest companies in the world even richer. And if that 37 cents an hour isn’t enough to cover your overpriced commissary tampons for the month – too bad for you.

Perhaps this seems overwhelming. Perhaps you are wondering where would we even start. The good news is that we have already started. You just might not have noticed yet.

There are already restorative justice organizations all over the country. There are already schools taking different approaches to conflict resolution. There is already a movement for change being led by tens of thousands of people who are incarcerated. We already have workers who refuse to just roll over for the owners, workers who are taking control and democratizing their workplaces. We even have communities with truth commissions.

No real radical change has ever come from above. The kind of change we need has always started with communities, churches, communes, and street corners. Processes that are grounded in community are based on and build relationships of trust. They are processes where the people are participants and not just spectators. And if our movements are rooted, they have a chance of withstanding the inevitable onslaught by those who don’t want real justice.

Also, processes that are grounded in community can adjust to local history and circumstances. Because restorative justice in Birmingham is going to look very different from restorative justice in Acoma Pueblo. We need to talk about what happens on reservations and on the Mexican border too. We need to remember that the history of the United States is not only the history of following Europeans as they crossed the continent. It is not just the history of that portion in the East that we call North and South.

There can be no repair without a radical transformation of our society. There can be no radical transformation of our society without an honest accounting of where we have been. And there can be neither repair nor transformation from the top down. In fact, we should be aiming to eliminate the hierarchies that got us into this mess to begin with.

Your Well-Intentioned Regulations Will Not Bring Justice

June 23, 2014 By: Mel Category: Inequality, Politics

Playa Chacala, MexicoYou have heard of “too big to fail.” Well, the World Bank recently posted a piece called Too Small to Regulate. It is an argument for big business. In fact, it is an argument for industries to be run by just a handful of big companies. It is easier, they say, for the government to keep up with a few behemoths than to try and monitor a whole bunch of independents. According to the authors,

The reason regulation is needed is that, as Nicholas Kristof argues in one of his recent columns, a firm’s “business case” does not always coincide with what is socially desirable. Many actions have harmful side-effects on bystanders who are not party to the decisions—“negative externalities” in the language of economics. It is not in the interest of the firm, on its own, to pay heed to the negative externalities it inflicts. Regulation, with carefully calibrated penalties, can help bring a firm’s profit-maximizing motive into alignment with society’s overall interests.  

There are so many people that I wish would read and think about that article. Because there are so many people I know who are both fervent supporters of increased regulation and fervent supporters of small businesses, buying local, co-ops, independents… Like them, I did not always see clearly that those things are very often (maybe mostly) in opposition to one another.

Laws and regulations are not magic. There are costs and consequences. The consequences will always be more severe for the marginalized and discriminated against. The benefits will always be enjoyed disproportionately by the most powerful and privileged. The US is, after all, an oligarchy. How could anyone expect regulations to benefit anyone but the current and aspiring oligarchs who pay for them?

Marijuana is being legalized all over. With legalization and regulation has come a devouring of small-scale growers and retailers. In Canada, growing for your own personal use has been nixed in favor of large-scale capitalist enterprise with prohibitive start-up costs. One Ottawa entrepreneur

underestimated the money they would need by a factor of three, largely because of the government’s regulatory demands. The application ran 300 pages, not including attachments. And before they could even submit applications, Tweed and other growers had to secure sites for their operations and obtain all local permissions. Applicants who passed the initial vetting then had to pass a final, two-day inspection.

California growers are experiencing similar changes as marijuana becomes taxed and regulated. Maybe you think that is a good thing. But one of the reasons for legalizing marijuana was to stop the arrest and incarceration of users and small-time dealers. If the barriers are too high for legal sales, then the same people will  continue to get arrested. If you don’t believe me, then you aren’t paying attention to the people of color who are getting arrested for cutting hair without a license.

A long time ago I read an interview with Michelle Alexander where people asked her about legalization of drugs as a response to The New Jim Crow. She wisely pointed out that the system will find another way to criminalize and caste poor people of color. She was right. And now she is pointing out that white men are now getting rich from selling pot while black men are still behind bars for doing the same thing.

I know what some of you are thinking. You are thinking that we need regulation to prevent discrimination, environmental damage, and other predatory behavior. But does regulation really work?

We had environmental regulation, but that didn’t stop BP from spilling millions of barrels of oil. Our government’s response was not to hold them fully accountable. It was to limit their liability and save the company. Which is what will always happen. Because incorporation is the government giving people permission to do things without personal consequences. Rarely will regulations actually take down a big company. Rarer still will they take down any of the individuals in it, no matter what they did. People died in that BP oil spill. Who at BP is answering for that? Nobody. Because while the feds will happily raid and shut down an Amish farm, you will not be seeing them in the BP executive offices.

I am not saying that no regulation has ever made a difference in anyone’s life. I’ve written before about the ambiguities and moral dilemmas that we face when dealing with the world as it is while still trying to move it towards what it should be. I am saying that we must take into consideration the costs. And we need to think bigger.

We need to be able to imagine a world where we don’t have a government-protected corporation killing people without consequences. We can do better than trying to force the Walmarts of the world to put in wheelchair ramps, hire minorities, and pay a living wage. We can do better than hoping that people get the kind of job that most of us have – one we hate where we can barely muster a fuck to give. We can do better than monstrous organizations run by sociopaths who are o.k. with poisoning people, because they know they will never be challenged professionally, much less held accountable personally.

Those of you who are fighting for regulation really need to think about the consequences of what you are fighting for. Towns all over this country have had their local businesses eaten up by Walmart. Our food system is controlled by a handful of companies. Unless you go live in a tree somewhere, you almost cannot avoid google. And soon even a remote forest probably won’t save you.

Do you want to be a society of wage-slaves for multinationals or a society of independent, democratic, creative, unique organizations where humans have agency? Because if it is the latter, you need to think a little more carefully about regulation as a solution to our problems.

 

Things You Might Have Missed

June 20, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Spiderman with a BonerIf you read nothing else on this list, read The Forgotten Fight Against Fascism. This is the pre-WWII history that people want to skip over so they can retain their hero stories.

More history overlooked because it doesn’t fit in with the preferred narrative is covered in this guy’s book on how guns made the civil rights movement possible.

And before anybody replies to that with stats on US gun violence, please take a look at this Guardian chart on gun ownership and gun homicides around the world. Turns out, the correlation between gun ownership and gun violence is not as clear-cut as you might think.

That said, gun ownership does increase the risk of suicide. And we have a serious problem with suicide deaths, including in prisons. Our society is sick.

Propublica is doing a series on the use of restraints on mostly kids with disabilities 267,000 cases in one school year. Disgusting.

Also on the subject of schools, an Idaho school district is implementing a strict social media policy for their teachers. How much control should your work have over your private life?

If you have any extra cash, they are raising money for a documentary about the California prison hunger strikers.

In happier news, Zingerman’s is about to become a worker co-op. They have always been more democratic than most businesses, but this is cool. The benefits are so obvious.

And just for kicks, Spider-Man Statue Removed From South Korean Playground Because It Has A Gigantic Boner. @PaprikaPink said that “it seems he made that statue expressly to inspire bad puns.” After reading that article, I find it hard to disagree.

Religion Doesn’t Exist

June 19, 2014 By: Mel Category: Religion

Church of the Virgin of Guadalupe Mexico City Years and years ago, I asked one of my Indian coworkers if he was religious. He looked at me like I had just grown an extra limb. He told me that he had no idea what people meant when they asked him that. Then he described a couple rituals that he performed every day and asked if that is what I meant by religious. They were things that we would probably describe as religious, but didn’t seem to be done with much more time or thought than I put into making my morning coffee.

I took my friend to mean that religion and culture were so bound up into one that he couldn’t separate them. But I was wrong. It was more than that. Kwame Anthony Appiah is right. The idea of religion is European. There is no such thing as religion.

Things You Might Have Missed

June 13, 2014 By: Mel Category: Misc

Limelight Club New YorkI work in the anti-poverty wing of the nonprofit industrial complex. So naturally everyone is World Cup crazy. Number of times I have heard someone mention protests? Zero. For those of you who might want to know how a lot of Brazilians are feeling about this, Black Agenda Report has a comprehensive piece on Race, Class, and the World Cup in Brazil.

Enjoy the World Cup while it lasts. Looks like nobody wants to host it in the future.

Maya Angelou was the kind of person who would go to a remote, youth correctional facility “dressed to the nines” and attached to an oxygen tank so that some of society’s throw away kids might walk a little taller.

Baltimore is trying to make sure we throw away as many kids as possible. Kids who violate curfew will go to “connection centers.” Parents will have to pay fines. You know, like that woman who just died in jail because she couldn’t afford to pay the fines related to her kid’s truancy.

Los Angeles joins the dozens of other heartless cities with bans on feeding the homeless. Of course, the homeless are also being pushed out of downtown just as fast as the gentrifiers can manage it.

Chicago is trying to make more people homeless, evictions using police with guns instead of sheriffs with social services.

Rational guest post about gun violence and mass shootings on Balko’s blog.

Is there really anyone who has to ask if feminism has a class problem? You know what else feminism has a problem with? “Radical” men who make a big show in public, but don’t deal with their shit in private.

When you question homogeneity as the baseline, you discover that homogeneity results in artificial consensus, group think, and inaccurate information.

Apparently, the US has some of the worst labor rights in the world. Maybe part of the problem is the state of our unions? By which I mean that the unions are mostly married to party politics and hierarchies. We should send everyone a few copies of Colin Ward on a Self Employed Society.

UnderSea asked about NDAA a couple weeks ago. @icymirss kindly sent me a feed on NDAA and one on indefinite detention. Thanks for that.

And finally, the man who brought us ecstasy has died. That made me nostalgic for early 90s New York, hence the Limelight pic. Maybe he found out that they turned the Limelight into upscale boutiques. Sheesh. New York, you are almost dead to me.

 

Am I The Only One Who Wants to Slap Michael Pollan?

June 04, 2014 By: Mel Category: Inequality

string beansApparently, Michael Pollan has another book out and this time he is preaching about home cooking.

My mother did the vast majority of the cooking when I was growing up. Shopping and cooking seemed to take up the bulk of her week. And she got little pleasure from it. It was an obligation and a chore. So when Michael Pollan says that “we have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965,” I want to know whose hours those were. And who do you need to be for a half hour to seem like nothing?

I used to work with a woman who had a full-time job, full-time school, and two children. The only moments she had to herself were the ones she stole to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom of her apartment, usually with two little boys knocking on the door. But Pollan says “it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.” Because clearly anyone who is not cooking for their kids is just flitting away their time on nonsense.

A couple hours after reading that Pollan interview I read a piece in the Post about how people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Sadly, it doesn’t break down the study by single/coupled and parent/childfree. But it does make clear that women are much more stressed at home than men are. Because the expectation is that you come home from work and then need to worry about cleaning, cooking, carpooling, planning…

I know how much time my mother spent shopping and cooking every week. And I know how many weeks have gone by where I have spent zero time shopping and cooking. So I think Pollan’s 30 minutes per day stat is horseshit. But lets say for a moment that I buy into that. Here is a small sample of things I would rather do than cook.

  • eat
  • drink
  • read
  • write
  • sleep
  • have sex
  • paint
  • sail
  • travel
  • volunteer
  • research
  • raise hell

Not necessarily in that order.

Does Pollan know about the people who live on a few hours sleep per night because they cannot squeeze work, laundry, and child rearing into a day? Has he never known a new mother who hasn’t taken a shower in 3 days because there was no opportunity? Does he know the guilt bombs that are lobbed at women who dare to take a moment for themselves?

Pollan is just adding to that little voice that tells people, especially mothers, that they are selfish shits if every moment isn’t dedicated to being a Stepford wife.  He is that person who makes a woman feel bad for hitting the McDonalds drive through and taking a 30 minute bath – the only time she will have to herself that day. But really, what are the chances that the Berkeley-educated, white boy, son of a financial consultant and a writer , who was born in the 50′s would have any clue what life would be like for a Haitian immigrant woman with three housekeeping jobs and a gaggle of kids to take care of?

I know that the food system is fucked up. I know that the majority of the working poor work in food services. I know that the processed foods we eat are deadly. I actually do agree with the general goals of Pollan’s work. But you cannot talk about cooking without any mention of how gendered a task it has been. And you cannot talk about taking time to cook without any understanding of how little extra time some people have.

He deserves to have a dozen poor, overworked mothers take one of his books and smack him over the head with it. Luckily for him, they don’t have the time.