America’s history of racial inequality informs everything that happens in this country.
“After a lifetime of this, of training your ears to detect and distinguish racial dog whistles, you get how someone could read a relatively laudatory piece written by a White journalist and find disturbing racial overtones. Even if other Black people don’t see it, we get it. We get why he’s seeing what he’s seeing. We get why he’s upset about it, even if we might not have been. And, we get how an insistence that nothing is there, that this is all in your head, that you’re playing the race card, that you’re overreacting, that you’re being too sensitive, that “since I don’t see what you say you’re seeing, it must not be there” can make you want to shout.
This isn’t an indictment, mind you. It’s not your fault for not getting it. Really. It’s not. You’ve never had to. And because you’ve never had to, you don’t know how to. So why should you?
Actually, let me rephrase that. It’s not your fault for not getting it. It is your fault if you become exposed to why you don’t get it and continue to believe there’s absolutely nothing there to get.
Cause it’s there. Even if it’s not. Which probably doesn’t make any sense. Which is cool. Because getting it never really does, either.”
MY father’s name is William Paul Coates. I, like my six brothers and sisters, have always addressed him as Dad. Strangers often call him Mr. Coates. His friends call him Paul. If a stranger or one of my father’s friends called him Dad, my father might have a conversation. When I was a child, relatives of my paternal grandmother would call my father Billy. Were I to ever call my father Billy, we would probably have a different conversation.
I have never called my father Billy. I understand, like most people, that words take on meaning within a context. It might be true that you refer to your spouse as Baby. But were I to take this as license to do the same, you would most likely protest. Right names depend on right relationships, a fact so basic to human speech that without it, human language might well collapse. But as with so much of what we take as human, we seem to be in need of an African-American exception.
So simple. Just a basic thing that some people don’t seem to get. I’ve definitely had to explain this before.
Anyone with even a child’s grasp of race understands that for many minorities success isn’t synonymous with the absence of obstacles, but often requires the overcoming of obstacles. Furthermore, being willing to be entertained by someone isn’t the same as being willing to be led by them.
And finally, affinity and racial animosity can dwell together in the same soul. You can like and even admire a person of another race while simultaneously disparaging the race as a whole. One can even be attracted to persons of different races and still harbor racial animus toward their group. Generations of sexual predation and miscegenation during and after slavery in this country have taught us that.
Alas, simpletons have simple understandings of complex concepts.
When Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers hit theaters 16 years ago today, most American critics slammed it. In the New York Times, Janet Maslin panned the “crazed, lurid spectacle,” as featuring “raunchiness tailor-made for teen-age boys.” Jeff Vice, in the Deseret News, called it “a nonstop splatterfest so devoid of taste and logic that it makes even the most brainless summer blockbuster look intelligent.” Roger Ebert, who had praised the “pointed social satire” of Verhoeven’s Robocop, found the film “one-dimensional,” a trivial nothing “pitched at 11-year-old science-fiction fans.”
But those critics had missed the point. Starship Troopers is satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism. The fact that it was and continues to be taken at face value speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers.
I consider this one of my movies that I have to watch every time it’s on. Right alongside Fifth Element.
Here, the costs of low-wage work are being borne by both hungry families and the modestly better-off coworkers who can afford to help them (this is an institutionalized practice at Walmart, which has an Associates in Critical Need Trust that employees can give to for the benefit of each other). It’s also being borne by Walmart customers and the Canton community at large, people whose tax dollars help pay for the food stamps used by low-wage workers.
Last month, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley calculated that the public annually spends on average $1.04 billion in food stamp benefits, and $1.91 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit payments to the families of people who work in the comparably low-waged fast-food industry (how much of that aid, one wonders, is ultimately spent in Walmart’s grocery aisles?).
Everyone, it seems, is bearing the cost of low-wage work here – in hungry families, in empty pantries, in public need – but Walmart itself. The issue is not really that Walmart doesn’t pay its employees enough, but that everyone else must pay for that decision. Including plenty of people who can ill afford it.
How is it that we’re not all completely ashamed that we allow corporations to do this?