Sunday, July 26, 2015

Blinding Whiteness

I'm not sure when it happened.  In June, Velvet was enthusiastically describing some obscure moments in the history of westward expansion at the time of the Revolutionary War, specifically in Vermont, to some dinner guests over at Cupcake's parents' house who primarily spoke Hungarian. The guests spoke enough English to know when they were supposed to nod.  Cupcake's father, who came to this country from Hungary years ago, heard them speaking Hungarian on the street and invited them over for dinner.  I was proud of Velvet' enthusiasm for the topic, thinking he will be a good history teacher somewhere, but in my eyes, he was still a kid.
Up at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp last weekend, Velvet was clearly a man.
He's program director for outdoor living and wilderness skills, just like last year, but because there were a lot of new counselors and support staff this year, the camp director put Velvet in charge of coordinating ALL the activities - so he's making sure the camp curriculum is implemented appropriately.  Velvet in charge of shit is a sight to behold because he's really good at it.
He's kind of an authoritarian dick, sometimes, but he's also a good listener who freely gives credit and kudos to everyone for a job well done.  With the kids, he's especially an authoritarian dick - but when you consider how boys cab be in this culture, especially between the ages of 9 and 14, there's nothing inherently wrong about playing the Big Dog among this pack of privileged puppies.  He seems to have an instinctual understanding of how to implement basic B. F. Skinner behavior modification theory by being a general hard ass about correcting behaviors but recognizing accomplishments with affectionate celebration. When a kid gets genuine affection and celebration of his/her accomplishments from an authoritarian dick, it can be more rewarding, especially since so many people praise every half-ass effort with an automatic, "Good job!"
Given that one of the primary goals of the camp is for every kid to feel like s/he's a contributing, integral member of a creative, reflective, loving community who has a unique set of skills and talents, I'd have to call this development a thing of beauty (#079-101 in the Explore Beauty challenge).

It's probably a big deal when a son has become a man in the mind of his mother.  I'm not sure Buzz Kill ever did.  Certainly Vagina Dentata (that's Velvet's grandmother, mother of Buzz Kill) considered Buzz Kill a male - but it seems like Vagina Dentata viewed all males as servants of one kind or another, rather like that proverbial queen bee.  Even her husband, who protected and provided for her, was still a servant, and when he died, those duties fell to Buzz Kill.  Fortunately, there was a crusty bachelor living upstairs when Buzz Kill's father died who could serve Vagina Dentata in more romantic ways - but he, too, was there to protect and provide.  With regard to Vagina Dentata, Velvet's only duties have been to accompany her to the theatre and entertain her over dinner and/or drinks, and now that she's in the nursing home, to come visit her regularly.  Buzz Kill stays on top of the visiting schedule, but really,  Velvet loves Vagina Dentata, so he's glad to keep her company once a week or so.

Cupcake is working in the kitchen at Hippy Dippy Quaker Camp again, and seems to be doing well.  Over the spring, I had been worried because she and Buzz Kill seemed to be in a race to see who could have the highest anxiety level, and both of them micro-manage Velvet when they're anxious.  It was troubling to think Cupcake might be turning into the Buzz Kill in Velvet's life - but up in the country, Cupcake seems relaxed, confident and capable.  The city must make her nervous.  I'm sure plenty of people can relate to that.  It even makes me nervous sometimes, and I love it here.

Here's a family photo up near the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont:


While we were there, Pinko took the opportunity to build a rock balancing sculpture like he saw the artist Michael Grab doing in this video:



 Personally, I think Pinko's sculpture looks a lot like a penis, but maybe that's just me.  Could be a robot that lost it's head.


Pinko had so much fun with rocks that I convinced him to get a beverage dispenser made by an artisan in Maine.  We found it at a charming gallery in Ludow called The Silver Spoon.  Here they are in Maine Rockguy's shop on etsy:


Since I seem to be doing a travel log here, I'll just add that I loved the Maple Diner in Bridgewater so much that I got teary.  Some people might say I got teary because of the menopause, but really, I always get teary when I'm happy, and I was very happy to be with my happy little family in such a happy little place, with handmade mixed berry pie for breakfast. When Pinko and Cupcake were smoking cigarettes out in the back parking lot, the neighbor was out with her dog. She told them that a 400 pound bear had been in the dumpster the night before, and with those homemade doughnuts, I can see why. That dumpster must be a bear's paradise.


Even though the tears were not from menopause, I was glad to sit next to the air conditioner, with a ceiling fan overhead to boot, since these hot flashes are starting to get to me.  Not long ago, I was fogging up my own glasses - but I guess it just goes with the territory. It's pretty good territory, all things considered, because seeing the man Velvet is becoming makes me feel a little better about the future.

Between climate change and economic collapse, the future looks damn alarming.  You never know, though - shit might work out.  Stranger things have happened.  For now, I'm grateful to live in my happy little world, secure in the knowledge that the kids are all right (mostly).  I'm particularly grateful that I've never had to worry about giving my kid The Talk that goes along with the territory of being black in America.  Clint Smith's "How to Raise a black son in America," describes that feeling:


I have friends in Texas who honestly think that Sandra Bland's murder by cops in Waller County wasn't racism - just an out of control cop.  There's even an article on Huffpo entitles, "Sandra Bland's Arrest Wasn't Racism; It Was Something even Worse," where the writer, a woefully naive white man named Tom Mullen, says the chain of events would have played out the same with a white woman because the trouble was refusing to obey cops - as if a white woman would have been stopped for a turn signal in the first place. As if the cops would have beat a white woman.  Beating as many people as they do, the cops have surely hit some white women, but to date, there have been no mass graves of middle class white women discovered on the Texas border (Democracy Now! July 16).

I continue to be amazed at how hard it is for white people to accept the notion of institutionalized racism.  Maybe accepting institutionalized racism somehow undermines their self-esteem since it means that maybe all us white people didn't get exactly where we are by hard work.  Maybe we did work hard, but if life were a baseball game, we landed on Home Plate after starting at second base.  Everybody else has to start in on the bench.

One of the reasons ignorance and racism continues to thrive in White America, if you ask me, is that too many white people are too polite to challenge ignorance and racism when it comes up at the dinner table and other social situations.  It's time for white people to start having frank conversations with each other about racism.  We still allow some rednecks to cling to their beliefs that flying the confederate flag celebrates their heritage - as if slavery itself isn't racism.

I'm wondering how I'll react to the pervasive whiteness at Burning Man this year.  It continues to trouble me that the burn is so white it feels like being in one of those suburban schools with over 4,000 kids but only a handful are brown.  Prom night at Lake Wobegon High.
The demographics of Burning Man wouldn't trouble me so much if racial diversity was charted as closely as other information, such as the percentage of people in RVs sorted by age and gender.  (Black Rock City Census)
There is one little article about diversity in Black Rock City (Rebecca Mason, May 3, 2015) stating that BRC is whiter than pretty much any city in the country except Boston.  There could very well be more black people at Burning Man than there are in the whole state of Vermont, but there are more people in New York City than there are in the whole state of Vermont.  The BRC census was looking at cities.

The thing I find most disturbing is that many of the white people at Burning Man don't even notice that they aren't very many black people, as if a blinding whiteness is normal.

I guess blinding whiteness is normal in this country.  We put the 3/5th Compromise into the constitution, after all.

6 comments:

Comrade Kevin said...

On a different topic than arresting people who are black, let me introduce a very different idea. In a summary of predominately white houses of worship and faith, often we don't attract people of color because the black church has such a strong cultural attachment to them. There will always be some who buck the trend, but I think the desire is to be with one's own and own rituals.

Certainly there have been incidences of racism that have locked black folks out, but when solicited afterwards, the reasons cited for leaving are that they want to be with their own people. So yes, there is institutionalized racism, but I'm not sure if there is any way to attract people of color to Burning Man, anymore than was the cases with Woodstock.

If we really choose to assimilate in the decades going forward, we'll see how committed we are to this premise. If not, we'll continue to keep to our own.

no_slappz said...

Bland died because she caused a vehicle-stop to spiral out of control and turn into a physical confrontation. She set off the chain of events that led to her death, which, according to all available reports, was not due to a jailhouse attack by a cop, but most likely by suicide.

If she had simply met the cop's demands for her personal conduct, she'd be alive. How long does it take before a person understands that in these minor interactions with cops, they hold more power than the civilian. Moreover, as long as you respond to requests in a responsible, adult manner, there's never an altercation.

But people who believe they risk nothing by antagonizing cops are just fools.

As the video makes clear, he was going to let her go with a written warning. In other words, an acknowledgement of the insignificance of the traffic stop, a paper trail showing that no unfair expensive fine was about to be levied on her, a ticket the cop could have written simply because no power stopped him.

If he'd punished her for no reason with an expensive ticket, well, that would have been racist.

Teeluck said...

Unfortunately I am slowly coming to the realization that cops are just high school bullies, jocks and other kids who did not make it through college; we simply have the lowest acceptance levels and as long as you can get a drivers licence you can get a badge. Ergo, you have many neanderthals with badges who think they are back in the locker room in highschool.
We sadly have a critically uneducated police force nationwide... add anything else negative to the mix like racism, feelings of being cheated by minorities in other ways; undocumented aliens taking their menial brainless jobs, affirmative action, etc. and you see massive misbehavior in all police precincts around the country. We need educated or at least people who are tested for a certain IQ... we see the result otherwise.
I moved from the city and now live upstate so I feel you when you say you love the outdoors up here.
Glad to see Velvet getting along so well, that is a beautiful thing.
So happy to see you doing so well too... :)

Lisa Golden said...

I'm glad to see that time marching on means (mostly) good things for your family. This post was a great catch up.

PENolan said...

Gosh - it's a bit like old home week with blogging buddies up there in the comments. It's nice to see that we're all keeping on keeping on and that most, if not all, of us are moving forward. Tee, hope you're loving it up there. Lisa, I love seeing your photographs. I still think FB makes it easy to neglect blog reading, so it's especially great to see you. Comrade, I've been keeping up with your posts on Kos. Hang in there

Jennifer said...

Great catch-up indeed. Isn't it wonderful to see your kid turn into a grown-up you admire and really like?

And racism IS hard to accept. Wasn't ANYTHING accomplished in the 20th century? Was all that for nothing? Others have trouble because it means changing their core beliefs and looking at their base fears. Facing fears can handily diminish them. On the other hand, institutionalized racism is there to perpetuate fear, to make sure it stays there. It's form of crowd control. Bloody discouraging.

So we practice within our families and work and communities. Find the beauty, see what we want to see, not what they tell us. Roll on sis.

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