ReBlog: A #NoDAPL Map

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This blog post about the importance of maps and the Standing Rock protests is worth a read.

When I decided to become a cartographer, I didn’t just want to make pretty and useful maps. I became a cartographer to make maps that change the world for the better. Right now, no situation …

Source: A #NoDAPL Map

Definition and Purpose of Marriage

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Amazon.com

The following quotes all occur within a few pages (or paragraphs) of each other.

Quote 1:

The territorial, state, and federal governments of the United States were built upon a particular vision of civic responsibility—that men, as heads of households, entered civic life on behalf of their dependents: wives, children, servants, and slaves. The political system of the United States was predicated upon this vision, overwhelmingly reserving suffrage, jury service, elected office, membership before the bar, and judicial appointments to white male heads of household and limiting the legal rights of all others by their degree of separation from that ideal.

Quote 2:

These ideas clashed forcibly with the conceptions of kinship and social order that existed among the Upper Midwest’s long-established Dakota, Ojibwe, and mixed-heritage communities.

Quote 3:

Marriages of all kinds, and the households that marriages created, were inextricably bound up with questions of nation and identity for the Dakota, the Ojibwe, mixed-heritage individuals, and Americans alike.

Making Marriage: Husbands, Wives, and the American State in Dakota and Ojibwe Country by Catherine J. Denial

Article about this book: There’s never been ‘traditional marriage’ in Minnesota, says author Catherine Denial, Minn Post, Amy Goetzman | 09/27/13

Racism in the Midwest

The following article is created from (and inspired by) a collection of answers to questions originally posted to Quora.

Racism and Narcissism

People who perpetrate hate crimes do so based solely on their own interpretation of race. If the perpetrator hates community X and you are a member of community Y but, according to the perpetrator’s definition of X, you ‘look like x’ then you will experience the full brunt of hate crimes committed by the perpetrator against community X. In other words, when faced with race-based crime, ‘race’ is defined by the perpetrator’s perceptions.

Racism At A Wisconsin Roller Rink

I was in the 7th grade, so it was the 81-82 school year (if my math serves me). All of the girls in the 6th-8th grade classes were going on a field trip with the 6th-8th grade teachers, who were also all-female. It was an official girls-night out! The plan was to go roller skating and out to eat (pizza, if I remember correctly).

I was attending a small private school, so this was a rather small group. The racial makeup of the group was white women, white girls, 1 black girl and me.

We were standing in line at the roller rink, waiting to buy tickets to get into the building, rent our skates and hit the rink. The man selling the tickets leaned out the window. He was a white man with blond hair, angry eyes and one of those no-one-gets-anything-past-me smirks. His eyes fell on the black girl…and me.

His faced twisted in disgust when he looked at the black girl. He stared at me for a long time. He had very angry eyes. He turned to the nearest teacher, pointed to the black girl and said she couldn’t enter the roller rink. No blacks allowed.

Then he stared at me for a long time…again. The other girls physically stepped away. It was an instinctual action on their part. I had no choice but to face this man down, alone. Fear compounded by confusion was tangible. He made another face of disgust. Less twisted but no less ugly, and gave his permission. I could enter.

The teachers looked at each other, clearly stunned, confused and completely at a loss for what to do. One of the teachers volunteered to take the black girl home. The rest put not-real smiles on their faces and returned to ushering the remaining girls into the rink.

I spent the rest of the evening skating with the feeling of eyes glaring at my back. It was just a feeling. I don’t know if I was actually being watched. I also spent most of the evening skating alone. I wasn’t the only one feeling the fear and it directly and negatively affected the experience for everyone involved.

How This Illustrates White Privilege

  • The undeniably white girls got in without question.
  • I got in after uncomfortable scrutiny.
  • The black girl went home.

Midwestern Mores

What the teachers did in this situation was wrong, there is no denying that, but I hold no ill-will towards them. I do not condone the choice they made but my memory of these events is one of floundering not malice – they really and truly did not know what to do.

Having said that, I believe this is an opportunity to explore one of the reasons why racism and antisemitism are so difficult to address in the Midwest: Minnesota Nice.

Mid-westerners are highly non-demonstrative and indirect. People in general, and women in particular, do not make a spectacle of themselves. They do not (generally speaking) address problems in a forthright manner or say mean things to another person’s face. They put on a smile, drop hints, use Midwestern-talk to issue warnings or establish boundaries and talk behind closed doors (or gossip behind your back).

For example, among Midwesterner’s the word ‘different’ is an insult. If someone declares someone or something to be ‘different’ then (make no doubt about it) both an insult and a warning have been issued because you are standing right on the edge of the proverbial line. If a Midwesterner declares someone or something to be ‘weird’ then you have crossed the proverbial line and gone knee deep into the danger zone. For most of the rest of the United States ‘different’ and ‘weird’ barely register as insults, much less warnings.

This lends power to overt racism because people do not know how to handle someone being so…obvious. It also fosters a culture of racism that can be hard to see or define. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say dreadful things in private conversation and…when I called them on it…toss off my concern with comments like “we all know [nasty statement] is true but we’re not going to tell [race/community] that.”

As illustrated by the roller-skating story, some people express overt racism; but (generally speaking) this kind of behavior is discouraged because it is overt. Midwesterners don’t act like that in public. The knee-jerk cultural response to this kind of situation is to find a way to bring things back to acceptable non-demonstrative social behavior. Therefore, these teachers put on their smiles and did what it took to make it appear as though nothing was wrong.

Despite the name, Minnesota Nice is a cultural norm throughout the Midwest. The association with the state of Minnesota is primarily due to the popularity of the National Public Radio program Lake Wobegon Days.

For more information on Midwestern culture and racism see:

What Are You – Really?

adora

This is me in the late 1970s.

If you are looking at this photo and wondering how or why anyone would think I was anything but white – that’s good. Sit with that for a minute.

By Midwestern standards my physical appearance is considered borderline.

Another fact that the average Midwesterner will refuse to discuss: Those who don’t like People of Color (POC) almost invariably include Jewish people in the POC category. Anyone who is considered borderline (like myself) tends to be placed in the ‘Jewish’ category.

Many years ago I learned to never EVER bring up the hate crimes, racist activities or antisemitic actions I witnessed or direly experienced. Since my physical appearance is close enough to acceptable or “real white” (so I’m told) I am allowed to ‘pass’ as white most of the time. During those times when I was dealing with the aftermath of a negative experience I was always told that people are going to do these things to me (teachers and other adults: “Of course they did that!”) but it didn’t count because I’m not really Jewish or a Person of Color (POC).

I guess that makes me target practice. (Lucky me.)

Clearly placing some people into an in-between racial racial category, creates fertile ground for enforcing the particular type of racism that exists in the Midwest. This is done (very effectively) through surprising and terrorizing people who make the mistake of trying to befriend someone whose appearance is borderline. For example:

I was sitting at an outdoor picnic table, taking a lunch break at work, when a coworker sat down beside me and pulled out an envelope of family photos. She started showing them, one-by-one, and commenting on how similar I looked to her relatives. Honestly, she was right, I did look like many of her family members.

A secretary interrupted our pleasant conversation with some nasty commentary about my family lineage, implying both mixed racial heritage and Jewish culture. It was unusually overt for Iowa (where I lived at the time) but it was effective.

The woman with the photos got very nervous and started trying to discretely slip everything back into her purse. After getting everything packed, she made a stuttering denial of my physical similarity to her relatives and left the area as quickly as she could. No, my family isn’t that. No need to look here. she never spoke to me again.

Technically, I could have (and probably should have) reported this experience to my employer’s human resources department, but I was still operating under the belief that I was not allowed to address these things because I’m not ‘really’ a Person of Color (POC) or Jewish. Therefore, I did not have a right to report a problem because the problem couldn’t possibly exist.

Another fact about the Midwest: Violent hate crimes occur with far more regularity than anyone realizes and those crimes are perpetrated against anyone who is considered POC, including those who are perceived as being Jewish. These crimes frequently go unreported, or unrecognized (by the police and other authority figures), so they remain off the official books.

No REALLY…What ARE You?

For those who simply must know my ‘real’ racial identity, feel free to review the genealogy postings on this blog (Genealogy | Adora Myers) and make your own damned decision.

If you decide you hate ‘what I am’ then get in line.

(grumble)

Remembering The Early Morning Bear

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The following memory was originally posted as an answer to a question on Quora. I’ve decided it is worth displaying here on my blog.

I was camping in the boundary waters of northern MN (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness). I was a Volunteer In Park (VIP) through the Student Conservation Association (The Student Conservation Association), so was living out of a tent, on an island, for the better part of a summer. Our team’s only contact with the outside world was a walkie talkie and transportation between worksites (islands) was a small collection of canoes. In short, I wasn’t just in bear territory, I was camped out in their living room.

The good thing was this: it was so remote and so seldom used by the general public that the bears were appropriately afraid of human beings. Do something stupid, and they will attack. Leave food out in the open, and they will eat it. Conduct yourself in a proper manner and, for the most part, they’ll leave you alone.

One night, I crawled out of the tent to take a pee. I’m one of those people who will try to ignore nature in favor of staying in my sleeping bag for as long as humanly possible (so nice and cozy warm!) so this was a serious need. As soon as I made my rather noisy exit and stood up, the first thing I noticed was a mother bear and two cubs.

They were close. Way to close for comfort. If I’d been less awake or observant, I would have walked right into them on the way to our communal outdoor toilet – so 25 yards, give or take.

They appeared to be passing through, but the noise and movement created by me caught the mother bear’s attention and all three bears stopped while she moved her large head from side to side, looking around. I froze out of sheer instinct.

What little I know about hunting in the Midwest immediately followed instinct and I made sure to NOT look the mother in the eye. The night was reasonably dark and there was no wind, so my groggy half-awake and (therefore) mostly animal-instinct driven brain decided my best chances for survival were silence, no-movement and no eye contact.

The reason for the emphasis on no eye contact is this: whether you are hunting prey (e.g.: a deer) or predator (e.g.: a bear), no amount of camouflage will work if you make the mistake of looking the animal in the eye. Even while using a set of binoculars from the upper branches of a tree, the animal will sense the connection and take off. This was something they taught in the hunter’s safety course I took during elementary school, but I’ve never been hunting (before this moment or since) so this was one of the only opportunities I’ve ever had to test the theory – and there was only one option I was willing to try.

After a few long moments of patient statue-standing and waiting, the mother bear made a soft snorting sound, the bear cubs went back to the happy tumbling walk that bear cubs have and the three continued on their way.

As soon as I was no longer able to either see or hear them, I relaxed, took a much needed pee, and escaped back into my tent. That tent seemed terribly flimsy and felt entirely non-protective. I stared at the ceiling for a long time before I was finally able to go back to sleep.

It was scary.

It was AWESOME!

Yeah, I know – I’m a little weird.

Vacation Has Ended

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This gallery contains 6 photos.

I have just returned home from a vacation on Leech Lake in the Chippewa National Forest. I spent a wonderful week living in a cabin, lounging on the beach, reading  books, hiking in the woods and kayaking. At this very … Continue reading

Unethical Portrayal of Homeless Youths

I picked up this edition of the City Pages with high hopes for the cover article. Sadly, the reporter touched on the realities of homelessness in a disturbingly common manner. The first half of the article presented intimate details about the difficult situations, including abuse, rape and living ‘arrangements’ wherein teenagers trade sex for a place to live (a common method abuse perpetrated on this particularly vulnerable community) in a semi-sensational manner.

About midway through, while describing a collection of teenagers who managed (against all odds) to band together, get a roof over their heads and begin forming something akin to a family (read: formerly homeless and basically unsupervised teenagers sharing a house in the wealthy western suburbs), the following comment is made:

“They’re a hodgepodge of exotic sexualities and obsessive fandoms. With the exception of Crystal’s “super gay” girlfriend, the others are open to dating any number of people regardless of sex or gender.”

This is followed with details that enforce the idea that broken kids, with kinky habits, have set up shop in town. Honestly, I found myself wondering why the article wasn’t titled something like: Slumming It Just Got Local, New Options In the Suburbs!

After finishing the article, I felt really bad for the teens portrayed, because the fallout from this journalist’s work will be life-long and extremely damaging.

I also felt angry…enraged, really…at the insensitive and irresponsible nature of the piece. The details highlighted directly benefit pimps, johns and predators. Even worse – they were not necessary, or even pertinent, to the story.

There is an enormous amount of information related to homelessness among the super-wealthy that is never touched upon. There are issues never explored. There are realities that effectively disappear because the media-defined ‘important’ facts only exist at the  intersection of sex, youth and desperation.

Bottom line? Homeless teens need real help and reasonably accessible resources. Journalists like Ms. Du need some eye-opening experiences or sensitivity training – probably both.

The Real Homeless of Wayzata High, City Pages, by Susan Du

Words Overheard – Suit Slavery

I overheard the following comment while walking through the skyway during the lunch time rush.

Two men in expensive-looking suits were standing around, talking, in a particularly busy section of the skyway. As I walked by, one suit said to the other:

“…but he can’t sell him into slavery.”

The comment was made in a tone of voice, and with accompanying gestures, that suggested slavery was the best possible option.

I must admit to being equally curious and horrified. Random bits of overheard conversation being what they are, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know more about the context. On the one hand, he could have been talking about actual slavery, which could result in angry and potentially legal actions on the part of listeners. On the other hand, they could have been using code words for something else; or maybe they were playing a game, trying to see if they could get passers-by to react.

This was exactly like being forced to listen to some jerk loudly describe gross details about some disease on a cell phone while waiting in line to buy groceries – unasked for, unwanted and forever imprinted on the brain.

Which brings into question the wisdom of holding such a conversation in the walkway, during lunch hour, while dressed for work. Is this really something you want a crowd of professionals, who happen to be milling around, foraging for fast-food, to overhear? Is this what you want associated with your professional persona?

It’s something to think about.

Words Overheard – Football Ostracism

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Amazon.com

Last week, I overheard the following conversation:

Mom: Did you just say you’re a Packer fan?
Daughter: (Long pause) Yeah…I support the packers.
Mom: That’s it. You’re cut off. I’m not paying for college.

Much laughter was had by all.

Minneapolis Drug War

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Amazon.com

The escalation of military force was quite dramatic in cities throughout the United States. In the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, for example, its SWAT team was deployed on no-knock warrants thirty-five times in 1986, but in 1996 that same team was deployed for drug raids more than seven hundred times.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

Halloween Capital

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Anoka Minnesota puts on a huge Halloween celebration every year. While I have not had the opportunity to participate, I have heard about it and driven through the town during Halloween week. It’s a big deal. Really. Big. Deal.

Halloween and Community

While browsing my public library for books on the upcoming Halloween holiday, I ran across this local history text and found a few fun quotes about Anoka and Halloween. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the history of this celebration is the amount of community building that it provides – even during difficult times like the great depression.

Quotes:

For most children in the early decades of the twentieth century, Halloween was a night for trouble making. The children of Anoka and their friends from the surrounding communities took this idea to a whole new level.”

On the morning after Halloween, 1919, early risers in Anoka, MN were greeted by an astonishing sight. Cows, it seemed, had taken over the town! Bovines were browsing everywhere...in September of 1920 the citizens of Anoka turned to influential men in the community to see how to best avoid a repeat of the previous year’s trouble.

The following decade of the economic depression that devastated the nation affected Anoka, but the hard times did not dampen their spirits when it came to Halloween. The 1930s brought a series of new events to the Halloween celebration, including an activity that acted as a form of group therapy, the burning of Old Man Depression.

GLBT Controversy

In the interest of fairness, I must mention the tragic events leading up to the Anoka Halloween parade controversy. In 2012, bullying of GLBT students in the Anoka schools lead to several suicides and a lawsuit, which made big headlines. It also spurred the creation of an Anti-Bullying task force and the non-profit Justin’s Gift. Unfortunately, Justin’s Gift was denied entry into the parade of 2012. According to the group’s website Justin’s Gift is hosting a Halloween party (no mention of the parade) in 2014.

Quotes:

Justin’s Gift still had a presence at the 2012 Grand Day Parade. The organization had a booth set up in the parking lot of a church on the parade route where they sold t-shirts, buttons, bracelets and other items. Floats from other cities also showed their solidarity with the group by mounting signs next to their waving princesses that read, “We Support Justin’s Gift.”

“Justin’s Gift was able to proudly walk among its community members in the 2013 Anoka Halloween Parade. The group was met with cheers and support from onlookers.”

History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital by Roxy Orcutt