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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Summertime!

It’s summer time and definitely time to get back on the blogging wagon. Since my last post, we’ve had Father’s Day, my 32nd birthday, mine and Ben’s second anniversary, 4th of July, and we’re rapidly approaching Ben’s birthday on Wednesday. I’ve been knitting, nannying, and even learning a bit of crochet. I finally saw all of the Harry Potter movies, read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and of course, added to my to-read and to-knit lists.

But before I get too far ahead of myself, it’s high time for an update on my Owlie Socks! They were tons of fun to make and I highly recommend the pattern.

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Raise Your Skirts and Bob Your Hair

I’ve been considering a haircut for a while now and trimmed it up myself to buy a little time a few months ago. I’d been trying to grow it out for a while now so that when my partner Ben and I get married I a few years, I’ll have style choices. On paper, that’s a great idea, but when I didn’t have my hair all pinned up and hidden under a bandanna, I was sporting a serious young-Hermoine-Granger ‘do.

Then I discovered that Emily, one of the girls on my student wardrobe crew, has her cosmetology license and takes clients to help supplement her college income. She gave one of the other crew girls a fantastic haircut, and I was definitely next in line.

I went home that night and agonized about how much to cut off and what would look good. Should I stick to my original goal of growing it out even if it didn’t look good in the mean time? I was planning to donate it when I got sick of it.. Well, hell, let’s see how long it is now!

I broke out the ruler and discovered that my hair was around 14 inches long from the nape of my neck. You need 10 inches to donate, so my decision was made. I went to work the next day with a huge grin on my face and told Emily my plan. She cut an 11″ ponytail, one more inch went to shaping my hair, and that left me with 2″ of hair – which, since it was backstage at Millie, she “smartly bobbed.”

It was a smash hit with all the BoCo kids, and they should know – they’re far more style-conscious than I’ll ever be. Blown out straight, it’s a jaw-length asymmetrical bob, and when left curly, it’s very Amelia Earhart. I’m loving finding exactly the way to pin it back and I definitely need to invest in a large collection of cute barrettes.

The ponytail itself is hanging from a clippy hanger until it is thoroughly dry so that I can braid it and mail it off. It will go to either Locks of Love or Pantene Beautiful Lengths – I’ve had friends who’ve donated to both, but I want to do some research on their programs before I send them off (like you should with any donation, really).

So here’s the before-and-after, with maybe some curly photos coming soon:

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Sunday Society Page – Minimum Wage

In his State of the Union address, President Obama brought up the long-overdue idea of raising the minimum wage, and there’s been a TON of debate about it since. There are those who say it’ll cause “job creators” to stop hiring if they have to pay their employees more per hour. I understand where this idea comes from, but I don’t think it’s accurate.

First of all, the wage increase will only apply to minimum wage jobs: those making the current $7.25/hour. No one else is going to get a wage increase, so it’s not going to apply to anyone higher than entry-level. That means it’ll mostly affect service personnel – those who work in retail, food service, gas stations, childcare, or cleaning companies – those who work 40 hours per week and still find themselves at or below poverty level.

The truth is, there are plenty of jobs available. Within four miles of my house, there’s a Joann’s, Starbucks, Panda Express, Stop & Shop, AC Moore, and Sears that have constantly been hiring for the past year, but these are jobs that most people don’t want. And the reason people don’t want them is because of the low pay and hard physical work. Because of uniforms that make you a faceless cog and having your personal items searched after every shift to make sure you aren’t stealing. Because of shift managers who schedule you against your stated availability, forcing you to scramble to trade shifts and wreaking havoc on your life. Because of being spoken to like you’re an idiot day in and day out – because obviously if you were any smarter, you wouldn’t be working HERE.

At the current minimum wage, even if you work an 8 hour shift 365 days per year, you will only make $21,170 per year – before taxes. That presumes you never get sick, snowed in, have car trouble, or take a single day off. This rate reduces hard-working people to subsistence laborers, and that’s just to provide for their own living expenses. Raising a family on that income means that hard decisions will have to be made. Pundits like to complain about parents who aren’t home with their children, don’t take the time to read with and to them, but how on earth is a low-income worker supposed to do those things if they’re pulling double shifts just to pay rent and buy groceries? This is a situation that perpetuates the cycle of poverty, of exhaustion, of hopelessness.

Nobody wants these jobs. People take them because they need them. Because low pay is better than no pay. Because the jobs that are hard to find are the ones that require years of training, education, and experience, and you might not get a lead for just as many years.

We all rely on these people to make our lives work. As individuals, we should be treating hourly workers with respect and dignity in our regular interactions. As a society, we should be able to agree that paying the people we rely on enough to pay their basic bills is only fair. And the vast majority of us do, but I think those who “represent” us in government need to be reminded.

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Back to BoCo!

It’s been a busy few days here! I’m back at Boston Conservatory for the Winter Dance Concert... There are four pieces; two premiers and two reconstructions. My job as Head of Wardrobe is to keep all of the costumes in clean, working order, and to teach my student crew the basics of special-care laundry and backstage protocol.

Wardrobe is a position that often goes overlooked because of the misconception that, well, anyone can do laundry. In truth, anyone can be taught to do laundry, but there are specialized skills that most folks don’t need in their daily life. Many dance pieces and historical garments can’t be washed in a machine at all, but still have to look and smell fresh for each performance. And these days, most modern clothes have at least some synthetic content, making garment care much easier – but it also has the side effect of making most people unaware of how to properly care for a natural-fiber garment.

A lot of working wardrobe is also very personal: you have to get into another person’s space, make sure every garment they wear fits properly and facilitates the actor’s work. You might have to assist with makeup application or securing wigs. You will have to wash undergarments, deal with sweat, and occasionally take a half-eaten cough drop out of the mouth of someone about to walk onstage.

There’s a lot of trust involved, and as always, trust is earned, not demanded. The performers must know without a doubt that their costume will be clean and in full working order each day when they return to work. They must trust that when they come running offstage for a quick change, a quiet, confidant, encouraging wardrobe member will be there to facilitate the change. And they have to know that if they split their inseam, you’ll be ready and armed with safety pins. Like they say, if you’ve done your job right, no one will ever know you were there.

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The cast of Boston Conservatory’s Way of the World.

Episode #188: Kid Logic

Just finished listening to This American Life’s episode Kid Logic, which I was really looking forward to because I spend a LOT of my time playing with kids. When I’m not working in theater, I’m babysitting for one of three families (two regularly and one occasionally) or working at Kids’ Fun Stop, an indoor playground in West Roxbury. Most of my Facebook friends are very familiar with Charlie and Alex because I quote all the funny things they say while I’m hanging out with them. Charlie, who’s 3, says the cutest things, and Alex, who’s 7 going on King of the World, asks me all kinds of interesting and challenging questions that I have to think about a lot to answer accurately and age appropriately.

Some of my favorite topics from the boys have been the following:

-Are monsters real or was that just a statue?
-Are you here to make sure no bad guys can get me?
-Who is the smartest person in the whole world? Does everyone know he’s the smartest?
-If the election was such a big deal, how come nothing happened afterwards?
-Why isn’t Michelle Obama the queen?
-Why do grown-ups like to watch the news so much if it makes them sad?
-How do you know that the person you’re dating is the person you should marry?

I tell Alex that he’s allowed to ask me as many questions as he wants, because it’s his job as a kid to learn as much about the world as he possibly can. He tells me he will, because HE is going to be the smartest man in the world and I can say I knew him when he was a kid.

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Headlines

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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