DCentric » Privilege http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Buying Organic on a Budget: New Shopping Guides Rank Produce by Pesticide Levels http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/06/buying-organic-on-a-budget-new-shopping-guides-rank-produce-by-pesticide-levels/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/06/buying-organic-on-a-budget-new-shopping-guides-rank-produce-by-pesticide-levels/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2011 19:35:38 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=7860 Continue reading ]]>

Sandra Mu/Getty Images

Need strawberries? Try to buy organic if you can.

Buying organic may be better for your health, but it’s not always feasible for those on a budget. Months ago, we posted advice on how to prioritize buying organic. Now, a new list is out detailing which non-organic foods to avoid and which are OK to eat.

The list is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s May report [PDF], rounding up all of the pesticides found in produce. Advocacy organization Environmental Working Group took the data, and created its “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15″ lists. The alliteration and rhyming should make the foods easier to remember, right? If not, you can print the EWG’s brochure, posted below.

NPR reports:

The EWG suggests that people buy organically grown fruits and vegetables for the varieties on its list of the most likely to carry pesticide residues. But the group also says the health benefits from produce mean that “eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”

Dirty Dozen (highest in pesticides):

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens

Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides):

  1. Onions
  2. Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms


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Eating Healthy is not Always an Option http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/eating-healthy-is-not-always-an-option/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/eating-healthy-is-not-always-an-option/#comments Thu, 12 May 2011 19:30:47 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=6906 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: mswine

In “If You Haven’t Been On Food Stamps, Stop Trying to Influence Government Policy,” Latoya Peterson leads with a request to bloggers and journalists to “stop the madness” with regards to how we write about government assistance. Further down in her essay, she shares this haunting anecdote:

I have a memory, from long ago, where I am sitting in the parking lot of a McDonalds, with my mom, trying to count out 63 pennies from the floor around the car, the change jar, and the pavement around the car in order to purchase two hamburgers from McDonalds for our evening meal. Cheap food exists for a reason. 63 cents doesn’t go far in the grocery store if you want a hot meal, and have no where for food prep. (Something that people also conveniently forget about – a lot of eating well on a budget requires prep with at least a hot plate, running water, and basic utensils. If you don’t have these things, you have to eat ready made food. Needless to say, living out of a car doesn’t provide you with consistent access to these things.) But a whole hamburger meant a lot to a seven-year-old stomach that was going to go hungry…These are broke people choices.

I’m sure that if I shared this story on the NYT Health blog, there would be people berating my mother for buying me a hamburger and not, say, an apple or something. Or maybe some dried lentils we could have soaked overnight on the carburetor using a car fluid funnel and woken up to a wonderfully healthy and cheap pinch of beans.

Peterson also discusses food deserts, race and class and how unrealistic it is to expect “farmer’s markets to magically replace a missing food infrastructure.” Read the rest, here.

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Kavitha Cardoza on “The Heavy Burden Of Childhood Obesity” http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/kavitha-cardoza-on-the-heavy-burden-of-childhood-obesity/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/kavitha-cardoza-on-the-heavy-burden-of-childhood-obesity/#comments Tue, 03 May 2011 14:01:56 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=6311 Continue reading ]]>

Credit: Kavitha Cardoza

A student at Beers Elementary in Southeast enjoys Salad and Strawberry day.

First lady Michelle Obama started her “Let’s Move” campaign in part because people under the age of 25 are the first generation of Americans who are expected to live shorter lives than their parents, due to diet-related health issues. Last week, in a five-part series called, “The Heavy Burden Of Childhood Obesity” WAMU’s Kavitha Cardoza and Ginger Moored interviewed overweight children, their families and the doctors who are trying to help. I spoke to Kavitha to find out more about how race and class complicate the already challenging task of addressing obesity in some of D.C.’s youngest citizens.

Kavitha, you mentioned a clinic where the patients include a child who can’t bite a carrot because her teeth have rotted from her diet.

That’s an issue. One of the doctors told us they keep telling kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, yet this girl can’t eat carrots because her teeth have rotted and it hurts her. So some of these kids just can’t. It’s really hard for families. There was a 3-year waiting period for one obesity clinic. Meanwhile, a boy is putting on 4 lbs a month, can you imagine what a three year waiting period would mean? Three years x 4 lbs a month, think of how bad his problems will be.

Tell me about the family that did have access to a clinic; they saw a doctor who spent an unusual amount of time with them, right?

The doctor patiently spent 90 minutes with that family, trying to teach them about nutrition…they hadn’t even left her office and they were opening up and eating food. They’re just little children, of course if they see an Oreo, they want to eat it. And there was so much going on during that appointment…the Mom was braiding her kids hair, two little boys were playing, there were babies. After, the Doctor said, “You know, I have relatives who are obese. In my practice, I see single-parent, low-income families like the one I came from. A lot of people give up on families like that and I never want these families to feel like I’ve given up on them.”

What was the purpose of that visit, specifically?

At that appointment, the doctor was trying to explain nutrition labels. She told them not to worry about saturated and unsaturated fats at this point, because it’s too complicated. She said during the last visit, she explained calories. This time it was grams of sugar. She thinks they will get to a point where they do talk about fat. But it’s not just them–many of us are unaware of how unhealthy what we eat can be…5 grams is one spoon of sugar? I certainly didn’t know that. I grew up in an urban city, in Bangalore. Ginger, my producer, grew up on a farm in Virginia, and our connections to food are very different. She eats fruit and I eat chips and chocolate. I felt like a living test case. I’m not overweight, so it didn’t occur to me, how bad some foods can be.

In one story, you met a child who often has to be excused from class to go to the bathroom because his weight is putting pressure on his bladder– so obesity is now affecting that child’s school work, too. I thought, “What is he missing when he’s out of the room?”

He’s definitely missing things. Also, of all the things to be mocked for at that age…going to the bathroom? Anything related to bodily functions is hilarious to these children and this kid is going to the bathroom multiple times during the day.

And that same child isn’t even allowed to go to the bathroom unless he has a new Doctor’s note confirming his needs every few months, right?

It has to be an official note on letterhead. His school is not thinking, “Let’s connect the dots, this is an ongoing problem, so let’s keep this note on file.” His Mom was telling us about how his school was not at all sensitive to her child’s situation. The doctor said it was a reflection of how society is judgmental of these kids and how they “lack self-control”. This boy has trouble walking up stairs to the third floor and adults at his school make comments, “Oh, he should just stop eating.” If he doesn’t like school, what happens to him then? There was a 7-year old who said she wants to die because of obesity. How can you concentrate on academics if that’s how you feel?

What else does obesity affect?

One doctor said that cognitive functions are delayed in obese kids as well, so there are many different ways this is affecting them. I knew kids would get teased, but I didn’t realize how that intersected with other things. There was a teen whose girlfriend dumped him because of his weight and he was so sad. Imagine that, when you’re a teen experiencing first love. These kids are dying to do what all the other kids are doing. One said, “I love football but now I’m too big to be on the team.” It’s overwhelming.

So there are many factors that complicate their attempts to get healthy?

Every facet of these kids’ lives is complicated…one boy didn’t own a scale or a pedometer. He had never been on a treadmill. All of the advantages we might enjoy– we may be able to afford a gym or we may live in a neighborhood where it is safe to go for a walk. They don’t have any of that. So even if you tell them to lose weight, what does that mean in terms of class if they don’t have access to what they need?

I read that Councilmember Mary Cheh became a proponent of school gardens after she heard a student ask if they could grow McNuggets.

That’s a larger issue of how disconnected we are from the process of growing food, especially in urban areas. There is a total disconnect that these kids are not well-served by…they eat junk and don’t realize why they need to eat healthy or what that even means. A lot of people ask why the government should be involved, but on a policy level whose responsibility is it? Childhood obesity is a huge problem, but is it a family issue? A school issue? There’s no consensus even on that. Why do we even need policies like the Healthy Schools act? It’s an uphill battle. And yet gardens are wonderful, kids go outdoors, they see food grow, they learn colors.

Did anything surprise you?

One thing that shocked me is that kids may be picky eaters, but they are curious and interested. Imagine not ever being exposed to strawberries. I remember when a little girl told me that…I asked her to clarify what she meant. Had she never tasted one? She said, “No. I’ve never seen one.” To me that was so shocking. Some kids saw cauliflower and would say, “Can I have white broccoli?”

What about “personal responsibility”?

I’d always see articles that said people don’t care about nutrition, well it’s not that—they don’t understand what it means. I asked one teen how long it takes to burn 100 calories and he had no idea. The parents have no idea. It’s so abstract to them. There are two different issues here: not having the information to understand what eating healthy means and having that information and then choosing to eat unhealthy. That’s not what we encountered. We found that on a basic level, people didn’t have adequate information. They don’t know how many grams of sugar a teaspoon holds.

And what about food deserts?

Food options are limited in certain wards, so kids turn to whatever they can get, like high-sodium cup o’ noodle soups. That used to be my staple when I was a student in the U.S. I did not realize until I talked to this kid and I looked at the package–it’s a half-serving, not even a full one. So automatically you’ve got to double that amount, and you’ve got to be good enough at math to do that calculation! He certainly didn’t think to consider it. It was not on my radar, either. And that cup was just a few mouthfuls. He’s going to be hungry again in a few hours after a 400-calorie snack.

It’s almost like there are exercise-deserts, too.

There aren’t many convenient options. One child was interested in martial arts, but he would need two buses and a train to get to a class. Then he picked football, but he couldn’t do that because of his weight. Playing outside isn’t possible because of gun violence. Even a walk around his house is dangerous. There was a shooting right outside this kid’s window. His dad died from being shot so that was on his mind. We don’t think of all these situations because they don’t exist for us. I can walk to work and even if it’s dark I don’t feel scared to walk home.

What does that child do?

It’s really sad, he’s scared to go outside so he plays video games in a really small apartment, where there is no space to do a sit-up or a push-up.

So there’s little he can do, safely.

He needs someone to help him and talk to him about this. We asked, “If you could have any help, what would you want?” He said, “Someone to tell me what to eat. Someone to play with me on the weekend.” He was so sweet, he said, “I think it’s a really good idea to be healthy, but I want to tell people you don’t have to bring it up with me every time.” This has become his identity; he’s obese. For a lot of these interviews, I felt really bad for the kids. It was so unfair.

If they don’t know how to change, how can they change? How possible is change?

The doctor said “baby steps”. Now her patient is going to McDonald’s once a week, whereas before it was three times. The doctor told me that the parents of these kids have consumed food a certain way for 30-40 years, and for the kids it’s been that way all their life. Suddenly, we are asking them to eat totally differently. It’s like asking someone to speak a different language.

What about the proliferation of fast food in the neighborhoods these kids live in?

We have to realize that a child who walks home from school goes to McDonald’s because that’s what he passes. He gets the biggest thing on the menu because it fills him up until his mom comes home–and she works long hours. There are multiple fast food and takeout places within walking distance of these homes. Research shows three things influence our choice of what to eat: price, taste and convenience. We compared wards and the inequality was really striking in terms of how many grocery stores there are, so it’s not enough to say, “Eat healthy.” One advocate mentioned there really isn’t a choice if there’s nowhere to go, close by.

How feasible is it to travel elsewhere for food?

A parent may have to take two buses to buy groceries, and then arrange to get a lift home by paying someone $20 for a ride. That’s less money going towards food. And they have to coordinate such plans and that’s even more work. On a bus, you can only take what you can carry. There are so many steps and processes we just don’t think about. There’s a huge structural inequality these people have to contend with, as they try and change their lives.

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The Power of Perception, the Privilege of Passing http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/the-privilege-of-passing/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/the-privilege-of-passing/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2011 14:15:07 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=5617 Continue reading ]]> On Friday, Elahe published a post about how fluid racial identity is for people who identify as Hispanic or Latino. Recently, the New York Times unintentionally reminded us of such fluidity when it profiled four local pundits who’ve “made it” despite their youth and facility with new media–all of them were male, “white” and friends with each other. The well-circulated piece, which starred Ezra Klein, Brian Beutler, Dave Weigel and Matt Yglesias touched a nerve:

Rebranding myself as Matteo Iglesias to help evade mockery for all-white, all-male NYT profile of "young" pundits.

But wait, there was more, as Elahe pointed out when she quoted Yglesias in her post:

When the New York Times recently did a piece on me, Ezra Klein, Brian Beutler, and Dave Weigel exactly zero people complained about the massive over-representation of people of Latin American ancestry that reflected. People saw it as a profile of four white dudes. Which is what it was. But my dad’s family is from Cuba, Ezra’s dad’s family is from Brazil, and Brian’s mom’s family is from Chile.

DCentric reader Keith posed an interesting question, in response to that clarification:

Isn’t there a difference between being a White-skinned Latino who identifies as Latino first and foremost and having a Latino and White parent and being White-skinned? I don’t know that any of these bloggers self-identify as Latino…

My initial reaction to Keith’s query: “not really”. Every day I am reminded that how I choose to identify myself is largely irrelevant to the people I encounter, because their perception of my appearance trumps–and thus influences–my reality. I may classify myself as a second-generation, South Asian American of Malayalee Christian descent, but that is almost never what others see.

Flickr: Michael Thompson

Emperor Haile Sellassie I of Ethiopia

During twelve years of living in D.C., while constantly encountering questions like, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?”, only one person has correctly discerned my exact cultural background.

Usually, the strangers with whom I interact believe that I am Ethiopian; I’m no longer surprised when “off-duty” cab drivers make illegal u-turns to pick up someone who looks, “just like my cousin in Addis!”. This may seem like a trivial detail, but it’s not, because Washington, D.C. is a city with a prominent immigrant population from that African nation. Due to the power of perception, I have become a member of a diaspora that is not mine.

When then-candidate Barack Obama faced headlines like, “What Obama Isn’t: Black Like Me.“, he answered questions about his “authenticity” as a black man this way, according to an article penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for TIME:

“If I’m outside your building trying to catch a cab,” he told Charlie Rose, “they’re not saying, ‘Oh, there’s a mixed race guy.’” Obama understands what all blacks, including myself, know all too well — that Amadou Diallo’s foreign ancestry could not prevent his wallet from morphing into a gun in the eyes of the police.

And perhaps inversely, the ancestry of the part-Latino pundits who were and are considered ‘White Dudes’ was not a factor in their ascending to such great heights because most people were unaware of their diverse family backgrounds. Perception trumps facts; if you are perceived as white, that can be beneficial. In the race game, the opposite of discrimination is often privilege, a concept that anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh once defined in an essay:

As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage…I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless kapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.

DCentric commenter Zena deserves credit for being aware of the advantages she may have enjoyed, because of her appearance:

None of this is new for mixed race folks, especially those of us who look white (I’m half white and half Arab)…For those of us identified as “white,” regardless of our actual ethnicity, we must understand the privilege that that label might have afforded us. I’m never more conscious of that then when I am in a crowd, standing next to my very dark skinned Lebanese father. For the record, I feel most comfortable identifying as a “mixed American.”

Sometimes, when I hand out a pretty, new WAMU business card and identify that my beat is “race and class”, I’m met with annoyance and some version of the following statement: “The problem is, we focus TOO MUCH on race. Aren’t we all equal?”

While the idealism that powers such sentiments is laudable, the fact is we are a nation that must consider race. How are statistics about health, employment, housing, education and poverty often broken down? By race. Even certain laws, like those safeguarding voting rights or instituting policies like affirmative action depend on racial categorization.

A study by the Lewis Mumford Center of SUNY Albany found that while black-identified American Hispanics were less likely to be immigrants or speak a language other than English, and were more educated than other Hispanics, “their economic performance is worse, with a lower median household income than other Hispanics, as well as higher unemployment and poverty rates.”

So race matters in very real and significant ways, whether it “should” or not, whether someone identifies a certain way, or not. During Spanish colonial times in America, it was possible to purchase a Cedula de Gracias al Sacar, or a “certificate of whiteness“, that allowed the buyer–no matter their race– to access privilege for a price. Today, the only thing that guarantees privilege is how you are perceived, whether by the New York Times or the cab driver who is considering if you are a worthy customer to transport somewhere, preferably in Northwest D.C.

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Confessions of a Privileged Black Gentrifier? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/confessions-of-a-privileged-black-gentrifier/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/confessions-of-a-privileged-black-gentrifier/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2011 16:33:33 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=4837 Continue reading ]]>


Last week, we took note of the City Paper’s cover story: “Confessions of a Black Gentrifier“. It was written by Shani O. Hilton, who is the associate editor of Campus Progress. Hilton also writes for one of my favorite race and class blogs, PostBourgie, where one of her co-bloggers expands the discussion the City Paper article has generated by highlighting an issue with the piece– it did not include interviews with poorer black residents who have lived in D.C. for a long time.

I’d like to add to that, because it’s an important oversight. It’s akin to writing an piece about nightlife in DC, and then only interviewing your friends about the places in your neighborhood. There are no interviews with neighbors, former residents who have been pushed out of the neighborhood, or really, anyone outside of Shani’s immediate peer group. Those list-servs mentioned in the piece? They are a treasure trove of information and comment from local law enforcement, church leaders, local community activists- none of whom are consulted in the article. There’s no discussion of the different trends in gentrifying across the city (what’s happening in Bloomingdale and Columbia Heights is different from what’s happening in Hill East, H Street or NoMa, which is different from what’s happening in Anacostia and Congress Heights). There is a nod to this in the opening paragraph, but that’s it…

According to this piece, those people being displaced exist in the ether, outside of the realm of the gentrifier, black or otherwise. Gentrification, at its core, is about privilege (Shani admits as much), and I take this as proof that privilege blinds, black or not.

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When NOT to Buy Organic: Thick Skins http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/when-not-to-buy-organic-thick-skins/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/when-not-to-buy-organic-thick-skins/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2011 14:48:51 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=4737 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: urlgirl

Splurge on organic tomatoes, save money by buying conventional avocados and onions.

Thank you to DCentric reader TP, who sent in this helpful blurb, which was one of the “7 Worst Supermarket Rip-Offs“:

The Environmental Working Group, an organization that studies pesticide contamination, ranks onions and avocados as the most pesticide-free vegetable and fruit, respectively—even when grown conventionally.

In fact, as a general rule, anything you have to peel before you eat (such as bananas or garlic, for example) is relatively low in pesticides. If you want to eat organic, splurge on produce with permeable or edible skin, such as peaches, lettuce, and apples.

So add avocados, onions, bananas and garlic to your list of foods that don’t have to be organic. Since January, DCentric has been thinking about how everyone deserves education about and access to healthy food, regardless of income-level. We’re not the only ones:

…the food justice movement, a burgeoning group of dedicated farmers activists working to ensure that low-income families are included in efforts to promote food sustainability…By promoting CSAs and connecting local farmers to low-income communities, the food justice movement increases access to healthy food while providing community education about healthy eating and hands-on urban gardening programs, fostering a true community approach that allows folks to share family recipes and stretch every dollar.

Readers: thank you so much for your tips and story ideas. We love getting your emails, comments and tweets!

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Why Ignoring Race Fails Everyone http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/why-ignoring-race-fails-everyone/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/03/why-ignoring-race-fails-everyone/#comments Fri, 11 Mar 2011 15:49:00 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=4674 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: Susan NYC

Child playing in NYC.

Yesterday, the Motherlode blog from the New York Times featured a guest post called “Talking About Race (Etc.)” by Amanda Freeman, a white woman who parents two African-American step-kids along with her half-Asian biological daughter.

Freeman narrated two recent experiences which made her think critically about racism. In the first, a black cop rounds up “unattended” children at a playground, including–much to her shock and dismay–her step-children; the second anecdote is about a coffee date with another mother, who mentioned how Freeman’s African-American children had a better chance at being admitted to college than her half-Asian daughter.

Because we live in this new America that celebrates diversity, I have to remind myself not to forget these little happenings. The real danger lies in being lulled into complacency, erasing race from our national dialogue, checking off the completed box.  Racial stereotypes in America run deep; they are woven into our everyday expectations. And we can’t let them go unexamined.

What I do know is that ignoring the subtext of these situations fails everyone involved. The more we try to process our complicated feelings about race, the less likely they are to erupt in ugly ways.

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Tomorrow on Kojo: Organic Food http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/tomorrow-on-kojo-organic-food/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/tomorrow-on-kojo-organic-food/#comments Tue, 01 Feb 2011 22:55:25 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=3878 Continue reading ]]>


Organic Onions at Whole Foods. Not to be confused with Organic Funyuns.

For those of you who are passionate about Organic food or examining issues like privilege, access and health– make sure you listen to tomorrow’s edition of The Kojo Nnamdi Show, which will “explore where chains like Walmart and Whole Foods fit into the healthy food movement and how their strategies compare with government efforts”.

The first hour of the show is devoted to “The Walmart Diet”; panelists include WaPo Reporter Lyndsey Layton and Corby Kummer, a Senior editor at The Atlantic.

After writing two posts about how Organic Food is often out of reach for many Americans, I’m looking forward to Kojo’s thoughtful take on the politics of buying pesticide-free food.

If you are outside of the D.C. area or you can’t tune in to hear the discussion live at Noon, look for the “Listen” link here, and enjoy it whenever.

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On Being Complicit, “Black Trash” and Reverse Racism http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/on-being-complicit-black-trash-and-reverse-racism/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/02/on-being-complicit-black-trash-and-reverse-racism/#comments Tue, 01 Feb 2011 20:49:10 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=3866 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: xcode

Oh, *you* try and find an appropriate image for this post which won't anger someone.

I try to encourage commenting on DCentric because when readers share their perspectives, it can be edifying. For example, check out the comment Molly W. left under my last post, “Gray, Lanier and Thomas Tour North Capitol After Murders“. It deserves to be seen (emphasis mine):

In my own neighborhood (east of Capitol Hill), crime against white residents consistently seem to provoke an outcry that we just don’t hear when there are crimes against black residents.

However, it often comes across poorly to imply people are overreacting to a crime against a white person — it seems like an attempt to dismiss the white victim. Ideally, instead of making less fuss about white victims, we’d make just as much fuss about black victims. Sadly, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I think a small part of it is access — I hear about many of these crimes on the neighborhood e-mail list, which seems to be whiter than the community at large (though that’s just my guess, I can’t say for sure).

More than that, I think it’s a lot easier for white residents to imagine that black victims of crime are somehow complicit — attacked b/c they’re in the drug trade or dating criminals or whatever. When a white person (or even someone who isn’t white, as long as s/he isn’t black) is attacked, there seems to be a much stronger, visceral sense of “that could’ve been *me*” among white neighbors.

(I’m white myself, don’t know if that makes a difference.)

The fact that Molly is white doesn’t make a difference to me, because I am grateful for all of my readers, especially the blue ones (old-school Smurfs fan, here). It does make a difference in a larger way though, because I think it’s important for such points to be heard and context matters. I know POCs who would be surprised by how well Molly groks these issues. It’s thoughtful to consider very real obstacles like the digital divide when contemplating why bad news might inspire certain reactions in certain groups. I want to take this opportunity to thank readers like Molly, who are kind enough to share their experiences.

Even comments that include potentially offensive language and a more controversial point of view can be thought-provoking. Here’s  DCentric reader JP’s take on the same post (again, emphasis mine):

I grew up in a rural, southern county that was mostly black. Most of the white and black folks got along just fine. However, there were minorities of both that were supremely and willfully ignorant, jobless, lazy, entitled, and viciously and unapologetically violent. Let’s not forget racist too. The whites like this we referred to as “white trash.” They would occasionally raise a child who, by a fluke of luck, was smart and motivated enough to get the hell away from the horrific culture that their family was a part of.

The “black trash” is no different. Take both groups of people, change their skin color to green, and they are identical in their counterproductive habits and culture.

It just so happens that particular neighborhoods of DC have huge swaths of “black trash” living there. Culturally, it might as well be a giant, meth filled trailer park in Ohio or Kentucky.

Decent, hard working, productive people are happy when wealthier people move into their neighborhoods, but racist trash of both colors just look at the newcomers with scorn and contempt.

Its not white people killing people in DC. It’s trash that happens to be black. I’m tired of hearing these trashy, racist jerks complain about DC becoming less black. When white people complain about their neighborhoods becoming less white, we call them what they are: racists. This is no different.

After reading it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that infamous Chris Rock bit from “Bring the Pain“, which was so controversial, he no longer performs it. I think there’s something to acknowledging that there are behaviors or pathologies which neither race has a monopoly on, but employing the word “trash” often alienates people– of both races! Additionally, leveling charges of “Reverse Racism” can also annihilate opportunities for solidarity; whether we realize it or not, issues of privilege intersect with race and suddenly what seems obvious or simple…isn’t.

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About George Washington’s Teeth… http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/about-george-washingtons-teeth/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/01/about-george-washingtons-teeth/#comments Mon, 24 Jan 2011 22:02:31 +0000 Anna http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=3631 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: wally g

The next time I pass this statue on H street, all I will think of is, "His teeth"!

Now reading about the man my Alma mater is named for…and his disturbing dental work, via Jamelle Bouie over at TAPPED:

Indeed, we laud George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for their private opposition to slavery, but they never challenged the system and took advantage of its benefits when it suited them…As for Washington? This anecdote stands out:

In 1784, five years before he became president of the United States, George Washington, 52, was nearly toothless. So he hired a dentist to transplant nine teeth into his jaw–having extracted them from the mouths of his slaves.

This is not to condemn the Founders are horrible, terrible human beings but to situate them as men of their time, filled with the prejudices of their class, and unwilling — or unable — to transcend them. If we’re out to respect the Founding Fathers, then we should acknowledge their flaws and try to remember them as they lived, not as demigods in a morality play.

It’s a peculiar historical detail, but it’s so memorable that going forward, I will always think of it when I consider our first President.

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