“It’s not that we don’t care or understand, it’s that we’re poor.”

Flickr: District 47

Organic, vegan food from a Bento.

Kindly allow me to start this post by thanking you. I am humbled by the letters I am receiving regarding “The Privilege of Prioritizing Organic Food“. Your emails are thoughtful and heartfelt; I am grateful for them, and for the way you have shared my story on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you.

I wrote that post on Thursday and a few of you have left comments, the majority of which were productive and welcome additions to DCentric. One comment, however, stood out. It bothered me enough that I wanted to respond to it, but I kept revising my reply because I am sensitive to the challenges of creating a trusted space for discussing personal or controversial issues (that’s my ultimate goal with this blog), and I don’t want to discourage anyone from sharing their point of view. That is why I’m so glad one of you addressed the questionable comment, instead.

Here’s the comment that I wanted to call out, from “Organic Trade”. After reading it, I wondered if I hadn’t conveyed my point well enough– buying organic may be easier and more affordable than ever, but it’s still beyond the reach of too many people, no matter what their “priorities” are. Also, I don’t understand how choosing organic and thus, more expensive versions of something you buy a lot of is an “easy way to save”:
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The Privilege of Prioritizing Organic Food

Flickr: ehpien

Farmer's Market, Dupont Circle.

Writing about Walmart earlier today reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to discuss on DCentric; I had an eye-opening experience at the beginning of the year, and all I could think about was “Race and class! Race and class!”, as it was happening. Despite my ethnicity, I’m not a huge fan of yoga, but I heard from a trusted friend that a local yogi was known for holding a workshop that helped people go beyond making resolutions. The all-day event included stuff one does on a rectangular mat, nutrition advice, life coaching, art and a vegetarian brunch.

I went and I have to agree, it was restorative and inspiring, so much so that I didn’t even mind twisting my body like a pretzel while trying to remember to breathe. What stands out to me most, however, is the nutrition-focused portion of the programming. While I expected to hear about the virtues of organic produce and embracing healthier diets which had few or no animal products, I did not expect for race and class to collide during the Q + A period, which came right after a recitation of the “dirty dozen”, or the list of produce that is most affected by pesticides.

Since I keep mentioning race, I’ll disclose that I was impressed that a quarter of the attendees were women of color; basically, it was me holding it down for Asian-America plus five African-American women.

One of them raised her hand, tentatively.

“Thank you so much for this information,” she began. “It’s so worrisome…all these chemicals and pesticides in our food. I would like to be healthier by eating organically but…it’s so expensive. Do you have any advice for dealing with that?” She looked hopeful; her hand was poised over her notebook, pen aquiver, ready to jot down wise words which would not come.
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“Let’s find a way to humiliate a white person.”

Flickr: Foxymoron

"I Heart Gentrification" street art from this summer, found on U Street.

Michel Martin’s Can I Just Tell You? column about the recent, shocking violence at L’Enfant Plaza inspired a Washingtonian named Jane Lincoln to leave this comment on NPR’s website:

Thank you for your thought-provoking essay. I’m a DC native, white, and i’m used to subtle messages of hostility from black folks. I totally get it. The young man clearly is not from here. He would not have been enraged by their attack. or puzzled. If he was a native, he’d know, ah, this is one of those pay back times. I have white privilege, and no matter how pro-black i may be, i have what they don’t and they’re mad. Yeah, they were kids, and being bad, and the new twist is videotaping. But its an old game. Let’s find a way to humiliate a white person. Ah! That felt good. Now, what do we do? I’m bored again.

If i were present, i would have run to the station attendant and asked her/him to call police. I would also look as closely as i could at the kids to see if i knew them, or at least to identify them if ever they’re caught. i’d leave my contact info with the metro police. i’d stick around to see if i could be helpful to the young man. i know i would have done this. i’ve done it before.

I love this town. I work on my racism. I live in Edgewood NE DC and have lived in ward 5 for 23 years. The tensions between new and old, black and white, haves and have nots, will continue.

Workers in the East, Management in the West?

Flickr: Laura Padgett

Restaurant in D.C.'s West End

From “Why are the East of Cities usually Poorer?”, this is interesting:

Many older cities rapidly expanded during the Industrial Revolution, as workers flocked to the urban centers. As the towns and cities expanded, the residential areas for the workers tended to be in the east, with the middle and upper-classes in the west.

The reason for this is that in much of the northern hemisphere, the prevailing winds are westerlies – blowing from west to east. The massive, unchecked pollution from these early industries would therefore drift eastward, making the air quality much lower in the east end of cities, lowering the desirability (and price) of the housing. Middle classes preferred the cleaner west ends.

The issue was probably even pre-Industrial Revolution, as smoke from personal chimneys would still have caused problems to the east.

“Get used to things like racism, hot sauce.”


Local hot sauce-goodness from Uncle Brotha.

Now reading: “How to be Black“, from Thought Catalog (thanks, PostBourgie):

Really love or really hate Tyler Perry movies.

Get asked every summer if black people tan.

Get laughed at in elementary, junior, and high school by all your black friends because you “talk white.” Philosophize for years about what it means to “talk white.” Have an identity crisis. Go away to college or boarding school and have your new white friends swear up and down you’re nothing like the way black people are “supposed” to be. What happened to you?  Go home with your new white friends during holidays, play the role of Model Black.

Seamlessly slip in and out of Ebonics. Talk to your friends in one voice but as soon as a family member or another black calls, thass when you be done’ took the Ebonics out.

Get used to not seeing other black people on the covers of magazines, in any of the advertisements, or in any of the movies. Cringe when Your Local News shows racist images of black people, such as mug shots, jail shots, and videos of robberies. Get used to people assuming you like rap. Get used to things like racism, hot sauce.

There are other issues with this cake, too.

On the fifth day of Christmas, Postbourgie gave to me– a hive-inducing video starring Sandra Lee “making” Kwanzaa cake! If the name sounds familiar, Lee is the Food Network star who adds a dash of this, a dash of crap to finished items from the grocery store (in the video below, she mixes cocoa powder and cinnamon with generic, store-bought frosting). If you care for such trivia, Lee is also dating the big apple’s Governor-elect, Andrew Cuomo. This cake is white on the inside, brown on the outside, filled with apple pie goo and decorated with pumpkin seeds and corn nuts (to represent acorns!). In short, it is awful. Enjoy!

D.C.’s Top Tweeps 2010 and the Digital Divide

Flickr: Alykat

Sculpture in Congress Heights by Anne Allardyce

Over at Congress Heights on the Rise, East of the River blogger The Advoc8te takes issue with the “popularity contest” that The Washington Post is hosting for D.C.’s Twitter royalty in “Why I won’t be voted “DC’s Best Blogger” in the DCTweeps Contest “:

How can you expect voters to participate in the election process when they don’t have the basic tools to participate? How can you vote in a contest if you don’t even know it’s going on?

As a blogger, a social media consultant, and as someone who spends about 75% of her waking hours online, I understand the ease and convenience of holding these types of contests using online surveys and Twitter. The technology is here to stay, no doubt about it. However, in communities such as ours where a good portion of the population still doesn’t have access to reliable and/or affordable Internet service and where most homes do not have a computer or access to one, a big part of the population becomes disenfranchised, even in purely entertainment contests such as this one. How do we expect residents who exist within the confines of the digital void to participate outside of it? How do we expect residents from outside of the community to learn about what’s inside the community if there is such a digital divide?

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Whole Foods for some, Bodegas for others


Organic fruit at a D.C. Farmers' Market

I just had a conversation about this with one of you yesterday, about the stark disconnect and borderline shame I felt when I came home after buying cheese, local plum chutney and organic bread for entertaining– and walked right in to a display for a food drive. Newsweek is thinking about food inequality, too:

Alexandra says she spends hours each day thinking about, shopping for, and preparing food. She is a disciple of Michael Pollan, whose 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma made the locavore movement a national phenomenon, and believes that eating organically and locally contributes not only to the health of her family but to the existential happiness of farm animals and farmers—and, indeed, to the survival of the planet. “Michael Pollan is my new hero, next to Jimmy Carter,” she told me. In some neighborhoods, a lawyer who raises chickens in her backyard might be considered eccentric, but we live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a community that accommodates and celebrates every kind of foodie. Whether you believe in eating for pleasure, for health, for justice, or for some idealized vision of family life, you will find neighbors who reflect your food values. In Park Slope, the contents of a child’s lunchbox can be fodder for a 20-minute conversation.

Over coffee, I cautiously raise a subject that has concerned me of late: less than five miles away, some children don’t have enough to eat; others exist almost exclusively on junk food. Alexandra concedes that her approach is probably out of reach for those people.

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Understanding Courtland Milloy

It’s one of the busiest days of the year, but I wish I had a half-hour of quiet and a good cup of tea to sit down and give the City Paper’s front-page profile of Courtland Milloy the attention it deserves. Milloy infamously earned the ire of my laptop-toting peers when he mocked them by calling them “Myopic little twits” in his Metro column for the Washington Post. While my friends of one hue were outraged that the Post would legitimize a point of view they considered backwards, incendiary and racist, a few friends of another hue quietly maintained that he is the only one publicly representing the point of view of many D.C. residents who are otherwise never heard.

In Milloy’s telling, his barbs at D.C.’s creative-class newbies aren’t about lashing out at them because they’re new. He’s lashing out at them because they’re not. As gentrification takes hold of Washington and issues of inequality emerge, it’s not enough to take solace in Obama’s post-racial ideal while neighborhoods acquire a new mono-cultured cast. People who move into changing neighborhoods have a responsibility for what’s going on. Or so Milloy, in his role as the crotchety grandfather they never wanted, wants to tell them.

Milloy sees new Washingtonians as the flip-side of a process that, in his view, involves older ones being pushed out. And if the actual truth behind African-American departures is more complicated—plenty of folks, starting with Milloy, decamped voluntarily—he argues that it’s pretty damned egocentric to imagine that everything is sweetness and light.

“Well, I don’t know why people think I have a problem with the influx itself,” he says. “Not to be deliberately provocative, but that is the white view, it’s white-centered. ‘Why are you opposed to us moving in?’ But nothing about, ‘Why are you concerned about the way black people are being kicked out?’

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Where is Privilege Denying Dude?

One of you asked about a post from last week which “disappeared”. It was about “Privilege Denying Dude”, a meme consisting of an image of a white man posing between lines of text which expressed things like “If racism still exists– how come the President is black?” and “Poor people are just lazy. My dad worked hard to pay for my college education.” Here’s what happened:

If you missed out on the short-lived but prolific Tumblr page of Privilege Denying Dude (PPD), you missed the beginning of a genius appropriation of a popular meme (or internet trend) that shoveled smarm back in the face of the privileged cluelessness that litters YouTube and social-justice blog comment threads alike (not to mention IRL). What started as a simple trend went viral, with thousands of submissions (all with their own unique manifestation of privilege!) coming in (see some classic examples on Jezebel.). But due to a terms of violation with the image used, Tumblr shut down the site last Friday. [link]