White privilege in action

So, I was about to put this into quick hits, but it’s really too good and too important to be possibly missed (under what is shaping up to be a slew of quick hits this weekend).

Matt Zoller Seitz relates the tale of what happens when you beat up a drunk Hispanic guy on the street, but you happen to be a middle class white guy.  Not really surprising, but quite disturbing nonetheless.  You really need to read all of it for the full impact, but here’s a good snippet:

We cursed at each other for a while, puffing up our chests and barking threats, and then he poked me in the chest with his index finger.  I knew the second he did it that he didn’t actually mean to touch me, that he was probably just jabbing at me for emphasis and misjudged the distance between us, because it wasn’t a hard impact and the contact seemed to surprise him, too. But I hit him in the face anyway. He stumbled backward, turned around in an attempt to regain his balance, tripped and fell face down on the sidewalk. I jumped on his back and put my forearm around his neck and locked it, to keep him from getting up again. It was a chokehold.

I don’t know how long I was down there, but it was long enough for the owner of the deli to call the cops. A squad car pulled up sometime later. Two patrolmen got out and pulled me off the guy and tossed me on the sidewalk. Then one of them ran over and put his knee on my back, but did not cuff me—a detail that didn’t register until the cop got off me and allowed me to stand again, and I looked over and saw that the other guy was face down on the pavement, cuffed.

Both cops were white.

The cop on me asked for my driver’s license, looked at it, looked at me, and said, “Tell me what happened.” I told the cop what happened, exactly as I described it above, including the personal details about why I’d been agitated and drunk, which under the circumstances probably weren’t germane.

When I finished he said, “Would you like to press charges?” …

“It doesn’t matter if he meant to touch you, he hit you first,” he said. He was talking to me warmly and patiently, as you might explain things to a child. Wisdom was being imparted.

“You were in fear of your life,” he added.

By now the adrenaline fog seemed to be lifting. I was seeing things in a more clinical way. The violence I had inflicted on this man was disproportionate to the “assault,” and the tone of this exchange with the cop felt conspiratorial.

And then it dawned on me, Mr. Slow-on-the-Uptake, what was really happening: this officer was helping me Get My Story Straight.

Understanding, at long last.

I also need to mention that while this conversation was taking place, not ten feet away the other guy was face down on the pavement, handcuffed—even though when the squad car arrived, anybody who’d looked at our situation purely in terms of physical action, without the explanations I proffered afterward, would have concluded that I was the menace.

So tired of hearing Fox News and friends and all sorts of privileged white males claim that society is past racism and that, if anything, it is the poor misbegotten white male who is suffering “reverse racism.”   For the most part, white male privilege is simply pretty invisible if you are white male.  You have to pay attention unless it is made blatantly obvious– such as you assaulting a Hispanic male.  And is also absurd to chalk concern with the issue up to “white guilt.”  It’s about the fact that this is a significant problem in our society and everybody should damn well want to do something about it.  Shame on those who benefit and simply pretend it doesn’t exist.

 

Advertisements

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal photos of the week:

This group of horses found themselves stranded on a tiny island of land after the River Dulnain in Inverness-shire, Scotland burst its banks. The four animals were spotted perched on their small hump of grass surrounded by water by local photographer Mark Hamblin. According to Mark the horses were left stranded all day but appeared perfectly content as they cropped the grass on their small island. And, as the water levels gradually decreased and their grassy sanctuary grew larger, the horses were given access to even more food. As the water levels were dropping, and the horses were not in immediate danger, the decision was made not to launch a rescue mission but to wait until the horses were able to make their own way to freedom.

This group of horses found themselves stranded on a tiny island of land after the River Dulnain in Inverness-shire, Scotland burst its banks. The four animals were spotted perched on their small hump of grass surrounded by water by local photographer Mark Hamblin. According to Mark the horses were left stranded all day but appeared perfectly content as they cropped the grass on their small island. And, as the water levels gradually decreased and their grassy sanctuary grew larger, the horses were given access to even more food. As the water levels were dropping, and the horses were not in immediate danger, the decision was made not to launch a rescue mission but to wait until the horses were able to make their own way to freedom.Picture: Mark Hamblin/REX

On GMO food

This year’s incoming freshman reading at NCSU (of which I always volunteer to be a discussion leader) was on Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food.   Right in my sweet spot.  (For the record, not the best book, but an interesting set of ideas.  And short.) Personally, I am a big fan of organic food due to its emphasis on sustainability and minimizing environmental harm.  I eat mostly conventional, but I will choose organic (especially fruits and vegetables) when there’s good options.   That said, I’m also, as you know, quite comfortable with GMO food.  Yes, Monsanto, blah, blah, blah, but that is a problem with how we regulate corporations as public policy, not a problem with GMO food, per se.  In many cases GMO means increased crop yield without any greater environmental harm.  And, in the best cases, GMO means creating food like Golden Rice or flood-resistant rice which can literally mean the difference between life and starvation in the poorest countries.  Also, if you eat any processed food at all, you’re already eating GMO, so get over it.

To me, the most interesting part of the controversy is that there is basically zero evidence that GMO food is deleterious to health (as compared to similar non-GMO food), but so many people remain convinced GMO food has to be bad for you.  My favorite moment in our freshman discussion this week was when a young woman said, “I know there’s no evidence that GMO food is harmful, but I believe…”  So hard for me to not just say, “no, stop.  Stop right there.”  You don’t get to say science says one thing and then just blithely assert something else.  Anyway, a major point of the book is that GMO is de facto considered non organic and that the two approaches are seen as polar opposites.  But, in many cases GMO foods can be designed to reduce pesticide usage– one of the main goals of organic farming.  And other features of GMO foods can also lead to more sustainable farming.

My favorite tidbit from the book was how a naturally-occurring soil bacteria has been genetically-engineered into corn to prevent corn worms eating up the ears.   End result… less need to use pesticide and no nasty worms when shucking your corn.  I realized that worms were always a feature of corn when I was kid, but that I never see them any more (and we do love fresh corn).  As Jessie Pinkman would say, Yeah Science!

And, as long as I’m at it.  Nice post of GMO charts in Vox this week.  If you are eating any corn or soy or wearing cotton, chances are good it’s GMO:

Imagegen.ashx-4

Now, there are certainly many problematic issues with GMO.  But I”m not so sure they are all that independent of the problematic issues of big Agribusiness, which is a whole different kettle of corn worms.  These issues are real and we should take them seriously and try and address them.  But don’t throw the GMO baby out with the bathwater.  Especially when there truly is so much potential benefit in under-developed countries.

%d bloggers like this: