Steet art Sunday, Monday update

IMG_8184 (2)A bit more about the “Wall of Justice” on Brooklyn’s Fourth Av from yesterday’s post. This morning, the protest art on the site was even more extensive than last week, taking up the entire block between Union and Sackett and wrapping around both corners. The images below are from the side streets. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: Black Lives Matter

IMG_8173A gallery of recent street art and graffiti in Brooklyn. I have nothing to add in the way of commentary or insight, other than just to echo: Black lives matter.

A few more from the stretch of Fourth Avenue between Union and Sackett that also includes the image at the top of this post. Continue reading

It’s starting . . .

yelling trumpOkay, okay – it isn’t just starting; it’s been going on for a while. A hijab-wearing woman kicked and called “trash” in Bay Ridge. A homeless Latino man beaten up in Boston. Black students ejected from a rally in Valdosta, Georgia. But before last Friday, I hadn’t personally witnessed it.* (Because, when you’re a self-absorbed blogger, nothing is real unless it happens to you, right?)

The other thing that’s different, of course, is that Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican candidate for president of the United States. Continue reading

Running while white

IMG_5014Lately, I’ve been doing some thinking about white privilege and running.  I know the term “white privilege” makes many white people defensive. Coming from another white person, it’s heard as simultaneously self-righteous and self-flagellating. Coming from a person of color, it’s heard as an accusation. And it invariably sounds oh-so-politically correct.

But it shouldn’t. And I’d like to think that just maybe, thinking about white privilege in the context of running – a relatively un-fraught, low-stakes topic – might make it easier to recognize it elsewhere, where the stakes are higher. (I’m thinking about myself and other white people here; I don’t think most people of color have any trouble recognizing white privilege.)

Without further ado, here are five ways I experience white privilege as a runner.

1. I can run wherever I want without being questioned or hassled. I routinely run through places where I “don’t belong”: Chinatown, Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, low-income housing projects, industrial areas and so on. Not only do I engage in the suspicious behavior of running, I do it in all kinds of weather and at all times of day (including before dawn and after dark). I’ve been doing this for years now, and in all that time, I’ve never once been stopped by cops, security guards, neighborhood patrols or suspicious residents. I find that nothing short of astonishing: I mean, the way I look sometimes, I would stop me.

2. Most of the time, I’m blithely unaware of the police. I can afford to be blithely unaware because my life experiences (and those of my family members) don’t include being stopped while going about my business and questioned, frisked or worse. When I cross against the light (hey, I’m a runner, I’m impatient) right by a cop car, do you know what happens?

Nothing.

3. If I do notice the police, I assume they’re there to protect me. When I’m running in the park after dark, or in a deserted industrial area any time of day, and I see a police patrol, I feel safer. The thought that they might be looking at me as a “suspect” . . . in other words, that I might have something to fear . . . that thought never occurs to me. Literally, never.

4. Businesses cut me slack and treat me with respect. Like many runners, I have occasional bathroom emergencies far from home. When I appeal to use a “customers only” restroom, I’m usually successful. (And when I’m not, I’m shocked and outraged and walk away muttering about boycotts.) Sometimes, especially with larger establishments, I don’t even ask – I just brazen my way in, walking through a crowded restaurant or fancy hotel lobby with an air of entitlement.

5. I can count on seeing a lot of other people who look like me at races and running events. When I show up for a group run on a weekend morning, I know I won’t be the only white person there. When a black person shows up, they may or may not be the only black person there. Does that matter? Runners are runners, right? Well, sure – but I kind of think that if I were the only white runner in a black crowd, I’d be, at a minimum, aware of my race (just as I’m often made aware of my gender). The ability to remain unaware is a kind of privilege.

. . .

I don’t claim that my experience of “running while white” reflects that of all white runners. All of us are bundles of different identities, and I’m sure my running experiences are also shaped by the fact that I’m a woman, well into middle age, whose technical gear telegraphs her socioeconomic status as “not poor.” But I know in my gut that my experience of running would be different if all these other things were the same, and I had darker skin.

As I mentioned at the start, this isn’t about guilt. It’s not really about running, either. It’s about the need to talk about race frankly and non-defensively (and, may I add, to listen), as part of a broader effort to change things that need changing. I have some personal experience with how difficult these conversations can be (that’s a topic for another day) – but for heaven’s sake, we need to have them.


(A note: I had some technical difficulties putting this post up . . . by which I really mean that I accidentally clicked “publish” while still editing, and then had to figure out how to take it back. I have no idea what that means for people who follow this blog. If it resulted in confusing notifications, I apologize!)

Heroes, ghosts and history

IMG_2353

We didn’t actually wear these buttons.

“Remind me again why we’re going there?”

That was Eric’s question when I suggested we wear these buttons on our flight to Charleston, South Carolina.

It was a reasonable question. South Carolina is the state whose governor declared (in her State of the State address, no less) that unions “are not needed, not wanted and not welcome.” It’s the state whose U.S. Senators have described the National Labor Relations Board as, variously, an “out-of-control bureaucracy,” “third world tyranny” and “rogue agency” for its outrageous! ridiculous! shocking! interference with the God-given right of corporations to tear federal labor law into teeny tiny pieces, suitable for CEOs to scatter like confetti at bonus time.

If your reaction to all this is “huh?”, a bit of background. South Carolina’s business and political leaders reacted with predictable rage when the NLRB issued a complaint against the Boeing Corporation for shifting production of its 787 “Dreamliner” plane from Washington state to a new plant in North Charleston. The 2011 complaint alleged that Boeing’s move was illegal retaliation for (legal, federally-protected) strikes by the company’s unionized workforce in the Seattle area. In support of this absurd allegation (unprecedented! an attack on jobs and freedom and all we hold dear!), the rogue agency cited numerous public statements by Boeing executives that they were moving production to Charleston . . .  in retaliation for strikes by their unionized workforce in the Seattle area.

Oops.*

Thanks to Google maps, I already knew the drive from the airport to downtown Charleston would take us past “Dreamliner Drive.” And there it was. There, also, was the sprawling Boeing facility, still in operation despite the hysteria (job killers! business destroyers!) generated by the NLRB’s enforcement action. (As often happens, the company and the union reached a settlement, and the unfair labor practice charge was withdrawn.)

All in all, I had to agree with Eric that South Carolina was not the most likely destination for a trade unionist and an NLRB attorney.

So, why were we there? Well, why not? Continue reading