Vanilla ice cream

Things remind me of other things, all but forgotten.

One of most peculiar items I came across recently was this: Black people were denied vanilla ice cream in the Jim Crow south – except on Independence Day.

The memory of that all-but-unspoken rule seems to be unique to the generation born between World War I and World War II.
But if Maya Angelou hadn’t said it in her classic autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I doubt anybody would believe it today.
“People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.”

I’m told that Thomas Jefferson, writer of the document associated with that day, was so addicted to vanilla ice cream that he arranged for vanilla beans to be transported in diplomatic pouches while he was serving in France and their revolution was going on.

Why then? The writer Michael W Twitty wonders:

Was it a pacifier? Was it a message to us that, as long as we obeyed the rules, we could still be occasionally rewarded with just enough to keep us patriotic and loyal?

But perhaps it is pointless to ask for more than context.

That article reminded of a totally unrelated story, except that it did involve ice cream. Growing up in Binghamton in upstate New York, I was usually the only black kid in my class.
icecreamcup
One day in fifth or sixth grade, we were going to get ice cream that came in these little paper cups. We used wooden spoons to eat it. I was out of the room when the voting on decision on flavors – vanilla or chocolate, was being made.

When I came back to the classroom, I was asked what I wanted, and I said “Vanilla.” The whole class moaned; EVERYBODY else, probably 15 white kids, had picked chocolate. They were disappointed that it had not been a unanimous choice. But I didn’t particularly LIKE that brand of chocolate, as I thought it tasted chalky.

I wondered if chocolate had been a consensus choice, with the kids who thought “I don’t care” going along with the majority. In any case, this made feel really uncomfortable because it made me feel different when, for the most part, I felt like one of the group. Don’t think it was specifically racial, probably not in their minds, though it may have rattled a bit in mine.

But the earlier story above made my choice of 50 years ago, somehow, a little more OK.

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Boycotting the cafeteria

boycottSometimes, I just get annoyed.

I’ve mentioned the cafeteria in our building. It got taken over by this new company that was nickel-and-diming everything. A cup of ice was ten cents without a drink, but then they charged a dime even when people bought a drink. The prices went up, generally as well.

But there was a woman who worked behind the register who got fired that really set me off. Her name was Shirley. She’d worked in the origination about ten years. She was let go because she was so highly paid; after a decade, she was making a whopping $12/hour. She knew all the customers by name, something no one else did.

So I stopped going to the cafeteria. I buy food from home, or buy a Subway sub on the way to work for lunch. It’s been a couple months now.

A real boycott, I suppose, one would announce and galvanize the folks. I do know several others who have avoided the place, but I have no idea whether it is making any difference to the bottom line. But it feels like the right thing.
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Burger King to Buy Tim Hortons for $11.4 Billion. And I boycott BK because they’re playing that corporate inversion game.
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I’m forever getting Facebook notices to boycott Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors or asked to sign some petition because of something the windbag says, most recently about Robin Williams and the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

I’ve discovered there are some people who are such clowns that I no longer pay attention to what they say, and wonder why anyone cares anymore. Rush is background noise. Nothing he says matters to me, he convinces no one of his point of view who wasn’t already convinced. He’s just not worth my minimal effort.
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Speaking of Change.org petitions, Please Invite the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars to the White House.

The Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars were a Little League team comprised of African American youth from Charleston, South Carolina. The team was denied the opportunity to participate in the 1955 Little League World Series (LLWS) due to a collective boycott of South Carolina’s 61 white leagues. Little League Baseball, to its credit, refused the state’s request to host a segregated tournament but also barred the Cannon Street team from competing in the LLWS due to an existing rule prohibiting teams from advancing via forfeit…

Rather than succumb to bitterness, these fourteen boys have grown into strong, loving, and upstanding citizens. Their lives are a testament to the character and courage learned through playing America’s pastime.

So rectifying a previous boycott seems to be a fair outcome.

White people need to talk about white privilege

America.doing1)AAI’ve studiously avoided writing about the shooting death in Ferguson, MO of 18 year-old Michael Brown, who was black and apparently unarmed, by a white policeman, mostly out of desire not just to repeat, or refute, what others have said. What’s indisputable, however, is that Americans are divided racially on the shooting.

Some (seriously) blame President Obama, because he hasn’t brought that “post-racial” country they were expecting, which he never promised. In fact, almost every time he’s attempted to talk about racial issues, it has not gone well with a good chunk of the American public.

So I don’t want to discuss the particulars of Brown’s shooting Continue reading

Mass incarceration

newjimcrow2Arthur, the Yankee Kiwi dandy, in response to my July 4 post, notes:

Yep, and now we have people like Bobby Jindal [Republican governor of Louisiana] — who always follows his party’s rightwing, never leads it—declaring that an armed rebellion by rightwing “Christians” is in the offing. It just keeps getting better, eh?

I’d be quite keen to see a post about government overreach. We hear that all the time from the right—the far, FAR right in particular—but I can’t recall every seeing anyone from our side of the Great Divide talking about it.

You want an example of government outreach? OK, and it was massive, and it continues. Per The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, and other sources, there have three major enslaving periods of black people in the United States. Continue reading

NSFW video: Earl Butz and “Loose Shoes”

ButzA3622-19Earl Butz, who was born 105 years ago today, was one of the worst US government officials ever. He was Secretary of Agriculture in the Cabinets of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. “His policies favored large-scale corporate farming” which has damaged the family farm to this day, and arguably “led directly to overproduction of corn and a subsequent rise of obesity in the United States.” But “he is best remembered for a series of verbal gaffes that eventually cost him his job.”

Butz resigned his cabinet post on October 4, 1976… News outlets revealed a racist remark he made in front of entertainer Pat Boone and former White House counsel John Dean while aboard a commercial flight to California following the 1976 Republican National Convention. Continue reading

June Rambling: Hal Holbrook; Marimba Queens

pinned on Pinterest by Roger Green (not me)

pinned on Pinterest by Roger Green (not me)

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) voted for marriage equality at its General Assembly this month. “Ministers will be allowed to marry same-sex couples in states where it is legal.”

On the other hand, Freedom and Faith Coalition’s Road to Majority conference had an Obama figurine in the urinal.

CBS News Sunday Morning did a piece, Born this way: Stories of young transgender children. The ever-interesting Dustbury on Gender Confirmation Surgery.

Writer Jay Lake worked closely with Lynne Thomas, an Illinois-based librarian… to ensure that all his blog posts and essays would be saved for posterity. “Though this is a relatively uncomplicated task for his blog content, which he unambiguously owned, it gets problematic when you wade into the legal rights of preserving your social media presence. ‘You can’t just download Facebook content into an archive.’”

A cartoon from 2008, and still apt: A Concise History Of Black-White Relations In The United States.

Mark Evanier on O.J. Simpson trial nostalgia.
Continue reading

Well, maybe not ALL people, but…

handglovesKen Screven was, according to the Times Union newspaper’s Chris Churchill, “the most recognizable black person here in one of the nation’s whitest metropolitan areas,” i.e., Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY, for most of his 34 years as a now-retired television reporter. Having lived here for most of this period, I daresay Churchill was right. Screven even covered a couple stories I was involved with, notably the January 1985 Rock for Raoul benefit, honoring the late Albany cartoonist/FantaCo employee/my friend Raoul Vezina.

I had this, literally, nodding acquaintance with Screven when I’d see him in Albany’s Center Square, sort of the curse someone who has met a LOT of people (Ken) go through. We’ve more recently become Facebook friends, sometime after he became a blogger for the Times Union website, as I am.
Continue reading

April Rambling: Buy the niece’s new album, and end Daylight Saving Time

rjcoldfact
New album from Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact the debut release from San Diego-based eclectic soul/funk band. RJ is my niece, my sister Leslie’s daughter.
From NBC San Diego: “Not everything on April Fool’s Day was a joke. Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact released their self-titled debut and it’s no laughing matter. Channeling everyone from Candi Staton and Betty Davis to Morcheeba and Brightback Morning Light, these 12 tracks of soul and funk are stunners. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.”

After watching this video, I’m even more convinced than I was before: Daylight Saving Time is a waste of time. Having tried to schedule a phone call from the UK at a point when the US is in DST and the UK has NOT yet moved to British Summer Time, I know of which the speaker is talking about.
Continue reading

America redux, and not knowing everything

Mr. Frog, in the comments:

Interesting that your daughter goes back to the things that scare her. I do that, too. Have you ever seen Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal? I was so afraid of that movie–despite it being one of my favorites–until literally a few months ago. I should write about that…

No, I haven’t. I’m not sure why, exactly, but when it came out, it just didn’t appeal to me, so I never even wanted to see it. It seemed, from a trailer, maybe, to be too…dark? By now, it had all but left my consciousness. I wouldn’t NOT see it, but it isn’t on the list of films I must watch, though you’ve made it more interesting to me. Wouldn’t watch it with the Daughter, though, until I had seen it first.
And yes, you should write about it.

Another example for me is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. I HAVE written about that: at age 5, it scared me so bad I was basically traumatized. But I became fascinated by stuff like UFOs, which led me to reading books about ACTUAL science. Then when it was re-released when I was 9, I loved it, and now it’s my favorite movie. It makes me cry badly, but in a cathartic way.

Odd thing about that film. Saw E.T. at the time and loved Drew Barrymore screaming, loved the classic Spielberg broken family, anti-authority motifs, even the Reese’s Pieces product placement. I just didn’t like the ending, the bikes in the sky thing, and I haven’t ever seen it since then, so I could not specifically tell you why. I was willing to believe the alien, but not that. It played at the local second-run theater, the Madison, in early April, but I just didn’t have time to see it. And I would rather have seen it like that then on video.

(Sidebar: there was some story on CBS Sunday Morning recently about the decline in the movie box office. Some twenty-something they interviewed was so smug. “I can watch movies at home. I can pause it when ever I want to…” And if you can pause it, for me, it isn’t watching a movie; it’s watching a video – I use the term generically.)
politicalspeech

If I can ask a follow-up to Jaquandor’s question about America: do you worry that it’s too late to change course? I don’t want to get too doomsday about it, I’ve just been reading too many things lately that seem to be adding up to a depressing future. Of course, I have mental disorders and that seems to be the way I process things a lot of time (“catastrophizing” is what my therapist calls it).

Is it catastrophizing when the levee has broken? On one very big hand, the news is grim. It’s not that economic disparity is unfair. It’s that it doesn’t make much economic sense. Continue reading

The past, education, happy, sad

paperrockNew York Erratic must be from New Jersey, she asks so many questions:

Are there any events in your life that you feel make good parables that you want to share one day with your daughter?

I was 51 when she was born, so there is a lot of my life to draw from. Huge parts of it she doesn’t know, significant events, and I’m not sure exactly when/if to tell her. Maybe if she asks. She DOES know about JEOPARDY!

I remember looking at photos of my mother with some guy she went out with before she dated my father, and initially, it was kind of weird, but hey, that was rather natural. When she would talk about it Continue reading