About That Barbershop Video…

So any time I want to make a reply on Facebook that ends up being more than a sentence or two long, I try and redirect it over here to the blog. This is one of those times.

A video has been going around about a white girl who stops by a black barbershop with her boyfriend, and one of the hairdressers becomes highly critical of their interracial relationship. All three of those people are actors hired by a show called What Would You Do. Their schtick is that they put people in uncomfortable situations and see if anyone will speak up. I have a couple of criticisms about this video, some of which are from personal experience and some of which are from plain old critical thinking.

The first is this: While it is not stated, the video heavily implies that the terrible behavior on the part of the “hairdresser” is a common occurrence, when in reality, it’s completely set up. It’s important not to conflate this piece of performance art as the current state of race relations in barbershops.

Second, everyone except the “hairdresser” behaved either neutrally or in support of the “white girlfriend.” While in a situation such as the one presented, neutrality might not be the best response, but imagine the same scenario without the setup – neutral or supportive behavior would have made for a perfectly pleasant trip to the barbershop.

And third, while no one has the right to deride any human being in such a manner, I still have a hard time processing the idea that the onus for maintaining race relations has shifted to the black community. There ARE still plenty of examples of racism and discrimination in housing, education, employment, stop & frisk policies, unequal sentencing laws and incarceration rates. Like I said, no one should behave like this “hairdresser” did, but I also don’t think the black community needs to apologize for being pissed off about actual injustices.

Now for the personal experience part. I had occasion a few years ago to find myself as the “white girlfriend” in a black barbershop in Atlanta. I got some curious looks, my then-boyfriend vouched for me by saying, “She’s with me,” and then everyone smiled and I was introduced around. By then, I had come to expect the whole “curious look – vouching – welcoming” process, and in four years I never experienced anything more unpleasant than that in the black community (the white community made me far more nervous on a few occasions, though). I had exactly the same experience that everyone in that video would have had if there were no planted actors and camera crews.

Don’t get me wrong, this video gave me a lot of warm fuzzies to see people standing up for one another. We all should do that in real life when we see injustices. But let’s be sure that we’re addressing actual, real-life injustices rather than getting snowed by inaccurate videos designed to prey on our compassions.

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Income Inequality and The American Dream

Looks like a few other people have some smart things to say rebutting the condescending Generation Y article that was my last straw. First of all, Adam Weinstein wrote this fantastic article outline how exactly the world is different than it used to be, and why the deck is stacked against people trying to build their careers.

Then, there’s the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Death of an Adjunct, describing how an 83 year old professional woman was driven into poverty by the reprehensible policies of her employer (ostensibly for a greater religious good, I might add).

And on The Daily Show this Monday, Jon Stewart interviewed former Labor Secretary Robert Reich about income inequality, the gutting of the middle class, class warfare, upward mobility, citizen activism, and his new film, Inequality For All. He argues for a living wage for full-time work, and against the idea that the working poor are taking advantage of the absurdly over-paid upper echelon.

And I’d like to add this thought to the mix: We need to do away with the idea that being rich somehow makes a person more valuable, their work more worthwhile, and their life choices more justified. Some of our most important professions are among the least compensated – teachers, social workers, firefighters and police – as well as the people who make our daily existence possible – retail workers, grocery store cashiers, restaurant servers. If a person works full time hours, they should be able to pay rent, buy food, drive a reasonably safe car, and educate their children. And I don’t think that being able to take a week off for the holidays and one in the summer is unreasonable either.

Pundits talk about how a rising tide lifts all boats, but that doesn’t matter one bit if you’re standing on the shore wishing you had a boat to begin with. Right now, we have a structure where a very small percentage of people take home more money than they could ever spend, while masses of people are struggling to meet basic human needs. And that’s something we should really be working to correct, as individuals and as a country. Think about how embarrassed we’re going to be if Doctors Without Borders becomes a primary source of medical care for rural America, or when NGO’s show up to help us dig clean wells because there’s been a cholera outbreak in a bankrupt city. And just to be absolutely clear, I’m not arguing for socialism here. I’m arguing for democracy and against plutocracy. It’s time we did more to live up to our own myth of the American Dream.

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Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper have left the Westboro Baptist Church. I hope to see some good works to back up their fresh starts, and wish them all the luck they need to start over.

Just because I’ve been snowed in doesn’t mean everyone has. Some folks here in Boston made some really awesome Calvin & Hobbes snowmen.

Apparently, Al Capone felt very strongly about the freshness of milk.


Christianity Today
discusses the “logic” behind the false piety of bad tipping.

You still won't live forever, but you can turn into a tree after you die.

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Headlines

A few things I think are pretty neat:

Body of Richard III Found Under a Carpark

Mary Ingalls’ Blindness Was Probably Not The Result of Scarlet Fever.

UK Parliament Votes In Favor of Gay Marriage

Boy Scouts of America Considers Lifting Ban on Gays.

Ottawa Cancer Fundraiser Drops Jenny McCarthy Because of her Anti-vax Nonsense

Malala Speaks Publicly For the First Time After Being Shot by Taliban

A New Report is Due on the Magdelene Laundries.