White privilege.. its everywhere I am not

I guess the reason I won’t ever be a blogger who writes about current events is because I have a tendency to come late to the party, but that’s life when you have an almost 3 year old and only 24 hours in a day.

Last post, I wrote about Jesse Jackson and the n-word but at that writing I hadn’t yet heard the story about ole Elizabeth from The View and the rather um, emotional discussion that occurred between the ladies of The View about the n-word. Plenty of folks have already wrote some fabulous stuff specifically about that conversation, however at another blog the issue of white privilege came up and for some reason this weekend that stuck in my mind.

Seems white folks don’t always get why they can’t use the n-word, some even say it feels unfair… after all if its such a hateful word, why the hell should Black folks use it? Seems maybe we should all bury it. On the surface that feels like a really warm and fuzzy argument and maybe if it were not for this little pesky thing called white privilege, I might almost agree but I don’t.

Before I get into my rant, let me say upfront, I don’t write an academic blog, I am a former quasi-academic, long story short after I got the masters degree a few years ago, I decided I had had enough of school.  So I say this to say that when I blog, I just write, I don’t for the most part add sources but if you are reading this feel free to google anything I say and find the references yourself.

Now that we have that out of the way, lets get the rant on… Many years ago Peggy McIntosh wrote a piece that is often used to discuss white privilege, it basically highlights the many invisible perks that white folks get just by nature of being white. Simple things like knowing for instance you can pretty much do what you want to do without fear… or at the very least live in a state and not have to travel 2 states over to get your hair done.

With that paraphrasing of Peggy’s piece, I am reminded that maybe on some level the reason whites don’t get why they can’t use the n-word is not so much rooted in the fact that they care about Black folks (not saying that they don’t) but more rooted in the fact that its one thing that Black society has basically said no about, you can’t use that word and in general to be white in America does not mean hearing no all that often compared to if you are a person of color in America. After all for the average white person throwing out a casual n-bomb at the very least will earn you a mild scolding if your n-bomb falls upon Black ears to possibly getting your ass kicked. Depends on the Black person hearing it and honestly the kind of day they are having.

See, its funny when the spousal unit and I were talking about The View and my reaction to Elizabeth (honey, stop crying… get over yourself, use those tears to help folks if you really want to do something productive). It was my white half that brought up white privilege and how in his 40 years of life, 13 which have been spent with yours truly, that its been only in these last 13 years that he realized how many things he took for granted as a white man.

Imagine walking around in a large city when the urge to take a sudden and powerful bowel movement hits (I know this is sounding crazy but stick with me), well the spousal unit just looks for a nice hotel and wanders in and uses their facilities. The first time he shared this with many years ago, I looked at him like he was crazy, see when I used to live in Chicago and found myself in a similar predicament it never dawned on me to go to a hotel. Perhaps, because I have had experiences when traveling and staying at top notch hotels where just my appearance required showing a key card and proof I really belonged at the hotel and wasn’t loitering. Its a small thing but it was one of the first times I stopped to ponder how we, Black folks and White folks at times can inhabit different worlds.

In more recent days, a white girlfriend and I were discussing local beaches we take our kids, and my pal shared that she regularly uses one particular beach that is private… I knew the beach in question but was fascinated that she regularly just used it with no concerns, I even asked her aren’t you concerned that the organization that owns it might ask you to leave? She told me no; see white privilege allows you to go and do seemingly simple things like shit or use a beach with no concerns that someone might question you, hound you, or disturb you in any way. Damn, it must be nice…

However back to my original point, I see some whites irritation in not being allowed to use the n-word rooted in the fact that to be white in America unless you are at the lowest rings of the socio-economic ladder is to not have to hear the word no, it means always having a choice.. and yet Black folks have said no, you cannot have this word. That said, I am not saying we as Black folks need to hang onto this word as a commenter on my last entry stated maybe its time we look for some new language in general and I agree.

That said white privilege is everywhere, maybe instead of getting pissed about what you can’t say, it would be better to look at what you can do and strive for ways to achieve parity so that everyone can shit when needed.

The N-Word.. Should it die?

So it turns out when ole Jesse Jackson was at Fox News network talking about Barack Obama’s nuts, that he may have also slipped out the ole n-word too. Honestly, I am not surprised, I guess if you are gonna talk about another man’s balls, why not drop the ole n-word in while you are trying to make a fool of yourself.

I am not interested in whether Jesse said it or not, but as I surf around in cyberspace, its been interesting reading various folks opinions on the use of the N-word especially as it relates to us Black folks using it. Before I start I must confess, I was raised by parents who made liberal use of the n-word, in fact I still try to tell my Pops that we aren’t supposed to use it and as he tells me “Why?. Good question, why aren’t we supposed to use it anymore.

I know, its a word laced with history and negativity. I technically know why we shouldn’t use it but as a reader and writer, I am not particularly fond of censoring words even ones that as a woman make me cringe such as c**t. Words are words on one level and they only hold power if we give them power, that said, if a white person were to haul out the n-word, I suspect that is a white person who would be tasting my red toes. No, that is definitely not what I am talking about, for me white folks don’t ever get to use the n-word, sorry, you just can’t….

That said, it seems in the Black community at times the idea of whether or not the use of the n-word seems to break down around class. See, back in my old neighborhood in Chicago, folks used the word and no one ever thought anything of it. However as I went to college and started interacting with more solidly middle class Black folks is when I noticed that if the word came up folks visibly got uncomfortable. I definitely noticed upon moving to Maine and interacting with Maine Black folks no one ever ever uses the N-word, I will admit that I still suffer lapses and occasionally the word comes out much like the b-word comes out from time to time. In my defense, I have a potty mouth in general, what can I say, cussing comes easy to me and I have to work at it much like I work at maintaining a decent weight.

A few years ago, comedian Paul Mooney who I love said he was no longer gonna use the n-word and truthfully I was bugged, I know it was in response to Michael Richards tirade at a comedy club a few years back. Clearly Richards was in the wrong using the word but did Mooney really need to retire the word? Mooney’s comedy came about in an era with great artists such as Richard Pryor and honestly I can not even imagine how funny Pryor would have been without the use of the n-word. Maybe that makes me small minded but its my feelings.

No, the current crusade against the use of the n-words by Black folks sometimes feels like a class struggle at its roots, I am not saying there are not working class Black folks who don’t cringe at the mere mention of the word but there definitely seems to be a connection with the more education/more income one gets, less of a desire to use that word.

Over the years, younger Blacks have changed the word from n***er to n***a, some folks feel it doesn’t matter since its still the same word.. yet on a certain level I am not sure its the same word. I wonder if its a way to reclaim it and use it in a way where we own it versus the traditional use where it was a label slapped on us. Just wondering out loud…

That said at the end of the day, I do think there are a lot more things to get pissy about than whether or not we should be angry about this word. I say for those in the middle class who get disgusted at the use of this word maybe we should look at the circumstances that continue to produce folks who cling to this word. I suspect that much like myself if one is surrounded by folks who no longer use this word that eventually it will fade away, there may be the occasional lapse but it will become less common.

So tell me should this word die?

How much for those carrots? You are what you eat…

Today in my local town is one of two days when you can go to the Farmers Market, an event that the longer I live here in Maine is a truly joyous treat for me. Prior to moving to Maine, the farmers market was not a regular part of my life back in Chicago; of course its only been in recent years that farmers markets have really grown and become popular in many places.

This time of year, the harvest is finally coming in and today’s bounty included fresh raspberries, blueberries, glass bottled milk and a host of other goodies (including the first harvest of sweet corn that I will be eating tonight). All that said, the farmers market is not cheap, that quart of milk is $2.25 a bottle plus the buck deposit on the bottle and with elder child around we go through about 4-6 bottles of this milk weekly. I know I could buy the stuff at the store, where a gallon could be had for $4 but the milk I buy at the market is milked from cows that live about 10 miles from me by people I see every week. That gallon of milk at Wally World or large grocery chain comes from who knows where by people I will never see.

It was at my last stop at the market I ended up having a conversation that was the inspiration for this post, I was patiently waiting my turn when the lady in front of me starts trying to haggle with the farmer (this pt farmer/lobster-man that looks like a character in a Stephen King novel), she was pissed because the carrots were $3 a bunch. Now seeing as how I was standing in line to buy these rather gorgeous plumb fingerling carrots with aromatic green tops still attached, the conversation was amusing to me. It seems the gal ahead of me felt that $3 was too much for carrots since she could get em cheaper at the store, the farmer told her well you go right ahead but these carrots were picked by folks who work and get paid $10 an hour and who need health insurance. Well haggle woman walks away disgruntled saying his prices were too high and I ended up engaging with the farmer, who told me he gets that often, folks mad because his prices are high. Well truthfully he is the cheapest stand at the market and while he is a bit brusque in his presentation, his food is good and he always saves my eggs.

However all day I have been thinking about how many of us expect food to be cheap, no seriously, most large farms in the US are subsidized by the gubment so when we see food at a farmers market or see the organic stuff how many of us bristle at the thought of the extra price? I know I used to until I got to a stage where my stomach started getting twitchy and I watched the spousal unit sick from food poisoning and realized that maybe cheap food is a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, I know in some areas there is no access to a farm, farmers market or places such as Whole Foods.

Back 14 years ago or so I stayed at my Granny’s house with elder child for a year on the south-side of Chicago and without a car, the only place to shop was the corner store where Wonder-bread was all that was offered for bread and most of the meat was grey, don’t even talk to me about vegetables. The vegetable offerings were mustard and turnip greens, anemic iceberg lettuce and the occasional bruised apple. Shopping sucked.

No, I am talking about folks with the means to get better food but who choose not to, yet food impacts our overall health. How many of us know folks with diabetes or other health ailments who if they simply changed their diet, they most likely wouldn’t need to start the day popping 6-7 pills? I know plenty folks like that.. folks who will pay a couple hundred a month to rock a nice relaxed hair do, who drive a nice car so they could drive to some place to get food but instead say “Nah, that’s too much”

Yet how can we put a price tag on our health? Moreso, in case you haven’t noticed food at the store is no longer as cheap as it used to be, seems there is a direct connection between cheap gas and cheap food.. now that gas is not so cheap, what you buy at Super Wally will no longer be as cheap either and less you think the prices are coming down, word on the street that no one shares, is that the prices will not be coming down. No, thanks to peak oil and the wealth explosion in places like India and China all competing for the same limited resources aka the oil… what used to be cheap won’t be cheap again.

That said, you are what you eat so if you have the means, treat your body right, its the only one you got and I don’t know about you, but as I get older I don’t want to be dependent on pills to live unless I really need them. No, $3 carrots sounds like a bargain.